It’s the one night every high school girl dreams of. The dress, the dinner, the date, the pictures, the hair, the music. Prom. Prom is right now a month away. I have no dress, no date, no plans. Needless to say, it’s the story of my life. But I’m not too bothered by it. My best friend Eric is going with his girlfriend, April. They’ve been dating for a little less than a year, and are definitely the cutest couple on the planet, I love them both dearly.
My boyfriend, Andrew, graduated last year and is now in the middle of the Afghanistan desert. I hear from him about once every month, and haven’t seen him since he came home on leave over Christmas. I’ve had guy friends offer to go to prom with me, seeing as the one person I want to go with is thousands of miles away, but I’ve turned them down. Andrew is the only person I want to go with, anyway.
“Faye, you have to go to prom. It’s this year, or never,” April says as she sprawls across my bed, books stacked around us.
I simple shake my head and open my notebook to a clean page, smoothing it out and avoiding her eyes, “The only person I want to go with is Andrew. And that’s not going to happen. April, it’s fine if I don’t go. Really. I’ll be okay,” I say, reassuring her with a smile. April sighs and goes back to reviewing her textbook for our upcoming advanced biology exam.
Pretty soon, the doorbell rings and we both bolt downstairs to answer it. We both know it’s Eric with our Chinese food as I swing open the door and grab the food from him as he hugs his girlfriend. I set everything on the table, and grab the paper plates and each person their favorite soda.
“Have you heard from Andrew yet?” Eric asks, breaking apart his chopsticks and digging into his chow mien.
I stare at my chicken fried rice and sigh, “No, not yet. Soon though, maybe,” I say, biting into my food, still avoiding April’s and Eric’s eyes.
“You know you can still go to prom with us, Faye,” April says, putting a loving hand on my arm. I look up at her and try to smile sincerely.
“Thanks, really. But you guys know how I feel about being the third wheel. It’ll be fine, I’m taking Gabby to the mall that night, it’ll be fun,” I lie smoothly. Gabby was my 15-year-old sister and practically my best friend. We tell each other everything because it’s just our dad since our mom left when she was 5 and I was 8.
“You’re spending prom night with your sister? Really, Faye? Come on,” Eric says, rolling his eyes at me.
“Hey, can we just drop the prom subject and move on? Seriously,” I mutter, opening my soda. April and Eric stopped talking about it the rest of the night.
Later that night as I composed my third e-mail to Andrew that month, Gabby knocked on my door.
“Yeah, come in,” I say, turning my music down.
“I heard you guys talking earlier,” she starts, sitting on my bed. I turn away from my laptop and look at her, as if to tell Gabby to continue.
“And I didn’t know our big shopping trip was on prom night,” she says, looking at me.
“Gabby, don’t even worry about it. I don’t want to go, and besides, it’s going to be fun. I’m excited,” I say, smiling and sitting next to her on my bed.
Before either of us could say something else, a video chat invite popped up on my computer. My heart stopped beating and I stopped breathing as I walked over to my laptop again. I got slightly excited but felt more disappointment when I saw it was our older brother, Trevor. I brought the laptop over to the bed and set it down in front of Gabby and I.
“Hey, Trev,” I answer the call and Gabby waves.
“Faye’s not going to prom,” Gabby spits out.
“Gabby!” I yell, hitting her arm softly.
“Wait, what? Why not?” Trevor asks as I see his roommate, Mat, walk by and wave at us.
“Because Andrew’s in the middle of the desert and not coming home,” Gabby says, picking at her nail. I look at her sharply.
“Thank you, Gabriella,” I mutter through my teeth.
“Okay, I can understand that, I guess. But you can’t let his absence control your entire life. It’s a huge part of it, but you have to be able to live life and enjoy it. That’s what he would want you to do, anyway.” Trevor says. Andrew and Trevor are best friends, that’s how I know Andrew. They both went to school together and were both on the hockey and soccer teams. They’ve been inseparable since the third grade when we moved here.
I roll over on my back and put a pillow on my face, “Can everyone just stop talking about prom? I’m not going, because I don’t want to. It would suck without him, anyway,” I practically scream.
I guess Trevor must have made a motion or something because Gabby patted my stomach and got off my bed and left. I uncover my face and turn back to my older brother on my computer screen.
“Faye, you’re going to regret not going to prom. You really will. Believe me,” Trevor said, pain in his eyes. I looked down at my blanket and sighed. He, of all people, would know what it felt like to not go to prom. Last year, Trevor was supposed to go to prom with his girlfriend, Natalie, when she died in a car crash three weeks before. It was hard on the whole family, because she had been in his life forever.
“I’m sorry. I know this is nothing like what you went through, but he might as well be… you know. Heck, he might even be right now! I don’t know, and that’s what scares me!” I almost yelled, tears practically pouring out of my eyes. Trevor sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
“Look, he’s not dead. Believe me. He’s okay. I promise.” He says, and I can almost see tears in his own eyes, too.
“If you’re wrong, I’m going to choke you,” I say, laughing and wiping my eyes. Trevor laughs, too and rubs his own eyes.
“It sucks, I bet. But you’ll get through this. You guys have been together for two years now, and I know neither of you will let this come between you. Listen to me,” He says in his stern, older-brother voice. I lift my head and look at the screen, “Buy a dress. Get your hair done. Go to prom with April and Eric. You will regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t. Please. Think of how happy it’s going to make Andrew when he sees pictures of you looking all pretty in a dress at prom with your old high school group of friends. Do it for him. For me,” He says and I want to jump through the screen and hug him.
After a minute of contemplation and silence, I sigh heavily, “Fine. I’ll go. For you guys,” I say, forcing myself to smile.
