Mrs. Stewart who was selling the tickets at that time asked “Two tickets? Who are you going with?”
I stared at my feet and muttered, “Mary.”
That was when Mrs. Stewart exclaimed, “MARY, are you two boyfriend and girlfriend?! Aw, that is so cute!” She continued on even after my face was completely red. I quickly signed Mary and I up for a table, seeing that there were three spots open for it, and that Roy, one of my other friends, would be at that table with his date Becca.
After the ruckus Mrs. Stewart made, there was not much use trying to hide that we were going together. Gaining my parents’ permission was quite a bit easier than I thought. I simply told my parents that I wanted to take Mary to the Prom, and they were okay with it. I was so surprised because, normally they would ask a bunch of questions like where would I be going, who would be there, and things like that. I guess they knew that the Prom was going to be supervised by a massive amount of teachers and so they had no problem with it.
The day after I bought the tickets I went to talk to Rick, I had been procrastinating far too long. I had a meet up with him after school, on the way to our soccer practice. “So, Rick, um...I got something to tell you.” I said avoiding eye contact.
“Oh, yeah, what is that?” Rick replied.
“Well, see the thing is Mary asked me out to Prom, and I said yes. I know we had plans to go together, but that was before I got a date. Sorry.” I told him weakly.
“I see…,” Rick said disappointment written all over his face and this was echoed in his suddenly slouched stance. “Do you think that it would still be cool if I sat at your guy's table? That way at least I’d know someone there,” Rick asked with a hopeful tone.
“I don’t think that will be a problem, I am sure Mary won’t mind.” I responded confidently. Please don’t mind, Please don’t mind, I chanted in my head.
Mary and I were still passing notes back and forth this whole time. We had gotten to know each other a lot more in the last few weeks, but I still was unsure how she would respond to this. The next day we ended up with some free time in 7th period. I went over to Mary and said, “Hey Mary, I was wondering if you would be ok if Rick joined us at the Prom. See…we were going to go together since neither of us had a date, but he still has not gotten one, so he would rather sit at our table.”
“I don’t mind if he sits with us,” Mary said.
I detected something in her voice but I couldn't quite place it, so I simply responded, “Great!” I went and told Rick that day after school.
I normally arrived half an hour early, so I went to the cafeteria to wait. When I sat down I heard the door open, and saw Casey had entered. When I made eye contact with her, she shook her head and made a beeline towards me.
Oh, no what did I do this time? I thought to myself. Casey, I found out was the best wing-woman ever. There were multiple reasons why she was so awesome at being a wing woman. One was that she was friends with both Mary and me. The other was that she was much more knowledgeable when it came to social interactions, something to which I was oblivious. If she was shaking her head at me I must have done something wrong.
“Tom, I will get both you and Mary to the Prom, as a couple even if I have to drag you both kicking and screaming,” were the first words out of Casey’s mouth.
“What did I do?” I started to say, then a realization hit me, “...is this about Rick sitting at our table?”
“See, I knew you would start picking this relationship stuff up quickly, Tom,” Casey said with a look like she had just taught me how to color inside the lines.
"But, I can’t do anything about that. The Prom is happening in two days, and I can’t tell Rick that all of a sudden he can’t sit with us. That would be just mean," I said trying to justify myself.
“Never mind what I said about you getting this relationship stuff,” Casey said annoyed, “What do you think will happen at the Prom if you had Mary, your girlfriend, on one side, and your friend Rick, on the other?” Casey was trying desperately to make me see what was wrong.
“What I don’t thi…oh… I see what you are getting at.” I said as the cogs in my brain started turning. I will be stuck between two people vying for my attention. Rick was one of those people who could rub people the wrong way. Part of that was that he was slightly controlling, but seeing as I am a laid back guy, we get along great.
“I am sure it will be fine,” I told myself, “It is not like Rick doesn’t know I have a date with me. Rick will just chat to the other people at the table.”
“I don’t think it will be that big of a problem. Was Mary upset about it?” I asked Casey seeing this conversation in a new light.
“No, she understands that your friend does not have a date, and that it would be awkward for him to sit at a table with no one he knows. She just worried that you would ignore her slightly if he was there,” Casey said slightly pointedly.
“Come on...Rick will know that I am there with Mary and will respect that,” I said defensively.
“He might, or he might be insecure about your friendship, but either way it is on your head now. Oh, and by the way, Mary’s dress is blue so wear a blue tie.” Casey informed me as she walked to her class. The bell ringing as she left.
