Emily couldn't wait. She was counting down the days until prom. Emily drove to Cliff's Side High School every day waiting for the day to arrive. It was what every high schooler looked forward to. The school even set some traditions in place that were carried out every year. For instance, the teachers would require that the tallest senior and the shortest senior dance together on the gymnasium stage and start out the dances. Another tradition was a student-created skit where the only need the school set for it was that the male seniors involved had to wear women's clothing and the female seniors involved would wear men's clothing. (It was a weird one, probably set by quirky Mr. Hankel and encouraged by the students in the Psychology Club he founded.)
There were some smaller traditions like always having a red-colored blueberry cobbler at the food table or playing the school theme song, "Tequila Sunrise", at least once in the music playlist they played over the loudspeaker. There was only one tradition Emily didn't care for, which was what the school bluntly called "The Kissing Knotweed". It was pretty much just like the mistletoe tradition for Christmas, but instead of mistletoe hanging from doorways it was knotweed. Emily didn't like it because the tradition was unoriginal, the plant was unattractive, and the obvious.
Emily had a best friend named Darren. He wanted to go to prom too and, like Emily, he counted down the days until the dance. Both of them had waited through freshman year and sophomore year for them to become juniors so they could finally live their dream. Unfortunately, the school decided to have the tradition that only seniors could go to the prom that year, instead of the usual junior-senior dance line-up.
They were devastated, especially Emily who stayed after school on the day she found out. Darren waited at the bus for her when the students were dismissed, but Emily never came. Darren then ran back inside the school to look for her. He searched all over the 11th grade area, and he finally found her when he heard some crying coming from the girls' bathroom. He didn't want to go in at first, but he finally walked in when he heard an exceptionally loud wail from her.
He walked in and found her sitting against the back wall, with her knees up and her face resting in between her legs. She looked up when she heard him come in, but when she saw it was Darren, she laid her face back down and turned away from him. Darren sat down next to her listening to her cry, even though Emily was obviously trying to cover it up now. Darren looked at her and said, "Emily". She made no response.
Darren put an arm around her shoulder, but she shrugged it off. Darren said, "Is it because of what the school said about prom this year?" Emily moved her head slightly. Darren remarked, "That's what I thought. Look, we always got next year, you know? And it will be better when we are seniors because by then, we'll know the dances and stuff." Emily looked at him with her tear-soaked face and cried, "I already know the dances".
She let her head drop back down and Darren responded, "But then we'll know the dances better, you know, maybe have more practice and stuff. Hey, we'll also have more time to pick out our prom clothing. Plus the more time you wait, the more rewarding it'll be, am I right?" Darren nudged her. Darren said, "You'll just have to make it through this year, and then, guess what, you'll be able to go. It's only one more year. Heck, maybe I'll get better looking to dance with or something."
Emily snorted. Darren smiled and cheered, "Yay, I got you to laugh. Or snort, I guess. Look, this isn't that big of a deal, woman, pick up your purse and get through this, man." Emily picked up her head to roll her eyes at him. She wasn't crying anymore.
Darren looked around him and said, "I've never been in a girls' restroom before. It's, uh, what's the word for it…" Emily now had gotten up on her feet. She told Darren, "Ugh, I'm getting out of here." As she said it though, she mouthed thank you to him and walked out. Darren got up and followed, asking "Hey, what about your ride, sister? The buses have already left." Emily answered, "I'll walk home."
Darren rushed up and walked next to her, saying, "But your house is so far away. Here, we'll just call a nearby taxi to take us home and I will pay for it. Is that okay?" Emily tried to protest, but Darren insisted and had even began calling one, so she let him. Darren explained the situation on the phone, and in fifteen minutes, the taxi had arrived at the front of the school. The driver drove Emily home first, and Darren paid like he said. Darren escorted her to the door. Emily's mom thanked Darren when she saw him, and Darren smiled and said nothing to it and walked back to the taxi. (Darren lived on the other side of town as Emily, so the taxi fee was a bit hefty but nothing he didn't mind paying. He was Emily's best friend, after all.)
