“Mom, I’m not putting on makeup,” I say, as I look into the mirror at my face. The skin around my mouth has dried. I scratch at the flakes and make it worse.
“It’ll hide the dryness. It won’t even be noticeable,” My mother says, as she comes up behind me with a tiny bottle of Maybelline concealer in her hand. She has the eye shadow brush out and is inching it closer to my face.
I twist away from her and run up the stairs. “What if she notices?” I go straight to her vanity top and look for other products. I push bottles of hairspray and conditioner, tubes of lipstick and an overused hairbrush out of the way.
“She’s not going to notice. The concealer blends it in. It’s like a tannish color.” She’s behind me again and I didn’t realize it.
I rub my hands on the side of my black tuxedo pants. “Okay, let’s try it, we’re running out of time.”
She dabs around my mouth with the brush and I close my eyes and hang my head back.
“So what do I do about the sweaty hands? I don’t want to be dancing with her and have her grab my sweaty hands. I don’t even know how to dance!” I say. My heart hammers out rapid beats and a slight electric shock rolls over my stomach.
My mother finishes applying the makeup and then grabs my hands and starts moving left to right. “This is how you do it: just a step to the left and then the right…you just sort of sway with her and the music. Besides, I doubt she’s any better at dancing.” I let go of her laughing and turn to look at the makeup job. It’s cleared the dryness enough to where if I smile, you can’t tell the difference.
“Brett, you didn’t even shave?” My brother Brandon pokes his head into the room. He puts his car keys into his beige shorts and adjusts his casual blue Cowboys shirt.
“I did. I cleaned it up around the neck and stuff. Shut up,” I respond. I walk past him and he follows me down the stairs.
“So are you going to need this?” He says, pulling a condom out of his wallet.
“Jesus. We’re just going as friends. We work together, nothing’s going to happen.”
“You never know. Come here.” He pulls me closer and adjusts my blue tie. “Do you even know how to put on a tie?”
“Uh…no. Anyways, who cares about that? I’m freaking out about dinner!” I say, as I elevate my chin so he can adjust my tie.
“Why? Just talk to her. It’s easy.”
“That’s easy for you to say. This is my first official date. I don’t have any experience.”
“Idiot, I’m serious.”
My dad walks into the room. He has on the same blue collared shirt that he wears to anything important. He pushes Brandon aside and looks at my tie.
“You didn’t shave. And look at your hair. You’re seriously going to wear it flat?” He exclaims, ruffling my red hair. I smooth it back down with my palm.
“No. It looks fine. Why don’t you wear a new shirt?” I respond. I laugh at my own joke.
Brandon gets in on the joke continuing our usual deprecating humor. “The store probably ran out of extra, extra, extra large!” He punches my dad on the arm.
“Hey, instead of riding in a limo, why don’t you just float on Brandon’s ears?” His mouth opens into a wide crater of laughter after he makes the punch line, exaggerating the end into something like a steam engine whistle.
“Eh, that was alright. I preferred Brandon’s. His was more realistic,” I say.
“Here comes Danny. Are you ready?” My dad reaches his large hand into his pocket and pulls out his wallet.
“Dad, Brandon already did that joke. And it wasn’t funny the first time.” I walk over to the mirror by the front door and look at myself one more time. I fiddle in my pockets feeling for my cell phone and wad of cash. One quick glance at the makeup job and then I dash out the front door to greet Danny.
“Hey Dude, what’s up with the glasses?” Danny has red tinted sunglasses on his face, a white tie and vest under a black jacket. He looks cool and calm. His black hair is gelled and comes down in curls over his forehead. A strong aroma of his Adidas cologne wafts over to me. I recognize it because I used to have a bottle.
He always had been cool and calm. I had known him for almost a decade. Whether it was speeches in front of a class, parties or around girls, he was always the calm one. He just went with it. Now two years later, that’s probably what caused the rift between us. In fact, that night was probably the last big night we had as friends.
“Don’t they look cool?” He takes them off and twirls them around. “So, Taylor’s already pissed at me.”
“Why?” Taylor was Danny’s date for tonight and girlfriend of the past year and a half.
“She thinks I like Amy.”
