Back at Le Robwyne high school, Spider stepped into the dance wearing his black Armani suit. He wore a black fedora hat with a gold band Buddha had made in the shape of a crown. The music began and George handed him a cup of punch. “Man, these tuxes are incredible! I feel like James Bond. I wonder how much they cost?”
Tex stepped up beside him and began to look up suits on Spider’s iphone. They had reached the huge throne at the back of the gymnasium. Tex leaned against it and reported, “Looks like they cost fifteen hundred dollars.”
“What?” George choked on his punch.
Spider laughed and said, “Yeah, Taz stole them.”
“Where’s Buddha? He’s supposed to be here to take pictures.” Tex scanned the growing crowd.
“Man, you know he isn’t coming. He always finds some way to get out of dances. He’s terrified some girl might talk to him.” Spider took a drink of his punch.
“Is your Mom coming?” Tex asked him.
“Yeah. She’ll be here at ten when I crown the Queen of Love and Beauty.”
“So, who’s it gonna be, Spidey?”
“The most beautiful. That is the tradition.”
Little Valkyrie warrioress Laticia’s mother, Lucretia, leaned against a table at the dance and chatted away with her coworker as high school party goers filed into the gym. The building had been elaborately decorated. It was reminiscent of a lush pagan temple one would expect Dionysus would have stolen away to with Ariadne. She knew every inch of this building like her own apartment because she was the dance instructor for the school dance team, but even she could hardly recognize her familiar haunt. Her normal practice area had transformed into the hedonistic realm of the mighty King Bacchus.
Usually Lu, or Mrs. Lu as her students called her, dressed in plain, no-nonsense dresses that gave no hint as to the form of her body. But on the night of the Bacchus Ball, something stirred in her, some lingering calling from days of Greek gods when the blood in the average housewench would boil and lust to ravage unsuspecting men, drunk on wine, leaving crumpled heaps in their wake. Maybe she realized her youth was fading and she wanted to scream to the world, “I am still here, still beautiful, and men will want me and women will want to BE me!” She pulled on a black, backless, sequined dress and the vixen was released. She almost had to do a back bend, which she could still do, to zip up the racy dress that stopped in the little curve of the small of her back. She hooked the straps behind her neck and again that wicked spirit stirred in her and she pulled stiletto heels from her closet that would have rivaled Barbarella. She tied back her curly jet black hair that was a gift from her Puerto Rican grandmother and applied makeup to her light olive skin. The girl in the mirror was the dancer of many years ago that mesmerized men with her sensuous synergy.
Had she stood in that same gym, the one she instructed dance in every day at 3:35, dressed so provocatively, she would have tried to cover herself up. But she stood in the center of a Dionysian temple and she was dressed to kill.
Teesha squeezed past the woman to get a glass of punch and glared at her. She saw her teacher in a way she’d never seen her before. She was a threat. She couldn’t acknowledge Mrs. Lu’s transformation without feeling her own beauty diminish, so she contorted her flawless face into a plastic smile and said, “Wow! You look nice tonight!”
“Well, thank you, Teesha! I haven’t…”
“Not very many women keep their figure when they get older.” Teesha interrupted.
“I’m only twenty-nine.”
“You might as well say thirty.” Teesha walked off to the giggles of her entourage.
Lu leaned over to her fellow chaperon and said, “Stuck up little brat.”
“In about thirty minutes she’ll be Queen Little Brat,” her colleague and friend responded.
“Do you think Miguel will pick her even though they broke up?” Lu’s face was incredulous.
“She is the most beautiful,” shrugged the teacher.
“What about JoAnna Fullilove?” Lou pointed to a blond Freshman whose hair looked like spun rays of sun.
“Never. She can’t dance. He’d be mortified. He’ll pick Teesha. This is his night to shine.”
Meanwhile, beside the over-sized throne, built by Blane Kern the famous Mardi Gras float designer, Maggie was parked, her spoked rims sparkling. Every girl in the school who secretly dreamed her beauty was unrecognized and that popularity was not based on looks filed by the throne making excuses and comments to be noticed by the King. They talked about his bike, his dancing, or turned a bare shoulder, batted freshly painted eyes, or pressed together rouged lips, sometimes stepping over each other to stay in line.
Excusing himself to adjust Maggie away from the gaggle of girls, he leaned over to George and said, “Half these girls wouldn’t even know I exist if I didn’t have the power to make ‘em Queen.”
