Juggling soccer, school, friends and family leaves John with little time for anything else.
One day at the local community center, following the sound of drums, he stumbles into an Indigenous dance class. Before he knows what's happening, John finds himself stumbling through beginner classes with a bunch of little girls, skipping soccer practice and letting his other responsibilities slide. When he attends a powwow and witnesses a powerful performance, he realizes that he wants to be a dancer more than anything. But the nearest class for boys is at the Native Cultural Center in the city, and he still hasn't told his family or friends about his new passion. If he wants to dance, he will have to stop hiding. Between the mocking of his teammates and the hostility of the boys in his dance class, John must find a way to balance and embrace both the Irish and Cree sides of his heritage.
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Copyright © 2017 Melanie Florence
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Florence, Melanie, author He who dreams / Melanie Florence. (Orca limelights)
Issued in print and electronic formats.ISBN 978-1-4598-1102-7 (paperback).—ISBN 978-1-4598-1103-4 (pdf).—ISBN 978-1-4598-1104-1 (epub)
I. Title. II. Series: Orca limelights
PS8611.L668H42 2017 jC813'.6C2016-904459-9
First published in the United States, 2017 Library of Congress Control Number: 2016949037
Summary: In this high-interest novel for teen readers, a soccer star surprises everyone by signing up for Indigenous dance classes.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Rachel Page Cover photography by iStock.com
ORCA BOOK PUBLISHERSwww.orcabook.com
For my family—Chris, Josh and Taylor.
The math book flew across the room and hit the wall before landing facedown on the floor. I rubbed my eyes and shook my head in frustration. I loathed math. I could never remember formulas or equations. And, to be honest, I had never actually bothered to memorize the multiplication tables.
My mom poked her head in the door.
“What was that?” she asked.
I gestured wordlessly at the textbook.
She smiled. “Ah. Math again?”
I nodded. “I just don’t get it! My brain doesn’t work that way.” I pushed the hair off my forehead and sighed deeply.
“Mine never did either, nikosis,” my mom told me, walking across the room to pick up my math book and putting it back on my desk. “Which is why our resident engineer, also known as your father, does our taxes. Maybe he can go over your homework with you in the morning.” She stood behind me and ruffled my hair. She always loved playing with my hair, so different from her own jet-black mane. Auburn, she called it. Like a pahkisimon. A sunset. Really, it was just red.
“Yeah, maybe.” I shrugged. I had to maintain decent grades to stay on the soccer team, so, much as I hated to admit it, I couldn’t let my math homework slide.
“All right, I’m off to bed.” My mom kissed me on the cheek and headed out the door. She stopped suddenly. “Oh, I almost forgot!”
“What?” I asked, stretching and standing up to get ready for bed.
“I have a meeting with clients tomorrow afternoon. You don’t have soccer tomorrow, do you?”
“Nope,” I answered. “What do you need? And if you want me to go grocery shopping again, I reserve the right to add whatever I want to the shopping list.”
“Not a chance!” My mom threw her head back and laughed loudly. “You cost me $50 the last time you went shopping, nikosis.”
I smiled wryly. “Sorry about that. So what did you want me to do?”
“Can you take your sister to her art class after school tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yeah, I guess.” I shrugged. “At the community center?”
“Yes. Thanks, sweetie. I really appreciate it. Get some sleep, okay?” She blew a kiss and grabbed my laundry hamper before heading out of my room, closing the door behind her.
I sighed and pulled my T-shirt off, tossing it absentmindedly into the corner where my hamper usually sat. My dad better be able to work his magic before my math test on Thursday, or I’d be benched.
The next morning at the kitchen table I was right back where I’d started, staring blankly at my math book, when my dad walked in and poured himself a cup of coffee.
“Need some help?” he asked, falling heavily into the chair beside me.
“Yeah.” I tilted the page toward him so he could see what I was working on.
He ran a hand through his hair—red like mine—and frowned down at it. “Here.” He tapped the paper in front of me. “This is where you went wrong.” He circled what looked like a random bunch of numbers. “You used the wrong formula,” he said.
For the next forty minutes, my dad patiently explained the finer points of quadratic equations. He made it look easy. It wasn’t. But I kind of understood it by the time we were done.
“Thanks, Dad. I think I’ve got it. I don’t know how you keep all those equations straight.”
“I’m Irish! It’s in my blood.” He winked at me.
“Yeah, well…I’m half Irish, and it doesn’t appear to be in mine.”
“Sometimes I suspect you’ve got more of your mother’s Cree blood in you than my Irish.” He laughed.
“Not to look at us,” I said. I looked exactly like my dad and absolutely nothing like my mom. It was a little awkward sometimes. The people on the rez where my mom grew up had known me all my life, but it wasn’t always that easy. Back in fifth or sixth grade, we were learning about Aboriginal history, and the teacher asked if any of us knew any Aboriginal people. I raised my hand to tell the class that my mom was Aboriginal. The teacher, not having met my mother, told me to stop lying. In front of the entire class. When I told my mother about it later, she was furious and threatened to come to school with me the next day to confront him. I was mortified, but she had a point. The fact that I looked like my Irish father and not her didn’t make me any less Indigenous than my sister, who was a carbon copy of my mom.
“You may look like me, John, but you’re so much like your mom,” my dad said.
I wasn’t sure whether this was true—but my mom was artistic and fiery and sweet and proud, and I was happy to be compared to her. Even if people couldn’t often tell that she was my mother.
