paint the city red
song: "ordinary day" by emilie mover
present, 4:25 p.m.
One second, he's staring into my eyes (and fortunately not at my chest, which is, God forbid, covered only by a wide strip of my red sports bra), and the next, I'm up against the cold wall in the girls locker room, his warm hand gently encircling my wrist and the other at my face. He tucks the stray hairs falling out of my ponytail behind my ear, his thumb barely brushing against the corner of my lips.
My heart pounds so hard, I'm afraid he's going to step away and complain how noisy it is. His face is so close, nose almost touching mine, and his eyes, shining in the light of this locker room, flicker to my lips for a second.
And I almost gasp when he steps closer to kiss me, unleashing these butterflies in the pit of my stomach.
Girls have always told me he's a good kisser, he'll make your knees shake, blah blah blah, but man, he is a good kisser.
Why he has me pressed up against the wall in the girls locker room is seriously beyond me at the moment. But all I do know is that he's kissing me fiercely and—wait, what?
Hold on, let's backtrack here for a moment and start at the beginning of the day.
morning, 7:20 a.m.
By the time I stepped into the cafeteria to get my daily bottle of orange juice, I discovered my lunch gang surrounding a sobbing Jess at one of the tables. She held those scratchy brown paper towels from the bathroom up to her eyes, mopping up running mascara, and I was just about to tell her not to use those because they could potentially scratch your eyes out.
But instead, I sat down across from her. Like a good friend, Rosie is there.
"What's going on?" I asked in a low voice, looking up at Kristy, who has her hands on her chest and looked like she was also about to burst into tears with Jess. She shook her head sadly at me and I turned to look at Amanda, who gave me The Look by raising an eyebrow and tilting her head down just a little bit.
The Look, which Amanda had perfected by the time we were ten, stood for a myriad of things, from "Yes, my parents are having sex next door, so can you please just watch Shrek 2 and not ask me why we can hear the bed springs?" to "I know you want your Red Hot Chili Peppers CD back from my brother right now, but he's in his room with his girlfriend and the door is shut, so can you not burst in?"
You just had to be smart enough to catch on what The Look meant in each situation and I can safely say that I was not always smart enough and I might have burst into her brother's room to retrieve my CD when he was going down on his girlfriend.
But in this case, Jess was sobbing, and when Jess was sobbing in the month of April, The Look was clearly "Jess is having another 'I'm trying to have the most perfect prom in the whole entire world, but nothing is going right' moment."
It was prom season, as in, tensions were high due to the stress of getting the right dress, getting the right boy, getting the right group of friends—and in Jess's case, getting the right everything.
Something had happened, I was sure of it, whether her mom forgot to tell the limousine driver to stock up on organic fruit juices because her boyfriend's skin tends to break out when he drinks plain apple juice, to her dog peed all over her dress, the prom is in a month, and there is no way she can get the same exact dress in time. The horror!
"It's all ruined! Ruined!" Jess wailed, throwing her hands up in the air. Wads of used tissue paper flew into the air and landed all over the table. I immediately took my arms off the table. The last thing I needed was Jess germs and become tragically infected with Prom-itis. My parents would have to quarantine me, blocking me from all things pink and frilly. "Bradley ruined the whole thing."
"Honey, it's not ruined," Kristy crooned in a low soothing voice that she normally reserved for the kids she babysat every Saturday night. "He can always get a new cummerbund."
"Rosie," Jess suddenly turned to me, her eyes bright red. Like I said, she probably scratched those eyes out with those paper towels. "What color is my prom dress?"
"Um," I faltered. I knew it was green! But it was a specific shade of green, like with a lameass name found on paint samples from Home Depot that are supposed to make you more inclined to paint a color of a vegetable on your wall. Zucchini green? Asparagus green? "Grass green?"
"Spring green!" she moaned and Kristy sent me an evil glare. I threw my hands up in the air. I was innocent—at least I knew it was green! "I told Bradley it was green—and—and he didn't ask, so I thought he knew! But I was wrong! Even Rosie doesn't know!"
"What shade of green cummerbund did he get?" someone behind me asked. I stiffened at the familiar voice, refusing to turn around or look at the boy as he got into the chair next to me.
My heart skipped a beat when Erik held out a bottle of orange juice and Amanda sent me The Look again. Only, I couldn't decipher this one, but I was certain it was "If you don't tell Erik how you feel about him, don't come crying to me when he asks another girl to prom."
At my confused look, he explained lightly, "Paying you back for the milkshake the other day. I know this doesn't cover it, so I'll buy another one tomorrow."
"Thanks," I said flatly, trying not to meet his fingers.
The other day, to celebrate getting a 97 on our physics lab report, we went out to get milkshakes, only I ended up paying for his since he didn't bring any money. I tried not to get my hopes up that the only reason why he bought me orange juice was to reciprocate my feelings.
Crushing on your lab partner was tough.
"Evergreen," Jess said, hiccupping at the end of the word. "He bought an evergreen cummerbund."
Bradley was an idiot, and we all murmured in agreement, even Erik.
When the morning bell rang, signaling we had five minutes to bust our asses to class, Amanda quickly dragged me out of the cafeteria by my wrist before I could even look at him.
first period, 7:30 a.m.
"I heard that Bobby might ask you this week," Amanda said to me in a quiet voice.
We were sitting in the back of the room, waiting for our habitually late US History teacher to walk through the door.
