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I asked mom if I could go to the dance, but before she even answered I could see no in her eyes. "Why not?" I asked. "All the other kids are going."

"Because you're too young," mom said. "Just because other mothers don't take their responsibilities seriously, there is no reason why I must not accept mine."

"Aw, mom. Stop being such a square. This is the twentieth century." "No! You can't go and that's final." I knew there was no use arguing with her anymore. Once mom made up her mind, it stayed made up no matter how hard we argued. I had so wanted to go to the dance. Sure, it was in Springfield and that was 20 miles away and, sure, it didn't get over until 2 in the morning but heck.

Well, anyone who won't let their kids out after 10 p.m. has got to be ancient. But I still had a chance to go. I would ask daddy. He was easier to persuade than mom. She was always saying that he spoiled me rotten.

When he came home, I met him at the door. "Hi, kitten," he said, "How's my favorite little girl today."

"I'm fine, daddy," I said. "Daddy, will you do me a favor?"

"Why sure, kitten. You know your old dad will do anything for his little girl. Tell me what's the matter.

"Well, they're having a Coming Out dance in Springfield this weekend and all the other kids are going and I'd like to go." "Have you got a date?" "Well, Harvey Wilson sort of asked me if I wasn't doing anything and I kind of think he wants me to go." "I see. Well, if you want to go, and it's all right with your mother, I don't..." "But don't you see, Daddy? Mom won't let me go. She says I'm too young. And I'm almost 16."

"Well, if your mother says you can't go, I'm afraid..."

"Oh, please, Daddy. I'll be the only girl in my class who won't be there. I'll feel just terribly awful if I can't go!" I started to cry.

"Hey, now! My little girl isn't going to start crying on me, is she?"

"Please, Daddy!" I said between sobs. "Well, I don't suppose it will hurt if I ask your mother. If the other kids are going, I can't see why we can't let you go." "Oh, thank you Daddy," I said, and I gave him a hug. Daddy was so easy to persuade.

After I was supposed to be in bed, I heard them talking: "Jane, did Susan mention to you about this dance?"

"Yes, and I told her no. I guess she's been working on you and has persuaded you to let her go," mother's voice was harsh. "No, Dear. She did talk to me and all the other kids seem to be going. I don't see the harm in letting her go as well, Jane."

"Oh Henry, how can you be so weak-kneed as that. Do you think I wouldn't let her go if I thought it was all right? You know what happened to the Smithers girl just a few months ago. They let her go out with a boy too. And now they had to send her away. At 16. I don't care, Henry. Sixteen is too young to be a mother."

"Oh, Jane, you're not suggesting that could happen to Susan? Why she's still just a child. Well, children just... just don't think of those things."

"Oh, Henry! Where have you been? Have you forgotten your childhood? Today's children are just too liberal, that's all. And their parents are too permissive. Why they smoke drugs and drink alcohol and heaven knows what else. We'd just be asking for trouble letting Susan go to a thing like that."

"Well, Dear, I didn't say she could go; I just thought we might reconsider it."

"So we have reconsidered it, like you told her and my decision is still no. Is that final?" I couldn't hear Daddy's reply because the television was turned up louder. Mother always did that when she was annoyed. she turned up the volume on the set as if it would make the problem go away. I spent a sleepless night but when I got up in the morning, I knew Daddy had lost the argument.

"Can I go to the dance?" I asked. "Well, you see dear..." Daddy began to say. "No!" mother cut in. It was final.

I started to sniffle, but mother frowned. "There will be none of that, young lady!"

"Yes, Mother," I said. I finished my breakfast and went to school. Patricia Winslow was waiting for me at the corner where we caught the school bus.

"Did they say yes?" she asked. She wanted to go to the dance too. "No," I said, glumly, "I almost had daddy convinced but mother said no."

"Same here. I tried but I didn't have a chance," Patricia said.

"I don't know why mothers are like that. They are so scared of us having any fun. It's probably just because they didn't have any fun when they were kids in the Victorian age."

"Yeah."

"I bet they weren't even allowed to talk to boys."

We giggled at that.

The bus came and we went to school.

I was putting books in my locker and getting ready for my first class when Harvey came up.

"How about this weekend?" he asked. Harvey was one of the dreamiest boys in school. All the girls wanted to go out with him and he was talking to me. "I don't know," I lied.

"Heck, you better find out. You aren't the only one I could take, you know."

"I know," my voice must have sounded as small as I felt. "But I would like to go with you because you are the cutest chick in school."

I smiled at him.

"So how about it?"

"I'll ask tonight."

