My life was officially over. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull the earth over me like a blanket. The only thing that stopped me from slitting my wrists was the thought of strangling Danny O’Brian with my bare hands. Who cancels a prom date an hour before the big night?
My mind flew a thousand miles a minutes to all the terrible things I could do to him. This was supposed to be my big moment. Walking into the ball room on Danny O’Brian’s arm would have cancelled out some pretty crummy high school years.
“Why me!” I yelled as I cried into my pillow. The tears flowed like wine at a wedding. Something else I would probably never get to experience. Why do things like this always happen to me?
Freshman year I’d been too shy to even think about going. In sophomore year no one had asked. Flat chested bean poles like me weren’t asked to fancy things like the prom. In junior year a bunch of us wall flowers were going to go together but I broke my ankle playing volleyball and I wouldn’t be caught dead at prom walking around on crutches. Only my friend Mary Hopkins even knew I wasn’t there.
Senior year had been different. I’d come into my own. Blossomed as mom liked to say. Things had gotten all curvy like they were supposed to. They must have started working because I seemed to have caught the eye of the star quarterback and school hunk Danny O’Brian.
You could have rolled me up and mailed me to Wisconsin when he asked me to the prom. My mouth dropped open and my heart stopped beating. Danny O’Brian asked me to the prom.
I’d squeaked out a yes before running all the way home to tell my mom. Then flew over to Mary’s house to tell her. Being the bestest of best friends she had squealed and jumped up and down with me as we totally lost it.
Life was perfect. Chrissy Thompson, the school bitch and my personnel nemesis would see me walk in with Danny. I know she’d see us because she’d be monitoring everybody. Categorizing what they wore, judging and commenting to her pal gals about what a terrible color this girl wore. Or how sad it was that so and so couldn’t find a date. All the time secretly squealing with glee at other people’s misery.
Of course I told everyone that Danny and I would be going to the prom together. There had been quite a few shocked expressions and weak congratulations. I had filed every one of those looks away in my memory box and marked the folder “Pure Glee.”
You know the feeling of being on top of the world. Of being in that place that everyone else wishes they could be. That was my life for the last month.
Mom, Mary, and I had spent hours shopping for just the right dress. I couldn’t stop giggling and laughing as we went from store to store. Mom had been patient. Standing to the side, never criticizing but somehow letting me know what worked and what didn’t work.
I finally found the perfect sky blue dress that matched my eyes. Low cut back and spaghetti straps. It fit me perfectly. They wouldn’t even have to alter it. I looked like I was ready to step onto the red carpet at the Oscars. I couldn’t wait to watch Danny’s eyes when he saw me in that dress. I couldn’t wait for Chrissy Jensen to see me. No way was there anything wrong with that dress.
Instead, no one would ever see it.
I started to ball my eyes out again when mom knocked gently coming into my room. “I’m so sorry honey,” she said as she gently rubbed my back.
“Why Mom? Why always me?” I mumbled through a snotty nose.
“Oh honey,” she said, rubbing a little harder as if she could push aside my pain and humiliation. “Someday, this won’t seem so important.”
“Oh mom,” I yelled before throwing myself back onto my pillow.
She stopped rubbing for a second then said, “Can’t you go by yourself. You can borrow the car.”
“Mom, you don’t get it,” I cried again into the pillow.
“What about Mary, could you go with her?”
“Mom,” I said, my voice getting exasperated. “Mary is going with Troy. No way am I tagging along as a third wheel. It’s her special night too.”
My phone ringing on the bedside table saved her from driving the spike in any deeper. She got up and left me. Looking back with a face narrowed in concern. I know her heart broke for me. My mom’s pretty cool like that. You know she cares. I also know that she can be a bit of a lioness at times. Danny O’Brian had better not cross her path or he would find himself missing a couple of key assets from between his legs.
I picked up my phone.
“I just heard, Oh my god. What a douche.” Mary said before I could even say hello.
“How is that possible, I only found out a few minutes ago?” I said between sniffles.
“Danny told John who told his girlfriend Marla. She called Sandy who called me.”
Great, everyone now knew about my humiliation. I wasn’t even allowed time to wallow in my misery before everyone wanted to stand around and watch.
“Did he say why?” Mary asked.
“No in so many words,” is said. “I’m pretty sure it’s because I told him I wouldn’t go to the hotel with him after the dance.”
“What, he wanted you to go to a hotel.”
“Yeah, a week ago he told me to make sure and tell my parents that I would be out all night and not to expect me back till the next morning.”
“What’d you say,” Mary asked.
“I told him I wasn’t comfortable doing that. We hadn’t known each other long enough. You know the normal excuses. No way was my first time going to be in the Ramada Inn after prom. I mean how cliché can you get.”
“Why didn’t you tell me,” she said.
“I don’t know. He didn’t press the matter and I figured it was all over with. The first hint I got that he wasn’t happy about it was the phone call a few minutes ago.”
“Wow, what a douche.”
I laughed. Mary is such a good friend. We had known each other since before kindergarten. Her family lived two doors down and our mothers were best friends. We were closer than sisters. We never fought. Well almost never, and when we did it was almost always my fault.
“What are you going to do?” She said before pausing a moment. “Do you want to come with Troy and me?”
