The Plastic Crown
T A Y A :
Senior Prom – a night to remember.
The big banner in the middle of the room said it loud and proud.
Our school went all out this year, renting this huge ballroom at the Harrison Resort, and the ballroom had been transformed into what looked like a Met Gala.
The air was full of glamour and glitz. The room was donned in tall chandeliers, silky silver fabric hanging on the roof, a shining disco ball in the middle, and all these pretty people in their awesome dresses and suits were dancing through the night.
The prom marked a monumental time in the lives of teenagers all across America. Some people dubbed it our coming of age moment, and others claimed that it was the grandest night of our teenage lives.
So much pressure to put on a night.
I spent the first hour of the night dancing and laughing away with Hallee, Gabe, and Jesse. I suppose this was the reason that made prom so special—it was our last big event that we could have together with our friends.
After graduation, Hallee would be off to New York, and Gabe would go to Nashville. I would be going to UCLA and Judah…
My heart sunk again as the thought of Judah crossed my mind. A second ago, I was jumping up and down in my heels, dancing to the tunes of Khalid. And suddenly I wasn’t in the mood to dance anymore.
As my friends were still busy dancing, I slipped quietly past them, trying to find a corner to sit at. But suddenly, the music stopped and Principal Finn started knocking at the mic on stage.
“Good evening senior class, how’s everyone doing tonight?” he shouted in excitement, but the senior class just looked at him with a ‘WTF’ look on their faces.
“Now, now, I’m here to announce this year’s prom king and queen…” he continued and the crowd cheered loudly for him.
The room suddenly was full of hype, but I was tuning out of Principal’s Finn’s words, as I didn’t find the topic interesting. My eyes were still wandering for the coziest-looking corner that I could hide into.
“This year’s prom king goes to… Mr. Blake Harrison,” I heard his voice again and the crowd roared in cheers.
“And your prom queen is… Miss Taya Williams!”
“What?” I screeched out loud as my feet stopped moving. How was that even possible?
“Tay! You won! Congratulations!” Hallee had grabbed me out of nowhere and she started hugging me and shaking my body up and down.
“Hallee, did you do this?”
“No! Not at all. It’s the people, Tay. They’ve voted,”
Before I knew it, I was being propelled up towards the stage. People were clapping and whistling at me, congratulating me and cheering me on. Meanwhile, I just had the most uncomfortable and confused look on my face as they put a crown over my head.
For the longest time, I didn’t even think that people know I exist. But if I were to guess… dating the ever-popular Blake Harrison, becoming the lead role at our school play, and getting myself into scandalous affairs with bad-boy Judah Hudson had something to do with that.
They know I exist all right.
I waved my hand and smiled awkwardly as our school photographer snapped a few pictures of Blake and me. Blake was all smiles, brimming with confidence. After the photo session was over, the lights dimmed down as a softer music began to play.
And I guess they liked what they see.
People were making space in the middle of the dance floor, as it was customary for the prom king and queen to have the first dance. I glanced over at Blake and he gave me a weak smile.
“One dance?” he asked cautiously, his hand stretched out to me.
“Sure,” I replied. It would look awful if I had said no, and I just didn’t feel like ruining other’s people’s night tonight.
I took his hand as he led me to the middle of the dance floor. Somehow this reminded me of Sadie Hawkins all over again, and I couldn’t help but smile a little.
“So…” he trailed.
“So,” I breathed.
“How are you?”
“Meh,” I shrugged, “I’m alright,”
“You just won prom queen and you feel… alright?”
“It’s just a plastic crown,”
“Yeah, true,” he let out a wry laugh.
We were dancing in silence for a while, which was kind of awkward. But I wasn’t in the mood for exchanging pleasantries, and especially not with Blake.
“Listen, Taya,” he said suddenly, “First of all, I have to say sorry. I know it was awful what I did. I ratted him out to you. I shouldn’t have done that,”
Blake took a deep breath and he was glancing down, unable to look me in the eyes as he spoke.
“I was angry. You broke up with me just like that and all of a sudden you and him were together. It cut me up inside. Especially that it was him out of all people. He and his mother almost ruined my family. They were gonna take our dad away from us,” he paused for a beat before saying, “so when he came back and he started going after you, I got… scared. I thought he wanted to take you away from me just to spite me,”
From the look in Blake’s eyes, I could tell that there was a lot of pain and sadness woven inside. It sucked what happened to him and his family. But still, that didn’t make it okay for him to blame it all on Judah.
“Just tell me one thing, though. Why’d you choose him?” he said again, and those ocean blue eyes were pleading with mine.
I took a deep breath and released a long sigh as I said, “Blake, my favorite color’s blue, not pink. And my favorite food’s my mom rice balls,”
“Huh?” he looked at me in confusion.
