Lady in Red Ch. 20byHarddaysknight©
"I was planning to change the oil in my car. Then I thought that I'd rearrange my sock drawer," replied Steve with a frown. "I guess I could put that off, and make the dinner, but not without a little tweaking. If Lisa's invited, then the President should be happy to invite Jason Hunter.
"What do you think, Gwen? Will the White House mind if I add to the guest list of a state dinner? One other thing; Jordan Quick is practically a member of this family, so we can't leave her home alone. God only knows what sort of trouble she'd get into!"
"So you want to add two more guests to a state dinner for the French President? That sounds reasonable to me," agreed Gwen with a chuckle. "Just don't be upset if they tell us to forget the whole thing. I don't know much about political protocol, but I doubt that high school kids dictate the invitation list for a dinner for heads of state, but I could be wrong. I'll call the White House right now and tell them we want to add a couple people."
Ashley Summers sat in stunned silence as she watched two of her students discuss attending a state dinner at the White House for the French President, and then asking to alter the invitation list! She listened as Gwen made the call and spent several minutes in conversation.
"That woman drove a hard bargain. She agreed to adding two invitations, but in exchange, Jordan, Steve, and I have to perform at least one song each. And, we have to dance our 'Lady in Red' signature dance for the guests. Do you think I need to work on my negotiating skills? At least I didn't have to promise the President a dance, although I'd be honored."
"I'll have to call Lisa and let her know about this. She can meet us at the airport. She'll be pleased when she hears that Steve thought to invite Jason. At least we all know where to get our gowns for the evening," sighed Paula. "My life was never this exciting before Gwen met Steve. I can't wait to call and tell Ted that he's going to a state dinner at the White House. That'll cause some talk around the old water cooler at his office! Are we going Saturday morning or Friday night?"
"This makes my news about Steve catching up on his courses seem pretty banal," admitted Ms. Summers. "If I hadn't been here, I never would have believed that things like this can happen. We've got four students going to a state dinner at the White House! How cool is that?"
"Will I get to French kiss anybody?" wondered Kate as everyone stood up to leave. "Will we have French Fries? French toast? Anyone have anything to add?"
True to his word, Steve stayed three hours after school Thursday and Friday. Then he spent the weekend working with Ms. Summers. Late Saturday afternoon Steve took her to dinner at Marsh's Landing. Billy, Charlotte and Gwen met him there.
"Thanks so much for suggesting this, Steve! I haven't been out to dinner in quite some time. You kids are very kind to hang out with an old teacher. I never thought we'd be so far through the material by this time. If we work tomorrow and after school next week, I think you'll be all caught up."
"Ms. Summers, you're the hottest teacher in the whole school!!" blurted Billy. "You look young enough to be a student. We sure don't feel like we're hanging with old folks. You're a real fox!"
Charlotte turned to Billy in surprise. "Where did that come from? You're the guy that's too shy to talk to girls and now you're making all kinds of inappropriate remarks to my English teacher? What's gotten into you?"
"It's funny what getting shot and almost dying can do to a guy. I don't feel afraid like I used to feel. I spent a lot of time thinking about my life and what I would do differently, if I lived to do it. I decided to be more honest and outgoing, but I apologize to you, Ms. Summers, if I was inappropriate. I was just telling you my opinion."
"I can see where Charlotte might worry about your enthusiastic compliment to a teacher, but I'm also a female. And girls like to hear compliments. I thank you, Billy, for voicing such a high opinion of my charms. Now if I can get some slightly older, single guy to notice me, I'll be all set."
"I don't think that'll be a hard sell," laughed Steve. "Billy was pretty blunt, but he was spot on in his opinion. I can't think of any reason you aren't out on a date every night. You're very easy on the eye; you're smart, have a good job and stay in great shape. We're going to have to keep our eyes open for some lucky guy that we can introduce to you."
"I agree about keeping an eye open for a suitable date for Ms. Summers, but you'd better dial back your obvious appreciation of her charms a little, or the school board will have a whole new issue with you," suggested Gwen. "We all admit our English teacher is hot, but we can't be discussing it in public like this. We've all heard the news reports about predatory teachers and the trouble they get into. Do her a favor. Do not treat her like a regular girl, at least not until we graduate."
