The night of prom seemed to have arrived at lightning speed. It probably felt like it because I did not want to attend. But as I had promised Jeanine to go, I couldn’t back out of it now.
Of course, the two of us weren’t going as a couple, or even really together, but we were both planning to be the other’s support during the event if things went south.
As it happened, Jeanine was right about some things. With Tiffani out of high school, Jeanne and Trevor were actually talking to us again. Things were still somewhat awkward after the events of last year, but the four of us were trying to patch things up. If anything, they felt kind of weird about acting the way they did with the two of us, and confused about my older cousin’s icy behavior. She always did have an ambitious streak, but actively trying to exclude people out of the group seemed out of character.
But even though some of our friends were back to normal and we were doing our best to patch up whatever happened, prom was another conversation altogether. While the four of us got along, things were still pretty rough between Rashida, Sergio and I. It was kind of sad, actually. His bottled up feelings for her have turned into the strongest kind of resentment towards me. And we were the best of friends before all this happened.
Rashida was still angry at me over how things went down. Even though she and Sergio were constantly together now, she would still go out of her way to throw scowls my way or to accidentally spill my food at lunch. I guess I sort of deserved it though – I really should’ve talked things through with her before everything got so out of hand. But things were what they were.
As for Jeanine, as far as I knew, her ex quieted down in his attempt to ruin her name. For now, at least. The worst part about what he did was that she did have some kleptomaniac tendencies – and she worked her ass off to get them in check before she even started high school. So his lies really added insult to injury.
But I could say with certainty that Jeanine was truly a bigger person for not trying to get back at him.
As this was prom, he was certainly going to be here. I just had to admire Jeanine’s drive to come here and be in the same room with him. She sure was a tough one.
Of course, the whole night started off with awkwardness: Jeanine and I arrived to the school literally at the same time as Sergio and Rashida.
If looks could kill, the two of us would’ve been dead. But as we weren’t going to start any trouble, they couldn’t either. Once inside the school gym, where the dance was held, they just began dancing/making out, moving their collective attention away from us.
Booya! Conflict averted!
I glanced around the gym. The school’s prom planning committee didn’t spend too much time on decorations, instead opting for some funky strobe lights and a fully-operating bar.
“Funny how they keep telling us underage drinking is bad, but then bring in a faux bar to the prom, huh?” Jeanine chuckled. “I guess that’s their attempt to make sure the drinks don’t get spiked? Since the bartender is keeping an eye on them?”
“Could be. Sounds like a pretty ineffective way to make a point about underage drinking, though,” I admitted. I mean, come on! A bar at a school prom?
“So…” She glanced around the room. Most couples were slow-dancing, the majority of them interpreting the term “dancing” as “makeout time.”
“This is kind of awkward, I guess.” We definitely weren’t going to do that. But we could dance. “Hey, it’s that song you like. Let’s dance.”
“Alright,” she agreed, but not before glancing towards the entrance with concern. Following her gaze, I recognized the familiar blonde head of her younger sister. Huh, I didn’t realize freshmen were going to be at senior prom and I didn’t think she had a boyfriend. But perhaps, a friend invited her?
Shaking her head, Jeanine took my hand and we headed to the dance floor. Despite the romantic mood of Enrique Iglesias’s “Hero”, this didn’t feel awkward. In fact, the two of us were having a lot of fun.
“Told you, coming to prom would rock!” she smiled gleefully.
“You were right! This is going pretty great!” I agreed.
We continued dancing and for nearly an hour, had a really good time. That was, until Jeanine happened to look to a different part of the room. At this point, her face darkened. Looking in the same direction, I understood why: her sister was here with none other than Jeanine’s ex, Taylor. And they were really… dancing.
“I can’t believe it,” she gritted though her teeth. “Why the hell is she here with him?”
“Did she, um, have a crush on him before?” I asked carefully.
“None that I knew of!” Jeanine huffed. “Well, they’ve just about killed my dancing mood. I’m heading to the bar. Do you want anything?”
“No, I’m good.”
After she walked of, I spotted Dominic dancing with Quiang’s youngest sister, Lin. It looked like he moved on after the Morgan fiasco. Good for him – I knew Lin was cool and very unlikely to cause any trouble in a relationship.
Morgan was here too earlier. I saw her chatting up some guy who had a major player reputation himself – it was a match, sort of.
“Hey, man. All good?” Dominic waved at me.
“Same. New girlfriend?” he asked nodding in Jeanine’s direction.
“Just a friend. I’m on a break from relationships for now.”
“Sounds like a solid plan,” he nodded.
