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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Charlie said that Tim wouldn't allow him to write this chapter-it would overinflate his ego. Why he thinks mine wouldn't be subject to the same hazzard, I don't know. In any case, this is Melanie Oldfield writing. I'm Andy's mother, which makes me the mother-in-law to Jim, Kara, and Amy. My story takes place in1984. Andy's marriage to Amy (officially), Jim (unofficially), and Kara (unofficially) was in 1969, fifteen years ago in the coming summer. I remember the afternoon that the four of them arrived at our house in Alma. They had spent the previous night with Jim's parents, Walter and Trudi Forsythe. We had a feeling that they wanted to talk about weddings, and we were enthusiastic about Amy as a daughter-in-law. They were so excited when they arrived, they couldn't wait until dinner to give us the big news.

So we all sat down in our living room, and we waited for Andy to tell us that he'd proposed to Amy and she'd accepted. Andy said, "Mom, Dad, I have a big announcement. I hope you're ready."

Curtis said, "If it's what we think it is, we're ready."

Andy said, "In your wildest dreams it isn't what you think it is."

We didn't quite know how to respond to that, so we didn't try. Andy continued, "I've asked Amy (long pause) and Kara (another pause) and Jim to marry me and they've all agreed."

OK, let me ask you. Those of you out there that think you're ready for anything life throws at you. Those of you who think you're so liberal and open minded. Let me ask you. How would you and your husband or wife have responded to that? Well? How?

I think that Curtis and I did pretty well to just remain silent and in our chairs.

Jim picked up the conversation. "We all love each other and we're going to live our lives as a foursome. Legally, Andy's going to marry Amy, and I'm going to marry Kara. But among ourselves we're all equal, a foursome, nobody is anybody's special partner."

Curtis was able to ask, "Did you tell this to Walter and Trudi last night?"


"And how did they respond?"

"About the way you are.

Amy said, "No, they both let out loud gasps before the long silence."

"And after that?"

"Well, you can imagine the questions; you two will be asking the same ones. And we'll give you our best answers. By the end they were loving and supportive."

We did have a lot of questions. We came to understand that the four of them really didn't want to choose; they didn't want to pair up. They felt that their way through life would be better as a foursome. But they also understood that the world was not likely to see it that way. Not only would the world see it as adulterous, but also as perverted, as in homosexual. So they'd decided not to tell the world. Then we learned that they were not going to tell the girls' parents. As far as they were concerned it would just be a double wedding. The secret would be shared with us, Jim's parents, and the Gang.

Our concerns were two: We weren't sure they could keep the secret, and we weren't sure but that a foursome was much more likely not to succeed than a normal marriage, simply because of the internal personal dynamics. Andy answered for the four of them: "You're right. We know that, and we've talked about it. But we want this to succeed, and we're going to do our damnest. Will you support us?"

To that there was only one answer, "Of course we will."

This was followed by hugging all around.

The wedding, in the Detroit suburbs where both girls were from, was a little complicated, considering how much we couldn't share with the girls' parents. But we got through it easily-and it was great fun. With the kids heading for a honeymoon in Niagra Falls and then to live in Grand Forks, Walter and Trudi heading for Flint, and Curtis and me heading for Alma, nothing more needed to be said about the four way relationship.

We've been most pleasantly surprised over these fifteen years that the relationship has worked-wonderfully. Even with a vastly expanded Gang, the real nature of their relationship hasn't become public. I think they're well enough accepted in the community that they could probably survive its exposure, but with Jim a high school coach, it's too risky for them. It doesn't seem to bother them, and it doesn't bother us. With our acceptance into the Gang and our move to Grand Forks, we've become very much integrated into their lives-and our grandchildren's lives. And, as far as we're concerned we have four wonderful grandchildren. They all call us Granny and Granddad, and we explain to friends that with them all living in that cute little double house it's just too complicated for the four children to have different names for us-so we're Granny and Granddad for all of them. The idea of a foursome is so far outside of people's thought patterns, that they never tumble-even when it's almost staring them in the face. In fact, I think we'd have a hard time convincing people that the kids actually had a foursome-we'd be accused of trying to pull off a big joke!

I'm off message. But I had to be a proud grandmother for a while-and a proud mom and mom-in-law. Now, Charlie's given me the standard instruction: tell about your early sexual experiences. He said that I'd be the first female of my generation to tell of those experiences in this tome.

Well, I don't have a lot to share-at least as regards sex. I grew up in the little farm community of Sumner in the 1920's. Its very near Alma, but Curtis and I didn't know each other before college. We met at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti during freshman orientation. But he didn't become my steady boyfriend until our junior year.

