Friday 5:57 PM
Students chatter to their friends under the setting sky, packed closely together in the stands. Thankfully, though, because the cold winter is hitting Shadyside a bit earlier this year, and the students rely on each others’ heat for warmth.
Cyrus, TJ, Andi, Buffy, Jonah, and Marty are all seated near each other towards the front of the bleachers. Amber and her other friends are sitting in the top row, but she made sure that the gang was settled before moving up there.
TJ has his arm wrapped around Cyrus, Andi and Buffy are huddled under a blanket over their legs, and Jonah and Marty are trying to hold out to see who can last the longest without their jackets. They’re both already shivering before the game has even begun. Andi made sure to style all of them appropriately, however, even with the situation with the weather - in Andi Mack style, she took it upon herself to paint everyone’s faces in some capacity with Grant’s colors. While some have completely painted faces (see: Marty), others just have some delicately painted dots lining the eyes (see: Buffy).
“Are they gonna start soon? I’m cold!” Cyrus complains.
“It’s not even 6 yet, Cy. I promise you’ll feel less cold once it starts and we’re all moving.” TJ rubs his arm gently and pulls him closer to him.
“Wait, moving around? Watching a sports game requires me to move?”
TJ chuckles and kisses his temple. “Don’t worry, Underdog. You’ll see what I mean.”
“Yes! Hand over that 10, Beck,” Marty shouts as Jonah puts his jacket on. TJ, Cyrus, Andi, and Buffy in the row in front of them all turn around. Buffy rolls her eyes.
“10 bucks? Really?”
“Money’s money, Buffy. But you can’t even talk, huddled under that blanket like that.”
“Oh, you wanna try this with me?” Indignant, Buffy throws the blanket onto Andi, forcing her to deal with it awkwardly. Buffy moves up to the next row and sits in between Jonah and Marty. “Move aside, Beck, I’ll show you two who’s really tough.”
Marty raises his eyebrows and smiles at her. Jonah slides down next to Andi and she throws the blanket over him. He accepts it gratefully. Buffy takes off her jacket and throws it on Jonah, who grabs it and puts it in his lap.
“Does SAVA have a homecoming game or dance?” Jonah asks Andi.
“No, they do have a winter formal thing, though. But that’s later in the semester. It’s gonna be this huge showcase so we can present our main project for the first half of the year.” She addresses the whole group now. “I would love it if you all came.”
Cyrus rubs her knee. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Yeah, just shoot us some dates and we’ll be there!” TJ says to her over Cyrus, winking.
“That sounds really cool, Andiman. I think SAVA was the best place for you to go,” Jonah says softly.
Andi smiles at him. The pair are aware of how much has happened between them, but there’s something so refreshing about being able to support one another without any romantic interest involved.
“I’ll be there too, Andi!” Buffy yells from the row above.
“I’ll be there before you!” Marty says, trying to one-up her.
“Oh, grow up, stop trying to make everything into a competition.”
“You’re literally the one -”
“Guys, it’s starting!” TJ interrupts, making everyone turn towards the field.
The football players walk out onto the field, decked out in all of their heavy gear. The cheerleaders continue chanting in their rhythmic and regular manner, a constant sound in the chaos of the crowd. The coach organizes the players together in a huddle, likely trying to strike the balance between some good ol’ fashioned “tough talk” and some encouragement to remind the players of all the hard work they’ve put in.
They take to the field with a sense of purpose. They exude a confidence that feeds the energy of the crowd, which begins to roar in excitement as the game begins.
Friday 8:14 PM
The gang are all leaving the bleachers together. TJ and Cyrus hold hands, Marty has his arm wrapped around Buffy, and Jonah and Andi walk near each other for warmth, Andi holding the blanket in her arms. Sensibly, Marty and Buffy have both put their jackets back on. Neither of them won the bet. It is now dark and the stars illuminate their way.
