Second Chances

5:00 PM. Sam saved his work for the day, ejected his flash drive from his computer's USB port, twirled the flash drive around a couple of times, threw it in the air, caught it, then slipped it into his right pants pocket. The next thing he did was to shut down his computer and make sure it shut down properly. He slid his Daily Planet travel mug and his Tupperware into his lunch bag, zipping it up. As soon as he was ready to go, his phone rang and he fished it out of his left pants pocket. He checked the caller ID before answering it, making sure it wasn't spam. The ID read Bethany Jackson and he smiled.

"Hi, Bethany," Sam said, picking up. "What's up? Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Bethany said on the other line. "Everything's fine. Just peachy."

"Okay," Sam said, raising an eyebrow. "If you're sure."

"Yeah, I'm sure," Bethany answered, trying hard to hide her nerves. "What's up? Why'd you call?"

"Hello?" Sam said with a laugh. "Are you okay, Beth? You called me, remember?"

"Oh, right!" Bethany said with a nervous laugh. "Right, right… Sorry, my bad. God, I feel like a teenager before an upcoming Sadie Hawkins dance."

"I'm sorry, what?" Sam asked. He thought he heard Bethany loud and clear but wasn't sure. Maybe it was his imagination.

"What?" Bethany parroted.

"Did you say something?" Sam asked.

"I said I need you to pick up a suit for me at the tailor's," Bethany said. "I'll text you the address."

"Beth, I really have no time for this," Sam said. "I'm sorry. I still need to buy some groceries, pick up Jonas's dewormer at the vet's—"

"Please, Sam," Bethany begged. "I wouldn't have asked you to if it wasn't important."

"Alright, fine," Sam said with a sigh, relenting. "Text me the address."

Sure enough, Bethany text Sam the address and he checked it out, following the directions. Fortunately, it was close to his subway stop. He'd be there soon. He climbed the steps and crossed the street. Finally, he saw it. Recy's Tailoring, NY. It was right next to a remittance center for expats wanting to send money to their relatives in their home countries. He entered the shop and the little bell above the door tinkled.

"Hello, dear," the shop owner greeted. "What can I do you for?"

"I'm here to pick up a suit?" Sam said. "It's for Bethany Jackson."

"Perfect!" the old woman said. "Got your suit right here."

Sam was surprised and confused to see not a woman's office suit but rather a man's tuxedo.

"How much do I owe you?" Sam asked.

"No need, dear," Recy assured him. "It's already been paid for in advance. Go on, try it on."

Sam was still confused, but now, he was curious. All of it felt planned. It was as if someone was pulling the strings and was about to reveal a grand purpose behind it. Reluctantly, he followed the tailor to the back for the shop and stepped into the dressing room, closing the curtain. He took his regular work clothes off and put on the tux in front of the mirror in the corner. He admired his reflection for a brief moment and smiled before stepping out. As soon as he pulled back the curtain of the dressing room and stepped out, his jaw nearly dropped to the floor. There Bethany was, wearing a sky blue dress and a blue silk sash around her waist, looking like a grownup version of Wendy Darling from Peter Pan. Her usually long blonde hair was in an updo. She looked like someone who'd just spent most of the day at the hair salon. Her alabaster skin was flawless as always. To complete the look, she wore a silver necklace with thimble and acorn pendants. Bethany held a bouquet of nineteen red roses and one white rose in her hands. Sam wondered at the significance of it. She also held a card that said "I'm Sorry".

"Here," Bethany said, a spray of pink spreading quickly across her pale white skin. "These are for you."

"Why, thank you," Sam said, taking the bouquet and the card and smelling it. "What's all this? What's with the roses?"

"I'll explain on the way," Bethan assured Sam.

"On the way to where?" Sam asked.

"Central Park," Bethany said. "I have a surprise for you."

"What surprise?" Sam asked, a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.

"Well, it wouldn't be much of a surprise now if I tell you, would it?" Bethany said.

"No, I guess not," Sam agreed, his right eyebrow rising.

"Your carriage awaits, my Prince," Bethany said, as the limo driver opened the door for them. "After you."

"I still don't get it," Sam said. "What's all this? You're starting to scare me here, Beth. You're acting really weird."

"This is an apology," Bethany admitted.

"Beth—" Sam protested before being cut off.

"Look, I know what you're going to say," Bethany said, as the white limo drove off, winding through New York City traffic. "You're going to tell me—like you've told me before—I've apologized enough already. Either that or I don't need to apologize. But I do, Sam. I do. I was young and stupid, and I couldn't see that the perfect man for me was standing right in front of me. And I rejected him, threw him away like the trash I thought he was instead of the treasure he really is. And for that, I'm really sorry. I haven't apologized enough yet, Sam. It'll never be enough, not for a long time. Maybe someday, but not now. Not here."