I raised my eyebrow at her. "I don't want him to."
Not that Bobby was a horrible asshole who would make my prom terrible. He was nice and… that's it. I just didn't want to look back at my prom and wonder why I went with someone I had absolutely no chemistry with.
"I don't think that's an option," she replied. It was true. Girls had to say yes to prom proposals. Well, that wasn't completely true. Girls were strongly recommended to say yes—or else we would be branded as bitches for breaking some poor smuck's heart.
It was ridiculous. What if we had someone else in mind?
"Then I'll get someone else to ask me instead," I replied lamely.
Who was I kidding? Who would ask me? And I'm not just saying this to be modest since Amanda just told me that Bobby might ask me, but… my only friends were the lunch gang, who were people I just sat with during lunch because I liked to listen to gossip, and Amanda. All the boys I've talked to my entire high school career just tried to swindle homework answers from me. Well, except for—
I spun around to face Erik, who was grinning at us and spinning a pencil in his hand. His bright eyes glinted at me and I furiously spun back around, trying to ignore the fact that my face was bright red. I didn't even look at Amanda, who would probably give me another Look.
Except for Erik, who constantly caught me making a fool of myself in front of him.
some day last month, March, 4:15 p.m.
"You sure this is a good idea?" Kristy squeaked as we began to crawl through the bushes right outside the boys locker room. I've been asking myself that question every time we went on stupid "missions" with Jess, which usually involved one of the following: trailing a boyfriend, chasing after police cars, and prowling outside the boys locker room. In this case, two out of three.
We could've just walked up to the doorstep, as Amanda suggested, but Jess was afraid that "they'll see us through the windows."
"Trust me. They're saying things about us in there," Jess said, her eyes flashing at us dangerously. "I need to make sure Bradley isn't seeing that bitch behind my back."
She had heard a few rumors floating around that he got down and nasty with Valentina Ventura at a party downtown a few weeks ago, and at the moment, there was no one that Jess hated more than that gorgeous girl in our grade.
"These bushes have thorns!" cried Amanda, who was at the very front of the line. Despite the thorns, which kept poking into my hair and clinging onto my sleeves, we continued crawling until she suddenly stopped moving, which caused all of us to pile into each other in the back, more thorns prickling me to tears. She held her ear close to the crack of the door. "I can't hear anything. We should go."
"No! We—shit!—need to know—ow!—what they're—fuck!—saying!" Jess's words were punctuated with squeals and curses as she attempted to de-thorn herself.
"You're being paranoid, Jess!" Amanda shouted back.
"I am—eek!—not being—ow!—paranoid!"
They continued screaming at each other.
But in reality, I was all for this particular mission because I wanted to see the varsity baseball team when the players file out of the locker room to warm up and stretch shirtless. And Erik was one of them.
"Ladies, looking for us?"
We all froze, suddenly looking up to see a shirtless Erik and the other shirtless boys staring down at us. In fact, I could see Bradley looking very confused to see his girlfriend and her friends tangled up in the thorny bush. We never realized that they could see us through it.
Nice going, Jess.
The other girls scampered, despite thorns scratching their legs. As I tried to get up on my shaky legs to escape, I realized that the thorns had a strong predilection to my sweater and my hair. I was ready to kill Jess at this point, as I managed to rise but ended up being pulled down and falling flat on top of the bush, staring up at the sky and a dozen of upside-down grinning faces. I couldn't even lift my head without feeling like my hair was going to be ripped out of my head.
I swung my legs down, hoping this would pull me out of this predicament, but nope. Still stuck. Hopelessly, I decided to lie down there, thorns now prickling every extremity of my body.
"I'm trapped," I said finally and Erik laughed, causing a searing blush to rise to my face. The other boys continued sniggering, as they watched him get down on his knees to cut a poor girl out of a bush with a pair of safety scissors.
It didn't work, so someone ended up running to the gardening shed at the front of the school for a pair of shears.
"Guys, go without me," Erik ordered the others, waving a hand in dismissal as he stayed kneeling beside me. "I'm going to get Rosie out of this thing."
I heard them chortling as they jogged around the school's perimeter. Luckily, no one had their phones out or else I would be seeing pictures of me stuck in a bush on Facebook for the next two weeks. Rosie—a wild haired pervert was caught sneaking near the boys locker room by the entire varsity baseball team.
"You're really something, you know that?" he said, amused, his face still upside down. My whole body tingled as I took his comment as a compliment. I was a something! "Didn't your mother always tell you not to wear that sweater when you're trying to break into the boys locker room?"
I ignored the latter comment, and rather, I admired the view—his sculpted cheekbones, an attractive pout of a mouth. He knew he was good-looking. I knew he was good-looking. We all knew he was good-looking.
"This wasn't my idea," I grumbled, looking away when his eyes met mine. He laughed again and I felt girlishly silly and self-conscious. "Did you guys hear us?"
"Hear you? We thought a bunch of girls were screaming murder outside."
I sighed tragically. So much for trying to figure out what they talked about. "Did Bradley really sleep with Valentina at Mason's party two weeks ago?"
"What are you talking about?" He looked curious. For some reason, I liked lying down on this bush, having Erik gently pull leaves and thorns away from my face whenever I shifted.
"That's why we're here, because Jess is paranoid that, you know, that's what happened." My mouth wouldn't stop talking. Jess was going to kill me for disclosing the objective of this mission.