The next few days passed rather uneventfully, well, except for my growing anxiety and general nervousness. Mary and I had decided just to meet each other at the ballroom where the Prom was being held.
Just a few hours before the Prom, I was thinking, “This makes my life easier, as I do not have a car or a license yet. Besides, I get to skip out on any moments with Mary’s dad cleaning a shotgun. You know I have never met Mary’s parents. Huh, I have to remedy that later.”
As I arrived at the Prom, dressed in the finest clothes that I could borrow from my dad, I went searching for both Mary, and our table. I found Mary pretty quickly, “One of the perks of being tall” She was on the opposite side of the ballroom. I quickly walked towards her, my stomach was doing flips in my chest as my nerves were being executed as if playing Russian roulette. I saw that she was taking a picture of the placeholders on the table which had our names on them. As I scanned the other placeholders, I saw that Rick was on my other side. There were three other names at the table that I recognized. John, I was in a play with him at one point, Becca was a friend of mine, and Roy. Roy was a close friend of mine, and he was going out with Becca. I looked up and saw Becca and Roy coming to the table.
“Hi, Mary,” I said seeing she had finished taking her photo, “Did you know that Roy and Becca were together?” I asked.
“Yes, I think they’re great couple” Mary said, looking positively delighted.
“Hey, Roy! So you found yourself a date. Did you ask or did she have to ask you?” I asked half teasing him, and half poking fun at myself.
“Ha-ha, yeah, I am just as bad as you are when it comes to getting a date,” he said jovially as he and I pulled out he chairs for our dates.
This is when I spotted Rick coming into the room. I waved at him as he looked around the room. Once he spotted me, which was not hard, he promptly came over and sat in the seat to my right. When I sat down I saw Becca give me a slightly strange look. Ignoring it as I was sure everything was going to be fine that night. I turned and looked at the other placeholders. I was wondering who would take the one beside Rick. I looked at the placeholder and read the name Ann. Having no idea who that was I looked over to Mary’s right and read those and find out that she would be sitting next to a girl named Jess, and that on the other said of Jess would sit John.
“That is strange. Most girls don’t come to prom without a date.” I said pointing to Ann’s spot.
“Well Ann does have a date, but he was not approved, although that does not stop him from lurking around outside. I saw them both hanging around out there. I heard about her boyfriend in class. He was denied because the staff deemed him too old. Which I kind of have to agree with I mean she is a freshman in High school, and he is like a junior in college.” explained Becca.
There was a collective “Oh” and then lots of nods and agreement to the staff decision. It was then that I saw Jack walk his date in. He pulled out her chair, and she took it…rather angrily. The food was just now being served, and I heard John ask Jess “Would you like me to get you a glass of punch or water?”
“I don’t care” Jess said very testily. John, however, seemed not to be put off by this and grabbed both of their glasses and headed to the punch bowl.
The rest of the table was shocked by this and it made us all rather quiet. Eager to break the silence I stood up and asked Mary “Would you like a glass of punch?” as I grabbed her glass from the table.
“I got yours, Tom.” Rick said suddenly as he stood up a grabbing both mine and his own glass, as he quickly walked towards the punch bowl, drowning out Mary’s modest answer, fortunately, she had also nodded her head.
Taking her cup I made my way through the crowd to the punch bowl the whole time thinking, “What was up with Rick? What is up with Jess? Oh, look a photo booth. Mary loves taking pictures. I will need to keep that in mind if things go south at the table. When did all these people get here? Ok, Tom calm down and focus, just get the glass of punch andDON’T spill it that would be a total disaster.”
When I reached the punch bowl, both John and Rick passed me. Rick looked away from me like he was avoiding eye contact with me. 'Great, that is just one more thing to keep me occupied. Only two more hours, Tom, you can do it. Just be cool… ok, not cool, but relaxed, ok?' I thought while I made my way back through the throng of people very carefully.
“Here you go Mary.” I said while I gently placed her cup in front of her plate.
“Thank you, Tom!” Mary said as she reached out to pick up the cup, all the while with a beautiful smile on her face.
I then notice that my cup also had been placed in front of my plate filled with punch. “Thanks Rick, but I could have gotten my own you know.” I said with a smirk on my face as I took a swig of the punch. Just as I set my cup down, Ann pulled out her chair.
