by Jason A. Miller ©1998

Chapter 6: Everybody Have Fun Tonight

Friday had arrived at last. Friday afternoon. Another week of school down. It was almost October now. That made how many more months until June, the end of the school year, and the sure-to-be explosive Summer of 1993?

Nancy and Sydney walked home from school. It was to warm to ride the bus. Or, it was too gauche to ride the bus. These Swans were going to ride in style, even if they weren't actually riding.

"Y'know, now that Callie and Jimmy actually seem to be a couple, I'm left wondering exactly what the point of this party is supposed to be," said Nancy.

Sydney rolled her eyes. "Oh, Nancy dear. You have this disturbing habit of missing the point."

"Well. I just don't see a good reason. Wasn't the whole idea behind this party to get them to notice each other? And haven't they already done that, without our help?"

"Mmmmmm... *some*thing like that," Sydney allowed. She was grimacing behind her smile, but Nancy either didn't notice, or pretended not to notice.

"Well, if you ask me, it should be find-your-own-date for this party. Every gal for herself."

"Yes, Nancy dear. And we know who *you'd* try to take."

"And how about you, Sydney-O?" Nancy said gaily, changing the subject. "With Mila and Garrett Booth *both* whooping it up in France, where does that leave you?"

"I already have a date for tonight," said Sydney automatically.

"So you do," said Nancy. "Oops!"

Glory arrived home from school well before 3 o'clock. Plenty of time to drop off her school books, maybe sneak in a few pages of the new reading assignment for English class. Her first Shakespeare assignment ever! It was all very exciting. J.T. knew all about Shakespeare already, so she felt like she had an advantage over the rest of the class when it came to reading "Romeo And Juliet".

The house felt very empty without Garrett around. Callie had once observed that Glory and Garrett didn't seem to fight as often as you'd think they would, being sibling rivals. She was right. Even though the Booth siblings had their difficulties, just like everyone else, it was the presence of J.T. in Glory's life that served as a lightning rod, diverting all of Garrett's anger away from her, and onto her boyfriend. Garrett's overprotectiveness could be charming, at times, as long as J.T. learned to ignore him. Then they could all get along.

But Garrett was out of the country now. It had been a big scene at the airport, when he boarded the plane for France, off to boarding school for another year. It had been harder than usual, since he'd only just officially started dating Mila -- free of the bizarre contract he'd worked out with Sydney all those months ago.

Indeed, Glory was sure that the more she read from "Romeo and Juliet", the more parallels she'd be able to draw between Garrett and Sydney's situation. "My only love, sprung from my only hate." It was the bitter Booth-Rutledge rivalry that kept them from ever revealing their affections in public -- and Garrett's starved, wandering eye soon turn to Mila Rosnovsky. He'd even used Sydney to get to Mila, leaving Sydney feeling bitter and spent.

And it was only a week after Garrett left for France that Mila had left too. The French soap opera she'd turned down earlier that summer had suddenly turned to her a second time, this time for a smaller supporting role -- and she'd taken it, to be in the same country -- the same city! -- as Garrett, for the next six months.

Swans Crossing felt deserted now -- there were only ten friends left in her core group, down from the magical twelve from the summer of 1992.

And that brought her back to the subject of tonight's party. She'd had the idea at first as a way of celebrating Callie's first school year in Swans Crossing, and as a way of getting her and Jimmy to (finally!) realize how much they'd really needed each other all along. Now that Callie and Jimmy had reconciled -- now that they'd be sharing every dance -- the party had other business as well. Maybe the date that Nancy had helped her plan for Sydney would turn out to be The One. Someone else, someone right for Sydney, after all this time.

Saja and J.T. arrived early at the Swans Club. Both were tuxedoes, as was customary for *any* Swans Crossing non-pool party. (The Swans Club outdoor pool closed on Labor Day, Absolutely No Exceptions! so at this time of year, they'd needed to reserve the main ballroom for their party). They entered the ballroom with jackets slung over their shoulders, bow ties undone, and Saja's bandanna clumsily knotted around his head.

The party decorations were nearly complete. Balloons hung regally from the centerpiece of each table, and from the ceiling, and tied to the drapes, and all around the stage where Owen and Sandy would perform.

"This is truly a time for rejoicing," said Saja. "Tonight we celebrate the renewed friendship of dear friends. Our karma is perfect at last."

"James Clayton and Callie Walker holding hands in school," said J.T. His face bore its trademark grin, and he pitched his voice to sound like a television narrator, or a used car salesman. "It's a once in a lifetime event, and you can catch them both right here, all night long!"

"And even better, there has been no sign of the Human Docking Post or Human Elm Tree in quite some time. Swans Crossing is at long last, serene."

"All night long, live from the Swans Club, there will be no industrial spies, no disguises, no subterfuge!"