It was around this time that Sonja and Taylor decided to take their makeout session to an extreme. Even some of the couples gave them a look.
Jeanine was having another drink at the bar, but she saw it. Everyone saw it.
Something must’ve gone off in her head at that moment and she moved towards the couple.
“So, Taylor. Care to explain what you’re doing with your tongue stuck down my sister’s throat, asshole?” she demanded.
“Why do you care? I’m not your boyfriend anymore, get over it,” he smirked.
“Oh, I don’t give one flying fuck about you or any other braindead wannabe who might fall for you, but this is my sister we’re talking about. My younger sister. And if you think you’re going to mess around with her, you’ve got another thing coming!”
She was now yelling at him and the rest of the students of the dance floor noticed. They steadily began to pile out of the gym – probably out of their strong sense of self-preservation and the desire to avoid a potential fight. Hell, even I was concerned. It made sense for Jeanine to be angry at Taylor, but this kind of behavior wasn’t too much like her.
I wasn’t going to leave, though. If she was going to start a fight, someone had to keep a clear head and intervene.
“I’m so sorry,” Sonja whispered sheepishly, looking between her sister and her date.
“You should be,” I turned to her. “Why did you come here with him? Isn’t there some sort of a rule about dating your sister’s ex?”
“I’m not dating him,” she wrinkled her face in disgust, quietly adding, “I hate his guts.”
The younger girl looked around the room and, seeing as it was empty except for the four of us, admitted “He blackmailed me, ok? I cheated on my math exam and he found out. He told me he’ll inform the principal if I didn’t come here as his date. I didn’t want to, but I can’t fail another class, Phoenix…”
She was practically on the verge of tears now.
And Jeanine noticed. Despite her yelling match with Taylor, she heard her sisters words, clearer than if they had been played over the intercom.
“You pathetic swine! How could you fucking do this with my sister?!” she railed into Taylor once more.
I wanted to do the same, frankly. Yeah, cheating on schoolwork was wrong, but blackmail was worse, in my mind. Especially with someone younger.
“What was I supposed to do?” Taylor had the gall to look offended. “You thought you were so high and mighty to break up with me? Who do you think you are? I did you a favor by dating you and you just ended things? Do I look like someone you can just end things with? I could date anyone of these people – they’d treat me like a fucking king. And I dated you, even though you weigh more than my family car, bitch.”
The slap that met his face was loud and well-expected by anyone who knew Jeanine well. She has always been touchy about her weight – it was one of the reasons she turned to sports when we were younger. She didn’t really weigh a lot these days… But she was still touchy about this topic.
I fully expected her to fight him, after his actions towards her sister.
But she didn’t. She just looked at her hand like she was seeing it for the first time in her life and stormed out of the gym.
The three of us breathed a sigh of relief. Even Taylor seemed to understand how much he crossed a line.
“Shut it, you ass,” Sonja spat at him. “This is all your fault. And mine…” She turned to me, pleading. “Please go after her. I would, but I don’t think she wants to see me right now. I’ll talk to her when we’re home. But someone should check on her.”
She didn’t need to ask me twice.
I didn’t have to look hard for Jeanine; she was just outside of the building, by the soccer field.
“Hey, I thought you could use some company right now,” I approached her carefully.
“Sonja too chicken to come with you?” Jeanine sniffed.
“She thought you’d rather not see her right now,” I admitted.
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything, really. I don’t know why everything thinks I’m smart. I know I’m good on the field. I know I can solve a calculus problem like it’s a kids’ riddle. But I don’t know shit about life.” She sniffed again.
“Hey, don’t cry. This whole situation is just stupid and not worth you hurting over it.” I tried to be comforting, but something told me there was more to her hurt than only what happened inside.
“You know, I had the biggest crush on him. Since junior high, whenever Taylor was in one of my classes, I’d just stare at him. It was kind of ridiculous, now that I think about it. I think he totally knew,” she wiped away the new tears, before continuing. “I was flattered when he asked me out. I can’t even deny it. Fuck, I was in seventh heaven when he was by my side. It was probably an ego thing, but it felt good to know that one of the more desirable guys in school was my boyfriend. I guess I deserve this whole fiasco for not trusting my gut.”
She laughed bitterly.
“You had no idea he was like that,” I tried to reason with her.
“I didn’t know he was that shitty, true. I had a feeling he wasn’t really into me, though – he was dating me as one of the best athletes in the school, not me as a girl he liked. I just didn’t care enough, until the situation with the earrings. That was a good wake up call. I just wish the rest of my family didn’t have to get involved in my mess.”