He shook his head. "The only thing Bradley ever talks about is how amazing Jess is, so let her know that she doesn't have to crawl around bushes and drag you along anymore."
Relieved, I grinned and for about ten long seconds, we just stared at each other, his eyes searching mine. I almost burst into flames when his fingers moved the leaves away from my face again, this time, much slower, lingering.
"Your face looks funny upside down," I said finally, my voice sounding squeaky.
"Your face looks funny upside down," he replied in a low voice, bending towards me. His fingers hold my face, and I suddenly realized with tingles in my stomach that a. Erik was about to kiss me, b. I wouldn't be able to touch him since both my sleeves were stuck, and c. I've never been kissed à la upside-down Spiderman. Even though I wasn't hanging down from anything.
Would I be Spiderman because I was basically trapped in a spider's web right now—or would he be Spiderman because he was sort of saving me?
I tried not to think too much when I could anticipate feeling his lips on mine….
"Here ya go, Erik!"
A loud excited voice jolted Erik, sending him flailing backwards until he steadied himself against the brick wall.
It was a sophomore, one of the youngest players on the varsity team, with a small pair of gardening shears in his hand. He looked like he didn't think it was weird that a shirtless Erik was just about to administer CPR on me right now.
"Thanks Liam," Erik muttered, his face red. "Now go warm up."
He cut me out in an awkward silence, his touch impersonal as he carefully lifted my head, my arms and a little bit of my skirt. When I stumbled out, I tried not to stare at his abs, which were, admittedly, very nice. He didn't meet my eyes.
"Guess I'm never doing that again," I said as brightly as I could manage without screaming what just happened! There were still leaves and thorns stuck to my hair, and as I reached up to untangle them out of my hair, he did it for me. My heart pounded hard against my ribs when I felt the heat of his body behind me, his fingers tangled in my hair.
"I…." he trailed off, and I didn't want to know what he was going to say, in case it was something like, "I was temporarily insane, so please do not try to kiss me the next time you see me." Instead, he yelped, "Shit, these thorns are sharp!"
"Are you okay?" I tried to turn around to check on his long fingers, but he stubbornly stayed behind my back.
"It's fine, and quit moving."
third period, 10:18 a.m.
The only reason why I liked physics was because Erik was my lab partner and because of this, I always had a reason to chat him up at two in the morning a lot without seeming creepy. And as we spent sleepless nights chatting with each other, complaining about how hard physics, which soon digressed to debating over politics, discussing weekend excursions, and arguing over the quality of Nicki Minaj's new album, I began to like him. A lot. To the point that I sometimes get flustered whenever he asked me a question in class.
"I don't get why the magnetic field lines point this way," he muttered to me, pointing to the diagram on the board. I actually had no idea, as well. "Rosie?"
"Pah. Bah," I said haltingly, my tongue suddenly floppy when he suddenly looked at me, my heart throbbing the throes of a hapless crush. "Googly goo."
"Don't mind her, she's caught the Prom Fever," Kristy said suddenly, poking her head between us as stretched across her entire desk. She grinned at me widely as her lab partner complained loudly about not being able to see the board.
"I did not!" I insisted, suddenly finding my tongue. If she said anything about Bobby in front of Erik, I was ready to throttle her.
"Is someone asking you?" Erik asked, smiling slightly at me.
"No!" I almost shouted, causing our teacher to stop lecturing and look at us in the back of the room.
"Rosie, Erik, pay attention," she said sternly, turning back around to write Gauss's law on the board. "Kristy, sit down or move up front. It appears that Aaron can't see when you stand up like that."
Silently, we copied down what was on the board for a few minutes, until she gave us time to work on our homework assignment.
"Are you going to prom?" he asked me casually. It wasn't an unusual question since it was junior-senior prom, some juniors didn't plan on going until next year, but the majority of us did.
I looked at him through the corners of my eyes as I punched in numbers on my calculator to answer number one. "Yes, if someone asks me."
"What's the theme?"
"Paint the City Red." I told the Prom Committee that everyone was going to wear red. But nope, they didn't listen and refused to reconsider another theme. According to them, it was more than just wearing red, but rather, falling in love in the city, passion, kissing, excitement, feeling red, that sort of thing.
"Oh, that's good for you. You like red."
Sometimes, I liked to humor myself and think he liked me back (he almost kissed me last month, for God's sake!), but sometimes, I wasn't sure. He sent me too many muddled messages and it was entirely possible that he was just flirty in nature and liked kissing girls without attachment (I saw him making out with Liz at a party winter break, and they were definitely not dating!).
He wasn't in the popular clique, but he did have a number of admirers, even getting seven anonymous candy grams for Valentine's Day this year. Though I have to admit, four of those were from me that I wrote in different handwriting, even using my left hand for the one with the most grotesque handwriting.
But three other people thought he was dreamy as well!
I sighed to myself, penciling in my answers as I continued to question four.
"So you don't know who's asking you?"
Why was he asking me all these questions? I shouldn't expect him to ask me, like the time I had my hopes up for Bryce Lee to ask me to Homecoming last year, only to watch him slow dance with some other girl, heartbroken in the corner of the gym.
"I don't know if anyone will bother," I answered honestly, looking down at my paper and erasing a stray mark. I paused, wondering how I could phrase this question without seeming obvious. "Are you asking Liz?"
