Two days to go before the first Story Cubes Challenge week ends and I’ve got my ficlet.
Cubes: Hanging, yelling/shouting, pushing, thought bubble, padlock, turning, arrow/pointer, dancing, question mark
“Do I have to dance?” Dan frowned. “Because listening to music is fine. It’s just…” He tapped a calloused finger on the silhouette of the couple dancing on the poster sitting on the table. “I don’t dance.”
“Don’t listen to him, Chris. He’s a great dancer.” Liz grinned, her smile wide across her face. “Better than Evan.” She smirked as her husband crossed his arms.
“Hey,” Evan said. “I haven’t stepped on your toes since high school dances.” He tugged one of Liz’s blonde curls.
Chris watched the three old friends banter and tried to take Dan’s comment at face value. He wouldn’t ask Dan to dance anyway, not in public. That was … It wasn’t worth it. Even after almost two years, he wasn’t sure how much longer this would last, not with grad school ending after next semester. Grief from a bunch of bigots wouldn’t help. But Dan’s reaction was … odd. He debated which question to ask first. “Liz, how do you know how well your cousin dances?”
“He must have danced with every girl at the prom senior year,” she said.
Dan just shrugged. “It wasn’t like any of the guys would dance with me,” he said. “Even the ones who might have wanted to. That would have been like shouting out to everybody that they were gay. But nobody minded if I danced with their dates, and it was a chance to do something besides sit around.”
Chris couldn’t argue with that. “I just skipped mine.” He pushed away memories of his father’s reaction to that, locked them down for another time. Instead, he looked over at Liz and Evan. “You two want to come with us? This group’s great. I got to hear them in D.C. right before I moved up here for grad school.”
Evan looked at Liz, and one side of her lips quirked up. Chris envied how they could communicate without words, even if it was frustrating to watch. Her expressive mouth, his raised eyebrows. Two small nods, one from each.
“You going to share?” Dan pointed at them each in turn. “Or do I have to go get the Reilly Sister Interrogation Team?” He turned as if to get up.
Evan shuddered. “Do not joke about that. Your sisters still scare me when they team up.”
“Oh, good. I thought it was me.” Chris nudged Dan with his shoulder. “Meeting your parents for the first time was less intimidating than meeting all the Reilly girls.”
“Focus,” Dan said. “OK, you two. What aren’t you telling us?”
“We were going to tell everybody at Thanksgiving next week.” Liz flushed. “We haven’t told anybody, so this has to be a secret.”
Dan nodded immediately. “Even keeping a secret from all my sisters is better than you guys leaving us hanging for 10 days.”
Chris nodded. “I won’t see most of the Reillys to tell them anyway — with the semester recitals coming up after Thanksgiving, I’m spending most of break in the practice rooms. Thanksgiving is the only time I’ll see anybody besides you guys and Dan.”
Liz nodded. “In that case… We’d love to come, but Baby Czarnecki’s been quite clear that she doesn’t like the smell of smoke.” She smiled.
“Wait, another one? And you already know it’s a girl?” Dan leaned across the table. “And how does a fireman avoid smelling like smoke?”
Evan rubbed a hand across his face. “How do you think we figured out she was pregnant? She gagged every time I got near her, so she went and took the test.” He shrugged. “We’ve got a shower at work. I just told the other firefighters that the shower was waking the baby if I wait until I got home.”
Dan grinned. “Oh, you don’t mind.”
“No. I don’t.” Evan smiled and wrapped an arm around his wife. “Chris, we’ll take you guys up on the jazz club invite sometime after this one’s born and we can leave her and her sister with a sitter.”
“Like you have any shortage of those with my sisters around.” Dan and Evan went back and forth, but Chris just settled back in his seat. They all were assuming Chris would still be here, and that was enough for now. He started thinking about ways he could make a living after graduation and stick around the area.