While You're Dancing
Phil Davis navigated his way through the room, the post-production cast party in full swing around him. It greatly resembled the pre-production cast party they'd had before Christmas, but while the mood had been cheery then, now it positively radiated warmth, happiness, and a real delight to be together.
And the frigid mood of two of the star guests had certainly melted away. Bob and Betty mingled together tonight, the days of separate corners long forgotten. Funny how much warmth a white Christmas could bring. No, they were very much together. Phil rather doubted he'd be able to steal a dance from Betty at this party.
Not that he particularly minded. She was in the best possible hands with Bob and, well, if he was honest with himself, he very much wanted a different dance partner.
He shook hands and slapped backs as he traversed the room, but his eyes stayed peeled for that one special person. He swallowed hard when he saw her. A swirly red dress, curled blonde hair, and the biggest brown eyes he'd ever seen, she took his breath away. Every time.
Excusing himself from one crowd of performers, Phil made his way over to her. She stood talking to John, her dance partner for many of the show's numbers. Phil felt a surge of jealousy for the talented performer. It made sense to pair him with Judy; he was a fantastic dancer who could match her ability and enhance her skill, but Phil'd never had such a hard time maintaining his director's eye. Seeing Judy in someone else's arms unsettled him more than it probably should.
Phil smiled to himself as he approached. John was a good man though, a perfect gentleman. The announcement of his and Judy's engagement had put a distance between John and Judy that pleased Phil. Maybe it was extraordinarily selfish to use a phony engagement to keep a decent guy away from this brilliant girl, but he'd certainly been playing the card shamelessly.
He approached the pair of them and could swear her eyes lit up at the sight of him. What he recognized as a goofy grin spread across his face and coming up beside her, he leaned down to kiss her on the cheek. "How's the party?" he asked the pair of them, eyes never straying from Judy's face.
When he did pull his eyes from those deep brown depths, John was grinning at him. "Real swell party," he offered, and with a shake of Phil's hand and friendly nod to Judy, he excused himself from the two of them.
"I'd say everything's going well," Judy murmured with a nod in her sister's direction. Betty and Bob were standing toward the center of the room, hand in hand. As Phil and Judy watched, they exchanged a smile and Bob instructed the piano man to call the room to attention.
Phil caught Judy's eye with a raised eyebrow. "Maybe better than well."
"Better than the last party anyway," she joked. "They're standing much closer."
"Yeah, they're in the same hemisphere."
Judy smiled up at him. "A warmer one."
It was this back and forth banter, laughter, and conversation that separated Judy from any other girl he'd encountered. Admittedly, he'd never quite looked for anyone he'd enjoy talking to for longer than a weekend. Beautiful and fun, Judy had a brain, too. And it was as conniving and mischievous as his own, something put to good use on Bob and Betty. It was nice to see their hard work pay off.
The room quieted around them, and Phil and Judy turned their attention to their friends only a short ways off. "All right, kids," Bob began, "we wanted you all to be the first to know."
Phil saw Bob catch his eye and wondered aloud, "You don't suppose…"
Judy was busy carefully watching her sister's face, "I don't know."
Bob answered the question for them. "These last fews months have been a roller coaster ride for everybody, for nobody more than the two of us." Here Bob turned to face the woman beside him, both of them smiling. "But somewhere between discussing angles in Florida and a white Christmas in Vermont, I fell hard for this beautiful lady.
"And I'll never know why she chose a guy like me, but when I asked her to marry me, Betty said yes."
The room broke into applause and congratulatory shouts and whistles. Phil threw in a shrill whistle of his own, then Judy grabbed his hand and they hurried over to the newly engaged couple.
"The future Mrs. Wallace!" Phil exclaimed shaking Betty's hand in mock introduction before giving her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Boy, this is terrific. If you ever need advice on what to do with Bob, just ask me. I've had years of experience dealing with him."
Betty smiled up at him, and Phil was struck all over again by how perfect she and his best friend were together. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind."
Judy greeted Bob with a hug. "I just want you to know you're getting the best girl in the world."
Bob nodded in agreement. "Oh, I know it."
There were a few chaotic moments of hugs, backslaps, laughter, and congratulations. The sisters hugged tightly, talking excitedly. Phil shook Bob's hand enthusiastically. "Decided to do it, huh? How does it feel going to be a married man?"
"Feels like everything I never let myself imagine. This is it, Buster. Guess I'll no longer be a miserable, lonely, unhappy man."