He frowned at me. My heart leapt—that was a good sign. Or maybe it was bad, because he could see through me and know that I was jealous of her. Or maybe it was disastrous, because he was planning on asking her and no one was supposed to know, but the fact that I knew would make him think I stalked him or wiretapped his phone calls to find out. Oh, what the hell. "Why would I ask Liz?"
"Because you made out with her at Mason's party over winter break," I stated matter-of-factly, almost adding a "duh" at the end.
"I did?" He rubbed his jaw. "God, I was so drunk. I don't remember anything from that night."
Slightly relieved, I stayed silent, because that was the night I realized I really liked him. Really, really liked him, enough that I was ready to attack Liz when I saw her in school the next day.
last winter break, December, 11:42 p.m.
Mason held ridiculously crazy themed parties all the time. In fact, winter break wouldn't really be winter break without partying at least once at his apartment, stocked with alcohol to last days and closets to hook up with people. For a cute touch, he hung mistletoe at every door.
After the lunch gang delightedly discovered the fact that I break out in hives every time I got near a drop of alcohol, I've been christened the designated driver, the only one allowed to touch Kristy's old convertible that's only a few miles away from falling apart at the hinges.
Mason's apartment was dark, with the exception of white Christmas lights hung around the walls and a glowing Christmas tree in the corner. People danced and grinded to loud EDM music pounding through the place, which made it extremely hard for me to hold a normal conversation without screaming my lungs out. I was even more surprised that the neighbors let the volume go out of control.
I sat on Mason's dirty couch, next to a couple making out, with my phone in one hand and Kristy's car keys in the other. Sadly, I was responsible for staying sober and making sure the girls weren't drinking obsessively or going too far with a boy.
Suddenly, someone sat next to me and I turned in surprise to see Erik, which made something slightly flutter in my stomach. He was grinning, looking a little loopy with a beer can in one hand. His hair was stylishly messy and I spotted a smear of red lipstick on the collar of his white shirt. For a strange reason, I felt almost… jealous to see it there.
"Why are you not dancing?" he shouted at me, tilting his head towards a couple grinding against each other. I stared at him, wondering if he wanted me to grind with him.
"I don't dance!"
But trust me, I've tried. When I went to Mason's spring break party sophomore year, I ended up stepping on a whole bunch of toes and kneeing someone where it really hurts as I attempted my sexy snake dance I saw on MTV. In the hallway the next day, Mason pulled me aside to order me not to dance at his parties anymore.
"Why are you not drinking?" Erik shouted again, this time, pointing to his drink.
"I'm the designated chauffeur! I can't drink!" I shouted back.
"I can't drink!"
"I break out into hives!"
"I can't hear you!"
"I break out into hives!"
"You break out into what?"
"HIVES!" I bellowed, exasperated at the ridiculous noise level here. My voice has gone hoarse already from screaming.
"Oh, okay!" he shouted back and I doubted he understood what we were even talking about in the first place. Before I could shout a word back at him, he took a swig of beer before leaving it on the couch, got up, and started dancing with Liz, who was just swaying there aimlessly.
I wondered if I were swaying there aimlessly, would he be dancing with me like that? Not quite grinding, she had her arms looped around his neck and his tight around her waist.
Distracted, I stared as they moved their hips to the beat of the music, feeling angry and annoyed and jealous and frustrated and worried and helpless and resentful and even somewhat turned on when the Christmas lights hit his cheekbones at the right angle. He was gorgeous.
And when they kissed like they were filming the fucking reunion scene in The Notebook, I immediately stood up to drag my lunch gang home.
"Rosie, it's not even midnight!" Jess cried from the backseat of the car. Next to her, Amanda and Kristy were snoring, passed out. "Just a little bit longer!"
"Shut up, you're drunk," I replied gruffly, making a sharp turn at the garage of Kristy's apartment, so I could deliver all of them home.
Later that night, as my parents drank wine at 12:30 in the morning, listening to Oscar Peterson's jazz holiday album, I laid wide-awake in my bed, trying to shoo away the stubborn feelings I got when I saw Erik and Liz dancing and later, making out.
They weren't even dating, for fuck's sake, but something dangerously close to tears welled up inside of me. And that's when I had the ridiculous realization that Iwanted to do all the things Liz did with him at the party and more importantly, I wanted him, more than anyone could imagine.
lunch, 12:07 p.m.
Kristy, who heard from someone in her calculus class the period before, gave me the some upsetting news: "I heard Bobby's going to ask you to prom during sixth period."
Not that I was surprised, because I was sure he had something up his sleeves when he texted Amanda last week to know what flowers I liked and I ordered her to lie, because I figured, Erik was not going to ask me!—but still, fuck! I never imagined Bobby would actually go through with it.
"Is she okay?"
"Are you there?"
I blinked, seeing the lunch gang looking at me worriedly, especially Amanda who was smart enough not to give me any Looks when I felt a mixture of devastation and frustration and regret.
"Yay, I get to wear my red dress," I finally said as cheerfully as possible. Suddenly, wearing that tight red dress, which was still wrapped in plastic and hanging in my closet, with a hot slit up my leg didn't seem so appealing anymore.
Jess began to talk about how she managed to get Bradley agree to return that evergreen cummerbund while Amanda patted me on the back sympathetically.
"There's next year," she said to me quietly.
She was right. It was only prom, just another part of high school. But why did I feel like crying when I saw the back of Erik's head across the cafeteria?
sixth period, 2:14 p.m.
