May I Have This Dance?

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Taylor has never been the most popular girl at school, but when a note appears in her locker from a mystery admirer asking her to meet them at the upcoming Valentine's dance, she dares to hope that her luck might be changing...

What she doesn't know is that there are many kinds of love, and Valentine's Day is a celebration of them all.

This story was contributed by Clarissa North

Paper hearts and tissue paper streamers were strung from the cavernous gym ceiling. On the stage, a DJ stood bored and sighing behind her decks, her red curls squashed flat by her enormous headphones. Despite her apathy toward the sappy ballads blasting through the speakers, the attendees at the event were content to move awkwardly and nervously with their dates to the music. Others lingered by the punch bowl or sat on the bleachers rubbing their aching feet. Some girls had already departed for the bathroom to fix their make-up, to gossip, or to sob into their friends' shoulders about their no-good dates and broken hearts.

And one girl stood apart from the rest, entirely alone, and exceptionally nervous.

The heat from the spotlights beat down upon her bare shoulders, and Taylor felt the sweat bead around her hairline. The envelope was clutched in her trembling fingers, the heart shaped sticker which had sealed it still clinging to the paper which was crinkled at the edges. She'd read it over and over since it had turned up in her locker three weeks prior, when she had all but given up hope of being asked to attend the annual Valentine's Masquerade Ball. No one had invited her before, and now she was a Senior and it was her last chance, and the unthinkable had happened.

I'm in love with you. Meet me in front of the stage at eight-thirty if you want to be my valentine. Love, ?

Since the letter – more a note – had appeared, she'd found herself stopping in the halls on the way to class, looking back over her shoulder for someone who might have caught her in an affectionate gaze. Taylor had twirled her hair around her finger more, put more effort into her routine in the mornings, and cried in the bathrooms less frequently whenever her books were knocked from her hands by the passing football team. Whenever it felt like too much, whenever she thought that she might tumble further into the pit of despair, she took out her note and read those words again and again. They were inked on her skin and in her heart, and she hoped against all hope that this mystery person who had finally seen her and who maybe loved her might save her from her misery for the last few precious months of her high school life.

And, so, she waited.

She waited in a long black dress that her mother had helped her find on sale and the mask from the costume store that was going out of business.

She waited with her hair forced into elegant ringlets with the help of two cans of hairspray and more pins than she could count.

She waited and hoped that the make-up she was unaccustomed to applying wasn't melting or running under the lights.

She waited with her letter, feeling like a fool, with her hopes eroding with each passing second that she was left alone.

She waited, and then she heard the laughter.

Simon Graves had never made a secret of the fact that he despised Taylor. She didn't know what she'd done to earn his ire other than exist at the same time as him, but from the moment he'd set eyes on her – he, the popular jock and her, the meek, mousey, freckled girl who played in the school marching band – he'd identified her as an easy target.

'Watch where you're walking, loser.'

'You're in my way, dumbass.'

'Lose some weight, Whale-er!'

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