Pam couldn’t believe it. Moments before she was afraid she’d be among the last to be chosen knowing very few of the guys at the party. Adam, one of just three that she did know would never ask her, not that she would want to dance with him anyway. There was Roy, one of the sportier guys in her grade but she didn’t think he even knew who she was and Mark who she knew had a big crush on Isabel so he’d first try to ask her. Now, she was being led to the dance floor by someone she’d never met before, the guy Marcy had just been dancing with. Maybe Marcy had put him up to it. Not as a joke or anything, Marcy was her friend, but because Marcy was known to do bold things like that.
They reached the dance floor and turned back to face each other. Pam was taller than her dance partner but she was taller than most of the boys she knew these days. Most of the girls on the dance floor were taller than the boys they danced with.
It was the cruel trick of nature that when young girls and boys were at their most vulnerable, first noticing the other sex at parties and dances in more than a ‘eeww they’ve got cooties kind of way’, the scales of height were tipped so that each sex would feel self-conscious about their stature. Boys hated being shorter than the girls they liked and girls felt gangly and awkward when they towered over the boys they knew.
“I’m Jim,” he said as he gently clasped his arms around her.
She reached up to rest her hands on his shoulders.
“You play volleyball with Robyn?”
“Yeah. You’re at Sycamore with her?”
They gently rocked as Susanna Hoffs asked if she was only dreaming for a final time.
“So, do you know Adam, or do you just prank anyone who leaves their soda unattended?”
“I know him. We play on the same baseball team. Are you guys friends or do you just laugh at anyone who drinks a salt-spiked Cola?”
“I wouldn’t call us friends, we’re at Pinecrest together. He’s kind of a jerk though.”
“Right, isn’t he? I knew there was something I liked about you. Any non-friend of Adam’s is a friend of mine.”
Pam reddened as Jim said he liked her, even though she knew he was just being colloquial and he didn’t really mean it like that.
The tempo of the Bangles song sped up as it crossfaded to YMCA and suddenly the dancing style changed from the hug and rock to awkward and raucous. Pam started bouncing lightly in place conscious of her breasts, not wanting them to jiggle too much as she danced with her new friend. Jim however started bobbing his head and vigorously shimmying his shoulders, reminding Pam of the serious swag of the Peanuts characters when they danced. She thought it was adorable.
But before they could show off their mad skills of making letters with their arms they heard the emcee call out snowball and had to say a quick goodbye as it was time to seek out another new partner to bring out to the dance floor.
After the Snowball ended and most if not all the kids were on the dance floor the emcee started with the games. Pam made it through a few rounds of the Freeze Dance before getting eliminated and watched on with Isabel as Marcy advanced to the final round with her new friend Jim. Understandably, when Coke and Pepsi began, the two of them partnered up together and so Pam played with Isabel.
Pam had thought she made a little bit of a connection with Jim during their dance but as the night continued, she realized that Marcy was into him, so even when they found themselves in the same dance circle or talking in the same group, she knew it was because of Marcy and not because he was interested in her. Besides, since Marcy was obviously interested in him, there was girl code to adhere to.
It wasn’t until much later in the evening that Pam found herself alone again with Jim. Earlier in the party Isabel was off refilling her coke, alone, leaving three friends behind mid-gab session. And nothing catapulted teenage girl gossip more than when one of the parties was absent from the conversation.
Of course, the other thing about teenage girl talk is how fast comments made in confidence would make their way back to the person they were said about, whizzing like a pinball as it ricocheted off hyper-charged bumpers until finally passing between two flippers whose defenses came up too late.
Naturally, Isabel had found out about what Jill had said and so now Pam was stuck in the bathroom with Isabel who was upset. Of course, then Jill came in with Marcy and so Isabel stormed off and now Pam was stuck trying to talk to Jill to smooth over the fight that happened between her friends. Marcy was no help; she was so preoccupied with fixing her lip gloss and getting back out to find Jim, who she clearly was into.