"It's a burden off of my shoulders. You know, I knew it would happen all along."
"Sure. You tried to force it to happen weeks ago."
"Maybe it wasn't my best plan."
"Pal, it was right up there with your worst plans."
Years of friendship and trust backed their quick conversation. The girls continued to talk, happily making plans. Phil found himself grinning at the pair of them. "Well, maybe." Other friends and performers all came over to congratulate the happy couple.
General Waverley approached, smiling. "This is quite the perfect picture, isn't it? All four of you. Congratulations."
Unlike Phil at the announcement of his and Judy's engagement, Bob didn't need to be told to kiss the bride.
The others moved away, and Betty and Judy moved to the side of the room to talk to Emma and Susan. Phil and Bob stood together, watching the room around them. Phil's gaze was again drawn to the corner where Judy stood.
Bob elbowed him in the side. "Looks like someone's caught your attention." He followed Phil's gaze on Judy and said with mock concern. "Better be careful with that one, Brother, she's engaged.
Phil whipped his head around to stare at his best friend. He could feel the voice crack coming on even before it was out. "To who?"
The entertainer couldn't contain his laughter. "To you, Brainless! Least that's what most folks in this room would tell you."
"Oh yeah." The engagement had yet to be officially broken. There hadn't yet been a good time, and in all honesty, Phil couldn't bring himself to bring up the charade only to end it. He'd become comfortable with things as they were. And every time he remembered the falsehood, he felt himself wishing that it wasn't so.
Bob was still chuckling as he said, "What was it you said to me at the last party? The water's fine."
Phil turned to look at his best friend. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Yeah." Bob knew him too well. It wasn't as though he hadn't thought about it. Thought about her. It was true that he was scared stiff of the subject of marriage. Wasn't that why he'd so adamantly protested the engagement? Because he'd known that it wouldn't stay safe. He'd known from the very beginning, even from their first meeting, that he'd have to be very careful.
Judy wasn't one of the Dorises of the world. She wasn't a girl he could have a laugh with and leave. When he laughed with her, he wanted to never stop. He wanted to never leave. He'd known it from the beginning. But maybe now he was ready to say it.
His opportunity came as the band struck up a familiar tune. He sent Bob a small grin, and his friend waved him on. Betty and Judy smiled as he came over to them. He shoved nervousness aside and offered his hand. "Say, it's our song. Would you like to dance, Judy?" he asked, his voice jumping up about a mile and a half.
The graceful blonde put her hand in his, allowing him to lead her out to the floor. His heart was racing, more than it had on their first dance. He hadn't known then what was at stake. What this beautiful, funny, and intelligent woman would come to mean to him.
Much like their first dance, the pair of them spun through the crowd and out the door. Recently, Vermont had become quite unlike Florida, and the ground outside was covered with a thick layer of snow. Instead of retreating to the outdoors, they found themselves dancing in the hotel foyer, away from the rest of the party but where the music still reached them.
The song poured faintly around them, and Phil found himself picking up the lyrics, amazed by their certainty. "When you hold a girl in your arms that you've never held before."
Judy's throaty voice buzzed near his ear. "Well, you've already held this girl. I suppose that makes a difference."
He deftly spun her away from him where they could look into each other's eyes. Those big brown eyes that so captured him. "Oh, I don't know," he finally mustered. "It still feels like one of the best things."
She said nothing, but her eyes sparkled as she danced. He grinned and was relieved to have her return the smile.
They continued to dance, floating along to the music. Looking in her eyes, Phil could tell she was enjoying the dance as much as he was. He danced with every ounce of skill he possessed, and Judy had no trouble keeping up. They spun and dipped, tapped and twirled.
As the song drew to a close, they found themselves firmly wrapped in each other's embrace. Phil had to swallow down the lump in his throat, but he still managed to softly sing the words. "When you hold a girl in your arms, that you'll hold forevermore."
He couldn't see her face from how they were standing, but he felt the moment his words registered in the way she leaned against him. "What do you say, Judy?" he murmured against her ear. "How do you feel about those lyrics?"
His dance partner brought their slow swaying to a halt. She gazed up at him, brown eyes melting his heart and his fear. "Do you mean that, Phil?"
She had every right to ask. After all, according to nearly everyone in the room they'd just left, they were already happily engaged. And Phil refused to mess this up; it had taken a fake engagement for him to realize what he really wanted, what he really needed. He needed a real one. He needed this vivacious and altogether lovely woman in his life forever.