I grunt. Amy was my date for tonight. A week prior, we decided to go bowling on a double date. Just so Amy and Taylor could get to know each other. My sister Brittany and her date Taylor Henson couldn’t make it. In one of her usual bouts of jealousy, Taylor had almost ruined the whole night by accusing Danny of wanting to get close with Amy. This was based on the fact that Danny, like me, worked with Amy at The Original Pancake House.
I remember when Danny pulled up in his car with Taylor in the passenger seat, Taylor leaned across Danny and the first thing she said to Amy was, “I’m sorry for being a bitch.”
It’s a beautiful day, the sun is hanging high and even though it’s early April, no clouds are in sight. A bird flies overhead, swoops down onto the porch and then flutters away as my parents and Brandon come out the front door. I rub my hands on my pants. “So what’s she doing?”
“She’s probably at home crying. I don’t know. What’s the game plan here?” He puts the glasses back on his head, takes out his cell phone and probably answers a text from her.
“Apparently, everyone’s coming over here to take some pictures. Then we’re going over to Taylor’s because her mom wants some pictures. Then we go to the high school to pick up our limo.” My stomach buckles in on me and my breathing becomes shallow. Amy’s black SUV pulls up a few houses down because we’re out of space around my house.
“Hey, you remember that time for your thirteenth birthday I gave you my wrestling poster that was like seven feet tall?” I say to Danny.
“Yeah and then I gave it back to you like a week later because you missed it. What the hell though? That’s random.”
“I know. I’m just nervous. First thing that popped into my head. And yeah I did miss that poster; it took up half my wall. There was a lot of white space after I gave it to you. Plus, it was The Undertaker and I love The Undertaker.”
He cracks a smile. “Why are you so nervous? Just relax. You did fine at the bowling alley last week. You freaking bowled the best game of your life. I think you’ll be fine under pressure.”
“That was before I ruined it.”
“The flowers you sent her to work on Wednesday were a nice touch. She thought you were amazing to get her yellow Carnations at the same time she was wearing a yellow shirt. Ha. As if you meant that to happen. But you never should have told her you fell for her.”
His words become lost on me as Amy walks out of her car. She’s less than five feet tall, but the blue dress accentuates her rather large breasts and pushes out her round butt. I look at the silver tiara resting on her mound of blond hair for a moment. The sun catches it at the front and reflects off. I think back to the Wednesday Danny was talking about.
I was sitting outside on the porch, rocking back and forth on a brown rocker. I was cursing myself over and over in my head, clenching and unclenching the cell phone in my hand. The moon had just then made its self known in the darkening sky.
I sent a text message to Amy that said, “I don’t know if I’d call it love. But over the last month I’ve fallen for you.”
My feet were drumming on the porch and I was looking at my cell phone every two seconds waiting for a reply. I got up off the rocker and moved over to the mulch where a purple flower of some kind sat. I ripped off a petal and mashed it up between my fingers.
My phone vibrated and before it finished I opened the phone and looked at the message. “Brett, I don’t know if I’ve made it clear or not, but we’re just going as friends.”
I shake my head and wipe my hands on my pants. There is still a chance in my mind that I will get my first kiss tonight. She knows how fun I can be from bowling and after tonight, the friend line won’t matter anymore. She’ll see that I’m worth it.
It’s hard to imagine what being kissed or kissing someone is like if you haven’t done it. I guess it’ll be tender and sweet – just a caressing of her lips with mine. The soft drift of her perfume and the smooth interlocking of fingers; our eyes closed and our ears listening to the pitter-patter of our hearts. It’ll be just right.
Amy comes up the driveway and her father is right behind her. He’s nearly as old as my grandmother. A patch of black hair forms a circle around his head leaving only wiry gray hair on top. He has one of those professional looking cameras around his neck. His smile ends in a tight squeeze at the left corner of his face. His eyes squint in the glare of the sun.
I start thinking over the best way to shake someone’s hand and walk up to him. I shake his hand, not even knowing what I said or what he said. I can’t hear anything. I only see Amy. I walk over to her.
“You look beautiful.” I say. She looks down, her cheeks flush red and her blue eyes come back up to me.
