Rewind a month or so and an egregiously bad Donna Sommer song greets him as he steps out of his Pontiac and opens the door for his date. A smile curls his lips as he takes her hand, because she looks good, and the fluttering in his stomach makes him feel like maybe something better is about to happen.
She smiles back and lifts the skirts of her long yellow dress out of her way as she leads them inside. Her eyes are blue like tomorrow. Little curls creep down her neck in a pretty hairstyle, one that probably took hours, but he appreciates the effort. He appreciates everything about her, tonight. Her name is Elyse Schnyder, from his Physics class, and he likes her smile and her eyes and the way she asks him a question like she really wants to know the answer.
He thinks he might like her.
They sweep into the ballroom of the hotel the junior class rented for this prom, and a photographer swoops down to take their picture. He smiles and rests his hand on the curve of Elyse's waist. She smiles and leans into him, posing for the camera, but when the picture's over, she allows him to keep his hand there as he leads them to a table.
He knows they look good together, her with the brown-sugar curls and blue, blue eyes, captain of the varsity girls' field hockey team, and him, with his shaggy hair and devious smile, the ruffian, the hooligan, the bad boy, totally whipped by this beautiful, accomplished girl. She is pleased by how she appears to have cleaned him up. He is pleased because Elyse is hot and sweet and funny. He thinks that maybe, just maybe, she would even be worth getting a haircut for.
They sit to eat dinner, and he goes through all the niceities of pulling out her chair for her and putting his napkin in his lap. He makes small talk with her friends, stonerprettyboyjocks he knows he's partied with at one time or another. Elyse laughs her pretty, tinkly laugh over everything he says and he smiles. Her friends look at each other, obviously happy for her.
The dessert arrives just as his cell phone rings. Elyse frowns slightly as he puts up a finger, asking to be excused.
The caller ID has her name on it.
His heart speeds up to a million miles an hour. He realizes that he's been so preoccupied with Elyse that he hasn't, for once in his life, been thinking about her. He hasn't even noticed if she's arrived, with all three or four of her dates. Maybe something happened to her.
His heart slams out a rhythm and he prays she's okay as he accepts the call. "Where are you?"
Her voice sounds bored. She is not gasping her last breath or sobbing hysterically.
"Woah, where's the fire? I'm home. I'm bored. Want to ditch this whole prom thing and come hang out with me?"
He kneads his forehead with his free hand. "Jesus Christ, I've been worried about you! Why haven't you showed up yet? Do you need me to come get you?"
"Didn't you hear me?" She doesn't sound annoyed. She doesn't sound worried, or amused, or anything. She sounds nothing. "I'm not going. Come hang out with me. We'll have our own party."
She doesn't say it seductively. She just says it.
"What about Rob? Bobby? Kent? What about Clayton?"
"Clayton never actually asked me to go with him," she says.
"Well, what about Kent? I thought you and him were going together?" He can just picture her, in the background, reposing on a couch, maybe, yawning and sipping from a flute of champagne. Or smoking a big fattie. Either/or.
"I just called and cancelled. I don't feel like it."
He sighs. This is so typical her. He doesn't want to leave, but what can he do? Telling her no isn't even an option in his brain. She wouldn't care if he didn't come, but he has never been able to tell her no. He loves her too much to do that. He doesn't want to ruin Elyse's night, but he has no choice but to be an asshole.
"I'll be right there," he says, and then he closes the phone.
He looks up then. Elyse looks pretty pissed off, but she obviously doesn't want to say anything or sound bitchy, so she looks down at the table cloth and picks at her brownie sundae with the side of her spoon. In that solidarious way they have, her friends look outraged for her, almost as if they already know what he's about to do.
"Who was that?" asks an anonymous friend whose name he never quite learned. If looks could kill. . .
"No one. Look," he says, "I'm really, really sorry, but I have to leave. Have fun without me, okay?"
At this shocking announcement, even Elyse looks up, her mouth hanging open is an expession of pure, unadulterated rage.
"I've got somewhere else to be," he says. "Something just came up."
"Did anyone die?" Elyse asks, her voice icy hot with anger.
"Then where are you going?"
He pauses, then decides honesty is the best way out. He's never been much for lying. "A friend's."
Elyse's face screws up into a grimace. "Oh. Her." The way she says 'her' makes it sound like 'she' is the carrier of every foul disease known to mankind. It makes him mad.
"She's such a whore," whisperes a nearby friend in sotto voice.
This makes him madder. If he felt regetful about leaving before, he feels justified now. Quickly, he stands up, sticks his cell into his tuxedo jacket pocket, and strides out the door.
Elyse's eyes drill holes into his retreating back, but he doesn't care.
When he drives up to her house, there are no cars in the driveway and the lights are turned off. He unlocks the door with his spare key and ambles through the downstairs, not particularly worried. He knows she's here. She said she would be, and she's never completely let him down before.
Finally, he hears a voice calling him from above. He goes into her room. The window's open still, the white gauze curtains blowing in the gentle evening breeze. He climbs out the window and onto the roof, probably doing irrevocable damage to his rented tux, but he doesn't much care.