Pull yourself, Rosie, it's not the end of the world. It really wasn't. Bobby was tall enough so I could wear heels easily. At least I wasn't stuck with a complete jerk who was just trying to get into my pants at the end of the night.
But… it wasn't fair!
If boys could ask the girls they wanted to take to prom, why couldn't girls choose the boys they wanted to take to prom without being branded as a bitch? Don't we get a say in these things too? Why do we always have to say yes?
I should've just asked Erik to prom myself instead of waiting for him to take the initiative…. But what if he said no?
I began playing the toxic game that always drove me crazy: Once when we got a 100 on our lab report, he picked me up in the front of the class and spun me around, until the teacher ordered us to sit down at our seats. Point for he likes me.
But then when we got a 73, he wouldn't even look at me until the next day. Point for he doesn't like me
He woke me up when I fell asleep in US History by kicking my chair very hard from the back, just in time so I could sluggishly bullshit an answer for the teacher's question on the causes of World War I. Point for he likes me.
At three in the morning a few months ago, he drunkenly chatted me to tell me that he missed his ex-girlfriend and her perky breasts. Point for he doesn't like me.
He spent $1.50 on orange juice for me this morning. Point for—
"So, good girl Rosie is finally ditching class."
I turned my head to find just the boy I was avoiding. Standing up, he towered over me. Well, come to think of it, he's always towered over me.
Sixth period was my world history elective class, filled with overachieving freshmen and a couple of lazy seniors, who never paid attention from the back of the room. They never bothered to learn, so finally the teacher, defeated, started playing old History Channel—before it turned to all that supernatural and Armageddon shit—documentaries while he graded papers for other classes.
Distracted by Joan of Arc, no one noticed when I silently slipped through the door and decided to spend the entire period sitting gloomily by the music hall, listening to the jazz band rehearse Duke Ellington for the next band concert.
The corners of my mouth quirked up. "Shut up."
He laughed and joined me on the ground.
"Why are you here?" he asked me, leaning his head against the wall as he looked at me with his electric stare. I felt like melting, melting like the Wicked Witch of the West, but only because of his eyes.
Gah, I was ridiculous.
"I didn't feel like watching another documentary in that class," I replied with a sigh, looking down at my hands. The real reason was—of course—trying to avoid an impending prom asking from someone I didn't really like. And now I was sitting by the music hall with the boy I really wanted to go to prom with. Life didn't just happen. Life fucks you up. "Why are you here?"
"Same reason as you. Only we're watching To Kill a Mockingbird."
"I liked that movie," I frowned, looking at him in disbelief. "Gregory Peck was so hot."
"And that's all you care about," he teased, nudging me in the ribs with his elbow. In response, I raised my hand to playfully smack him on the arm but he caught my wrist, and I kid you not, we were just staring at each other, as he slowly brought my arm down, not letting go.
My heart was beating so fast, his touch causing my face to turn hot and tingles to run up my arm. He slowly leaned towards me, his other hand reaching up to lightly touch my hair (very reminiscent of the time I got stuck in the bush outside of the boys locker room). His eyes searched mine and all thoughts of Bobby potentially asking me to prom disappeared. I almost wanted to laugh—here we are, sitting by the music hall as the jazz band now blared Benny Goodman, a frantic melody matching my erratic heartbeat. Was he really about to kiss me?
Fuck this. Just when I was about to pull him in by the collar, frantic footsteps ran up to us.
I jumped up to my feet, heart pounding and trying not to meet his eyes, as a freshman girl looked at me, then him, and then back at me, extremely flustered at the situation. She was one of the freshmen in the class, who sat up in the very front and took detailed notes on every documentary we watched.
"Rosie! Um—uh—sorry for interrupting!" Twisting her fingers in a knot, she seemed really young and nervous. Too nervous to be standing around me. My spider-senses were tingling: things were not right.
"Is something happening?"
"It's—it's a surprise!" she burst out desperately. I knew exactly what this surprise was and immediately felt a sense of doom settle in the pit of my stomach, all feelings of giddiness from about to being kissed disappearing. "You need to come back to class."
I instinctively turned around to look at Erik, hoping he wouldn't let her drag me away, but he stood there, a very serious expression on his face. When our eyes met, he smiled goodbye very slightly.
My lips still tingled even when I discovered an earnest Bobby standing inside the classroom with a bouquet of flowers and a poster with the words, "PROM?"
after-school, 4:15 p.m.
I sighed, looking down at the purple lilies in my arms. I didn't even like lilies, but I knew my mom would enjoy them much more than my favorite red roses. I could already imagine her squealing, taking the flowers in her arms, before proudly displaying them on the counter of our dingy apartment kitchen.
"Hey." Erik was leaning against the locker next to mine with his arms crossed, looking noticeably pissed. My heart almost stopped, not only because I standing so close to him, but also I thought back to what happened when we sat outside the music hall.
I wasn't dreaming… was I?
My eyes met Erik's and I glumly turned back to shoving books into my backpack.
"What's up?" I asked with a gusty sigh, looking up at the notebooks lined up neatly.
There was silence and I actually expected him to say something along the lines of, "Sorry, I was temporarily rendered insane earlier. Please do not take whatever happened as a sign to frantically try to kiss me."
I slowly closed my locker to see his mouth set in a hard line and eyes darkened to a silent fury.
"Are… you okay?" I asked finally, furrowing my brow.
"You said yes to Bobby," he replied in a cold voice. He stared pointedly at the flowers in my arms, his jaw tight.
