Will You Dance,

If I Ask You to Dance?










Trixie, Honey and Diana nibbled a little and fidgeted a lot as they waited for their guests to arrive.  They were all secretly relieved that the first to arrive was Dan, along with his date, Patsy.  He gave each of his three “little sisters” a onceover, commenting on how lovely they looked.  When he reached Trixie, he gave her a big hug.

“This night is yours, Freckles,” he whispered.

Trixie graced him with a sunny smile.  “Thanks, Danny.  I’m glad you’re here… but if you ever tell the rest of the Big Brother Brigade I said that, I’ll hurt you.”

Thrilled to see the spark in her eyes and the spirit he knew and loved, Dan grinned broadly.  Cracking his knuckles and flexing a muscle, he said, “Just remember, if Chris – or anyone else, for that matter – ever steps over whatever line you set, I’ll hurt them.  And we don’t have to share that with the rest of the Big Brother Brigade, either.  It can be our little secret.”

Trixie burst out laughing.  “It’s a good thing I adore you, Mangan.”

Dan preened.  “Yes.  Yes, it is.”

Mart arrived and made a beeline for Diana.  After a nearly chaste kiss and the proper admiration for the beauty that was his beloved, he took her arm and wandered over to his sister.  “Ah, for the second-most lovely lady here this evening…”

“Gee, thanks, Mart,” Honey’s interruption was droll.

Turning to their honey-haired friend, Mart rejoined, “You are gorgeous, indubitably, fair Madeleine, but Beatrix here has the added benefit of resembling yours truly.”

“Oh, gross, Mart!” Trixie exclaimed.  Then she tapped a knuckle on her chin thoughtfully and studied her brother.  “Although…” she looked him up and down again and then turned to her friends.  “I do believe he could pull this outfit off.  What do you think?”

Honey, Dan and Patsy laughed, while Diana choked on a most un-ladylike snort.  The ensuing coughing fit and Mart’s attempts to soothe her prevented him from responding to Trixie’s comment, leaving her grinning in triumph.  By the time he was certain Diana was okay, the next carload of guests had arrived.

In the interest of efficiency, Chris had picked up Paul, and then Merrissa and Dane.  Riss and Paul walked in arm-in-arm, and Trixie rushed to greet her friend.  “You look awesome!  The tiara really does something for you!”

“Yeah, puts me in danger of knocking down the decorations hanging from the ceiling,” Riss muttered.

“I was thinking it makes you look elegant and regal,” Paul offered loyally.

“Awww, he’s still sweet on you,” Trixie said, accompanied by gagging noises.

Paul glared at her.  “I can squash you like a bug, Belden.”

“I’d like to see you try it, Andrews.”  Trixie stood tall – or as tall as she could – and craned her neck to look at his face.  The attempt at a tough posture, mixed with her elegant attire and diminutive posture, served only to make her look farcical.

“Children, children,” Chris admonished, joining them.  “Don’t make me have to separate you already.”

Mart, standing close by, called out, “Yeah, Andrews.  Picking on her is my job.”

“Butt out, Mart,” Trixie to give her brother a vicious glare.

“Yeah, Mart,” Dan put in.  “You’re supposed to be threatening the boyfriends, not the nuisances.”

Trixie smirked at Paul.  “At least Dan has you properly pegged.”

“Hey, Blue Eyes,” Chris said, grabbing her hand and pulling her towards him.  “Focus on me for a minute.”

Looking up, Trixie’s eyes locked with his.  The look he gave her sent warm, gooey waves from her head down to her toes.  Mesmerized, her voice was a breathy whisper when she replied, “I can do that.”

Riss snorted.  “Yeah, real hardship there.”

Meanwhile, in another part of the room, Honey had turned to greet Dane when he arrived.  Her years of training in the social arts were the only thing that kept her from stuttering, stammering, and turning three shades of red.  As it was, she had to place a hand on her stomach to quell the butterflies.  “Hello, Dane.”

“Hello, Honey,” he said, nervously approaching her.  “I know corsages are a bit formal for this dance, but I couldn’t help myself.  I always think of roses when I think of you.”

