I’ve never found joy getting all dressed up, drinking alcohol, and flooding the school gym to dance the night away. I would rather stay in bed all day with a good book than be surrounded by one hundred seniors dry humping each other. But this isn’t any other dance, this is my first date since Stephan. It had been over a year since things ended between us and I’m ready to get back into the dating world.
“Why are you all dressed up,” Abigail asks, standing at the door. “Well, minus the converse.”
I look down at my white dress shirt and black dress pants. “I’m going to prom.”
Abigail quickly closes the door and approaches me in the mirror. Her eyes pop out of her head and her mouth opens wide. “You’re going to prom,” she asks. “Is this a joke?”
“No,” I say, grabbing the black tie from my desk chair.
Abigail stands in silence as I adjust my tie. Finally, after recollecting herself, she speaks, “Who are you going with?”
“Bridget, she’s the one that’s been conveniently showing up at the cafe after school.”
Bridget and I were table mates in elementary school, back when she was super obnoxious. She would boss people around, judge their clothes, and steal their pink markers. She even claimed she was missing a bag of goldfish after seeing it in my lunchbox. I ended up in the principal's office for stealing. After that situation, I moved tables and ignored her. But now that we’re in high school, she’s mellowed out. I don’t mind being around her anymore, in fact, I like hanging out with her. Just not as a couple.
“It doesn’t sound like you like her,” Abigail says, skeptically.
Abigail, tired of standing, plops on my bed. “Then why go with her?”
“Because it’s my senior year and prom is the most important thing to me. Can’t go to prom without a date,” I say, sarcastically.
“Bullshit,” Abigail says, rolling her eyes. “What’s the real reason?”
I look away from Abigail, knowing that she would be able to tell that I'm lying if she saw my eyes. “I just want to have fun with some of my classmates before we graduate.”
Abigail smirks, “Awe”
“Alright fine.” Abigail leaves my room, finally giving me space to breathe.
Before Stephan and I started dating, we would skip the school dances and just go to the beach. I remember the last time we went. It was the day I realized I liked him.
. . .
“You know what we’re gonna do today,” Stephan asks. We’re in the dollar store looking for snacks. Stephan is picking out a shit ton of candy while I pick out the chips.
“Catch sand crabs,” I ask, throwing a bag of Hot Cheetos and Funyuns in the shopping cart.
“Yes,” Stephan says. “But we’re also going to jump waves.”
I stare at him like he’s crazy. “You know I can’t do it.”
“Abe, look at me,” Stephan grabs my shoulders and turns them so I’m facing him. “You can do anything you want to, okay? When you fall you get back up.”
“Unless I drown.”
Stephan moves his hands from my shoulder to my face. “I won’t let that happen.”
Stephan grabs a bag of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids and places it in the cart next to the chips. He walks towards the register and motions me to follow him. And I do, I follow him. Through everything.
. . .
We start slow, jumping waves close to shore where the waves are smaller. After a while, Stephan gets bored, I can tell. I splash him in the face to get his attention. “I think I’m ready to go farther.”
“Are you sure,” He asks, wiping the salty water from his eyes. “We’ve only been doing this for five minutes.”
Stephan nods and we swim farther into the ocean. He squeezes my hand and i squeeze back. I’m not sure if it’s to comfort me or make sure i don’t float away.
The first wave is scary but I still manage to jump it. I inhale a lot of salt water and soon I'm coughing and my nose burns. Stephan is by my side in no time.
“Are you okay,” Stephan asks, rubbing my back.
“Yeah,” I say, although it sounds more like a whisper.
“Let’s take a break.” Stephen starts swimming to shore, pulling me with him. “I have some water in my bag.”
Stephan stops swimming and looks at me. I don’t want to disappoint him, I know he really wants me to face my fears. So even though I'm close to death, I push myself.
Before Stephan has a chance to say anything, I swim farther, dragging him with me. He tells me to slow down but I don't. Not until I get tired. I can barely see Stephan’s mom reading or the toddlers making sand castles. It’s us and the huge waves, waiting to swallow us whole.
A wave hits me and soon I'm tumbling underwater. I try to swim to the surface but the wave is pushing me forward. After a while, I slow down and get control of my body. I swim to the surface to break water.
Stephan is nowhere in sight. I start to panic, causing me to feel lightheaded. Another wave comes and I just let it push me to shore.
Stephan calls out to me while I'm walking to our tent. Relief consumes me. I’m so happy, my face hurts from smiling. I run towards him and jump into his arms.
“I was so worried I lost you,” I say into his neck.
“Well, I can't protect you if I'm dead.” Stephan pulls back and looks at me. He’s been crying.
I wipe the tear traveling down his cheek. “You’re not doing a good job anyway,” I joke, hoping to make him smile. Instead, he looks guilty.
“I’m sorry about the wave,” Stephan says. “I tried to warn you.”
“I know, and I'm sorry for dragging you with me.”
Stephan smiles. “It’s fine. I had fun.”
I push him, playfully, and walk back to the tent where I can stuff my face and rest my eyes.
. . .
I look at Stephan’s beautiful face while the fireworks go off. He’s smiling up at the sky and my heart stops. He looks at me with those dark brown eyes and I swear to god time slows down. It’s like the clear blue oceans and the sunset skies can’t compare to him.
I’m replaying that moment as we walk to the showers and again when we pack up and climb into the car. I’ll probably think about it a thousand times more. And everytime it’ll still feel the same. Thank god for that.
The fireworks were for a girl named Rachel but I tell myself that it was for Stephan and I. It was for us.
. . .
“Abe, do you remember the fireworks,” Stephan asks.
All the emotions from tonight return and I can't help but blush. “Of course I remember. Why do you ask?”
“I felt something.”
I hold my breath. “What did you feel?”
“I don’t how to describe it. For a long time I've had a crush on you, and i thought you didn’t like me in that way, but tonight i felt it. This energy. And when I looked at you, I knew you felt it too.”
He steps closer to me. He’s so close that our noses are touching. I meet him halfway and I kiss him. His lips are the softest things I've ever felt. I never want them off of me. But we both are struggling to breath, so we stop.
As soon as I catch my breath I want to do it again and again and again. But Stephan is already walking down the street towards his house. He looks back at me, smiling. And I smile back.
. . .
That’s where our story ends. I never got to kiss him again or see him smile. Because the next day he was gone. And now, i’m going to prom without him.