Chapter four

A few students hung out in front of the gym, putting off heading into the dance. Vinnie and Freddie each with an arm around their dates, stood directly in front of the gym door, awaiting the arrival of their Sweathog friends. Pausing their conversation, they glanced up with matching grins as they spied Horshack and Epstein heading towards them. Epstein smiled with a small laugh as he greeted his friends with low fives. Horshack attempted to do the same but his friends pulled their hands away before making contact.

"Hey Epstein!" Vinnie said brightly "You actually made it!"

"Yeah yeah" Epstein turned a little to the side, holding open his suit jacket "Really clean up nice, don't I?" He wriggled his eyebrows with a grin, closing his jacket. "So, uh, what gives here?" He motioned towards the girls "You guys got hot chicks as dates and I'm stuck with being escorted by Horshack?" His statement was immediately followed by Horshack's laugh.

"Yeah you better treat yo' date right, Arnold." Freddie said with a small laugh "Hold her hand, open the do' for her."

"Hey!" Epstein looked at Horshack seriously "If you think we're slow dancin', you got another thing comin'!" He finished by raising a fist near Horshack's face. Seeing the fist, Horshack made his smile scarce.

Vinnie turned to the door, looking at his friends with a grin. "We're all here now. Why don't we go in there and show everyone how we Sweathogs do school dances?"

He opened the door and held an ushering hand out as a signal for Rosalie to walk ahead of him. Once he and Rosalie were inside the gym, Freddie did the same for Vernajean. Being the remaining ones in the hallway, Horshack turned to Epstein with a grin, holding his hand out in the same way. Epstein, not amused, frowned and pushed him forward.

"C'mon!" He said, following him into the gym.

The Sweathogs made their way through the group of fellow students. They slunk towards the small stage at the far end of the gym and checked out the band that was about to enter their first set for the dance. It was there where they decided they would remain for most of the dance. After a few moments of talking, laughing and watching the other students, their attention moved toward the door. Freddie cupped a hand on Epstein's shoulder and pointed toward the door as it opened.

"Check her out, Epstein." He said with a toothy grin

Epstein's eyes narrowed as he looked, trying to pinpoint whom Freddie was talking about. That was when he spotted her. She seemed to have a spotlight on her as she glided across the dance floor, separating the sea of students. Her simple black dress hugged her curves and stopped a little past her knees. Her brown hair hung gently framing her face in barrel curls. This was enough to throw Epstein off his game. Everything else about her appearance had him floored, frozen completely in his spot as he stared at her.

"Susie." He said softly, managing to recover his fallen jaw into a small grin.

Vinnie patted him on the back in encouragement "Go on over there and talk to her, Epstein."

Epstein shook his head, frowning. "Nah, no I can't." He started to walk away from the stage "I can't. She's… she's too beautiful." He swallowed and walked away, heading for the nearest exit.

The other three guys followed Epstein and kept him from straying too far. At the same time, the girls walked over to Cutie Pie to greet her. Epstein was grabbed on the arm, right before he could leave the gym. He was then pulled back out to the dance floor. By the time they got there, the girls were gone. However, instead of letting Epstein stray again, the guys kept him there to wait for the girls to return.

"Epstein!" Vinnie said with a smile "What are you afraid of?"

"Aw come on! I ain't afraid of nothin'!"

"Then how come every time you see Cutie Pie you run away like come creampuff?"

Epstein, clearly offended, narrowed his eyes and raised his fist at Horshack in a threatening manner. "Hey watch it, Horshack. I ain't no creampuff."

Freddie laughed, clapping his hands together "Well if you ain't no creampuff then why do you run away every time you see that chick? 'Specially when she's smaller than you?" He laughed again

Epstein sighed in frustration "Alright, alright. You guys all want me to go talk to her, so I will talk to her."

"Well good." Vinnie said, patting him in the back. "You hang tight, I'll go check on the girls."

Epstein tried quickly protesting this but Vinnie left the gym before he could say anything. Vinnie stepped into the hallway and immediately found the girls. They welcomed him into their conversation with smiled and he let them know about what Epstein had said about talking to Cutie Pie. To this, she perked up with a very slight grin before sinking back into herself with a sigh. Realizing this, the others coaxed her into talking about what was on her mind.

Meanwhile, inside the gym, the three remaining Sweathogs kept their spots in front of the band stage. They goofed around with each other and even exchanged wise cracks about their fellow students. At one point, Freddie stepped closer to the band and whispered something to the singer. Instead of questioning this action, Epstein shrugged it off and started poking fun at Horshack. A few minutes later Vinnie returned with a smooth grin and matching saunter. He walked over to Epstein and slapped him on the back.

"Talked to Cutie Pie out there. She had some pretty interesting things to say."

