I never imagined myself going to Prom, with a girl or even just a group of people. Never did the thought cross my mind that I’d be dating Claudia, and even more so that we would be going to the event together. I really had gone far forward into my life, from a little elementary school boy… to the Loner… and then to being accepted into the world.
Claudia was obviously planning a lot for how she would look; many times she asked me on my opinion on what she should do and if she should go to beauty school or not. My voice didn’t matter much to her, and eventually my usual “You look fine” response became mechanical. She’d always roll her eyes and walk away, but always smile afterwards as though it had all been a joke, though I thought I was telling the truth at least.
Apparently whatever she was doing was so important she began begging to force me out of the house. I argued back I had nowhere else to go, and it wasn’t like it would go and check to see what she was doing. She got Daniel to help, and both of them told me to head back to my house. With a shrug, I was practically shoved out the doors. Girls and their fashion crazes… however, they forgot one important fact:
I didn’t have my own house anymore.
I must have looked like a fool out there on the sidewalk in front of Claudia’s house, which was the only home I possessed. Suddenly, a shock came across my mind, and my mind turned over to an empty For Sale lot down the street.
Nature had taken over the building due to reluctance and having been uninhabited for a long time period. The grass seemingly reached one foot high while vines took an iron grip on the walls that had once been plain white, and now were scratched and lost their color. The windows were made dark by the shadowy interior and were cloaked by vegetation.
As I observed these details, it was hard to remember that I had once lived inside of that structure, I had once called it home… and my parents once lived there, raised me there… no, stop thinking about that my mind, always the voice of reason, said to me. Nowadays I dwelled on the memory of my parents all too much, more than before. Having lost them was a severe blow to me… but I had to just… move on.
Some twisted attitude of curiosity struck me, and for some reason I now wanted to walk into the place that I had previously lived in. Even though I didn’t think I was right… what else could I do? I had been basically shoved out of what was now my house… might as well.
Slowly I wandered over to the lot, a new sense of purpose set into my mind. If the area was all ignored as the exterior said, I might be able to just waltz right in. I went forward up the familiar sidewalk on onto the threshold. With one deep breath, I gradually brought my arm up to the door handle, now beginning to wonder whether or not I should be doing this. Quickly, I yanked on the object, and I was surprised to see it open up wide.
I gazed inside the hallway I used to roam. Cautiously, as though entering might set off a bomb and explode me right then and there, I put one foot into the building. I let out a deep breath as all of my previous life memories began flowing back to me.
For most of my life I would get off a big, yellow school bus, a backpack loaded with heavy textbooks and binders, run up the sidewalk and then retreat into what I had commonly referred to as my fortress, my castle, a kingdom of security. If they were around and not on the business trips they commonly ran off on, I would offer a hurried ‘hello’ to them, usually refusing to tell them how my day went. That was back when every second of my existence was some form of Hell. I’d take the staircase up to my room and start lamenting on how terrible I had it compared to everyone else.
Before I could get any further, I ventured up the stairs myself and shut out my rampaging, vicious thoughts that tried to make me recall the darkest hours of my days. I looked both ways when I reached the second floor landing; to the left was the study, then to the right were all of the bedrooms. I decided to check out what had once been where I slept.
Literally nothing had changed since I moved out. The real-estate agency must have overlooked removing all of the furniture, or at least doing some remodeling. I could still see the dents left in the walls from when I assaulted them by throwing various objects at them in my rage. The calendar that I watched so closely was present, and after flipping through it I noticed one particular message; “The Loner: Curtain Call and Fin.” It was on the day of my attempted suicide.
Other dates were marked, often pertaining to Daniel and Claudia, back when our friendship was built upon lies and threatened animosity. A photo was on a shelf showing the three of us from the first day of high school that we shared together. After looking at myself and then at the picture, I muttered “Oh how we’ve changed…”
I guess that was my closure. We had come from being the greatest enemies to the best friends, liars to honest citizens, from angry to happy. It certainly was a long, bumpy road towards that point that I dare not look over. Instead, I continued to observe the other pieces of my history that were strewn about the room.
I didn’t even gasp, let out any sound, or thought anything about noticing the picture or Samantha and I from the middle school dance. She had destroyed my life, twice… then threw Craig Johnson’s life out to dry, even though he deserved his treatment in a way. Somehow she got to the point where life wasn’t worth living, and her head was blown off by a shotgun shell. I turned away from the insignificant possession.
I laid down on the bed I had used to sleep in and closed my eyes. It had been too long since I had seen this house, and even though it had terrible memories that I tried my best to eliminate, there was some feeling of calmness established by being in my old residence.
