Mom has been going on and on about me getting a job. Doesn’t she understand how much work school is??
Thankfully, the rumors about me being topless and easy died down after Chelle Lee was kicked off the cheerleading squad. Apparently, she and some Junior were caught smoking weed under the football bleachers during lunch. Usually kids that high up on the social pyramid get off with a slap on the wrist, but the new Dean of Students seems to want to make a splash. It’s not going to work. Her parents will go to the school board and she’ll be back on the squad before regionals.
Anyway, I aced all my quizzes so far except for Government. I missed 2 and got a B. I’ve been staying up an extra hour at night to read over my government text because I really need a fantastic G.P.A. to make up for last year when I didn’t really care. I’m going to have to get excellent grades and write a really great college essay to show them that that I am redeeming myself and deserve entrance into their hallowed halls. I’m thinking about volunteering, too. Right after Homecoming.
I made the ballot!
I can’t wait to tell Mom we have to go dress shopping!
I am freaking out! I mean, I didn’t get queen; that went to Chesea Cray, who totally deserves it. She is the nicest cheerleader, would let you borrow anything, and can speak 3 languages fluently. But I made court! Now I have to choose a date.
Alyssa is obviously going with Chris, and it is customary that the star quarterback’s homeboys and closest wannabe’s also make court. That means I should ask Chase.
But should I?
It would start the rumors all over again. “Hey, remember how she was all over him at that party?” “Yeah, drunk and topless!” I don’t want that. My other choice is the other wannabe, Bret, who is a few french fries short of a happy meal, hit his head too many times. Or Jeff, the only guy friend I sorta have. I don’t want him to think I want a relationship, and don’t think I don’t know he doesn’t like me. I just don’t like him like that.
Mom was really excited for me, but her schedule hasn’t worked out so that she can go shopping with me.
Shopping alone is no fun, so I called up Kelsie. I haven’t mentioned her before, even though we eat lunch together every day. Kelsie is a quiet bookish girl, kind of an outsider, a loner, like me. She is neutral. She doesn’t make a fuss, and no one really notices she is there. She is pretty, but she doesn’t know it, which means she doesn’t flaunt it, and doesn’t try to flirt with the football team.
I don’t know much about her, what her favorite music is, or foods she hates. I really don’t know if she’s a shopper.
She met me at the mall and we went straight to Macy’s. I have to buy a gown in red, because our school colors are red and black. I realize as I am trying on these dresses that red makes me feel like a hooker.
“Kelsie, um, I feel like a hooker.”
“Let me see you.” I step out into the 3 way mirror and turn from side to side to see all angles of me. “You kinda look like a hooker.” Kelsie giggles. “How about something longer?”
I tried on a red dress with a halter top and an A-line skirt. Stepping into the 3 way was less embarrassing and more like I thought trying on dresses would be.
“Oh, get some long gloves and a tiara and you’re a princess! And I’m not trying to be facetious. That dress is amazing.” Leave it to Kelsie to use big words. I had to look that up.
I bought it. Kelsie and I went to get some ice cream, which for me was frozen yogurt. I realized I hadn’t eaten breakfast this morning and I was suddenly STARVING. After froyo, I bought a 12 inch sub sandwich and I never eat a full 12 incher. I was planning on saving the other half for dinner, but I ate it. I downed two sodas, too. I’m going to have to run those off. Kelsie had some weird Chinese food that looked healthy until they dumped on all the sauce. I wrinkled my nose at it. She laughed at me.
“So, who are you taking to homecoming?” She asked after politely wiping her sauce stained lips. Again. She takes dainty bites too. I never noticed how proper she is when she eats. It was formal, and a little unsettling.
“I haven’t asked anyone yet.” I realized this was a major flaw, which Kelsie pointed out tactfully.
“You’d better, before the poor guy has no time to rent a tux.”
“You’re right.” I sighed.
“So, I have to ask, is Chase not an option?”
