Aubrey thanked her sister for getting them out of the house so quickly. Of all the ready-made excuses she had prepared, that was one she hadn’t thought of, and it was brilliant. She and Julio were all smiles as they made their way to the venue. Aubrey wished she could have seen their faces as they walked in ahead of her. The “wows” she heard, however, were all the confirmation she needed.
“This place is sick, Aubrey,” Julio said.
“Yeah! A thousand times better than the hall we had our prom in,” Maya said.
She hadn’t done all the work herself, of course, but she could claim responsibility for the venue. Aubrey was nervous about contacting the proprietor. She was so young and never had that kind of responsibility before. And, honestly, she thought the place was way out of their league, but she had to try. But, after explaining who she was and what she wanted to do, the proprietor seems very keen on helping her. He even gave her a discount. It was so easy. Almost like he thought she was someone important.
“Hey,” Maya shouted. “I should take you guys’ picture!”
“Do you know how to work this?”
She sucked her teeth. “It’s a camera with fancy lights, Aubrey. Come on.”
Aubrey and Julio stood in place and smiled.
“Ok…one, two, three!”
“Cuuuuute! Let’s do another one! And, uhhh, you guys can get a little closer if you want. I won’t tell anyone.” She winked at them. “Oooh! Let’s change the background on this one.”
Aubrey appreciated her excitement and was glad she was having fun. That was the whole reason for inviting her to chaperone. She didn’t talk to her about it, but she was concerned about her sister. Maya didn’t seem ok after Anthony broke up with her. She didn’t even tell her. Aubrey overheard their parents discussing it one night. It explained her detached behavior.
Aubrey and Julio looked at each other awkwardly as they attempted a new pose for the next picture. They knew want Maya wanted, but they weren’t that comfortable with each other. Besides, they weren’t dating. They had not even worked out exactly how they felt about each other. Aubrey settled on another friendly pose with her elbow on his shoulder. It wasn’t what Maya wanted, but at least they were touching.
Maya said “one more” like four more times, and each time she encouraged them to get closer. It was very annoying, and Aubrey hoped it hadn’t been a mistake asking her to chaperone. She didn’t want to deal with her trying to push them together all night. Maya probably would have continued taking pictures if she let her.
“Maya, I need you to go downstairs and make sure the drink fountains and buffets are filled…and look presentable.”
She knew the caterer had already been there, but Maya needed tasks to busy herself with and stay out of her hair. Within a few minutes, her classmates began trickling in, and she got nervous. She hoped for a fun, drama-free evening. Garrison, her least favorite friend, was starting his antics already. He was trying to swindle a dance out of Marisol even though everyone knew she was way out of his league. She was way out of everyone’s league. She was that girl who was too popular for her own good, yet somehow she and Aubrey managed to be warm acquaintances.
Aubrey found herself in an interesting position on the high school social food chain. She knew someone from all the ranks and had managed to be liked by all of them. Some of them appreciated her more than others, but for the most part, she didn’t have any enemies in school. She and her group of friends were in the center of things. They were popular, pretty, and liked enough not to be on the bottom of the food chain, but not popular and pretty enough to be at the top. However, everyone always secretly knew that everyone loved Aubrey and thought she was too pretty to be stuck in the middle and belonged at the top. She would freak out if she knew Marisol was intimidated by her.
A few more classmates slipped past her, and she broke away from her friends to greet them. The first person she saw downstairs was Keegan Faust. She was so glad to see him, she practically ran over to him.
“I’m so glad you could make it!”
She was concerned he wouldn’t be able to afford to pay the dues and buy an appropriate outfit, but there he was standing right in front of her and looking quite dapper.
“And, you look great,” she said.
He blushed. “Thanks. S-so do you…and this is a great place too.”
She always suspected he may have had a crush on her, and now she knew for sure. She felt so sorry for him and his brother and always took care to make him feel included. He must have taken that care as interest. Or, maybe he appreciated it and got caught up in the process.
