All Fun and Games
Copyright 2013 Carey Burns
Mike leaned over the worn soapstone table and whispered to his lab partner so Mr. Myers wouldn't hear. "Hey Karen, check this out..." He quickly lifted his Ticonderoga pencil, closed his eyes and pressed the soft pink eraser against his right eyelid. His free hand fumbled with his lashes until he grinned like a boy possessed. "See?"
Karen screamed—the sight of his pink, fleshy inside-out eyelid too much for her sixth grade sensibilities.
"What's the problem?" Mr. Myers stopped his lecture on Punnett squares and rolled the stub of white chalk between the palms of his hands, his wedding ring clacking as a sign of his annoyance.
She snuck a glance at Mike who had quickly righted his eyelid. "Nothing, sir. I thought I saw a spider on our table. I'm sorry."
He sighed and looked at his watch: only ten minutes left to the school day. "Okay, one last problem then we'll call it a day." He drew the square and rattled on about eye color and offspring.
"Thanks." Mike whispered but Karen kept her eyes on her notebook paper, focusing instead on Mr. Myers’ question.
The bell rang and the students hurried into the hallway to their lockers.
"Karen!" Mike touched her shoulder to get her attention.
She stopped, shrugging his hand free. "What?"
"I was just wondering if you were gonna be at the dance tomorrow night." He fiddled with the metal spiral of his notebook.
She stared hard at him, wondering what sort of prank he was up to. "Maybe. I don't know yet. Why?"
"I was just wondering. I'll be there and just wondered who else was going."
"Oh. Well, if you're wondering, if I don't go to the mall with my sister I might be there." Her thoughts sprinted from one theory to another and when he smiled she almost wondered if he was planning to ask her to dance or something more sinister.
"Cool. See ya later." He strode into the swell of junior high students and Karen lost sight of him.
She pushed her way toward her locker and found her best friend, Lisa, waiting for her.
"So what was that all about?" She teased, hoisting her book bag on her shoulder.
Karen grimaced. "He was asking if I was going to the dance. He's so weird."
"Wait, he asked you? What did you say?" Lisa demanded, blowing her bangs out of her eyes.
"I told him I wasn't sure. Chill out."
She rolled her eyes. "You're so dumb! I think he likes you and wants to dance with you. You need to be more mature, Karen."
"Whatever." She slid on her backpack and slammed her locker shut, spinning the lock dial. Lisa thought she was so profound since she got her period a few months ago.
"Well, you have to go now, you realize that don't you?"
Karen strolled down the hall oblivious to Lisa's five point plan to make her gorgeous so Mike wouldn't just ask her to dance, he’d ask her out. As they stepped outside and started their walk home, Lisa pulled her friend's hair.
"Ow! What's the matter with you?" She rubbed her scalp, giving Lisa the stink eye.
"Me? What's the matter with you? This is your chance to finally have a boyfriend and you're thinking of going to the mall to hold your sister's purse while she finds a stupid Homecoming dress." Lisa's eyes were wild and spittle frothed at the corners of her mouth.
"Lisa, this is Mike we're talking about. Not even ten minutes before he asked me he was flipping his stinkin' eyelid inside-out. He doesn't like me." She stopped midstride. "I bet he's planning something stupid to scare me."
Lisa stared at her.
"You've seen 'Carrie,' right? With the pig blood?" She returned her friend's vacant stare then threw her hands up in disgust. "I don't trust him." Karen resumed her pace.
"Who cares if you don't trust him? He's cute and he likes you."
"We don't know that for sure. And besides, I'd like to trust someone that was potential boyfriend material."
"God, you're so immature." Lisa waved and walked up the sidewalk to her house. "Call me when you get home! We need to plan your outfit!"
Karen laughed. "But I'm not going!"
"Yes you are!" She screamed and slammed the door behind her.
Karen trudged the remaining two blocks home and called Lisa. After a two-hour phone lecture about fashion, Karen's sister ditched out on their shopping plans for a movie with her boyfriend instead. Karen tossed and turned that night, excited and nervous about the dance and woke the next morning in a foul mood. She rushed through breakfast and stomped out of the house to meet up with Lisa.
As she waited on Lisa’s porch she scowled.
"What's up your butt?" Lisa huffed, joining her on the porch.
