Come Dancing


“Daddy, no! Please don’t hit me! I’m sorry…”

“You’ll know not to roll your eyes at me again…”


Looking back,  I wish I’d never rolled my eyes at him. I knew he was already intoxicated and at his peak. If I’d never even spoken to him, today I might still have sight in my right eye, but my mom is still the one I blame the most. She could have stopped him, but her jealousy of my beauty got in the way.

Hi, my name is Karen Whipkey, and this is my story.

It was 1958. I just turned eighteen and was anxious to get away from my abusive household. With the help and encouragement of my best friend Joyce, I finally got the guts to leave. Knowing her thoughts for her future working with NASA, I still moved in with her and her parents. A couple days went by and my parents realized I was gone. I felt I needed my education but I also wanted to stay in school because this was the first year schools are allowed to integrate. The only choice I had was to drop out of school so they couldn’t find me. Dropping out of school gave me so much anxiety and depression.

“What do I do if they find me?” I said hopelessly to Joyce.

“Don’t worry! They won’t! We’ve got this. I’m not letting you get beat anymore,” she said  assuringly.

After a couple months of hiding from my parents, my best friend Joyce took me downtown New Orleans to a jazz club called, Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club, and introduced me to swing dancing. Seeing the performers fly across the stage in their fancy, blue silk costumes and exotic makeup instantly made me fall in love. So I started watching dance tv shows and movies and started trying to dance on my own. I thought I was pretty good! I literally practiced everyday. After a while I discovered a group of people dancing on the corner at the end of my street. I went down and watched a few times.

“Show us what ya got lil white girl” a guy dressed in nothing but shorts yelled.

“Uhh… Oh no… I…”

“C’mon, don’t be sc’red. We know you gots some moves or you wouldn’t be down here watching us er’day” he replied.

They cranked up the music extra loud, all eyes on me. My nerves are getting to me. I’ve never danced in front of anyone besides Joyce.

After a long hesitation, “I… I can’t..”

I ran back to Joyce’s house and hid under the covers for hours. I knew right then what I had to do. Getting over my stage fright was my main priority.

A few weeks later I went back to the corner to watch them dance again. As I got there I was ignored. After a while the same guy glanced over at me and realized I was back and said,

“Aye, ole White Girl is back. Whatcha name, White Girl?”

“My name is Karen,” I replied quietly.

“I think imma call you bright eyes. That cool with you, white girl?”

“Fine with me,” I said with a smile.

A few hours went by of watching them and everybody starting packing up getting ready to leave. As I walked away, the same guy ran to catch up with me.

“Hey, Bright Eyes, you never asked me what my name was.”

“I’m sorry! What’s your name?”

“The name’s Christopher, my friends call me Chris. I been meaning to tell you, you’re  really beautiful. I wouldn’t mind having a girl like you by my side.”

“Uh… I gotta get home, Chris. I’ll talk to you later.”

As I got home, Joyce ran up to me. “Karen! Karen! Karen! I got an interview to get a job for NASA. They begin operation in October!”

“Uhhh… where do you have to go?”

“I have an interview at headquarters, which means it’s in Washington D.C.”

“So you’re basically saying you’re gonna leave me?”

“Just for a little while!” Joyce replied shyly.


A few days later I found Christopher confidently standing on my front porch with an eager grin wrapped around his face.

“Hey, Karen, I wanted to tell you about this new dance TV show. It’s called “Come Dancing.” They’re hosting auditions for anyone that wants to right down the road. You should come with me to try out and maybe before I can take you to get a bite to eat?”

“‘Come Dancing’? Me? Try out? When are auditions? I have to practice!”

“The auditions are exactly three weeks and three days away.”

“I’ll never be good enough in time…” I reply hopelessly.