“Sorry I am late. I had to talk to my boyfriend. He was not ‘allowed’ as the school thinks he is too old. I think is a stupid rule. I… oh.” Ann said eyes going wide when she saw that I was sitting there at the table. Then very quickly narrowing and staring daggers at me.
She quickly stopped as I sat there smiling and acting like I had no idea what she was talking about. The rest of the table was giving me support by rolling their eyes, all of them except John and Jess. John was trying to have a whispered conversation, but Jess was ignoring him and staring her daggers at the table.
'Yeah, well I am sure my dad was not the only one on the board or here that thinks it is bad idea to be dating someone that much older. Oh, come on Rick talk to her or at least get in her line of sight so she stops piecing me with her daggers, because if I keep taking those I am going to have to say something. You can do more then roll your eyes once to help out here buddy. Man, it is annoying to be nice sometimes.”'
Then it hit me! “Hey Mary do you want to get our picture taken before they start serving food, that way we can’t have food stuck in our teeth?” I said standing and turning my back to Jess.
“Casey would kill me if she had just heard that…I can’t believe I just said that. I almost want to kill me. Sigh, oh well, can’t do anything about that or my face that is now blushing. I hate my life” The last part repeating over and over in my mind as I am smiling with a very red face at Mary.
“Hehe, that sounds like a great idea, Tom. It would be bad to have that mess up our pictures.” Mary said with a smile that communicated, that I was funny.
When we got to the photographer he set us up beside each other. He had a little difficulty making sure he did not cut off the top of my head. Once he was done shooting he told us that we could get the pictures online within a couple of days. We thanked him and made our way over to the buffet line, which opened up right after we had made it to the photo booth. The main course was angel hair pasta with chicken parmesan it with a side of green beans and cheesy potatoes. When we got to the end of the line I offered my free hand to Mary asking “Do you want me to carry that back for you?”
“Sure!” Mary said blessing me with her beautiful smile.
“You know my life is great.” I thought as I floated behind Mary back to the table. As we were approaching the table I saw Ann get up and leave.
“Where is she off to?” I asked as I set Mary and my food down.
“Bathroom. Tom, you have to try the cheesy potatoes they are so good,” Rick said as he dug into his food. The rest of the table had already taken their seats and started eating. Well, everyone except Jess who was picking at her plate with very obvious disgust.
“Tom, you should try the chicken first it is great!” Mary said as she was taking her third bite of chicken.
“Wow this is really good,” I said looking over at Mary.
“How are the potatoes, Tom?” Rick asked surreptitiously.
“They are good too.” I said taking a bite of the potatoes.
The rest of the meal was finished in silence. The atmosphere growing steadily gloomier as Jess made it clear she was not enjoying her time with several huffs and loud sighs. When I finished my meal, I was suddenly under siege from both sides.
“What was your favorite part?’ Mary and Rick said sounding to me like a dual voice over.
“Uh, I thought the punch was the best. I mean it was fantastic!” I said as I quickly reached out to take a nice long sip of my punch. This was quite hard as there was next to nothing left in my cup. I glanced at everyone at the table; I could tell the night was not that great of a success. I could see that Roy and Becca, were not doing well. It was not like they didn’t like each other, but it was more of a friendship, than romance, and I could see on their faces that both of them knew it. John was still having whispered conversations with Jess. He was a nice guy, so either he needs a new girl, or he did something really wrong. Mary looked beautiful, but also kind of put out with the experience. Rick also seemed to be feeling down. Ann had not returned from her bathroom visit, and by this time, none of us expected her to.
Fortunately for everyone it seemed to be time to leave, as people started making their way to the doors. I stood up and asked Mary “Can I walk you to your car?”
“I would like that Tom.” Mary said as that smile of hers lit up her face.
When we said our goodbyes to the rest of the table, Rick gave me a small nod, and I knew he was sorry if he had messed things up, which also meant he also knew not to follow us out the door. I walked Mary out to the car. Neither of us was in the mood to say much. When we got to her car I opened the door for her, and said “I am sorry tonight was not that great. I thought that the pictures we took turned out great.” I said trying to lighten the mood.
“It is ok Tom. I got to go with you so that made it worthwhile.” She said with such charm and grace.
“Yeah, same here.” I said blushing so much; I must have been visible from three rows down. “I will see you on Monday.” I said as I took a step back from the car and waved goodbye.
“See you then.” Mary said as she closed her car door and drove away.
“Ok, that was no good. I did not impress her at all. The next time I will have to do much better.”