You took me by surprise
Boy, you really blew my mind
I don’t know what’s gotten in to me
But I kinda think I know what it is
I think I’m in love
“Hey, Bri, wait up!” my friend Chris called, hurrying towards me in the crowded hall of our school.
“Hey, Chris,” I said. “Man, we’ve got a lot of homework tonight, huh?”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Hey, the Fall Dance is coming up in a few weeks. Who are you gonna ask?”
The Fall Dance was the first dance of the year, a big event for the seventh and eighth graders that got to go. For us seventh graders, it was our first big chance to take a girl to a dance. Everyone who was anyone had already started asking people to go with them. And that meant that if I didn’t want to look like a loser, I had to find a date too.
I sighed. “I dunno,” I said. “I’d like to go with Ashley Collins, but-“
“Taken,” he interrupted. “Brett Miller already asked her.”
“Figures,” I said, sighing again. Ashley Collins was one of the most popular girls in the seventh grade, after all. And that meant only an elite few guys got a chance to take her to one of the dances.
“So, who are you taking?” I asked Chris.
“Jody Fehr,” he replied.
“Really? That’s great,” I said, surprised that he had already asked someone.
“If you want, I can ask her if she has any friends that would go with you,” Chris offered. I know he was just trying to be nice, but that made me feel like a reject who couldn’t get a date unless his best friend set one up.
“No, that’s okay,” I replied. “I’ll ask someone myself.”
And just to prove it, I walked up to Tammy Johnson, who was standing a few feet away, at her locker. Tammy wasn’t as popular as Ashley, but she was pretty and nice, and I wouldn’t mind going to the dance with her.
“Hey, Tammy,” I said.
She turned around and smiled at me. “Hey, Brian,” she replied.
“Hey, I was wondering… do you have a date to the Fall Dance yet?”
“Uh… no, I don’t,” she said.
“Really? Well, do you want to go with me?”
“Um… sure, I’d love to,” she said, flashing me a smile.
I beamed. “Okay, great. Well… I gotta go now. I’ll see ya later.”
“Okay, bye,” she said, as I hurried back over to Chris.
“See?” I said smugly to Chris.
“She said yes?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, she said yes. Is that so hard to believe?” I asked.
“It’s not you, man. I just figured Tammy would have already been asked,” he said.
“Nope. She has been now though.” I smiled again.
“Well, good job, Bri,” Chris said. “I didn’t think you would have the nerve to do it.”
I shrugged. “Well, I had to ask someone. I sure don’t want to go to the dance by myself.”
“Good point,” he agreed, and we walked out of the building.
The big day had arrived. The dance didn’t start until seven that night, but it was on everyone’s mind the whole day.
Chris had left school early that day for an orthodontist appointment, so I didn’t have anyone to sit with on the bus going home. That is, until Grace got on.
“Hey, where’s Chris?” she asked.
“Orthodontist appointment,” I replied. “You wanna sit here?”
“Sure,” she said, and sat down. “So, you excited about the dance tonight?”
“Yup,” I replied.
“Who are you going with?” she asked.
“Oh, cool. Tammy’s pretty nice,” she commented.
“How about you? Who are you going with?” I asked.
She blushed. “Um… well, you won’t believe it, but… David Lawson asked me,” she replied.
“David Lawson? You mean David ‘Girls can’t play baseball’ Lawson?” I asked, gaping at her.
She rolled her eyes. “Brian, that’s ancient history.”
“So you actually said yes to him?” I cried.
“Yeah,” she said.
I rolled my eyes. David had turned into one of the popular guys. He was someone who could probably have any girl he wanted. But why did he have to choose Grace? She was too good for him.
“I like him. He’s nice,” Grace added. I just shook my head in disbelief. What was wrong with her? Maybe it was just hormones. Girls got weird when they hit puberty. I didn’t understand them at all.
The bus stopped on our street, and we both got out. Neither one of us spoke as we walked down the sidewalk to our houses, not until we got to Grace’s house.
“Well, see ya at the dance!” she called, as she walked up to her front door.
“Yeah, see ya,” I replied and continued on to my house next door.
It was around six that night, when the phone rang. I was in the middle of getting dressed when my mom yelled up the stairs, “Brian, phone!”
“Okay!” I called back, hurriedly buttoning my pants and running downstairs to get the phone in the kitchen.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Brian? This is Tammy,” came Tammy’s voice.
“Oh, hey, Tammy, what’s up?” I asked.
“Well… I hate to tell you this, but I can’t go to the dance tonight,” she said hesitantly.
“What?! Why not?” I asked in disbelief.
“Well, um… this is really embarrassing.”
“What is? You can tell me,” I assured her.
“Well, see, I got this… zit. On my nose. And I used this cream on it that’s supposed to get rid of it in half an hour. But I had an allergic reaction or something to it, and my face is all broken out in hives!” she cried.