Growing up in farm county meant that sex education was right at hand: we watched horses foal, sheep copulate, animals get neutered; it was all part of life. Farm kids never lacked for opportunities to be alone and do what God intended kids to do. Our parents tried to use the fear of pregnancy to keep us from doing too much, and sometimes it worked. Sometimes kids had to get married. In my case, it worked. My adventures in high school took place in haystacks and barns. Clothes were shed with some regularity, hands were employed with great enthusiasm, and some of us managed to keep the boys' pricks out of our cunts. I learned early on that the easiest way to do that was to get the boys' clothes off with enthusiasm, let his hands roam freely, but use my hands quickly to give him an orgasm. It was the easy way to have fun and remain a virgin. And it worked.

I had one close friend for whom it didn't work, or she didn't try to slow the guy down. She ended up pregnant at 15, married just before 16, was a mother at 16, and again at 18. All at the height of the depression. Her husband joined the CCC, served in Wisconsin, sending back, as required, most of his paychecks to his wife. He was in the Army in World War II, then went to college on the GI Bill. By 1950 they were thirty years old, parents of two teenagers, happily married, and doing well running a store in Alma. Most high school pregnancies turned out far differently. I didn't want to try it.

Homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex, and other "perversions" weren't even on our radar screen. The best we could do was group skinny dipping in the river. Our parents knew about that, but I guess they figured that it was much less likely to lead to pregnancies than what we might do two by two, and the skinny dipping was winked at.

I did have one somewhat bizarre experience. For a while in my senior year I dated a boy named Elmer. Elmer lived on a farm just outside of town, and we played around in his barn fairly often. He was content with the hand jobs he got from me, and he was great at giving me pleasure the same way. We talked a lot, even talking of getting married, but it never went anywhere. One day he asked me if I knew what jacking off was. I assured him that I did, and that I did it. The he asked me if I knew what a circle jerk was. That was unexpected, but I'd heard of a circle jerk and I told him. I asked him if he'd ever been in a circle jerk. I was a little surprised by his response that he and a group of boys with farms near his did it pretty often. The bet was $2, which was pretty good money in the depression. He won often enough to make money at it.

Then he floored me with, "Would you like to watch sometime?"

"What do you mean?"

"We always do it in the barn, usually after school. Nobody else ever comes into the barn till close to supper, and a circle jerk doesn't take long. I could tell you what day and you could hurry after school and be in the loft. You could see all of us from there."

I guess I was a pretty brave girl, but I decided to take him up on his offer. I got settled in the loft and could look through a crack between two boards. I couldn't be seen. The boys came in, five of them; I knew them all. I'd dated one besides Elmer, and had seem him naked as we played. All five were really handsome studs; this was going to be interesting. There weren't many preliminaries. They all got out their $2, mostly in coins, and put it in the middle of their little circle, where they all faced each other. Someone said, "Go," and they all pulled their clothes off, getting completely naked. Elmer had told me that their rule was you couldn't touch your dick till all your clothes were off. Two of the boys stood and fisted their dicks as fast as they could. The other three lay down on the floor and did the same thing. Elmer, one of the three on the floor, won that day, shooting his semen over his head. The others followed fairly quickly, but it was winner take all. I think Elmer had an unfair advantage: knowing he was being watched must've heightened the arousal, but he didn't hesitate to pick up the $10 on the floor. There was, however, an unspoken ritual as they got dressed. Just before Elmer pulled up his boxers, each of the boys came by and squeezed his dick. That was it, and seemed to end the game. They slowly got dressed, talked about all kinds of things, but not the event that had just taken place. Once they were dressed the other four boys left. After they'd been gone about five minutes Elmer climbed up into the loft and asked me, "Did you enjoy that?"

"Sure. God, seeing the five of you naked was fun. Seeing you all shoot like that was fun too. Now do you want to do me?"

"Sure, get your clothes off; here I'll help."

I got my chance, and then he walked me home. We joked about that for some time afterwards. I don't think he ever told the other boys. Elmer stayed on the farm after high school. He got married, had kids. I saw him now and then in town. I once threatened to tell his teenage son about the circle jerk in the barn! His response was to remind me that I had a teenager of my own. The farm was shortly after that, and I don't know where Elmer ended up.

By college we'd discovered condoms, which we called rubbers, and trusted entirely too much. But I was lucky, and never had any kind of brush with pregnancy till I was married to Curtis. And, yes, Curtis has heard all of these stories, and laughed till he was almost senseless about the circle jerk. It seems he knew one of the other boys in the circle jerk in his business in Alma. But he decided to keep what he knew to himself. He swears he, himself, has never been involved in a circle jerk.

