Chapter 15 A DANCE TO REMEMBER
Dinner!” we heard Jane call out.
Marney and I left her room and planted ourselves beside Fred at the kitchen table. Jane served dinner and Fred turned on the TV to watch the sports news.
“Fred? Can we just sit down without the TV on and have conversations like normal families do?” Jane asked.
“Normal families?” Marney asked with a laugh. “When has this family ever been normal?” Marney giggled and it made me giggle. Then Fred laughed, Jane smiled.
“Ok, can we sit down, eat and talk like extraordinary families?”
Fred leaned over and kissed Jane, “That’s more like it.”
Jane smiled. “Marney, I heard there is a dance going on at your school this weekend. I suppose Zack is taking you?”
I looked at Marney, “You didn’t say anything to me, Marney.”
Marney looked at me, “How would Zack know about the dance? And no, I’m not going. No one has asked me and when have I ever gone to a dance?”
Jane was a bit flustered but she collected herself, served some more food and answered, “I got a call from Zack today saying he was going to drop by and ask you.”
I looked at Marney, “A little creepy, asking Jane’s permission.”
“I thought it was a sweet gesture. Lord knows we could do with some good old fashioned manners around here.”
“When did you start praying?” Marney said to Jane.
“Oh boy,” I exclaimed. I started to pull my plate of food close to me.
“Marney Alise Ferguson!” Jane exclaimed.
“Fred, can I eat in my room?”
“No you may not,” Jane said to me. “Everyone stay seated and finish eating. We are going to have some uninterrupted, pleasant family time for once.”
“Honey,” Fred asked Jane, “can I just check the score of the...”
“No, you may not.” Fred shut up pretty fast and we all sat there eating in silence.
It was kind of strange, but at the same time, it was also kind of peaceful. We’d never had a moment of silence over dinner, let alone ten minutes of silence. I realized, though, someone was going to have to bring the table back together in peace. I cleared my throat to say something when the doorbell rung--saved by the bell.
Fred put his napkin down, stood up and said, “I’ll get it.” He was pretty light on his feet. I heard him at the door. “Hello Zack,” he said, “nice to see you again.”
“Is Marney home?” Zack asked.
“Yes, let me get her,” Fred responded.
Fred came into the kitchen. “Marney, you have a visitor.”
Marney wheeled herself from the table, which was still silent, by the way, and became even more silent as we listened to know what was happening in the other room.
“Hi Marney,” Zack said. “How have you been?”
“All right, I guess,” she said.
“I came by to ask if I could be your date to your school’s dance this Friday.”
“How’d you know about it anyway?” Marney asked him.
“Well, I dropped by the school this afternoon to see if I could pick you up and take you home, but you weren’t there. A student handed me this flier.”
There was some silence then. And we all leaned our heads a little closer to the door as if our heads were magnetized.
Finally Marney spoke up. “How do you think I’m supposed to go to a dance, Zack?”
“If you can play basketball, you can dance.”
Then we didn’t hear anything else except for the door closing. When Marney arrived back into the kitchen, we all looked at her. She was holding a bright green flier.
“Looks like I’m going to the dance with Zack on Friday.” She smiled a little unsure smile and shrugged her shoulders, but still I could see that gleam in her eye.
“That’s great, Sweetheart,” Jane said and hugged her.
“Way to go, Sport,” Fred said as he punched Marney’s arm.
Journal Topic #22 I would like to learn to -
I would like to learn to dance. Maybe it sounds dumb, but I’ve never been invited to a dance and I think, if I were invited, I’d like to know how to dance. I’d like to be the underdog, the one that nobody expects to win, and I’d like to dance like Michael Jackson. I think I could really rise up in popularity if I knew how to dance. I wonder if our school has dances. If they do, I wonder if Cong would ask me to go.
Don’t tell Cong, but, I think I would really like that.
The night of the dance was a bit awkward for Marney. She hadn’t been in a dress since she was about fourteen and was asked by this giant Albino named, Barry White, to the “Make it Last Forever” dance. I know it sounds like I’m making it up. But, I’m not. It’s in Marney’s 9th grade yearbook. He was, of course, a basketball player, but he still seemed to tower over the rest of the team.
Jane helped Marney get dressed. They told me I was getting in the way so I was sent out of the room. I could hear them struggling, though. Jane would tell Marney, “Stop fidgeting.”
Marney would tell Jane, “Relax.”
I guess it was hard on both of them. You gotta hand it to Jane, though, it’s over a hundred pounds she’s got to lift and it’s not like she gets any practice in the construction company as a receptionist. The only thing she lifts there is a pen.
