Romance Fiction posted June 13, 2021

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Past acquaintance affects a future relationship

The Dance

by Annette R.

First date Contest Winner 

He recognized her even though it had been many years since he last saw her. She entered the building with that same smile that lit up the room, pretty, wavy hair, and nice figure. They met at 4-H camp as teenagers attending camp at the same time from different counties. They only saw each other at 4-H camp through the years. He most admired her ability to play softball with joy and abandon better than the boys not caring what people thought. He wondered if she would recognize him and even if she did would it matter? He was not sure he ever spoke to her at 4-H camp. Every year a big, hefty, mean looking football player sized male camper claimed her attention on the first day of camp. Being tall but skinny and not inclined to sports at all, he had confined his interest to sly glances at her. Every year for five years. It was such a relief to be at camp and not have to avoid or suffer bullying from athletes. He was not about to engage her friend. Besides, he could dance and there were plenty of 4-H girls interested in a tall, skinny pretty boy. Still ...

By this time, she was probably married to the gentleman she arrived with as would be his luck. His fear of athletes was long gone. There might just be a chance this was not a coincidence and maybe an opportunity.

She noticed a tall, skinny, attractive guy looking her way. He seemed somehow familiar, but she could not quite place him. It was a 50th surprise birthday party and the birthday girl was to arrive imminently. She turned to listen to and converse with the people at her table, forgetting about the familiar gentleman.

The birthday girl and her husband arrived, and shouts of Happy Birthday rang out. The birthday girl was definitely surprised. There were speeches and gift opening. She did not really know the birthday girl, was interested in and waiting for her favorite activity: dancing. That was after all why she came with a friend of a friend. Finally, it was time for a food line and cutting of the cake.

He joined the food line as close as he dared, spied their hands, and found they were not wearing wedding rings. A glimmer of hope although he would still have to figure out how to 'meet' her. He thought she glanced at him but could not be sure because she and her date were conversing. Her date seemed to be introducing her to various people.

Finally, the DJ started the music. She loved to be the first on the dance floor. The group filled the dance floor quickly for the line dance that she happily joined. Line dancing was all she learned in high school, and she found it easy to learn spontaneously. Her parents did not want her dancing with boys especially not couple dances. One of the first things she did after entering college was join a dance group and start learning lots of dances. With couple dances, the dance teacher generally made them keep 'fresh air' between them, but it was all still fun. When she saw a guy at college swing dancing the same way a couple of boys did at 4-H camp she asked for lessons. He was more than happy to teach her, and it became her favorite dance.

He was sure it was her when she line-danced. That is the only dance she seemed to know at 4-H camp while he knew many dances. He joined the line dance hoping to get close enough to talk to her but no dice. Dancing was the only 'sport' he was interested in as a child and a teen. He would watch old people like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire on TV and wish he could be like them. He would watch American Bandstand and Soul Train wishing he could be there. He imagined how great it would be if he could earn a living dancing. His mother had indulged his interest by arranging dance classes even though it was an hour's drive one way. People said he got his father's height and his mother's good looks. The mama's boy teasing started in elementary school, and it got worse in high school because of the basketball coach.

The coach and the team members wanted him to learn to play because he was tall like his father. He had no interest in the pushing and shoving involved. His father had no interest in sports because he was intent on financial independence by working long hours: an entrepreneur. Neither parent saw any reason to make him play basketball. His father thought it was unfair to give high school athletes dreams of playing in the pros, hoop dreams. His father knew all too well how hoop dreams can vanish with an injury or simply better players. He was an outstanding high school basketball player and a great college player, but the NBA did not come calling. He had even tried being a free agent before realizing his future lay elsewhere. A much better future was to teach boys to be entrepreneurs like he was teaching his son. He hoped the business could be passed down to his only child after college and a business degree.

The athletes tried their best to make Gene's life miserable with name calling -- mama's boy to faggot and worse. His given name did not help as the athletes said it was a girl's name and his voice were girlish. He mostly learned to avoid them which meant avoiding other students that were the athletes' friends. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not.

His parents were not aware of the bullying, but it helped that they expected him home right after school. If it was not a dance class day, he had to work in the rental property management business, sometimes repairing houses. It was not something he enjoyed but he understood it paid the bills. The work was a small price to pay for the opportunity to go to dance classes. Working after school, being a nerd, dance classes out of town and staying away from athletes meant he did not make many friends in high school. Dancing and 4-H camp were welcome treats and breaks.

The next song was good for swing dancing, so she and her date were among the couples swing dancing. He thought, I can do a whole lot better at swing dancing than he is showing me. I gotta find a way to show her and dance with her. The safest thing was to dance with another lady and hope she was watching. After asking her husband if it was ok, he picked the birthday girl and expertly twirled her around the floor. He was careful to give a strong lead so the birthday girl could follow and enjoy herself. He was also making sure the steps were as close to the ones he used at 4-H camp all those years ago.