“Okay, I still don’t get football,” Cyrus announces. Everyone laughs.
“It's okay, Underdog. Did you have fun at least?” TJ asks him.
“Yeah, actually, I did.” He pauses and then smiles, thinking about what he’s really been excited for all this time. “But you know what else is gonna be fun? The dance tomorrow!”
“Oh, yeah! Are you guys still sure that I can come, even though I don’t go to Grant?” Andi bites her lip. She has no intention of being an intrusion, but she misses her friends a lot at SAVA, no matter how much she feels like at home there.
“Don’t worry, Andi, we made sure,” Buffy reassures her, rubbing her arm.
Cyrus nods his head at TJ as he speaks: “TJ will be your personal bodyguard if they try and say something.”
“Yeah, we got your back, Mack,” TJ says to her.
Andi smiles, slightly overwhelmed by the appreciation she has for her friends and how loyal they are to her.
They walk off in a line together, all warmed by this bond the six have, which is even stronger than the cold wind chilling their bones.
Saturday 5:23 PM
Andi, Buffy, and Cyrus are all huddled in Andi's closet, trying to choose an outfit for her for tonight. Buffy and Cyrus are already decked out. Cyrus has elected for a dark gray suit - clean and fresh. His hair is styled with a small bit of gel to keep it in what he considers an “acceptable condition” throughout the night. Buffy’s hair is in a bun and she is wearing a gorgeous black dress covered in lace. At the top, the halter neck gives her some beautiful lines and the skirt flows freely after hitting her waist. On her feet, she wears a pair of bright red boots, accenting the monochromaticness of her dress. Andi, on the other hand, while she has elegantly curled her now chin-length hair, is still in an oversized t-shirt and shorts.
Buffy narrows her eyes at the selection in front of her.
“Well, we don’t have a lot to work with here.”
Andi swats her playfully, making her laugh. Cyrus keeps his gaze moving back and forth across the racks of her clothes. Suddenly, he makes an “ah-ha!” noise and picks out a hanger and a pair of shoes. He pulls them out and holds them for the two girls to see.
“What about this?”
Andi and Buffy smile in agreement at this one. Andi takes the dress and the heels and heads into the bathroom to try it on. Buffy and Cyrus fall onto the bed with heaving sighs, waiting for Andi to come out.
“So, how are you feeling about tonight?” Buffy asks, still laying down.
“This is going to be the first dance TJ and I have ever gone together. I don’t know what to do or say and whether I should get a drink for him or not when we get there because those punches are full of sugar -”
“Cyrus! Take a deep breath!” She sits up as she says this, trying to be more of a calming presence. “Don’t overthink it. It’s just homecoming. And if it all goes completely wrong, you have three other years to go and make it better.”
“Most people hate their freshman homecoming!” Andi yells from the bathroom.
Buffy and Cyrus laugh. Cyrus smiles at Buffy. The girls always know what to say to get him to calm down and stop him from being dragged away by his erratic thoughts.
“You guys ready for the reveal?”
“Yes!” Buffy and Cyrus chorus excitedly. They sit up on the edge of the bed and lean forward to demonstrate their interest.
Andi walks into the room in an elegant garnet-colored dress, flowing out from her waist slightly and reaching just above the knee. The dress has a bit of a v-neck shape at the top and some pretty butterfly sleeves to finish it off. The matte black strappy heels on her feet make her a few inches taller but are easy enough for her to stand on.
“What do you think?”
“It’s beautiful,” Buffy says softly, as though there is a fragileness in the air that will break if she speaks too loudly.
“You look amazing,” Cyrus agrees.
Andi smiles shyly. She leans for her camera on her desk and motions for Buffy and Cyrus to join her. “Come on, I need to get some pictures before Bex bombards us with her camera.”
Buffy and Cyrus chuckle and walk over to stand with their best friend. They lean into the frame and Andi takes a few pictures with some satisfying clicks. As they clamor over them, she promises to send them all the pictures she takes tonight, including these ones.