“Well, I didn’t want to bring up all the stories and rumors.”
“Okay, so who’s your fall-back guy? Got a friend that you can go with and not feel awkward?”
“Not really. I mean there’s Jeff, but we’re not really close. We just had a couple classes together last year. I don’t want him to think it’s something more, you know?” She nodded and wrinkled her nose in thought. Then her eyes brightened as an idea struck her.
“I heard a guy talking about you in the hall once.”
“Who?” This sounded shady at best.
“I don’t know who he was, but I think he was a Junior.”
“He probably just wants to date a Senior girl who he thinks is easy. I’m not easy! I swear I didn’t do anything with Chase!” I admit, I got a little vehement here.
“I believe you, okay?” Kelsie held her hands up defensively and giggled. “So that leaves Jeff.”
“Jeff,” I sighed.
“Unless someone asks you.”
I laughed, because right then I realized something, “They are all afraid I’ll make them look desperate.”
“You think Dean Wyler would let you take me?” Kelsie waggled her eyebrows comically.
I laughed again. “That would make a statement! I mean you’re pretty and all, but Dean Wyler would not go for that.”
“Then don’t tell him. Don’t tell anybody.”
I pretended to consider it, my finger to my chin in an over-exaggerated pose. Kelsie grinned and took our trash to the bin. “Well?” she asked upon her return, as if that was enough time to consider the false suggestion.
“You’re crazy!” I stood up and joined her for the walk to the mall exit. She was strangely silent again. I was busy carrying the heavy dress, so I wasn’t paying close attention to her mood.
“Did you mean what you said about me being pretty?”
I froze. How to answer? Because I wasn’t into girls, and I was beginning to think she thought this WAS a date. I decided to go with the truth. “Yes. You just don’t think you are.”
She drove me home since I had taken the bus. “See? You are a rebel! Taking the germy city bus!”
“My mom needed the car.” I shamefully explained.
“It’s cool, this is my Dad’s car.” She eased the tension. There was a silence between us as we eased into the understanding that we were actually cool with each other. It was like this shopping trip was a date. It felt a little awkward.
She stopped at my driveway. “Well, thanks for the shopping trip and for driving me home!” I was alittle too friendly, awkwardly friendly and obvious that I was making this NOT a date.
She studied her steering wheel. “I think you should ask someone to Homecoming who would make a statement. I think you should ask me.” I stared at her. She blushed. Sharing this idea was a risk. I was speechless. This was not a date! I’m not into girls! I just..left. I know it was rude, but I didn’t know what else to do.
I don’t remember going into my house, but I found myself flopping on my bed beside my dress. What kind of new me do I want to be? Taking a girl to homecoming was a bit too rebellious. I had no idea she liked me like that. She is such a quiet girl; I’d never have imagined she secretly desired to do something so outrageously bold.
But if I don’t find a date soon, she may be my only option.
Homecoming rehearsals. It is a closed stage, court only, to practice our entrances.
But before I tell you this story, I need to tell you another one.
I was a bit nervous about seeing Kelsie at lunch on Monday. What if she thinks I totally rejected her and is hurt? But seated at our table was a guy. I thought it was ‘the’ guy the Junior she knew, but he wasn’t. Turns out he was an AV nerd, but not the pocket-protector type. He was kinda cute. He looked really nervous, like I was some sort of superstar and I realized it had to be because of the topless lap dance make-out thing.
“Hannah, this is James. He would like to be your date for homecoming.” Kelsie beamed. She thought she just won the best-friend of the year. It is tough to hook up the person you like with someone else. Unless she is over me.
Or unless she has something up her sleeve. I’m not sure I’m ready to pass off that bold streak she has under her quiet exterior.
“Hi, James. Do you speak?” I went for bluntness so he didn’t get any ideas that this was like a formal application for the role of my boyfriend.
