There's a bow tied around my neck and I'm dying for a smoke.
Tonight's the senior prom and there's no way I'm going to get through this ordeal sober. I wouldn't be going at all, but I promised my girlfriend, Emily. She said the prom only happens once in your life and I'd regret it if I blew the whole thing off. "Humor me," she said. On the off chance she's right, I agreed to take hera decision I now regret.
I figure if I catch a buzz before I pick her up, maybe the night won't be a total disaster. Emily always says she can't stand being around stoners, but then again she can never tell when I'm stoned.
Besides, there's no use complaining now. I have the whole thing lined upthe black tux, the white limo, the red corsage. I even rented a room at the Hyatt. It's something you're supposed to do, I guess. It's not like I think some cheesy hotel room will make Emily want to sleep with me. I know she won't. It's not even worth trying. I probably won't even tell her I got it. If she ever wants to go all the way, she'll let me know. Her parents left her home alone for an entire weekend last month and she still wouldn't put out. A hotel room isn't going to make any difference.
The most we ever do is kiss, sometimes until our lips are chapped. Every time I try to push it a little farther, she pulls away and I stop. Supposedly, most guys don't. Like the guys she used to go out with. From what I can figure, they didn't take no for an answer and I don't want to be like them, so I always apologize and say, "Whenever you're ready." You might think that makes me a good guy, but most people around here would say it just makes me a pussy.
I've heard people say that Emily was a slut at her old school, Fairview High. It's only a couple miles away from Chelsea. News gets around and sometimes I listen. Not that it really matters. People say a lot worse about their so-called best friends.
From the very beginning she told me she wanted to take things slow and that was fine with me. After three years of high school I'd never even been on a date, so going slow sounded a lot better than going nowhere at all.
I'm pretty sure Emily doesn't care about the prom anyway. She wants to shed her old skin. Going to the prom is really about making a new memory to replace the old ones she wants to forget. Deep down I'll bet she knows it's a big joke, but you'd have to ask her. That's the only way you ever know what's going on in someone else's head and even then you can't be too sure.
Emily doesn't talk about her past much, just in bits and pieces. She once told me how her dad found her drunk at Larry's down on High Street, sitting in some guy's lap. Another time she got so wasted at a Beastie Boys concert she had to have her stomach pumped. She's been arrested for shoplifting, but she won't tell me what she stole. Like she says, it doesn't matter. But if you put all the pieces together it looks like a blur, a girl out of control. She's not like that anymore; so maybe going to the prom is a small price for me to pay.
My sister, Annika, on the other hand, cares a lot about the prom. Even though she's only in the fifth grade and I'm about to go to college, in a lot of ways I think of her as my best friend. I can tell her anything and know she'd never rat me out. That's a lot rarer than it ought to be. In a few years she'll drift away. When she gets into sixth grade, it'll all change. That's when girls start thinking about boys. That's when they turn mean.
Last week Annika was begging me to help pick out my tux. Not that she had to, I would have taken her anyway. Without her or someone else from the family in the car, I'm not allowed to drive. Dad says driving is not a right but a privilege. He says he's doing it for my own good. If I had a gallon of gas for every time I heard that, I could have escaped to California by now. Dad figures with Annika in the car I won't try anything stupid and if I do, he's under the false impression she'll report back to him. The truth is, I'm really not such a bad driver; I've just had some bad luck.
Excerpted from Maybe a Miracle by Brian Strause Copyright © 2005 by Brian Strause. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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