“You look great too. I love the blue vest.”
My mother is coordinating with Amy’s dad for the perfect location to take pictures. Brittany is over by the mailbox. Her hair isn’t as dark as it used to be, little bits of red show through. Taylor Henson has arrived in his white pickup truck. Brittany met him through a friend on Facebook. He has very short, thin blond hair and square shoulders. I ruminate over the logistics of fighting with a tight tuxedo on. Danny’s date, Taylor, arrives in her black SUV with a pink trim around the edges. She has a sparkly silver dress on that reveals too much. I look away.
Amy and I are told to pose for pictures. I put my arm around her and whisper down into her ear, “Will you catch me if I fall?” She mumbles back a response and then smiles for the camera. Looking back now at this picture, you can see how much tension permeates my features. My jaw line looks like it was carved out of steel. I’m not smiling.
I look over at Danny. His head is low as he talks to Taylor. She seems to be yelling at him in a hushed tone. Brittany is still by the mailbox smiling up at Henson. She has on an emerald green dress that shows too much cleavage. He has on a black tuxedo with a tie the same emerald green. I just notice now how small he is. Good, but I heard he wants to be a cop. I watch wrestling. So maybe that’ll even the odds. Besides, Brittany said she didn’t like him much anyway.
The deliberations are over and the perfect location for all six of us to gather has been decided upon. It’s in the middle of the front yard, in front of a budding tree and by the red mulch where some ugly white and purple flowers sit.
Brandon takes me aside after the pictures. “Just be yourself.” I nod and walk away.
We all divide up among ourselves to go to the next picture location. Danny goes with Taylor in his small green car. Brittany goes with Henson in his pickup. I go with Amy in her black SUV. I don’t have my license. I open the wide door to the SUV and climb in. I swivel my feet around a chef’s hat lying on the ground.
“I thought you said you would let me try your lasagna some time?” I say to her. I see a picture of a dog with a brown coat and white spots taped to her dashboard. His tongue hangs limp in the middle of his mouth.
“I will and you’ll love it!” She turns on the radio and a Geico commercial is playing. She changes the station and a song bellows out. It’s from a person I don’t recognize. “Who’s this?”
“Oh my God! You don’t know who Bob Seger is?” She says, turning to look at me. She adjusts the tiara on her head and keeps one hand on the wheel.
“No. I’ve never heard of him.”
I smile. “What the heck?” I’m glad the music is playing; it’s always a nice facade for conversation. I run over a million subjects in my head and rub my hands on my pants.
“Taylor’s dress looked gorgeous,” she says.
Good there’s my opening. “It was a weird color. But guess what she was mad about this time?” I don’t like talking about dramatic gossip stuff, but it’s usually an easy conversation-maker for a female.
“Oh God, what is it now?”
“She thinks Danny is basically trying to get in your pants.”
“That’s so stupid. Yep, she hates me. I don’t know why either. I haven’t done anything.”
“I know. She just gets jealous very easily. I don’t know why Danny puts up with it.”
We arrive at Taylor’s mom’s house. She parks in the cul-de-sac next to a yellow fire hydrant. As we get out of the car I think back to a conversation with Danny where he was telling me that Taylor’s mom was hot. He said one of his fantasies was to have a threesome with Taylor and her mom. I’m interested now to see if he was right.
My grandmother and aunt pull up in my aunt’s car. My aunt is bubbling with enthusiasm; a smile is cemented to her face. My grandmother has a camera in her hand. A piece of gum sits on her tongue as she smiles at me.
I turn away from them as if they are strangers. Then I turn back and kiss them both on the cheek and say, “Hey guys, this is Amy.”
“Hi Amy, it’s nice to meet you,” they say in unison.
“Nice to meet you guys,” she responds. Since Amy is a host at The Original Pancake House, she uses that greeter voice that’s almost cartoonish in its niceness.
Taylor’s mom comes out of the house. I can’t help but run my eyes the length of her body. She has on white cashmere pants with a brown and gray sweater. She has one of those feathered hairstyles with a blend of light brown and blond hair. I walk over to Danny.
I crinkle my forehead and say to him, “I thought you said she was hot?”