"We have much to celebrate. I must meditate on this."

J.T. recognized something in Saja's voice. "How do you feel about Callie choosing Jimmy? Do you feel like you missed her?"

"It is hard to miss that which is right under your nose."

"O.K., you can cut the Zen. Let's be serious for 45 seconds."

"I'm timing you," said Saja, glancing at his wristwatch

"I mean. I know you, man. Are you O.K. with Callie and Jimmy getting so serious all of a sudden? We all know you'd been waiting your turn."

Saja's face fell. Abruptly, he walked out of the room. "I'll be back later," he yelled over his shoulder.

Sonar bleeped in the background of the submarine's bridge. Captain Walker found the noise soothing, and he programmed the sonar set to bleep periodically, even when the ship was docked at harbor, and there were no other ships to register. The bleeping was good for the soul, as were extended voyages at sea, or extended trips abroad.

On the other side of the hatch, in the living quarters, Callie was getting ready for her party.

"How are you doing, my daughter?" asked the Captain. His voice sounded happy again. Not only was Callie content with her Swans Crossing life again, but the Captain was a happy man too. Thanks to the Doctor, he'd be leaving Swans Crossing soon, heading back to the open spaces where he belonged.

"I'm fine, dad," Callie called from the other side of the hatch.

The Captain pulled the illustrated _Rime of the Ancient Mariner_ -- the one he'd given Callie for a long-ago birthday - off of his bookshelf, and opened the volume to his favorite passage. He held the book up to his nostrils and savored the aroma. Sometimes, the aroma was a more evocative part of the book than the words or pictures.

"The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared,

Merrily did we drop

Below the kirk, below the hill

Below the lighthouse top"

The poem held so many contrasting moods. This was happier verse. It conveyed motion, speed. For both him and his daughter.

On the other side of the hatch, Callie slipped into her party dress. She'd gone shopping with Glory and Sydney the night before, and even though Callie had insisted on paying her own way, she'd let her two friends pick out the clothes for her, and she was very happy with the choice. She wore a dark brown crushed velvet dress, with matching shoes. Sydney had suggested something simple, in black or red, and Glory had wanted Callie to wear a flowered print, but Callie liked this cut and color. It reminded her of her favorite jacket. And brown was a vibrant color, almost a masculine one. That reminded her of Jimmy.

She reached for the telephone. Charmingly, the phone was shaped like an old-fashioned ship's communicator, and its ring sounded more like a boson’s whistle. She dialed Jimmy's number, and he answered before the first ring was complete.

"Clayton Summer Home. Some 'er home and some 'er not."

She giggled, giving herself away.

"Walker Woman? That you?"

She covered the receiver, as if afraid of someone else overhearing. "Well. Hello, Jimmy."

"Cal-lay!" he returned. Loud and happy. Definitely happy.

"Are you ready for the party yet?" she said, stifling a giggle.

"Party? What's this?"

"Didn't you hear?"

"No, I didn't!"

"Shall I tell you?

"Tell me!"

"Well," she dropped her voice conspiratorially. "Nancy Robbins is throwing a party for you tonight."

"Is she really?"

"It's `Get-A-Jimmy Day' at the Swans Club."

"Wow!" he said. "Do you have a date?"

"As a matter of fact, I do!"

"What's he like?"

Now, she had two options. She could continue with the joke -- the obvious joke answers would be Old Man Perkins, the curmudgeon from the bait shop who both sounded and acted like a "Scooby Doo" villain, or the Bald Docking Post Man who's-now-taken-on-the-characteristics-of-an-elm-tree. Or, she could enjoy the moment alone with her boyfriend -- boyfriend! -- and get mushy.

She turned around to look at the hatch. It was sealed shut, and her dad was on the other side, so he couldn't listen in. So she chose the second option, still being careful to lower her voice. After all, she was new at this, and anything said too loudly, might tempt fate and jinx her happiness.

"Let's see. He's tall, dark, and handsome, he thinks he's James Bond on a covert mission to the Eastern Seaboard, he loves motorbikes, and he's never been able to beat me at arm-wrestling."

There was a moment of silence on the other end.

"Honey?" she asked -- pulse speeding up as she used the unfamiliar word. "You still there."

"I'm here," he said. "Just blushing too hard. It cut off the blood supply to my voicebox and I couldn't say anything."

"That means you're either happy, or you're talking like J.T."

"Happy. Believe it or not!"

"I'd better alert the media."

"And I'll tell Nancy." They both giggled.

"I'll see you in a few hours, O.K.?" she asked.

"Better believe it, Walker Woman. Front and center!"

"Miss you!" she said, shyly.

"Miss you too!" They both hung up.

Even in her dream, getting together with Jimmy hadn't gone this well.