With that background you can see why Curtis and I weren't overly threatened by Franklin's letter. (Charlie asked me to note that you can read that letter in Episode 66-Correspondence.) We've enjoyed our times with others in the Gang, of both generations, and are glad that things have worked out as they have. Oh my goodness, my mother must be turning over in her grave!

Back to the time flow of Charlie's story. Curtis and I liked to go dancing. Well, I loved to go dancing and Curtis liked to make me happy. There was a very nice ballroom in Fargo called the Starblazer. It featured something called the Polka Hop three days a week, and had a huge following for that-including radio broadcasts. But even the Polka Hop craze couldn't keep it going seven days a week. They ran a teen/no alcohol dance on Friday nights which was very popular with parents of teens. It was less popular with the teens themselves, but it was a place to go, and they went. A lot, especially the girls, admitted they liked it, and the boys liked being where the girls were. Saturday nights were reserved for ballroom dancing with a small, live orchestra. They played mostly swing, fox trots, and the various Latin dances. It was perfect for Curtis and me. Curtis was a fairly good dancer, but my big regrets were that he didn't do much of a waltz and wouldn't touch the tango.

One Saturday night we were at the Starblazer and having a wonderful time. We'd had a nice dinner at a Fargo restaurant beforehand, and now were enjoying dancing, some wine, and dessert from their dessert bar. It cost more than dinner and a movie, but not a lot more, and it was much more fun. Sometimes we'd stay all night at the Hotel Fargo and make a real event of it. At each table was a little collection of papers: a menu and wine list, brochures from local hotels and attractions, and information about coming events at the Starblazer. In just over two weeks was Waltz Night: the second Monday in April. Curtis picked up the brochure and handed it to me, saying, "I'm not good enough to take you to Waltz Night. It seems it'll feature a competition. But Charlie's good enough. Why don't I suggest that he take you?"

"Do you think he would?"

"If he's free that night I'll bet he'd love to. I'll bet he'd like to add in dinner and the night at the Hotel Fargo."

"What would you do?"

"Don't worry about me. Maybe Tim'll end up being free that evening."

"I think I'd love that. Are you sure you wouldn't mind?"

"I know you love to dance, and you haven't really had a good time dancing since that night Charlie took you dancing in Detroit. Go, have a good time. You deserve it."

Well, Curtis did suggest it to Charlie; Charlie was free; and I did get an invitation for dinner, dancing, and doodling, as Charlie put it, at the Hotel Fargo.

Charlie and Tim showed up at our house at 4:00 p.m. that Monday afternoon. They were driven in a rented limo that had come up from Fargo to get us. Charlie was dressed in top hat and tails, and looked every bit the image of Fred Astaire. I'd been warned, and I had a ball gown appropriate for the occasion. It was a dress I'd had for years, and I was both amazed and delighted that I could still get into it. Curtis was jealous! He was still in pretty good shape, but he had to admit that his waist had expanded a little.

I'm not sure what plans Tim and Curtis had, but they went out to the street with us and wished us well, waving as we drove off.

Charlie treated me like it was a teenager's first big date. We talked, and he let his hand roam very tentatively, sort of seeking permission. I teased by gently pushing it away several times before I let my hand brush his groin. Then we were at the restaurant, and I was ushered inside to a wonderful table. Charlie had pre-ordered the meal, a Viennese schnitzel, with German dumplings-perfect to begin a night of waltzing. The limo was back just on time, and we were driven the three miles to the Starblazer Ballroom. Other couples were arriving, some fancily dressed, but we had the only limo. In we went. Much to our surprise, Waltz Night wasn't exactly what we'd expected. It was a real waltz competition for serious dancers. The entry fee was $150 per couple, plus the ballroom's normal entrance fee. You could get into the ballroom without being part of the competition, but we were told that there wouldn't be a lot of dancing time for the spectators. Charlie didn't hesitate. "Melanie, if you can dance with Arthur Murray, you can hold your own here. And if I can waltz with Lady Bird Johnson, I can hold my own here. With that he wrote a check for the $150 dollars, paid the admission fee, and we were in. Several people had heard Charlie's comment about Arthur Murray and Lady Bird Johnson and we could see people pointing us out to others! Charlie swears it isn't true, but I think he made the comment deliberately to make us a focus of attention.