I almost accepted. I so desperately wanted to go that I almost ruined my best friend’s prom night. Troy was a nice guy and he’d have tried to make it work. No way was I doing that to Mary.
“No that’s okay. Thanks anyway. I’ll just curl up on the couch with a gallon of Haagen-Dazs and think evil thoughts about Danny O’Brian and what I’m going to do to him in the next life. I won’t have an opportunity in this life if my mom ever gets a hold of him.”
She laughed. That’s the thing about Mary; she’ll laugh like your making a joke even when you’re dead serious.
“Oh my god, I’ve got it,” she yelled into the phone. “Oh this is perfect. My brother can take you. He’s even got something to wear.”
My stomach dropped. Mary’s little brother Jimmy was barely sixteen and a pimply faced sophomore. He was a nice kid but I didn’t know about going to the prom with him. The only thing worse would be showing up alone.
“I don’t know Mary… I uh.”
“No, this is perfect, he’s always liked you and he owes me big time.”
Great, now I was a mercy date for a sophomore. How bad could it get?
Mary must have sensed my hesitation because she pulled out the big guns. “I need you there Emily. No way am I facing Chrissy Thompson alone.”
“Well, uh…. I.”
“Great, I’ll have him there in forty five minutes. We can meet up at the dance and we’ll have a great time. You’ll see. Thanks Emily, you won’t regret it,” she said before quickly hanging up so that I couldn’t change my mind.
“MOM,” I yelled down the stairs. “Mary’s little brother’s taking me, I need to get ready.” I had forty minutes to get dressed and somehow cover up these blotchy eyes. I looked like a raccoon on crack.
Mom pulled her normal motherly miracle and got me to look halfway decent. She did something with alternating warm and cold towels to my face and then just the right amount of makeup that even I couldn’t tell I’d spent the afternoon crying enough to fill Lake Ontario.
I slipped on my dress then the absolutely gorgeous heels and closely examined myself in the mirror. Not bad I thought. Granted, everyone would know that Danny O’Brian had dumped me hours before the dance. At least they’d know it wasn’t because of my looks.
Smiling to myself for the first time that night. My stomach dropped when I thought about Jimmy Hopkins. “Oh well, beggars can’t be choosey” I thought.
I was transferring a few things to my clutch purse when mom walked in and said, “I thought you might want to borrow these?” A pair of one carat diamond earrings rested in the palm of her hand. Dad had given them to her on their twentieth anniversary. “They are only a loan; if you lose them you will go ahead of Danny O’Brian on my crap list. Get it?”
“Oh Mom, their beautiful,” I said fastening the posts. “Are you sure? They are so perfect.”
“Yes they are,” she said with a huge smile. “Now finish up. Jimmy should be here in a moment.”
My stomach dropped again. Every time I thought about walking into the room with Jimmy Hopkins I got a sad feeling. There was nothing wrong with Jimmy, except for being two years younger and an inch shorter than me. That and the fact that he had to be forced by his sister to take me. When you added all that to the fact of how I had bragged about going with Danny. I felt like such a fool.
Forcing a smile onto my face I went downstairs to wait. Butterflies kept erupting. I knew there would be some snickering behind hands and probably the occasional rude comment. But I could put up with it for a night. After all, some day this wasn’t going to matter. Yeah keep telling yourself that Emily, I thought. It might help you make it through the night.
Jimmy was late of course. Mary had probably had to hit him over the head to get him to go. How did the kid even have a tux? I know for a fact that Mary had told me last week that he wasn’t going. Jesus, please don’t let him show up in a suite. Or worse his dad’s suite? Would Mary do that to me?
My palms began to sweat. What if he didn’t come? Great a minute ago I was terrified of walking in with Jimmy Hopkins now’s I’m frightened I’m going to be stood up.
The door bell rang. Mom rushed to get it while I stood there waiting. She opened the door and my mouth hit the floor.
Jack Hopkins, Mary’s OLDER brother stood there in a heart stopping full dress Marine uniform. A black tunic and snow white belt. Sky blue pants with a red stripe down the sides. White gloves and three shinny medals on his chest perfected the look. He reminded me of a movie poster of what a manly Marine was supposed to look like. Wide shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waste. My god he was gorgeous.
“Jack,” I exclaimed, “I didn’t know you were back.” He was on his second tour in Afghanistan and wasn’t due back for another month.
“I got back a couple of days ago,” he said stepping into the house. His pristine white hat carried under his arm. He was as straight as an ironing board as his eyes traveled over me and lit up as if he liked what he saw.
“I asked my family to keep it quiet. I needed a few days to adjust. Mary only agreed if I owed her a huge favor.”
“Oh my god. You’re taking me to the prom.” I said not even believing my own words.
“Ms. Carter, will you please allow me to escort you to the prom,” he said with a little bow.
My heart skipped and all of the butterflies fell from the sky in a dead faint. Mary Hopkins, I am going to owe you for the rest of my life.
“Yes Jack, I would love to go with you to the prom,” I said slipping my arm into his.
Some things in life are better than you expect. Needless to say my prom night was great before I even left the house. The only thing better was the look on Chrissy Thompson’s face as I walked in on Corporal Hopkins arm.