“Have fun, darling,” Gregory said to his daughter Erica, who is finally ready to go to the ball. However, the girl did not dare to enter the door, because she did not have a beau, unlike her two only friends. She was always shy, and no one invited her to the ball. But Gregory and his wife Olive were sure that she would have a great time.
“You know…another student might not have a beau either, and he might ask you to dance,” Olive added as she pushed her daughter toward the exit. One of Erica’s friends was driving, and they wished her parents a good night.
Despite her worries, Erica had a good time at the dance. It didn’t matter if she didn’t have a partner, and her mother was right. Some people also came alone, others came in groups with their friends, like her. In the end, she worried about nothing. She enjoyed dancing and taking pictures with her friends, especially because it was one of the last memories she made with them before going to college.
However, a slow song came on, and her friends wanted to dance with their dates.
“I’m going to sit over there. I’m so tired,” she said, using her hand to fan herself, and went to rest at one of the tables.
Erica sat down and watched as everyone paired up to dance slows; even those who hadn’t come with dates managed to find someone.
Somehow, this still made her feel uncomfortable. The only other people not dancing were a few parents who had volunteered to watch the event. Hopefully, people wouldn’t notice her, and the slow dance would soon be over.
However, something in the corner caught her eye, and she saw her father rolling his chair toward her with a big smile.
“Would you like to dance, young lady?” he asked, holding out his hand.
“Daddy!” she replied with a smile, grabbing his hand and standing up.
They made their way to the dance floor and began to sway as best they could. Her dad is a surprisingly good dancer, even while in his wheelchair, and she felt much better.
Unfortunately, her happiness was short-lived. The music failed to stifle the mischievous laughter she heard, and as she looked around, she saw some of her classmates laughing at them.
“Oh, what a loser!”.
“She has to dance with her father! That’s so sad!”.
“Is this really a dance? He’s sitting!”.
The remarks were becoming too much and her smile had disappeared from her face. She asked her father:
“Dad, let’s get out of here.”
He frowned, seeing her distressed face, and finally, the man noticed the laughter and stares from the other children.
“No, Erica. Just keep dancing. Keep having fun,” he told her, trying to get her to move.
But his daughter was too embarrassed, and nothing was worse than seeing her child hurt.
“Okay, go sit down. I’m going to do something first,” Gregory said as he walked away from the dance floor.
Erica returned to the table and opened one of the bottles of water to calm herself down. She wanted to get this night over with and forget about it. High school was horrible. The people were horrible, and she couldn’t wait to get to college.
Suddenly, the music stopped completely and people turned to the small stage where the DJ had set up his equipment.
Erica stood up and noticed her father was there, getting everyone’s attention.
“Good evening, children. I hope you’re having a great evening,” he began, and all the kids clapped.
But Erica saw how the people who laughed at their dancing sneered wickedly at him. She wanted to protect him from them. But her father was about to defend her.
“Years ago, when I was your age, my classmates and I rented a bus to the prom here in Ohio. It was supposed to be the best time of our lives… But it wasn’t. We had an accident, and there was a fire. I got hurt trying to get everyone off the bus. I was successful that day, but I also paid the price,” Gregory explained, pointing to his legs.
The whole room was now silent. No more mocking. No more snickering. Nothing. Erica focused solely on her father, who had never talked about his accident in such detail with her.
“You’d be surprised to know that some of the people I saved are here today. Samantha and Katherine, standing on the corner over there, for example,” he pointed, and people looked toward those moms. “I think your kids are Austin and Richard, the ones who made fun of me and my daughter dancing.”
Everyone looked at the kids he mentioned, and they looked ashamed of themselves.
“But they weren’t the only ones, of course. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I feel I have saved enough people and worked hard in my life that I can dance with my daughter on her prom night without being laughed at. I thought we had progressed and that this new generation believed in inclusion, tolerance and understanding. But it saddens me to see that my former high school friends raised kids who would make fun of a disabled man and his child just for dancing…. I hope you learn from this. In the meantime, my daughter and I will continue to have fun tonight. Thank you,” Gregory finished. He handed back the microphone, and some of the children helped him off the platform.
Erica smiled, tears streaming down her face. She had never known that her father had been a hero, and she planned to ask him more about it later.
Gregory came up to her, held out her hand again, and she couldn’t say no. The music started again, and they danced the night away. Her friends and their companions joined them in the rhythmic songs.
At one point, Erica saw the mothers her father had mentioned scolding their children, and she smiled. Serves them right, she thought bitterly, and continued to enjoy herself. Some of the children who had been scolded came over to apologize a few minutes later, and one boy asked Erica for a dance, but she refused him and continued to enjoy the evening with her father.
At the end of the party, Gregory took her out for ice cream, where Erica asked him about the accident, marveling at the courage her father had shown at her age. It was then that she decided she wanted to be a paramedic in the future. She also wanted to save lives.