Two weeks went by, Chris and I practiced everyday, all day. I’m lacking hours of sleep and I felt like I haven’t eaten in years. Also, on top of all that, my best friend was about to travel to Washington, D.C. to be sixteen hours away from me! Hasn’t been the best couple weeks for me besides getting to spend time with Chris. I’ve honestly developed a huge crush on him and can’t help the way I feel and I’m pretty positive he feels the same way. As I’m sitting in the living room, the house phone rings.

“Joyce! Somebody’s calling you!” I holler up the stairs.

“Just answer it, Karen. I’m busy!” she screamed back.

I picked up the phone… “Hello!”

“Where’s my daughter?”

I slammed the phone down as fast as I could. It was my dad. Then the phone starts ringing again. Hangs up. Then again. Hangs up. Then again.

“What do I do?” I asked myself.

As I continue to get lost in my thoughts, suddenly I hear loud banging on the door.

“Uh oh….”

I walk to the door… “Who is it?”

No answer. So I peaked out the window but I couldn’t see anyone. So I walked to the door. Nervously, I opened the door slowly… The door flew open. The next thing I knew, I was lying in the floor in critical agony. I hurt like I’ve never hurt before. Blood on my hands and tears in my eyes, I then realized my dad was the criminal. Finally, after a few hours of what seemed like a few years of lying in the floor, I heard Joyce running down the stairs.

“Oh my word Karen who did this to you?”

I’m speechless, all I could do is cry. Then she shakes me and asks me again. As she goes upstairs to get a wet towel all I could do is look at all the bruises he forced on me. The auditions in a week and I have bruises all over me, my wrist is cracked, and my body just aches all over.

“Can I even still do this? I’m already blind in one eye and now I have a weak wrist.”

“Are you serious? I know you’re not thinking about giving up? You’re better than that.” Joyce said to me with such encouragement.

“You’re right… This is why I love you!”


Two days before the auditions, Joyce explained to me that she has to leave early to speak to the Federal Government to confirm her new mission for NASA. Nothing seems to be going my way. My life felt like it was going in a downward spiral. Only thing positive was my new relationship I’ve developed with Chris.

“Joyce, are.. are you really leaving me right before my audition… I thought you’d always be here for me?”

“You have to understand, I have an amazing opportunity right in front of me. I’d be stupid not to just reach out and grab it. I’m sorry, Karen. I have to do something good for myself for once. Besides, you have Chris. He’ll be there for you and you know I’m always rooting for you even if I’m sixteen hours away!”

“O… Okayyy… I hope I can do this without you”

“I know you can!”

As she’s packing I begin crying. I’ve never cried so much. My best friend is leaving me. She’s going so far away from me. I’ve never been through something this big and now the person that means the most to me won’t be with me. A few hours later, she was getting ready to leave.

“When.. When will you be back..?” I say as I wiped my eyes dry.

“I’ll come back to visit you!”


My body still aches.


“Ugh I have to rest Chris!”

“No time! 1..2..3..4..”

“No Chris, I’m serious. I’m not feeling good and my body hurts.”

“Rest? There ain’t time for that! Auditions tomorrow. C’mon now Karen!”

“I really don’t think I can do this…”

“Don’t you ever say that again. Now let’s finish practicing.”

As we continue practicing I get so sleepy. He makes me keep going. With no energy left, I crept over to the side of Chris’s bed to take breather and get a drink. As I finish swallowing, I get a phone call from Joyce.

“Hey, girl! I just wanted to let you know I’m almost finished loading my luggage onto the bus right now. I thought that I’d get to see you before I left, but the bus is already here and you’re not. Where are you? You knew I was leaving today.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I’m so sorry. You can’t leave without telling your best friend goodbye. I’m on my way!”

“No, Karen! The bus is about to…”

As I hang up the phone I dart out of Chris’s house and sprint down the block to Joyce. I’ve never been more out of breath. As I finally got there the bus is pulling off.

“No! No! Please don’t go! Wait!”

The bus keeps going with no hesitation… My eyes fill with water and my chest starts pounding. She’s really gone.


“Get up! Get up! It’s the big day!” Chris hollers at me.