"Thank you for that. I do have to maintain a professional relationship with my students, especially the ones that think I'm hot," chuckled Ms. Summers. "I've worked too hard to get my position to lose it over a misunderstanding, or a bad decision. All that being said, I consider you kids to be friends and I appreciate your desire to help my love life, but I think I'd rather handle that myself. Matchmaking is not easy, nor often successful."
"Well, Steve did get Coach to date Laura and they seem to be getting along very well," admitted Gwen. "Of course Laura stated flat out that she was interested in him, so it was a no brainer."
"Which made me qualified for the job," laughed Steve. "Ms. Summers, we're your friends and we'll not cause you any embarrassment. We'll keep our eyes open though."
The next week went quickly for Steve. By Thursday evening, Ashley Summers declared him totally caught up in all of his assignments and tests. Friday evening, the entourage from Sparta headed for Washington D.C. They met Lisa at their gate at the local airport.
"I received a call from the agency a little while ago. They said that I have the job! They asked when I'd be able to start. I told them I was attending a state dinner for the French President this weekend, but my schedule would be open after that. I only have a couple months left of school for the semester. I could hear the woman's surprise over the phone. Their new model is dining with the President of the United States!
"I know it's all because of Steve and Gwen and all the amazing stuff they've been doing, but it still feels pretty good. I'm just glad Steve saw Gwen with her nose in a book that day at the mall. Look what it started!"
"I knew Gwen was smart the way she played hard to get with Steve," asserted Kate. "She made him work to be her boyfriend. I thought she was nuts for turning him down at the time. I really thought that she should've jumped into bed with him at the mattress place at the mall that day. She'd never been on a date, this amazingly gorgeous hunk asks her out to a dance, and she declines! The results prove that she's way smarter than me."
"I wasn't smart, or playing hard to get. I was petrified. Why would a guy like Steve ask a girl like me to a dance? I thought it might be a bet, or a joke. I still can't believe that he focused in on me like he did and put up with so much to stay with me. I can't really explain it, but I'm sure not going to argue with it. He's my guy now!" declared Gwen as she clutched Steve's arm to her chest.
"I was too dumb to realize that Gwen was way out of my league. I was new to the area and thought I'd take a chance. I was just starting to get over my father dying and only having Uncle Joe. When I saw Gwen I knew I had to try. She had me from that first moment I saw her."
Jordan had been listening closely to the banter. "You saw her sitting at the mall reading a book? You asked her out and she refused? She'd never even been on a date before and she refused to go to a dance with you? Every girl in the country will be wondering why the hell they weren't the one sitting at that table, reading some dumb book!"
"Tell me about it!" exclaimed Kate. "I can't stop thinking about that day. I was at the mall, shopping with Mom when we come around the corner and see this amazing guy chatting Gwen up. Then we find out later that she turned down a date with him! I felt like smacking her. But, as I said, she's way smarter than I am. Look how it worked out. The guy's spending his spare time in her bed now. To think I was that close to having Steve for my boyfriend. I'd be the one screaming so loud the neighbors could hear me!"
"Not before you're eighteen, and any boy will have to have the same qualities as Steve," pointed out Paula with a smile. "And the screaming has subsided lately and I want it to remain that way."
"The same qualities as Steve? I'll be a virgin forever!" moaned Kate. "All I have to do is find a super athletic, great dancing hero that sings, and happens to save lives in his spare time? Just where do you suggest I start looking for this amazing guy, Mom?"
"Maybe you should start reading books at the mall?" suggested Jordan with a grin.
Jason was waiting at the hotel when the Anderson party arrived. He was beaming as he shook hands with Steve. "I'll never live this down! All the other cadets were stunned when they heard I was invited to a state dinner. Then I showed them a picture of Lisa and they really hated me! I'll help save your life anytime if this is how you repay me! It's got to help my career, unless I do something really stupid," offered Jason.
Steve had his own room in the luxury hotel not far from the White House. Ted made it abundantly clear that there would be no visiting men's rooms by any of his daughters, or Jordan since she was living under his roof. No one argued the point.
