Summary: It's Mama Evans' turn to teach her son's boyfriend a thing or two.
"He's not here," Sharpay announced as she descended the stairs. Chad looked up and smiled artlessly.
"Excuse me? What? Who's not here?"
"Oh, don't play the innocent with me, Danforth," she replied, stopping when she was practically nose-to-nose with him. "That only works on my brother. And don't bat those ludicrously long eyelashes at me either. I'm totally immune to your charms." Chad smiled disarmingly and saw her countenance break just a little. "All right; if I concede that you're moderately attractive--in a good enough for my brother sort of way--will you get out of my face?" Chad's smile only grew and she pushed him away. "He should be home by six. He said to tell you to hang out until he got here."
She made a show of giving him wide berth as she strode down the hall toward the kitchen. Chad shook his head and hefted his backpack over his shoulder. He turned to mount the stairs when he heard piano music coming from the music room. He set the bag down and made his way over to investigate. He was surprised to see Darby Evans at the keyboard; he'd only ever seen Ryan play that piano since he started making regular visits to the Evans home.
She stopped playing just as he reached the door and selected another piece of music from a folder. He leaned against the doorframe and watched as began to play the new piece. Chad immediately recognized the melody and groaned involuntarily.
"I know I'm no prodigy but my playing couldn't possibly that bad," Ms. Evans said, turning to look at him over her shoulder. Chad blanched and entered the room.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Evans," he said apologetically. "You play beautifully. But that song--. I hate Phantom of the Opera."
"Ryan despises it, too. I've never understood why," she admitted. "He sang this song at a talent show with Sharpay several years ago. So beautifully…there wasn't a dry eye in the house when they were done."
"Maybe the audience hates Phantom as much as we do," Chad said lightly, earning a smile. Ms. Evans started to play again. Chad leaned on the piano and tried to imagine the twins singing "All I Ask of You." He had little doubt that they would bring the house down. "So is everyone in the Evans family bursting with talent?" he asked when she was done.
"Oh heavens, no," Ryan's mother replied laughingly. "My husband couldn't carry a tune in a bucket if his life depended on it. And I'm no singer, either. I leave that and the dancing to the children."
"The twins must have gotten all their amazing talent from someone."
"It must have been divine intervention. I can't claim credit for it," she replied, launching into something by Gershwin.
"Well, you have to accept some of the credit," Chad said. "You produced two of the most gifted people I've ever met--although if you repeat what I said to Sharpay I'll deny it." Ms. Evans gave him a slightly reproachful look, but there was a hint of conspiracy in it as well. He knew the compliment would never reach Sharpay's ears.
"I did teach Ryan to play the piano," she said after a moment. "Sharpay was too impatient to learn, but Ryan would spend hours practicing."
"Yeah, and he's not averse to making everyone else do the same," Chad said with begrudging pride. "We're all spending two hours a day after school dancing and singing and learning lines for the spring musical."
"From what I hear he's got the whole school singing and dancing this year," Ms. Evans said, smiling at the piano.
"Half the senior class, anyway," Chad acknowledged.
"Well, performing should be easy for you, Chad," Ms. Evans replied. "As I recall you danced very nicely at the Lava Springs talent show."
"Yeah, but that was with a big group and the dancing was something anyone might do at a party," Chad said. "This time he's got me center stage leading a big number. It's serious dancing--with a basketball!"
"Ryan's nothing if not creative," his mother said proudly.
"And he's got me waltzing, too," Chad added with a pout. Ms. Evans looked up.
"Waltzing isn't hard, Chad. I learned when I was ten or twelve. The twins did, too. Didn't you have to learn it in your comportment classes?"
"My what?" Chad frowned in confusion.
"Never mind," she said. "Everyone should know how to waltz. It's a lovely dance. Think of it as courtship to music. A man takes his partner into his arms, swirls her around the dance floor. He makes her feel lighthearted, giddy and slightly breathless--."
"Yeah, I heard that speech three times this week," Chad replied, rolling his eyes.
"Is is a lovely dance," Ms. Evans insisted. "And it's not at all difficult to learn. You should be wonderful at it."
"That's easy for you to say."
"Chad, I don't know anything about dancing with a basketball, but I do know how to waltz. Come on, I'll show you." Ms. Evans rose and went over to the sound system.
"That's all right," Chad said sheepishly. "You don't have to--."
"Come," she commanded in that universally recognized "mother" voice. Chad obeyed instantly. She raised her hands and Chad awkwardly assumed the starting position. "Closer, Chad. I won't break." He cleared his throat and pulled her closer. "Now, the key to waltzing is to be light on your feet--and preferably not on mine," she added archly. "Shall we?"
They stepped off and began to dance as music filled the room. Chad found her unexpectedly easy to dance with, though he knew he was blushing as he forced himself to hold her gaze the way Ryan taught him.
"I was right about you, Chad, " she declared. "You do have a natural talent for this."
"You think so?" Chad said so doubtfully that Ms. Evans giggled, sounding surprisingly like her son. Chad studied her face and saw Ryan in every feature. He relaxed and returned her smile.
"I don't suppose you'll be waltzing with Ryan in the play," Ms. Evans teased. Chad shook his head.
