I awoke to light, erasing the darkness and swallowing the world, a fiery prancing light that slowly gave way to color and sound. Stiff, firm fingers grasped me, and carried me through the air to set me down on a wooden surface. “That’s the last of ’em, Ralph!” Firm-fingers called. To my right lay a few more, just like me. A tall person stopped nearby where I lay, and firm-fingers reached for one of us on the table. He held it out and offered it to her, “Care for a cowboy hat, missy?” “Thanks, but plastic isn’t too good for my head,” she replied. Firm-fingers set the hat he was holding back down.

“Mary, when did Henry say they were getting here? He and Adam are going to be late for the dance!” The voice was jingly and light. “They always are, Emma,” replied another. This one was louder, more powerful, but still gentle. “Miss, can I interest you in a hat?” Firm-fingers called. The jingly one, Emma, stopped and smiled, “Of course! It’s not a square-dance without some plastic cowboy hats, is it?” She laughed. Firm-fingers smiled back at her. He snatched me up and set me in her hands. Her hands were soft. “And one for you,” he said to the louder one, Mary, and placed another hat right onto her head. Her hair was long, dark, and silky, and she wore a dark red dress. Emma set me gently on her head. Her hair was somewhat curly, and dark red at the tips. She took Mary’s hand, and they ran.

They ran into a wide green field. The sky was clear and blue, and everything was so open. Emma sighed and breathed in the sweet autumn air. It brought memories of autumns before and places far away. I saw those things with her, and I sighed along. “I’m here!” This voice sounded loud and explosive. “Leo!” Mary yelled and went running to him. Emma laughed and ran after her. “Where’d you get the hats?” The new boy, the one called Leo, pointed to me. Emma picked me up off of her head and set me down on his. “There’s a table back there, but take this one. It’s a bit hot for my liking anyway.” His hair was long and almost black, it reached down to his shoulders. It was curly and unkempt, with knots and ringlets everywhere.

Another boy soon arrived, Mary’s brother, he was called John. His voice was high, but loud, like Leo’s. Then Emma’s friend Sydney appeared, whose voice was bouncy and excited. Two brothers, Henry and Adam, came together, and then another girl, Charlotte, whose voice was soft and soothing. They laughed and talked together, and spoke of other friends who they all knew, and different memories they’d shared.

“Seems there’s quite a crowd gathering here tonight,” a voice so loud it shook me on Leo’s head burst through the quiet afternoon, “I’d like to thank you all for coming to the Bryant Park square-dancing festival. It’s a fantastic afternoon, and I see many eager faces, so without further ado, let the dance begin!” Leo and the rest gathered in a circle. And then it began.

A sound so magical it could not be described with words. The most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Hundreds of colors, shades and hues of sound, all in harmony. The thundering voice yelled many things, but I couldn’t hear him. It had enchanted me, and all I could hear was the beautiful, magical sound. Leo locked arms with Charlotte, and all around the circle their friends locked arms with each other. A step forward, a step back, and around the circle they went. The world was spinning around us, the light and music giving them life, providing them with the strength to keep dancing when their bodies grew weary and heavy with sweat.

They danced for hours. The sun came down, and the stars came up. Darkness overtook the sky, but on they went, prancing merrily around the field. They crossed and spun, jumping and twisting, switching partners many times, joining hands in circles and yelling all together into the night. It seemed that it would never end. But the music faded, and the dancers grew tired. More and more they began to rest, going out of the way into the wide green field. They began to worry about the time, soon it seemed that they must depart.

It was then that I felt it. An overwhelming feeling of sadness. As Leo said good-bye and headed off, I could tell he felt it too. He didn’t want it to end, for all the happiness and laughter to be over. He’d felt it before, the feeling of goodbye. It was a melancholy feeling, if bittersweet. There had been dancing, endless dancing, and it was simply so much fun. The simple and honest enjoyment of running and spinning across a field of grass with your friends. But now that it was over, he couldn’t bear it. And neither could I.

It’s been something like a month now. I sit up on the shelf in the room that belongs to Leo. There are other things here, quite a few hats. We tell each other our stories sometimes, to amuse ourselves. We all have our own. The top hat that used to belong to his elder brother before he left for college, the sombrero that he was given a long time ago for a special performance, a crown he made himself for his tenth birthday. Dust gathers on the shelf, and it seems that I might never move again. Never feel the wind, never hear that sweet, sweet music. But I’ve got a long time. There’s always hope, always a simple hope that’s the only thing you hold on to when you’ve got nothing else. Maybe one day he’ll take me down, and he will set me on his head, and maybe someday I’ll see another wide green field, and another bright blue sky. And just maybe once again, one day, I shall dance.

Leo Lion, Age 12, Grade 7, Homeschooled, Silver Key

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