Katie’s glossy boots moved effortlessly across the floor, her gold and brown velvet dress flaring out around her thighs. As she danced and twirled, stepping forward, then back, a tall presence began mirroring her movements. Looking over she saw yet another Travolta wannabe, complete with white polyester disco suit. She gave a snort of derision but allowed him to pull her into a dance.
As the boy spun her out and then back in, a pair of sharp blue eyes winked at her beneath his overflowing black wig. Blushing, Katie looked down and stumbled, but he caught her arm, steadying her. She met his eyes again, and a flare of recognition flooded her body. She took a quick step back. Confusion flashed across the tan face in front her.
“You okay?” he asked.
Katie nodded, then squinted at him. She knew this person. But she wasn’t quite sure how. He just looked so familiar. “Umm, do I know you?”
“Maybe? I definitely feel like I’ve seen you somewhere. But I don’t actually go to school here.”
“No, that’s not it. I just feel like I know you. Like, really know you…” Katie looked at the swirling orange paisleys of the shirt covering his chest and imagined there was a scar just below his collarbone.
The boy reached up and rubbed the spot she’d been thinking of. “I know what you mean. What’s your name?”
“Hello? Name?” Katie waved a hand in front of his face.
“Hmm? Sorry. I’m Dean. It’s just that I knew a Katie when I was younger. Kinda looked like you.” Reaching out, he tugged one of her curls in a motion she’d felt a hundred times before.
“No way,” Katie whispered. It couldn’t be him. She swallowed hard. “I knew a Dean too, but that was a long time ago. I don’t remember him that well.” Liar.
“I remember my Katie. She was bouncy and loved to dance. And she had a temper to match her hair.”
Katie glared at him.
Dean’s face lit up and a flash of white teeth stretched into a smile.
“Yup, she’d look at me just like that,” He ran his fingers through the fluffy hair of the wig, and it came off in his hand. Blond hair stood up in short, unruly spikes around his head. “It’s you, isn’t it?”
“No. That’s not possible.” Her mind was spinning. The piccolo of Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” became a muffled whistle, and the pulsing ground beneath her feet felt as though it was mirroring her own heartbeat. Imaginary friends are NOT real, Katie.
“Really? Cause I think you just confirmed it,” He tugged one of her copper curls again. “You’re my Tigger-girl, aren’t you?”
Katie fought against the disbelief. Only one person had ever called her that, and he didn’t exist, at least not outside the confines of her imagination.
“If it’s really you, then show me the scar,” she demanded.
“You should know which one.” When she was six, Katie had watched Dean break his clavicle.
He grinned, and tugged down the collar of his shirt, revealing a long, thin scar. “Fell out of your tree house. You wouldn’t stop screaming.”
Katie took a step back and looked around to see who was staring at the crazy girl talking to herself.
“Looking for someone?”
“Am I the only one who can see you?” she asked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” he teased.
“Dammit, stop messing around! Am I crazy? How is this even possible?”
Dean threw his hands up in mock surrender and grinned. “Okay, okay. And I don’t know…to both questions.”
“I don’t know what you’re playing at, but I’m done with this little game of yours. If you really are who you say you are, you’ll know where to find me, and when.” She started to walk away, then paused. “And don’t follow me.”
Just before midnight, Katie sat in the old worn tree house. This was their spot. She remembered sneaking out her bedroom window and climbing the rope ladder to sit beside him and scan the night sky, feet dangling over the edge. But the summer she turned ten, Dean stopped appearing without explanation. Now, staring up at the blanket of stars, she watched them wink and dance as they wove themselves a path across the Milky Way. A mere memory of what they had once been. She considered her own twirl with memory, and waited, hoping against all logic and reason. A gentle pull at the back of her hair startled her, and she twisted around to look up into Dean’s face. A lopsided smile pulled at the corners of his mouth, and he crooked a smug eyebrow at her surprise. He held out his hand and helped her up. She looked at him with wonder and burst out laughing. With a chuckle, he tugged her closer and asked, “Care to dance?”
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