“Dude, she is. Look!” His eyes swing over to her and scan her body in a similar fashion as I did.
“Eh, I’ve seen hotter. And damn dude, is Taylor showing enough cleavage or what?” I look over at Taylor and her breasts are spilling out of her dress. I avert my eyes to the evergreen bushes in front of the house.
“Yeah, well. You know. Are we drinking tonight?” He looks over at me; he talks in a hushed tone.
“I thought we were going to the prom after party?”
“Nobody goes to that. It’s lame. They just have stupid games and stuff.”
“I don’t drink.”
“I know, but this is a perfect time to start dude. It’s prom. You’re with Amy. Come on! What’s one time?”
“It’s one time too many!”
We both walk up to join the other four as my mother, grandmother, Taylor’s mom and Amy’s father get ready to take pictures. This time we’re in front of a garden at the edge of the house. The sun is at our backs. Two years later, I wish I had taken him up on that offer to drink.
They take so many pictures that my jaw begins to ache from holding a smile. I still haven’t said anything to Brittany’s date. I feel like I have a duty to, but I don’t know what to say. So I don’t.
We go back to our vehicles. I take a moment to use the car’s shiny surface to see if the concealer is still holding up. It is. We head over to the high school to get the limo.
“So do you want to go to the prom after party?” I ask Amy, as she fiddles with the music, going from station to station. She lands on some pop song that I again, do not recognize.
“I don’t know. What do the others want to do?”
“I don’t know about my sister and the two Taylor’s, but Danny wants to drink instead.”
“Hah. Well, that’s not going to happen.”
“No kidding. I don’t drink. Do you?”
“A couple of times, but it isn’t really my thing.”
We pull into the parking lot of the high school. It is packed with teenage boys with their suits and sunglasses; girls with barely there dresses and newly tanned legs and hairspray galore. Not to mention a large caravan of limos of all sizes and colors. I have no idea which one is ours. Amy wanted to get a pink Hummer limo because she loves the color pink. I was insistent upon paying for everything though. The Hummer was just too much.
The only thing I didn’t pay for was the dress. It was the same dress she wore for her high school prom. She graduated early from Lakota East. Danny, Taylor, Brittany and I went to Fairfield. And I have no idea where Henson went. I just knew he worked as a grocer at some grocery store I’ve never heard of and was trying to get into the Police Academy.
Anyways, last year at Amy’s prom she rented a limo with her friends and their dates. On the way to the prom the limo crashed on a bridge. I remember Amy telling me she was lying on glass shards waiting for the ambulance to come. She had on the tiara then too.
Our limo was a traditional black one that seats eight to ten passengers. We meet our driver. She has bouncy blond hair and a small red jacket around a white shirt. Then we pile into the limo. Taylor and Danny sit up towards the front closer to the driver, Brittany and Henson sit on the left side and Amy and I sit in the far back.
The space commands me to talk to Henson now. Brittany pushes the issue. “Brett, did you know that Taylor and you are a lot alike?”
“What do you mean?”
“He likes older music like The Beatles just like you and guess what else?”
“He likes Harry Potter! It’s freaky how similar you guys are.”
So I turn to Henson and ask him which Beatles songs he likes most. It is hard to hear though because Taylor is turning up the music. I lean in. I think he says “Come Together” and “Yesterday”. Those are my favorites too. I ask him which book in the Harry Potter series is his favorite.
“The last one of course. It was epic,” he says.
“Definitely man. The battle at the end was awesome.”
Another rap song begins to play. I didn’t usually like rap, but I’m in a good mood. I stand up as best I can and go to the ground as the song says, “Get low, get low!” Then I lose track of the words and just do some weird jiggle.
Taylor laughs at me. I like Taylor. She was a good friend, always nice to me.
Even drives me home from school when Danny can’t. I had known her before she started dating Danny. She had written in my 9th grade yearbook, “I liked sitting behind you in math class. It was good meeting you.” But she is just a little crazy when it comes to Danny. She obsessed over where he was constantly; she felt that my friend Ryan and I were bad influences on him and so on.