“Uh, hi, Hannah. Yes, I speak. I’d love to go with you to homecoming, if you would take me.” What a relief! Nothing in his restatement spoke of commitment.
“Well, I happen to have an opening. For one night, and rehearsals.” I made sure he knew this was a one time deal.
“I have a tux. Do you dance?”
“What?” Since when did dancing appear on the table?
“There is an after-party I assume you’ll want to attend. I just want to know what to expect, dancing or no.” Oh. Yeah, I had to go to the dancing part, too. With my date.
I think I fell for him a little right then. I mean, matter of fact goes a long way with me. “Uh, yeah. I dance.”
“Great! See you at rehearsals.” He left the table, almost like he knew we girls needed to process this development through 20 minutes of chit-chat. Which we did, and which I won’t reproduce here.
Today he comes in, takes my arm, everyone glances at him, Chase, Chris, Alyssa, Chelsea, but they didn’t say a word. I think James reveled in it. This did wonders for his reputation, as long as he played it cool. I was an ice queen, the epitome of calm collected-ness. I held his elbow and stared straight ahead at my marks on the stage. I think it’s funny how they taped off the places so the dumb cheerleaders could find them even if they were high. Oh wait, Chelle isn’t on the homecoming court.
Then later, I hit the bathroom before lunch and hear this, “Who is that guy Hannah got for Homecoming?”
“Like, he probably asked her ‘cause he thinks she’ll put out.”
“Yeah, and he’ll get her drunk and she will.” They laughed and left. I was so mad and James deserved to know. I set my tray down with Kelsie and scanned the cafeteria for him. “What’s up Hannah?” Kelsie’s eyebrows were way up.
“People are talking smack about James and he deserves to know.”
“Oh, he knows.”
“Sit down.” I sat. “He knew going into this that people would talk. Look, you have to stop worrying about what others think.”
Kelsie was right. If I was going to be the person I wanted to be, I had to stop worrying about others and just be cool. I calmed down and forced myself not to think about it, because they were wrong anyway.
I think I slept in til noon. So much for not worrying what others think. I had tossed and turned all night, finally falling into a sleep where I dreamed of everyone laughing at me and realized I was naked.
I awoke with an adrenaline rush. I wanted to go for a run, but I knew the prep for this day was going to take all my stamina. I took a shower and my mother practically met me at the shower curtain with a blow dryer and curling iron. I’m sure my hair will never forgive me.
If that weren’t enough, it was makeup time next. Thank goodness I could climb in the dress without it touching my face. I don’t think I could endure touch-ups. Then she took about a million indoor AND outdoor pictures. I can only imagine what prom will be like! I didn’t want to make a fuss, so I smiled pretty and then told her we were going to be late.I was going to meet James at the school, to make things more casual. Mom dropped me off and we waited outside for him to show up. It seemed like everyone in the whole school walked past us to go inside. The later it got, the more snickers and laughter I heard, and the more I thought they were at my expense.
“Mom I’ve got to go in, maybe he’ll show up last minute, maybe he had a flat tire.”
“Okay honey, I’ll go get a seat.”
Waiting backstage alone was humiliating. I was beginning to sweat and I know that was not good for the dress. The music started, some ceremonial stuff, and the first couple waited just behind the auditorium curtain. I was third from last, and stagehands frowned and made us get in order. “Where is your date?!” One hissed. “I..I don’t know.” I blushed under all that makeup. “You need a date or you don’t go on!” Snickers behind me.
I spied a suit jacket in the shadows. It was my turn. “There!” I pointed. The stagehand raced over and hissed at him to get over there, without looking. Someone took my arm, but it wasn’t James.
The stagehand shoved us forward. “Big smiles!” she whispered. We stepped ceremoniously across the stage, I closer to the audience, the stranger whom I hadn’t looked at masked from their view by my radiant dress and mannequin perfect hair. As they called my name and James’s, the audience clapped. Until we turned to face them. Whispers and voices took their place. I peeked at my partner. It was Kelsie.