She is sitting there, just as he suspected, next to the chimney in a pale green satin dress. She'd wanted a short one, but her mother had fallen in love with the one she had on and, in a rare moment of compliance, she gave in. The shiny material is bunched around her feet and she sits like a trucker, like a man, feet apart and elbows resting on knees. Her feet are bare, but she is beautiful, her pale hair piled on top of her head and tethered with a clip.
She hasn't heard him yet, so he is allowed a rare moment just to look at her. Usually she's not holding still long enough for him to, or he's too worried about her to, or she just won't let him. She doesn't like people to look at her too long. She says it makes her squirm, but he knows that it's really because she's afraid of letting them down.
He looks at the graceful curve of her neck, the pale radiance of her skin, her nearly perfect bone structure, and he wonders if she really is a whore. She's certainly slept with enough guys to qualify, yet something always keeps him from labeling her that way. Maybe it's because of the way she smiles at him when he makes her a suprise dinner of only ice cream, or maybe its the way she laughs with simple joy when she wins at MarioKart. Maybe its the curve of her cheek when she's sleeping, or the way she always smells of clean cotton, which is not the way whores smell. Of course, he thinks to himself, he's biased, but it is true. She can't be a whore. She's still too innocent, despite everything she's done.
He crosses the roof to sit by her and she turns her head when she first hears him move. She smiles that slow, lazy, billion watt smile at him and he can't help but smile back. How could he have let Elyse overshadow her, the best girl he knew?
"Hey, sexy," she says, grinning at him. "Loving the tux."
He sits next to her and mirrors her slumped posture. "Loving the dress."
"Don't I look hot?" she says. She has a brown bottle of Kahlua in her hand, and she takes a swig before handing it to him.
"Yeah," he says. He drinks from the bottle and kisses her on the mouth, on an impulse.
"What was that for?" she sounds interested but not surprised, because, while they don't kiss often or make out when they're not drunk, it's not a totally foreign gesture.
"Well," he says, handing the bottle back to her. "Since you dragged me away from Elyse, I figured I needed to kiss at least one hot girl tonight." She smiles and drinks some more. After a while, she scooches closer to him and rests her head against his shoulder. It feels suprisingly heavy and solid. "So why didn't you want to go to Prom?" he asks her, after an acceptable silence has elapsed. "You love dancing."
"I didn't want to go," she says. "Kent is an asshole."
"You never let that bother you before."
"Everyone always goes on about what a huge thing senior prom is," she says. "I went with an asshole last year, and it was fun. But I figured I didn't want to spend my last high school dance with another jerk."
"So you decided to spend it with me?" He is teasing her, and she knows it.
"Uh huh," she says. "You're the least asshole-ish guy I know. And I love you better than any of the other guys who asked me. And you love me better, so I figured it would make more sense if we spent some time together."
He sits and digests this information. She taps out a beat on his thigh and turns on her iPod. She silently offers him an earpiece and they listen to Existentialism on Prom Night together. Sing like you think no one's listening.
Slowly, he gets up and offers her his hand. She looks at him, confused.
"Would you like to dance?" he asks, solemnly.
For once in their combined existance, she is the one worrying and he is the one being spontaneous. "Here? What if we fall off of the roof?"
The roof is not flat but he is not worried. They are all the way at the top, and the pitch isn't terribly steep.
"We won't," he says to her. "Just come on."
She stands up and he wraps his arms around her. She twines her arms around his neck, her fears of a gory death gone, just because he said so. He knows, in this moment, that she really does love him better than anyone else. She wouldn't have trusted Kent Rodgers if he promised her anything.
He holds her a little closer and wishes he could protect her from all the Kent Rodgers' of the world, but he knows he can't because she won't let him. There are a million ways to hurt yourself, and she seems bound and determined to try them all.
She closes her eyes as they sway together on the rooftop and she rests her cheek on his shoulder. He kisses the top of her head gently, surpised that for this moment, this instant, she is letting him take care of her. For now, she is his girl. His heart swells with an emotion he cannot define as he holds his best friend on a rooftop in May, drunk on starlight and Kahlua and love, and his life changes. You would kill for this. Just a little bit. You would kill for this. You would. You would.
A/N- alright, this took a millenium. i'm sorry! please keep reading!
i've been working my life away all summer, and during the year, school takes up my entire life. i don't know when i'll have time to devote significant chunks of it to fictionpress again...after graduation, maybe? just kidding.
on another note, did anyone go see The Dark Knight? if you haven't by all means go do so. it was beyond fantastic. heath ledger equals gold.
consequently, i don't own any of the song lyrics you see here. this one is 'existentialism on prom night' by straylight run, and the other ones were 'born to run' by bruce springsteen, 'smells like teen spirit' by nirvana, and 'farmer john' by neil young. i don't want to be arrested, and also i can't write poetry or song lyrics to save my life, so i figured i would make this one clear.