Jordan, Steve, and Gwen had to rehearse in the afternoon with the orchestra that would be playing at the dinner. Steve had never heard such good musicians. He felt a little intimidated, but thought about Billy's statement. Being shot does change a man's perspective. He'd do his best and let the chips fall where they may.
The entire entourage was driven to the White House well before the actual dinner. Guests would attend a cocktail hour before dinner. Ted had strongly warned his entire group that there would be no drinking of alcohol. He demanded that everyone be alert and polite. This was the White House, after all!
Steve was quickly separated from Gwen and the others. He mentally compared the male guests to vultures as they circled Jordan, Lisa, Kate, and Gwen. Jason hung pretty close to Lisa. The women were absolutely beautiful in gowns of Amber's design. Paula surprised Steve with how young and attractive she appeared. It was obvious from whom the Anderson sisters inherited their good looks.
Steve found himself being introduced to ladies of all ages. They all seemed to be eager to speak to him. Many used their phones to get pictures of Steve standing with them. He quickly realized that he would never remember the names of the many women to whom he had been introduced, so he decided to focus on the important ones, and they would be French.
Then there was silence and President Hanson and his wife were announced, along with the President D'Anjou, his wife and daughter. The President personally introduced President D'Anjou to his guests, who were mostly politicians, with a few A-list celebrities tossed into the mix. Steve found his way back to be with Gwen and her family when the President reached them.
Steve was impressed that the President remembered all the names in his group. Then he noticed a tall man with a thing in his ear standing behind the president. He would whisper to the president quite often. President Hanson even hugged Gwen and congratulated her on Steve's return and recovery. Then he shook Steve's hand and introduced him to President D'Anjou, his wife Colette, and daughter Michelle.
Steve stunned Gwen when he spoke fluent French to President D'Anjou and his family. It was obvious that the D'Anjou's daughter and wife were very pleased that Steve was able to speak French. Once their group was away from the President, Paula, Gwen, Jordan, and Kate were all over Steve.
"You never told me you spoke French!" stated Gwen with some annoyance. "Why do you keep trying to surprise, or embarrass me? How hard would it have been to tell me that you spoke Farsi and French? Are there any other languages you know that you're not telling me? Look at your face! There are, aren't there?"
"I do have a pretty good command of Russian, and I know some Spanish," admitted Steve reluctantly. "I was just trying to surprise you. I thought you'd be proud of me for being able to speak to them in French. I didn't realize that I'd upset you. I apologize."
"Russian? When was I going to find that out? When we got to Moscow? You keep hiding things from me and it's embarrassing. You never said that you could sing, play the piano, or the guitar. Tell me now; are there any more instruments that you play?" demanded Gwen.
"I do alright on the drums, but I haven't played them in over a year. I don't like to sound like I'm a pompous ass by telling you the things I can do. I thought I was being modest."
"I'm pissed at you, Steve! I won't let it ruin the evening, but your habit of keeping things from me is going to be a very real problem if you don't stop doing it right now. Either you trust me or you don't. Secrets are not good for a relationship," stated Gwen with emotion before she turned and walked away.
"Gwen's right, you know," scolded Jordan after Gwen left. "You don't play tricks like that on family and loved ones. I'm pissed, too, and I'm not your girlfriend. You knew we were going to meet French people and you neglected to mention that you speak French. That sucks."
"I thought it was kind of cool, but I guess from the look that Mom's giving me, I was the only one," added Kate. "Gwen will get over it pretty fast, but she sure doesn't like not knowing things about you, and then being surprised in public situations. I can understand that."
Eventually it was announced that the heads of state were heading downstairs and a formal receiving line would begin. Steve was worried about how to proceed. Should he tag along with Gwen's family when she was so upset with him, or just go down alone? Then he felt an arm slide against his hand.
"Just because I'm a little pissed at you it doesn't mean that I don't love you. It certainly doesn't mean that I'm going to leave you alone with all of these stars and politician's daughters looking at you like lions look at raw meat," explained Gwen as she joined Steve to head down the stairs.
Steve and Gwen were shown their table, where Gwen's family had already found their places. Steve was going to sit between Gwen and Jordan. When the president and his guests took their seats, everyone else sat down. If distance from the head table indicated importance, the Anderson table was the bottom of the totem pole, as they were farther from the head table than any other group.