"I did," I said slowly, nodding. "And you're mad because…?"
"You didn't want to go with him!" he burst out, causing other students to stare at us in the hallway. I glared back at them, and they scurried on their way. I caught Amanda's eye as she walked towards us. Eyes widening at my flowers and Erik's angry expression, she immediately spun around to head out the exit.
"Well, I can't just say no," I replied, turning back to face him.
"Why not? Because the entire school will call me a bitch if I say no to someone's prom proposal!"
"Who cares what the school has to say? You're so much fucking better than them, Rosie." I almost smiled, except I remembered the fact that he's furious with me and I had no idea why.
"It's just prom, Erik. We're not getting hitched to Las Vegas tomorrow," I sighed tiredly, putting on my backpack and turning around to head to cross country practice.
"That's not the point!"
Whatever, dude. I can't do anything about this. I already said yes, and I feel like an idiot for saying yes after we almost…. I shook my head as I walked away as fast as possible, trying to push down the frustration that threatened to have me bawling in the hallway.
"Where are you going?" He was at my side, as I tried to escape.
"Cross-country practice," I replied shortly, making a sharp left to turn into the athletic hallway. I was a bit late, as the other girls dressed to run passed by me, giggling at my flowers but stopping when they saw the dangerous expression on Erik's face and the somber one on mine.
"You don't even run in the meets. Why are you going to practice?" He had a point. I was shit at cross-country. Even the coaches knew I was shit at cross-country, constantly telling me that I didn't have to come all the time even though I insisted. There wasn't a reason for me to go to practices, except I liked keeping in shape as I gossiped with the other cross-country girls when we ran through the city.
"I go sometimes."
He followed me until I got to the entrance of the girls locker room, breathless. Luckily, everyone had already left to stretch, so we were the only ones in the hallway alone. I stopped in front of the door, blocking him from entering.
"You're not following me in here," I warned as I opened the door to step inside.
"Try me," he shot back, pulling the door handle out of my hands and stepping inside with me.
I ran back to where my locker was stationed, and I could hear him behind me, calling my name and cursing when he accidentally banged into the other lockers at the front. "Rosie!"
By the time he reached me, I had tossed my backpack on the bench with a dull thud, thrown the flowers on the floor, and pulled off my skirt, sweater, and blouse to change. When I saw his wild hair and eyes, I was standing there, on the other side of the room, in a red sports bra and underwear, my running t-shirt and shorts in my hands.
"I didn't want him to ask me," I started in a low voice, when he walked towards me, an impassive expression on his face even at the sight of me standing there in my underwear. My voice grew louder with every step closer he took. "But what was I supposed to do? Say no? Didn't you hear in the news about that girl who got fucking stabbed because she said no?"
"I don't get why you're so angry at me. You almost kissed me—twice—but—but you don't even ask me to prom!"
Expression grave and slightly pained, he opened his mouth to say something, before promptly closing it. I kept going, still gripping onto my shorts and shirt, my heart pounding and knees shaking.
"For the past two weeks, I waited for you to ask me! I wanted you to ask me! I still want you to ask me! I want you…." I trailed off, turning around to stare into my locker and not even bother finish the sentence.
Fucking great. I angrily brushed away the few tears that sprung to my eyes and reached up to tie my hair into a ponytail. Now he thought I was spineless for saying yes to Bobby and ridiculous for pining after him.
I didn't turn around even when his fingers gently wrapped around my arm, suddenly shooting up shivers, and I suddenly felt very self-conscious to be standing so close to him, especially about the fact that I badly needed to put on my pants right now.
"Turn around," he said quietly and I shook my head furiously.
"You should go," I replied thickly. "You have baseball practice."
"I don't care. Turn around."
"No." I sounded like a petulant child—No, I don't want to share my Barbie! No, I don't want to play with you! No, I will not turn around!
He spun me around anyway, tightening his grip on my arm to steady me when I took a wobbly step backwards, the back of my leg hitting the bench. My face flamed at his intense gaze.
One second, he was staring into my eyes, and the next, I was up against the wall of lockers in the girls locker room.
And when he kissed me, I thought back to the entire day, starting from the moment he bought me orange juice to when he was furious at my locker, struggling to come to a conclusion of a reason why he was kissing me—but I decided not to think at all.
present, 4:27 p.m.
I pull Erik in closer, feeling the texture of his shirt between my fingers like sand, and I kiss him back, tilting my face so his warm mouth falls perfectly on mine.
His hand moves from my wrist to grip my bare waist and I smile slyly against his lips. You dog. Boys always calculated where to put their hands for a reason.
When he pulls away, I'm sort of half-smiling, half-freaking out, my breathing uneven, and fireworks beginning to die down in the pit of my stomach. His eyes are still darkened, and nervous, I step away from his touch, looking down at my clothes in my hands: my younger brother's favorite red t-shirt that he used to wear before he grew seven inches overnight and a pair of black running shorts.
Jesus Christ, I'm practically half-naked.
What always annoys me about movie land is that after that big spectacular kiss over a flaming birthday cake or after frolicking in the grass, the camera just pans to a bed or transitions to a new scene. Like, what the fuck! That's not what always happens in real life! We stand in this awkward silence that's so heavy, I almost kiss him again, which I would do, except—"I should put on my clothes," I say with a shaky laugh, my face flushing when he suddenly grins, amused, at me.
