Dancing the Night Away This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It was Thursday, the day before admissionsfor band banquet became final. I had no date. AP classes and constantstudying consumed every minute; I didn’t have the energy forcultivating relationships. No one had asked me, a bookworm focused ongrades, and I couldn’t bring myself to go alone. I decided to stayhome and enjoy banquet night with pizza and a cola.

Seated atthe kitchen table, thinking this through, I let the tears come. Over mydespairing sniffles and heavy breathing, I heard the phone ring. Brianfrom algebra class needed help on his homework. We went over theassignment, and then, out of the deep, unsuspecting blue, he asked me tothe banquet. I couldn’t believe it.

The next day, schooldragged. Finally, with fourth period over, I flew down the halls to theband room and found Brian there waiting. Together we filled out thebanquet forms and purchased tickets. Brian and I chose matching corsagesand boutonnieres, which I had never done before. Then, Brian walked meto the parking lot and waved to me as I left. It was a new feeling, aspecial feeling. I liked it.

With so much to do before nextSaturday, I didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully, Aunt Jan blewinto town to rescue me. Working in a department store, she knew thelatest styles and trends, but most importantly, she got incrediblediscounts.

“My darlin’ girl,” she said eyesshining, “we best get started!” We spent the entire weekendat the mall buying necessities, which turned out to be a heck of a lotmore than a dress.

“Now, Caroline, hun, your sports braain’t gonna cut it. We gotta get you out of that grannyunderwear,” said Aunt Jan. “So, come on, let’sgo.”

I stood there motionless debating, debating whetherto proceed or let the shock set a minute longer. What had I gottenmyself in for? Realizing I was in foreign turf, and in deep, I tried onthe items with caution.

Then the real quest began: the search forclothes people would actually see. We looked everywhere for the perfectgown and found it: black, spaghetti-strapped and tea length, it embodieda simple elegance. Five minutes later we discovered a pair of strappyheels to match. Mission accomplished, we exited the mall. On the wayout, Aunt Jan handed me a little sack.

“For you,”she said. I half chuckled. What more could I get in one day? Opening it,I grew quiet. There, neatly arranged in a small velvet box, rested apair of chandelier earrings, a necklace and matchingbracelet.

Willing the sun’s rising and setting, I countedthe days until the banquet. The clock chimed six o’clock. Iwaited, ready and dressed since five, ready since childhood. Soon, Brianappeared at my front door, took my hand in his, and escorted me to thecar.

“You look beautiful, Caroline, absolutelybeautiful,” Brian said. As he opened the car door, I thought, Ilook beautiful, I feel beautiful. Who would ever havethought?

Entering the dining area, Brian found our table.Familiar faces filled the room. Waiters served the meal, which smelleddelicious and tasted heavenly.

After the directors gave theirspeeches, they began to present awards. Then, after the slide show ofphotos taken over the past year, the real fun began. The waiters pulledthe tables off to the side, clearing the dance floor. The DJ turned upthe music and the lights went down, giving life to the rotating metallicball hanging from the ceiling.The girls took off their shoes and racedbarefoot to the dance floor.

Suddenly, I realized I had to letloose and dance with Brian in front of all these people. What would theythink? I had never done anything like this before. These people knew meonly as the girl, reserved and orderly, who did homework and studied allthe time. I didn’t even know how to dance. Fear gripped me and Ibecame painfully aware of each heartbeat. Brian couldn’t hear it,could he? No. He walked behind my chair, holding it for me to stand. Myblood pressure rose.

“Ready to dance?” heasked.

“Uh, yeah, okay,” I said. Brian offered me hishand. I wiped my sweaty palms on my dress before taking it. I beganwalking, but Brian just stood there. I followed his gaze to myfeet.

“Oh, right,” I said. Taking off my heels, Ishoved them under my chair. Then Brian brought me out on the dancefloor, right to the middle. He started to put his hand on my hip, but Istopped him.

“Wait a minute, Brian, there’s, uh,something I have to tell you.”

“What’sthat?”

For a few seconds I just looked at him, terrified,trying to make the words come.

“Brian, I, I’ve neverdone this before. I’m really nervous. I feel like everyone’sstaring at me, and that’s not even the worstpart.”

“No? What’s the worst part,Caroline?”

“I don’t know how to dance.I’ve never danced before.”

“Oh,Caroline,” Brian said. “Don’t worry about what peoplewill think. Half the people in this room don’t know how to dance.I don’t know how to dance. Just focus on the music, listen to therhythm, and go for it.”

At that moment I realized Briancouldn’t have been a more suitable guy for my firstdate.

“Alright,” I said, feeling more confident. Helpme do this, I prayed.

“Just relax. Breathe. Focus ondancing. I’m the only one who’s going to be looking atyou,” Brian said. More slowly than before, he again put his handon my hip, and around my waist. My arm then placed itself around hisshoulder. We started to move.

Song after song played, fast andslow, rap and pop. Looking like idiots, and knowing it, we crafted ourown routines, truly not caring who watched. Feeling the cool floorbeneath my bare feet, concentrating on his dark brown eyes, I danced theevening away. At midnight, it came to an end, as I had hoped it neverwould.

We filed out of the Sheraton, tired from dancing. The rideto my house was peaceful with little traffic. I talked the whole way,still feeling the effects of the dance and adrenaline.

Pulling upat my house, it seemed a lifetime since I had left. Grabbing my sweater,I strolled down the path, Brian at my side. I retrieved the key and as Iturned, my eyes caught Brian’s.

“I really had anawesome time with you,” he said.

“Same here,” Ireplied. “I have never enjoyed myself more.” Giving my arm aslight squeeze, he glanced toward the car; it was still running. With atwinkle in his eyes, he smiled at me.

“Well, good night.I’ll see you Monday, Caroline.” He went back to his car andwaited, making sure I got safely inside, then backed out of thedriveway.

I tiptoed to my bedroom, hung up my dress, removed myheels and returned my jewelry to its box. Wearing plain pajama bottomsand a wrinkled T-shirt, I crawled into bed. Eyes closed, I began playingthe night over in my head from start to finish. Contentedly I toldmyself, “People, time with people is what I’ve beenmissing.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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