Mrs. Washington’s room had been rearranged with much enthusiasm from the children. All the desks had been moved to the edges of the classroom except one which was poised in the middle propping up a record player. Mr. Templeton, the music teacher, was the architect of this mess. He was a bold but very kind man and expressed emphatically that sixth graders must learn to square dance.
“Do we have to dance with boys?” Rosaline asked Mr. Templeton.
“Why yes, Rosa, and it will be grand like April in Paris, and you may even fall in love.” Mr. Templeton responded. The children roared at Mr. Templeton’s explanation.
“Rosey won’t fall in love, Mr. Templeton, she is a tomboy. She plays with frogs and throws rocks at the raccoons that live in the woods,” said Leah. Leah was sprite, inquisitive, and had been wanting to learn to square dance for sometime.
“I will fall in love, Mr. Templeton,” said Nikki, “With a wealthy man, and it will be in Paris!”
“Well then, Nikki, we need to make sure you know how to dance”, Mr. Templeton replied.
After a short discourse over the the square dance steps, Mr. Templeton started the music and the dancing began. There were five groups of four and two children sat out. Cole and Emma sat in chairs at the edge of the dance floor watching the other children clumsily perform a polka dance.
“I know a secret, Cole”, Emma said.
“I don’t care”, Cole replied balancing his pen on his middle finger.
“Someone likes you.”
“Who?” asked Cole. Emma was silent, and Cole continued to act disinterested. There was tension between them as the other children whirled around the room-laughing and chatting. Mr. Tempelton smiled clapping his hands with the beat. The moment was eternal as, chorus after chorus, the children danced in a fairytale.
Then with the refrain, the tempo slowed and some of the young dancers missed their steps. Mr. Templeton stopped the record player and the children let out a sigh of relief. The boys wiped off their sweaty hands while the girls fixed their hair.
“O.K., class, you’re beginning to look like regular aristocrats, but practice make perfect,” Mr. Templeton announced. “Emma and Cole, find a group to join on the next song.”
Emma grabbed Cole by the shirt sleeve and guided him to Nikki and Tommy’s group at the far corner of the room. Emma and Cole quickly replaced Nikki and Tommy’s previous partners. Then, Mr. Templeton, positioned the needle on the record and the music began. The song was a polka similiar to the last but with slightly slower tempo. Mr. Templeton tapped his foot to the rhythm, held his head high, and with concerned look wandered if he needed to go back to the chalkboard to review the steps. However, the music continued. Cole faced Emma and then turned and faced Nikki. The children moved with the music. Cole grabbed Nikki’s hand twirling her around as the dance demanded. Nikki had a smile on her face as she danced with Cole.
“Hello Cole,” Nikki said. Cole did not respond as he swung Nikki to Tommy and faced Emma again. He grabbed her hand.
“So who likes me, Emma?” Cole asked. Cole spun Emma to the music. “Someone in this group”, she replied.
Tommy and Cole bumped shoulders as Cole made a wrong move and the dance stopped. Mr. Templeton gave hand motions to continue, and Cole faced Nikki again.
“Cole, I want to invite you to my house for dinner ”, Nikki declared confidently. Cole showed no emotion but continued to dance, twirl, and switch partners. Nikki smiled at Cole, and Cole acted shy to divert Nikki’s advances. Emma and Tommy discretely observed to see Cole’s response. Cole remained aloof performing the dance steps with ease, and the smile on Nikki’s face vanished. The group dynamics became akward.
Cole looked to Emma. She was beautiful. Her auburn hair flowed gently down her back getting caught in the collar of her green polo shirt. She wore a friendship bracelet on wrist that she made herself. She was an athelitic and smart. She could beat all of the guys in football and still was the envy of every girl. She was amazing. Emma caught Cole’s glance and smiled back. Then the record stopped and the music ended. The fifty minute period was up and the dancing was over
“O.K., O.K. children, it’s over, I’ll will not torment you any longer with forced song and dance. Put the desks back where they belong. Music class is finished. I’ll see you next week”, Mr. Templeton proclaimed with satisfaction.
Some of the children moaned as Mr. Templeton gathered his brief case, and record player. Most of the students preferred Mr. Templeton to their regular teacher, Mrs. Washington, but it was time for Mr. Templeton to go.
He said, “Goodbye”, and left the classroom holding the record player in both arms.
* * * *
Tommy and Cole always took the shortcut home from school. There was a gravel path that made a straight route through the tangled trees to the neighborhood where they lived. No one except Tommy and Cole would take the short cut because of the no trespassing sign at the edge of the woods. However, Tommy and Cole feared nothing, and even though there were rumors of a hobo with a shotgun living there, they walked through the woods regularly.