Aubrey went around greeting more people while Maya found someone she knew and sat with her. It was Cayla Mumbach, Chasity’s oldest daughter. Maya didn’t know her that well, but they had met a few times at family functions. It was so hard to keep up with all the cousins and their children.
After everyone was accounted for and greeted, Aubrey took off her host hat and put on her party hat and began to enjoy the fruits of labor with her friends…mostly Julio. As she was dancing, she noticed Keegan had gotten a bit bold and was talking to Marisol. Everyone–including Aubrey–also secretly knew that Keegan really belonged at the bottom of the social food chain, but his association with Aubrey elevated him. Still, he had no business trying to talk to Marisol. She was nervous for him yet proud that he wasn’t afraid to try. Marisol didn’t seem to be enjoying the conversation, but she didn’t walk away either.
The DJ was on point, and everyone stayed on the dance floor practically all night. It was the perfect evening Aubrey dreamed it would be.
“This is so awesome,” Julio shouted.
“THIS IS SO AWESOME!”
“You should be proud,” Julio said.
Aubrey blushed. “It’s not like I did all of this by myself, you know.”
“Yeah, but everyone knows you did all the important stuff. You should be proud.”
His appreciation meant so much. She had nothing more to say.
Everyone seemed to work up an appetite at the same time and rushed the buffet. Aubrey danced with Julio all night, but they weren’t attached at the hip. She did break away at times to hang with her other friends. He was free to do the same. It was nice, however, to see how everyone recognized and even respected their friendship. Wherever he was, there was always room for her and vice versa. Prime example: Aubrey thought it would be polite to let everyone get food ahead of her. By the time she got her food, there were only a few empty seats: one seat at the table with people at the bottom of the food chain, an empty table, and one seat next to Julio. She never had to make demands like Marisol did. People anticipated what she wanted and gave it to her.
Although the room was buzzing with conversations, and the DJ was still spinning those funky fresh beats, somehow Aubrey felt like she and Julio were having a nice, quiet dinner together. Kind of like they were on a date. It was nice. She wondered if he would ever want to go on a real date with her. Would they even work as a couple?
Marisol came over to the table and talked to Aubrey for the first time all night. “This is cool.”
Aubrey knew that was the best compliment she would get out of her. Needless to say, Marisol was a bit prideful. While she had her attention, she decided to prod around for some information.
“Hey, I saw you and Keegan talking all night. Do you like him?”
“Meh. He’s so sad, you know? I feel sorry for him…
“He’s kinda cute though…. But, it would never work.”
Aubrey’s heart dropped. She wished she could protect him from heartbreak and hoped he knew what he was doing.
After she finished her food, she made the obligatory appearance with her cousin and pseudo-cousin. She and Graham Pruett–her great-uncle Emerson’s son–were the same age but they weren’t that close. They weren’t in the same circles, and unfortunately, his relationship with her did not elevate his social status like it did for Keegan. He seemed happy enough at the bottom though. And, of course, there was Sharon Mumbach: Derek’s adopted daughter from OJenn’s previous relationship.
While she was making small talk with them, her phone vibrated. It was a text from her dad.
Hope you’re having fun. Don’t have too much juice…and no tongue! 😛 Love you!
She laughed so loud, everyone glanced over at her.
Tongue?! EWWW! Luv u 2 😀
Prom was supposed to end at 2 a.m., but no one–including the DJ–felt like going home.
“All right, kids,” the DJ yelled, “Let’s say we have an after partaaaaaaaay!”
All the students hollered and cheered and rushed back to the dance floor. It was epic. Aubrey was beyond proud.
After another two hours, the party finally began to die down and people began slowly making their exit. Maya took the opportunity to have another plate of food while Aubrey took the opportunity to do something a bit weird. She could feel Maya burning a hole in the side of her head.
“I cannot believe you brought that with you,” Maya said. “You’re a dork. You know that, right?”
“What? I have school tomorrow!”
“You can’t wait until you get home?”
“Dude, I don’t know about you, but I’m going STRAIGHT to bed when we get home and I’m going to sleep alllllll day. Then, I’m gonna wake up, have lunch, and sleep some more!”
“You’re so lame.”