“Oh, the burdens of Kingship,” George replied sarcastically.
Malik, Teesha’s beau, appeared behind the throne. “Hey, let me holler at you.”
Spider stood up, chin out, “Sure. Go ahead.”
“Look, I know you and Teesha used to date, you heard me? And if you want to pick her, it’s only one dance. I’m cool with it, you know what I’m saying,” he said with his thick Thirteenth Ward accent.
Spidey smiled and replied, “I’m gonna pick the most beautiful girl in here and I don’t care what anybody says. You heard me?” He mocked.
“What chew trying to say?” Malik puffed up his chest.
Tex stepped in closer, getting face to face with the boy, “Hey, what you gonna do?”
Malik already had to humble himself to talk to Spider, but the idea of this indolent imp belittling him had him ready to fight. It didn’t take much courage to fight someone half his size, but facing an opponent as big as himself with intimidating dreds and tattoos that stuck out under the collar of his tuxedo gave him pause. “Chill out, Bob Marley.”
A teacher chaperon separated the boys, but Tex still shot back, “Yeah, move around, Darkness!”
The master of ceremony’s voice boomed over the speakers calling everyone’s attention to the stage. Blane Kern himself looked down at his Armani suit, then suspiciously over at the boys wearing the same suits, shook his head, and then began, “Tonight we gather to celebrate the old gods of dance and song. First, we’d like to honor our summer King Bacchus who, as I understand, is the youngest King in the history of this summer dance.” A cheer and applause went up from a few of those assembled. Blane interrupted, “Without further ado, the moment you all have been waiting for, the choosing of the Queen of Love and Beauty!”
Mrs. Lu felt a vibration from her tiny purse that contained her cell phone. “Who could this be?” she thought.
She turned her back to the crown so as not to be rude and answered, “This is not a good time.”
“Lucretia, it’s me, Cara.”
“Oh, where are you? I thought you were coming.”
“I’m almost there. Has he picked the Queen yet?”
Mrs. Lu glanced toward the throne where Spider was surveying the room. She caught a glimpse of Teesha primping.
“Cara, how are you dressed?”
“Oh Lu, I look amazing! Glen came by and did my hair and makeup! I look like Rita Hayworth!”
Lu’s heart soared as she realized Spider was going to pick his mother. Ha! Take that you little skank! she thought. Oh my, I’m talking about one of my students like I was fifteen again! “Cara, where are you, you’ve gotta hurry!”
“I’ll be there in 2 minutes.”
Spider stepped down from the throne and flipped his hat down his arm and into his hand like Fred Astaire. Then he bowed as Blane Kern put the crown on his head. George placed a large mantle over his shoulders. Tex handed Miguel the tiara for the Queen and Spider started slowly across the dance floor, searching for his Queen. He paused to point at the DJ, who began to spin the song that Spider had prearranged for dramatic effect. The needle hit the wax and transferred the grooves to an electric pulse that fed the suspense through the speakers as the crown heard:
She was more like a beauty Queen
On a movie screen
He walked slowly across the gym toward the area where Teesha stood.
Oh no! His mom isn’t here, so he’s gonna pick the brat! thought Lu. She whipped out her phone and texted GET HERE NOW!
Teesha purposely stood near the back of the crowd next to Lu so that everyone would have to see her beat out her mature and sexy teacher. She knew this was her night and she wanted Mrs. Lu to know it, too. She felt the hairs on her arms ripple with excitement as the speakers rang out with:
I don’t mind
But what do you mean?
I am the one
Lou’s phone buzzed with a text, “I’m here.”
Who could dance
On the floor
In the round baby
Spider never made eye contact with Teesha, but he was standing right next to her when his Mom and Lil Max pushed into the crowd. Mrs. Lu felt awash with relief. She saw the stunning vision of beauty in a red dress wink at Spider and knew Teesha was going to get her just desserts.
Be careful what you do
Don’t go around breaking girls’ hearts
Spider turned from his mother and Lu thought, Oh Hell no! Then all of the blood drained from her face and she almost didn’t hear him say, “Mrs. Lucretia Borgia, may I have the honor of selecting you as the Queen of Love and Beauty.”
Teesha screamed, “OH HELL, NO!”
Max smiled as Spider placed the crown on the foxy teacher as the irate girl stormed out of the gym and said to Mrs. Cara, “I take it back; dances are not gay.”