"She bailed on me."
"So you're going!" She squealed and hopped up and down.
"Reluctantly. I just have a weird vibe about this Lisa. He's so...weird to me. He never does gross stuff to anyone else but me."
"That's because he likes you." She led the way, organizing a pre-dance makeover immediately after school. "I'll stop by after I get all my things. Tell your mom I'll be there for dinner then they can drop us off. I can't wait!"
Karen sulked, hoping her gut feeling was wrong.
The school day flew and in Mr. Myer's class Karen watched Mike pick at a scab and eat it. “Do I really want to date a scab eater?” She wondered.
After class she tried to dash away but he caught up to her by her locker.
"So, are you going tonight?" He leaned against her locker and smiled.
Karen thought she saw a bit of scab stuck in between his teeth and shuddered. "Um, yeah. I'm going with Lisa I guess."
His smile grew and he nodded. "Excellent. Well, I'll see ya later then."
As he disappeared Lisa crept through a group of girls and grinned. "He so likes you!"
"Lucky me." As she hoisted on her backpack she imagined what else Mike ate. She hoped it wasn't boogers.
She followed Lisa home in silence, nodding when appropriate and wishing she could somehow get out of going. They parted ways and Karen plodded down the sidewalk to her house.
Karen spent the next hour in her bedroom trying to find a way to get out of the dance but short of falling and breaking a bone, she was stuck. Her mother only made the situation worse by not only buying her a new outfit, but also ordering pizzas for dinner and manipulating her dad into dropping the girls off in his red Mustang convertible.
"You seemed so disappointed about your shopping trip this morning I thought we'd make the night extra special for you." She smiled.
Lisa arrived promptly at five and they all sat down to eat.
Karen's mother served up the pizza to the girls first and made sure they all had sodas before handing her husband a plate. "So, are you girls excited for your first big dance?"
"Oh yes," Lisa said, chewing the elastic ribbon of melted cheese. "I think someone might even have an official dance partner."
"Really?" She sipped her soda and beamed at her daughter. "And who might this partner be?"
Karen pulled the skin of cheese from the crust and dropped it on her plate. "It’s nothing. Mike just asked if I was going. I'm sure he just has some nefarious plan to gross me out and just wanted to make sure I wouldn't miss it."
Her mother stared at her. "Nefarious? Really?" She chuckled. "He's such a sweet boy and such a good athlete."
She rolled her eyes. "Mom, he's gross."
"He's just trying to get your attention, honey. He must really like you."
"But I don't like him. So why should I go if someone I don't even like may or may not ask me to dance?"
Her mother blinked in surprise. "Because you're a nice girl and you don't want to hurt his feelings. And because twenty years from now you might think back on tonight and wish you'd gone."
"May we be excused then?" Karen stood and led Lisa to her bedroom.
Lisa shut the door behind them. "Wow. Talk about drama. I don't see why you're making such a big deal about everything."
"You wouldn't understand." She mumbled, knowing her beautiful friend had never been the butt of a cruel joke or prank.
"Well, let me see the outfit then. I gotta know how to do your hair and makeup."
The girls primped and preened for battle, making sure their berry lip gloss sparkled until Karen's father called down the hallway for them to hurry up. With one last inspection, Lisa declared victory.
"We're hot. Let's go." She tucked a small makeup bag into her purse and skipped out of the room.
Karen trudged behind tugging at the hem of her skirt and wishing it was a little longer. She waited for Lisa to settle into the backseat and sat down next to her father.
"You both look lovely tonight." His voice had a soothing quality that Karen loved.
"Thank you for dropping us off." Lisa smiled, leaning forward in her seat.
"Yeah, thanks, Dad."
A small frown quivered his lips as he pulled up to the school, taking his place in line behind the other parents dropping off their kids.
Karen opened the door and stepped onto the sidewalk, helping Lisa move the seat forward to get out. She started to shut the door when he stopped her.
"Karen, hold on a sec, I want to have a word with you."
Lisa's eyes widened and she walked a few yards away to wait.
"Yeah?" She sat down again, worried at what he would say to add to her misery.
"Honey, I don't want you to listen to your mother or Lisa. There's no rule saying that you have to dance with a boy if he asks you. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. You're smart. You know what's best for you."