I wasn’t sure how to address that. Her situation wasn’t all that different from what happened with me and Morgan, really. The big difference was, Morgan and I weren’t together as long as Jeanine was with Taylor – Jeanine was more emotionally invested and therefore, more hurt from the fallout.
I did the only thing I could and hugged her.
“It’s ok. No offense, but Sonja made her choice when she agreed to come with him. If not her, he would’ve found some other way to cause trouble. And he’s the messed up one, if he decided to set this whole thing up, in the first place. Seriously, you are so much better off without him.”
“I know,” she chuckled. “I just wish I could forget I ever knew him, you know.” She sighed and admitted “Makes me wonder if I’ll ever meet someone decent.”
“You will. Not everyone is like him. Also, you’re not fat. I’m just saying it, so that you don’t let this crap get to your head.”
“Thanks, Phoenix. You know, you’re a great friend, right?” she smiled for real, for the first time.
“I just hate to see my friends hurt. I know I’ve caused enough trouble myself,” I admitted.
“It wasn’t your fault. We just both got together with the wrong people, I guess.”
We began to pull away from one another, but then she tripped, I caught her, and the next moment, our lips met in a kiss.
It was a good kiss. I was surprised – Jeanine and I were always just friends, but this kiss… It was better than I imagined it would be. She was just as surprised, it seemed.
“Phoenix!” she looked me in the eyes. “I’m… I don’t know what I’m doing. What we’re doing. But I feel kind of weird and fuzzy. And you’re a little blurry right now.”
“Yeah, and my head feels weird.”
“The drinks… Someone managed to spike them, after all. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-“
“No, we both did. Look, can we sit down for a bit?” she asked.
I helped her get to the bench. “Are you feeling ok? You aren’t sick, are you?”
“No! Man! I knew something tasted different about those mock-tails. I shouldn’t have had the second one. How long do you think this takes to wear off? I can’t show up at home drunk!”
“I’m not sure, but I hear it goes away faster when you eat something. Let’s hit the 24-hour diner. Some comfort food should hit the spot.”
“Ok, yeah…” She paused for a moment. “And when I’m more sober, we should probably talk, huh?”
Whatever just happened, our kiss had enough chemistry for an entire science classroom, and this wasn’t something to ignore.
After the events of that prom, things seemed to have fallen back into place. Sonja ended up going to the principal herself and confessing to cheating (for being honest, she wasn’t expelled and the teacher agreed to tutor her and help her understand the material better). After news of Taylor’s blackmail went public, his social status suffered and many people sided with Jeanine for dumping the jerk.
The four of us (Jeanine, Jeanne, Trevor, and I) got into the same school, and we were preparing to room together and rent a house to stay in during our years at uni. We were pretty happy about the way things turned out – it was nice to know we weren’t going to be alone in an unfamiliar place. Besides, this way, no one had to break up.
After what happened at the prom, Jeanine and I did have a talk. We’ve both agreed that we’ve felt certain chemistry and we were curious to see where things would go. Besides, we’ve gotten so much closer in the past few months – dating wasn’t such a big step up.
A few weeks before graduation, the two of us came home to find Millie there, madly typing away at her laptop, with Mom arranging papers for her.
“Hey, sis. What’s the fire?”
“The fire is at the lab, bro,” she sighed. “It’s finally biting me in the ass that I didn’t go to a four year school. The upper management has hinted one time too many that I wasn’t up to par.”
“What? That’s ridiculous! You’re their best worker!”
“Not on paper, I’m not. Mom’s helping me apply to the university faster, so that I don’t miss out on the deadline.”
“When is the deadline?” Jeanine chimed in. “Didn’t it pass already?”
“For you guys, yes. For people like me, who are continuing education, the deadline is tomorrow,” she continued to type.
“Tomorrow! That’s insane! Is there even enough time?” I was appalled.
“Well,” Millie clicked one last button, “I’ve literally just sent in the last of the supplemental applications. So, if all goes well, I’ll see you around campus.”
“Wait,” Jeanine nudged me. “If you’re going to be in the same university, come live with us!”
“For reals?” Millie raised her head up from her screen.
“Yeah, totally. It’s cheaper and the more, the merrier, right? We should all stick together.”
“I agree. I miss living with you, sis,” I nodded.
“Me too, little brother. I am going to be missing Chiang and Terrence like crazy when we’re away, but they are on board with the idea of me going to school. At least, there are video chat apps, right? Having you guys there will make it all much better.”
And so, it was decided, that Millie was going to room with the four of us during school. She got in without any trouble and soon, it was time to face higher learning head on.