“You think you know me, but you don’t. You just see what you wanted to see in me, but that’s not the real me,” I admitted, and Blake was at lost for words.
“Listen, Blake, I’m sorry, I could’ve handled our break up better. I should have just been honest with you from day one. But the reason why we didn’t work out has nothing to do with Judah, it’s just that we weren’t right for each other in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, you’re a great boyfriend, and someday you’re gonna make a girl really lucky to have you. But as of right now, I don’t think you’ve realized that you’re not actually in love with me. You only liked the idea of me. Not the real me. And that’s why it didn’t work out between us. It has nothing to do with him,”
Blake listened intently at my words, and although there was pain in his eyes, I could that tell he was thinking hard about everything I just said.
“I know what you and your friends did to Judah, by the way. It was awful what you did and I haven’t forgiven you. I kinda wanna punch you in the face right now for it, but I’m trying something different tonight… being the bigger person. Letting bygones be bygones. Looking forward to the future,” I said again, and he looked taken aback. His mouth hung open but he was unable to speak.
“I’m… really sorry about that,” he said finally.
“Blake, I understand why you don’t like him. But it’s not his fault, you know? He never asked to be born in this crazy, messed up world. Maybe he and his mom are the bad guys in your story, but… there are at least two sides to every story. He’s not a bad guy in mine. He’s just a little lost, like all of us are,”
Blake looked away as I told him all these things. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I could only hope that he was mature enough to try and understand.
We were dancing again in silence and it felt as if time was moving so slow. Now would be a good time to end this dance, but I did feel a little bad for Blake. He was trying his best to hold it all together.
“It’s stupid, but I was always jealous of him,” he muttered after a while.
“He doesn’t have the Harrison name. He doesn’t have to live with that pressure. He can do whatever he wants with his life. I’m jealous of that. I mean, I can’t even go to Princeton because my dad wanted Yale, seriously, what kind of a first world problem is that?” He snorted a wry laugh and I couldn’t help but smile sympathetically.
“And most of all, he got you. And they way you love him… I can only hope that someone, somewhere, will love me like that someday,” he smiled a sad smile.
This was hard and complicated. What Blake did to Judah was terrible and I wasn’t gonna forget that. But same as Judah, Blake was just a little lost too. Life wasn’t always fair for him as well. We all were only doing the best that we could. And perhaps the best thing we can all do for each other was… this.
I gave him a smile. A genuine one. An accepting one. That made the smile on his face grew a little wider afterwards. And at this time, the song had slowly come to an end, so the both of us stepped away from each other in response.
“Thank you for the dance,” he said.
“I wish you guys all the best,” he said as he glanced away, taking a deep breath as he said, “Really,”
“Thank you,” I gave him a slight nod.
We parted ways and I felt as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulders. Smiling to myself, I decided to look for Hallee and Gabe. But after a few minutes of scanning the dancefloor, I wasn’t able to locate Hallee or Jesse anywhere. I asked a few people and finally someone told me that they saw them running off somewhere.
Knowing Hallee, they could only be up to one thing.
Rolling my eyes to myself, I decided to look for my date. As I turned my head from side to side, I was shocked to find him standing on the stage with a guitar in his hand. Apparently, the dance committee, i.e. Hallee, had signed him up to play a love song for the dance.
Gabe gave me a weak smile as he strummed his guitar softly and he started singing one of his original songs. I was cheering him on like a proud soccer mom. Then I noticed about half of the girls in the hall were leaving their dates to get closer to the stage and listen to Gabe singing. I saw Maddie was amongst them. Gabe might not have the courage to talk to girls now, but once he finally does, he’d have a great future ahead of him. I was sure of that.
After staying around the dance floor for some time, I decided to head over to the girls’ bathroom for some peace and quiet. But as soon as I entered, I heard a high-pitched crying noise coming from one of the stalls. I made my way to the very last stall, pressing my ears to the door, and knocking softly on it.
“Viv? Is that you?” I called out.
“Go away,” she retorted back.
The door wasn’t locked and it swung open slowly. Inside, I found Viviane Taylor sitting on the toilet in her pink mermaid gown, and a river of mascara was running down her face.
“Viv?” I said as I bent down to her, “What’s wrong?”
“This is the worst night ever! I didn’t win prom queen and I just caught my stupid boyfriend cheating on me with my best friend!”
“Cameron… I saw him and Peyton went out the back door… I followed them out and I saw them having sex in the parking lot!”
“Oh Viv…” I let out a sigh and I patted her back a few times.
As much as I didn’t like Viviane, she did not deserve this.
“I gave him everything… I went all the way with him. He was my first,” she cried into her hands some more, and I could only rub her back gently in response.