"Okay, so what's with the roses?" Sam asked.

"I'm glad you asked," Bethany said. "The nineteen red roses are the years I've wasted dating other guys since we were fifteen, up to last year—nineteen years. The white rose is for this year. A fresh start with you, I hope. You're the only one I want to be with, Sam. It took me fifteen stinking years to realize that. Will you give me that chance?"

"You know my answer," Sam said, gathering Bethany in his arms and kissing her. It was light at first, but soon it deepened with all their wasted and pent-up passions. They both found it unbearably hard to breathe and they had to pull away from each other to catch a breath and slow their thundering hearts. Sam gently brushed Bethany's left cheek with his right hand, stroking her jaw line with his thumb. Then he traced the line of her collarbone.

"Is this the thimble you gave me when we were twelve?" Sam asked, toying with Bethany's necklace. "Is this the acorn pendant I gave you?"

"It is," Bethany admitted with a smile. "And then we moved for awhile and I left the thimble with you for safekeeping."

"I remember," Sam said with a fond smile

"You gave it back to me the day I rejected you in the cafeteria," Bethany said with a guilty laugh. "I found it in my locker with a note that said, 'Thanks for the memories, but I don't need them anymore.'"

"I remember that, too," Sam said, kissing Bethany's forehead with a warm and reassuring kiss. A kiss that said she was forgiven.

Soon enough, they reached Central Park and the driver opened the door for them. Bethany stepped out first, taking Sam by the hand and leading the way. They walked through the park seemingly aimlessly, until they reached their destination—Ladies Pavilion. The gazebo was decorated with pastel blue, silver, and white balloons. There were fairy lights all around four men awaited them—a string quartet. There was a chalkboard that said "OUR PROM" in all caps. It looked like it had been planned for months and meticulously decorated for hours.

"You and I know I turned you down when you asked me to prom in senior year," Bethany said. "I hope it's not too late to give you the prom of your dreams—the prom you deserve. Shall we?"

"We shall," Sam said, grinning from ear to ear, letting Bethany lead the way. She led him by the hand towards the center of the gazebo and the quartet started playing. The first song they played was Power of Two by Indigo Girls and Sam and Bethany started dancing as Bethany hummed along to the melody.

"So we're okay, we're fine," Sam sang softly in her ear. "Baby, I'm here to stop your cryin'. Chase all the ghosts from your head, I'm stronger than the monster beneath your bed…"

"Multiply life by the power of two," Bethany sang.

After Power of Two, the quartet played Tristan & Isolt by Heather Dale next. They danced to a myriad of other songs including Can You Feel the Love Tonight?, The Second Star to the Right, Never Neverland from Peter Pan the Musical, Seasons of Love, Suddenly Seymour, The Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera, Only Us from Dear Evan Hansen, My Heart Will Go On, I'll Be by Edwin McCain, A Whole New World, Beauty & the Beast, If I Can't Love Her, Evermore, No One Would Listen/Learn To Be Lonely from The Phantom of the Opera, Can You Read My Mind?, Crazy For You, Don't Stop Believing, Perfect, Queen of My Heart, and many more of Sam's favorite songs over the years. The last song that played was Adele's Hello. It was part of Bethany's apology, and Sam caught its meaning. They danced until midnight then sat down on a bench in the gazebo, Bethany still holding Sam's hand. Suddenly, Bethany directed Sam's eyes to the horizon across the lake, beyond the trees and the New York City skyline. Bursts of light illuminated the night sky—red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, white, orange… Fireworks lit up the surrounding area like it was 4th of July or New Year's Day. It was breathtaking. But even more breathtaking than the fireworks was the beautiful woman sitting next to Sam on that bench, her features appearing to glow in the light of the fireworks. Never in a million years did he dream that he would end up with Bethany Jackson, the girl he'd been in love with since they were eight. She wanted to give him the best prom of his life, the prom of his dreams—the prom he deserved. And she delivered, going above and beyond. It was the best prom—well, the only prom—he'd been to and he loved every minute of it from putting on the tuxedo, to the limousine ride, to the dancing, to the fireworks… It was all worth it.

"Bethany Jackson," Sam said, kissing Bethany's hand. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever known and I love you."

"I love you too, Samuel Prescott," Bethany said, kissing Sam. They kissed until the fireworks faded and there was nothing left but the darkness, the city lights in the distance, and the fireflies that looked like little fairies surrounding them.