She smiled her first smile of the day. "Thanks, Dad." With a quick hug she bounded out of the car to catch up with Lisa.
He hollered after her, "I'll pick you up at ten!"
"What was that all about?" She snorted.
"Nothing. Just some fatherly advice."
Lisa smirked. "Let me guess, he gave you a quick sex talk, didn't he?" She nearly tripped from laughing so hard and didn't notice Karen roll her eyes.
There was something magical about the school at night, illuminated by the soft orange lights. The darkened classroom windows made the place seem abandoned and off-limits but the bright entryway beckoned the students inside. Once in, they saw metal accordion partitions blocking the two long hallways beyond the multipurpose room entrance.
"We're trapped!" Lisa laughed, leading Karen inside.
The girls stood at the entrance of the dimly lit room, the loud music and sparkling silver of the disco ball dazzling them both.
"You'd hardly know we practice volleyball in here." Lisa stepped farther in, admiring the meager decorations.
Karen sniffed the air. "It still smells like a lunch room though. Hey, there's refreshments. Swanky..."
The duo met up with the rest of their friends, laughing and giggling as they compared outfits and potential dance partners.
Karen listened to the girls, hoping Lisa would keep her mouth shut about Mike. She glanced at the entrance every time she saw movement there, relieved he was nowhere to be seen.
The girls all danced in a group and Karen joined in, laughing at herself with each misstep she took but she didn't care. She was having fun. All thoughts of pig blood fled her mind with each new song. Finally, a slow song started.
Everyone cleared the dance floor except for a few brave couples who swayed in time to the music. Karen willed herself to melt into the wall so that nobody would see her but she felt a familiar hand on her shoulder.
"Looks like I made it just in time." Mike smiled, his freshly-washed face shiny in the dim light. "Would you like to dance with me?"
Karen froze, her fight or flight instinct dueling in her brain. "Um..." she struggled until her speech worked again. "Just one dance."
He beamed and led the way onto the dance floor then cautiously put his hands on her waist as she rested her palms on his shoulders and they swayed to the music.
Karen felt his sweaty palms moisten the fabric of her skirt and she frowned. "Mike," she talked over the music, straining her voice, "you're a really nice guy and everything but I don't want to lead you on. I just want us to be friends."
"Oh." His hold on her waist eased a bit. "That's okay I guess. But, I do like you Karen."
"I'm sorry. I wish I felt the same way. But...you're one of my oldest friends. Can we still just be friends?" She gazed up into his blue eyes.
With a sad grin he nodded. "Yeah. But one of these days, you're gonna realize that you do like me."
She laughed and as the song ended they walked together to get a glass of soda.
Lisa pounced on her as soon as Mike looked away. "So?"
"So we're friends." Karen whispered.
"Friend-friends or friend-friends?" She winked and grinned.
Karen wrinkled her nose. "Eww! Just friends, like we always have been." She leaned closer. "But you were right, he does like me."
"You are so weird." Lisa stalked back to the group of girls.
Mike handed Karen a full glass and sipped from his own. "So which one of these lucky guys do you really want to dance with?"
"Nobody. I think I must be the only girl here that isn't boy crazy yet. Is that weird?"
He smiled. "No. You want to know a secret?" He gulped his soda and threw his paper cup away.
She swallowed, a tremor of fear jostling her cup. "Sure..."
"I'm not the only one in this room that likes you."
Karen finished her drink. "Shut up."
"Honest! Brian and Alex and Steve all think you're hot."
Images of pig blood filled her mind. "You're such a liar. Nobody thinks I'm hot." She tossed her cup into the trash and sulked away from the dance floor.
"Hey. I didn't mean to upset you." He caught up to her. "It is true though. They all like you, they're just afraid to approach you."
She stared into his eyes and studied his expression. He looked honest, but she'd been burned before. "Whatever. It doesn't matter."
With a shrug, he bowed. "Another slow song. Can I be your dance partner again?"
"I’d rather sit this one out. You could ask another girl."
"Nah. I'll sit out too. There isn't anybody else I'd want to dance with anyway."
They sat down on one of the long bench seats that lined the wall and watched the couples dance, the small circles of light from the disco ball spinning across the crowd.