Saturday 5:48 PM
TJ, Marty and Jonah are all getting ready in Marty's room . . . sort of. If getting ready involves playing video games, guitar and basketball, then yes, they absolutely are.
Jonah’s strumming fades into the background under the crashing noises and screams on Marty's video game and the thudding of the plastic ball as TJ dribbles it on Marty's wood floor. They’re all dressed partially, only really wearing their shirts, their fancy pants, and their ties, which are loose. Their shoes and blazers are tossed in a heap by Marty's bed.
“Bruh, why did we get ready so early? It’s so uncomfortable,” TJ says, sighing and pulling at the collar on his shirt. The plastic basketball remains between his other arm and his side.
“Andi, Buffy and Cyrus all wanted to meet up at the Spoon beforehand and Cyrus spammed your phone to remind you about it.” Jonah doesn’t look up from his guitar as he speaks, his eyes trained on where his fingers should go on the frets.
TJ smiles at the thought of his boyfriend. “He’s so cute.”
Marty and Jonah snort at their lovesick friend. Jonah then directs his next dig at Marty. “And your girlfriend wouldn’t stop FaceTiming you until you had gotten ready so that we wouldn’t be late.”
Marty pauses his video game suddenly and looks at his phone. He takes a deep breath and turns to the other two. “Wait, what time did they want to meet at the Spoon?”
“Six,” Jonah confirms.
“Yikes, we have ten minutes to get there.”
The boys all pause, not sure how to proceed for a moment.
“Well, let’s go!”
In a flurry of suits and shoes, the boys somehow manage to get themselves together and out of the door in record time, making it to the spoon at 6 on the dot. When they get there, Marty and TJ are in awe of Buffy and Cyrus respectively, leaving them stuck in the doorway slightly, gaping at them. Jonah laughs at them a bit and sits down next to andi, complimenting first her and then the other two on their looks. He primarily focuses on Andi because he knows Buffy and Cyrus are going to get a lot of attention from certain other people tonight.
Once TJ and Marty return to a normal brain function, they sit down next to Cyrus and Buffy in the booth, TJ putting his arm around Cyrus. Their conversation starts immediately and easily, the friends falling into their normal dynamic, but an air of extra excitement hanging over them as they all think about their first homecoming dance.
Saturday 8:11 PM
The six teenagers walk slowly to looming school. It’s decorated with a lot of lights and streamers, an odd sight for the students as they often view the school as a prison they are forced to go to every day.
The external decorations do no justice, however, to the blinding lights, the pounding music that can be felt through the floor, and the mass of students all bopping up and down. The party has been done on a high school budget, sure, but it is still completely foreign and fascinating to Andi, Buffy, Cyrus, TJ, Jonah and Marty, none of which have experienced a feeling like this before. Even when Andi went to that high school party with Amber, she didn’t remember this sensation. It’s this idea of not quite being able to see into the future of the rest of their high school career, but as though that future and everything they’re going to go through is a tangible object, fostered by the environment they’re in. Really, it’s magical, in as cliche of the sense of the word. It’s the feeling everyone gets from time to time when they realize: this is the start of something.
“Wow . . .” Jonah manages to get out first, voicing what is going through everyone’s minds.
After regaining their touch on reality, they quickly begin dancing as a group. Andi and Buffy sing their hearts out to the songs they know all the lyrics to, Cyrus joining in occasionally when he knows them as well. Marty and Buffy have a mini-dance battle. Of course, it’s no competition really - Buffy has a multitude of dance moves that Marty can’t even think of trying. Regardless, Jonah and TJ try to hype him up until Buffy destroys him with a fan kick, ending it once and for all.
As they’re all getting drinks later in the night, the music suddenly dwindles down to what is a whisper compared to the beats of the pop songs the DJ was just playing.
i am not the only traveller . . .