We read a little more about the competition we were entering. There were local contests like this throughout the country, in fact, the world. The winning couple from each of the local contests-there were 200-would get an all expense paid trip to Vienna in September for a grand waltz competition. The winning couple would become the celebrated guests of honor at a season of four grand balls in Vienna and Salzburg before heading home. It was fun to dream about it.

The ballroom was crowded, there must've been 150 or more couples. We were told that in the first 45 minutes all the contestants would be invited to dance. Judges would be watching, and whenever two judges agreed that a couple should move to the next level they would stop the couple, give them each a contestant badge and number, and ask them to leave the dance floor so that the others could be more easily viewed.

Charlie and I figured that that would give us at least 45 minutes of dancing, plus whatever additional time was given to the non-contestants. We'd have a happy evening, and would certainly enjoy watching some good dancing.

I told you, Charlie was a good dancer, remarkably good. And so was I. It took us a while to get into the swing of it. By the fourth dance, about a half hour into the judging, we were having a wonderful time, attempting more and more complicated moves. We had the disadvantage that we hadn't realized what we were getting ourselves into, so we hadn't practiced, discussed moves, or anything. We just danced away, and enjoyed ourselves.

And then here were two judges motioning us off the floor. We were given little badges, showing our contestant number to be 36. We were flabbergasted. We sat down at our table, and Charlie ordered Cokes. He said, "If we're going to be serious about this, no wine." I agreed.

We had about fifteen minutes to talk a little about waltzing, our performance, and what we could do to add a little pizzaz to our dancing. His suggestions about lifts and things were easy to dream about, but performing them without practice seemed impractical. But then the floor was opened to everyone for fifteen minutes of open dancing, before the serious competition started. They'd narrowed the selection down to 48 and would be looking to add two more during the open dancing. 50 couples would make up the main competition.

Charlie and I took the full opportunity to try out what we'd been talking about. I was lifted, spun, and whirled around till I was almost dizzy. Looking around I realized that we were really pretty good. We might not win, but we'd put up a decent showing.

The next stage went on for about forty minutes, and one couple after another got a tap on the shoulder indicating that they were out. Amazingly, Charlie and I never got the fatal tap. We were among the last dozen standing.

There was some more open dancing, and Charlie and I decided we'd better sit it out and rest. Then the final twelve couples were invited to dance, three at a time. That gave us plenty of dance floor space to move around and perform the waltz like it was meant to be performed. The music ended and the judges conferred. The final three contestant couples would be numbers 12, 28, and 36! Each would perform a solo dance to a Straus waltz of their choosing. The others, of course, had been ready for this, with a planned dance and a chosen waltz.

But Charlie remembered our dancing at Jerry and Judy's wedding. We'd waltzed to The Blue Danube and it'd been well received. Charlie asked for The Blue Danube. It was announced that the contestants would perform in reverse numerical order-it being presumed that the lower numbers, having been selected first in the first round-were likely to be the best dancers. We didn't need that kind of suggestion, and we weren't thrilled to be first, but we realized it was now or never. Charlie walked over to the head judge and conferred with him, and then to the band leader. They both smiled their approval of whatever Charlie had in mind, and then he walked to the center of the ballroom without me. The music started, but it wasn't Straus; it was Richard Rodgers' introduction to "Shall We Dance" from The King and I. Charlie, dressed in those magnificent tails, white tie and vest, walked over to me from the middle of the room singing in a wonderful voice that I'd never heard before,

We've just been introduced,

I do not know you well,

But since the music started

Something drew me to your side.

So many men and girls are in each other's arms-

It made me think that we might be

Similarly occupied.

At that point he very elegantly took my hand and led me to the dance floor:

Shall we dance?

On a bright cloud of music shall we fly?

Shall we dance?

Shall we then say "Good night" and mean "Good-bye"?

Or, perchance,

When the last little star has left the sky,

Shall we still be together

With our arms around each other

And shall you be my new romance?

On the clear understanding

That this kind of thing can happen,

Shall we dance?

Shall we dance?

Shall we dance?

Charlie had been told that we couldn't actually take the first step until The Blue Danube had started, so as he sang he led me onto the floor, bowed to my curtsey, and took me in his arms. The final "Shall we dance?" led directly into The Blue Danube and we were off. My only problem was that I was almost in tears from listening to him sing, but I got myself together as we headed around the room. The music quickly brought back memories of our dancing at the wedding, and we just lost ourselves in the joy of that occasion as well as this one. We were so proud to be one of the three finalists that we really didn't care whether we won or not. The music ended. I got a wonderful kiss from Charlie, and huge applause, a standing ovation in fact, as he walked me back to our table.

