Nearly a year ago, we were preparing for our prom or what we also call our year-end ball. It would have been my first prom if it had been pushed through. Everything was ready. Unfortunately, COVID-19 came and completely threw off our plans. Now, as it nears one year, I decided to write what I thought would have had happened. Of course, sprinkled with some fiction for Valentine’s day.
To our plans that had been cancelled and postponed because of COVID-19. Wear a mask and stay safe everyone!
Dressed in a black dress that glittered with gold, I entered the hotel lobby. There was a mini red carpet leading to the function room where our year-end ball would take place. The school’s hired photographer was stationed at the center, his camera dangling from his neck. I held my head up high and walked on the carpet. I promised myself I would be confident. Just this night. Not worry of what they would think, of what they would say. Not think of my insecurities.
I swept aside my trail and stood with my left leg forward. I wore a long sleeveless dress, the neckline comfortably resting on the base of my neck. It hugged my body, flaunting my apple figure. It had a slit on the left side, exposing my left leg while the other leg was covered. The remaining cloth pooled on my feet and was connected to a short trail of unblinking gold. It would have looked nicely if I had longer legs but my golden heels gave me a bit of help with that. My hair was pulled into an updo, tied into a braided bun behind my head with a few curled tendrils of raven hair hanging in the breeze. The gold earrings glinted against the light of the hotel’s chandelier.
The photographer signaled and positioned his camera in front of him. I stared at the camera, a neutral expression on my face. Or what I thought was a neutral expression. I wanted to look fierce. I wanted to look confident. But I never knew how to pose. The photographer signaled for another photo and this time, I showed a small smile. Just to be safe and I get a picture worth buying.
I entered the function room and sat with my friends. Every person I came across with complimented me. Under normal circumstances, I would have waved it away or turned it into a cringey joke but I let them come tonight. I told them thank you and returned the compliment.
Everyone was stunning tonight. Everything was beautiful.
It was my first ever prom–or attending a ball, it was often interchanged–and I only read about them in books or saw them in movies, but standing here, now, it feels different. It’s different when you’re the one dressed up, when you’re the main character.
The lights dimmed and the spotlights turned on, brushing around the lifted platform and the wide empty space separating the stage and the tables. The whole room calmed down as the event started.
As much as I loved the preparation for this event, what I anticipated the most was the food. I mean, who gets to eat at buffets that many times? Not me and I’m definitely taking advantage of this evening’s buffet.
At least a dozen of fresh dishes, both hot and cold, were laid for everyone to partake. That is excluding the cake across the room that I began eyeing while we waited in the buffet line, the table of desserts beside it, and the long roasted pig comfortably lying on its separate table ahead, its crisp, brown skin glinting in the faint light. In events like these, most people would probably avoid eating too much to not gain weight, especially dressed in tight fitting dresses but not me. Oh no, I won’t. I didn’t pay for this event to happen just to play dress up. I paid to eat.
It was my turn. Plate and utensils ready and poised to attack, my eyes scanned the long table until I saw my two targets: carbonara and chicken cordon bleu. I passed by the other dishes and dug on the two, bringing a mountain of carbonara and chicken cordon bleu to our table. My friend asked if I was sure I was only eating them. There were many choices, after all.
“Yes, unless they have ice cream?”
My friend wasn’t sure. I nodded and inhaled my plate. I was a whore for cordon bleu and carbonara. I could survive Earth with just these two.
Activities resumed after dinner until ten in the evening. The last part of the event was basically free-for-all, ask someone to dance with you or dance with your friends. It also depended on the song whether it was a romantic slow dance or a call for a twerking showdown.
My friends insisted on getting more food and left me alone on our table as I cleaned my second bowl of chocolate ice cream (yes, we found out they had ice cream. I mean, what event doesn’t?). The song blaring from the speakers was a pop song that I recognize but didn’t know the title. Groups of friends danced on the space in front of the stage. Some who had become intoxicated (or maybe not. Who knows? I can’t tell) had started making the stage a runway.
Basically, we were a mess. But, a beautiful mess. I watched them as they messed around and laughed their asses off. In another time I would have filmed this but not tonight. Besides the fact that I was too lazy to dig my purse for my phone, I just wanted to watch them and keep the memory to myself. It might not be as clear as a video, and it might eventually blur and fade away as the time passes, but the emotions, the smiles, the laughter–it will stay as it is. Safely tucked inside me, somewhere.
I sipped my water when the song ended. It became quiet for a moment until the silence was replaced with the run of a sweet violin. Some groups of friends scurried away, some had pulled into pairs and swayed to the piano. The song had turned into Taylor Swift’s Lover.
“It’s time guys. Ask your crush, your friend, your teacher,” one of the emcees spoke along the intro of the song, “Don’t waste your time being shy now! We’ll all die anyway!” She cackled before turning off the mic.
I chuckled. I adjusted in my seat to get a better sight of the front stage and at the same time become comfortable. The tables around me were slowly getting empty and it became much colder. I was sitting on the side of our round table and being the complicated person that I was, instead of transferring to another empty chair, I stayed in my seat and twisted my body. My upper body faced the front while my legs were tucked under the tablecloth that served as some sort of blanket. I placed my arm on the edge of the back of my seat and rested my chin on my arm.