"Okay. But make sure. We're going to have a grand time. I've borrowed this car from a friend of mine and we'll really swing." The session ball rang and I didn't have a chance to answer him. "Did he ask you?" Patricia's curiosity was eager to find out.

"Yes," I whispered.

"Quiet girls," the study teacher said.

"He asked me just now," I whispered across the desk.

"What did you tell him?"

"I said quiet!" the teacher roared.

"Yes Ma'am," I said. Under her watchful glare we were unable to finish the conversation.

Between classes, Patricia was all ears.

"Well fill me in. What did he say?"

"He asked me if I had asked my folks yet."

"Did you tell him you did?"

"No, I lied to him. I didn't want to, Patricia -- it's just that I would like to go out with the most popular boy in the school. Just once."

"I know. Boy, would I like to be asked."

"So I lied to him, Just a little."

"Well, what are you going to do now? I mean, he'll ask you again. And you still can't tell him you're folks said no."

"I know. I don't know what I'm going to do. Aw, heck, if only mother wasn't living in the dark ages!"

"I know what you mean," Patricia said.

We got through morning classes and had gone to the cafeteria for lunch when Harvey met us.

"Hey, Susan, this is Roger Evans. He's the guy who's loaning me the wheels this weekend. Roger, here, doesn't have a date and, well, if your friend, Patricia..." I looked at Patricia. I knew how she wanted to go to the dance.

"I'd like to but..." She started to say.

"But she has to ask her parents first," I interjected.

"Okay. But we have to know soon," Harvey said. "Remember, this is going to be a smash weekend. Lots and lots of fun."

We smiled at them. After they had gone, Patricia cut in: "Why did you lie like that for? You know I can't go to the dance!"

"I have an idea," I said. "What would happen if you told your mother you're

staying at my place?"

"Hey! That just might work. I could say I was staying with you and you

could say you were staying with me."

"Right!"

Patricia's eyes lit up with excitement. Then they clouded.

"But is it fair to our parents?"

"Oh, who cares? Just because they are living behind the times, doesn't mean we have to sacrifice out fun," I said.

Patricia was doubtful but I managed to convince her. Happily I went through the rest of the school day and hurried home to set the scene for my mother. "Hi, Mom, I'm home," I called when I entered the house.

"Susan? Susan, is that you?" Mother used to always ask the same dumb question.

"Yes, it's me." I went in and found her in the kitchen. She was sitting having a cup of tea.

"Well, you seem cheerful."

"I am mother."

"I thought you would be still sulking over the dance."

"Oh, no, I've forgotten all about that," I lied. "You and Daddy are right, I'm too young to go."

"Well, I'm glad you've come about to see this sensibly," Mom said.

"Well, I realized you are only doing it for my own good.

Mother smiled. I was sure I had fooled her.

"Mom, since I can't go to the dance, can I spend the night at Patricia's?"

"I don't know," Mom said. "What does Mrs. Winslow say?"

"Patricia asked her and she said it would be all right. Please, Mom? It's going to be so lonely here with all the other kids at the dance."

"I suppose it wouldn't hurt for you two to get together. After all, I know how you young folks want to have fun."

"Oh, thanks, Mom," I said and gave her a kiss. I knew that everything would work out well now. Just as long as Patricia got the same permission from her parents.

We were sitting down to supper when the phone rang and Daddy said it was for me.

"It's one of your beaux calling," he teased.

"Thanks, Daddy." I took the phone.

"Hiya, Chick. What's the verdict?" Harvey's dreamy voice filled her ear. "It's all right," I lied, hoping Daddy wasn't listening.

"What's all right? Are you coming or not?"

"Sure," I said. Frantically I looked to see if Daddy was still in the room. He wasn't. He had gone back into the kitchen.

"Sure, I can go," I repeated.

"You sound kinda strange," Harvey said.

"There's nothing wrong. I guess I'm a little excited."

"Is Patricia coming?"

"Yes," I lied. "Her folks said she could come along too, as long as we went together."

"Well, that's good. You girls will have a swell time. I promise you that," Harvey said.

The rest of the week passed quickly. We were walking on air. After all, I was going to the big dance with the most popular guy in the school and Patricia was going with Roger who had quite a reputation around town for being a 'fast' boy.

We knew we were the envy of our friends.

We spent the rest of time planning how we would get our best clothes out of our houses. I knew my grandmother wouldn't be home. She was in Watson, visiting my aunt, and wasn't expected back until next week. I smuggled the key to her house out of Mom's room and Patricia and I stored the clothes we planned to wear to the dance at grandmother's house. We would get dressed there. Our folks wouldn't suspect a thing. Friday finally rolled around. We were so excited! It was going to be a night we would always remember.