Danny told me not long ago that he was thinking of breaking up with her during the summer because college would be coming in the fall. He had said he wanted to be free for the “college experience”.
Over the loud music, Danny says, “What’s that place called that we’re going to?”
The music switches from Lil Wayne to a song from 50 Cent. The music is coming from Taylor’s iPod.
“The Grand Finale, it’s supposed to be really good,” my sister says.
“Good. I’m glad we didn’t go to the Texas Roadhouse. That would have been tacky,” I say.
“Shut up, no it wouldn’t have been. It would have been fun!” Taylor says.
“We should have gone to Olive Garden. I wanted their breadsticks so bad,” Brittany says.
“I know. I love their manicotti, but it was already booked. Everyone goes there,” I say.
Taylor has a camera with her and she asks Amy and me to pose for a picture. I am getting tired of pictures, but we both throw up a peace sign and laugh. Looking back, it’s one of my favorite pictures of that evening. You can see I’m starting to loosen up. My teeth are showing this time in a wide smile and my cheeks are rosy.
I see a sign for The Grand Finale come up on our right. The restaurant looks small on the outside, but it is packed. An enormous fake plotted plant sits in front of the place. I didn’t realize Amy’s father had followed us and he instantly shows up next to Amy with his camera. Amy has yet to give me my boutineer. I had already given her the corsage for her wrist. I didn’t remember doing it. My hands were probably shaking.
She fumbles trying to pin the boutineer to my tuxedo jacket while her dad tries to get the best picture. I see Danny, Taylor, Brittany and Henson are doing that ‘halfway in the restaurant, but waiting on us’ thing. She finally gets it on and we walk into the restaurant behind the others.
My earlier perceptions were correct. The place is packed. We are crammed into a table with hardly any room to sit. My chest is up against the table and it looks like we’re right next to the bathroom. A dim light fixture hangs above us. It’s doing nothing for the dark atmosphere. There isn’t any wall space because there are framed pictures everywhere of sailboats, beaches, palm trees and even assorted famous people.
For some reason, Danny sits against the wall and Henson is next to me. I don’t mind it too much but between thinking of cop conversation and anything to talk about with Amy, sweat begins to form around my eyebrows. I wipe my hands on my pants and pick up a menu.
I end order Filet Mignon. Something I would never buy otherwise. Amy gets veal. I remember Ryan arguing with me over veal. He said they made it from the baby cow called a calf. Then the calf is placed in a small pen where they can’t move more than a foot one way or another. Finally, they are taken to the slaughterhouse for processing.
I responded to him by saying, “But it taste so good.”
Amy is busy texting on her cell phone. I pretend to examine the contours of Barry Larkin’s signature at the bottom of a picture over her shoulder. He’s with someone I don’t recognize. When the food comes I am excited to get an excuse to not talk. I am frustrated for not thinking of something riveting to discuss.
“This is the best steak I’ve ever had,” I say to Amy.
“Duh, it’s Filet Mignon. That’s the best kind. You want to try some of my veal?”
“Yeah, I’ve only ever had it one other time.” She uses her fork to shovel the veal into my mouth. My taste buds light up with excitement. “It’s delicious!”
She has a little bit of sauce at the corner of her lip. I’ve seen this enough times in movies to know what to do next. I grab my napkin and say, “You got a little something right…there.” I inch closer with my napkin, but she backs up.
“Wait, where?” Then she uses her own napkin to wipe it away. I sit back in my chair.
“I bet you won’t put that lemon in your mouth!” She says to me. Right away, I grab the lemon from a nearby bowl and shove it into my mouth. I’m ready to spit it back out because it is forcing tears to my eyes. But she tells me to hang on and she brings a camera out of her bag. She’s laughing so hard.
I spit it out and take a drink of coke. “I’m sure that’ll be an awesome picture. Let me just crush these walnuts with my teeth and it’ll complete the picture!” I don’t know if it turned out to be an awesome picture or not. After prom Amy told me her camera wouldn’t work. So she could never get the film developed.