Honey blushed prettily and accepted the simple corsage of roses, one pink and one white.  She sniffed the flowers and smiled.  “Thank you.”

“I’d offer to pin it on for you, but I’d probably stab you or something embarrassing,” Dane shrugged helplessly.

Maddie swooped in and accomplished the task with swift efficiency.  “Fortunately, I’m an expert at pinning corsages.  They’re lovely, Dane.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Wheeler.”

Once the pretty pink and white posy was properly nestled against the brick red of Honey’s dress, providing the perfect adornment, the couple moved to join the others.  Trixie and Chris were still staring into each other’s eyes dreamily, while Riss rolled her eyes and Paul made gagging noises.

Dane looked at them thoughtfully.  “It seems to me, if Trixie sits in the bleachers and looks at him like that at every game this year, I should be a shoe-in for team captain by about mid-season.”

Chris pulled out of his reverie to glare at the younger boy, who merely grinned back unrepentantly.  Paul reached over and smacked Dane upside the head.  “That was my plan, lamebrain.  But I wasn’t gonna clue him in.  The element of surprise is crucial.”

Turning to Paul, about to make some witty comeback, Chris was then distracted.  Trixie, a becoming blush high on her cheeks and a soft smile teasing her mouth, took a step closer to him.  Instead of insulting his friend, Chris smiled and wrapped his arms around her.  They were once again lost in each other.

“Dear God, this night is going to be endless,” Riss complained.

“It will not!” Diana contradicted.  “We’re all going to have fun.  Now, everyone, eat something so you have energy for dancing the night away!”

“Yes, please, eat,” Honey agreed.

The two girls shooed everyone towards the food.  At first, Trixie and Chris stayed put.  As Diana passed them on her way to join Mart, she hissed, “That means you, too, Belden.”

Trixie rolled her eyes and looked apologetically at Chris.  “Apparently, if I don’t eat voluntarily I’ll be force-fed.”

“Well, you do need plenty of energy for dancing,” Chris said, taking her arm and leading her to the buffet table.  “I wouldn’t want you fainting away in my arms.”

Paul snorted.  “You’d love it if she swooned in your arms.  You’d scoop her up and act like some hero.  Belden, if you let him do something like that to add to his already overblown ego, I’ll kick your ass.”

Laughing along with everyone else, Trixie willingly picked up a plate.  For once, eating didn’t seem like such a chore.










As the Bob-Whites and company arrived at the school in multiple limousines, Paul leaned over to Chris.  “When seniors date sophomores, it’s supposed to elevate the lowly to get to join the senior crowd.  How come I feel like we’re supposed to feel like we’ve been elevated to join the Bob-Whites?”

“In case you’ve never noticed, Bob-Whites are actually higher on the social ladder than seniors.  Consider yourself lucky,” Chris replied quietly.  Then his typical superior attitude reasserted itself as he added, “At least until basketball season starts.”

The group wandered into the gym, admiring the decorations and greeting friends.  In no time at all, they were spread throughout the crowd.  A short time later, Ms. Watkins tapped the microphone on the stage and drew everyone’s attention.  She gave a short speech welcoming everyone to the homecoming dance, thanking the committee for their service, and introducing the band.  Then she said, “As you all know, every year the first dance is for the Homecoming Queen and her King.  Would Merrissa Parkman and Paul Andrews please step to the center of the dance floor?”

The rest of the students moved back, creating an empty space.  A spotlight shone down onto the area, just waiting for Riss to step into its light.  Reluctantly approaching the designated spot, Riss squeezed Paul’s hand with a death grip.  When they reached the center of the spotlight, Paul gracefully swept her into a waltz position.

Ms. Watkins said, “Ladies and gentlemen, let the dancing begin!”  Then she handed the microphone to Tad Webster.

Without further ado, the band launched into their first number.  Riss gritted her teeth and concentrated on not stepping on her own feet.  Paul muttered in her ear, “I don’t think I like you being in the spotlight like this.”

Suddenly defensive, Riss asked, “And why not?”

Pulling her closer, he replied, “Because I like it better when I’m the only guy noticing how beautiful you really are.”