I could hardly wait until evening arrived and we would be on our way.

"All ready for the big bash, kiddo?" Harvey asked me as I entered school Friday morning.

"Oh, yes, We'll sure be having a good time."

"Right. I'll be around to pick you up at eight."

"Oh, you'll have to pick us up at my grandmother's house," I said. "My parents are going out of town."

"That's okay."

"You can pick Patricia up there too. She is going to get ready with me."

"Okay." It was settled. That had been the one thing I had worried about. How was I going to get Harvey to pick us up without appearing suspicious to either our parents or to the boys.

But this would work out real fine.

The day seemed to drag but I guess it was just because I was so excited and so anxious to go on the date.

I had taken my new ball gown, the one my mother had bought me for my graduation in June.

It was a beautiful dress with a daring neckline. Mother had thought it was too adult for me but I convinced her that I had developed enough that it looked good on me. I was too big for children's clothing, I told her and the sales lady had agreed with me.

I knew I'd be a knock-out at the dance. Harvey would be proud to be there with me and, maybe, he would ask me out again. After school, we hurried home and each told her parents that she was going to the others to spend the night studying.

Mother kissed me goodbye and wished me a good-time. Honestly, sometimes she treated me like a child.

We met and went to grandmother's house and got ready. The time seemed to fly, there was so much to do.

The car stopped outside the house, and honked the horn. "Just a minute!" I called as I gave myself a last look in the hall mirror and liked what I saw. I asked Patricia's opinion. We both looked extremely beautiful and grown up in our gowns. Our parents were so wrong to think we were still children.

We rushed down the stairs and out to the car. "You girls ready now?" Harvey asked. He looked handsome in his white blazer. It was as beautiful as a dream. "We're ready."

"You're beautiful. Just beautiful," Roger said from the back seat. Patricia blushed at the compliment. I supposed I blushed, too, but I tried to act all grown up about it, as if I got those compliments all the time.

"Jeeze, you are pretty," Harvey said. I could see he was looking at the swell of my breasts.

I was proud of my body and proud of the fact that it attracted his admiration. After all, I would soon be a woman and I wanted to be treated like one. "We're off," Harvey said as he pulled into the traffic. "Hey, Harvey, better head over to Spanky's and we can get a six-pack there," Roger said.

I heard Patricia gasp.

"We don't like beer," I said.

"Aw, c'mon. We're going to have a big evening tonight. After all, we're all adults or almost adults. A little beer won't hurt."

"I... My folks won't like it," I remained adamant.

"Jeeze! You didn't tell me you were still a kid and had to get everything approved by your parents," Harvey said. "Yeah, look's like we picked up a couple of kids, Harvey. They probably still need a sitter."

The two boys laughed.

I knew it was wrong but I wanted to show them I could be just as adult as they were.

"0h, Susan! Should we really go? I'm afraid of what..." But I cut Patricia off before she could finish.

"The boys can have the beer. We don't have to drink it if we don't like it. "That's right," Roger said. "You girls won't have to touch it at all if you don't like it."

So that seemed settled. We would have beer. They stopped at Spanky's, went in and got it. Then we started out.

"You girls are sure going to miss a good thing not tasting any of this fine beer, Harvey said.

"Can it, Harve," Roger said. "They said they don't want any, so don't bug them about it. We want to have a good time, right?"

"Right" I was relieved that Roger was seeing it our way. "Anyhow, I'm going to have a peachy time tonight dancing with this dream. You're the most beautiful female I have ever seen, Patricia."

"Thank you," Patricia said, and blushed.

"No, I mean it! I only wonder why I haven't seen you sooner. I mean, think of all the fun we could have been having together."

"Yeah, fun," Harvey added, "We sure are going to have fun tonight. We'll really have a ball, won't we, chick?" He looked at me.

"Sure," I said and smiled. I was getting a little uneasy. Harvey was driving so fast.

"A real ball. Yessir and we'll have a real good time. Boy, I sure could use one of those beers." "I really don't think you should drink while you're driving," I said. "Aw, chick! Don't tell me you're going to throw cold water on the whole evening. Like I thought you were a real swinger and liked a good time and all."

"I like a good time," I retorted. "But we can be sensible."

"The girl's right, Harve. Let's be sensible. Hey, I have a heck of a good idea here. Why don't we take a shortcut to the dance? I know a dirt road that will get us there in half the time."

"You mean we'd get time to stop and start drinking?" Harvey asked. I was uneasy I didn't want to go off the highway. I knew that Patricia probably felt the same.

"There's the turn off, there," Roger said. Harvey made the turn. I was about to protest and then stopped myself. I would only anger them if I kept objecting to everything they wanted to do.