We were a tough act to follow. But the other two finalists were up to it. While there was no more singing, each had their own little introduction, and we felt that they both had a better constructed program than our rather hit or miss presentation. Well, the judges must have gone for spontaneity that evening, because at eleven o'clock that Monday evening, the judges announced that Couple # 36 were the winners of the Waltz Night competition. We'd been nameless throughout the competition, because they didn't want the judges to be influenced by names. The MC asked us our names and I said, "Melanie Oldfield," and Charlie said, "Charlie."

The MC seemed a little non-plussed by the lack of a second name. By this time, however, a number of people in the audience had recognized Charlie, and someone shouted, "Where's Tim?"

Charlie smiled and waited for the MC, who still didn't have a clue. He said to Charlie, "It seems you're known; help me out."

Melanie said, "We are Charlie and Melanie from Grand Forks. In his other life, Charlie is the Charlie of Tim'n Charlie of the University of North Dakota and Olympic fame."

The MC was still puzzled, but saved himself by announcing, "Ladies and gentlemen, our grand prize winners, Melanie and Charlie. They'll be representing the Upper Midwest at the Waltz Festival in Vienna. Don't they make a lovely couple?"

The music started, and the MC invited us to dance. We whirled around the room, and soon others were dancing and our celebrity was coming to an end as people returned to their own dancing and conversations. I said to Charlie, "Do you believe this? We didn't even know what we were getting into, and we won. Oh, God, Charlie, we're going to Vienna. What will Tim think? What will Curtis think?" I don't think I was really very coherent as we waltzed around the floor. I was more giddy that I'd have been if I'd had the wine that Charlie wouldn't let me drink. Oh, yes. Damn him! Charlie was just as calm as if he'd won a low stakes poker hand. But he was smiling, and I was in seventh heaven. Arthur Murray was nothing compared to this.

The ride in the limo to the hotel was an anticlimax. So was the elevator ride to the 14th floor, which Charlie pointed out was really the 13th floor, since they didn't use the number 13. We walked down the hall, went into our room, and I turned and lay back on the bed and said, "Fuck me, Charlie. Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me."

He bowed, just as he had for "Shall we dance," gave me his hand, and said, "I'd be delighted to, m'lady."

Gowns and tails don't come off as easily as jeans and tee shirts, but we moved as fast as we could. Naked at last, I lay back again and said, "Fuck me now."

He did. Oh, God, did he? For a gay boy he did very well, indeed. And for an old lady, I did very well indeed, if I do say so myself.

As planned, Tim and Curtis met us at the hotel and we went for breakfast. We didn't say anything on the way to the restaurant; I think both Charlie and I were seeing how long the other could hold out without bursting with the news. Well, he won. As we sat down at the table, before we even opened the menus, I blurted out, "You'll never guess!"

"That you won the contest?" asked Curtis.

"That you're going to Austria?" asked Tim.

"That you dazzled them in Fargo last night?" asked Curtis.

"How do you know all that?" I asked.

"Know what?" asked Tim.

"That we won the contest and are going to Vienna."

"Oh, then it's true."

I gritted my teeth and asked, "Tim, how did you find all this out?"

I think he realized that I was nearing the end of my rope, and he had better provide an answer. "A member of the phys ed faculty, she teaches dance, was one of your fellow contestants. She and her husband-partner made the first cut, but that was all. She said you were absolutely terrific. She asked where you practiced. When I told her you two hadn't danced together in years, she didn't believe me. She still doesn't. Have you two been sneaking in some practice?"

"You know we haven't," I replied. "But we're going to have to now. The contest format is just the same in Vienna, so we know what to be ready for."

Charlie said, "We won this time without practicing. We could practice and screw everything up. The judges seemed to like us just as we are."

"You know the competition will be tougher in Vienna. We definitely need to practice."

"I suppose you're right. Takes all the fun out of dancing."

Tim said, "You sound like Jim and his wrestling."

"I have a greatly increased appreciation for Jim's approach to wrestling."

I asked, "Will somebody tell me what you're talking about?"

Tim explained Jim's laissez-faire attitude toward wrestling, and how it had won him an Olympic silver medal. Tim sort of grumbled to Charlie under his breath, "He might've gotten a gold if he'd practiced."

Charlie had just smiled and said, "He didn't want a gold. He got what he wanted, a silver for him and a gold for Paul. I know another kid who got exactly the same wish."



"Practice your damn dancing, Charlie."

"I will. I'll even take it seriously."

"Thanks, Charlie," I told him.