Junior year passed by. Emily took Darren's advice and got over the fact they couldn't go to prom that year, so instead, she began teaching the dances to herself again and worked on the things that one does at prom. She did all this because she knew she would be able to go to prom the next year. Darren also couldn't wait for prom that year, but Emily just set her entire world around it.
Senior year came and Emily was excited to finally have the opportunity to go to prom. The school formals just weren't the same. So Emily lived through the first weeks of semester in giddiness for the prom date announcement that was to come. However, when the announcement finally was revealed to the school, it was that the school had made a decision to stop having the prom. The staff had gotten a new principal and vice principal this year and they both had decided that prom went against the school's tradition of setting its own traditions. They said that since every high school did a prom, it wouldn't be their own tradition, but rather a nationwide educational tradition. Since they wanted their school traditions to stand out from every other high school, they have made the decision to terminate the Cliff's Side prom. They concluded by saying "If you want to dance, you can attend the formals. Otherwise, our new tradition will be held up forever."
When the announcement was over, Emily excused herself from class to 'get something from her locker'. She ran over to her locker, with tears slowly raining from her eyes. After doing her locker combination, she took out pictures that were hanging from her locker. All were related to prom. Some were pictures of dresses Emily was considering wearing for the event, some were instructional illustrations on certain dance moves, and some were notes Emily took when researching prom-related things. Emily slowly began to tear apart each note, each picture, and each printed illustration that were hanging in her locker. She ripped each single one into a million pieces which scattered around her, making the floor around her look like a snow cloud had died there.
Emily all of a sudden heard someone call her name. She turned toward the voice and it was Darren. He ran up to her and looked at all the minuscule pieces of paper all around her feet, and assured her, "It's alright, Emily. I heard the announcement, too, it's going to be alright, Emily. Emily…" He tried to put an arm around her, comfortably, but Emily backed away from him. She said, nearing shouting, "No it's not going to be alright, Darren! I built my whole life in high school based off on going to prom, and now I can't go. All my dreams have crumpled today, and my plans have fallen to pieces and I don't know what to do and can't you see that I don't want to be with you, right now, Darren? Just go away!" But before Darren could do anything, Emily turned and ran down the hall with tears falling faster down her face.
Darren stood there and brushed his hair from his eyes with his hand. He walked down to the janitor's closet and took a broom and dustpan out from there and walked back to Emily's locker. He stooped down and started the tedious task of sweeping all the picture pieces into the dustpan. When he had finished and had thrown the pieces away and had put the broom and dustpan up and had got back to class, it was discovered that he had been out of class for over fifteen minutes. The teacher gave him detention that day, and Darren didn't really care.
Later that day around 7 o'clock, Emily's house received a ring from the doorbell. Emily's mom opened it, and after talking to Darren for a bit, yelled up to Emily, "Hey, Darren's here to see you." Emily yelled down, "Tell Darren I don't want to see him." Emily's mom yelled back, "Honey, he brought flowers and cookies. Get your butt down here, young lady, or I might ground you for pure rudeness." Emily groaned and slowly walked down the stairs to see Darren.
When she got to the front porch, Darren was standing there with a bouquet of full of blue tulips and yellow roses in one hand, and a boxful of cookies with the other. Darren said, "I got raspberry oatmeal cookies. They are your favorite kind, right?" Emily gave Darren an unamused stare. Darren set the cookies down on the ground and held out the flowers to her, saying, "Look, I know you you're probably in your third or fourth stage of mourning by now, but I got an idea, Emily." Emily's mom raised an eyebrow while Emily almost rolled her eyes.
Darren said, "How about we just have our own little prom, you know? Except it wouldn't be that little cause I was thinking about like renting a ballroom or something. Like maybe we could bring our own food, dance, get our nice prom clothes, rent a limo service or something, I don't know. We could invite people, but I was thinking it would just be us, you know. We could plan it out and just do our own prom without having any school traditions being involved at all. What do you say, Emily?" Darren looked at her face, and noticed her eyes had a certain glow that hadn't been there when he had arrived.
Emily was daydreaming of what Darren had just said. Them dancing, them having their own prom, it sounded like a certain kind of miracle to Emily. Hours ago, she had abandoned all ideas of prom. Now Darren had brought her ideas back into reality and had given her a new hope that things will turn around. Emily said to Darren "That sounds wonderful" and hugged him. Darren then began saying things like "I was thinking of getting a second job so that I could pay for stuff and", but Emily didn't hear a single word.
