My excitement lasted right up to the moment when we walked through the gym doors, where the dance was being held. The car ride with Dad had been so special, just me and him in the soft, velvety darkness as Dallas' city lights flashed by. I admired the way my skirt draped over my boney knees. I patted it down and crossed my ankles like I'd seen my grandmother do. When we arrived at the dance, I clasped my dad's hand. His was large, warm and comforting as we made our way across the parking lot to where light spilled from the open doors.
Then we entered the gym. My confidence dissolved like tissue paper left out in the rain. The place was packed with strangers, and I suddenly felt unsafe. I stepped closer to my dad. It was loud, the lights were glaring. Groups of girls and their fathers were twirling in the center of the room, and I stared, arrested. They were. Beautiful. They had on short, flouncy dresses and shiny little dancing shoes. After my eyes recovered from this vision of glamour, I became acutely aware of my jean skirt. And plaid shirt. And I was wholly inadequate in my own eyes.
Just then, a loud lady with loud makeup ushered us to the photo corner and snapped a Polaroid. "Smile!" she cooed, drawling out the 'i' to give the word an extra syllable.
The rest of the night passed quickly, in a whirl of lights and music and 'Swing your partner round 'n round!'. Finally we were in the car, driving home.
"How was the dance, Danica? What did you think?" Dad said.
"Those girls. Their dresses were so pretty," I whispered into the quiet darkness.
There was silence for a minute. And then, "They did have fancy dresses. But I think you looked pretty in your skirt. And most of all I could see your pretty heart."
Simple words. But they made an ocean of gladness swell up inside of me.