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Chapter 6

I pulled a sweatshirt over my T-shirt and a pair of sweats over my spandex shorts, it was a bit cool outside.

Jessi told me the clothes I wear for practice and a pair of socks would be fine for ballet class.

I was a bit tired. We stayed at the party at Gina's house way too late.

Mom made a pretty good breakfast. Her bacon and eggs were the best. I smelled them as soon as I got out of the shower.

I wasn't rushed, but soon there came a knock at the door. It was Jessi.

"By Mom," I said, giving her a hug as I rushed out the door.

"Have a good time sweetie!" she said, marveling at yet another one of her son's unconventional adventures.

"How's it going, Lucas?" Jessi's mom asked.

"A little tired, Mrs. Mears," I said.

"Joined the club," yawned Emily Crue in the back seat of the SUV. "10 o'clock on Saturday is way too early for a ballet class."

"Well, if you three hadn't stayed at Gina's so late, you wouldn't be so tired now."

"But it was fun, mom!" Jessi said.

I agreed. It was one of the most unusual parties I've ever been to. It was a "chick" party said one of the boys at the game.

A couple of boys wanted to come, but Gina refused to let them.

Nothing but her teammates.

"It's an all-girl party except for one of the Hobbettes," Gina said. "We claim him, he goes with us."

We danced. We watched movies, listened to music, gossiped (I actually mainly listened) and snacked. It was actually pretty cool.

We followed Jessi into the stately looking Spring Hill Ballet School, which was a lot more respected than the studio where my sister took class.

"Shhhhh, you guys come look," Jessi whispered, pointing to one of the studios.

"Oh my God, she's gorgeous," Emily said about the dancer who was working with a teacher.

"Yeah, she is beautiful," I said.

"They're working on a piece we're doing in the Nutcracker," Jessi said. "Don't you recognize her...or the teacher?"

I had to do a double-take. Maybe it was because her hair was in a bun. Maybe it was because she was in leotards, tights and pointe shoes.

Maybe it was all of the above.

"It's Beth!" I said, almost shouting it.

And the teacher working with her? My English teacher, Miss Hunter, the very same one who was trying to tell me how to tuck my skirt in when I was sitting.

"Who knew she could be so graceful?" Emily said about Beth. "She's not so much a jock after all."

"Come on in ladies and gentleman," Miss Hunter said. "Lucas, it's awfully good to see you. We really need boys at this school."

"Thanks Miss Hunter," I said.

Jessi explained that Miss Hunter danced with New York City Ballet as a child. Injuries forced her to quit, so she went to college and became an English teacher.

One by one, other girls began filing into class. A couple were cheerleaders from school. Most were surprised to see me there.

Miss Hunter gave a couple of minutes speech on how big of a role men played in ballet and how it was good that I decided to give it a try.

She also gave a mini-lecture on how good ballet was for athletes, how it helped with coordination and footwork.

"Okay, take your positions at the barre," Miss Hunter said. "Lucas, you and Emily need to get in the middle so you can watch the more experienced girls."

I found myself between Jessi and Beth.

"I'm really, really surprised to see you hear," Beth whispered. "But I'm glad. I think it's cool."

Miss Hunter kept things pretty basic. We did things called plies, tendues and degages. We did what she called centre work, and did a few "simple" turns, jumps and leaps.

It kicked my tail.

But it was also fun.

"I do hope you'll join us again next week," Miss Hunter said when it was over. "We so need boys in this class."

"I'll be back next week," I said.

"I'm holding him too it, Miss Hunter," Jessi said.

"So will I," Beth said.

I had to admit I saw another side of Beth that I'd never seen before.

Beautiful, glamourous, graceful.

####

"Okay ladies, pick up the pace," Coach Martin yelled in our scrimmage. "If you don't, Bedford Middle's going to eat our lunch."

Bedford Middle School didn't have Amazons like Sullins.

"They're a pesky bunch," Melanie Piper said. "They're like hornets. They're speedy. They'll swarm you."

"They feed off turnovers," Gina said. "They have the most aggressive defense we'll face all year."

"Crue, Lacy, Mears, Harbin, your passes are getting sloppy," Coach Martin yelled. "We've got to be able to get the ball down field to Lenetti and Piper. We won't stand a chance if you can't."

"My God, she's running us to death," Jessi said during a water break.

I was huffing and puffing.

"I wish she'd give Kim a break at keeper," I said. "At least she gets to stand around more than we do. I wouldn't mind practicing at keeper for a few minutes."

She didn't have to run up and down the field. But in the few minutes I played keeper against Sullins, I knew what a tough job she had. And she did her job well.

"OK ladies, huddle up and take a knee," Coach Martin said after our seemingly endless sprints.

"I ran you hard today," she said. "We beat them last year. Judging from how practice has gone this week, I don't think we've been taking them serious enough. Ladies, they beat Harding County last week. They've got a very good team. We've got to be ready to play tomorrow. Now hit the showers!"

Most of us had taken off our t-shirts and were wearing just our shorts and sports bras. Mine was draped around my neck as we left the field and headed to the auxiliary gym.

I noticed Beth sitting on her bike, shoulder pads and helmet hanging on the handle bars. She was wearing her football pants and a t-shirt.

"Lucas, come here," she said.

"Boy, that's different look for you than last Saturday," I said.

"I know," she laughed. "At least you know I'm versatile."