They began planning. Darren eventually found a place called Diamond's Ballroom and found out he had to rent the entire building for a day just to use the ballroom. Once he found out the price, he began searching for second part-time job. He got one and began saving up the money he earned so that they could pay for this major event. When Darren wasn't working or going to school, he was over at Emily's house planning for prom.
Emily had all sorts of ideas. For food, she wanted to have some fine cake and for drinks, some raspberry punch in a glass bowl. Darren commented that if they were going to have their own prom, they shouldn't go with the average prom food and drinks, and instead go over the top. So they planned to order some cheesecake and get some top of the shelf red wine to go with it. However, when Emily's mom heard about this, she said she'd only agree to it if they got some non-alcoholic wine to drink. (Darren, later, convinced her they wouldn't get drunk and that they wouldn't even be driving afterwards because they'd have a limo driver, so she relented.)
Darren and Emily were realistic though, so they didn't plan to order a ton of food for it because they would be the only ones there. So they only ordered enough for the two of them (and some to take home afterwards). Emily put Darren in charge of the limousine service while she would be in charge of ordering the food.
After months of planning, eventually school was nearing to an end and the day Emily wanted her prom was coming up. Emily wanted the day to be the weekend after finals, so that they wouldn't have to worry about school after their prom celebration. Darren was looking forward to the date. Emily had made Darren pick out a suit on his own the previous week and he could not wait to see what she thought of it.
Friday came and passed quickly, for it was the last day of finals for Cliff's Side and the day before prom for Darren and Emily. Darren called Diamond's Ballroom that evening to check if his reservation tomorrow for the place still held up and they said it did. Darren then quit his second job, ironed his suit, and counted sheep until he fell asleep. Emily looked at her dress with glee and tucked herself into her bed, dreaming of what tomorrow would be like.
In the morning, Emily called up the bakery to ask if the cakes were ready to pick up and they were. After she drove there and picked them up, she drove to the ballroom. Darren was already there at the front door, with the keys swinging in his hand. Darren said slyly, "Looking for these?" Emily smiled and said casually, "Why, yes, monsieur." Darren slipped the keys into her palm and unlocked the door. Darren led her to the kitchen, which was right next to the ballroom. (Emily didn't want to see the ballroom until they left later that night.) When Emily left, she told Darren, "Pick me up no later than six, you goof." Darren told her he would.
At twenty minutes after five, Darren had put on his suit and was straightening his bowtie in the mirror. His jacket was a color of midnight blue, while his vest underneath was a wisteria shade of purple. His bowtie was colored scarlet, while pants were a cool shade of ebony. He fiddled with his lapels and shook his jacket sleeves before finally going outside to the limousine parked outside. Darren paid the driver in advance to drive to Emily's house, wait a couple of hours outside of the ballroom, and take both of them back home.
When the driver arrived at Emily's house, Darren got out of the vehicle and walked up to the front door, smoothing some nonexistent creases on his jacket before pressing the button for the doorbell. Almost immediately, the door opened and Emily stood in the doorway in front of Darren. Her dress was a scarlet one piece that extended almost five feet behind her feet. The dress also exposed her shoulders, and feet were also exposed as she was wearing caramel colored high heels. Her arm had a white rose corsage on it and her slick black hair was let down behind her back where it reached to her waist. The most beautiful part of how she looked tonight, to Darren, was the fact that she was wearing no makeup tonight. Darren was shocked by her natural beauty and wondered at why she wore makeup in the first place.
Emily complimented, "Well, my sir, if you aren't dashing." Darren smiled, and held out his hand to her, "The same for you, my fine lady. Are you ready?" Emily said, "Of course," and gave him a grin that meant thank you for this. Emily's mom came out and took a picture of them together before they left. And then they climbed into the limo.