“That sucks. I’m so sorry,”
She was bawling her eyes out, and I didn’t know what to do. I was just awkwardly patting her back for the longest time, before I finally decided to sit on the ground next to her.
“Why are you here in this stinking bathroom with me? You wanna gloat about winning prom queen and having the most amazing boyfriend ever or something?” she spat suddenly.
“No, Viv. I just wanna keep you company. And no, I’m not here to gloat. Lately, my boyfriend’s not being so amazing either,”
“What would you know about that? Your friend Hallee kept raving about what a sex god your boyfriend is. I’m sure your first time was spectacular,” she sobbed even more aggressively and groaned, “and you probably even got asked to the prom in some crazy-awesome promposal,”
I was rolling my eyes, thinking about Hallee and her loud mouth. I needed to stop talking to her about my love life. And stop asking her for tips too.
Taking a deep breath, I grabbed some more toilet paper and handed it over to Viv. She took it briskly, before shoving them to her face again.
“There was no promposal,” I said with a sigh, “Judah didn’t even show up to the prom. He’s out there in god knows where, and he’s not even telling me. So I’m here at my senior prom, alone, sitting in the bathroom floor because honestly, this feels more like my scene right now. I didn’t even wanna come here in the first place. I only did it for my friends…”
“At least you still have friends! That bitch Peyton is so gonna pay for this!”
“Sorry you had awful friends,” I paused for a moment before saying, “We were best friends when we were little. Until you bit off the head of my Barbie doll that day,”
She snorted a laugh as she remembered that incident. It was funny now, but at the time I was devastated. My daddy had bought me that doll for Christmas and it was everything to me.
“Hey, I’m sorry for being such a bitch to you all these years,” she said suddenly, catching me off guard, “To be honest, I was just jealous. I was always jealous of you. Everyone seemed to like you more than me… And once we got into middle school and high school, you got all these guys pining over you and you didn’t even have to try,”
“See, you don’t even know it! You got everything. It’s not fair. And I had to try so hard…” she started crying again and I didn’t know what else to do at this point. I grabbed some more toilet paper and I just gave it to her.
“Anyways, it wasn’t true, what I told you; Blake and I never went all the way, so did Judah and I. I only liked Blake because I knew you had a massive crush on him ever since freshman year. Then I went after Judah because I saw how close you two were together and I wanted what you have. But the only reason why he even kissed me out in the parking lot that day was to make you jealous. Even I knew that,” she swallowed bitterly.
“I let guys walk all over me, because I thought that’s what I deserve…”
Maybe Viv was drunk, or high, or just really upset. Or maybe all of the above. But whatever it was, her words had tugged on my heartstrings.
Letting out a deep breath, I took her hand and said, “My first time actually wasn’t with Judah… it was with another guy and it sucked,”
“What?” she gaped.
“Yeah, it sucked real bad. I settled for him because I thought I couldn’t do better. Just like what you’re doing to yourself right now, you’re settling. But let me tell you, someday you’re gonna find someone who knows how to appreciate you and not take you for granted. And that will be special, I promise,”
If someone had told me three years ago that during my senior prom, I would win the queen title, dance with Blake Harrison, and comfort Viviane Taylor in the bathroom floor—I wouldn’t have believed them. But that was my senior prom in three sentences.
After staying in the bathroom for a while, Viv decided to fix herself up and go back out there to show Cameron what he was missing. I had to hand it to her, she was a strong girl.
I, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling that strong. I couldn’t bring myself to dance or talk with anyone, because my mind was somewhere else entirely. I decided to leave the ballroom and go outside for some fresh air.
I made it out to a balcony, and it was quiet and peaceful, away from all the crowd and the dancing tunes. I took note on how beautiful tonight was. The air was cool and calm. The moon and the stars above were as clear as HD.
Below the balcony was this swimming pool and the balcony itself stood facing the ocean. I let my eyes wander out to the open seas, wondering if he was somewhere out there on the other side.
“I miss you. Please come back to me,” I whispered to the air, wishing that the night would take it to wherever he was.
And as my eyes wandered aimlessly down the ground, I caught a glimpse of a man, standing right below the balcony, next to the pool of water. He was looking up, looking right at me, and it seemed as if he’d been standing there for a while. I squinted my eyes to get a better look at him, and he smiled brightly when I finally noticed him there.
That smile... Those eyes...
I felt like fainting. It was a moment impossible to be described. He was standing there, with a sleek black suit, wearing a silver tie. He lifted one hand up to me, and he was holding a small cupcake there.
“Judah?” I croaked.
His smile grew even wider as he said, “Well, don’t this feel familiar? Try to keep your hands and feet up there this time, alright?”