“Dammit, he’s cute,” Mike Joyce muttered under his breath, staring intently at a group of his friends across the hallway who were talking to one of their teachers.
“Who, Morrissey?” Andy Rourke asked, alarmed.
“What? No, gross! I meant Mr. Costello,” Mike told him, frowning.
“Mr. Costello? That’s gross, Mike.” Mike ignored him, going back to gazing adoringly at the teacher. “No. Mike. Stop looking at your teacher’s butt. You’re gross, Mike. Gross.”
“Shut up,” Mike tossed the back of his hand against Andy’s arm, “I always have to sit there while you’re staring at Lorna.”
“What do you mean?” Andy sputtered, ears reddening, “I don’t- I mean...”
“Come on, everyone knows you’ve got a crush on her. You want to have her weird little bleach-blond bass babies.”
The bell rang, signaling the end of passing period, and both boys grabbed their bags, heading to class. Mike walked into his drumming class with Professor Moon, and sat down. Around him his classmates sat tapping their fingers on the edges of their desks, which were all built to create an echoing drum beat when hit. Across the room, Don was passing a note to Belinda along with a wink, both of which she pretended not to notice.
After a lecture on rhythm, shouted over the sound of a loud metronome, class was dismissed. Because it was his last class of the day, Mike was free to do as he pleased until dinner time. He wandered through the packed halls, stopping to talk to Johnny Marr beside the boy’s locker.
“So you know that new kid, Darby?” Johnny practically spat the name, his face souring.
“Yeah?” Mike asked, not paying attention as he noticed Mr. Costello coming around the corner at the end of the hall.
“Well, apparently he’s in my Arts and Crafts class and he’s so annoying! The whole time he kept saying all of these awful-”
“Sorry, got to go, Johnny, but I’ll see you later and we can talk about your crush or whatever you were talking about!” Mike said quickly, half-jogging away to meet the teacher.
“I wasn’t- I don’t have a crush!” Johnny shouted indignantly after him, muttering when he saw that Mike wasn’t listening.
“Mr. Costello!” Mike greeted, slowing to walk beside him.
“Hello, Mike,” he replied, smiling warmly. He readjusted the thick, black framed glasses on his nose, “Can I help you with anything?”
“Oh, uh, no- er, yes, but- I was just wondering, um, if you were going to be, uh, chaperoning the dance at the end of the month?”
“I didn’t know they needed chaperones,” he told him, “If they do I would be happy to-”
“Oh, I don’t know, I was just wondering,” Mike said, blushing.
“Well, I’ll drop by the party planning classroom later just to check,” Mr. Costello smiled, “Isn’t Captain Sensible the head of planning this year?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Mike agreed. He was already worried that Sensible would decorate the dance with giant rabbits or toy trains or something, ruining the romantic atmosphere he would need to woo Mr. Costello.
“Well, either way I’m sure they’d be happy for another chaperone. Most of the teachers are tired of going to the dances, but I’ve only been here a couple of years, you know, and before that I was at the dances as a student.”
Mike nodded, remembering when he was a freshman, sneaking behind the band practice room to listen to Elvis Costello and his friends. They were getting ready to play at their own dance, which freshmen weren’t allowed at.
The night of the last dance of the year, he had opened the window in his dorm, straining to hear the beat of the music. Morrissey, who had been his roommate before Andy and Johnny got to the school and they had all switched, kept growling at him to go to bed, but he refused, leaning out the window and cursing that their room was on the opposite side from the gym.
“If you really want to hear it so badly just go over there,” Morrissey had grumbled into his pillow.
“But we’re not allowed to go,” Mike told him.
“So? Haven’t you noticed that there are essentially no rules at this school? As long as you don’t do heroin on a school night and go to a couple of classes, you’re good.”
“Fine,” Mike muttered, pulling on his shoes and his leather jacket. There was a very latter-like trellis that climbed up the outer walls of each dorm that would be very useful for sneaking out and, Mike realized, was likely constructed for that very purpose.
He scaled down the wall, looking nervously around for any teachers once he was on the ground. Mike followed the sound of Elvis’ music until he was standing just to the side of the gym, standing in the shadows in case someone walked out.
When the song ended, he heard Elvis’ voice over the speaker, announcing that the next song would be their last for the night. Mike had gotten there just in time. He closed his eyes, swaying to the music and tapping his fingers against his leg. Chancing being seen to hear better, he edged closer to the doors of the gym, bobbing his head to the beat. Soon he was hopping from foot to foot and kicking about to the music. Mike usually never danced, but alone in the dark he let the sound wash over him as he twirled under the moonlight.
As their set came to a close, Mike glanced at his watch, seeing that it was nearly midnight. He slid to the ground tiredly, leaning against the wall of the gym, his cheeks flushed. He closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of the next band setting up.
“How were we?” came a voice from above him.
Mike’s eyes shot open, his body tensing as he looked up at Elvis Costello, leaning against the doorway to the gym.
“W-what?” he stuttered, sitting up straighter as Elvis sat beside him.
“You were listening, right?” Mike nodded slowly. “What did you think?”
“You were amazing!” Mike told him, “Uh, you were all amazing.”
“Did you come to hear all of the bands or where we the main attraction?”
“Um, I-” Mike began, his ears reddening.
“Come on, the next band is supposed to be good. My friend Pete is in it.” Elvis stood, offering his hand to the younger boy.
“I’m a freshman- I’m not supposed to go to the dance,” Mike said, frowning.
“You’re allowed to go if you’re going with an upperclassman. If anyone asks I’ll just say you’re my date,” Elvis grinned, pulling Mike up to stand. Mike smiled, bemused, and followed the other boy into the gym.
After that night Mike saw Elvis in the halls from time-to-time, and the other boy always sent him a smile, but he never got a chance to talk to him again before graduation. Elvis returned to the school, but as Mr. Costello, and Mike was always nervous talking to him.
“Who are you taking to the dance?” Mr. Costello asked him lightly, jarring him back to the present.
“Oh, uh, I don’t have a date,” Mike told him, “I was planning to just go alone.”
“I had planned to go alone to my dance, too,” Elvis told him, grinning.
“Mike!” Andy called, running past and tugging on the strap of Mike’s backpack. “C’mon, everyone’s meeting in Moz and Johnny’s room.”
“Okay, just a second,” Mike turned back to the teacher, “Bye, Mr. Costello.”
“See you later, Mike,” he smiled, raising his hand as he walked around the corner.
“Stop looking at his butt, Mike!” Andy berated, smacking his arm and starting towards the dorms.
“I wasn’t!” Mike insisted, blushing.
“You’re gross, Mike. Gross.”