"There's a really nice spot just down the road here. We can park and overlook the lake. Boy, is it a romantic spot." Roger Laughed. It seemed to be low and evil.

"Don't you think we should keep going until we get to the dance?" Patricia asked.

"There's no rush," Roger said. "We've got lots of time and, besides, I'd like to get to know you before we get there."

Harvey parked the car. I had to admit it was a beautiful spot. The pale moon was peeking from behind a dark cloud, and it lit the landscape in a pale glow. The water was calm and quiet, with gentle ripples moving across it, reflecting a thin stream of golden light cast by the moon. There were big shade trees on each side of the car giving the atmosphere a close cozy feeling, "How about breaking out some of that beer?" Harvey said, reaching into the back seat for a bottle.

Roger opened two. "You girls wouldn't want one just to sip on? I'm sure you must be thirsty."

I wasn't as thirsty as I was nervous. I didn't like this development at all although I didn't know why. I took a beer out of that nervousness. Just to give me something to do.

Patricia did the same thing.

I tasted the beer; it was warm and bitter. "Boy, that sure is good," Harvey said, and downed the bottle in what seemed like a single gulp. "How about another?"

Roger obliged and Harvey quickly drank it as well. I took another sip of my beer but I didn't like the taste and I found it difficult to drink down. "Boy, this sure is the life," Roger said, "A pretty girl and a nice beer in the pale moonlight. Hey, that would make a good song."

We all laughed at that. It was a nervous laugh on my part. Somehow, I wished that I was home. I didn't like how this was turning out at all. Harvey put his arm on the seat behind me and leaned towards me. I shrank away, afraid to make physical contact. "How about a kiss, Susan?" Harvey asked.

I didn't want to but I let him.

His lips seemed warm and wet on mine and his tongue tried to force its way into my mouth. I pushed him away. "Hey, babe! Whatsamatter?"

I could smell the foulness of his breath and I wished with all my might that I was home. "I don't like to kiss like that," I told him.

"Kiss like what?" he asked. "Just a little ole kiss between us." He tried again. His lips were more insistent this time. They pushed against mine with such force that my teeth started to ache. It took all my strength to push him away.

"Aw, c'mon," he said. "Don't be a spoiled sport. Look at Patricia. She's having fun."

I glanced in the back seat. Patricia was pushed up against the door and Roger's lips were pressed against hers. She didn't seem to be struggling but, then, maybe Roger was more gentle. "You're so rough," I said to Harvey.

"All right, this time I'll be more gentle."

"Okay."

His lips were more gentle this time and caressed mine. I was beginning to enjoy it and I let my body go slack against his. "Oh, Susan," he said. He took the relaxation on my part as an indication I was willing to let him become freer with his attention. His hand found my breast.

I pushed it away but it came back again. I pushed it away again, this time using all my strength to break us apart. "Don't do that," I told him.

"Aw, honey. I just like the feel of you. Your breasts are so soft."

"Don't touch me, Harvey. I mean it."

"Sure, honey, sure," he said. He had an evil look in his eyes and I knew now that I never should have come. Why hadn't I listened to my mother? But regretting my actions wasn't helping me now.

"Kiss me again," Harvey said, pulling me into him. I was aware of Patricia struggling in the back seat.

"Stop it!" she cried and slapped Roger as hard as she could.

"Why you little tease," Roger said. There was raw passion in his eyes. I knew we were in for real trouble. "Looks like these girls don't understand at all, Harvey," he said. "Why did they think we wanted them to come to the dance? Just for the ride?" He laughed evilly.

"Susan knows why she was invited," Harvey laughed easily. "That's why she snuck out on her parents."

I gasped.

"I'm not stupid," Harvey said. "I figured when you sounded strange on the phone that your folks had said no and you couldn't talk because they were nearby. "And when we picked you up at your grandmother's house, I knew for sure.

Your grandmother is out of town."

He laughed.

"So no one knows you are out here with us. So you better be nice or else."

"No!" I cried. "Run, Patricia, run!" I grabbed for the door but Harvey was quicker, he grabbed me and pulled me into the car. His hands were rough as they searched my body. I struggled against him but it was no use. He was stronger. I suddenly relaxed.

"That's better," he said. "I like a girl who knows just what the facts are. Just be nice to me and you won't get hurt."

"Oh, Susan, I wish I had stayed home," Patricia moaned from the back seat. "What are you going to do to us?" I asked, fear running through my body.

"Nothing," Harvey said. "Nothing at all. You just be nice that's all. You don't have to do anything else."

