—Six months ago—
“This is it, one to go and then we are free!” yelled Randy eager. “Two months of pure laziness mixed up with the best upcoming videogames, a nice warm beach, girls, girls, girls and beers, beers, beers,” Randy kept saying loud as he came closer to Sam, Peter and Mike, who were sitting just outside the café their school owned, each of them with a cigarette in hand. Randy took out one as well, as he sat in the green, old benches full with graffiti and disgusting pictures made with liquid paper and black sharpie. No need to say it was the smoking area.
“Yeah, Randy, you might as well prepare to do the year all over again, as you go,” Mike said. “It’s like those five nights of tutoring you were worth nothing but my sleep.“ “Dude! C’mon! I swear to you I’ll pass this one; besides, tomorrow’s exam is literally a joke,” Randy said. “You know that’s not the right use of the word, right?” Mike asked. “Yeah dude, relax. Now pass me the lighter if you may, your Highness,” Randy joked. “No but Randy’s right,” Peter joined. “Mr. R’s exams are indeed a joke. You might as well not show up and you’ll pass, just like last semester,” he said. Sam choked on the hit he was giving to his cigarette as he remembered last semester when Mr. R asked the class to make a list with everybody’s name on it so he could have them all in the grades software thingy the school had. Sam was bored, so, when the piece of paper with the names of his classmates got to him, he decided to write a name that had no owner. “Ben Dover.” Every single time Mr. R did the roll call and named this supposed classmate, everyone went nuts in silence. Poor, naive Mr. R.
The semester was on its last days and Mr. R gave the final grades to each student out loud. Randy Michaels, seven point three; Michael Monroe, nine point eight; Peter Rhodes, eight point two; Samuel Torch, nine point two. He kept reading the names and the grades of the other classmates, until he got to non-existent Ben Dover: Seven point five. “What?” Randy yelled. “How the—“ “Shhhh!” Sam looked at Randy with his index finger on his lips. They couldn’t believe Mr. R. They just couldn’t.
“Yeah, I remember that!” said Randy. “That son of a bitch got a better grade than I did. I mean, how?” he asked again. Sam couldn’t contain and laughed out loud. “You do remember that ‘son of a bitch’ isn’t real, Randy?” said Mike, always so formal, so polite and preachy. “Shut up, Michael,” Randy said. “That was one hilarious thing, though. I wonder how he didn’t get fired for that,” Sam said. “Nah, he may be a joke but I did learn things with him,” Peter said. “But I’m sure you’ll pass this semester, Rands,” he continued, forming an OK sign with his fingers. “So, you guys ready for proms season?” he asked. “The hell we are!” Randy jumped. “As long as you don’t fight with Paula at every prom,” Mike interfered. “Shut up,” Pete said. “We already have invites for every prom, though Sam here didn’t need one for most of them, you social bastard,” he joked. “Dude, I’m only invited to two of the five proms there are,” Sam explained. “Oh, just two, all right,” Mike said in sarcasm. “Plus, how on Earth could I saw Taylor coming, asking me to prom and that.” Sam said. “I mean, I know it’s been long since Annie and I are nothing, but she’s her best friend.” “I know. Didn’t know best friends were able to do that, mostly female best friends,” said Randy, lighting another cigarette with the stub of his first one. “Why didn’t you just say no?” Mike asked. “C’mon, Mike, you above all should know about politeness,” Sammie said. “You’re right,” Mike agreed. “You’re screwed, though. Aren’t you going to be at the same table with Annie and that guy— what was his name again?” Pete said. “Dan. And, yeah, I think so. I know, it will be so weird, but anyhow…” said Sam. “You just go and act like you are all over Annie now,” Mike suggested. “I am over her already, ok?” Sam yelled and threw what was left of his cigarette at Mike’s direction. He dodged it. “Yeah, you sure are,” he said, doing the same thing with his cigarette, but missing quite badly. “So, let’s go grab some beers or…?” Randy asked. “Man, I don’t know how you are so skinny, you don’t even show a bit of beer belly,” said Pete, who was always preoccupied about being fit and not having more than three beers in one sitting. “Genetics, dude, genetics. Viva la Michaels family!” Randy celebrated. “Let’s go,” said Sam. “Today it’s on me.”
They went to a bar close to Sam’s house and grabbed some beers, along with some more cigarettes and more constructive chatter about girls, finals, movies, soccer, gym, politics (only Michael, though) and beards. They always ended up talking about beards. About when they started shaving, how many days they had to wait for it to grow, etc. Randy and Pete always complained because they were as beardless as a Victoria’s Secret’s angel, but uglier; way uglier. Sam and Mike, on the other hand, complained about how boring and time wasting it was to have a beard growing after three days of shaving it. It had its ups and downs, though. They stayed there for two or three hours until they decided to call it a day.
Finals were done. Randy passed every exam and he was as happy as, I don’t know, a squirrel that just found an oasis of hazelnuts. So it was time for celebrating and partying, and what was better but the very beginning of proms season. Good for Randy, not so much for Sam, as it was the one with Annie and Taylor graduating. He was so nervous about this night. He went to get the smoking at a suit-rental store near his house and bought the corsage for his date as well—a waste of money, he thought of it, but it was tradition. He bought a simple orchid with a white ribbon attached to it. Taylor had told him her dress was blue, so a white ribbon was good enough.