Just like the day I discovered Leeman’s dirty money, I feel into the blackness that signaled that a dream was incoming. Unlike the last time, I welcomed the nightmare and whatever it may bring me. I felt as though I still had lingering thoughts that I either had to let out or diminish, and maybe a little tour through my warped imagination might be all that I require.
Oddly enough, I found myself in a familiar setting; the classroom Leeman shot me in last time I dreamt. Instead of standing in front of me, mocking me while pulling out his gun, he seemed to be floating in front of me, his face locked in a grotesque expression. When I looked up, I saw that he was hanged from the roof and had already died. Like last time, it was a subliminal message; the three of us sending Leeman to prison, or ‘hanging him up’ one could say I guess. In simple terms, it was us ending his life in school.
I was wandering about the neighborhood now. It was dark, in the middle of the night. I looked to me right and saw that I was in front of Daniel’s house. I walked inside, not bothering to knock on the door, which was strangely unlocked. For some unknown purpose, I walked into his backward, where a sight more sickening than Leeman’s death presented itself to me.
Daniel was lying on a bench that was in front of a fake pond his mom made in the backyard. Blood was pouring out from where he had stabbed himself was a long, sharp kitchen knife. I tried to run forward and save him; he was still breathing; but I was held back by an invisible force. I struggled to comprehend what this image showed me, suddenly wishing I never agreed with my mind to delve into this dream.
Words were spoken my something I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t decipher who it was. “You really don’t understand him, do you?” The voice sounded like a male voice warped to sound as though it were female.
Shuddering from that last encounter, I went forward into the nightmare. I saw Claudia again, and, remembering how things went last time when she appeared in my imagination, I instantly became cautious and weary that things could become quickly distorted.
She approached me shyly as though she had something to tell me, but didn’t want to let it. After what felt like an eternity, she opened her mouth and spoke.
“This just… isn’t working, Lionel. I think we need to… need to break”.
This wasn’t as weird as the last thing she said to me in my dreaming, but it certainly was strange. Was Claudia going to break up with me in the future? Did I do something that could lead to her not wanting to be with me anymore? I was more confused than saddened.
My eyes opened back up into the scenery of my old room. Sighing from having to go through another jog through the minefield that was my head, I slowly rose from my position and looked out the window. Charles’ house was shadowy and devoid of activity. No cars were present in the driveway… including the Roadrunner he drove off the bridge.
As I exited my house, I spun around as though I was going to lock the door so that no one would break in, but reality reminded me that this was not where I stayed anymore. I looked down the street towards Claudia’s house. If I could get kicked out of there so easily for a reason unknown to me, did I truly, honest-to-God belong somewhere… at all? Or was I still an orphan even after adoption? I felt Prom becoming less magical than it seemed to be. All I had thought it was, was a simple night out at a dance. Then I got kicked out because of beautification, which led to me dwelling on depressing thoughts once again, as though the lessons I learned previously didn’t tell me anything.
I began to ease my mind onto a more important subject; what now? I had a few hours to kill and absolutely nothing to kill them with. I flipped out my cellphone and began browsing through my contacts. Somehow had to be available or was doing something. I knew Daniel was busying himself with something, though he didn’t tell me exactly what. After a long time, I saw Stephanie Yossel’s name appear on my contacts. I had been talking to her a lot ever since Leeman got booted out and our social lives were returned to us.
She told me that she was hosting a pre-Prom party at her place tonight. By now it had already started. Most of the guests would be girls, or at least that’s what she said, but some boys I knew would be there, so it wouldn’t be completely awkward. Her house wasn’t far down the street; just a few homes down from Daniel’s. Interesting in what was going down, I began to set course towards her residence.
A quick glance at my watch assured me that I had at least an hour to kill before I went to retrieve Daniel and then get our dates. Even though I was still peeved at how they had kicked me out, I couldn’t wait to see how Claudia looked. She had been dress-browsing for weeks ever since I asked her, and when I asked her about it one day, she kissed me and said “It’s a surprise”.
I wandered up to the entrance of Stephanie’s house and knocked on the door. I could hear the sounds of a pretty good-sized party from the inside. I heard a call reply to me from inside of the building.
“Halt! Who goes there?” It was obviously Stephanie’s voice, and I could tell that she knew that it was I that was on her threshold.
“It is I, King Arthur, King of the Britain’s” I replied, referencing her favorite movie. From the laugh inside, I knew she got it.
The door opened wide and Stephanie greeted me at the door. She was a beautiful girl, with blonde hair that was nearly white, sparkling green eyes, the perfect face and figure. Her dress was silver was gold decorations.
“Hey, Lionel!” she said. “I didn’t expect that you’d show up”.
“Glad I could surprise you” I answered, entering the house. I saw right-off-the-bat a lot of girls, with a few boys scattered throughout. I felt bad for going here without Claudia, but then again she had preparations to do and would want me to occupy myself.