The party goers gave the floor to the birthday girl who was swing dancing with the handsome guy she could not place earlier. Watching the steps and the turns she did recognize him -- she had watched those same steps and turns at 4-H camp. They looked so intricate then, that she did not dare ask to try and learn them. Most of the guys at 4-H camp who could dance were not that talented. In fact, only one other guy from the same county did similar turns and the two of them were friends. Line dancing was much easier, and she could laugh at herself when she missed a step not caring who noticed. First there would be the taboo of dancing with a boy and the nervousness of everyone watching. However, since her teen years she had learned Detroit, East Coast and West Coast swing. Chicago Steppin' was just a little different and in Washington, DC hand dancing was popular. There was also Philly bop. Whatever swing was called, she could follow a strong lead. Whenever she saw a gentleman swing dancing, she would try persuading his partner to let her dance with him. She had to figure out a way to keep her date happy and wrangle a dance with this gentleman. After remembering where and how she met him, she realized she even knew his first name.

He was sure she saw them. He felt she stared at the dance the whole time. Her date leaned over and said something to her. He thought he knew what it was because she looked surprised, and he decided it was time. He need not have been concerned. Her date was waving him over and he hoped it did not show how happy he was to oblige.

After pleasantries, he discovered her date knew she wanted to dance with him and was ok with it. As he escorted her onto the floor, he leaned down and said, "Hello Jean. Long time."

She looked up and replied, "You are Gene from 4-H camp! I didn't know you noticed me at camp. All the girls wanted to dance with you."

He found her easy to dance with, following his lead with little talking no matter how intricate he made the steps. It was like they were the only ones in the room. They danced as if they had been dancing partners awhile and were having a lot of fun doing it. During the dance he asked if she was married and was ecstatic when she answered no. He made sure they were as far away from her table as possible at the end of the music. As they were walking back to her table he said, "I'm single too and if you heard I'm gay, it is not true. I'd love to tell you my story when you have time."

She answered, "I'd like that, and I loved dancing with you. I never thought about you being gay, but I did just hear that from my date."

Back at her table he complimented her dancing skills saying there were a couple more steps he would like to try. When he asked her date if he could have one more dance before they left, Henry agreed. During that second dance he slipped her his phone number.

She called the next day.

"Wow! I'm so happy you called," Gene gushed.

"Well, I'm looking forward to what I bet is an unusually interesting story," Jean replied.

"By the way is it possible that I could call you Jeanie? Would you mind?"

"Giving me a little nickname, are you?" Jean replied chuckling. "Sure, why not."

"So, Jeanie, I belong to a ballroom dancing group and there's something going on every night, mostly weekly lessons. On the weekends there are usually lessons before dances on Friday and Saturday night with light refreshments. Would you be interested in checking out the group?"

"I love to dance, you are a great dancer and I like to eat."

They both laughed.

"What would the best evening to meet you there?" Jeanie asked.

"How about Saturday?" Gene replied.

"I'm not free this Saturday, but I'm free next Saturday. Will that work for you?" Jeanie inquired.

"Sure. Meanwhile could we maybe talk on the phone between now and then?"

"Absolutely." They talked about the location of the ballroom dancing. Then others who attended 4-H camp, where they were and what they were doing. They talked several more times in the next two weeks about a variety of topics, never touching Gene's story. Jeanie was enjoying getting to know Gene and figured he would talk about that when he was ready.

Neither of them drank alcohol and they found there were other things they had in common. Between dances they talked about their love of traveling and places they had visited. Gene had continued wood crafting -- his 4-H project -- and Jeanie had continued with cooking, sewing and handcrafts -- her projects. They both loved the beach, playing cards and gardening for fresh vegetables. When they were younger, they both liked bicycling and laughed about getting a bicycle built for two. It was a marvelous evening.

On the walk back to their cars Gene asked, "Did being called a tomboy bother you?"

It seemed like an odd question, but Jeanie answered, "No. Why should it?"

"Well, I know some girls don't like it," Gene explained.

Jeanie replied, "It never bothered me. When I wanted to play softball, the boys said I couldn't play with them. I reminded my parents that they told me boys are not better than girls, a girl can do whatever a boy can do. My father told the boys they would let me play. I was the only girl that chose to play, and I had to learn to play as did some of the boys. I was determined to show them I could play better than any boy."

Gene interrupted, "At camp you played with as much of a competitive spirit as the boys and that was impressive. You didn't care about your fingernails or if you got dirty sliding on bases or diving to catch a ball. You didn't care if your hair got messed up -- of course you have beautiful hair that always looks good."

Jeanie blushed, thanked him, and paused so he could continue thinking this might be an opening to his story.

His voice cracked a little when he said, "They called me a fairy when I started dance classes. I didn't understand because in the dance classes I was usually surrounded by girls. I knew what fairy meant but how could I be liking boys while choosing to be surrounded by girls? It's good you didn't mind the term tomboy." There was silence.

Jeanie broke the silence. "You took dance classes? Boy I'm glad I didn't know that at the birthday party. I was totally outclassed!" Gene smiled and suggested they grab a snack. Jeanie happily agreed. Once they were settled at a table and ordered, Gene continued.