For dessert, Danny and Taylor share the biggest banana split I’ve ever seen. The dish takes up the middle of the table between them. Brittany and Henson get the same thing. Amy and I decide not to get any dessert. After I watch them finish off their desserts (although Brittany and Henson leave some in their dish), I pull a wad of cash from my pocket to leave a tip. Brittany, and Henson walk away after paying their portion of the bill. Amy follows them.
Danny comes up to me. “Dude, are you seriously going to leave that much? These guys make a lot of money. They don’t need that.”
“Dude, we work at a restaurant. I like to tip a lot.”
“That’s stupid.” He walks away with Taylor. I struggle to put my jacket back on and without counting, put a stack of ones on the table. At The Original Pancake House we got paid in dollar bills. My boss Daniel wraps them up in rubber band and always says, “So you going to the strip club tonight?” For six years I laugh and say,
The drive to the Duke Energy Convention Center — where prom was being held — takes about thirty minutes. In that time, our energy was building to a crescendo. We rock back and forth in our seats to songs from Eminem to Kelly Clarkson to ACDC. The limo driver takes a long time to find a parking spot and then we bundle out of the limo like drunken hobos stumbling our way to the Center.
We walk into the Center and it’s bright, polished and humongous. I gasp at the sight of the longest escalator I’ve ever seen. People from my school are all packed on it going to the second floor. We ride up it as well; I instinctively take a large step to avoid getting caught, remembering a scene from my childhood.
“This is amazing. I’m so excited!” I say to Amy on my left. She smiles back at me and nods.
As we make our way over to the room where the dance floor is, I run into a few friends. One of them, named Nicole, says, “So did you come in your horse and buggy?”
I laugh. “Yeah, it’s in the parking lot.” Then I walk away with Amy. She turns to me and says, “What was that about?”
“It’s just an inside joke for when I grow out my beard. I would have given her more brownie points if she used something creative like, ‘Where is your buddy John Book?’”
“Who is John Book?” Amy says.
“You’ve never seen Witness with Harrison Ford?”
“Oh yeah. I know what you’re talking about.”
We walk into the room where the dancing is. A large dance floor is in the middle of the room and the surrounding area has refreshments and people milling about. The theme for prom is a Hawaiian luau. There are palm trees, fake torches around the corners of the room and people handing out leis in orange, blue, yellow and many other colors. Brittany and Taylor don’t remember what the theme was. My mom thought it was a Hawaiian luau theme. For some reason, I remembered it being a disco theme, yet I still recall wearing an orange lei at some point. So I figured my mom was right.
Amy walks me over to the refreshments. I have a Mountain Dew and she has a Sprite. Then we join Danny and Taylor and Brittany and Henson on the dance floor. It is like trying to dance on a subway in Japan. There is no room. I can’t help but check out the other females in their provocative dresses. A girl and a guy I don’t recognize are thrusting their bodies together, sweat already drips off their bodies.
I stand in front of Amy as a rap song begins. It sounds similar to the ones from the limo. I start doing something with my legs and Amy laughs at me.
“You have to dance with the rhythm of the song. Watch.” She guides me to go in sync with the music. I start to get the hang of it.
As Amy turns her back to me and does a dance, Danny comes closer to me as he dances on Taylor. He pantomimes me instructions on what to do with Amy: his hands grip around Taylor’s waist and he swivels his own hips around her butt. He is telling me to do the same thing. I look down at Amy; the blue dress comes tight around her butt. I can’t do it.
I look over instead at Henson and Brittany dancing nearby. Taylor also has his hands around Brittany’s waist with his eyes closed and his head bobbing. Brittany is facing Taylor and notices me watching. She smiles at me. After prom, Brittany didn’t want to see him anymore. I told her she should. Any guy that likes The Beatles and Harry Potter is an okay guy for my sister. She decides to on my encouragement and two years after prom, they’re still going strong.
Another rap song comes on and I continue to dance with Amy making sure to keep my hands at hovering distance. I shake my head thinking over how this night came together.
I was at work with Brandon. He too worked at The Original Pancake House on occasion. A new host, named Amy, had come to the Pancake House about a month previously. I thought she was so hot when I first saw her. Danny disagreed initially.
Nonetheless, prom was coming up and I didn’t have a date. In fact, I didn’t plan on going because I certainly wasn’t going to ask anyone. Brandon was pressuring me to ask Amy. He even suggested it to Amy repeatedly throughout that day. It made me crazy.
