“I tell you, Etrina is a sure thing,” Skrol said, his glittery eyes looking out the window of their High School dorm room.
“I – a what?” asked Bron.
“You heard me.”
“Yeah, I guess I did.”
“You and Etrina, me and Tr’Dorna – it’s perfect! I mean, they’re Xindi Reptilians. They are the closest to Gorn girls we’re going to get here at Picard High School.” Skrol pointed out.
“I suppose so.”
“So you know what the rules are. It’s the Sadie Hawkins Dance. All of the messages for one week before are anonymous if you use the right code, up to five such messages. And so all of us guys are supposed to write to the girls and we make our cases. You’re not supposed to identify yourself in any way,” Skrol explained.
“Yeah, I know,” Bron said, a tad annoyed.
“And the girls pick whoever they want to go with!”
“Right. And of course everyone should be nice, because the messages stop being anonymous the day after the dance,” Bron pointed out.
“Our ancestors were not nice guys. And I don’t think Etrina is expecting that nice – if you know what I mean,” Skrol dug a claw into Bron’s ribs.
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t like girls.”
“I like girls plenty,” Bron said.
“Well, you can’t have Tr’Dorna.”
“That’s okay. You and Tr’Dorna look good together.”
“You really think so? I like her teeth. She has the best teeth,” Skrol said.
Bron laughed. “Good thing she’s not Ferengi then.”
“Yep. So you’ll write to Etrina, okay?” Skrol stared at his roommate for a second. “She’s the only logical choice.”
“Now you sound like a Vulcan.”
“Don’t tell me you like one of the mammals,” Skrol shuddered.
“It’s, just ….”
“You do! In the name of all that’s cold blooded, whatever would possess you to try to go out with a warmie?”
“Don’t use that word,” Bron said.
“I’ll use whatever words I want. Look, I know Etrina and Tr’Dorna aren’t Gorn, but they’re pretty close. And they are fun girls. C’mon, you’ll have a good time, and you’ll forget all about the warmie.”
“Skrol, I can’t just spend time with Etrina if I don’t, if I don’t feel anything for her.”
“I’m not asking you to marry her. Just, will ya at least distract her while me and Tr’Dorna, uh, you know.”
“So go to the dance by yourselves. You don’t need me for that.”
“No, no, if Etrina doesn’t have a date, Tr’Dorna will get all upset and will want her to come along, and then my chances of seeing her tail are gonna be totally blown! Help a fellow scaly out, okay?”
“Please? I’ll be your best friend.”
“You already are my best friend.”
“See? That was easy,” Skrol laughed.
“Let me think about it,” Bron said.
“Have you gotten any invitations yet?” Ylinka asked as she primped in front of a mirror. Brown hair, just so. Grey skin, a lovely, ashy shade, framing dark eyes. She smiled at her own reflection.
“Nothing yet,” Sophra said, “just the usual weekly letter from my Mom on Cardassia.”
“How are things at home?”
“Pretty good,” Sophra said, “my little brother is learning to read music.” She was darker and shorter than Ylinka. “Have you gotten any notes for the Sadie Hawkins Dance?”
“Two,” Ylinka said, “I think everyone’s waiting for the last minute. I’m kinda glad the rule is that a fellow can only send out a total of five notes. I’d hate to pick someone who was just hedging his bets, and writing to all of us.”
Sophra smiled. “Is there anyone you hope against all hope writes to you?”
“I – no, not really. I mainly just want a good note, from someone who seems to care.”
“What if he’s hideous?” Ylinka asked.
“Only caring about appearances is shallow, don’t you think?”
“C’mon, Sophra! You’re eighteen years old! If now’s not the time to be shallow, then I don’t know when is!”
Sophra laughed. “I guess I just want kindness.”
“And kisses from someone who’s wonderful! Am I right! It’s normal, Sophra!”
“Look, there’s a note for me!” Etrina exclaimed.
“What’s it say?” asked Tr’Dorna.
“It says, ahem: ‘I hope you’ll go to the Sadie Hawkins Dance with me’. Well, that’s kinda dull.”
“It’s straightforward at least. I bet it’s from a Vulcan,” Tr’Dorna said.
“You think so? Should I answer it?”
“Maybe wait a little while. See if you get any better offers.”
“Maybe I won’t get any other offers,” Etrina said.
“Oh, you will! Look at how pretty your scales are! You practically glimmer with health.”
“You’re too kind. Are you going with Skrol?”
“I’ll meet him there, yes. It’s already settled,” Tr’Dorna said, “And if he’s really good, I’ll let him see my tail.”
“Oh, Tr’Dorna, you’re so wicked!”
“I forgot to ask if you were set,” Bron said.
“Oh, yeah, totally,” Skrol said, “I’m going to get Tr’Dorna a tiger lily wrist corsage. It’ll bring out her eyes. But it’s, uh, not her eyes I wanna see, if yanno what I mean.”
“C’mon, Bron! That’s the mission! I’m gonna see that tail of hers.”
“Listen,” Skrol said, “the warmies don’t have tails. At least, not the kinds I know about. And lemme tell ya, there is nothing like a scaly tail.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“You see it, you touch it, she flips it up and, well, I don’t have to tell you the facts of life,” Skrol said.
“’Course not. We had a movie on that, don’t you remember?” Bron asked.
Skrol laughed. “Of course!” He faked a British accent and intoned, “And now we come to the interspecies sexuality part of the Health lesson.”