Melting, Riss smiled.  The rest of the room faded from her vision and she noticed only Paul.  She relaxed, and her movements became more fluid.  As Paul led her around the floor, their dancing shifted from stilted and nervous to graceful and beautiful to watch.

He whispered to her, “You really are gorgeous, but you usually hide it from everyone but me.  The way you look tonight, I might have to knock a few guys’ teeth out for drooling.”

Riss laughed, her equilibrium completely restored.  “You’re a goon, and I love you for it.”

Trixie’s attention was split between watching Riss and Paul dance, and watching the band upon the stage.  Chris thought she was ogling Tad until she whispered to him, “Is she wearing combat boots?”

Looking up at Sarah, Chris started to laugh.  “Hey, those are her dress boots.  You should see what she wears to church, just to make sure everyone knows a choir robe can’t make her respectable.”

Trixie looked aghast.  “You’re kidding!”

“No, I’m not,” Chris grinned.  “Sarah is… unique.  It takes a while, but she grows on you.”

Head bopping to the beat, Trixie commented, “They sound good together.”

“Of course they do,” Chris agreed.  “They are good.”

“I bet you harmonize well with them,” Trixie shot him an impish look.

Chris’ return look was deeply pained.  “Blue Eyes, we’re in public.  I’m not singing.”

“You could sing just for me when we dance,” she cajoled.

He shook his head.  “You’re a pain sometimes.”

She quirked a brow.  “Then why do you put up with me?”

Giving her that smile that had the power to melt her into a puddle, he said, “Because you have got the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen, and a smile that takes my breath away.”

She managed to both blush and glow all at once.  Feeling both inquisitive and flirtatious, she asked, “Is that all?”

“No,” he said, drawing her into his arms.  “Your mind is never still.  You have the most loyal friends I’ve ever met.  You meddle and turn my world upside-down.  All in all, you completely fascinate me.”  He gave her a soft kiss.  “I learn something new every day, and all it does is make me want to learn even more.”

Trixie felt delicious tingles work their way up her spine.  She was sure that her feet were no longer touching the ground.  His eyes caressed her, making her feel warm everywhere.  It was amazing; for one brief moment she felt like the most beautiful girl in the room.  She smiled at him, and watched his breath stutter as he tried to smile back.  It gave her a feeling of power, and of joy.  This moment was so perfect that nothing could disturb her the rest of the night, no matter what happened.  Even the trouble of gussying up was more than worth it, just for this feeling.  God, she loved homecoming!

On the far side of the room, Mart was watching the scene play out between Chris and Trixie.  When she smiled at him, her whole being was transformed.  It was like watching a butterfly emerge from her cocoon.  His breath caught in his throat; he felt like he’d lost his childhood but had discovered something incredible on the horizon.

Suddenly appearing at Mart’s side, Dan whispered, “I have a feeling that’s why Brian wanted her to go with Chris.”

“Me too,” Mart nodded.  “I hate it when Brian’s right.”

Dan chuckled and slapped him on the shoulder before moving on.  Mart shook himself out of his reverie and went in search of Diana.  If he wanted to see beauty tonight, he could just concentrate on his own date.  There was no need to fuss over his sister.  He could let her have her magic night; the Lord knew she’d certainly earned it.












Later in the evening, Trixie was returning from a run to the ladies’ room with Honey and Di when she heard the strains of one of her favorite songs.  Chris appeared at her side.  Paraphrasing the lyrics, he asked her, “Would you dance, if I asked you to dance?”

Delighted, she let him lead her to the dance floor.  Tad’s voice carried over the speakers, and suddenly it seemed as if he was singing just for her.  Chris tensed, sensing the same.  Trixie pretended she noticed nothing.  She enjoyed being in Chris’ arms.  She let Tad’s voice wash over her and soothe her soul.  She listened to the lyrics.


I can be your hero, baby.

I can kiss away the pain.

I will stand by you forever.

You can take my breath away.


She wondered if either boy would ever realize the truth:  the word hero only brought one face to her mind, one name to her lips, one soul to her heart.  That fact would never change.  Someday, she’d dance with her true hero… forever, but not tomorrow.