"Actually I kind of like it without your clothes on."
Laughing, he dodges my hand when I try to reach out and smack the side of his head.
"Pervert," I mutter, pulling my t-shirt over my head and jumping into my shorts.
"Hey! You're the one who randomly started stripping in front of me." He pretends to look insulted.
"You followed me into the girls locker room!"
"So that made you decide to take all your clothes off?"
Smiling, I don't say anything, but I reach down to hang my backpack in my locker and before I can grab the flowers, he's holding them in his hands. I hold out my hand expectantly, but he pulls them away from me, giving me puppy dog eyes.
"You don't like lilies," he states flatly. "You don't even like purple."
"At least he got me flowers."
"But he doesn't even know you," he says, a serious expression on his face. "Anyone who really knows you, Rosie, should know that you like red roses, always drink orange juice in the morning, secretly like Nicki Minaj no matter what you say—"
"I really don't!"
"—break into hives when you drink alcohol—"
"I thought you said you couldn't remember that night," I interrupt, slightly frowning.
"I don't. I just remember you screaming about hives in my face."
I laugh, shrugging. "Well, you do know a lot about me."
"I'm not done," he says stubbornly, taking a step closer and reaching for my waist. Tossing the flowers over his shoulder and not looking where it landed, he continues in a low voice, "—have an unhealthy Candy Crush addiction that may require medical attention, only watch movies based on the attractiveness of the male actor—"
"Are you filming When Harry Met Sally right now?" I ask in a low voice as he tugs me closer to his face. He smiles at me when I reach up to poke his cheek.
"—need to stop poking me when I'm trying to be romantic, eat the cheese of off pizzas before—"
"I spent like, five hours at the mall yesterday, trying to find those sticker bras and it turns out—" People! But more specifically, girls! Their voices grow louder as they approach the back lockers. Panicked, I frantically grab his hand to rush out the backdoor, leading to all the fields outside. In the far distance, I see the baseball team practicing their swings and the cross-country girls running together in a pack, about to head out the gates and into the city.
"Wait, my flowers!" I gasp, beginning to turn around to retrieve my abandoned purple lilies, but he doesn't let go our hands. I imagine those girls discovering my flowers, tittering about the bitch who would leave her prom asking flowers on the ground.
"What about them?" he asks innocently.
"They're just lying on the ground!" I tug on his arm to let go, but he shakes his head.
"Fuck Bobby's flowers," he growls grumpily before pulling me away from the building.
"Right before seventh period, I asked Mrs. Murphy what we got on our lab report."
We sit next to each other, legs crossed, on a patch of grass near the lacrosse team, where tall boys are cradling and throwing small rubber balls back and forth as their drills. He should be at baseball practice, while I should be running through the city, but we enjoy the warm spring air together as it ruffles our hair, not addressing prom, not addressing our feelings.
"What did we get?" I pick at the grass, my heart beginning to pound in anxiousness. We rushed that lab report, pulling an all-nighter to finish before promptly passing out in history first period, with him snoring lightly behind me.
We ended up getting lunch detention to make up what we missed, which wasn't bad because they just locked us in a room with a history textbook and the lesson plan, and we spent the entire time talking about nuclear reactors and what made Oreos addictive.
"94." There's a small smile in his voice, even though I can tell he's trying hard not to look happy.
I let out a small ecstatic scream. This calls for a celebratory milkshake… date?
"She said we make a good team," he adds thoughtfully.
"Mrs. Murphy did? What did you say?" I was always under the impression that she hated us, considering she constantly threatened to separate us if we never shut up during her class.
"I said I think so too."
My face heats up as I smile widely, staring down at the grass. I wonder if we're going to address anything, like him kissing me in the locker room or me screaming about wanting him to take me to prom, or if we're just going to let this fly past us again, where we'll chat again tonight to discuss our upcoming quiz and other random things that won't change anything about us.
I take a deep breath to say something, anything, but he beats me to the chase.
"You know… I was going to ask you to prom, probably next week." My heart nearly stops, as I turn my head to look at him. He stares into the distance, face impassive.
"Why didn't you do it sooner?"
"It's complicated…." he trails off and my heart drops a little.
"Asking me is complicated? … Is there someone else?" I ask, swallowing slowly at the latter question.
"No, the asking itself was complicated. I'm still waiting for approval from student services, the theater director, props crew, a whole bunch of other people."
"Oh." I pause. Suddenly, I feel a little sad, like all along, I never knew I had everything I wanted. I shrug, saying, "Well, I guess you're going to have to see me at prom with Bobby."
"Absolutely not," he replies firmly, suddenly turning to look at me. His hair glows from the sunlight behind him. "I'm still going to ask you next week."
"You—you can't! I already said yes. I already took the flowers!" I exclaim, waving my arms in the air.
"Then return them," he says stoutly. As if that was easy. I don't care about the school's reactions, but I'm more afraid of hurting Bobby's feelings for suddenly retracting my offer to go with him. What would he think of me?
"I can't! Besides, what would I say?"
"That you're going with your boyfriend," he says simply.
I stop. He stops. The world stops. Boyfriend?
I suddenly finally realize that he's frantically saying, looking away from me with his face bright red, "… don't want to be. I mean, if you're not… comfortable with being my—my… girlfriend."
"No," I say faintly, beginning to grin as I turn to face him fully. "I do. I want to be your girlfriend. Like really badly."