"Oh yeah?" Epstein asked interested but with a slight frown. "Well what did she have to say?"

Vinnie grinned "For starters, she explained why she dumped you."

"Really?" The interest in his voice rose to a higher level "Well lay it on me, Barbarino. What did she have to say?"

"Just to warn ya, Epstein, you ain't gonna like it."

"Yeah, yeah just tell me." He waved his hand encouragingly

"Alright." Vinnie nodded "Cutie Pie, she still really cares about you. That's why she had to break it off."

Epstein frowned in confusion "Now that don't make no sense, Barbarino."

"I know but listen. It was because of her father. Everybody in her family knew she was with you, 'cept for him."

Epstein narrowed his eyes a little. He looked away, feeling his heart sink. When he looked back up at his friends, he held no traces of this on his face. "So, you mean he had a problem with me."

"Well Cutie Pie's afraid of what he might do once he finds out about you. See you ain't exactly the type of guy he would want to be with her."

Epstein shook his head and stepped away from them. "But he don't know me! He ain't ever met me." He turned to face them again, hopping a little in place as he spoke. "How can he form an opinion about me unless he's met me, y'know? I ain't a bad guy. I ain't done nothing but treat her good when we were together."

"We know that, Epstein." Freddie said with a slight, reassuring grin "We also know about yo' bad rep. That's probably what her daddy don't like 'bout you."

"My bad rep?" He shook his head "Aw no. I ain't standin' for that. Sure I act tough. I've been known to get into fights. I may not got the best grades either. But I'm a good guy, y'know?"

Horshack grinned, looking as though he was about to make a humorous remark. A quick threatening scowl and a shake of a fist from Epstein shut him up before the quip could escape. Keeping their eyes on the door, Vinnie and Freddie placed their hands on Epstein, turning him around. As soon as he faced the door, he saw the girls entering the room. Rosalie and Vernajean each had Cutie Pie by a hand, leading her to the dance floor. At the same time, the other three guys began pushing Epstein forward. The two of them were brought together on the dance floor, looking confused towards the rest of their friends. As they turned back to each other they relaxed, yet, there was a wall of quiet awkwardness around them.

Epstein looked at her, waving a hand a little as he searched for his words. He brought his hands together, holding his fingers just beneath his chin. "So, uh, you look beautiful."

"Thank you." She blushed "You look real nice, Juan."

He nodded with a small grin before motioning towards their friends "I take it they want us to talk."

"It seems so." She nodded, grinning as well. "Their tactic wasn't very subtle."

He snickered "No it wasn't."

Thy stood there silently for a moment, neither of them knowing what to say. After awkwardly trying to start a conversation a couple times, they were interrupted by the band beginning a song. The singer of the band, before entering the song, made a quick announcement to say it was a special dedication for Epstein and Cutie Pie. At first, they, caught by surprise, were embarrassed. This embarrassment only lasted a couple seconds before they laughed it off. Epstein looked at her and smiled, holding out his hand for her to take. With her hand slipping into his, he led her further onto the dance floor.

"I s'pose our talk can be put on hold until after we dance."

He placed a hand on her back while holding onto her hand, leading her into a slow dance. As they began dancing, he looked her in the eyes with a slight grin. They both felt as though they should say something, but the music caused them to forget all about whatever was on their minds and just focus on the moment. Feeling more relaxed and with a bout of confidence, Epstein did something that completely took her by surprise. He gracefully twirled her and then nicely brought her into a dip. After bringing her back up, she beamed brightly at him.

"Wow, Juan! I had no idea you knew how to dance like this."

"Well, Cutie Pie, that's just one of my many secrets."

There was a moment where no words were spoken between them as they continued to dance. During this time, Epstein held a very faint smile upon his lips, but his eyes gave away most of his happiness.

"Juan, I've missed you."

"Don't speak, honey. Just keep dancin'."

On the other side of the room, the other three Sweathogs and their dates watched happily as the reunited couple danced.

"This is great." Vinnie smiled "Look at 'em."

"They look like two little lovebirds." Horshack said with a blissfully swooning tone. "Like a match made in Sweathog heaven."

"Hey man, didn't I tell you this would work?" Freddie asked, showing off a proud toothy grin.

"It worked out better than I hoped it would. I mean this moment is so perfect. Even the music is perfect for them." Vinnie laughed before singing along with the song in his highest falsetto voice. "Hold me closer tiny dancer! Count the headlights on the highway!"

Horshack's laughing interrupted him, drawing everyone's attention. "Tiny Dancer! Oh that is perfect 'cause they're both so small and they're dancing!" He laughed some more before the look from Vinnie stopped him.

"Yeah we got the point, Horshack." Freddie replied. "Now let's just watch the two lovebirds dance." He smiled, looking over at their two friends.