After weeks of planning, begging, preparing, panicking...The Plan has come to fruition. In a few short moments, I'll be asking Bret Anthony himself to prom.
Lace and I got to Bountiful Harvest in plenty of time to make sure all my ducks were in a row before the play started. I checked in with Evan, he showed me how it would work, where I should stand, and when I should meet him at the backstage door.
I checked and double checked myself in the bathroom mirror, listening to the quiet rumble of the crowd in the hallway, buying tickets, greeting friends, everyone soaking in the thrill of being at school without having to be At School.
I adjusted my boobs a few times. They still looked epic. Hair and makeup: check. I spread on some more lip gloss, even though it would probably come off by go time.
And then the hallway lights flashed, and Lace and I settled into our seats, and the evening began.
The stage manager told us to turn off our cell phones and small children, the overture poured through the auditorium speakers the school had refused to replace for the past decade, and then the actors were on stage, and there was Bret Anthony, and I spent the entire first half of the play gripping Lace's arm so tightly that she kept pushing me off her so she could regain feeling in her fingertips.
Intermission came and went.
The second half carried on as the butterflies in my stomach danced with increasing fervor.
And then, it was my cue.
I snuck out the back of the auditorium, ran to the backstage door and knocked gently.
And now, it's happening. Evan's fastening me into the Peter Pan harness (I'm sure it has a real name, but that's just what I call it, since it's the thing they use to make Peter Pan fly). The whole time, he's grilling me on the details of our deal.
Evan: "You're giving me the nutter butters from your lunch for the rest of the year."
Me: "If mom packs one, it's yours."
Evan: "And I get physical and digital copies of every last song in your music collection."
Me: "I'm already halfway through burning the discs."
Evan: "And you're doing my math homework until we graduate."
Me: "It's just busy work anyway."
Evan: "And if Ms. Barn refuses to write me a referral because of this-"
Me: "I will personally confront her and explain that the whole thing was my idea and you had nothing to do with it."
Evan tugs the harness firmly to ensure that I won't fall out. "And?"
I sigh. "And, I will stop telling people you only dated me to prove you're not gay."
He doesn't respond. He just looks at me, and all of a sudden I can see it, the hurt I've been causing him for two years because of that lie. "Yeah," he finally says. "Because I didn't."
"I know, Evan." The whole plan leaves my head for a moment, and it's just us, just this stupid thing that's been hanging in the air between us, a thin veil that kept us ever so slightly apart, when we could have been really close friends. "I'm sorry."
He shrugs. "I'll get over it," he says, but there's no harshness in his voice. It's almost tender. He gives me a small smile. "Ready to ruin my future?"
I smile back. "Yeah."
"Okay. Here we go."
From the stage, I can hear Bret's song coming to a crescendo. He's Cornelius Hackl, singing to Irene Molloy that it only takes a moment, and a split second later it is my moment. Evan pulls on the harness and I swing onto stage, and all at once, the reality of what I'm doing hits me, hard. The stage lights shine hot and bright on my face, and I hear the audience making noises, not sure what's happening. I glance out into the crowd but I can't see a thing, just the light in my eyes. I turn my attention back to Bret Anthony, who stares at me, slack-jawed.
"Um," I say, feeling utterly ridiculous. In my head, this was magical, ethereal, I would float onto the stage and confess my love, and Bret Anthony would take me in his arms and that would be that, I'd have my happy ending. And now that I'm here, in this stupid contraption, with everyone watching, I realize what I'm really doing: I'm interrupting the school play so that I can make a speech to a guy who only knows my name because we've gone to school together since we were kids.
The seconds tick by and they feel like hours, heavy, pounding. I want to take it back, I want to go back in time to when Evan initially refused my plea for this favor, I want to be back in my seat, watching, imagining.
But it's too late.
I'm already out here. So I may as well say the stupid speech I'd spent way too much time memorizing before I get yanked off (which is sure to happen at any moment), or this whole thing will have been a total waste.
"Bret Anthony," I say, my voice pushing its way through the agonizing fear that's crushing my vocal chords closed, "I know you don't really know me. And that's my fault. I've been afraid. Afraid to let you know how deeply I feel for you. I'm here tonight, on this stage, because I'm tired of waiting for you to notice me and make the first move. Do you remember, that time in 4th grade, when you wanted to be my boyfriend? I've thought about it so much, how I rejected you so quickly when all I really wanted was to be with you. I want to take it back, Bret. I want to get to know you. I want you to see that I'm more than just a shy girl who can't work up the nerve to speak to you. So here goes nothing: Bret Anthony, will you go to prom with me?"
As soon as I'm done, my voice cracks, and I have no idea what I'm feeling because I'm feeling so many things: exhilaration, terror, happiness, crushing defeat, panic, and a handful of things I can't even name. Whatever it is, I'm feeling it with every inch of my body, and this mystery feeling explodes inside me and I dissolve into tears. And I hate myself for it. I feel like such a complete, useless idiot; hanging here, sobbing pathetically, heart laid bare, completely uncertain of my own truth anymore.
I look at Bret Anthony through the torrent of tears. He lets out a breath, and his shoulders sag a little. "Jesus, Gwen." That's all he says.
The next thing I know, someone yanks on the harness and I'm flying backwards, off the stage. I hear the music start up again, and Bret restarts his song, the weirdness of what just happened still evident in his voice. I'm staring the assistant stage manager in the face, her fury evident, and she's giving me the quietest angry lecture I've ever received, and Ms. Barn is there, and that just makes everything worse, because here's this woman who's carefully left me out of every single production I've ever auditioned for and I've just ruined her play.
All this shit is happening; I'm being removed from the harness, I'm getting yelled at, people are scrambling to get me out of the backstage area and I barely notice any of it. The whole scene seems muted. I'm there, but I'm not. I'm watching it happen but not feeling any of it.
Because all I can think is: I knew it wouldn't work.
I knew it. The whole time. I knew Bret Anthony wasn't going to magically fall on his knees and confess his love for me. In the end, I didn't pull this stunt to actually go to prom with him. I did it to see if I could. To see if I had the balls.
Turns out, the answer is no, I do not, not have the balls. Nor do I have a prom date.
What I do have is a school full of people either pissed at me or thinking I'm crazy. I have a belly full of shame and regret. I have an old fantasy, one that carried me through four years of otherwise boring reality, that's now dissolved completely into a bland, numb truth. I'm not Bret Anthony's girlfriend. I never will be. He has never once wanted me the way I wanted him.
...So what now?
As I'm sure you know by now, this is a work of fiction. This piece is the climax of the story, but still intended to stand on its own. While I never hooked myself up to a Peter Pan harness, a lot of this story has been based on snippets of my actual high school experience. Concrit is always welcome.