“What’s been up? I haven’t talked with you in like, ten hours!” she said jokingly.
“If you can’t go without me for that long, then somebody in this room is obsessed”. After she laughed, I answered her original question. “I got booted out of my house for now, so I decided I’d check and see how things were over here”.
“Booted? Sounds pretty mean” she responded, nodding as she said it.
I simply shrugged. “I guess when you got to look your best, you can’t let anyone else see it. I assume that it’s one of those situations where it’s, ‘Or else-‘”
“Fed to sharks”.
After laughing over how we just played off of each other, Stephanie brought me further into the center of the party. Loud music was playing, but not party music, no… this was REAL music. The End Of Innocence by Symphony X pounded out of the speakers. I grinned at Stephanie; she knew what real music was, and so did her friends. Gotta love metal music. Almost everyone was head-banging, fist pumping, or singing along with Russell Allen’s amazing vocals.
“Good choice” I pointed out, though she already knew I approved of it.
“I just bought the new album, and I wish I could have gotten it before” she commented. “Special edition… two disks, three new songs. Awesome!”
She reached into a cooler and picked out a Dr. Pepper as though she knew I’d be asking for one eventually. She tossed it to me, and I accepted the gift graciously. “That’s to stop you for begging me for one later” she said pointing at the can.
A few of her friends wandered over, so Stephanie introduced me. I knew almost everyone at the party. Some of them were the sports guys I had been hanging out with a lot, especially the swimming team. They were trying to convince me to swim for my senior year since they believed I was good and had potential, but I wasn’t all for it.
Speaking of friends, Forrest came over and offered me a high-5. I took it and slapped his hand as hard as I could. I laughed when he shook his hand in pain.
“Someone must be pumped tonight” he replied to my action, grinning. “You’re going with Claudia right? She’s pretty hot”.
“Who are you going with?” I asked him. I shouldn’t have asked, with how close he had gotten to Stephanie in the past month.
“Steph, of course” he said, smiling. “I guess I’ll be seeing you there? I heard they might be able to squeeze in some good quality music instead of all of that pop crap”.
My eyes widened. “We must have really been vocal”.
He nodded excitedly. “I’m definitely looking forward to it. I assume I’ll be talking to you later? Unless you die on the way there of course”.
“Eh, eat poison”.
“To the guillotine!”
Forrest laughed. “Alright, I’ll give you that one”. A lot of times, we tried thinking about elaborate ways to kill each other on the top of our heads just for the heck of it. Most of the time, he won. I wasn’t sure where he got such a vivid imagination, but I guess that’s why I stuck with him.
The hour I had passed quickly. There were a lot of activities and games going on shortly after I entered, so I did those in-between chatting with friends. A quick glance at my watch showed that it was time for me to go pick up Daniel and then get our dates.
Giving Stephanie and some others a hug, I exited and set course to Daniel’s house. His house wasn’t as live with activity as I would have assumed; barely any lights were turned on. I quickly ran up and knocked on his door. Surprisingly, I was not greeted by my wingman, but instead his mom.
“Hey! Is Daniel around?” I asked her, looking in the space behind her.
She nodded, a confused expression on her face. “He is… I’m just not sure where. I’d just run up and check his room. He’s probably holed up in there”.
Acting on her instructions, I took the staircase up to where Daniel’s room was located. I planned to knock on the door, but it was already wide open. After calling his name, I peeked my head inside. His room was a complete mess; clothes were lying in various places, his bed covers were lying somewhere in the chaos, and a bunch of other miscellaneous items were thrown into the mix.
There was no sign of Daniel around. I took a step inside to get a better view, but it was to no avail. Curious, I walked over to the windows at the back of his room that had a view of the backyard. I looked out and that’s when I saw him, sitting on the bench I saw in the dream.
He was dressed in an all-black suit and an all-black undershirt. He had a dark blue tie, and his hair had somehow been combed to look nice. Seeing him now made me look myself over; I had a jet-black suit with a gray undershirt and a maroon tie. Suddenly becoming self-conscious, I wondered if I looked terrible and Claudia wouldn’t like it.
My mind drifted to what Daniel was doing sitting down there all on his lonesome, and a more important fact; why didn’t he say that he was going to be there? Well, he was there, so I took the stairs back down to the first floor and headed towards the kitchen where the screen door to the backyard was located at. I pushed it open, making sure to close it on my way out.
Daniel turned when he heard my movement. His face was dark and marked by a frown; he obviously was not in a good mood. He offered a weak “hey” and promptly turned away. I took a seat next to him and asked the obvious question;
Having not earned an answer from this statement, I repeated myself again, more emphasis put on my words. Daniel shrugged and finally opened him mouth to speak more than one word.
“Honestly, I really don’t know”.
