I smiled so big when Trey walked into our house. He looked down at the floor, or maybe he was looking at his shiny rental shoes peeking out from under his tuxedo pants, when he gave me a white corsage; then he looked up at me through his long lashes. So sweet. After a million pictures, we finally walked up the sidewalk to his car, well, really his dad’s car, which was much nicer than his. He opened the door for me and helped me in. He got in and smiled and croaked in his raspy voice, “I just wanted to let you know that I have to leave prom early because I have a date. Do you think you’ll be able to find a ride home?”
“A date?” I felt heat rush to my cheeks and breathing became difficult.
“Yeah. A date.” He put the car in gear and began driving.
I didn’t have any tissues in my purse, evening bag really, to repair the damage of the makeup streaming down my face with my tears, but I looked anyway, because it gave me something to do with my hands besides punch him or make a bigger mess of my face. “I thought this was a date.”
“Umm, but I actually like this girl.”
The day before, I couldn’t wait to finally go on a date with Trey. I found out from Ciara, who I knew from church and who went to school with Trey, that Trey was into me, so that made me more into Trey, enough so I asked him to prom, even though he didn’t go to my school. The night before prom, I laid out my aqua satin dress on my bed and looked at the glittery appliques and full tulle underskirt and dyed-to-match satin pumps, and knew we would have a great time. I was trying out several different hair looks when the phone rang. Hoping it was Trey, I hurried to the phone, but alas. It was DeShawn.
“Hey girl. I been thinking about you. I’m thinking you should go to prom with me tomorrow.”
When I finished laughing, I retorted, “Even if I didn’t have a date for prom, which I do, and even if you had asked me in a reasonable amount of time, which you didn’t, I would not go to prom with you. I cannot believe the unmitigated gall, nay the temerity, you have asking me to go to prom with you, and it’s only the day before prom. Why don’t you go with someone who likes you? How about your girlfriend? She still likes you, doesn’t she?”
“She broke up with me.”
“Aw, puddin’. That’s so sad.” With a smirk I resumed my preparations for Trey.
I couldn’t believe I wasted all that effort on looking good for a date, my prom date no less, who didn’t even care. My girlfriends assured me, though. “He’s no good.” “He don’t know what he’s missing.” “You’re better off without him.” I slowly brushed Trey from my mind and tried to have a good time. Then DeShawn walked in.
Watching DeShawn stroll across the room was a bright spot in an otherwise pathetic evening.
“What’s up with Unibrow?” Gemma managed to say between guffaws.
“I don’t know, but I’m sure going to find out.” Too busy skulking in the corner to notice me, Trey didn’t even see me walking over to DeShawn, but I made sure to switch a little just in case he was watching. And because I knew DeShawn was. At 6 foot 7 and pushing 300 pounds, the 19-year-old super senior was hard to miss. The big solid wall of light-skinned and good looking smiled at my approach. Well, he almost looked good. I didn’t know what was with the ridiculous burgundy cropped tuxedo jacket. Or his eyebrow.
“Hey girl. I been….”
“Thinking about me. I know.” I cut off his tired line. I had neither the time nor the inclination to fool around with him. God knows we had wasted enough of each other’s time this school year. And I definitely wanted to know why he only had one eyebrow. Apparently he and his boys had gotten drunk, full as he liked to call it, the night before, and his so-called friends played a little prank on him after he passed out.
Fully awake now, DeShawn wrapped his arms around me, pulling me in for a dance. “Mmm, girl. You smell good.” He lowered his chin to settle it on top of my head. “I missed you.”
I pushed him off and switched away with a smile. It wasn’t going to be a horrible night after all.
I wish I hadn’t said yes when she asked me to prom.
I was smiling when I picked Alisa up, because I was thinking about Nora. I tried to hide my face from her, so she wouldn’t think I was smiling about her. She did look pretty, though, in her blue dress. Kind of poofy with sparkles.
Mama Jackson took so many pictures, proud of her handiwork. “Did Alisa tell you I made her dress?”
“When would I have told him? He just got here.” Alisa shook her head and glanced over at me while rolling her eyes.
“Well, I don’t know. Is today the first time you’ve talked with him since I started making the dress? What? No? It’s not?” Mama Jackson continued snapping pictures.
“Oh no! I missed you giving her her corsage.” She sighed. “Alisa, don’t put his boutonniere on yet. I need to get a picture.” Alisa waited. “Come here,” she said to me. “You stand next to Alisa.” So I stood. “Yes, just like that.” I smiled and nodded while Mama Jackson talked. At least that kept me from having to talk to Alisa.
Dad scolded me about being a gentleman before I left, so I remembered to open her door and help her into the car. I walked to the driver’s side, admiring my father’s car, got in and smiled at her. I figured telling her sooner rather than later was my best move, but I could barely get the words out with my throat all of a sudden feeling so tight. “I just wanted to let you know that I have to leave prom early because I have a date. Do you think you’ll be able to find a ride home?”
“A date?” She got so red and her eyes got so big when she said that, I just turned my head to the front to not have to watch the inevitable break down.
“Yeah. A date.” I put the car in gear and began driving.
She started digging in her purse for something, but it was such a tiny thing I didn’t understand how she couldn’t find what she was looking for. Then she turned and looked at me. Blue smudges filled the corner of her eyes where all I should have seen were smile lines, and black streaks ran down her cheeks. “I thought this was a date,” she whispered.
“Umm, but I actually like this girl.”
That was the first time I admitted to myself how much I actually liked Nora. Smart and funny. And cute. She made me feel good about myself, like someone actually needed me. And she called me by my actual name.
“Isaiah,” she said one day after school while we were helping our history teacher move his room.
At first I didn’t even realize she was talking to me.
“Isaiah,” she repeated.
“Isaiah, you’re going to help me with this box aren’t you?”
And I did. I did that and just about everything else she told me to do. Including asking her out.
“Isaiah,” she said. I always smiled when I heard her say my name. “Are you just wasting my time or is this relationship going to go anywhere?”
Woah. What was she talking about? Apparently she thought that spending time together every day meant we were in a relationship. And apparently she wanted something more concrete. And apparently I agreed, so I asked her out for the upcoming Saturday.
I looked over at Alisa as we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant. Her eyes still looked puffy, but she had gotten the smudges off of her face. We met another couple there for dinner. We talked and laughed, but Alisa’s eyes never smiled.
They continued to not smile when we got to prom. She glared at me so hard, I just found a corner to hang out in until it was time to go home and change before picking up Nora. Alisa interrupted my thoughts to collect me for a dance and some pictures. I went along with it; I was her prom date after all. Then I went back to my corner.
She and her crowd of girlfriends looked over at me every couple of minutes, shooting me evil looks. Every now and then I heard one of them. “No!” “He trippin’.” They all stopped talking though, when some big dude walked in. Then they cracked up. I looked to see what was so funny, and this dude, he was crazy big, had on a tiny tux and only had one eyebrow. Alisa marched over to him, fuming. Then he grabbed her and they started to dance. When Alisa walked away, she had a smile on her face and finally in her eyes.
I left soon after that. She didn’t need me anyway.