The limousine itself was very nice indeed. Darren only wanted the best for Emily. The seats inside were leather and the music playing inside was smooth jazz. There was even a mini bar on the other side of where they were sitting. The floor rug was made of the softest silk and Emily couldn't stop smiling. Darren poured themselves two raspberry margaritas from the mini bar and said, "What should we toast to?" Emily, looking around her, declared, "I think you overdid it, Darren." She laughed. Darren exclaimed "To overdoing it!" and clanked glasses with Emily. He drank a sip, coughed, and added, "Let's not drink too much. I don't want your mom too angry at us." Emily smiled and took a sip of her drink.
Both glasses were empty when they arrived at the ballroom. The driver opened the door for both of them and Darren stepped out, keys in hand, and opened the door. He gave the driver a tip and escorted Emily inside the place. They walked over to the ballroom, very casually. Darren asked Emily, "You ready?" Emily smiled and opened the doors to the ballroom herself.
The ballroom had a high ceiling that was painted with gold, with the walls being white with golden stripes. The carpet was intricate, but the most intricate part of the room was the chandeliers that hung from the golden ceiling. They were placed so that you couldn't walk thirty feet without being under one. There was a table with punch and wine and cheesecake on it, and there was also a small stage in the far back of the room. There were balloons and streamers and it was just all very nice. Darren walked over to a record player in the corner and put the needle on the groove. It started playing Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time".
Emily thought it was all very splendid and she rushed over to the punch bowl for a drink. It was raspberry. She cut herself a piece of the raspberry swirl cheesecake and sat down. Darren poured himself a Tom Selleck and got his own slice of cheesecake. He plopped down next to Emily. After eating some of it, he asked Emily, "So what do you think?" He gave her a happy smile. Emily smiled back, saying, "I think that no one at this prom is dancing. Why don't get it started?" Darren teased, "With those heels?" Emily stood up and held out her hand toward him.
Darren stood up and clasped her hand in his, waited, and then stepped to the right. As they began to dance, Emily took off her heels with her feet and Darren took off his shoes with his own. And with that, they really started going. Soon, the leading turned from Darren to Emily, who took the dancing to a new level. They started off with a slow measured pace, to a slightly faster paced tango, to a fast paced waltz, to an improvised dance of their own and they were moving so fast they were twisting and turning and their feet moved together in rhythm and they bowed and they spun and they slid and they strutted and they danced and it was like time was going faster and they were trying to keep up with it and they just kept moving their bodies like fire and both of them were just living.
But after about forty-five minutes (they had no idea they had danced so long), they were both fatigued and decided to end it with a slow dance, with Emily's hands around Darren's shoulders and Darren's arms on Emily's waist. Darren had never seen Emily so happy. After dancing slowly like that for five minutes, Emily just hugged Darren.
Darren said, "You ready for the picture now?" Emily nodded and they walked over to a section of the wall covered with a red backdrop. There was a camera on a stand in front of it and Darren fiddled with the camera until he could put a timer on it. When he did, he walked behind Emily and scooped her up with his hands under her back and legs. She laughed and he held her in front of the camera like that until it flashed. Darren joked when he put her down, "I think I blinked" and Emily rolled her eyes.
Darren walked over to a table that had a blank piece of paper on it and sat down. Emily sat down straight on the table and said, "What's this?" Darren spoke, "Why, it's time for us to vote for the prom king and queen." Emily kicked her feet and perplexed, "Who should we vote for?" Darren suggested, "Well I think we should vote for us." Emily looked down at her feet and said, hiding a smile, "I don't know. I don't think we'll win. We can't do that." "But Emily, don't you want to be prom queen?" Darren pointed out. "Well…" Emily trailed off with a snicker. Darren insisted, "C'mon let's do it." Emily grinned and finally agreed, "Fine."
He wrote down their names on the paper, folded it, and turned it over. He walked onto the stage with it and said in a deeper voice, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen for voting. The results are in and the prom king and queen are…" He paused dramatically and Emily crossed her fingers playfully. Darren unfolded the paper and announced, "Darren and Emily!" Emily gasped in mock surprise and walked onto the stage. Darren changed his voice back and said excitedly, "Can you believe it, Emily? We won!" Emily answered, "I know, I never saw it coming."