Principal Stratton wandered the room.  He’d never seen so many faculty members volunteer to chaperone homecoming.  There were so many people here that he hoped the fire marshal stayed away.  Everyone was in high spirits.  The football team had won the game.  The homecoming queen was thrilling her court with her gracious humility.  The decorations were beautiful and the dance was going well.  This might even turn out to be the best homecoming in Stratton’s memory… provided that in the hour remaining, Tad Webster didn’t pull some kind of stunt from the stage.  Surprised that that was his only remaining worry, Stratton was actually sort of enjoying the dance.  Spotting Jerry Vanderhoef approaching the punchbowl with an ill-concealed flask, and seeing Coach Epperly swiftly intercept him, Stratton merely chuckled.  No matter how different this year seemed, some things would never change.












Honey squeezed the palms of her hands against her cheeks.  She felt as if she’d been grinning like a fool all evening.  It was hard to believe how much fun she was having!  All her friends seemed to be having just as much fun.  Her mother’s daughter to the core, Honey instinctively acted the hostess even when it wasn’t her party.  She had been checking up on her friends all night, especially Trixie.  Dane had introduced her to many of his friends; she’d known some already, but it was fun getting to meet people in a different context, and getting to see who was friends with whom outside of the cafeteria.

The thing Honey was most impressed with was the way everyone in the entire school was getting along so well.  It seemed as if banding together to fight the school board had united the students in a way never seen before.  It might not last long, but it felt so good that Honey was determined to enjoy it as long as she could.

Dane arrived at her side bearing a cup of punch.  “Here.  I promise it’s safe; I watched Coach intercept the annual spiking crew, so I don’t think there’ll be a problem tonight.”

Honey’s eyes grew wide.  “Who tried this time?”

“Jerry Vanderhoef,” Dane shrugged.  “He wasn’t being very discreet.  I think he didn’t care about being caught as much as making sure the tradition of trying was carried on.”

Giggling, Honey said, “We should ask Principal Stratton how many years it’s been since someone succeeded.”

Leaning closer to her ear, Dane confided, “Rumor has it that the last person to succeed was Andy Belden.”

Honey choked on her punch.  Coughing and sputtering, she shook her head.  “No way!  Mr. Belden would never do that!”

“I don’t know,” Dane said, grinning conspiratorially.  “I just know what I heard my mom tell my dad.  Remember, you didn’t know him as a teenager.”

“I know, but I just can’t picture that,” Honey mused.

“Don’t you know any stories about your dad as a kid doing something you can’t see him doing now?”

That made Honey laugh.  “Absolutely.  Tons.”

“I rest my case,” Dane said.

“I guess you’re right,” Honey conceded.  “I bet there are a ton of interesting stories about the adults we know.  Wouldn’t it be neat to hear them all?”

“Maybe that should be your next Bob-White project,” Dane suggested, taking her elbow and guiding her towards the dance floor.

“Do you really think that sounds exciting enough for Trixie?” Honey’s voice indicated how unlikely she thought that was.

“The idea, probably not.  But once she starts asking questions…” Dane waggled his eyebrows.

Honey burst out laughing just as he swept her into his arms and whisked her off to the beat of the current song.











During a slow song, Diana rested her head on Mart’s shoulder, content to feel his arms wrapped around her.  Her peace was disturbed when she felt Mart craning his neck to see across the room.  Di rolled her eyes and looked up at him.  “Stop watching your sister.  She’s having the time of her life, so leave her alone.”

Abashed, Mart flushed.  “I can’t help it.  This is so stupid, but when I look at you I see the most beautiful girl in the world, the heart of my soul.  And in my head, I know you’re the same age.  But when I look at Trixie I see this little tiny kid who’s nowhere near old enough to be at homecoming.”

Di shook her head.  “I know I’m always going to feel that way about my brothers and sisters, but I’m way older than them.  You’re not even a whole year older than Trixie; you’ve always been doing nearly the same things.  You’re interested in girls; why is it so hard to imagine her interested in boys and dating?”