"Tough, but graceful?" I said.

"I think that describes both of us," she said.

I appreciated the compliment. But she was a much better athlete than I was.

"Gotta question to ask you," she said.

"What's that?" I said.

"Have you asked anyone to be your escort?" Beth asked. "Have you asked anyone to the homecoming dance?"

I told her I really hadn't given that much thought.

"I know that sounds bad," I said.

"Oh no, you've had a lot going on," Beth said.

"You know it's a tradition for the football players to escort members of the court at halftime," she said.

"I've heard that," I said.

"I hope you don't think it's too forward of me to ask to be your escort," Beth said. "I hope you don't think it's too forward to ask you to be my date to the dance."

I don't think its a shock to anybody that Beth was being forward. That's the way she was.

I smiled.

"Beth, I'd be honored if you'd be my escort," I said. "And YES! I'll be your date to the dance."

#####

A butt-chewing.

That's what Emily called it.

That's what we got at halftime.

We trailed 3-0 to Bedford. They were as tough as Coach Martin said they would be. They were as pesky as Melanie said they would be.

I spent half the game trying to slow down a girl named Ariel "Speedy" Gonzalez. Twice I got knocked down, on purpose, by a girl Gina called "The Enforcer." I was bruised and out of gas when it was over.

I wasn't the only one. We somehow came back to win 5-4, keeping our perfect record intact.

"If you had played the first half the way you played the second, it wouldn't have been this close," Coach Martin said. "Good effort. Gina, another solid game. Jessi, Lucas, good job getting her the ball in the second half. Emily, Paige, Melanie, great defense all game, girls. Kim, way to hang in there at keeper. Too many by you today, but it wasn't all your fault."

We sensed coach was a little disappointed.

"I know we can play better," Coach Martin said. "But I've giving you tomorrow off. Go support the boys. Be ready to work on Monday, another big game next week."

"Lucas, can I talk to you a minute?" Gina asked as I picked up my gear.

"Sure, what's up?" I asked.

"Heard Beth is going to be your escort and date for homecoming," she said.

"Yes, she asked me yesterday," I said.

"Looks like both of us will be escorted by football players," she said. "Josh Bryan's going to be my date."

That was a big turn-around. One minute she's wacking him in the you-know-where with a field hockey stick, the next minute she's going out with him.

"Would your mom mind if you come over to my house after we get cleaned up?" she said. "I've got to talk to you about what I have in mind for homecoming."

"Sure," I said. She peaked my curiosity.

#####

"You feeling OK Lucas, you looked like you got banged up pretty good out there today," Mr. Lenetti said as he offered me a glass of lemonade.

"I'm a little sore, but I'm fine," I said.

"Yes, he is," Gina said. "He was knocked around pretty good. But he's tough."

I appreciated the compliment.

"Let's go to the den, Josh and Beth are waiting on us," she said.

I was surprised she invited Josh and Beth, but she said they needed to be "clued in" on her plan.

"You want to know the reason I nominated you for court?" she asked.

I was curious. So was Beth and Josh.

"Girls are stereotyped," she said. "There's more to us than being prim and proper, pretty princesses. And we don't really get respect as athletes. And there are times when we're really not taken seriously."

Beth agreed with her.

"But I think people are beginning to look at us with a different light since Lucas has joined our team, and you've been playing football," Gina said. "I want people to see that the homecoming queen and her court are not just pretty, empty-headed bimbos, that we can be tough, smart, that there is more to us than meets the eye. And the same can be said for boys. They don't have to be Mr. Macho, tough guys all the time."

We all agreed she had a point.

"Here's my idea," she said. "I don't know how the rest of the week will go. I don't know what you'll have to do during the choreography part of the talent show of the queen competition. But on the day of the parade and game, Lucas, I want you and I to both get dolled up."

"Dolled up?" I asked. "You've got to be kidding."

"Look, its almost as uncomfortable for me as it is you," she said. "Other than the dress on game day, when else have you seen me in a dress other than a skirt during the game?"

"She's got a point," Josh said.

"Come on, it will be fun," Beth said. "You must so do this!"

"Beth, you're going to have to wear a coat, tie and slacks, just like Josh," Gina said.

"Consider it done," Beth said.

"And Josh, under no circumstances should Lucas be teased at all from the football team," Gina said. "If I hear of just one insult hurled his way, I'll never speak to you again."

"We won't," Josh said. "Luke, I think it would be cool if you do it. I'll go one better. During the field hockey game homecoming week, we'll all be there cheering you guys on. We'll all be wearing skirts in honor of Luke."

That actually made me feel a lot better about Gina's plan.

"Now Beth, if you and Josh will excuse us, I've got to talk to Lucas privately," she said.

"We'll go shopping for dresses together," Gina said. "Mrs. Piper owns a dress shop. I'll clue her in. My sister owns a salon. She and a friend of hers will do our hair and makeup. And we'll ride together in the parade on the back of my dad's 'Vette."

It was all a bit overwhelming. And fortunately, a couple of weeks away.

"I do want to tell you this Lucas," she said. "I was telling Melanie the other day that you're one of the few boys who could pull this off without it becoming such a big joke. I hope you'll take it as a compliment."

"And one other thing..." she said. "I'm still not a huge fan of boys playing on girls' field hockey teams, but I'm glad you're my teammate. You're just as much a Lady Tiger as any girl who's ever worn the uniform."

 



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