While all this was happening in the bathroom, the candy bar was being unveiled. Back in the room where the Pop-a-Shot was earlier, a rowdy pack of teenagers descended on a table lined with bowls of gummy bears, m&m's, Swedish fish and more to fill a bag with their favorite sweets to take home with them.
By the time Pam had gotten out of the bathroom, found Isabel, then found Jill again and got the two to make-up and made it into the room with the candy bar, the table had been picked over. Not much was left, but lucky for Pam there still was a bowlful of her favorite candy, jelly beans and not just any jelly beans, her favorite, Jelly Belly jelly beans. She was busy scooping some into her bag when Jim ran in.
“Oh man. I missed all the good stuff,” he said before he noticed Pam at the table. “Adam, that jerk was yelling at me for crushing his stupid plastic hat.”
As at most of the parties she’d been to, the emcees would give away swag on the dance floor, like cheap sunglasses, beads and neon fedora hats. They were fun to get and everyone stormed the emcee when he broke out a new giveaway, but they weren’t worth getting all bothered about and she could understand why Jim looked so pissed when he came in.
“Sorry about that.”
“Not your fault. I just feel bad you have to go to school with him. Is he in any of your classes?”
“Yeah, unfortunately. Like four of them.”
“Now, I’m sorry.”
“There’s still plenty of jelly beans over here.”
“I’m more of a chocolate kind of guy. Jelly beans are not really my thing. They’re so sugary and taste fake.”
Pam knew what he meant. The traditional type of jelly bean was grainy, overly sweet and pretty generic. She still liked them but they couldn’t even be put in the same category as Jelly Bellys, which were wonderfully flavored, sweet without being cloyingly so, and came in such exotic flavors, like Tutti Frutti, Cotton Candy, and even Buttered Popcorn, which extraordinarily did taste like buttered popcorn.
“Have you ever tried Jelly Bellys? That’s what these are and they are much better than regular jelly beans. Try them.”
Pam grabbed a few from the bag she had made herself and held them out in her hand to Jim. He took a look at her hand and grabbed a few. He was about to pop them all in his mouth at once when Pam stopped him.
“No, you have to try them one at a time. Unless of course, you’re inventing a new flavor, like if you eat the coconut one with a pineapple one it’s like Pina Colada. But they actually have a Pina Colada flavored one so that’s not really the best example.”
“Ok, Miss Jelly Bean,” Jim said with a smile.
“Not, Jelly Bean, Jelly Belly.”
Jim popped a green one in his mouth.
“Mmm, this is good. I think it’s pear.”
“Oooh, I love the pear ones.”
Next, he tried a deep brown one.
“Now this one I really like, it tastes like chocolate.”
“Just be careful, don’t confuse it for one of the black ones,” she scrunched up her nose. “They’re pretty nasty tasting.”
“Note to self, no black ones. No, but seriously, these are really good. I like them a lot. I’m going to tell my mom to start getting these instead of the nasty ones she puts in our Easter baskets.”
“You still get Easter baskets?
“Of course, don’t you?”
“Well yeah, but I thought that boys would grow out of that kind of thing sooner.”
“Grow out of getting candy? Look at where we are. I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of getting candy. In fact, I think I’ll grab some candy to go. I’ve got to have my mom try these.”
Jim filled his bag and the two of them chatted for a few more minutes as they sampled more of the flavors and tried to make up new concoctions mixing two, three and sometimes four different flavors.
Even though Marcy had already told all the girls she liked him and she knew he probably liked Marcy too, she was really enjoying talking with this guy and was beginning to crush on him a little bit herself.
Just then Isabel popped into the room.
“Oh, there you are, Pam. It's almost last dance and we want to dance around Robyn before we have to go. And we promised your mom we'd be waiting outside.”
She noticed Jim.
“Oh, and I think Marcy’s looking for you, she wants to give you her phone number,” she giggled before she grabbed Pam’s hand and pulled her out of the room.
Pam turned back to Jim before she crossed the doorway.
“Bye, Jim. It was really nice to meet you. Maybe we’ll meet again soon.”
“Yeah, bye Pam. I hope so. It was nice to meet you, too.”