“First of all,” Mart corrected, “I’m not interested in girls; I’m interested in you.  I’m not into dating; I’m into spending every possible moment in the presence of the love of my life.”

Smiling, Di sighed happily and gave him a kiss.  Mart rubbed noses with her and grinned before continuing his tirade.

“My sister, on the other hand, isn’t even dating the love of her life; she’s dating everyone else but!”

Diana laughed.  “Not everyone settles down at fifteen, you know.”

Mart stared at her in disbelief.  “Are you seriously trying to tell me that she didn’t meet her soul mate over a shotgun barrel at Ten Acres?”

Hesitating slightly, Di shrugged.  “I think they both have a lot of growing up to do.  Honestly, so do we.  The difference is, I can see us doing it together.  Those two… they’d probably kill each other along the way.  Maybe they need to grow up first in order to be together.”

“But we need to be together to grow up?” he wondered.

“Something just like that,” Di agreed.

Musing on Di’s view of things, Mart slowly nodded.  Focusing on her again, he said, “You really are smart about people, you know that?”

Di lit up like a Christmas tree.  Telling her she was beautiful meant nothing to her, because she heard it somewhere every single day.  But hearing someone say they thought she was smart thrilled her.  Coming from Mart, whose intelligence she had admired since she was little, the compliment meant the world to her.

Mart was enthralled with the shine in her eyes and the glow that spread across her face at his words.  “Smart and beautiful.  How did I get so lucky?”

“Because we were made for each other,” Di replied.  She sighed happily and slid back into his embrace, resting her head upon his shoulder once again.  As far as she was concerned, the night was perfect and was welcome to last forever.










At the height of the festivities, Tad called for everyone’s attention to the stage.  He introduced the members of the band, garnering a round of applause for each.  Then he began his own speech.

“When I was asked to fill in for the singer for tonight, I have to admit that I had the brilliant idea to use this platform to sing a special serenade to a special lady.”

Looks winged around the room.  Chris glared at him.  Trixie paled, awfully afraid he was about to embarrass her.  Mart and Dan both offered murderous looks.  Most of the crowd focused on Chris and Trixie, waiting with bated breath for a scene.

“HOWEVER,” Tad continued loudly, directing everyone’s attention back to him.  “This week, it has been amazing to watch our whole student body pull together in a crisis.  I’ve been so proud to be a part of this group of students… this family.  So this next song is a special dedication to all of you.  Feel free to join in if you want.”

The band began to play the first chords, and Tad started singing.


Sometimes in our lives

we all have pain, we all have sorrow

But if we are wise

we know that there's always tomorrow.


Trixie smiled happily.  She nudged Chris and started singing along.  Chris rolled his eyes, but also added his voice.  By the first chorus, the entire crowd was joining in.


Lean on me, when you're not strong

and I'll be your friend.  I'll help you carry on,

for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna need

somebody to lean on.


People swayed to the music, and started drifting towards their closest friends.  The Bob-Whites ended up all together, right in front of the stage.  Trixie looked at each of her friends in turn during the tune, including Riss, Paul, Chris and Tad.  When she looked up at him, she thanked him with her eyes for his choice of song.

Please swallow your pride, 

if you have things you need to borrow.

For no one can fill

those needs that you won't let show.

You just call on me brother when you need a hand.

We all need somebody to lean on.

I just might have a problem that you'll understand.

We all need somebody to lean on.


Lean on me when you're not strong,

and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,

for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need

somebody to lean on.

Lean on me when you're not strong,

and I'll be your friend. I'll help you carry on,

for it won't be long 'til I'm gonna' need

somebody to lean on.



When the last note faded, the entire assemblage burst out into spontaneous applause.  Someone started to chant the school’s name, and soon the room reverberated with the beat.  “S.J.S.H.S.  Sleepyside forever!”

Principal Stratton had never been more proud of his students.  He walked out onto the stage and shook Tad’s hand.  He waved aside the microphone and descended into the crowd, shaking hands and hugging students throughout the room.

Whether the students knew it or not, Patrick Stratton could attest that this was, by far, the greatest homecoming dance in Sleepyside history.









Author's Notes




Back Up Next