I shrugged. “I don’ know usually means that you don’t want to talk about it”.
After he gave me a sideways glance I knew I got him. He sighed, took a deep breath, and then delivered something that certainly surprised me. “You know I hate thinking… right?”
Another shrug. “It’s been a while since we decided to have a friendly chat”.
He laughed at my comment. “Yeah... for once we’re not aiming to kill each other”.
“You don’t know that”.
After a few seconds, we just started laughing, even though it really wasn’t that funny of a joke. It was simply the fact that we really haven’t talked to each other in a long time, at least a friendly chat. A long time had passed and we hardly carried a long conversation.
“I guess… it kind of has been a pretty long time. I can’t believe we used to be like that-“
I cut him off. “Let’s not try and stray off the topic”.
He nodded, his attempt to sidetrack what I asked him before having failed. “I… I really don’t know. It’s just…” he had a long pause. “Last time I had a girlfriend, or got close to a girl… I screwed up”. He looked over at me. “I don’t want to screw up again”.
Woah. That was some deep thinking. I struggled to figure out what to say. I never knew he had such thoughts, and by the looks of it, he had kept them bottled up for a long time.
I started going on autopilot. “Hearts were meant to be broken”. Ouch… for a starting statement, it didn’t sound very good. But I went on. “You just have to learn from your mistakes. Don’t live a lie… and don’t do bad things. Sometimes, you just get into something, but then you screw up… or they screw up… for just one second, you close your eyes, you blink… when you open up and look around, you lost your heaven…”
Daniel said nothing, so I continued. “I mean… people screw up all the time. That’s just how the world is map. You screw up, I screw up… everyone makes mistakes. If… if a relationship ended with a mistake… you just have to try your best not to do it again”.
He spoke against this. “Last time it was I that made a mistake. I screwed up my life. Maybe not that dramatic, but still…”
“Do you know how much Sarina likes you?”
He shook his head. “I never really though anyone liked me to be honest. My friends, my family… I feel like I’m living on an island all on my lonesome”.
“She turned down three different Prom and date offers because she was hoping you would finally ask her. She only wanted you” I said, pointing at him. “You’re smarty, witty, and a lot more popular than you think.”
He took a deep breath. “You know… I guess you’re right. I shouldn’t dwell on bad thoughts… we should look forward, future-bound”.
I nodded, slowly at first and then faster. “I never thought I’d ever be off to Prom, much less a dance in general. It’s going to be great…” I paused, searching for words. “I actually don’t know how it will be. I’ve heard a lot of people say-“
“Relax” Daniel replied. “Think of who we’re going with, and think of all of the people we know that will be there. It’s going to be great. We get to take pictures, then we dance, chat with all of the people we know… just a big social gathering. A time to kick back and chill”.
“And hopefully” I said, thinking back to the party I just attended, “there will be some quality music this time around”.
After laughing, we began a lengthy, useless conversation just about how we were doing. It was the first time in a while that we had talked to each other in such a friendly manner, and for so long. For once I felt as though I could finally get along with my wingman, and we were on good terms. The night saw us laughing and talking for what felt like hours.
At length, we looked at our watches and decided that we ought to go to Claudia’s and pick up our dates. We exited Daniel’s house with a new excited mood implanted in our brains. As we crossed the street, I forgot about how I thought about how I looked; I was going to have fun with all of my friends… and I’d be with the love of my life.
I let Daniel knock on the door. After waiting a few seconds, we were surprised to see Sarina open the door. I didn’t pay much attention to what she was wearing, and I was rather looking for where Claudia was.
Sarina, noticing this, pointed behind her. “She’s just chilling in the living room, waiting on you”. She smiled. “You ought to go see her”.
After saying thanks, I brushed past her, and when I turned back to look at her and Daniel I saw that they were kissing. I grinned; he would be okay in the end.
I continued down the hall to where I was told Claudia was located, but I didn’t see her. Confused, I looked around a bit more. Then I heard a “surprise!” from behind me. I realized I had been tricked once again. I turned around, and I was thankfully able to stop my mouth from dropping on the floor.
Claudia had really outdone herself. Her dress was maroon with silver deocations. Her hair wasn’t locked in a pony tail or any sort of braid like it usually was, and instead flowed down below her shoulders, naturally curly. She also had some expensive earrings on as well as a golden necklace.
“Like it?” she asked me. To this, I only had one answer.
We kissed in the middle of the room. It wasn’t anything passionate, just a simple kiss that we held each other in until Daniel called “Are you two lovebirds coming?”
Smiling at each other, madly in love, we raced out to Daniel’s car where he and Sarina awaited, while we held hands. I knew this wasn’t going to end. Dreams can say what they will, but I love Claudia, and she loves me too… we’re in love, to put it simply.
It’s time for a good night.