After breakfast we returned to Grand Forks. For Tim and Charlie this meant the excitement and humdrum of university administration. For Curtis and me it meant back to a leisurely life of retirement. We stayed busy, but at things that we probably wouldn't have considered important a few years back. But being in town with our children and grandchildren, as well as the entire Gang, was exciting and kept us engaged. Charlie and I agreed to meet as many evenings as possible and dance, dance, dance.

I dropped by Tim's office later that afternoon. Our conversation at breakfast had worried me a little. "Tim, please don't push Charlie on this waltzing business."

"I don't push Charlie."

"Don't be silly, of course you do. Just sitting looking at him with a little bit of a disappointed look pushes him. He loves you, Tim. A lot of what he does, he does for you. I want him to dance for fun, or for me. I'm glad for the push you gave him this morning, but please don't say anything more."

Tim said, "Melanie, I think you're being very kind to me. What you really mean to say is that I pushed Charlie far too hard this morning, and now you're not sure whether he's going to be working on his waltzing for you, for me, or simply for the love of dancing. You're a little pissed; and rightly so. I apologize; I'll say nothing more to Charlie unless he opens the conversation. And I'll try to learn for the future. I guess Jim's a better model than I give him credit for being."

I hugged him. "That's a lot stronger than I feel, Tim, but you're about right. I'm going to have the time of my life in Austria whether we win or lose. I don't have any idea whether we have the slightest chance of winning, but who cares? I want Charlie to have the time of his life as well, in his own way, at his own level. I want to be at his side, not pushing him."

"Melanie, you're a wonderful person. I know how Andy turned out so well."

"He did, didn't he? He's not the Olympian. He's not the genius. He's just solid old Andy. But they love him. Curtis and I love him. And he loves us, and all of the Gang. He's wonderful."

It got even sappier before I made it out the door. We needed Carl!

Charlie was more enthusiastic than I expected him to be. Certainly more that Tim expected. Between living with Tim, watching the likes of Billy, Judy, and others, and his own efforts with a bow and arrow, he really knew how to concentrate. We worked hard, and developed a routine for The Blue Danube that we were really proud of. And then we went to work making it look spontaneous. That's not easy. But we realized that the spontaneity of our Fargo performance had probably won the contest for us, and so we worked hard to achieve the look of spontaneity-by definition, real spontaneity is impossible to rehearse!

And then Fred came into our lives. It hadn't taken long for the entire Gang to know of our success in Fargo. The next thing we heard was that Fred was telephoning the entire Gang telling them to reserve two weeks in September on their calendars. They already had two weeks set aside for the Olympics in Los Angeles in July, but who was going to turn down a trip to Vienna, especially since Fred made it a virtual command performance?

Everyone would arrive in Vienna a few days before the big competition, enjoy a vacation in Vienna, come to the competition (he was already lining up enough tickets), and join the ball circuit when we won. His idea, not mine. Certainly not mine. He was in the process of getting ball tickets. "They'll be lots of fun even if we're celebrating someone else's victory. If they can beat you two, they'll be really special dancers." Mind you, he's never seen us dance!

He found a villa near the city that he could rent. If we squeezed in, all 49 of the Gang would fit-when did the Gang do anything but squeeze in? Well, Tim wasn't putting pressure on Charlie, but the pressure was getting intense-both of us felt it. Charlie just said, "Let's be damn good, but let's have fun. If it isn't fun, it isn't worth doing."

"Was your archery fun?"

"Hell, no. It was horrible drudgery. Olympic medals were fun. Being able to say I was an Olympian was fun; it still is. But the thing that made it worth every minute was walking in the Opening Ceremony in Mexico hand in hand with Tim. You know, I'd do anything for him, and that was so important for Tim, the work and effort of archery practice was trivial. But this is different. It's not worth doing unless we're both having fun. Are you?"

"Oh, Charlie, I'm having the time of my life.

"Waltzing with you, Melanie, is fun in itself. It's fun like Tim's diving and gymnastics are fun for him. I think doing this with you has given me insights into Tim. We've worked our butts off, but every minute has been fun. I understand Tim's practice schedule much better now."

I told him that I felt the same way. Then I said, "You know, Charlie, the waltz is fun, but you'd really love the tango. In the fall, let me teach you."

"I think I'm ready."