“Where’s James?” I breathed through my teeth, a ventriloquist would have been proud.
“He had an emergency,” Kelsie hissed back. Breathe. This is all just a dream. The darkened auditorium was becoming a hive of buzzing commotion, drowning out the music. This was not good.
“Thanks for standing in, Kels, but I think Dean Wyler is pissed.” I saw the furrows on his brow as he quickly made for the side door of the audience area that led to a small flight of steps to stage left. The queen took the stage to immense applause, but the curtain dropped way too fast and Dean Wyler descended from the wings.
“What are you playing at!?”
“Her date had an emergency and I filled in. I’m the only one who knew about it, Dean Wyler, I promise.” Kelsie spewed.
“What happened?!” I asked wide-eyed.
“James had a flat tire. He called my cell, and I filled in, spur of the moment.”
“Where did you get the tux?” Dean Wyler looked unconvinced.
“It’s my Dad’s. I grabbed it from his closet and raced here. I just didn’t want Hannah to miss this!” Kelsie was begging now, realizing the impact her volunteerism would have with watering eyes and a quivering lip.
Dean Wyler frowned. He took a few deep breaths. “It would have been better to stay out of the line up than to pull a stunt like this, Ladies.” He growled and then stomped off to intercept Principal Wolfson who was sailing towards us from stage right.
My mother appeared backstage. “What is going on, young lady!” We explained it to her and being the mom she is, she hugged Kelsie. “You were only trying to let my Hannah have her time in the spotlight!” Mom got teary, adding to Kelsie’s waterworks, and I knew she had her on her side.
But at the after party, things got out of control.
We were called lesbians. We were taunted and harassed. When one of us went in the restroom, the other girls left. When I started to dance, no one would dance near me. They dumped the entire punch bowl on Kelsie. I had had enough. “Hey! I don’t care what you think! She stood up there with me when my date bailed, so I could walk across that stage! That is more noble than you’ll ever be!”
“Take your little pussy licker home!” I’d know that voice anywhere. It was Chase. If I had a shot at getting any guy in this school, it was gone now. I grabbed Kelsie’s hand in defiance and pulled her out of there to a chorus of oooooo’s.
She regained control of her body in the cool air outside. “I’m going home.” She shook off my hand and walked to her car. I know I shouldn’t have, but I walked home. My Mom could have come and gotten me, because she was not working tonight, but I wanted to be alone and cry. It was only about 10 blocks to walk anyway. I know all the talk about drug dealers and abductors that take girls like me off the streets after dark, but all I saw were a few stray cats and a raccoon. It had to be 1 AM, maybe close to 2 when I got home.
I cried myself to sleep. Dean Wyler thinks he has it tough, but I am the one who is going to have to face the accusers every day for the rest of the year.
Rumors flew, stories were embellished, and a person I never expected to speak to showed up at my locker before lunch.
“Hey, Hannah, I want you to know that I’m cool with it.” Jeff startled me. I gave him a deer in the headlights look.
“No, I get it, you weren’t into me because you were into girls.” He looked at his shoes.
“No, Jeff, that’s not it. She is just a friend who helped me out, okay?!” I made him look into my desperate eyes. He had to believe me, because if he didn’t, then there was no hope that anyone would.
“Whoa, calm down! I’m on your side. She’s a friend, okay, I got it.” He gave me this wide-eyed look and walked off. I think I scared him.
Now I have a new lunch dilemma. If I sit with Hannah, people are going to think we really are a couple. If I hang out with Jeff, people are going to think I am trying too hard to look straight.
There I go again with what people think!
I got my tray and walked out, only to have Bret knock the tray up into my chest. The whole cafeteria laughed. So much for lunch.
I tried to call Mom to bring me a change of clothes, but she was at work, so I faked being sick and laid in the nurses office for the rest of the day.
I don’t feel like running.