Chapter one

Another start of the school week had arrived. There was a buzz throughout the hallways as posters advertising the coming dance were plastered on the walls. Different levels of excitement span through the students as they talked about the dance while heading to their classes. Leading towards the area of the remedial class, however, the topic of the dance was much less present, other than some mockery and minor questions about dates.

A group of the remedial students hung around the lockers, chattering over a dance poster that hung on the nearby wall. In the middle of their conversation, the poster fell off the wall and someone hung it back up on Epstein's locker. When they saw Epstein approaching them, they stood in front of his locker, blocking the poster.

"Hey what's going on?" He asked, looking at them with a grin. "Get outta here. Come on." He waved his hands toward them, motioning for them to move out of his way. When they stepped aside, he saw the poster and held a slight smirk. "Nice. Like the decorations there. But it would look better over here."

Epstein took the poster off his locker and taped it over Horshack's face.

"Hey, great thinking, Epstein." Vinnie said with a small laugh. "Now we don't gotta look at his face no more."

Horshack began to laugh from behind the poster, causing the others to laugh as well. As this happened, Epstein turned to his locker, frowning and muttering to himself. The bell rang right then, causing most of the group to dissipate as they went to their classes. The four Sweathogs ignored the ringing bell to hang in the hallway a little while longer. Freddie strolled over to Epstein, placing a hand on his shoulder to get his attention.

"Hey Epstein what's yo' thoughts on this whole dance thing?"

Epstein shrugged his shoulders. "Well, y'know I s'pose to some it might be exciting and fun. But to others it might seem lame."

"Where do you fall in, Epstein?" Vinnie asked

"Well I ain't excited about it."

"So does that mean you think it's lame… because you ain't got no date for it?"

"Why would I care about that, Barbarino? Even if I wanted to go to the dance, I'd be able to get a date."

Epstein turned away from them and walked over to the classroom door. With his back turned to them, the other guys felt the unspoken tension from him. Freddie leaned in closer to Vinnie and lowered his voice.

"I think you hit a little below the belt there. The dude just been dumped a week ago."

Vinnie sighed "You're right." He stuck his thumbs in his belt loops and strolled over to Epstein with his head down. "Hey Epstein. Sorry 'bout what I said. Course you can get a date for the dance. And I'm sorry 'bout Cutie Pie."

Epstein shook his head. "Don't be. She's just a chick. There's other ones around. And this is just a stupid school dance. I ain't even sure if I'm gonna go yet. Y'know?"

Vinnie hesitated and then nodded his head with a slight grin. "Ok."

"Hey!" Epstein smirked "Don't sweat it. It's cool."

Vinnie grinned and then walked past him into the classroom. Freddie walked up to him with a grin, and Horshack following blindly close behind him.

"Glad you're takin' this so well, Epstein." Freddie patted him on the back as he entered the classroom.

Horshack reached out with one hand, feeling the air beside him. When his hand landed on Epstein's head, getting tangled in his hair, Horshack started laughing. This caused Epstein to give him a small shove away from him. Horshack then pulled the poster off his face.

"Oh there you are, Little Juan!" He said still with a slight laugh in his voice.

"What do you want, Horshack?"

"I just wanted to tell you that if you talk to Cutie Pie then maybe it's not too late for her to be your date for the dance."

"Thanks, Horshack, but she dumped me. So I don't think she'll want to dance with me."

"You don't know that for sure. Maybe you could do what Mr. Kotter said and do something romantic to win her back."

Epstein nodded his head with a slight grin. "Sure."

Horshack patted Epstein's chest, taping the poster to it. "Cheer up." He tapped Epstein's chin with his fist. "Buckaroo."

Horshack entered the classroom, leaving Epstein alone in the hallway. Epstein was about to enter the room as well but hesitated. He grinned, nodding his head as he removed the poster from his shirt and tossed it to the floor. Feeling inspiration hit him, he turned in the opposite direction to head down the hallway with a plan in mind.

...

With just five minutes left in the class, Epstein entered the room. He slunk past Gabe, who happened to have his back turned while writing on the chalkboard, and quietly sat at his desk. When Gabe turned around, his eyes were drawn immediately to Epstein. He stood for a short moment, smirking at the student, while deciding what to say to him.

"Epstein. How nice of you to finally join us. I was hoping you'd never show up."

"What?" Epstein grinned. "I've been here the whole time, Mr. Kotter."

"Right." Gabe nodded. "You must have been hiding the whole time, because I would have noticed you for sure."

"I wasn't hiding. Been right here at my desk the whole time." he grinned again, wriggling his eyebrows and pointed at Gabe. "You must be losing your sight, Mr. Kotter."

Gabe gave him a look to show that he was not amused. However, Epstein held onto his grin as he continued speaking.