"Hey, watch this!" He lowered his head and his hands fiddled with something Karen couldn't see.
"What are you doing?"
He looked up and smiled, both eyelids flipped inside out and yelled, "Doubles!"
Karen squealed and jumped away as he laughed and righted his eyelids.
"You are so gross!" She slapped at his arm and laughed.
He wiped away tiny tears from his eyes and smiled. "See? You're cool. Any of the other girls would run and tell on me. That's one of the reasons we all like you."
She smiled. Nobody had ever said anything so nice to her before. "So, how do you do it? Doesn't it hurt?"
"Nah, it feels weird but it doesn't hurt. Let me show you." He held up the pen and showed her step by step how to flip her eyelid.
"I think I've got it." She took the pen and pressed it softly against her closed eyelid and pulled up on her lashes, releasing the pen in a swift motion. "Did I do it?" She squinted her left eye and tried to see out of her right but couldn't.
"You did it!"
"Ack! Help me make it go back!"
After a quick flip of his finger Karen blinked away tears and laughed like a maniac. "Oh, I'm gonna scare the crap out of Lisa! Come on!"
She grabbed his hand and they ran over to where Lisa and a few girls were dancing to a pop song. The two danced, smiling in their secret plan. After a few seconds Karen motioned for the pen and Mike slipped it into her hand.
She turned her back to the dance floor and Mike distracted the girls with a new dance move as Karen struggled to flip her lid. After the sixth attempt, she was about to give up but Thriller started playing and she thought it would be even more hilarious with a zombie soundtrack. She took a breath and pressed the pen against her right eyelid then flipped it up with success. She giggled and decided to try doubles.
The dance floor swelled with more dancers and Karen carefully lifted the pen to her left eye, trying not to laugh too hard. She tried the flip twice and decided that if it didn't work she'd just go with the one eye flipped. With a steady breath she pressed the pen against her eyelid and lifted up her lashes just as Steve bumped into her.
Time seemed to stop as Karen felt a sucking pop then blinding pain. She screamed, clasping her hands to her left eye but the music was so loud and the dance so wild that nobody heard her. Her screams grew more frantic as she struggled to see but her right eyelid was stuck in place. Karen turned back to the crowd and screamed, flailing her arms out in front of her.
At first everyone laughed, including Mike, but as they saw her eyeball hanging from its socket they screamed and hollered, prompting the chaperones to come running.
"Dear lord!" Mr. Myers cried as he struggled to get control over the situation. "Get everyone back and stop that music!"
"Please help me!" Karen screamed reaching up to flip her right eyelid back.
Mr. Myers grabbed her hands, unsure what she was doing. "It's okay Karen. Relax as best you can. We're calling an ambulance; you just have to stay calm."
One of the parents pulled a cell phone from his pocket and made the call. While Mr. Myers calmed Karen down the remaining chaperones kept the rest of the students in one section of the room.
"Mr. Myers? My right eyelid is flipped inside out."
He stared at her eyes in disbelief. "What?"
"It’s just a stupid trick I learned. I tried flipping the left eye but I got bumped and something went wrong. Could you please try to flip my eyelid back for me?" She whimpered, afraid she'd lose that eye too if it dried out anymore.
"It might be best to wait for the ambulance..."
"Please? Just try?"
The sight of her dangling eye turned his stomach but he took a deep breath and moved with resolve. "Okay. I'm being very gentle, but it might hurt. I need you to hold still and be brave, okay?"
She nodded, her lips pursed tight in anticipated pain.
"On the count of three." He licked his lips. "One. Two. Three!" He grasped the fine lashes of her right eye between his fingertips and slowly forced the dried-out lid back into position. "Someone get me a moist towel, now!"
Karen sobbed heavy tearless sobs. "I'm so stupid." She moaned
"Shh...calm down okay? The ambulance should be here soon."
The color left her face and her lip trembled. "I want my dad. Please, someone call my dad."
"Oh crap, she's in shock. Get me a blanket or coat..."
The room and its sounds faded away to nothing and Karen slipped into unconsciousness on the multipurpose room floor. The ambulance came and loaded her onto a gurney. The chaperones tried to shield the children's view but Mike snuck a peek at her wandering eye and smiled. She was the coolest girl he'd ever met.