“It’s in here!” Jen pulled on my arm, practically dragging me down the hall and into a bright room filled with easels, pottery wheels and desks covered in pencils and markers. “The class is an hour, so come back and get me at five, okay?” She darted into the room and grabbed a smock from a hook on the wall before I could answer.
“Okay. So, five o’clock. Right here,” I called to no one in particular. Jen was already out of earshot. Or just ignoring me. It was hard to tell which. I turned to leave.
“Five thirty!” Jen yelled at my back.
“Fine.” I waved a hand in the air as I left. Great. An hour and a half. No homework. No book. How was I supposed to kill ninety minutes? I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and scrolled through my apps. None appealed to me. Not Mega Jump. Not Mad Coaster. Not even Temple Run. Or Cut the Rope. Nothing. And my battery was down to 15 percent, so I couldn’t listen to music. Sighing, I put my phone away and looked around. The Community Center halls were quiet. All of the classes had already started. I leaned back against the wall. My watch now read 4:05. Great. Five minutes down and only eighty-five to go. I clicked my tongue. I rolled my eyes. I snapped my fingers and drummed on the wall. Finally I stuck my hands in my pockets and started wandering aimlessly down the hall.
I bounced around a little, poking my head into the door of a prenatal yoga class and stood in the back of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting before realizing what was happening and slinking out, my mouth full of the chocolate-chip cookies that had been on the table in the back. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, swallowed the last bite… and heard the sound of drums and what sounded like chanting coming from somewhere to my left.
I followed the drumbeat down the hall to an unmarked door. I looked around and, seeing no one, pulled it open and slipped inside. The drum was much louder here. It was punctuated by the sound of feet stomping and a woman’s voice calling out instructions. I edged forward, finding myself at the back of a stage overlooking a gymnasium.
“Lighter feet, Julie. That’s great. Okay, ladies, twirl and twirl and twirl!” Chanting voices shrieked in time with the drumbeat, and I walked forward until I reached the edge of the stage and ducked behind the curtain. Taking a deep breath, I peered around the curtain at a group of girls dancing. I had been to Pow Wows back on the rez with my mom, but I had never paid much attention to the people there shuffling along to the music. I’d grown up around them, and although I had always liked the music well enough, I had spent my time at the Pow Wows with the other boys, eating fry bread and flirting with the girls. But this was different somehow. The energy was different.
Like the people on the rez, these girls were dressed in every color imaginable. Each had her hair braided and wore a headband sprouting feathers and beads. All were wearing moccasins and elaborate shawls with long fringes that matched their intricately beaded dresses. The girls held their shawls out, twirling and whirling madly, like mini dervishes. Their feet were a blur of motion as they stomped softly across the floor, tapping and weaving their way around the room. I watched, unaware that I was holding my breath.
“Girls, feel the music. Feel the drums. This is the dance of your ancestors! Taylor, drop your shoulder a little more on the turn,” the woman called out, turning and catching sight of me watching sneakily from behind the curtain. Our eyes met and I jumped back, heart pounding. I stood away from the curtain, waiting for the woman to call me out. “All right ladies, keep twirling!” I backed toward the door, inching my way out, and made my way down the hall toward Jen’s art class.
“Hey!” a voice called out behind me.
Damn! Almost made it. I turned, hands up.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I blurted out. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your class.” I was backing up as she advanced. “It won’t happen again.”
She laughed kindly at me. “Stop. It’s fine. Look, I saw you watching the class. I know you, don’t I?” she asked.
“No, I don’t think so.” I turned to leave.
“The rez is a small place. You’re William Greyeyes grandson, right?”
I stared at her, surprised. “Uh…yeah. How did…have we met?” I stammered.
“No. But I’ve seen you around. William’s redheaded grandson.” She laughed at that. “Do you dance?”
Now it was my turn to laugh. “Me? No. Not at all.”
“Really? You seemed to be enjoying the music. I just wanted to invite you to try the class.” “What? Why?” I looked at her in shock. “Thanks, really. But I don’t dance. I’m an athlete, not a dancer. I play soccer. And hockey. And lacrosse. But I don’t dance. Sorry.” I smiled. I was about to walk away when the teacher started laughing.
“An athlete, huh?” she asked, smirking. “Okay.” She started digging in her bag, pulled out a DVD and held it out to me. “Just watch this. If you’re not interested, fine. But if you want to try it, come back, and you can give it a shot.” She waved the DVD in front of me.
I reached out and took it from her, not wanting to be rude. “I’m Santee,” she said, smiling.
“John McCaffrey. Thanks.”
She nodded and turned back toward the gym. I watched her walk away and then glanced down at my watch. “Oh no…” I started to run toward Jen’s art class, clutching the DVD tightly in my hand.
Dinner dragged on forever. I had only taken Santee’s DVD to be polite, but I had to admit, I was curious to get upstairs with my laptop to watch it. I was dying to see why she had laughed when I said I was an athlete. Finally the meatloaf and mashed potatoes were consumed, and I was pushing back my chair to escape to my room. I grabbed a handful of Oreos on the way through the kitchen.
“John, can you clear the table for me, please?” my mother called out. Ugh. So close! I did a quick U-turn and grabbed the plate out from under Jen.
“Hey!” she protested.
“You’re done.” I grinned and stuck my tongue out at her and stacked all the plates together, throwing her a cookie. She caught it deftly and held her fork out to me. “Thanks a lot, Your Highness,” I said and bowed.
She smirked back at me, chocolate-cookie crumbs in her teeth.
“Nice, Jen.” I laughed, then carried the dirty dishes into the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher.
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