Phil smiled at her. "I've never meant anything more."
And he hadn't. It was unreal to imagine just how much the woman in his arms had come to mean to him over such a short time, but now his heart refused to imagine a future without her. She was vital to his continued happiness. It had become absolutely necessary to ask her.
"I love you, Judy."
Judy's smile blossomed again. "I love you, too, Phil!"
He couldn't describe how marvelous it was to hear her say that. Their fake engagement had been for show, on display for those around them. Thus their personal conversations had never had the need to express sentiments of love. Phil had done his best to make Bob think he was in love with her, and somewhere along the way, he'd realized that he didn't even have to lie.
But to be able to tell her that he genuinely loved her, and to have her say it back; it was the most wonderful moment of his life. Unable to contain his happiness and unwilling to try, Phil leaned down and kissed her. Just as on the stage behind the Christmas tree, he needed no general to give him the order.
Breathless, she smiled, dark lashes winking at him. "Forevermore," she hummed softly. "You know what this means, don't you?"
Phil chuckled and stole another kiss. "Remind me," he murmured.
"I believe this means our engagement just became real. Isn't that what you think?" she asked him.
"Bob and Betty aren't the only ones headed for the altar." He paused. "Do you really want to be stuck with a weirdsmobile like me for life?"
She tightened her hold around his neck. "There's no other weirdsmobile I'd rather be with."
"Boy, am I glad to hear that."
Ever since Bob had suggested that she might be making a dreadful mistake risking a lifetime with him, he'd been secretly concerned that this might be the case. After all, she had run from the room crying after that statement.
But Phil could see now that even if he and his life couldn't pass for normal, he was still the guy that Judy would choose. The guy that she had chosen.
"Say, we should go tell the others!" he exclaimed, realizing that his best friend and her sister had no idea about this new development.
The rest of the room believed this engagement to be old news, but there were two people inside who would be ecstatic to hear it for real. Judy nodded excitedly, no doubt pleased to share this momentous news and day with her sister. The pair hurried hand in hand back into the main room.
Bob and Betty were easy to spot; the happy couple were dancing their own way across the floor. Though their steps and style weren't as elaborate as the whirlwind that was Phil and Judy, their skill and enjoyment were obvious.
Deciding their news couldn't wait even until the end of the number, Phil and Judy cut in. Judy snagged Betty's arm and Phil tugged Bob away from his fiancé. "Hey, what's the big idea?" his friend queried. "You trying to steal my date or something?"
The dance floor was crowded. Navigating the maze of bodies to find an exit was difficult, and Phil had little patience when a life changing admission was bursting at the tip of his tongue. He started in on a tap routine the pair of entertainers had done back in Florida, and Bob fell into step beside him, thoroughly confused but willing to play along for the moment.
"No, Bob, I was coming to find you."
"Don't take it personally, but you're not exactly my type."
"You're not my first pick either, you know." Phil tapped energetic circles around his partner. "But that's just what I mean. I found her, Bob. And I scraped together the guts to do something about it! And I'm hardly nervous at all, just truly, completely happy."
Bob stalled the dance so that he didn't have to keep turning his head to look at Phil. "Will you just say what it is you're trying to say, Davis?"
A grin as wide as his face appeared on Phil. "Judy and I are engaged."
Bob's blue eyes widened, and his lips pulled apart in a surprised smile. "You mean that for sure this time? Don't want there to be any confusion."
Phil shook his head and gestured definitively. "No joke. This is the real deal, Pal. We might even crash your wedding."
"I've got no complaints if the girls don't. Congratulations, Phil!" Bob shook his hand and slapped him on the back. " Look at us, a few months ago we were two lonely, miserable, and unhappy men."
"Well, you were."
"We both were," Bob said wisely.
"Now we're both on our way to the altar, two incredibly happy men."
Phil grinned at his best friend, then at their two future brides who were coming to join them. "Just think, a few months ago we didn't even want to watch the Haynes sisters' act."
Judy slipped her arm around him, and Bob lowered one across Betty's shoulders. The foursome stood in happy harmony, and Phil saw in this a glimpse of their lives to come. "What do you think of that act now?" Judy asked him, eyes twinkling.
As he replied, he met the eyes of each in the group, landing on dark brown ones he planned to spend the rest of his life staring into. "I think I owe Bennie one," he said with a wink.