“Oh, Tammy, I don’t care what your face looks like,” I said, hoping to convince her to come anyway. What was I going to do if she didn’t?
“I’m sorry, Bri, but I can’t go looking like this. You understand, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said glumly. “I
“Thanks, Brian. I’m really sorry about this. We can go to the next dance together, maybe, okay?”
“Sure, Tammy,” I said absently. I wasn’t worried about the next dance yet. I was worried about this one.
“Okay, well, I have to go now. I’ll see ya later, okay?”
“Okay, bye,” I said and sadly hung up.
“Brian?” asked my mom. I realized she had heard the whole conversation, my side at least. “What happened?”
“She got hives from her zit cream and can’t go,” I said sadly. “I guess I’m not going either.”
“Oh, honey,” Mom started to say, but I pushed past her and trudged up the stairs. Just as I got back to my room, the phone rang again. And again, my mom called, “Brian, phone!”
I brightened. Maybe Tammy had changed her mind. Happily, I bounded down the stairs and grabbed the phone again.
“Hey, Tammy!” I greeted.
“Uh… Brian? It’s Grace,” said Grace’s familiar voice on the other line.
“Oh… sorry, Grace. Tammy just called me, and I thought it was her calling back,” I explained.
“Oh. Well, I just called to tell you I won’t see you at the dance tonight after all,” Grace said, sounding upset.
“You’re not going either?” I asked.
“No. David just called. He said Becky Rhoades’ date is sick, and she asked him to go at the last minute. And he said yes! Can you believe him? He ditched me for her!” Grace cried.
I wanted to say “I told you he was a jerk”, but I didn’t. She felt bad enough already. “Aw, Gracie, I’m sorry,” I said.
”He’s such a jerk! I hate him!”
“I know,” I agreed. Then, suddenly, I got an idea. “Hey, um, Grace?”
“What?” she asked.
“Well, see, I wasn’t gonna go to the dance either cause Tammy cancelled on me. She has hives or something. But I was thinking, maybe you and I could go together. You know, just as friends. That way we wouldn’t let anybody down by not being there,” I said hopefully, silently praying she would say yes.
“Really? Well… okay, Bri. I mean, I bought a new dress and everything for it, and it would be a waste not to get to wear it. So yeah, let’s go together. It’ll be fun,” she said.
That wasn’t quite the reaction I had hoped for, but still, she had said yes, and that was the important thing. “Okay. Well, I’ll pick you up at quarter till seven then, okay?”
“Sure. You want me to just walk over to your house?” she asked.
“No, I’ll come get you,” I said, wanting to be a gentleman.
“Oh, okay,” she said. “Well, I’ll see you then.”
“Okay. Bye, Grace,” I said and hung up.
I turned around to see Mom standing in the doorway, smiling at me. “So you and Gracie are going together now?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said casually. “She got ditched at the last minute too and wants to wear her new dress, so I figured we could go together, you know, just as friends.”
Mom nodded. “Well, it was nice of you to ask her, Brian,” she said. “I’m sure you’ll have a great time together.”
I nodded. “Well, I guess I better go finish getting ready now. We’re picking Grace up at quarter till.” With that, I hurried upstairs to finish changing.
Right at quarter till, I stood on Grace’s doorstep, ringing her bell.
Grace’s mother answered. “Hi, Mrs. Myers,” I said, smiling at her.
“Hi, Brian. Grace is just about ready. Come on inside, and I’ll call her down.” She stepped back to let me in and yelled, “Grace, Brian’s here!”
Grace came right down. My eyes widened as I got a good look at her. She looked really pretty. She was wearing a short pink and black dress with a ruffled skirt and flat black shoes (AN: Remember, this is 1988 here, so yes, they had bad fashion sense, lol)
“Hi, Brian,” she said, smiling at me.
“Hi, Grace,” I managed to say. “You look… you look great!”
She blushed. “Thanks,” she said. “You look nice too.” I was just wearing a short sleeved polo shirt and slacks, nothing that great. Grace, on the other hand… wow.
“Well, you ready?” I asked.
“Yup. Let’s go,” she said, and we walked out into the driveway, where my mom sat in our car.
“Hello, Grace,” Mom said, as we got into the backseat. “You look very nice.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Littrell,” Grace replied.
“Okay, let’s go, Mom,” I said, eager to get to the dance. Mom laughed and started up the car.
We got to school a few minutes later. “Okay, you two, have fun,” Mom said, as we climbed out. “I’ll be back to pick you up at nine, okay?”
“Okay, Mom. Thanks,” I said, as she pulled away. “You ready?” I asked Grace.
“Yup,” she said. As we started walking towards the entrance of the school, I boldly reached out and took her hand. She glanced at me for a moment and smiled slightly, but didn’t say anything. We walked into the school hand in hand.
“Hey, Bri!” Chris called, coming over to Grace and I. He noticed Grace standing beside me and looked at us in confusion. “Hi, Grace. Brian, where’s Tammy?”
