Authors: Kim Vogel Sawyer
KATY LAMBRIGHT SERIES
For Kristian, Kaitlyn, and Kamryn —
No matter what hardships intrude upon your life’s
may you always discover a reason to dance.
To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
… a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4b
Why did some girls act so goofy when boys were around? And who would’ve guessed Shelby Nuss would become one of the goofy ones?
Katy Lambright coiled one of the ribbons trailing from her mesh hair covering around her finger and tried not to stare as her best friend from Salina High North leaned over to bump shoulders with her boyfriend. Shelby’s streaky blonde hair fell across her cheek, and she tucked it behind her ear while releasing a giggle — the kind of giggle she’d never used before she started dating Jayden O’Connor. The flirty sound carried from the other end of the table and rang over all the other cafeteria noise.
Katy was used to her best friend from home, Annika, giggling whenever Caleb Penner came around, but Shelby had always been more … mature. Katy wasn’t sure she liked this new, giggly, giddy Shelby who grabbed every available second with Jayden instead of hanging out with Katy, Cora, and Trisha like she used to.
A loud huff interrupted Katy’s thoughts. She shifted to look at Cora, who sat directly across the table with Trisha.
Cora made a sour face and nudged Trisha with her elbow. “It’s getting nauseating. I might start sitting at a different table for lunch if they’re going to be, like, all over each other while I’m trying to eat.”
Trisha snorted, pushing shriveled peas around on her plate with her fork. “You were just as overboard in the PDA department when you went out with Brett last year.”
“Were too,” Trisha insisted. She turned to Katy. “You think Shelby and Jayden are bad? Cora almost sat in Brett’s lap she snuggled so close. You couldn’t have slipped a blade of grass between them. Honestly, it was totally gross.”
Cora smacked Trisha’s arm. “Trisha, you’re so mean!” But then she laughed.
Katy focused on her lunch while Cora and Trisha chatted with each other. The two girls had always been close, but they’d become even tighter in the past month since their friend Bridget moved away after Christmas. Even though Katy sometimes envied their BFF status, she’d still had Shelby to talk to, so it hadn’t mattered that much.
Another giggle rang, piercing Katy’s ears. She frowned.
Until Jayden came along and changed everything …
Wasn’t it enough to face all of the changes happening at home with Dad getting ready to marry Mrs. Graber and Annika trying to convince Caleb Penner to court her? Katy needed things at school to stay the same.
She finished her last swallow of milk and curled her hands around her tray, eager to leave the cafeteria, when someone yanked out the chair next to her. Shelby flung herself into the seat. To Katy’s relief, Jayden was nowhere in sight.
Shelby crowed,“Guess what!”
Trisha and Cora shrugged in unison. Katy said,“What?”
Shelby hunched her shoulders and giggled. “Jayden just asked me to the homecoming dance — and I said yes!”
Both Trisha and Cora squealed. Katy almost rolled her eyes. Just minutes ago they had called Shelby’s behavior nauseating. Now they were excited? She said,“What’s the homecoming dance?”
Cora gawked at Katy. “Oh, come on, Katy. I mean, even if Mennonites don’t actually do it, you have to know what a dance is.”
Katy’s ears heated. Of course she knew what it meant to dance. And Cora was right — no one in Katy’s fellowship ever danced. Dad had caught her swirling around the kitchen when she was eight or nine, pretending to be a leaf caught in the wind, and he’d thought she was dancing. He had sat her down and had a firm talk about the difference between appropriate and inappropriate movements. “I know what dancing is. But what’s homecoming?”
Shelby caught Katy’s wrist. “Every year, during basketball season, all of the alumni —”
Katy made a puzzled face. “Alumni?”
Shelby went on as if Katy hadn’t interrupted. “— are invited back to Salina High North for a game. We usually schedule it when we’re playing one of our biggest rivals. So this year it’s the very last game of the season, against Salina High West.”
Trisha, Cora, and Shelby all broke into a chanted chorus. “Let’s show West: We’re the best!
North!” They all laughed.
At that moment Jewel, the foster girl who lived with Shelby’s family, wandered by. She stopped and sent a sarcastic look around the circle of girls. “What’s with the cheerleader act?”
“We’re telling Katy about homecoming,” Trisha said. “Shelby’s going to the dance with Jayden.”
“Jayden O’Connor?” Jewel asked.
“Who else?” Shelby wriggled in her chair, flashing a huge smile.
Tossing her long dyed-orange hair over her shoulder, Jewel released a little snort. “Big deal. Jayden’s just a junior.
plan on going with a senior—Tony Adkins.”
Katy didn’t know Tony Adkins, but she’d seen him in the halls and had heard all about him. He was the star of the school’s football team, and half the girls in school thought he was handsome enough to be a movie star. But Katy had also heard he liked to party — and not the kinds of parties the young people in her town of Schellberg enjoyed. She couldn’t imagine Shelby’s parents allowing Jewel to go out with a boy like that.
Trisha’s eyes popped. “Tony Adkins asked you to the homecoming dance?”
Jewel quirked her lips into a funny scowl. “Not yet. But he will.”
