(The sequel to Hamlet was my undoing: Parts I, II, III)
The Prom: Take Two (part 1, part 2)
All right peeps, here it is, the final installment of this saga. As usual, names have been changed. If this has all seemed excessively long to you, blame Helena for encouraging others to write tales of adolescent angst. Ok, she didn't say the tales had to be long or anything, that's just how it turned out, so maybe don't blame her. And now, without further adieu...
The rest of the details fell into place; my hair was done, I was dressed, and Mom was making me pose next to a bowl of pink flowers. The front door was open and Jake appeared, looking perfect. He'd chosen a classic black tux with a vest instead of a cummerbund. We stood together in front of the mantle as Mom fired off more shots.
As we drove to Liza's to meet up with the limo, Jake commented, "Ya know, some tribes in Africa think having your picture taken steals your soul."
I did know that but was at a loss for what to say. "Hmm," I murmured. For once, his brooding nature seemed a little less appealing, because I knew we had several more photo ops ahead of us.
The blue limo we'd rented took up most of Liza's driveway. Jake parked across the street, and we walked over to join the group: Liza and her date, and two other classmates going as friends. After other various parents had their fill of couples and candid shots, the six of us lined up against the limo for group photos. Without question, I had the best-looking date even if he didn't like having his picture taken. The six of us squeezed into the limo, boys across from the girls, and went to dinner.
We met up with Samantha and some others at a swank restaurant; she'd swung us a good deal through a family connection. When we split up the bill, we figured it with a 20% tip, and though I assured Jake of this, he wasn't convinced we'd left enough. As we were leaving, I saw him duck back in and add a twenty to our tip.
As our limo pulled into the school parking lot, I watched other girls struggle out of cars and limos. Next to the red carpet the principal was announcing couples' names from a podium. Parents and underclassman stood beyond a rope watching everyone arrive. Because I was sitting in the middle, I focused all my energy on sliding across and climbing out gracefully.
I was relieved by my relative success. Jake and I walked down the red carpet arm in arm with none of the purse-dropping, shoe-losing, or tripping I'd seen minutes before.
Down the hall, outside of the gym was the professional prom photographer's setup. "Let's just get it out of the way," I suggested, hoping he could be a sport for one more photo. Liza and her date stood side by side and arm in arm under the white latticed arch. Click and they were done. When the photographer saw Jake and I, there must've been a glint in his eye that I missed. He put a stool under the arch and told Jake to sit. Jake rested his left foot on part of the stool and kept the other on the ground.
"Now you stand between his legs," the photographer directed me. If he's going for most awkward pose, he's succeeding, I thought to myself.
The photographer ducked behind his lens and popped up again. "Put your hands on his thigh, one over the other. Just like that, good. Now you," he pointed to Jake, "put your left hand over hers, and put your right around her waist." I turned my head to see how Jake was doing: he was as uncomfortable as I was.
"Straight ahead, please, and Smile!" The photographer commanded. Click. "Ok, you're done!"
We untangled ourselves and escaped into the gym. The juniors had truly transformed it from a basketball court to a ballroom. Jake stepped out the back for some air, and I caught up with some friends. "Stand up, turn around," "Let me see your dress," "You look great," they said in rapid succession.
Jake returned, and we danced a few dances, but it clearly wasn't his thing which I hadn't anticipated. Maybe it was the clothes. I loved to dance, but even I was feeling a bit subdued by my dress. Throughout the evening I kept pushing my strapless bra up, while sliding my dress down as inconspicuously as possible.
We went outside and looked at the stars for a while. His brooding guy persona had overtaken him. It never occurred to me that it might be difficult for him to be back at school, hearing about our college plans when he hadn't been able to go the past year. I was just there to have a good time, dance, and look good. Though there were some significant lulls, I mostly succeeded.
After the dance, none of our limo group had plans to stay up all night. None of us were dating seriously, so no one felt like watching videos until 6 AM. After the limo dropped a couple people off, the rest of us rode back to Liza's.
As Jake drove me home in his car, I sucked hard on a spearmint LifeSaver. He got out first, opened my door for me, and walked me up the front walkway I never used. The light was on over the front door. I scanned the windows wondering where my parents were and if they were awake. This was it. If either of us was going to make a move, it had to be soon.
As I reached the step in front of the door, a bush rustled, and a bat flew towards us. I jumped aside, and it flew between us dropping a load of guano in its wake. Jake let out a startled laugh, and I looked at him to assess the moment.
"I had a really good time tonight," I managed.
"Thank you for coming," I added warmly.
"I'm glad you asked me," he admitted.
Really? Then maybe there's... Oh, right, there's still this gulf between us, and it's streaked with fresh, wet bat shit.
"Well, goodnight," he said.
He turned and walked a few steps. When I opened the screen door, he stopped and looked back at me. "If you ever feel like doing something, give me a call."
I smiled and said, "Ok," and then, "Drive safe," before I stepped inside.