I think that the real pressure in all of this was Fred insisting that the entire Gang head for Austria. They all did, and none complained. I hope that that is just the way of the Gang, and that they didn't feel undue pressure from Fred. In any case we all squeezed into Fred's villa near Vienna. It was a wonderful old house with eight big bedrooms, two cottages nearby that had had a total of five bedrooms, plus there were two attic rooms that each had a queen sized bed. That made fifteen bedrooms for 49 people. Fred figured that was about right. Tim, Charlie, Curtis and I were given the big master bedroom that had two queen beds in it. We slept in every combination possible, and some nights had a couple of visitors with us. The night before the contest Curtis and Tim insisted that Charlie and I sleep together. We did, and as a prelude to the dance contest it was exactly the right thing to do. We didn't fuck, we used our tongues. It was loving, romantic, exciting, and.... Hell, you add your own adjectives.

The competition was handled in exactly the same way in Vienna as it had been in Fargo-it's an established procedure. Charlie and I made sure that we were near judges when the dancing started, and we were prepared to show off right away. We'd seen the advantage of getting a lower number, and we'd strategized how to do it. We succeeded: We were picked first and got Number 1. That guaranteed that if we got into the finals we'd dance last, which is exactly what we wanted. Of course, getting Number 1 was no guarantee that we'd make it into the finals.

I'm going to make a long story short, because beautiful dancing and lovely music can't be recreated with text. You had to have been there to enjoy the beauty of the evening. Charlie and I did make it into the finals, and we did dance last. We recreated essentially the same performance that we had given in Fargo, beginning with "Shall We Dance" from The King and I leading us into The Blue Danube. We'd been warned that we must not dance to the Rodgers music; it had to be limited purely to introduction. All dancing had to be to the music of Johann Straus. The portion of "Shall We Dance" that we used ends with four strong notes from the orchestra. We had a musician in the music department at UND score a transition from those notes into The Blue Danube and it flowed perfectly.

In Vienna, every couple was ready with introductory material for their featured dance-if they made the finals. There was time provided to go over it with the orchestra prior to the final dancing. We'd brought orchestral copies of "Shall We Dance" and had put the transitional notes right on them. Everything worked out perfectly.

Charlie sang to me the lovely words of Oscar Hammerstein, who had almost perfectly captured the way a nervous young man of the Victorian era might've approached a girl at a dance, being a little bold in suggesting "Shall you be my new romance?" Then off we went, spontaneously following our planned dance program to the letter! We knew we'd pulled it off when one of the judges, in the comments following, mentioned the "spontaneity" of our dance program.

We held our breaths as the judging announcements were made. We weren't third, we weren't second. We'd won! My God, we'd won. All of the contestants had been told that their first obligation as winners would be to lead a Grand Promenade around the dance floor. It was to a Straus march, and Charlie and I were ready. As the line passed each contestant couple they shouted congratulations and fell into the Promenade. It was a huge ballroom, and it accommodated all 400 of us. When the line was complete the music changed back to a waltz and we were off, all 200 couples for about four dances. At the end Charlie and I were brought up to the podium, introduced, and given beautiful gold medals, each set with a tiny diamond. They were much grander than Charlie's Olympic gold medal. We were sent off dancing again, and about half way through the next number the MC invited our families and friends to join us on the dance floor. I don't think they were ready for 47 persons, including gay couples and one lesbian pair (Amy and Kara, who had decided that girl-girl dancing ought to be included). The Austrians didn't seem to mind, and soon everyone was invited to join the dancing. Soon after, the evening came to an end, and we all retired to the villa.

That night I didn't give Charlie any choice. "Fuck me, Charlie. We earned it." Curtis and Tim were enthusiastic spectators.

The next morning Fred knocked on our door, waking us up. He marched in and announced that there was much to do for the Grand Ball of the following evening. I was totally unprepared, but Fred wasn't. I guess that I had just assumed that our winning the competition was simply a pipe dream, and that I didn't really have to plan for the eventuality that I might win. Fred didn't think in those terms.

He said, "OK, Cinderella, what will you wear to the ball?"

"I suppose the same gown I wore last night."

"And to the ball the next night?"

"Oh, Fred, I don't know."

"Well, I know. Be dressed and downstairs in twenty minutes. A slip, or whatever you wear under that gown, plus a housecoat is all you'll want to wear." And out the door he went.

I turned to Charlie and said, "Whatever is he up to?"

"I suspect that he plans to dress Cinderella for the ball. For all four balls I would guess."

I got on my underwear, a slip, and the full petticoat I needed under a ball gown. On top I wore the only bathrobe I'd brought with me. Charlie in tow-he'd dressed quickly-I headed downstairs. In the main parlor of the house were four of the leading designers in Vienna. Each was eager to have his (or, in one case, her) gown worn by the Waltz Queen of the year. Fred took me aside and told me the protocol: I needed to pick one gown from each designer, and under no circumstances should I discuss which gown I would wear to which ball. That was easy for me, as I had no clear idea of exactly which balls I'd be attending in the next six days.

