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Berserk at Ballroom
“I’m so nervous for the ballroom show tonight, mom! I hope I don’t fall on my face in front of everyone,” I wailed.
“You won’t. Now go upstairs and get ready. You only have a few more hours and you should probably warm up before you get there.”
“Not like that would help,” my seven-year-old sister Cameron sneered under her breath as she waltzed into the room carrying her brand new purse.
“Oh hello, Cameron,” I said with mock-enthusiasm. “I like your purse; it looks like a trash-bag.”
My mom clicked her tongue disapprovingly.
“Girls…be nice!” she said sternly.
I trudged up to my room, where I slipped into my new dark red dress, slapped a little lipstick on my lips, and jammed my feet into my brand-new two-inch heels. All the other girls were wearing three inch, but not MaCall. She needed to learn how to dance in old lady shoes. I licked my fingers and tried to wipe the dried blood off my blisters from my last lesson. Ballroom wasn’t exactly all fun and games. It took a lot of hard work to look remotely elegant on the dance floor.
After burning a few curls into my already-crisped hair, I grabbed my bag and stomped to the car. I couldn’t wait for this night to be over. I’d never been to a “ballroom party” and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.
I slunk into the studio at around 7 P.M. It was just my luck that an enormous gust of wind followed my entrance, which made everyone swivel their heads to stare.
“Hey!” everyone cheered. Fresh meat.
I sunk three inches into my shoes, wanting to hide. However, remembering my manners, I did a little wave and smiled at my approaching partner.
“Rrrr-eady?” he grinned, his “R’s” rolling in his Greek accent. This was my instructor, Elias.
“Nope. But let’s just get this over with,” I muttered shortly, sticking out my hand and sighing.
Elias furrowed his brow with disapproval.
“You could at least pretend like you’re having fun,” he pouted, disappointment coloring his voice.
“I am having fun!” I cried, the knots in my stomach tightening. “I just don’t want to embarrass myself.”
“Okay, good. I’ll be right back. There are a few other ladies I need to dance with,” he said, running his hand through his hair and smoothing out his eyebrows.
I rolled my eyes.
Need to dance with, I thought, yeah right. Meanwhile, I made my way over to the counter where my friend Becca was sitting. She was in 11th grade, and her riveting job was manning the studio desk. Just as I opened my mouth to greet her, I felt a warm, slimy hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see a short middle-aged man with a Frankenstein haircut, glasses, and a disgusting black flannel shirt that was smeared with stripes of sweat. He had rather large ears and repulsively green-shaded skin. He was about thirty. (Thirty is middle-aged when you’re fourteen.)
“Well hello, darling. May I have this dance?” he purred. I noticed with disgust that his voice sounded phlegmy and nasal.
“Um…I’m sorry, sir, but I haven’t learned the salsa yet,” I said, putting on a winning smile. I wasn’t lying—I really hadn’t.
The man smiled a creepy crooked smile of sympathetic understanding.
And just as I was about to sigh with relief, he snatched my hand.
“That’s okay, I’ll lead you through it,” he said confidently, pulling me onto the floor.
Little frogs jumped in the pit of my stomach. As a final act of desperation, I turned to Becca, my eyes pleading at her for help. She sort of shrugged. I couldn’t really blame her—there was nothing she could do. I turned back to the man-thing.
“Okay,” I squeaked.
If you’ve ever had a time in your life when you’ve wanted nothing more than to unzip a dark hole in the air and crawl into it, you’ll know the feeling I’m trying to describe. As his squishy sweaty fingers curved around mine, I started wondering what I’d ever done in my life to deserve this. My cheeks flushed with humiliation as he attempted to glide me around, constantly swinging me under his sweaty smelly armpit in some kind of wild spasmodic turn I’d never learned. When I reached a point of desperation, I decided to try reverse psychology.
“Uh, sir. I’m sorry, but I must be totally embarrassing you. You are far too great a dancer to partner with an amateur like myself.”
I paused, watching his eyes to see if my compliment was having any effect on him.
“You know,” I continued thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t be offended if you waltzed me to the curb right now and chose a new partner.”
Still no effect.
“Well,” I sighed. “It doesn’t help that I have an upset stomach. I had terrible pancakes this morning with lots of syrup and whipped cream. In fact, I feel as though I might—oh dear!”
I bent my head over and started convulsing a little.
“Chin up, chin up,” he said with crushing reassurance. “You’re talking a lot of nonsense. You’re a wonderful dancer, and within a few more dances, I’ll have you feeling quite confident about the mambo.”
I thought we were doing the salsa. Argh! He doesn’t even know which dance this is.