Bron picked up the narrative, also doing his best to fake the accent. “Most bipedal species have similar genitals. Males tend to have external appendages, whereas females have openings. A notable exception are the Imvari.”
“Ha, yeah!” Skrol then picked up the narrative, “And coitus – who talks like that anymore? – coitus is achieved in the position that is most comfortable and satisfactory to all partners. For most interspecies relations, a birth control shot is unnecessary, as fertilization cannot occur without extensive medical intervention.”
“A notable exception,” Bron laughed, “is human-Xryllian relations, which may be achieved through hand-to-hand contact. In 2151, Chief Engineer Charles Tucker III became pregnant as a result of hand-to-hand contact with a Xryllian female named Ah’Len. Therefore,” he giggled a little, “a birth control shot is highly recommended prior to holding hands with a Xryllian.”
“Students are also cautioned,” Skrol continued, “to carefully consider their choice of partners, as some species, such as the Calafans, can pair bond rather strongly, and break ups can become awkward.”
“Awkward, there’s a word for it,” Bron said, no longer faking the British accent and getting serious again.
“Good thing Xindi Reptilian girls don’t pair bond quite so easily.”
“Do, uh, do you think you need to get the birth control shot with, uh, with Tr’Dorna?”
“Hmm, that’s probably a good idea,” Skrol said, “if you, uh, if you’ve still got your heart set on a warmie, well, you can probably pass on the shot. But there’s still no tail! I don’t see how a Gorn can get aroused without the sight of a scaly tail.”
“It’s, uh, it’s not like that,” Bron said.
“Holy cow, you got it bad,” Skrol sighed, “I guess you’re not gonna write to Etrina, eh?”
“I’d rather not lead her on.”
“Well, do me a favor, all right? If your warmie, uh, friend, doesn’t come through, at least dance with Etrina a little. Okay?”
“Okay,” Bron said, “I’ll make sure she’s not alone.”
“Maybe she’ll show you her tail, eh?”
“The dance is tonight! I’m so excited!” Ylinka exclaimed.
“Which one did you pick?” Sophra asked.
“This one,” she showed Sophra on her PADD. “He’s Ikaaran.”
“Nice. I like the notched nose.”
“How about you, Sophra?”
“I’ve gotten a few notes, but nothing really speaks to me.”
“You’d better act quickly.”
There was a low-volume chime. “Hmm,” Sophra said, reading.
“Oh, gawd, my stomach is in knots,” Bron said.
“You sent the note, finally?” Skrol asked.
“I meant to tell you, Etrina has a date. He’s one of the Witannen guys.”
“Oh. Good for her,” Bron said.
“I’m gonna see a tail tonight!” Skrol sang, smiling at his reflection in the room’s little mirror. “Think my teeth look okay?”
“Good. That’s the effect I was going for. Ready?”
“Almost.” Bron checked his PADD. There was one short message that he hadn’t seen before. Swallowing hard, he opened it. It was just one word: yes.
“I, uh, oh my God. Do my teeth look okay?” Bron asked.
The dance was held in the gym and the place was packed. But, for the most part, no one was actually dancing. They were all just staring at each other.
“You’d think we’d all be closer together, given the elaborate way we all communicated this past week!” Tr’Dorna complained to Etrina. Her eyes lit up as soon as she saw Skrol.
“Heya, baby,” he said, and then gave her the corsage, “your teeth look great.”
“Well, thanks,” she smiled, teeth white and sharp and shining – definitely her best feature.
“Bron’s here looking out for a warmie, uh, friend.”
“Warmie? Whatever would possess you to want one? Their teeth are so dull,” Tr’Dorna said.
“Isn’t Etrina’s date warm blooded?” Bron asked.
“Well, yeah, I guess so,” Tr’Dorna allowed.
And then Bron saw her. She was standing by herself. He cautiously circled nearby, unsure if he wanted her to see him. He was looking the other way when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He wheeled around, quickly. “Sophra!” he squeaked out.
“Did you write that poem, or did you copy it from a book?” she asked.
“I, I wrote it.” He looked down and became acutely aware that they were right in the middle of the empty dance floor and that everybody in Picard High School was staring at them.
“Prove it. Uh, please,” she said.
“By reciting it,” she said.
“Um, all right,” he said. He started off almost whispering, but found his voice and finished off louder.
“It’s the middle of the day
And yet the sun is drawing in
It’s a silvery, misty, pearly grey
That matches the color of her skin.
The raven blackness of her hair
The brightness of her eye
And I can only stand and stare
For I am far too shy.
I worship her and so I wonder
Does the shadow lady mind?
My heart beats louder than any thunder
Will she be cruel? Will she be kind?
I hope your heart will open wide
And let me be your shadow, and stay by your side.”
He paused for a second. “And, um, that’s it.”
Sophra smiled at him. “It’s beautiful. But shadows usually go behind a person. Why would you want to go behind?”
Bron knew that Skrol would have said to check for your tail, but Bron wasn’t that kind of a guy. “Um, I just, I don’t know if you would want to be, to be seen with, with a guy like me.” He looked down, remembering that everyone was still staring. He could feel the scales standing up on the back of his neck in embarrassment.
“Don’t you like the middle of the day?” she asked, “when the sun is high up and shadows are close to people? I know that’s the time that I like the best. When the shadow is right there, touching.”
His head shaking a little, he looked up cautiously. Her eyes were so dark, so pretty. He very, very carefully touched her hand, careful to not accidentally nick her skin with a claw. He held her hand and, as the music played, they slowly began to dance together.