The gowns were fantastic. Beautiful colors, intriguing designs, soft and luxurious fabrics. It was impossible to choose, but I finally did. Fred had provided my size in advance, and very little alteration was needed for the gowns I'd chosen. That would be accomplished for all of them by the next morning, and I'd be ready for my pumpkin carriage. At this point, I don't think such a thing would've surprised me. What I got the next evening was the longest stretch limo I have ever imagined. Charlie and I, Tim and Curtis, and Fred and Marty rode together in the limo. Fred had arranged for a luxury bus to bring the rest of the Gang.

Then I realized that not only did Charlie and I need clothes for the balls, so did all of the rest of the Gang. Fred simply shrugged and said, "Not to worry." They weren't the grand gowns that I had, but all of the ladies in the Gang had been told to shop for a ball gown before they left, and all of the men had been told to get tails (no top hats). All the bills went to Fred, and that was absolutely non-negotiable.

The first ball was billed as the Grand Straus Ball, and it took place in the Vienna Hofburg, the palace that had been the principal residence of the Habsburg dynasty for 600 years. Now it was a museum, but hosted the Kaisarball on New Year's Eve each year, and the Grand Straus Ball now. It was hosted by His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke and Prince Carl Christian of Austria. This despite the fact that Austria had been a republic since 1920! Europeans give up their royalty reluctantly.

My goodness, I can hardly remember a thing. I just floated through the whole thing, totally intoxicated by the events of the evening. If I'd had anything stronger than Ginger Ale to drink I would've floated out the window. It started the instant the limousine door was opened by a footman in the most ridiculous costume you've ever seen. Charlie stepped out and turned and helped me out. Flashbulbs everywhere. Someone shouted, "It's the DiGami" and I realized that by wearing Frau DeGami's gown to the first ball I'd given her a coup for the season. I learned later that for a female designer to gain such recognition was almost unprecedented. It made me glad for my choice, which had been totally innocent.

Up the red carpet, presented to the Archduke, presented to the orchestra and its leader, presented to the gathered crowd. Music, dancing alone with Charlie, then whirled around the room in the arms of most of the men present, as Charlie danced with most of the women. Then we were given the floor and invited to do our featured dance from the competition. The third public performance, and probably the most spontaneous of all, because we could let ourselves go without the pressure of being judged. We were, of course, judged by the entire crowd. Evidently we passed judgement, because we got an ovation that would hardly stop.

Fred had been working in the background. He'd learned that the Archduke, and the organizers of the Grand Straus Ball, weren't as stuffy as the organizers of the waltz competition. The Archduke himself called for quiet, and introduce Charlie, not the Waltz King, but Charlie the Olympian and his partner Tim, the Olympian. Up to this point I don't think they'd been recognized by very many present, but they were now. Suddenly the orchestra blared out, "Come on, Let's Twist." And twist they did. It was sensational. Curtis led me out on the floor and we twisted away, and then everybody was doing the twist. We learned that Vienna and Austria weren't half as stodgy as we'd thought them to be. After that all kinds of dances were played, everyone danced, and we had the times of our lives. It didn't end until 3:00 a.m., when we headed back to the limo, the villa, the bed, but not sex-we were too exhausted. Curtis and I cuddled and went to sleep; Tim and Charlie spooned, and looked so cute!

Two nights later much the same went on in the Schönbrunn Palace-another ball, more dancing, more introductions, more food, more celebration, more exhaustion. Another night off, then the ball in Salzburg. That was a hoot. It's a hundred and fifty miles, but train service is fast, frequent, and easy. The Gang almost filled a first class car, and I feel sorry for the few other people stuck in with us. On the other hand, they may have enjoyed watching the crazy, friendly Americans being both crazy and friendly. The ball itself was smaller, less formal, and livelier than the two previous ones in Vienna. It also began earlier and ended earlier, because they knew that a number of the guests would be traveling back to Vienna by the late train. We were back in the villa in Vienna by five in the morning. As we crawled into bed, Charlie warned us that Tim might wake us up by seven, and we warned Tim that such an act would be punished by forced celibacy for the rest of the trip. He smiled and reminded us that the trip was almost over! We did sleep in.

The last ball was that night, back in Vienna. When we came home that night the limo turned into a pumpkin, the glass slippers disappeared (but not into the hands of a handsome prince), and Cinderella fell into bed, with her husband and memories to last a lifetime!

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