I thought it was going to be a night like any other. Get home from college, eat dinner, plop down with a good book in front of the fireplace and--
"Everyone in the car!" Mom announced five minutes later.
"Come on," I grumbled. Eyes never leaving the book (I was a vociferous reader at sixteen--still am, actually), I wandered into the mudroom, fumbled around for my shoes, wandered back to the stairs, put on my shoes, and walked right into the closet trying to get into the garage.
...dang, I thought I was better than that.
The nearest town was about a ten-minute drive; Dad drove us the other direction to a slightly further (and substantially bigger) city. I was grateful for the extra ten minutes, though. This really was a good book. Mom kept attempting to ask me questions about how my day went, to which I mumbled answers which may or may not have even been remotely related to what she was asking.
"How was school?" "Fine."
"What did you eat for lunch?" "Good."
"Did you talk to your lab partner?" "Sandwich."
"Anything interesting happen in lab?" "Reading."
"You read in lab?" "I'M READING NOW. BOOK FIRST, TALK LATER."
Needless to say, my priorities were in order.
We arrived at our destination, wherever that was--I refused to pull my head out of the book as I climbed out of the van. "Alright, let's go--Radar, put the book down," Mom ordered in exasperation as I fumbled around for the handle to close the door.
Reluctantly, I complied, flipping the book facedown on the chair and scanning the parking lot. "Oh, hey, this is Quill's dance place, isn't it? Are we going to watch her practice?"
"Guess so," Nemesis muttered, sounding like he'd rather get a root canal.
"Nope!" Mom announced cheerfully, as if she was giving us great news. "You're going to learn to dance. I signed us all up for dance lessons!"
"Awesome!" Quill and Squirrel raced for the doors. Dad gave Mom a look of patient suffering and followed the girls at a more sedate pace. Nemesis and I climbed back in the car.
"Not a chance," I shot back as soon as I was safely buckled.
"Radar," Mom started, a note of warning in her voice.
Being the rather stubborn kid that I was, I refused to allow the warning to faze me. "You can't just sign me up for something without...without my knowledge or consent!" I was rather proud of the legalistic phrasing and took a moment to mentally pat myself on the back.
"I'm your mother," Mom pointed out.
I thought about saying something sarcastic, like no way!, but decided that wouldn't help my position. "I'm in college, Mom. I'm supposed to be getting ready to make my own decisions. I'm not doing anything that I wasn't told about first!" I protested. When she started glaring at me, I threw her a concession. "You can probably still do that to Nemesis though."
He hit me.
"Dancing is a valuable skill though," Mom pointed out. "It will help you meet girls--"
"Like I care." I snorted. "Why would I want to meet girls? I already have one as a lab partner." I didn't feel the need to mention that it was halfway through the semester and I still hadn't talked to her.
"You will one day," Mom informed me, mouth twitching a little.
I scoffed, my 16 years of experience outweighing her decades on the planet. "Never going to happen."
"Uh huh," Mom agreed, trying hard not to smile and not entirely succeeding. "Well, I'll tell you what--if you do these dance lessons, I'll never sign you up for anything else without telling you first."
"Telling or getting my consent!" I demanded, still proud of my phrasing.
"Fine," Mom acquiesced, probably thinking she'd be able to talk me into future endeavors. (News flash--she wasn't.)
"And I only dance with my sisters," I pressed my advantage while I had it.
"Well, I don't know--"
I crossed my arms, not realizing what a horrible decision I had just made. Mom probably realized that she couldn't force me to dance if I didn't want to, so she capitulated. "Fine. Sisters only. BUT--" she raised a finger for emphasis, "you have to try to dance."
"Great," I grumbled, unstrapping myself and climbing out of the car. Nemesis stayed put. Mom sighed. "You too, Nemesis."
Nemesis gave me the my brother, my brother, why would you abandon me? look and followed me out of the car, all but volubly wishing for a lightning strike. Like prisoners on their way to the chair (but not as lucky--we knew our ordeal would stretch out over several weeks), we marched inside the gulag--er, dance studio. To our surprise, we found some of our friends--another family had joined ours, and the boys in their family had the same reaction we did. The two boys that Nemesis and I were most familiar with, Goose and Berg, were making gagging motions in the corner, but brightened up when Nemesis and I walked in, apparently anticipating shenanigans.
Shenanigans there were, but not as many as anticipated--Quill and Squirrel were serious about learning how to swing-dance. I danced with Quill; it only took about thirty seconds for me to realize what a horrible decision my "sisters only" policy was. She stomped on my foot--hard--every time I made a mistake or looked like I was going to do something goofy.
"You're too loose!" Wham. "You're too tense!" Wham. "You're still too tense!"
I dodged. "Why do you think that is??" I demanded.
"Oh, you're just a wuss," she dismissed me.
I fell over my feet every other second, partially due to clumsiness and partly due to my refusal to learn anything. Finally, Mom came over. "Still having problems?"
"He's pathetic," Quill complained.
"I don't get the step!" I snapped back, tripping over my own feet again to underscore my point.
"The nice thing about East Coast Swing is that it's all Taekwondo," Mom reassured me.
I stared at her. "What?"
"Minor-horseback riding stance to short front stance. That's all you're doing with your feet," Mom explained.
Crap. I thought getting her to join me in Taekwondo would have been a good thing.
"Just spin Quill around a lot. Every time she faces you, step back," Dad put in his two cents.
"That's not how it works!" Mom protested.
"Sure it is! See?" Dad snickered, demonstrating. Sure enough, every time Mom spun back to face him, he stepped back. "Easy!"
Well, now I couldn't pretend to not know how to do it. I settled for spinning Quill around until she threatened to throw up on me. While she got her balance back, I looked around for Nemesis and Squirrel. They'd gotten further ahead than any of us, mastering a move called the "Tabletop" and were spinning around together in the corner so fast I got dizzy just watching them.
"That's impressive," Dad applauded them. "Uh, guys, you can stop now...guys....guys?"
Apparently they didn't know how to stop. The instructor showed them how to get out of it, then demonstrated a new spin move for all of us. It was one he really liked, because, as he put it, "You can put a flourish at the end of it! See?" He waved his arm gracefully in the air. Goose, Berg, Nemesis and I exchanged looks.
"Not a chance," I muttered. Quill eyed me severely.
"I can do this!" Goose whispered eagerly. He spun his partner into the move, but instead of the flourish, he made an "L" with his fingers and put it to his forehead. We all doubled over laughing, except for his partner, who had missed the whole thing.
"Awesome!" I clapped, immediately dubbing the move the "Loser." It was a great hit with the boys--no amount of sisterly foot-stomping prevented us from using it at every conceivable opportunity.
An opportunity quickly arose, for the instructor put on "Footloose" and told us all to practice. The music was way too fast for us beginners, who were doubly outraged by the instructor telling us to "do what the music says and just flow with it! Be footloose!"
"Yeah right," I muttered under my breath, "accidentally" kicking Quill in the shins after she stomped on my foot again.
The next few weeks went by rather painfully but, by the end, we'd learned enough East Coast through osmosis (we certainly weren't trying) to qualify as dancers. I promptly shelved the ability and didn't pull it out until...
...I was 18, had moved to college, and yeah, was trying to impress a girl.
DANG IT, MOM.