Darren ran behind the curtain and pulled out two paper crowns from it. He walked back and put one on Emily's head and the other on his own. They then posed for some mock photographs. They walked off the stage slowly, thanking everyone. Queen Emily said, "Oh, king, what should we do now after getting awarded so highly?" King Darren poured himself a glass of wine and said, "I have a few ideas" after taking a sip.
He pointed at a knotweed that was hanging down from a far doorway. Emily exclaimed, "You jerk!" She playfully punched Darren on the arm. Darren nearly choked on his wine laughing at her reaction. Emily stomped on his foot, and said, "What do you have to say for yourself?" Darren cleared his throat and admitted, "I'd thought it would be funny, you know." Emily replied, "Well, how about this idea? Why don't we do some karaoke? Just lip syncing to the record would be cool." Darren teased, "I don't think that's what people do at prom, Emily." But he put a new record in and played it for Emily.
Emily then walked onto the stage and began lip singing Michael Jackson's "Beat It". She did a moonwalk and snapped her fingers and danced with the music. She kept the beat and jumped and was getting into it. Darren watched her with an amused smile. Emily rocked out the song so much that when she was done, her hair was in a mess and she worn out from dancing and lip singing. Darren clapped for her and she bowed for the one-man crowd.
When Emily came down, Darren changed out the record. When he put the needle back on, he ran up onto the stage and waited for the song to play. Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" started to play and Darren almost put his own voice into it he was trying so hard. He rocked his head back and forth and moved his feet to the music. When it came to the guitar solo, he played air guitar (even though he had never played guitar in his life). Yet he had fun pretending to sing multiple voices at the same time. Darren sure had the spirit, even if Emily danced better with the karaoke.
Darren finished and when Emily clapped, he did a silly curtsy and walked off the stage. Emily looked at the time and said, "Wow, we've been here a while, haven't we?" Darren sighed and replied, "I guess so." Neither of them really wanted the night to end. Emily said, "It's okay, I'm tired anyway." Darren responded, "If you say so." He took her hand and escorted her out of the ballroom and to the limo. When she had climbed in, he ran back in and came back with the cheesecake and wine.
The limo began driving and Emily cut herself another slice of cheesecake. Darren was happy because Emily was happy. She almost freaked out driving back though because she thought she had left her heels, but Darren pulled them out and said he had gotten them back with the cheesecake and Emily was relieved. The limo driver saw them back there smiling and began playing "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics. And they both hummed the music together.
When the limousine stopped in front of Emily's house, Darren escorted Emily to her house and they were both standing in front of the door. Emily coughed and said to Darren "Thank you suggesting this and doing this with me. I had a wonderful time, you're the best, Darren." Darren smiled at her and said, "I did too, friend. Just wanted you to live out your dream, you know." And Emily thanked him with her eyes.
Darren looked down at the ground and said, "Hey, Emily?" Emily said "Yes?" and stepped closer to him. Darren confessed, "I found out last week that Riverside College has offered to let me attend their school under a full ride scholarship and I think I'm going to take it. I know you're going to Lake's View College and look, what I'm saying is that I don't how often we'll see each other in the future and I'm glad you had a fantastic time tonight because I'd want you to remember it when you think of me when you go away and you're my best friend. Just…I don't know when I'll see you again, okay?" He breathed deeply and looked at her.
Now Emily was the one looking at the ground. She mumbled, "You're my best friend too." They both were silent until Darren said, "I'm glad to be a part of a major event in your life, Emily." Emily felt special, yet was still slightly saddened by what Darren had said before. Darren looked at his watch and said, "Well I guess I better be going", and began walking slowly away from her towards the limo.
Emily didn't want Darren to leave, and she began saying things like "We can still see each other Darren. We got all summer and we can still hang out during college times, probably" and "Darren, you don't have to leave so soon" and "We got loads of time". And Darren smiled at her and said of course they would hang out sometime.
Darren climbed into the limo and Emily rang the doorbell so her mom could let her in. But then Darren stepped back out and shouted, "Emily!" She looked back at him and he said, "You look beautiful". Emily looked down at herself and wondered about this and when she looked back up, the limo was driving away. Emily wished she could have given Darren a goodbye hug, at least.
Her mom answered the door and asked, "Did you have fun, my dear?" Emily said, "Oh, today was the best day of my life" and walked into the house as an adult.