"Alright so I wasn't here. But I have a real good excuse." he patted his pockets as though in a search for something. "The funny thing is I don't got a note. Don't need one, though 'cause I was discussing something with Principal Lazarus."

Freddie leaned in closer to him. "What was you talkin' to him about? You bribing him to keep you out of detention fo' the rest of the semester?"

Horshack laughed. "Good one, Freddie!" He attempted to slap him a low five, but Freddie pulled his hand away.

"Talkin' him into clearin' your permanent record?" Vinnie grinned.

"It ain't nothin' like that!" Epstein replied with a slight laugh

"Well what were you talking to him about?" Gabe asked "Establishing some sort of alibi?"

"It's a secret." Epstein smirked "But everybody should find out soon."

Epstein leaned back in his seat a little as he placed his legs on the chair of the desk next to him. The smirk that he held on his face was full of pride and this appearance drew curiosity towards what he could have planned. However, before anyone could question Epstein about his actions, the bell rang, ending the class.

All the other students left the classroom before Epstein stood up. He nonchalantly strolled past Gabe's desk and over to the door. Gabe looked at him curiously, gaining his attention.

"So what is this scheme of yours, Juan, and how much trouble could you get into over it?"

"Nobody's going to get into trouble, Mr. Kotter." he grinned. "Don't worry, it's good."

Gabe grimaced. "Epstein, when one of you Sweathogs tells me not to worry, that means I should be very worried. Because the last time one of you said that, Mr. Woodman's car was covered in graffiti and TP'd."

"Well this time you really don't have to worry." He grinned again and left the room.

After taking a quick stop at his locker, Epstein ducked around the corner and headed down the hall toward Cutie Pie's locker. He watched her reach her locker, beginning to rummage through it. While she was preoccupied with the objects inside her locker, he stood right next to it, hiding himself behind the open door. When she closed the door, she was startled when she saw him standing there, leaning on the neighboring locker.

"Oh! Juan!" She said with a slight surprised gasp. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see you for a sec. Kinda wanted to talk to you."

"Well it'll have to be a short conversation since there's not much time before I have to be in my next class."

"That's fine." he glanced around, looking up towards the PA system. "I'll just get to the point. Cutie Pie, I really care about you and I know you care about me. But I don't see why we ain't together." He glanced toward the PA again. "Y'know you never told me why you broke up with me."

She sighed slightly. "I know, Juan. And I'm sorry." She raised an eyebrow a little, as she looked at him. "What's going on? Why do you keep looking around like that?"

He shook his head. "Oh nothing! No reason. Look, I just wanted to let you know how much I care about you, y'know? I think we should still be together. I can't really think of the words to express how I feel about you, or what's on my mind." He glanced at the PA again, seeming impatient. "So I thought I'd use someone else's words instead."

"What's going on?"

"Just wait. And listen."

He stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. She could not help smiling a little as she felt the familiar warmth and comforting feeling that he provided. Just when her curiosity had risen even more, prompting her to attempt to question his actions, he shushed her. In that moment, Principal Lazarus's voice rang through the PA system.

"I'm not a radio DJ, so don't any of you expect me to do this again. This is being done as a favor for a certain student. All I can say is…" He cleared his throat. "Good luck, Juan Epstein. I hope you know what you're doing."

All eyes of the surrounding students turned to Epstein and Cutie Pie. Curiosity and confusion filled the air as music escaped through the PA system. Within the first couple notes, Cutie Pie recognized the song, which happened to be her favorite one, and she looked at Epstein in surprise. He just gave a small nod, grinning a little at her. When the chorus of the song came in, he mouthed the words along with it.

"… Alison, I know this world is killing you. Oh Alison, my aim is true…"

Cutie Pie, still looking at him in surprise, began to smile a little. "This is real sweet, but… I still don't really understand."

"Will this help?"

He leaned in a little, and brought her in closer for a deep kiss. When they slowly separated, she gazed into his eyes, showing him how touched she was, and what seemed to be lingering feelings.

"Juan I…" She hesitated, becoming more serious. "Sorry I can't do this…" taking him by complete surprise, she quickly walked away.

Epstein stood, stunned, watching her as she left. Once she was out of his sight, he looked around bewildered, while trying not to show he was also heartbroken. Seeing the other students staring at him, he waved them away before anyone could say a word to him.

"C'mon! There ain't nothin' for you to look at! Get outta here, all of you!"

The other students, partially leaving by his cue, muttered their comments amongst themselves. Epstein stood there by the lockers, waiting until the other students were gone. Once he was sure he was alone, he leaned against the closest locker and folded his arms across his chest. He frowned, realizing that the music was still playing. In a bout of frustration towards being rejected in front of everybody, he turned toward the locker and punched it. Shaking his hand, despite the fact this did nothing to ease the pain, he then moved on, walking with a scowl towards his next class.