“And don’t worry,” he continued. “I’m sure the upset-stomach is just a passing feeling…easily cured by a good dance partner.”
By the way, when he said ‘within a few more dances,’ I almost screamed. Each dance lasted about two minutes, and after six minutes of dancing with the Midget Frankenstein Snot-Monster, I think I really would have barfed. It was time to improve my Escaping Weird Dance Partner Skills. Quickly, I pulled one of my hands from his and started wildly scratching my scalp. (From the corner of my eye, I noticed that Becca and her friend Megan were ogling us, their hands cupped desperately over their mouths so as to suppress their hysterics.) I would get them back for that.
“OMG! My head itches so bad!” I cried, dramatically mock-examining my fingernails for dandruff…or maybe if I were lucky…giant lice.
The man, whom I will address as Weirdo, just grinned.
“That happens to me too! During winter!” he cried sympathetically, looking delighted to have found a Dandruff Soulmate.
I choked back a little vomit.
“Then you’ll know all about The Dandruff!” I managed to squeal, itching my scalp a little more desperately for effect.
He nodded, excitement in his eyes.
“I never wanted to tell anyone because I thought they would think I was gross. I feel so much better now that a hip young girl like you feels the same way!” he exclaimed.
I blinked. Nothing was cracking this guy. If anything, I was just finding out about things that I NEVER wanted to know. As a last effort, I pulled my hands from his. A new song started to play on the stereo. It was this or nothing.
“Oh, Lord! I forgot my gloves!” I cried, just loud enough for Becca and Megan to burst into laughter behind the desk. I shot them a glare.
“Why do you need gloves?” Weirdo inquired curiously.
I looked around and leaned in closer to his mouth, the smell of which I will not even begin to describe.
“For…the warts,” I said forebodingly.
“Warts?” he asked, and to my happiness, a smidgen of disgust tinged his voice.
“Highly contagious warts. That’s why I usually wear gloves when I dance. Oh dear, I guess I left them in the car. But luckily we’ve only been dancing for about four minutes, so you’ll only get a few warts. I have to warn you though, they hurt really bad and you’ll have to spray a special disinfectant on your hands before you wipe—”
“It’s okay,” he said, his eyes warmly gazing into mine. “I already get warts anyway. Wow, we’re more alike than I thought!”
I just stared at Weirdo. It was physically impossible for me to comprehend the words that were coming out of his mouth.
Dear Reader, to tell you the truth…I lie sometimes, I stole a piece of gum once, and there was one time I cheated on a test, but in general, I am a pretty good kid. I get good grades, I do my homework, I listen to my parents. Well…sometimes. I even walk the dog every Tuesday and do the dishes every Wednesday without much complaint. I don’t even ask to hang out with my friends too often.
SO WHY DID I DESERVE THIS?!
I couldn’t take it anymore.
…the bad dancing
…the itchy head
…the CONTATGIOUS WARTS…
NOTHING WAS WORKING!
And then, inspiration struck.
“Um…excuse me, but I have to go to the bathroom. Would you mind dancing with someone else for awhile?”
“Of course, go right ahead.”
This was the expression on my face:
Yes, my friends, it was that easy. I lied and lied and lied again, but when I finally told the truth, I was set free. Hence the age-old saying, ‘the truth will set you free.’ Literally.
The second I left the restroom, my eyes searched frantically for Weirdo. Sure enough, from the other side of the room, he was making his way toward me like a cat hot after prey. But I was prepared this time. I leapt behind the desk where Becca and Megan were giggling and whoosh-ducked under the counter.
Ooh, there’s candy down here. I reached into a giant bowl of mints and chocolate, but my munching joy was suddenly interrupted by the sound of a voice I never wanted to hear again. Weirdo was chatting with Becca and Megan.
“Hey girls, did you see where that little blonde girl went? The one I was dancing with?” Weirdo inquired.
Becca shot a nervous glance down at me. We both knew how bad she was at lying. Luckily Megan was better.
“Nope. Last time we saw her she was going to the bathroom,” Megan said.
“Poor thing. She’s probably throwing up in there. She said she had an upset stomach. But I thought I saw her leaving the restroom…” he said confusedly.
Becca grunted back a laugh. I pinched her ankle.
“Yow!” she wailed. Then she coughed.
“What I meant to say was…ahem…why don’t you go find a different partner?” Megan suggested.
“Okay…just let me know if you see her again.”
“Will do,” Becca assured, smiling at him winningly.
After I heard his footsteps trudging despondently away from the counter, Becca and Megan started cracking up.
“Girl, you owe me,” Megan said, ducking her head under the counter and grinning into my chocolate-stained face.
I handed her my last dollar, but it was totally worth it.