"Tickets please," Brody asked the two girls who had just stepped into the dimly lit entry area of the gym. Behind him, music pounded as lights flashed from wall to floor, the prom party dancing and laughing away. Brody hated dancing. He liked his seat behind the cafeteria table, smiling blankly at whoever rushed in before taking their printed invitations. One of the girls handed him two cards, and he shoved forward two slips of paper. "Vote for prom queen," he instructed, "guy or girl. I'm not saying who you should vote for or anything, but Harrow is spelled with two R's."
"I heard that."
Brody looked over his shoulder with an innocent smirk; Shelby was moving between different zones of the gym, making sure everyone was having a super great time. She put her hands on her hips (wearing a yellow and black cocktail dress that made her look like a bee) and smiled suspiciously back. "If you planted the voting box," she warned, "I'll put someone else here and make you conga!" The girls giggled, their slips blank, pens poised in their hands. "You can vote for whoever you want," Shelby reassured.
"What's your name?" one of the girls asked Brody, snickering.
"Linden," he answered clearly, "Linden Harrow, Carpview chapter." Shelby rolled her eyes and moved on. Brody smirked as the girls dropped their slips into the locked voting box.
The GSA Alternative Prom was a definite success.
Someone else had sat down next to Brody at the table, so he stood up to look around. Linden was dancing somewhere in the mob, knowing that no amount of begging or pouting would pull Brody onto the floor. He wandered in front of the partially open bleachers, watching people mingle and sip punch out of plastic cups. He noticed a figure in the shadows by the bleachers, standing against the wall. Probably someone having a serious sucking of face, he reasoned. When he caught a glimpse of the friendly smile, he redirected his path toward Mia, who was for some reason, alone.
"What are you doing back here, wallflower?" Brody greeted. Mia shrugged, still smiling. She didn't seem happy to be there. Where was Ernie? Brody looked behind him--no one was around. He found a place of wall next to her. "I thought you were coming with some guy to this thing."
"I turned him down," she replied quietly. He frowned. She continued to watch the crowd as they cheered for a popular rap song. They all started doing the same jerky dance.
"Heard he was nice," he mumbled. She looked at her feet. "What's wrong?" She hesitated to answer. He nudged her side, but she didn't move. "Mia, come on," he coaxed, "it's the freaking prom. You shouldn't be looking like your dog died, so what's wrong?"
"Hey!" Brody immediately snapped back to Linden's voice. He had broke from the mass, laughing and a little winded from keeping up with the choreography. "I thought you were chained to the table?"
"Chewed through to freedom," Brody freshly smiled as Linden took his hand.
"You're supposed to be my date, and you're spending the whole night working."
"Don't order me around," Brody playfully frowned. "You're not queen yet." Linden tried not to smile, but Brody laughed until he did. He suddenly remembered why he was there. "Where is that Rory kid? Shouldn't he be asking Mia...to...dance..." Brody's voice trailed in confused when he turned to see Mia had disappeared. She had just been there, but Linden had a tendency of taking up his attention completely. Linden shrugged.
"He was with some freshman...I haven't seen Mia all night."
"I'm going to find her," Brody announced, walking toward the open gym doors leading to the hallway. Linden pulled him back.
"Bro," he informed, "they're going to announce queen soon." Brody paused. "I mean, not that I think I'm going to get it, or anything," he quickly added. Brody grinned. Linden had spent an hour getting ready for the event--which he thought was pretty impressive for a guy--"just incase" he had to stand in front of everyone. He had tried not to mention it throughout the night, but it was obvious he was nervous. As much as Brody loved seeing him confident and cheerful, he was so very attracted to that curve his brow took in a worried expression, the way his eyes darted the floor, and how he fidgeted with his ever lengthening hair. Brody swept that mumbling boy into his arms and kissed his cheek.
"I won't miss it, Your Majesty."
Mia wouldn't know her way around Morris High.
He had made so many new friends through Linden, and Mia had quickly become his closest out of the group. Maybe it was the side of him that used to have all those old feelings for girls, wanting to hear them giggle and keep them protected, or maybe he just clicked with who she was. He felt a connection to her, like Linden, in some different way. If she wasn't happy, he was worried. He didn't think he had ever had a friend, at least not a female one, with that kind of compassion.
She was where he thought she would be, not very far in the hall. Her forehead was against the wall, like she was thinking or trying not to cry. Either way, it kicked his heart a little farther down in his chest to see her like that. He tried to quietly join her, but fancy shoes aren't too soft on a freshly waxed floor. She looked up like a startled deer and started to pace.
"It's prom night," he attempted to smile, "come join the party."
"This was a bad idea," he heard her grumble.
"Coming," she nearly fired back. "Brody, I can't believe how you don't see how fucked up this whole thing is!"
He stopped walking. This was a situation he was not prepared to handle--like having her in his car that night after the lake incident, but now he could tell this was so much worse. Something must have happened--to her, something bad--and he was too wrapped up in his own closed off world to see it. He scowled, cornered in an open walkway.
"Mia..." he quietly started.
"Okay, I'm sorry," she backtracked, "but I've been having a hard time. Some days, it's like I can do this, and some days I want to just...ugh!" She turned away from him and walked a few feet away. He followed after her until she was within an arm's length, within reach because he wanted so very much to hold her and calm her down.