He picked her up at eight o’ clock in the evening; they had to be where the prom was held at nine o’ clock. She looked beautiful. The large, blue strapless dress combined with her curled done hair made a combo that made her look really good. She was a good-looking girl, apart from that, she was a really good girl, outgoing, so it made her look even better. Taylor was one of those girls you can call “the girl next door.” She’s not the most beautiful girl you will ever see, but she has something in her that attracts you. Somewhat of a Jennifer Aniston style, not quite a professional model, but fairly pretty. Sam opened the passenger’s door of his car for her and they took off.
They arrived to what was a cool, large field full of lights and ceiling drapes to prevent rain if it happened that the weatherman was incorrect about the night (He was). They entered to the field after Sam and Taylor were security checked by a guard, as they gave their invites to the party planner and the usher told them where their table was located. ‘Ms. Taylor M. Duncan and Mr. Samuel Torch’. Sammie looked really good. The smoking suit fitted to his body, a black bow tie, and his hair combed with wax to the right side. He looked like a young typical James Bond: dark hair, strong face factions, the black, tight smoking and the bow tie. The only thing he was missing was the British accent and the golden gun.
They got in and walked around the place for almost an hour, stopping by with Taylor’s classmates, talking a little bit with every one of them and their prom dates. Let me give you a reminder that they were a year younger than Sam, so he got bored really fast. It wasn’t his fort, talking with people he didn’t even know about things he didn’t really care. He was anxious to start drinking already. He decided to go and order the bottles of booze they were going to have at their table. “In a minute,” a waiter said to him. The tables were decorated with white tablecloths and a big, square jar with water and a bunch of red roses in it. The chairs were covered up with white fabric as well. The bottles came and the waiter served him with a large glass of Rum and fizzy water with a touch of coke zero. Sam ordered one for Taylor as well and then he went looking for her. Shit, Sam thought when he saw Taylor talking with Annie. She was looking radiantly; prettier than ever, and there he was Dan as well, with whom Sam had no problem with, but it was Annie’s boyfriend, so… Sam went there and gave the glass to Taylor. He was shaking, a lot, but he controlled it and went for it. “Hey! How are you?” said Sam, giving a kiss on Annie’s left cheek and giving her a little friendly hug. “Hey! Good, you?” she answered and went with the hug. “Umm, this is Dan,” she said. They shook hands. “Hey,” Sam said. “Hey,” Dan said. Gladly for Sam, Dan didn’t know anything about Annie and him and their past. Sam turned to Taylor, “is it good, the booze?”. “Yes!” she said. “Refreshing, thanks. Come on, let’s go to our table before they start the parade or whatever,” she said. They walked to their table and Sam noticed some guys and girls already sitting there. Annie wasn’t there. Safe, he thought. Sam said hello to the guys and girls and grabbed a seat to the left of the prom date of yet another best friend of Annie and Taylor: Marianne. Her prom date was a guy Sam knew form when they were little. He was glad for this, and maybe so was he. Jerry was his name.
They started drinking some more and talking and having fun, until the graduation parade or whatever begun. They stood up and went to take their places. Each student was named along with his or her prom date, and then they would stay in the dance floor until everyone was named; then the prom dance would begin. “Aaron Porter and Leila Greenberg!” announced the principal. The unknown guys (for Sam) walked through the dance floor and stood in the center of the rectangle, followed by a camera and a brilliant light and one big round of applause; Porter behind Greenberg.
“Amanda Avery and Peter Douglass!” he said. The same thing happened. They stood by Aaron and Leila.
“Annie Abrahams and Daniel Quinn!” Same thing…
The principal kept going in alphabetical order. “Ronald Ritchie and Daisy Rose Smith!” named the principal. Sam laughed at her name, so did Taylor. So did the guys before them and the guys after… “Sebastian Logan Erickson and Maya Cross,” he named. The guys stepped into the lights and begun walking. Maya’s dressed got between her feet, somehow, and she kind of tripped. There was a little laughing going in the place. Taylor looked at Sam; it was their turn. Sam noticed Taylor was getting nervous because of what happened to Maya. Sam grabbed her hand tightly, he wasn’t so nervous now thanks to the booze he was drinking before. This might have helped Taylor. “Taylor M. Duncan and Samuel Torch!” the principal said out loud. The lighting, the camera and the round of applause went the same way, along with some cheering going where Sam’s friends were sitting. He gave a big smile to the camera and gave a little hit into Taylor’s rib with his elbow, so she would smile. She did. They stood by Sebastian and Maya, until there were no students left to name. Then the D.J started playing a slow song for them to dance. Sam reckoned it was Lilly Brice’s “Hang in there with me” what the D.J decided to play. Every student took their prom date and started dancing slowly. Face to face. Some of them kissing, some of them whispering things to each other’s ear.
“… Just stay and tell me one more time that we belong.