I knew what he meant by being nice and I wasn't going to do that with him or any boy... except the man I married. "I won't," I foolishly said.

"Get out of your clothes." His voice was low and vicious. I knew he meant what he said. He was deadly serious.

"Oh, Susan, what are we going to do?" Patricia wailed. "You're going to get out of your clothes, like the man said," Roger added in his evil tone.

There seemed to be no hope for us. "I won't," I remained defiant.

"You have a choice. Get out of them yourself or we'll rip them off." Patricia was crying and I could see she was as scared as I was myself but I still wasn't going to give into them. "Don't do it," I hollered at Patricia. I noticed her trembling fingers had started undoing her buttons.

"You just keep right on going, honey," Roger said to her. "That's the wise thing to do. Otherwise you might get hurt."

"Just like Miss Prissy here in the front seat," Harvey said. Before I knew what was happening, he struck me. Hard! The sting of the blow brought tears to my eyes. "Take them off," he ordered.

I shook my head. He reached out and grabbed the shoulder of my gown... my brand new dress that I had only wore once before! He pulled and I felt it rip. I was in a panic. I grouped around for something to hit him with. My fingers closed on a beer bottle.

I hit him as hard as I could. I heard the crunch of the bottle on his skull and he let out a gurgling cry.

While he was still in pain, I leaped from the car and started running. "Damn you, bitch!"

"Roger, help me catch her."

"Run, Patricia, run!" I hollered as I ran as fast as I could. I forced myself. The thought of what would happen to me if they caught me gave me superhuman strength.

Rounding a curve in the road, I took to some bushes. After what seemed like an eternity I stopped and hid in a thick grove of trees. I was breathing hard. My dress was torn... ruined. I was so frightened. I didn't know how I was going to get home. I didn't even know where I was.

"We've got to find her, Roger," I could hear Harvey's breathless voice as he panted from the exertion. "Oh, hell, just let her go. We'll share the other one together."

"Hell no! I'm going to catch that bitch if it takes all night. Look what she did to my head! She could have killed me!"

I stayed perfectly still, frozen by fear. Presently, their voices faded away. Getting my breath back I began running again, cross-country. I didn't know where I was going but I knew I had to get help. Presently, I came to a road. At first, I was afraid to walk on it, fearing they might be out there waiting. But I thought of Patricia, back there with the two of them and I knew I had to get help. I ran out on the road, discovering it was the highway. I began running along it. I don't remember how long I ran until I saw the lights of the car. It was coming along slowly. I ran out to flag it down. "Susan!" the voice said. It was Mother.

"Mommy, oh Mommy!" I was so glad to see her.

"Oh, my darling, what has happened to you? We went to the dance but you weren't there."

"I know," I sobbed. "I shouldn't have lied to you. I've been punished. Oh, Mommy, they have Patricia."

"Where!" It was the first time Daddy spoke.

I could see the grim look he had. I had never seen daddy so angry. I gave him directions. "Oh, Mom, I'm so glad you came and found us."

"Well, it was a good thing you left your school work behind. I phoned Mrs. Winslow, and when she said she thought Patricia was staying with us - well, I knew where you had gone."

"Oh, Mother," I sobbed. "Can you ever forgive me?"

"Hush, dear," she said.

Our car's headlights caught Roger's car parked in its secluded spot. One of the boys - I was sure it was Roger - saw the car and started running away. The other was bent over the back seat trying to force Patricia down.

Daddy slammed the car to a stop and leaped from it. He grabbed the boy by the shoulder, spun him around and hit him as hard as he could. It was Harvey. I saw the life slide out of his eyes as he fell to the ground. Daddy helped Patricia out of their car. She was almost naked. They had ripped all her clothing. Mommy wrapped her in a blanket while Daddy took after Roger.

There was no fight left in Roger. He gave up after he had seen what had happened to Harvey.

Daddy told Mommy to take us back into town and he waited with the boys for the police.

We were so glad to get home.

**

That had been three years ago. I've grown older since that night - both physically and mentally. I learned that my parents put restrictions on my, activities not because they didn't want me to have fun but because they didn't want me to get hurt by the cruelness that is in this world. I know if I ever have children, I'll try do the same thing for them: to give them a good start in this world.

Mom and Dad didn't say anything after that night about what had happened. They acted as if I had done nothing wrong. I guess it was the worst punishment they could have given me because I knew that it was all my fault.

Daddy didn't press charges against Harvey or Roger, although he could have. He let them stay the night in jail and I guess the police must have scared them because they never talked to me or Patricia afterwards. Not that Patricia and I would want to talk to them. We had had enough adventure to last us until the real men in our lives came along.

End


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