"Is this about that Rory kid?" he tried. Swim team or not, he could take him. He could take him to the dumpster in the back, and he could swim through trash for once. She chuckled angrily and faced him.
"It's about you, kid," she fixed sharply. Even in the soft emergency lighting, he could see the mascara she had so carefully applied earlier that evening was streaming down her cheeks. "No," she corrected, "it's about me, and how stupid I am."
"You're not stupid."
"If you don't think so, then you're fucking blind!" Her voice echoed off the steel lockers, and Brody jumped a little.
"Mia, what in the Hell are you freaking out about?" he demanded a little harshly.
"You know how we all ate dinner at Wilson's before we came here?" she continued to blow as a booming voice from inside the gym interrupted the music. "You, and me, and Linden, and Michael and Ernie--and we all sat in that big booth with everyone else at the table, and we were all laughing and pretending to have just a grand old time?"
Brody wasn't pretending. It was the best prom night he could have imagined; new friends, big plans, Linden's arm behind his back with Michael somewhat out of the way with Ernie, finally. He and Mia had played a game of pool before they left for the dance. His mother had actually taken a picture of him and Linden before they left the house. It was like it had all worked out for the best.
"It's all a joke, Brody," she added quietly under the applause from inside the adjacent space. "Michael only asked Ernie so he could keep seeing Linden..."
"Michael's not seeing Linden," he stabbed forcefully.
"He's seeing Linden like I'm seeing you," she hotly finished. "He's doing anything he can to be anywhere near Linden, because it's gotten so bad like a sickness and he can't not see him. As much as I hate the guy for freaking leading him on, I know exactly what he feels because...it's what I feel for you."
Brody could have been knocked to the floor. He should have seen it coming. He always knew their relationship was awkward like that, but hearing her say it in that broken, 'love me' voice still got him melting from the inside. He didn't know what to do. He realized he was gently drawing her arms to him, and she sniffed inside of his embrace.
"This isn't good," she whispered. "This isn't what I wanted." Brody couldn't think. Michael was not his problem, not an option for him to even maybe get close to Linden, and what he was doing to Ernie was just another reason to prove he was exactly what Brody thought all along. Perhaps someone like Brody used to be, messing with people's hearts until he found one he couldn't bear to break. What he was trying to focus on was the sighing mess in his arms.
"Hey," he somewhat smiled, "I know what it's like to accidently fall in love, even if it...fucks everything up." She tightened her grip on him before suddenly breaking away.
"This happens to you all the time, right?" she weakly joked, wiping her eyes. "I mean, girls throwing themselves at you. Just please don't tell Linden, because..." She stopped, forming a strange half-smile. "I told him I didn't think you were really gay. I thought eventually you'd get over it, well, I guess I hoped you would. You were this big Casanova type, and who knew you'd turn gay?" She scoffed at herself and fixed her hair. "Turns out it's real."
Footsteps pounded behind them from where the party had erupted into applause--Ernie was barking before he saw who it really was. Both of them turned to see his goofy grin, the one that had been on his face ever since Michael had picked him up that evening. It made Brody a little sick inside to see it.
"Linden freaking just got crowned queen! You better get your ass in here before someone steals your first dance and his crown! Like me!" Brody began to chuckle, overwhelmed. The only thing he could think to say was,
"I hate dancing." Ernie shouted something else and ran back inside. Brody faced Mia again.
"It is real, isn't it?" she barely muttered.
Brody was 113 percent sure of where he had to be, and as much as it hurt a big part of him to go, he had to. His new breath-taking world was in the other room, waiting.
"After this dance," he promised in a voice he was not entirely positive was his, "I've got one for you."
Mia was left standing in that somewhat dark hall as he entered the gym again, the crowned monarch of the prom waiting in the clearing made for his first dance. The music, Ben Fold's "The Luckiest" had already started, and he was searching the edge of the group for his partner. When he discovered Brody pushing his way to the center, he visibly sighed with relief and a grin. The entire damn student bodies of both schools were watching, but Brody was going to dance. Linden pointed to his light-up tiara, and Brody cracked up.
"That's cute," he mumbled in congratulations. Linden positioned the non-dancer in proper poise, smiling that genuine, incredible smile with sparkling eyes.
"I knew I'd get you to dance with me," he gloated. Brody fumbled over his first step.
"I'm not very good."
"You're the very best, Brody," Linden reassured with an almost anxious laugh, "you're golden."
Brody had his first dance, and it was with a boy.
His favorite movie was still Fight Club. He wore the same clothes, had the same friends (along with some new ones), and could still play a mean game of pool; but everyone saw that something incredibly out of the blue had changed for him, and although not everyone understood it, they all knew it was something very real. He was still a heartbreaker, but he didn't leave the pieces behind him anymore. His own heart was in someone else's hands now, and he finally knew what that was really like...to be in love, and to be himself, or just to be. He might have made some mistakes along the way. Brody had always been a little careless, doing what he wanted with little thought beforehand. That must be what was to blame for his stunt at Noah's birthday. It was certainly what brought him to the GSA prom, dancing with the gay prom queen.
The truth of the matter was, Brody was completely sure that there, with Linden, was where he was meant to be.