“But —,” Trisha started.
Katy shook her head, making her ribbons bounce. “Does
mean the students who’ve gone here before?”
Shelby nodded. “That’s right. You wouldn’t believe how crowded the bleachers get. It’s always cool to see how many people come back.”
Cora added,“But best of all, a senior boy and girl get crowned homecoming king and queen, and there’s a whole court in attendance — the seniors choose a boy and girl from the junior, sophomore, and freshman classes to be part of the royalty.” Suddenly, she jerked. “Hey! Homecoming’s just two weeks away. I bet the seniors have already voted for their attendants. When do you think they’ll announce all the candidates?”
Trisha shrugged. “Gotta be soon. Maybe tomorrow?”
“Ooooh, I can’t wait!” Cora cupped her cheeks with her hands and sighed. “I’ve always wanted to be one of the attendants — or better yet, the queen when I’m a senior.”
Jewel rolled her eyes. “Dream on. Only the really popular kids get to be attendants, kings, and queens. You hardly qualify as
She sauntered off, ignoring Cora’s deflated face.
Katy could make little sense of Cora’s comment. Often she felt confused by the way they did things in the public high school. In Schellberg, their community school only went through the ninth grade, so they didn’t have seniors or homecoming. But based on the excitement in Cora’s tone, homecoming was a major deal. “So there’s a king and queen, and lots of people come back for a basketball game, and then you go to a dance?”
“Uh-huh,” Trisha said.
A bell rang, signaling the end of the lunch period. Katy piled her silverware and rumpled napkin on her tray and stood. Trisha stayed close, talking as they walked to the scraping table. “They clear the gym right after the game, and we use the basketball court for a dance floor. The whole school’s invited, freshmen through seniors. Lots of
the kids don’t go, but I wouldn’t miss it. Even if we don’t have a date, we girls all get our hair and nails done, and we wear really beautiful dresses. It’s so fun to get all dressed up. The guys look amazing in suits with ties and everything. It’s really an awesome night, Katy — it doesn’t end until midnight. Do you think you’ll be able to come?”
Katy stacked her tray on the table and shifted out of the way of other students crowding up to get rid of their trays. Beautiful dresses? Dancing? Regret filled Katy’s stomach. “No. My dad wouldn’t approve.”
Trisha pursed her lips. She linked arms with Cora, and the four girls headed for the lockers to retrieve their books for the afternoon classes. “That’s too bad, ‘cause …” She and Cora exchanged smirks. “We heard a rumor.”
Shelby scuttled to Trisha’s side, nearly pushing Katy out of the way. “Trisha, don’t you dare! He wants to be the one to talk to her!”
Cora and Trisha laughed. Katy’s scalp prickled. What was going on?
“But isn’t it better if she knows in advance?” Trisha said. “Especially since she said she won’t be able to go. She can be planning how to—you know — let him down gently.”
Katy grabbed Trisha’s arm, bringing the girl to a halt. Cora and Shelby stopped too. They created a block in the middle of the hallway, but other students just filed around them. “What are you talking about? Letting who down about what?”
Cora covered her mouth with her hand and giggled. “We gotta tell her. It’s not right to keep quiet.”
Shelby threw her hands in the air. “I am not going to be a part of this.” She stomped off.
Trisha and Cora jostled Katy to the wall, out of the way of the flow of students, then leaned in close. Katy understood how a mouse would feel when cornered by two hungry cats. Trisha said,“Be prepared, Katy. We heard that Bryce wants to ask you to homecoming.”
Katy grabbed her books and backpack from her locker and headed to class. Her feet scuffed, and her mind reeled. Bryce Porter — the same Bryce who made butterflies twirl in her stomach — wanted to ask her to the homecoming activities? But why hadn’t he said anything? She saw him every day in English, history, and forensics. He’d just been his usual friendly self, the same way he was with everybody.
Maybe Trisha and Cora had heard wrong. But, deep down, she hoped they hadn’t. Even though she would have to say no — even though Dad would
let her to go a school dance — she still hoped Bryce would ask. Then she could write in her journal,
Bryce Porter wanted to go to a dance with me.
She would cherish those words forever.
Katy sank into her seat just as the late bell rang. Her heart pounded so hard, she could hardly hear the algebra teacher’s instruction. Her thoughts raced ahead to the end of the day and forensics class when she would see Bryce again. She pictured his red-blond spiky hair and lopsided
grin. Although he wasn’t movie-star handsome, like Tony Adkins, she liked the way Bryce looked. And she liked his voice — warm and casual, never sarcastic or gruff the way a lot of the boys were at times. She imagined how his voice would sound as he asked her to homecoming. It would probably get lower, both in volume and tone, because he would be a little shy and embarrassed. She scrunched her eyes, straining to hear his voice inside her head.
Someone tapped her on the shoulder, and Katy let out a squeak of surprise. She turned around. Marlys Horton, Bryce’s forensics duet acting partner, was glaring at her. Katy had discovered during her weeks of being in debate and forensics with Marlys that the girl glared a lot. Sometimes for no good reason.