At the end of the workday, Brandon went up to Amy and said, “So are you going to go to prom with my brother?”
She responded, “Yeah that would be great!”
I was ecstatic when I heard the news. Then she gave me her phone number so we could begin planning the prom. My hands were shaking as I entered her number into the Contact List on my phone.
The first slow dance song of the night comes on. We have already been dancing for quite some time. I am getting tired. The song is “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain. It is a beautiful song. I’m not sure what to do. So I reach out my hands to take Amy’s hands and I graze her left breast. I feel awkward, but she doesn’t seem to notice.
We dance just as my mother had shown me hours earlier — which seems like days to me now — my hands hold her hands, we sway back and forth and the tiara is almost at my eye level. I sing the lyrics in a whisper above Amy’s head with Edwin McCain as he says, “And tell me that we belong together/Dress it up with the trappings of love/I’ll be captivated, I’ll hang from your lips.” I look around me and feel as if Amy and I are the only ones there. She looks happy. Then the song ends.
“Hey, let’s go outside now. My side is killing me,” she says to me.
Amy grips at her side and begins walking off the dance floor. I follow quickly behind.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just want to sit down for a second.”
“You should really go see a doctor about that if its been hurting you since work.”
“I took like four painkillers or something. I’m fine.”
We sit up against the balcony overlooking the bottom floor. There are hardly any people around. Then a group of two girls and two guys walk towards us.
One of the guys says, “You guys got any gum?”
Amy says, “No.”
They walk away and Amy takes a picture of us together. I don’t like the picture now. I’m holding on to her, but my arm looks distorted, bloated for some reason. After prom, Amy put it as her profile picture on Facebook. She took it off two days later.
I hear the DJ come on the loudspeaker and he says, “Time for the last song and dance of Fairfield Senior High School Prom 2008 everyone!”
A few minutes later Danny, Taylor, Brittany and Henson come out. They sit down next to us. Taylor and Brittany take more pictures. Amy takes her tiara off. She fixes her hair.
On the way back to the limo, Taylor and Brittany take their high heels off. They say their feet are killing them.
“Ew, that’s gross. The ground’s disgusting,” Amy says, as she runs alongside them, hopping from foot to foot in her high heels. She has me hold the tiara.
Danny and I hang back.
“I guess we’re going to the after party now,” I say to him. He still has his red shades on. It is dark by now and the moon hovers above the office buildings. The breeze is light and it feels good after the dancing.
“Yeah, I guess it’ll be alright. Dude, why didn’t you grind on her?”
“Grind on her?”
“Like I was doing?”
“We’re just friends. She probably wouldn’t have liked that.”
“You should have just gone for it. What’s the worse that could have happened?”
“I could have gotten slapped! Besides, we work together. I have to think about that too.”
“You missed your chance.”
We got back into the limo. Our earlier enthusiasm dwindles by the second and tiredness creeps over us. I ask Amy if she wants a massage. I had proved my massage skills at work a week previous. She had said then that my hands were like angel hands. She says yes to my request.
Danny shakes his head at me as I give Amy a massage around the shoulders. Her dress is open in the back down towards her hips. I rub my hands from her shoulders down to her lower back and around the sides. I do this over and over. Her skin is soft. Later, I learn from Danny that Amy was texting the whole time.
Streetlights illuminate the faded red brick of Fairfield Senior High School, as we get closer. You can hear faint music and a voice on a loudspeaker from inside. The driver parks the limo in the same spot from earlier. We get out. Brittany and Henson go off to the after party, as do Danny and Taylor. Amy and I walk back to her SUV.
“I really need to get some flip flops or something. I don’t want to wear these heels to the after party,” Amy says to me, as she starts up her car.
“There’s a Walgreens up the street here. I’m sure they have some,” I respond.
“Probably, but I could just go back to my house. It’s not that far. I could use a change of clothes anyways.”
I had already brought my change of clothes and had changed when we got back to the high school. I have on a Cincinnati Reds shirt over black shorts and my black socks still ride up half my leg.