"Fairy changed to punk when I refused to play basketball in high school and the athletes' started harassing me. 4-H camp was a welcome reprieve where I was known for my dancing and again surrounded by girls. Gene paused then asked, "So you never understood that tomboy was meant to be a put down?"

"Oh, I understood that. I just refused to be put down. Mama had all these sayings and stories, and one was 'the best revenge is doing better'. You know the 4-H motto 'making the best better'. I was just determined to play better than the boys and have fun doing it. Besides Daddy never let me have a boyfriend and I felt like one of the boys. So, this is why some people think you are gay?" The question hung in the air so long Jeanie thought her impatient curiosity had crossed a line. She was about to apologize when Gene spoke.

"That and a couple of bad choices." His voice faded off, but he came back quickly with, "We can continue this conversation later because it's getting late and I'm getting up early tomorrow."

At her car, they decided to dance again the next Saturday and he watched as she drove away. He called to say good night and be sure she got home safe.

They talked daily by phone and decided to go to a movie midweek. Gene picked her up thinking now we are dating.

"What ever happened to that football player that had all your attention at 4-H camp every year?" He inquired.

She replied, "We are still sort of distant friends. We wound up at the same college, he went to Viet Nam his junior year. When he came back, I was working in the same town as his home and our college. We lived in the same neighborhood and of course had mutual friends, first from camp then other social groups. He actually asked me to marry him. She deepened her voice to mimic his proposal and said, 'We are twenty-five and its time we got married.' It wasn't much of a proposal but maybe he just wasn't the right one. When we were at camp, he knew how to swing dance too, but I didn't, so we didn't. And speaking of swing dancing, what happened to James from your county that came to camp? He knew the same swing dance moves you did just not quite as smooth. You were both the best dancers at camp."

"James. He got bullied when his mom called him Jamie a so-called girl's name. He is smart, put himself through college and law school, built a successful law practice, living the life. He shared his secret about being gay. It didn't bother me because I had my own secret. We were nerds planning to go to college and be somebody. In high school some said we were a couple because we were friends and both in 4-H. Handling it was annoying, but I don't know how James dealt with it. He came out of the infamous closet when it was safe to do so, and he's happy. We went to different colleges, talk occasionally, see each other at class reunions and are still friends."

At ballroom dancing that Saturday, Jeanie asked. "What was your way of dealing with being called gay? If you don't mind talking about it."

"We already talked about high school, and I thought I'd leave all that behind when I went to college. No such luck. Looking back, I'm amused but it was not all that funny at the time and I'm still not really proud of it." He leaned forward, lowered his voice and almost whispered, "I had an affair with a married female instructor. I will tell you all about it after we dance." In the crowded ballroom they were either dancing, or Gene was introducing Jeanie to other dancers.

Back in his Jaguar after dancing Gene continued, "I joined a dance group in college. She was the dance teacher and we got caught by her husband in let me say a 'compromising' position. Thank God we still had our clothes on! She told him she was just teaching me a dance move, teaching me to lead but he was not buying it. She told him he had nothing to worry about since I was gay. She turned to me for confirmation and what could I say? I still don't think he bought it, but he did spread that rumor all over the school. I thought here we go again."

"So that is what you are ashamed of?"

"Actually no. I thought I was in love. I didn't know I was in lust. Until. Well, I'm getting ahead of myself. I got the usual snickers, some name calling and some approaches by gay guys. Thankfully, no razzing by the athletes who couldn't care less about me in college. I also got opportunities to have affairs with other married instructors. It kinda became a habit, you know, red-blooded teenage boy meets older women. Lots of fun I'm not proud of."

"Sounds to me like you had a rocking good time under cover in college!"

"The truth is it got old. The intrigue, the sex, the variety was exciting for a while, but I got tired of sneaking around. I wanted my wife, not somebody else's, the white picket fence, dog, two and a half children." They were still laughing as they arrived at Jeanie's home.

As he walked Jeanie to her door Gene asked, "Are you and the guy you came to the birthday party with serious? Is he the right one?"

"No, we are just friends, dance partners and you make a much better dance partner. We are both widowed with grown children and grandchildren, so we have that in common."

"Ok, I might not be the one either however I want to be more than a dance partner. I know it's early, but I want you to know I'm interested in a relationship. I have a housekeeper and enough funds to pay a nurse if needed in the future. I'm done with married women. You don't have to answer now, I'm a patient man.

"Well, I don't think I can manage two and a half children, but I'm willing to share my grandchildren. And I'm interested in seeing where this relationship will go."

He leaned in and she tiptoed for a sweet, sealing, first kiss. Only their lips touched.

First date
Contest Winner

This is just the beginning of a story with several plot twists including the story's title not being as it seems. The author is enjoying trying to write fiction as the story takes a life of it's own. 4-H is the youth development program of the Cooperative Extension Service with an office in every county in every state. It is the largest youth development program in the U. S. and U. S. territories. The author was a 4-H member in elementary and high school. The Cooperative Extension Service is attached to the land-grant college or university in each state.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Wolfdancer13 at

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