That day they walked home on the path as usual. Cole had a somber demeanor while Tommy was quit talkative. The subject of conversation wavered between girls and backyard football. Tommy talked and Cole barely listened-grunting responses to Tommy’s rhetorical questions. They were immersed in different worlds but still were the best of friends. Then a small silence came between them. The birds sang their spring songs and they gravel crunched beneathe the their tenis shoes.
Suddenly, a voice came from deep in the woods, “Come here pretty girl. You’re a pretty girl, aren’t you?”
The two boys froze in their steps. “Did you here that man? Someone’s back here. Lets run.” Tommy exclaimed.
“No, let’s check it out”, Cole said with intrigue.
Cole beckoned Tommy with a motion of his arm, and the pair took a side trail off the gravel path. They followed it into a clearing and much to their surprise they found Rosaline. She sat on stump all alone feeding raccoons peanut butter crackers.
“She’s coo-coo crazy,” said Tommy to Cole.
“I heard you, Tommy Lewis,” Rosaline exclaimed, suddenly coming alive. “Everybody thinks I am crazy, but I am not. I am just different. I am like you Cole, but you’re different in a way that everybody admires. You can be yourself, and they think your great. When I am myself, they call me coo-coo and say I throw rocks at my friends. No, I am nice to my friends, and I feed you don’t I pretty girl?” Rosaline returned to her raccoons.
Cole had a curious look on his face as he examined Rosaline. He tried not to pity her, but he felt a little sad. Then he spoke, “Rosaline, we are going to be grown up one day, and it’s not going to matter how weird we are because we’re all going to feel crazy.”
Rosaline did not respond, but kept feeding the racoons peanut butter. Tommy and Cole looked at each other in bewilderment. Then Tommy shrugged his shoulders. The two left Rosey to her friends and got back on the main path.
The boys were silent as they walked. The woods soaked into their spirits such that they would never forget their home. It was a perfect afternoon in rural Indiana. Any twelve-year-old would be content to spend the remaining sunlight hours playing two hand touch football. However, Cole was stuck in a mood, and this made Tommy uncomfortable.
So, finally Tommy, “Are you all right man?”
Cole looked up through the trees to a cloudless sky and sighed. Then suddenly blurted out, “Nikki invited me to dinner with her parents.”
Tommy with his head down kicked rocks. Then he asked, “Are you going to go?”
“No!” Cole said with urgency.
“Why not? She is a nice girl.”
“Because I like someone else,” Cole confessed.
“I can’t say right now, Tommy, not until I talk to her. You will know everything at school tomorrow.”
“Well, can I guess who it is?” Tommy asked. Cole did not respond so Tommy continued, “Let me see. Could it be Emma Fitzgerald? Is that who you like Cole?” Tommy knew Cole had liked Emma for some time. Cole was silent.
The two walked a short distance and approached the end of the gravel path. With the neighborhood in sight, Cole turned to Tommy and spoke calmly, “Hey listen, Tommy, I’ll see you tomorrow at school. I am just going to hang back here for a while.”
“O.K. man, I’ll see you later, but if you want to play ball, everybody’s meeting at my house.”
“Not today Tommy” In that moment Cole possesed a seriousness that made him seem like a middle schooler already. Tommy witnessed it and knew things were about to change.
“Ok man, see you tomorrow then”, He said making his way down the street.
Cole stood at the edge of the woods alone. His heart was flooded with feelings for Emma. He had never before experienced such strong emmotion. He kicked the rocks on the gravel path, breathed deep, and looked up to the sky. Then he had an idea. There were wildflowers growing at the edge of the woods. They were purple, small, and precious. They reminded him of Emma. So, he bent down and grabbed a fistfull. Then he ripped a page from his notebook and wrote.
I want to kiss you in the
Where the wildflowers grow
For you are as the wildflowers so…
Cole waited until Emma came to the edge of the neighborhood. The he shouted to her motioning with his hand, “Emma, come here!” Emma came with a smile.
She was up beat and greeted Cole, “What’s up?”
Cole was nervous which was unusual for him, but he mustered his courage and replied, “I have something for you.”
Cole opened his hands and gave her the wildflowers and the note. Emma received the gift with excitement and suprise. She sniffed the wildflowers with an expression of gratitude. Then she read the note and paused in astonishment. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she embraced Cole with passion.
“Oh, Cole, I have always liked you since the second grade, and you like me too-how wonderful,” she exclaimed. “I will go into the woods with you, but only with you, and we will kiss-how perfect!”
Emma and Cole held each other and talked softly at the edge of the woods. When it came time for them to part Cole leaned in and kissed Emma on the lips. It was the first kiss for both of them. A perfect kiss. God smiled with all of nature, and after one last long hug they went their seperate ways filled with joy. Then the sun set gently on all of the people and the creatures of the woods. The sky was clear, and the stars shone with marvelous light. That night Emma and Cole lay in their own beds dreaming of each other and the future which held their love. A treasure that came and flourished like wildflowers in the forbidden forest.
Written by: Brett Wiley