Glory stood outside the ballroom doors, greeting guests as they arrived. Ralph was with her, announcing arrivals in his crisp British accent.

Owen and Sandy were inside, setting up onstage. Several early arrivals were already milling around, finding their seating cards or grabbing items off the hors d'oeuvres trays. In other words, Neil was milling around nervously and J.T. was grabbing items off the hors d'oeuvres tray.

Saja's sister Sophia and her steady date Edward arrived next. Ralph didn't know Edward, so he merely said, "Miss Sophia E. M. DeCastro and Escort." Sophia glared icily at the two of them, while Edward bore a smug expression. She was a senior, he, a junior. It was O.K. for him to look smug.

Saja was behind them, alone. Glory had told him to arrive alone, but hadn't told him why -- so she could present him with his surprise date.

"Saja! You're here!"

"Please!" he whispered. "It's just Bobby tonight. Just Bobby, and just for tonight."

"I don't get it," she frowned.

"Tonight I am Bobby, High School Student. Saja is not here this evening."

"Ah, I get it. Why the change of identity?"

"Tonight, I shall partake of the mating ritual of the teenage swan."

She beamed. "It's cute that you're all ready to meet your date for tonight!

"A .... date," he said, not following.

"Isn't it wonderful? I didn't want anyone to be alone on Callie's special night. Nancy and I decided to pair our friends together. It's a surprise for you guys!"

"Who is this... date?"

"She's here already, organizing the food inside. It's --"

"Ah, superb. She told me she was going to be here ahead of me," interrupted Saja, smiling sagely.

Glory was confused. "Wait a second. You *did* know who your date was going to be."

Saja nodded. "Well, of course. I had already gone to the trouble of asking her."

"That's funny. Sydney didn't say anything about having spoken to you yet."

Saja spluttered. "Sydney?"

Chris and Roz walked arm in arm through the Swans Club on the way to the main ballroom. Chris wore a yellow tuxedo; Roz decided she'd be more comfortable in her police clothes. She fully expected the strange bald little Rodavian to appear tonight (if history had taught her anything), and she'd be prepared. Benny and the Doctor followed a few paces behind, also arm in arm. The Doctor wore his usual attire -- crumpled linen suit and tie, and battered safari hat.

"Remind me again why we're doing this," Benny asked him in a stage whisper.

"Because even the Captain was assigned a date for tonight. It'd be rude of us to leave him in the lurch."

"You know that's not what I mean, Doctor..."

"Ah! I see. You mean, why do we do this?"

"Yes," she said, gritting her teeth. "Why do we do this?"

"Well. You've got to do something."

"Never mind, Doctor."

Captain Walker paced nervously around the dock. Autumn had only just begun. The days were still hot, but the night air was moist and cool and refreshing. Even so, he was nervous, and dabbed at his balding head with a spotted handkerchief. He consulted his pocket watch.

His daughter climbed down the sub's latter and joined him on the dock. He raised an eyebrow.

"You are looking radiant, tonight, Callie."

She blushed. "Thanks, dad." They hugged awkwardly.

"You're growing up so fast. So fast."

"Dad, you told me I was grown-up five years ago."

"Ah, yes. When we were in Samoa. But this is different."

She smiled. "I know. And thanks, Dad."

Jimmy's motorcycle roared in the distance, and she ran towards the sound. Captain Walker watched her go, unbearably sad. It had not been like this before they'd moved back to America. Still, he'd felt Swans Crossing calling her. He'd known it was time for her to grow up and out of his life, he'd even prepared for it months ago. But to see it now with his own eyes was too much to take.

The Countess walked out of the darkness to greet him. "Oh Captain, my Captain," she sang. "Are you ready?"

Valera. Even in school she'd been imposing and theatrical. Now, their children's generation ruled the moment, but someone had forgotten to tell that to Valera Rosnovsky. She was convinced the evening was to be all about her. Hence her insistence upon bringing him as a "date" to this bat mitzvah, or whatever. The socialite Countess and the reclusive millionaire, together again, and this time, not because of snails.

Down the pier, Callie had hopped on her bike, and she and Jimmy raced off to the event together. The Captain envied both of them the speed of the cycle, and the isolation of the helmet, while he was forced to travel in a chauffeured automobile, with photographers and reporters right alongside.

Before they'd pulled off on their motorbikes, they'd shared a sweet kiss in the salty evening air. Jimmy was wearing a full tuxedo, almost unbelievably.

"Well," she greeted him, "I take it back. You really are James Bond tonight."

"It was the only way they could get me into a tuxedo. I had Saja perform the change-of-identity ritual last night when he and Owen took me shopping."

Callie pouted, prettily. "So who does that make me?"

"An exotic Bond Girl. Are you good at faking European accents?"

"I've lived in Europe. I could probably speak in native tongues all night long."