The dance floor was slowly filled with pairs slow dancing to the song. It was lovely to look at them. Some were couples enjoying their time, stuck in their own little romantic bubble. Some were blossoming couples, their friends teasing them on the side. Some were best friends laughing together and whispering jokes on each other. Meanwhile, in a nearby table, some students were teasing two teachers to dance.
My line of sight was suddenly blocked when someone stood in front of me and offered a big hand, “May I have this dance?”
I looked up and saw a familiar face. His voice was small but I heard it. Loud and clear. He looked sheepish but his eyes never wavered from me.
I straightened in my seat, “Yes,” I took his hand and stood up, “You may.” He led me to the dance floor where everyone was dancing, a tight hold on my hand.
My other hand consciously tugged at my dress. Did I still have my make-up on? Did my hair still look presentable? I didn’t have any food spilled onto me, right? I ate quite a bit—wait, no, a lot.
All my worries melted into the background of the beat as his other arm snaked around my waist. I placed my free hand on his shoulder while our clasped hand hung in the air. We started to sway to the sweet caress of the music.
“Thank you for accepting,” he started, “I thought you would say no.”
“What? Of course not.” I had no reason to. My shyness, maybe, but seriously, why not though? All year I’ve been screaming at myself to step out of my comfort zone and all throughout the year I did that through small steps. This one is part of those steps too. “I still remember you asking me through chat.” I remember that day. I just got home from our cotillion dance practice when I received a message.
“Ah yes, I wanted to let you know in advance rather than telling it to you immediately.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that.”
We fell into silence. I thought I would be uncomfortable with me being conscious of how I am and how I look and every little thing in the world but no, I was pretty comfortable. Everything seemed to fade away. I seem to focus on the now and not on the before or the after.
“I didn’t want you to make you uncomfortable if I asked you on the spot,” he suddenly said. I thought the topic had ended. I could feel the nervousness radiating from him. It brought a smile.
“Yes,” I chuckled, “Thank you.” A mental facepalm. I always destroyed conversations. It seems to be one of my talents. “I’m curious though, why me?”
“Well,” he paused. He twirled me and placed both of my hands this time on both of his shoulders while his arms caged my waist. We seemed to be closer than before. “Can I tell you later?”
I was curious. The question had plagued me since I received his message but I did not press on it. I nodded.
“It’s your first time to attend something like this, right?” I nodded. “How is it?”
“It’s good.” I notice how short and stiff I am. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t enjoying this so I added, “It’s really nice. It went over my expectations.” And this was the cherry on top, I wanted to add but chickened out on the idea.
“You don’t really speak much, do you?”
I noticed how much I kept nodding I might have looked like a bobbing chicken now but again, I nodded, “I prefer to write. I can express myself better when I write.” I was caught in a déjà vu. I realized we had the same, exact conversation we had last Fall and last two weeks ago.
“I prefer to talk in person. I prefer to look at the person I’m talking to.”
I know, I wanted to reply but I was pierced by his eyes. They were darker than I remembered. I noticed myself looking at him too much and quickly looked away. I have always been scared of looking at people’s eyes. I felt like when I do they would discover my thoughts, the flaws I have, know everything about me—and that scared me. What would they say about me? What would they think about me?
The music reached the bridge. He lifted my arm from his shoulder and held my hands and we started to stretch out our arms and meet in the middle. I laughed. We were the only one doing it.
“Nothing,” I said as a trace of laughter escaped from my lips.
“Don’t you think it’s boring to be swaying all the time?”
I laughed harder. I couldn’t argue with his argument.
The song then calmed down to its pre-chorus again and we settled into another sway. I noticed his hands holding my hands. “It’s so big,” the words escaped from my lips before I could stop them. I was in cloud nine. I was losing control of everything. I was on auto-pilot. “I mean,” I said, flustered. Trying to lessen the embarrassment I quickly added, “Your hands, compared to mine.” My hand was so small compared to his he only needed to use his fingers to have a tight grip on my hand. It looked as though he was holding something fragile but his grip was tight and firm.
“Yours are too small,” he commented. He didn’t let me reply as he twirled me, twice, following the second to the last ‘My’s’ of Taylor Swift’s Lover. I could hear him chuckle as he caught me to stand still. The whole world spun. It was only after the last word of the song–’Lover’–that my vision cleared and I saw myself looking up at him. I noticed how near we are to each other; we’ve closed the distance between us.
“Thank you for dancing with me,” he said, a smile on his face.
I had no reply. I couldn’t. I was at a loss and unable to grasp proper words. If I had opened my mouth, gibberish might have came out. That would be an embarrassment this perfect didn’t need.
He led me back to my seat as the music turned into an upbeat disco song.
“I hope you enjoy the night,” he said, and I didn’t know if he knew but I noticed the brief touch he left on my wrist before he let go. It wasn’t anything rude or inappropriate but it stayed there for a mini second. One might not have noticed it, maybe it probably didn’t mean anything to him, maybe he didn’t even notice but I noticed. Hesitation? Maybe I was the only one making it a big deal.
Blinking, I found myself regaining my ability to speak. “Wait, I forgot—” to ask you why you asked me to dance, I wanted to say but it died out as I turned around and saw him no longer beside me.
As a budding writer, leaving a feedback or any constructive criticism would tremendously help me improve my writing. Thank you so much!