"Maybe that's your problem." She winked knowingly and Chad blushed again. "It's a shame the world is so full of close-minded people," she said with a sigh. Chad nodded and quickly divorced the thought from his mind. Ryan had drilled it into his head that he should always think dance when he was dancing.
"Oh my God," Sharpay said from the doorway.
"Jealous, Kitten?" Ms. Evan said with a warm smile for Chad.
"No, but if Ryan finds out about this he might scratch your eyes out," she quipped.
"I don't think Ryan would begrudge his mother a dance with his handsome beau," her mother replied as the song came to an end. She executed a curtsey and Chad gave her a little twirl. "Besides, we were just rehearsing," she said as she went to turn off the music.
"Rehearsing?" Ryan said as he strode into the room. "Who's rehearsing?"
"Mom was dancing with Chad," Sharpay revealed. "The waltz," she added. "They were pretty good, too," she whispered in his ear before leaving the room.
"Really?" Ryan said happily as he went over to kiss his mother's cheek.
"Your mom did all the work," Chad said as he pulled Ryan into a hug and kissed his temple in turn.
"Nonsense," Ms. Evans countered. "Chad was graceful and elegant; he rather reminds me of you when you we dance."
"Only, you know, taller, handsomer, smoother," Chad teased. Ryan shot him a look and dropped his bag to the floor.
"I want to see," he declared, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "Dance for me."
"Certainly," Ms. Evans said, taking Chad by the hand and leading him back to the open area of the room. She started to turn on the music again, but Ryan intervened.
"Wait," he called, reaching for his bag. "Dance to this." He pulled a sheaf of music from the bag and sorted through it. Finding the piece he wanted, he sat down at the piano and began to play "Can I Have This Dance," one of the songs from the show. Chad just stood and listened to him for a few moments, until Ryan gestured with his head and his mother tugged on Chad's arm. Chad smiled and they began to dance. Sharpay returned with her coffee and after a few seconds she sat down beside Ryan and joined him in song. Chad winked at Ms. Evans as they continued to move around the room.
Sharpay appeared at their side; she smiled at her mother before she cut in. Chad grinned at her as they took off. She sang at him pointedly until he began to sing along with her. Ryan stopped singing and Ms. Evans joined her son at the piano to watch Sharpay and Chad. When they were done, Sharpay stood on her toes and kissed Chad's cheek. She retrieved her mug and with a wink at her brother, left the room.
"You're going to be wonderful in the show, Chad," Ms. Evans said, rising to kiss his cheek as well. "You sing and dance as well as one of my own." She gave his arm a squeeze and left the couple alone.
"So I'm a little late getting home and you start making time with every woman in the house?" Ryan teased as Chad sat down at the piano and began to pick out a melody.
"Jealous much?" he replied. Ryan grabbed his wrist before he got far into "Chopsticks" and leaned in to kiss him. Chad returned the kiss and deepened it. After a few minutes they moved to the sofa and began to make out in earnest. Sharpay opened the door and rolled her eyes at the sight.
"Dinner's ready," she announced. "Even though I just lost my appetite," she muttered as she strode away. Chad rose and drew Ryan up by the hand.
"I'm famished," he said as he pulled Ryan toward the dining room.
"Really," Ryan replied dully. It was his standard response to any expression of hunger emitted by Chad, who squeezed his hand hard. But he abruptly stopped and turned to Ryan. "Changed your mind? Good, let's go back to the music room--or better yet upstairs."
"No," Chad said pensively.
"I have an idea," he said.
"So have I," Ryan said huskily.
"And you accused me of always being hungry," Chad said. "Listen," he said, pulling Ryan closer. He whispered something into his ear. Ryan frowned thoughtfully as Chad dropped his hand and entered the dining room.
An hour later, Ryan and Chad suggested that everyone return to the music room. Ryan and Sharpay sat down at the piano, while Chad and Ms. Evans took seats on the sofa. Ryan played music from the show, singing several of the songs along with his sister and occasionally forcing Chad to join in. When they were done, Ms. Evans rose to applaud all the young people and announced her intention to retire to her room.
"Wait, mom," Ryan said. "One more song."
He pulled out a sheet of music and showed it to Sharpay, who smiled. When he started to play the opening notes, Ms. Evans fell back into her seat and gasped. She didn't take her eyes off her children until the last note faded, but she reached out and took Chad's hand and squeezed it affectionately.
"Thank you," she said, leaning over to embrace him. She rose and went to her son and daughter and hugged them, too.
"Goodnight, mom," Ryan said. He watched her go before turning to Chad. "All right, how did you know?" Chad shrugged nonchalantly and rose to his feet.
"She liked it, though."
"I hate Phantom," Ryan sighed. "But yeah; she loves that song." He picked up his bag and headed for the stairs with Chad following close behind.
"Hey, Danforth," Sharpay called from the music room. Chad stopped and turned around. She gave him a warm hug and kissed his cheek before she pulled back and waved him away. "You may go."
"That's it! You are not to come over here anymore when I'm not home," Ryan declared as he grabbed Chad's hand and drew him up the stairs.
"So, Ry, have you got any waltz music in your collection up here?"
On to College Visit: East Meets West