She used to have to help Marney wash and dress and everything until Marney relearned those things on her own. It’s only tonight that they seem to be having so much trouble. “For crying out loud, Marney, let me do it!” I heard Jane yell.
“I can zip it up now. I got it!” Marney yelled back.
Fred walked by me as I eavesdropped at Marney’s door.
“What’s happening, Sam?” Fred asked.
“Girl stuff,” I replied.
“Girl stuff,” he confirmed, “got it.” Then he walked away. I heard the TV switch on to the Sports channel.
Finally, the door to Marney’s room opened and Jane and Marney came out. Marney looked beautiful. She had her hair all done up and she wore makeup. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen her in makeup and the dress looked beautiful on her. It even hid the chair a little.
“You look beautiful, Marney.” I said to her.
“Thanks, Squirt.” She smiled.
The doorbell rang. Fred answered and Zack stood at the door in a tuxedo. He looked much better than the boys at my school.
“Wow!” I said. Suddenly, I felt guilty. Maybe I should call Cong.
Marney stood beside me, mouth wide open. Zack smiled and suddenly, she recognized it was a little obvious. She closed her mouth and swallowed a little shyly.
“You look beautiful, Marney,” Zack said. “You ready?”
Marney pulled herself together, toughened up, straightened her back and said, “Yep.” Then she wheeled herself out the door, down the ramp and toward Zack’s truck. She looked back at Fred. “Don’t wait up!”
Fred walked to the patio, “Yeah, right,” he said skeptically. “Have her home by midnight Zack.”
“Yes, Sir,” Zack said.
“I mean it,” Fred reiterated, “Midnight. That’s my first born.”
“Okay, Dad. Close the door,” Marney called out.
Jane pulled Fred inside the house, looked at Marney and waved then went inside and shut the door while I stood at the window and watched them leave.
It was getting late when Marney came back home. I was in bed, but I wasn’t sleeping. I really wanted to stay up and wait for Marney to come back and tell me about her fairy tale dance. But, that didn’t happen. Instead, I heard shouting. I jumped up and ran to my door to listen.
She came in through the front door and slammed it in a fit.
“Buzz off, Zack!” I heard her shout.
I know she didn’t say “buzz” but, I’m not supposed to say those words even though they’ve been part of my vocabulary since starting the 7th grade. Jane and Fred were trying to find out what happened to Marney. Fred was really angry even though he didn’t know what happened yet.
“Did he hurt you? Did he try to touch you?” Fred asked.
“Jesus, Dad, I’m not eight.”
“Marney, please, just tell us what happened,” Jane demanded.
Marney looked at her watch. “Just turn on the news.”
“What?” Fred asked.
“What for, honey?” Jane repeated.
“Just do it. It’s probably on the ten o’clock news right now. Just turn it on.”
Fred switched on the television in the living room and surfed through all the news channels. “What are you trying to show us, Marney?”
“There!” she shouted, “Right there!”
Fred stopped switching the channels. A news reporter was on the television talking to kids at Marney’s school dance. He then turned to Marney and Zack. “This is it,” Marney said.
“Oh my God, you’re on TV!” I shouted as I ran out of my room and stood next to them by the TV. They didn’t even notice me.
“We’re live from St. Augustine’s High School in Cherry Hill, and who did we just run into? Actor, Zack Winterberry and his date...”
Zack spoke into the reporter’s microphone, “Marney. She’s the school’s handicapped basketball star.”
Marney seemed stunned.
The reporter continued asking Zack questions about how he decided to take Marney to the dance.
“Why is this news?” Jane asked.
“It’s not,” Marney answered. “It’s a creepy paparazzi show that finds and follows stars.”
“How did he find Zack?” I chimed in. Everyone looked at me like I shouldn’t be there. But I didn’t budge. I just looked at Marney.
“They didn’t have to find him. He told them where he was going to be and when and who with.”
“I’m not following, Sweetheart, and this is bad because?” Fred asked.
“Don’t you see, Dad?” Marney responded. “He set me up. This was all for publicity. It was so he could look good and sweet and kind to his fans. He’s building his publicity for the new show he’s starring in. He never really liked me. All I am to him is a publicity stunt. He pities me.” She broke down into tears and rolled away to her room.
“Bastard!” I said.
“Samantha, go to your room!” Jane and Fred demanded simultaneously.
I walked off sluggishly.
“March!” Jane called.
I hustled to my room and shut myself in, but I listened against the wall to hear if Marney was all right. She was still crying.