Marty extends his hand out to Buffy and she takes it gently. They move to the dance floor with ease and she insists on dancing with her hands on his waist because “screw societal gender roles.”
“You’re such a cool girl, Buffy,” Marty says to that.
“I know, it’s one of my many talents.”
He pauses. Then, quietly, he says, “I love you.”
Buffy’s face is overtaken with shock at first. Her neurons are firing at her, wanting her to process things and approach things logically. But high school parties are like a drug, inhibiting all the things that would have made her react abruptly. Thankfully, though, because she ends up hugging him and says:
“I love you too.”
who has not repaid his debt . . . .
Andi takes her drink, smiling at both of her friends as she knows they’re about to go off and dance. As she sits and looks to the dance floor, she reflects slightly, wondering if she could have ever had that “normal” romance with Jonah. Would I have even wanted it? she asks herself.
“Hey,” Jonah says, sitting down next to her. They smile at each other and then turn back to watching everyone else. “Having fun?”
“Actually, yeah. This has been amazing. You guys are my best friends.”
Jonah smiles at her and pats her knee. He looks up at someone who is standing over them. He makes a nod to the person and then steps away, leaving Andi alone with whoever it is.
She turns her gaze to see Amber. The loose strands of her hair are curled perfectly on the side of her face while the rest of it is in a small bun at the base of her neck. It frames her face beautifully, and the baby pink dress she’s in just completes the look. Andi stands up, almost speechless.
“How are you?”
“I’m alright. You?”
“I’m okay.” Amber looks down at her hands nervously. She sighs, resolving herself to go forward with what she intended. “I was actually wondering if you wanted to dance?”
Amber laughs slightly. “Yeah, Andi, right now.”
Andi bites her lip and smiles. “Yes.”
Amber leads her gently to the floor and they sway together so naturally. While they don’t say anything else to each other, it means nothing and so much at the same time. For now, it doesn’t matter what things are between them “officially.” The music swallows them and they let themselves feel cared about and loved. And that’s all that matters.
i’ve been searching for a trail to follow again . . .
Jonah stands against the wall, observing the crowd. He thought he’d feel alone, a crushing weight of loneliness overwhelming him. But surprisingly, he’s completely content. Because even though his friends are all dancing together on a gym floor, he’s finally realized that he has so much he wants to do, try. After all those years wasted with the drama between Amber, then Andi, then Amber again, he doesn’t want to waste his high school ones. He wants to live.
He downs back the rest of his drink, throws it smoothly into the trash can, and goes outside for some air under the bright stars.
take me back to the night we met . . .
TJ freezes at the sound of the music slowing down, now actually coming to terms with the fact that he’s nervous for his first dance. His first real dance. He looks at Cyrus, who is staring at him with those big brown eyes of his, giving him a soft smile. And with that, TJ knows. He knows that he doesn’t have to be afraid of dancing with the person that’s never judged him for anything. His best friend.
“Will you dance with me?” he asks softly.
“Yes.” Cyrus interlocks their fingers and the pair walk to the floor. TJ's arms naturally move to Cyrus's waist, Cyrus's arms on TJ's shoulders.
“Underdog . . . Cy. I can’t tell you how much you’ve changed my life, from the day I got you that stupid chocolate-chocolate chip muffin -”
“Hey! Not stupid!”
“Sorry, delicious chocolate-chocolate chip muffin,” TJ amends. “But in all this time, you’ve seen the good in me when no one else has. You brought that good person out of me. I just . . . I’m not good with words and everything so sorry I can’t -”
Cyrus interrupts him with a soft kiss, his hands on either side of TJ’s head. When he moves away, he smiles at him. “You’re perfect the way you are, Thelonious jagger,” he whispers.
TJ smiles back at him and they continue dancing, existing in their beautiful harmony and reminding themselves that the person right in front of them is the person they want to be with.
The person they’re so youthfully and messily and beautifully in love with.