“…And we are pleased to announce that the Spring Fling Dance has been moved up. It’s a Sadie Hawkins dance, so ladies, that leaves you just under three weeks to ask your beau. The main gym opens at six, and the dance begins at six thirty Thursday night, April 4th. See the fliers up by the main office and gym or just ask one of your student council reps for further information…”
“Beau? Really? Who even knows what that word means,” Jack muttered.
He turned, and looked a row over and behind him. “You don’t count,” Jack told Beth. She shrugged, then looked back down to the notebook she held tipped up in her lap, resumed whatever it was she was writing, pausing to chew on the pen cap stuck to the end of her pen.
“What?” She asked, when she noticed he was still watching.
“Something,” Beth said. She crossed out what she’d just written. “Now you’ve made me mess up.”
“Geez, you’re grouchier than Charlotte when—” Jack clamped his mouth shut. “Never mind.”
“Never mind,” Jack said.
Beth kept writing. “No, I won’t ask you.”
Jack blinked. “Ask me what?”
Beth sighed, then pointed with her pen towards the PA speaker in the upper corner of the classroom. “The Spring dance thing that they had to put off to punish us for the vandalism done to my locker?”
“I — didn’t want to go to that, anyway,” Jack said. “Well, I mean…”
“What?” Beth asked, the irritation creeping back into her voice.
“Never mind,” Jack said. He busied himself stuffing his notebooks into his backpack. “The bell’s going to ring.”
Beth glanced down at the page, jotted something in the top corner. She flipped the notebook shut and crammed it into the very back of her backpack’s main compartment.
* * * * *
Ellie skipped down the central aisle of the bus, plopping down in the seat in front of Jack.
“How did you beat me here?” she asked, bouncing in the seat.
“I ran,” Jack answered.
“I ran too! I always run.”
“My legs are longer.”
“You’re looking out the wrong window. Beth always comes from that way,” Ellie said. She pointed out the window on the far side of the bus, towards the grassy hill that led up to one of the wings.
“I know that. I’m not looking for Beth. I’m looking for Patty.”
“So I can hide when she comes looking for me.”
“Don’t you like her anymore?”
Jack frowned. “Anymore?”
Jack put a finger over his younger sister’s lips. “No. Whatever Charlotte said, just forget it. If Patty pokes her head in here, you tell her I’m not here and you don’t know where I am.”
“You’re playing hide and seek.”
Jack didn’t correct her assumption. And Ellie didn’t give away Jack’s hiding spot as he ducked just before Patty stepped up onto the bus and glanced around.
When Beth arrived a few minutes later, slightly winded and clutching a book closely to her side, she frowned.
“No, I won’t even ask,” she said, taking the seat next to Ellie.
“Jack’s playing ‘hide and seek’ with Patty.”
Jack’s mom said that when she didn’t exactly approve of something she’d just been told about. Beth didn’t cross her arms like his mom did, but the two words carried the exact same intonation that his mother would use.
Jack ducked down one last time as the bus pulled away from the school. Beth, he noticed, smiled and waved out the window.
“Ellie, dear, just eat it.”
Jack’s sister looked up from regarding the bow-tie pasta on the end of her fork. She’d been staring at each one intently before finally popping it into her mouth.
Jack thought he was the only one who’d been watching it, but saw that everybody at the table had paused to watch the youngest Jacobs.
“Mamma, how can a bow ask someone to dance?”
Jack’s mother looked over at her husband, who simply shrugged. “I don’t know where she gets it,” he said.
“They said it at school. Sally was going to have a dance, and the girls should ask their bows if they wanted to go.” Ellie popped the pasta into her mouth. “But who wants to dance with a bow anyway?”
Charlotte and Hanna traded looks, each shaking their head.
“Who said it, dear?”
“It was on the speaker, when they do announcements.”
Jack tried to look busy cutting at the piece of chicken on his plate, and chewed quite thoroughly, but they were all still staring when he swallowed. And after he took a sip of milk.
“If not to satisfy our curiosity, have pity on your sister and see that she finishes her dinner some time this year.”
“It’s not bow,” Jack said. “It’s beau. B-E-A-U.”
Ellie glared past another bit of pasta on her fork. “That’s not how you spell it.”
“It’s one of those words that sounds the same, but is spelled different,” Charlotte said.
“Homilies?” Ellie asked.
“No, those are things they bore you with at church,” Hannah said.
“Homophones,” Charlotte said.
“Two tu-tus!” The bow tie nearly fell off Ellie’s fork as she raised her hands up over her head like a ballerina. She looked up, suddenly remembering the fork, and quickly lowered her hands.
“So then what’s a B-E…” Ellie paused, scratching her head.
“A ‘beau,’” Charlotte said, and spelled it again. “That’s a word old people like mom and dad use for ‘boyfriend.’ Or ‘sweetheart.’”
“Then who’s Sally?”
“Sadie,” Jack said. “They moved the date for the spring dance up to April. It’s a Sadie Hawkins dance.”
“That’s wonderful news!” Jack’s mother said. “To think we had to hear about it from your little sister.”
Jack shrugged, poking at the bow ties still on his plate. “I guess so. Nobody invited me, though.”
Charlotte’s fork clattered against her plate. “Come again, Picasso? What do you mean nobody invited you?