"Yeah?" he asks, smiling back at me, his cheekbones stunning in the bright light. "And I'm your boyfriend? Because I want to be yours, like really badly too." He mimics my voice, but before I reach out to playfully hit his arm, I roughly grab his collar for a kiss and he kisses me back just as fiercely. My head spins and my heart sings. Sometimes crushing on your lab partner is worth it.
prom, 8:43 p.m.
So, I ended up going to prom with Bobby, to the chagrin of Erik, who finally conceded defeat to me after countless arguments and snappish late-night chats. I wasn't going to ruin someone else's prom, no matter what! Though Bobby founded out that we started dating after he asked and offered to back out, which was very Bobby-like of him, it was too late for him to find someone else.
We took pictures, we had dinner, we had fun, danced a little, before Erik, who went alone, fortunately, whisked me away in his dashing suit with a red necktie that matched my dress. Jess got to wear her spring green prom dress with a spring green cummerbund-clad boyfriend, Bradley, who actually started breaking out in the limo after drinking one of the juices there.
"So, how were you planning on asking me?" I ask him, smiling winningly. We're slow dancing on the dance floor to Marvin Gaye, which is a strange musical choice after we lost 25% of our hearing when they blared EDM-remixes of Lorde and Beyoncé. His fingers grip my waist while I have my arms around his neck. Not quite grinding and not quite dancing like he was with Liz, we just spin around in lazy circles, like other red-clad couples. Just like Cassandra, I predicted what would happen and of course, no one listened.
"I was going to cut down a thorny bush outside the boys locker room, attach them to the things they use to move props from the theater department, and have you cut me out of it, just like I did for you. But it got denied by the gardener," he grumbles.
"Why?" I smile goofily. I can't imagine the scene… well, actually I could. I'm sure he'd look far more attractive in that bush than I did when I was stuck in it. And of course, I would definitely pounce on that upside-down Spiderman kiss.
"Because they were actually rose bushes just about to bloom. I actually think they're blooming now."
He tugs me closer to his body with a lazy grin, the boyish smell of cologne and soap and a little bit of fruit dizzying me—or perhaps it is the effect of pheromones from being around him. I lean my face against his shoulder.
"I realized," I say finally against his neck, as we continue to spin around in a lazy circle, "that I never told you that I like you. A lot."
"Since when?" He sounds amused.
"When you made out with Liz at Mason's winter break party."
He tightens his arms around me with a small sigh. "I really don't remember that night." A beat and quietly, a reply. "But I like you too. A lot."
"I don't really remember exactly when… but probably at three in the morning on some ordinary day when I suddenly realized that I would rather be sleep-deprived if I could talk about random things with you all night." He pauses. "Preferably face-to-face."
I laugh and he turns his face toward my ear. The inner romantic in me expects something toe-curling mushy like, "You complete me," as Jerry Maguire would say (and yes, I only watched that movie because of Tom Cruise), but instead, he whispers, "You know, squids have the largest eyes in the world."
"Dried squid tastes really good," I murmur back, recalling the dried squid Amanda's family liked to eat whenever they watched movies with me.
"Really?" he asks, surprised.
first chat, last october, 2:17 a.m.
rosieposie: hey erik! this is rosie, your physics lab partner. sorry it's late, i just wanted to let you know that i did the first half of the first lab report, so i sent you what i did so far. let me know if you got it!
erikt22: thanks, i got all five of your emails.
rosieposie: haha sorry i kept sending you the wrong documents… please don't read the attached documents of the first four, by the way!
erikt22: it's fine, i didn't read any of them… maybe
rosieposie:… please don't judge me
erikt22: your fanfiction is actually pretty good. i never pegged you as an oceans trilogy fan tho to be honest
rosieposie: i'm not…
rosieposie: i'm not a fan. i just watched the movies and wrote a few fanfics bc i think george clooney, brad pitt & matt damon are hot.
erikt22: ... so you watched the entire trilogy because the main actors are hot?
rosieposie: well guys watched transformers bc megan fox is hot! i watched oceans tril bc george clooney, brad pitt & matt damon are hot. it's only fair :P
erikt22: hahaha you're really something.
rosieposie: is that a bad thing?
erikt22: don't worry, it's a good thing.
A/N: First one-shot in years, completed! And yes, I know I'm three months late, or nine months early, to prom.
Instead of using this week to focus on my ongoing novel (Only Ones Who Know, which is on my profile, for the curious! and I mentioned one of the characters from there in this story! Hooray for an Easter egg!), I decided to go back to my first-person roots by writing this sort-of-fluffy-yet-struggling-to-stay-realistic one-shot! Actually, it used to be fluffier. And shorter. Much shorter. Like 10 pages shorter. But then, I didn't want to stop at six pages. And luckily, I had enough creative juices to write this in a week without planning a comprehensive outline, like I normally do.
I poured in my own personal experiences of falling for a lab partner (which, unfortunately, did not end well), chatting with boys at three in the morning (and being extremely sleep-deprived the next day), and hating the asking culture in which girls were basically forced to go to prom with the first boy who asks (if they didn't want to be gossiped about, which definitely happened at my school).
And I wrote every scene in the exact order it came, so I actually had to think backwards and forwards, and up and down, and whew. It was very fun, nonetheless, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to churn out something cute before I go off to write college apps, which are not as cute.
Anyway, happy reading! :) (I should really restart my blogspot for all these lengthy authors notes.)