“Good girl,” Trevor says, winking at me, which makes me laugh, “Hey, I gotta go though, I have a huge exam to study for, and Mat needs to sleep. I’ll talk to you later though, okay? Love you.” Trevor says.
“Love you too.” I say, and then exit out of the video chat window before finishing the e-mail and sending it off to Andrew.
That night, I get ready for bed, and pray a lot. I pray for Andrew’s safety, for everyone else’s safety, and that everyone gets their boys back home soon. Because I need mine.
The next month is all a blur. I tell my dad about my change of plans for prom, and he’s overly excited for me. I call up my Aunt Tracy and tell her, and she agrees to come with April and I to go dress shopping within the next week. I find a gorgeous, floor-length, strapless, cream colored dress with sequins on the upper body half, and it flows away from my petite stature like a princess gown. Both April and my Aunt tell me it looks good against my rich Italian skin and mid-back length dark hair. As the event approaches, I start to get more and more excited.
The night of prom is here, and April is over at my house, helping me get ready. Gabby is sleeping over at a friend’s house because after the dance, all three of us are coming back here to watch movies and wind down from the evening and spend the night in my den.
April looks gorgeous in her light green dress. The color of it goes perfectly with her medium skin, and red-brown hair. We decide to save money on hair and make-up and nails and just do it ourselves. It was so much more fun than going to a salon, anyway. After we’re all set and ready, we walk downstairs where my dad is waiting with his camera. We take pictures of just us two before Eric arrives, and we both take pictures with him and together.
With the pictures out of the way, it’s time to leave for the dance. We pile into Eric’s SUV and drive to school, and I can’t help thinking of Andrew and what he’s doing right now. April must sense my thoughts, because she pulls me into a side-ways hug and kisses my cheek. While driving, Eric puts a hand on my hair and ruffles it gently. I smile at my best friends, and convince myself I’m going to have a good time without Andrew.
We get to the ballroom where our prom is being held and the place is already completely alive with students and music. We find our table with our names on it, and sit down. There’s four people to almost every table, and I instantly feel like the third wheel.
“Hey guys, I’ll be right back,” Eric says, and disappears in the crowd. April and I nod our heads in awknowledgement and look around at all the girls in their dresses, and the guys in their tuxes. The first couple of songs are dance tunes that we hear on the radio all the time. April, Eric and I have such a great time dancing to them, I seem to forget who’s missing until one of the slower songs comes on, and I realize it’s Andrew’s favorite. My face falls and Eric smiles softly and puts his hand on my arm. I turn around to go back to the table when I run into a tall, muscular guy.
“Oh sorry,” I mumble before looking up to see who it was, “Holy sh – Andrew!” I yell, wrapping my arms around him and burying my face in his shoulder.
He laughs in my ear and picks me up, spinning me around and hugging me, “Hey,” He says before kissing me. I wrap my arms around his neck and smile.
“Wait. I thought you didn’t have leave for another year, and you haven’t returned my e-mails, butthead!” I yell, stepping away from him and swatting his arm playfully.
Andrew just laughs and takes me into his arms and dances with me, “I didn’t respond because I knew I would have spoiled something, and I lied about being on leave. The Army might be tough, but it isn’t heartless,” He laughs and dips me. I smile up at him, thankful he’s okay and happy with me, “You look absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful, by the way.” He says, smiling at me. I can feel my skin burn from blushing. After a couple more dances, we sit down to rest our feet.
“Okay wait a minute,” I say as soon as we’re seated with bottles of water, “Who knew about this?” April, Eric and Andrew all looked at each other sheepishly, “Are you kidding? Did my dad know?” I ask and link my arm through Andrew’s as I laugh with my friends.
“Yeah. And Gabby,” Eric says before he takes a small sip of his water.
“Trevor knew, too,” Andrew smiles, planting a kiss on my forehead. I roll my eyes and laugh, thankful to have my boy by my side on one of the most important nights of my life.
We all leave a half hour before the dance is supposed to end. We had enough dancing and music, and April and I were dying to get our dresses off and into our sweats.
As we are leaving, Andrew takes my hand as April and Eric walk ahead of us, “So I have to tell you something,” Andrew says in a serious tone, and my heart imediately starts beating faster.
“What?” I ask nervously, not meeting his eyes as we walk across the parking lot to his car.
“I’m not going back,” He said in the same serious tone. I do a double take at him for a moment before a giant smile spreads across my face.
“Wait, are you absolutely sure that this is what you want to do?” I ask, looking up at him, meeting his eyes.
“Of course, I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t what I wanted. I’m going to school, studying law, and then I’ll be here. For good,” He smiles down at me and squeezes my hand.
I sigh a little and smile as we get into his car, ready for a relaxing night with our friends. I’m glad to have Andrew back, and nothing could have ever made this night better. I will definitely remember this night for the rest of my life.
“Mom! That is the cutest story ever!” My now twelve year-old-daughter, Dakota tells me.
“I’d like to think so!” I say, closing the scrapbook. Earlier in the day, she had been bugging me to tell her about prom, because her best friend’s older sister was getting ready to go with her boyfriend.
“Has daddy always been your prince charming?” My six-year-old, Jessie, asks me.
“Yeah, pretty much. I’ve known him since I was nine years old. He’s my best friend, too,” I tell the little girl on my lap.
“I hope my prince is my best friend,” Jessie says, hoping off my lap and getting on the floor and crawling into Andrew’s lap.
“He will be. If he’s not, that means you shouldn’t marry him,” Andrew tells Jessie, tapping her nose with his finger. Jessie smiles and hugs her father. Andrew looks over her shoulder with the same look in his eyes he had on our first date, the first time he came home on leave, the night of prom, and on our wedding day.