“That’s cool,” I say.
At her parents’ house while Amy is changing, I see her dad is in a computer room. I walk in. It’s a tight space with the faint scent of cinnamon lingering in the air. There are boxes stacked in the right corner and a table with more boxes on the left. Pictures are all over the wall. I don’t see any of Amy.
“Hey, how are you doing?” I say to her father.
His eyes are peering over the top of his glasses and then he looks up from the computer screen at me. The pictures he had taken before were there on the screen and put into a montage video.
“Hey Brett, how did prom go?”
“Great. I danced better than I expected. You already have the pictures up?”
“Yeah, I put them into this little video montage. Take a look.”
He starts the montage at the beginning and goes through it. They were good pictures, professional even. I pet a gray cat that comes by my feet. It purrs gently against my leg.
Then I notice a picture framed on the wall of a young adult in army fatigues standing in front of what looks to be a battle ship of some kind. Amy’s dad notices me looking at the picture.
“That’s my son John. He’s stationed overseas. Right now, the Army is trying to get some guys over to Myanmar to help with the disaster from Cyclone Nargis. But the military rulers there won’t let the United States come in with aide. It’s ridiculous.”
“Yeah, why wouldn’t you want help from the United States? We have plenty of money to go around, “ I say, even though I don’t believe that.
“John could be doing some real good over there, but–”
Amy returns from changing and she has on a blue shirt with faded blue jeans. I had never seen her in jeans before because the hosts weren’t allowed to wear them at work. She looks great. They were tight fitting and showed off her shapely legs. She pulls off the casual look well. She stands in the frame of the door.
“You ready to go?” She says, looking at me. “Hi Daddy.”
He looks away from the picture of John and looks at Amy, “Hey honey. Be good now.”
“Good talking to you sir,” I say to Amy’s dad.
We walk towards the front door of the house and I can see Amy’s mother in a recliner in the living room. It is dark and I can barely make out her features. I think she has blond hair. For some reason, I remembered her having held a cigarette in her hand, but after talking to Amy some time after, I know that’s not possible. She doesn’t smoke.
“Amy make sure to be careful will you? Hi there Brett!” Her mom says from the darkness.
“Hello, nice to meet you.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say to her.
We drive back to the after party. Amy’s hungry. She has potato chips and asks me to get her a Mountain Dew. I do. I’m not hungry. Amy is tired and just wants to lie down on a beach chair. I lie down on a chair next to her. I watch as a magician comes close to me. He’s on stilts and people gather around because he’s doing a trick. I look away.
I gaze over at Amy and stare at her for a long moment.
“Do you realize how beautiful you are?” I say to her.
She smiles and says, “Shut up!”
“I’m serious. Taylor and Brittany looked like they went bobbing for eye shadow. You’re hardly wearing any.”
I never would have said this just a few months ago. Our first conversation didn’t go so well for me. I had learned from Danny that Amy was in favor of the Iraq War. I was excited that she was into politics, but dismayed at that particular view. Danny challenged me to debate her. So I said I would.
I sat on the bench in the lobby at work. She was behind the podium. I was fidgeting with my hands and then I pulled at some dried syrup sticking to the hairs of my leg.
“So you believe we should have gone into Iraq?” I said to her.
“Yeah, of course. Saddam was a bad guy. He was dictator. We had to go in. Plus, they had weapons of mass destruction,” she responded.
I shook my head and laughed a condescending laugh. I was too nervous to respond. So I stood up and pretended I had to go clean a table.
Later when I had her phone number I would explain my initial nervousness about talking to her by saying, “I’d rather have wrestled a bear in the lobby than have talked to you.” She thought that was hilarious.
The party begins to fizzle down. People are leaving. We decide it’s time to leave too. Danny is going to drive me back home with Taylor. There was no point in Amy driving me.
I walk her to her car. More stuff I learned from the movies. The night is cool and a light gust of wind curls around the nape of my neck. Two guys are by a truck chatting. One of them has a high-pitched voice. We get to the car and stand behind it. She takes out her keys. I tell her I had a great time. She tells me the same thing.
Then I say, “So what now?”
She looks at me. She says, “We hug.”