"But are you going to have my speaking in tongues?"

She gave him a venomous look, and then jumped onto her bike. "Let's get out of here before I change my mind about all this, all right?" Then she winked at him before putting her helmet on. They started their engines and raced off.

Owen pattered out some instructions on his keyboard. He'd had the brilliant idea of pre-programming selected keyboard riffs into his machine, so that their music could entertain the crowd even while Owen ate dinner.

"Now, do we have either Glory or Neil to cover drums tonight?" he asked.

"Owen, they haven't played with us in three months. We can't ask them *now*," answered Sandy.

"Oh," he said. "Well, that's OK. The old trusty keyboard has percussion programming, too!"

"Not much of a sound," she sighed. "Remember when we were going to get the whole school involved in our band?"

"And we've already lost our best backup singer," he said, lost in lonely thoughts. Sandy flashed him a look that would have killed him, had he noticed. "But anyway. What's our playlist going to be?"

"I thought we'd alternate our own songs with popular music. That way, our friends will get to hear us, and all the grownies will get to hear what they like too."

"So we'll open with what?"

"`Hold You Up' is fun. We'll play that first."

"O.K. So after that, you can start off with a cover tune, and I'll have the keyboard set up to accompany you?"

She rolled her eyes at him. Rather playfully, he thought.

The start of the party was just minutes away, so J.T. hurriedly filled his plate with hot hors d'ouevres, before the rest of the guests got to them first.

"I-I just don't get the whole point of this," said Neil.

"Food!" he replied, through a mouthful of something hot and flaky (with a hint of spinach, unfortunately).

"No, I mean, food is OK. Can't write a doctoral thesis on an empty stomach, you know."

"You sure can't, bucky ball!" said J.T., having moved on to another flaky item, this one puffy and somewhat cheesy. Much better. He added four of them to his plate. The club waiter carrying the tray, glared disapprovingly.

"Why did Nancy and Glory insist on finding people dates for this? Isn't it bad enough that we've just lost Jimmy to the dating acid-bath?"

"All right, spill it, then. Who'd you end up with?"

Neil looked pained. "Nancy!"

J.T. laughed, and lost his mouthful of canapes.

Sydney and Nancy joined Glory at the ballroom doors. "We'll take over the announcing, Ralph, dear," Sydney told him.

"Most gracious of you, Miss Sydney," he said, before vanishing inside.

Jimmy and Callie arrived. "Yay! You made it!" Glory exclaimed.

"Wow! You're all dressed up, Mr. Clayton!" said Sydney, pecking him on the cheek. He returned the favor.

"Yes! You look rather dashing, my good man!" said Nancy, also pecking him on the cheek. This time, Jimmy didn't return the favor.

"Can you believe it?" giggled Callie. "I actually got him to dress up for the occasion."

"The name is Clayton. James Clayton," said Jimmy in his best British accent. "Internationally renowned gearhead spy."

"Und I am Callie Valker-Voman, exotic damoiselle vith appalling accent und skimpy costume."

"Here, let me show you to your table," said Nancy, speaking more to Jimmy than to Callie. She latched on to Jimmy's arm, and led them into the room.

The Captain and the Countess arrived next. She was smiling for her attendant cameraman. Elia fussed nervously with his tie.

"Where is your charming butler?" the Countess asked Sydney. "Isn't he supposed to be announcing our entry?"

"Well, that's Ralph for you. The Doctor's friend Benny showed up, so I let him go hover over her for a while."

"I'm glad to learn that one of us is having an enjoyable evening," said the Captain.

Valera laughed. "Isn't he the funniest?" she asked the girls, before leading him into the ballroom.

"Come along, Ansel!" she added, as her photographer trailed behind them, snapping pictures furiously.

Barek was close behind them. To everyone's surprise, Jazz was at his elbow.

"Are Callie and Young James here yet?" he asked. He wore a black suit, and a black silk necktie patterned in what looked like wrenches and lug-nuts. Jazz wore a cocktail dress, with her soda shop nametag pinned just above her corsage.

"Oh, they're already inside, let me take you to them!" said Glory. The unlikely couple followed her into the ballroom.

Sydney was left alone at the entrance. She looked enviously into the room -- Sandy was singing "Hold You Up", and while the dance floor was still empty apart from a flashing strobe light (yuck!), the couples were already mingling and eating. She couldn't see Saja anywhere. And she'd been looking forward to the evening, too -- before he'd decided to dress funny and talk like a particularly confusing school teacher, he'd been a great dancer. She idly wondered if he'd kiss better than Garrett.

"As official party hostess, shouldn't you be paying attention to the arriving guests, and not gaping at the dance floor?" said a familiar voice behind her.

She spun around to face the intruder. It was Garrett Booth, hand in hand with Mila. Sydney didn't even have time to faint.