"It doesn't look like we rate too high in the pecking order, but we're here, and that's still way cool!" declared Kate. "I shook the President's hand. Not many kids can say that!"
There were a couple short speeches after the five course meal was finished. Both presidents were gracious in their praise for the other. Steve, Gwen, and Jordan were led out of the room. They quickly prepared for their performances. Jordan went first and sang her biggest hit. Gwen and Steve became more nervous when they heard how incredible Jordan sounded.
"My God! She can sing! We should have had her go last. That's going to be a very hard act to follow. I hope I don't screw this up. I'm glad you're going next," admitted Gwen.
Steve was a little nervous when he stepped on the stage with the orchestra. He glanced their way and then sat at the piano. President D'Anjou's daughter, Michelle, had requested that he sing the Elvis song he had performed to Gwen the first time he was on live TV. Once he started playing, Steve looked at his audience and then focused on Michelle D'Anjou. By the time he made it past 'Wise men say only fools rush in' she gave him a huge smile and then started wiping tears of joy from her eyes. Steve finished to a round of loud applause, bowed, and left the stage.
"Thanks a lot! That's even harder to follow!" complained Gwen as she passed Steve to take her place on the stage. Steve turned to watch her from the wings. The orchestra began and Gwen stood radiantly waiting for her place to begin. Everyone knew the song 'My Heart Will Go On' from the movie 'Titanic', but never heard it the way Gwen sang it that evening.
Steve was spellbound as he watched and listened to Gwen perform. He felt himself becoming very emotional. How did he find such a talented, incredible woman? He felt humbled and extremely grateful.
Gwen poured everything she had into her song after hearing Jordan and Steve. She was determined to not be outdone by the other great performances. Paula and Kate sat in awe as Gwen delivered an amazing effort. They had heard her sing many times, but never heard her deliver a song with the emotion and range she demonstrated that evening in Washington.
When Gwen finished, the audience was silent for a few seconds and then broke into a standing ovation. Gwen smiled and bowed a couple times in appreciation. Still the applause continued. Blushing, Gwen bowed once again and then left the stage.
Jordan had joined Steve as he listened to Gwen from backstage. Tears were streaming down Jordan's cheeks by the time Gwen reached them. Gwen hugged Steve and then hugged Jordan. Then the girls each took one of Steve's hands and headed back to their table. The applause had died down, but began again when the trio came back into the state dining room. Steve and Jordan stepped away from Gwen and applauded her along with the rest of the audience. Gwen blushed again and then went over to hug Lisa, Kate, Paula and Ted. Finally it was quiet enough for the orchestra to start playing.
Steve found himself dancing the first dance with Michelle D'Anjou. She was a very pretty dark haired girl of seventeen. She danced gracefully and Steve enjoyed the dance tremendously. They spoke in French as they danced around the room, oblivious to cameras and reporters. It was the first of several dances Steve would enjoy with the young French beauty.
"My daughter is very fond of you," smiled Colette D'Anjou as he led her to the dance floor. "She's been following your exploits, Steve. You were all she could talk about for the past week. After she danced with you, she told me that she could die happy. She told me that she thinks you're a very strong, handsome American. I have to agree.
"Thank you for coming tonight, and for singing. You've made her a very happy girl, which makes me a very happy mother. Your girlfriend was surprised when you spoke French to us at the reception. I could tell. Were you able to placate her ire? It isn't wise to surprise your lover with unknown skills in public situations. I trust that she made that clear to you?"
"Madam, you must be a mind reader. She was annoyed. She set me straight and then forgave me. She's pretty special."
"You seem to have surrounded yourself with beautiful women. Mother, daughters, and even the troubled Jordan Quick, all have that look when you're near them. Now my daughter has the same look, and I will as well, if this dance doesn't end soon."
Steve was kept busy dancing all evening. He thought it amusing that some guy with an earpiece would constantly suggest who Steve should ask next. It was apparent that someone was paying close attention to the guests and their enjoyment of the night. He escorted politicians' daughters and wives out to the floor, as well as a few of the daughters of some large donors to the president's campaign.