“She broke out in hives and had to stay home,” I said. Chris laughed. I felt like laughing too. It didn’t matter to me anymore. I had Grace with me now. Everything had worked out fine.
“You wanna get some punch or something?” I asked Grace, seeing the refreshment table set up on the other side of the gym.
“Sure,” she said.
“Okay. I’ll go get you some,” I offered. I left her talking to Chris and went over to get some punch. And there standing at the table, next to Becky Rhoades, was none other than David Lawson.
“Hey, Littrell,” he said.
“Hi, David,” I replied, none too kindly.
“What’s up? Where’s your date?” he asked.
“She’s over there,” I said, pointing to Grace. “I’m getting her some punch.”
He did a double take. “Grace? I thought you were taking Tammy.”
“Yeah, well, Tammy had an allergic reaction, and after I heard about you just ditching Grace like that, I asked her instead,” I said, glaring at him.
“Oh, that’s fine. I don’t mind you taking my rejects, as long as you don’t try to steal my real girl,” David said, putting his arm protectively around Becky, who giggled stupidly.
“Are you calling Grace a reject?!” I demanded.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Littrell. I forgot how protective you are of your little girlfriend Gracie,” he taunted, smiling smugly at me.
I wanted to punch his face out right then, but I managed to control myself and ignored him. I took two cups of punch and walked away, leaving David alone with his bimbo date, Becky.
“Is David having a good time?” Grace asked sarcastically, as I handed her a cup of punch.
I rolled my eyes. “Grace, you’re too good for that jerk. Be glad you’re not here with him. He and Becky deserve each other.”
She sighed. “I know. I’m sure I’ll have more fun with you than I would with him anyway.”
I grinned. “I hope so.”
Over the speakers, New Kids on the Blocks’ “Hangin’ Tough” started to play.
“Ooh, I love this song!” Grace exclaimed, jumping up and down. “Donny Wahlberg is such a hunk!”
I rolled my eyes at her. “You actually like these guys?” I asked.
“Of course! New Kids are the best!”
I just shook my head at her. Little did I know that a decade later, I would be doing the same thing as New Kids on the Block was doing now.
The night wore on, and Grace and I danced to all the hit songs, like Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” and Cameo’s “Word Up”. (AN: Thanks Brea for your 80’s music knowledge, lol)
Then a slow song started to play.
“Oh, I love this song!” Grace gushed. It was “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from the movie Dirty Dancing.
I smiled at her. “You wanna dance?” I asked.
“Sure, Bri,” she said. I took her hand and led her out onto the dance floor. My heart pounded, and my hands felt sweaty. She turned to face me and draped her arms around my shoulders, while I put mine around her waist. We rocked back and forth slowly to the beat of the music.
I hope my hands aren’t sweating all over the back of her dress, I thought, grimacing. I glanced at Grace. Our eyes met, and she blushed and looked away. She’s as nervous as I am, I realized, smiling slightly.
It was weird – we had been friends for such a long time. Why would we be nervous dancing with each other? After all, we were only doing it as friends. It wasn’t like we actually liked each other… or did we?
And suddenly, looking into her dark brown eyes, I realized the truth. I had a crush on Grace Myers.
“Thanks for the dance, Brian. That was real sweet,” Grace said, as the song ended, slowly pulling away from me.
“You’re welcome,” I replied. “Hey, it’s kinda hot in here. You wanna go outside for a little bit?”
“Sure,” she replied, and we walked slowly out of the gym.
A minute later, we stood outside, cooling off in the crisp autumn night air. “Hey, Grace?” I asked.
“Um… can I ask you something?”
“Sure, what?” she asked.
“Do you like me?”
“Like you? Well, sure, I do, Brian. You’re my friend,” she replied.
“Yeah, I know, but I meant, do you like me like me?” I asked.
“Oh… well…” She hesitated and looked away. “I dunno,” she said finally, shrugging. “Why?”
My shoulder slumped. That wasn’t what I was hoping for her to say. I had thought she had been feeling the same way as I had. But it didn’t seem that way now.
“Never mind,” I said quickly, looking down. I shrugged. “I was just wondering.”
“Okay…” There was a long pause, and the only thing that could be heard was the sound of crickets chirping and distant music playing from the dance inside.
“You wanna go back in now?” I asked finally.
“Yeah. I’m kinda cold,” she said, rubbing her bare arms.
“Okay.” I wanted to put my arms around her, to keep her warm, but I didn’t have the nerve. Instead, I just followed her inside, my hands in my pockets.
We didn’t dance the rest of the dance. Well, at least, I didn’t. Grace and some of her girl friends danced together, acting all wild and giggly like girls do. I just hung around with some of the other guys the rest of the night, feeling depressed. Just when I thought I had things figured out, Grace didn’t feel the way I thought she did. Girls were so confusing.
Lyrics taken from Jessica Simpson’s “I Think I’m in Love With You”