            “I think I’m ready.”I think to myself.

Finally, after thinking about it for a while, I get out of bed to find an amazing bright pink gown lying on the end of my bed. Its beautiful silver diamonds and extravagant material caught my eye. But where did it come from?

“Chris? Do you know anything about this gown I just found?”

“Don’t even think about it. Just wear it.”

I look away. With mixed emotions I slip on the perfectly fitted pink gown on. As I finish getting ready Joyce calls me.

“Oh my goodness, Joyce. I miss you so much. How’s Washington?”

“I miss you! It’s a lot of work but not too much, I can handle it. Did you know your audition will be live on ABC and Marjorie Main who was in the movie “Summer Stock” in 1951 will be one of the judges?”

After a long hesitation… “No I didn’t know that…”


“I’m next… I’m next…” I repeatedly say to myself.

“Karen!” The intercom says loudly.

“Okay, show us your routine!” Marjorie Main says.

            “Okay, Karen, you got this.”I try to encourage myself.

The music starts… “1….2…3…4…spin…2…3…twist…1…”

As I continue my routine my thoughts are clashing. “My best friend’s not here, my wrist hurts, my back aches, what if they don’t like my routine, what if my dad finds me again, what if….”Boom… I’m on the floor. My face is turning red and my eyes are filling like the pit of a waterfall.

            “All the practice I put into this, my dreams are ruined…”

            “Next! Try out again next year sweetheart”

I run out as fast as I can, embarrassed, upset, hurting. Finally, I get to the bathroom and sling myself on the floor and burst into tears. My dreams are ruined and I’ll never be good enough. My heart aches and I’m ready to disappear.

“This TV show is number seven on the rating charts this year and I just messed up on live television.” I think to myself over and over again. “What do I do now?”A couple hours went by of contemplating on the floor of the bathroom stall. So I decide to walk on home.

“I lost Chris and I guess he went home already so I’m just gonna walk home.”

As I finally get home, Chris is on my front doorstep. I glance at him and continue walking up the stairs. When I walk inside, he follows me. I go to my room and start packing.

“Why are you packing Karen?” Chris says firmly.

“Why does anything matter anymore? Why am I even here?”

“Oh don’t talk like that Karen.”

“Well what do I do now Chris? I’m still living in Joyce’s house with her parents and she’s not even here! I can’t stay here. I don’t have a job, I have no money, I didn’t finish school, if I go home I’ll just get beaten. What am I really supposed to do now?”

“You could… Uhh… I don’t know live with me,” Chris said sarcastically.

My mind reeled back and forth between these choices, “Should I go back to school? Should I try to reconcile with my parents? Should I go live with Chris? Should I go live with Joyce in Washington and see if I can get a job there?”

I pick up my suitcase… then put it back down.

“I’ll decide tomorrow…”














Works Cited

“America’s Best History – U.S. Timeline 1950-1959.” America’s Best History – U.S. Timeline                    1950-1959. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Butters, Kerry. “The Year 1958.”CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.  Jul 31,                 2016 – 52 pages

Historical Events in 1958.” N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

“Marjorie Main.”


“Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2017. Web.              30 Mar. 2017.

The People History — Steve Pearson. “What Happened in 1958 Important News and Events, Key             Technology and Popular Culture.” What Happened in 1958 including Pop Culture,                    Significant Events, Key Technology and Inventions. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.
















“America’s Best History – U.S. Timeline 1950-1959.” America’s Best History – U.S. Timeline                    1950-1959. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Butters, Kerry.“The Year 1958.”CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.  Jul 31, 2016 – 52 pages

Historical Events in 1958.” N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

“Marjorie Main.”


“Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Mar. 2017. Web.              30 Mar. 2017.

The People History — Steve Pearson. “What Happened in 1958 Important News and Events, Key             Technology and Popular Culture.” What Happened in 1958 including Pop Culture,                    Significant Events, Key Technology and Inventions. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.