Stay and we may start to live, one time more.
Just hang in there for me; don’t let go.
Hang in there with me; don’t let me go.
‘Cause we will start to live as we were supposed.
We will start to live…”
The song ended and everybody cheered and applauded and whistled. The party had just begun. Sam and Taylor went to their table again and reunited with Marianne and Jerry and the other guys Sam didn’t know. They continued drinking and talking. There was no dinner but they served some good appetizers: different types of cheese, different types of ham, different types of bread, and mini burgers filled with cream cheese. This last was Sam’s favorite. The snacks didn’t last half the hour. The bottles barely made it through the night. They were already a bit drunk, so Marianne hid the one left bottle of Rum under the table and told them where it was, so they could go and dance and kiss with somebody you don’t need to talk ever again and then come back and get some more booze.
That’s a beautiful thing about prom nights: not just boys, but girls go crazy as well and look for someone to spend the night. Some get lucky, some others don’t. Sam kinda did. He was dancing with this pretty lady named “Maah!” Or at least that was what Sam understood. The music was really loud, so the best thing they could do was try and read their lips, or kiss them, but you need at least an introduction to get to this point. The good thing was that Sam was single, so he could do as he wished. He grabbed “Maah” from her arm and took her out of the dance floor. They went for some more booze. In their way there, they met with Pete and Paula, his girlfriend. They weren’t fighting, thank God. But they looked as bored as an only child in his house, just sitting there, doing nothing. “Looking good, Paula!” yelled Sam, laughing. Paula was a tall, thin, brunette girl. She had hell of a body, though, ‘cause she was a dancer. “Suuup, Pete!? Get your ass here and let’s go drink and dance, man,” said Sam. He became another person when he was drunk. Peter and Paula laughed at Sam, who was barely standing. “Hey, Sam! Who’s your friend?” Paula asked. “My friend?” Sammie said. “She’s my girlfriend, Paulie,” he lied. “Oh, yeah? What’s her name?” She dared Sam. “Oh, she’s… she’s ‘Maah’,” he said, scarcely opening his mouth. “Marla?” Paula asked. “Eh… Yeah, ‘Maah’,” he said again and then turned to Pete. “Come on, Pete. Let’s all go dance!” he said, dancing, more like tumbling. “No, wait. So she’s your girlfriend?” Pete asked. “Yeah, I told you, dude.” Sam answered letting a brief hiccup go. “Alright, then kiss her…” Pete challenged. “Pff, yeah, alright.” ‘Maah’ looked at him and closed her eyes, so Sam went for it. It was disgusting: Two drunken persons kissing.
Pete and Paula were shocked. Lucky bastard!Pete thought. “Alright, get a room then!” Paula said and laughed. Pete laughed as well and gave a little kiss on Paula’s lips. That one looked good, sweet. However, Sam heard what Paula said and grabbed ‘Maah’ again from her arm and took off, laughing and dancing and almost knocking waiters’ and waitress’ on the way. They went to the entrance of the party, where Sam counted on taking her to his car and, well, you know. They got out and Sam suddenly changed his face. Annie was sitting on some steps that lead to a saloon, where the after party was going to be held. She was crying. Sam dropped ‘’Maah’s’’ arm and walked Annie’s way. The girl just stood there, drunk, and then entered the field again. Didn’t say a single word.
Sam kneeled and placed his hand on Annie’s shoulder. She took her head up and as she saw him she grabbed his hand and stood up. “Sam… I’m sorry,” she said in a broken voice, sobbing. “I’m so sorry…” she kept saying. “Hey, hey. Don’t worry, you.” Sam said. “What happened?” he asked. Annie couldn’t say a word. She took Sam’s entire arm and started walking into the saloon. They were now alone. She kept walking and pulling Sam with her, until they got to one corner of the small place. Annie laid her arms around Sammie’s neck, still crying, not sobbing anymore. “What is it?” he asked. “It’s you!” she said, “I don’t know why and I don’t how but I saw you and I panicked and Dan noticed me because I started acting weird,” she explained. Sam knew what she meant. She stopped paying attention to Dan the whole night. “He just left. He knew something was on when you and I said hello. He told me he recognized some tension, and when I started acting weird he told me to go do whatever I wanted and then he left,” she said. Sam didn’t know what to do. He was happy but confused at the same time, plus drunk. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “Don’t be, Annie,” he told her. “It’s not your fault. You can’t control your feelings all the time, and neither can I, but I try, Annie. You don’t know how hard I have tried to not think of you, to not call you in the middle of the night and tell you what you already know and what will never change…” Sam said. His eyes started getting shiny, but he wasn’t going to cry. “You know I do, too. In a way, we will always be connected,” she said. This stung on Sam’s insides like the sting of a poisonous bee right in your stomach. He felt hot all over his chest. He couldn’t stand being so near to Annie, yet so far away. Sam took Annie’s head with his palms, his thumbs on her cheeks. He stepped even closer to her, leaving a thin amount of space between his lips and hers. They stayed like this for a minute, until neither of them could resist anymore. Finally, they kissed.