My arm was linked through Alex’s as we strolled through the mall after school. “Y’know, I actually missed you,” she said.
“Gee, thanks,” I replied with a playful roll of my eyes.
“I just meant we’ve both been so caught up in our own thing that for once, we had time to miss each other.”
“So what’s the occasion, why are we shopping today? This isn’t something you’d willingly do,” she said with a small laugh.
“Hey. I happen to enjoy shopping a lot, I just don’t do it often. But anyway, we’re here because I need a dress,” I replied with a firm shake of my head.
She halted suddenly, tripping me up with her. “W-what did you say?”
“Why?...” A smirk began growing on her face.
“Oh my god! What changed your mind??” she screeched, shaking me by the shoulders like a madwoman.
“Easy, easy!” I said, raising my hands. “To answer your question, I’ve always wanted to go to prom. But as you know, I had to break down the resistance with my mom.”
“I’ve already lost so much time. Joseph is the one who helped bring me to such a realization — that is, after we had a fight about it.”
Alex looked at me with wide eyes, as I pulled her into a ritzy boutique. “You guys had a fight? Geez, it really has been a while since we’ve talked,” she commented, making her way to a rack of short dresses as I headed for the longer gowns.
“We made up earlier today. Being away from him hurt more than I thought it would.”
Alex did a double take and I knew I might have slipped up. I hadn’t exactly told her about my feelings yet. Before she could think about saying anything on the matter, I hurriedly moved our conversation along.
“But yeah, it was the morning after the family dinner. I accidentally got drunk, and didn’t remember too much of what happened the morning after.” I pushed through dress after dress, none catching my eye. “Joseph took care of me and explained everything like the perfect gentleman, but instead of being thankful, I freaked out and said he was just ‘some guy’ whose house I slept at while being drunk off my ass.”
I cringed remembering that morning. Remembering Joseph’s utterly hopeless face right before I walked out on him.
“Damn. That’s cold, Sienna.”
“Don’t you think I regret it? I did. I still do. He was just trying to make me happy, but I messed everything up by getting in my head.” I forcefully pushed through the end of the long rack, projecting my frustration on innocent dresses.
“What was it he said that made you all wonky?”
“He basically said I needed to grow up and defend myself. Fight for what makes me happy instead of sabotaging myself, which he couldn’t be more right about.”
Alex loosened her hold on an orange dress with ruffles and turned, training her eyes on me. I could feel her stare on the side of my head. “It’s about time someone told you the truth.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve wanted to tell you that for years, but I was afraid you’d get upset and stop seeing me. I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to eat breakfast at your house every morning.”
“Alex Johnson, you are incorrigible,” I said, gently shoving her. “I wouldn’t have gotten upset. Honestly, with everything that’s happened lately, I’ve grown to appreciate the hard honest truth much more.
“You want the truth?”
“You’ve got to start living each day instead of just passing it. Take a gamble on life and stop being so afraid of what new things will teach you. Also, that dress is ugly as hell. I hope you were joking when you pulled it off the rack.”
“But I- I like it. It’s got a nice old age Victorian feel,” I whispered, clinging to a dress I didn’t even realize I’d plucked.
“Listen to yourself. Old age Victorian?? This is prom in the twenty-first century, might I add. Not in the United Kingdom in the 1830s. But hey, maybe the old lady look will work for you,” she said, shrugging.
I rolled my eyes, but ultimately put the dress back on the rack. I did not want to look reminiscent of an old lady; especially at senior prom.
“Whoever you’ve been studying with, keep them!! Random bits of history are rolling off your tongue like your swears normally would and I’m very impressed.”
⋅. ✯ .⋅
Returning home, I felt happy. Talking to Joseph and spending the afternoon with Alex was exactly what I needed to feel like myself again. And shopping for a prom I didn’t think I’d be attending was liberating. I couldn’t wait to tell my dad.
There were quite a few bags in my hands; the result of Alex wanting me to be glam head to toe. I was content with just a dress, but she had gone on to spoil me. She snuck in a pair of sexy underwear, rhinestone stiletto heeled sandals, earrings and a bracelet to match. I nearly cried when I found everything she bought stuffed into the bottom of one of my larger bags.
With both of my hands full, I banged on the door with my knee until someone opened it for me.
“Where have you been? It’s six o’clock and if I remember correctly, your club only runs until four,” my mother said, scowling. Of course it had to be her.
“I was with Alex, but I —”
“Why didn’t you call?” she interrupted.
“I did. I also left you a voicemail,” I answered, stepping inside. I set my bags on the floor by the staircase and walked back over to her.
“I haven’t gotten anything from you, Sienna.” She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I knew I should have come to pick you up today. Where are you coming from?” she asked, shifting her eyes from me to the bags I left on the floor.
“The mall. Alex and I were dress shopping for prom.”
“I thought I told you it was unnecessary to go, Sienna,” she told me, hands firmly planted on her hips.
“You see, that’s exactly it. You think it’s unnecessary, but —”
“Did I hear prom?” The two of us turned our heads at the sound of my father’s chipper voice. I was thankful that he intervened, slicing the growing tension in the room with his sunny disposition.
“Ayy, I can’t wait to see my Princess all dressed up.”
“Thanks, Pa. I can’t wait either.”
“You can’t go,” my mother said.
“You don’t want me to go,” I retorted. “I’m sorry, but prom is the biggest event of the year and I spent half of that year planning it. I deserve to be there.”
“Your final exams are the biggest event of the year. They determine your future, you can’t just throw it away,” she said, jabbing her thumb toward an imaginary trash bin.
“Mom. Stop it, please. Stop talking to me like I’m your student, I can’t take it anymore. I’m your daughter for heaven’s sake and your daughter will be going to prom.” I went on, a fresh wave of confidence washing over me. “This will be the best night of my life and I won’t let you ruin it for me.”
Papa winked at me in approval as I made my way to collect my bags from the floor. Quickly climbing the stairs, I made my way to my room and flopped belly first onto my bed. I wanted to bask in this beautiful ambiance while it lasted.
⋅. ✯ .⋅
Friday afternoon - Day of prom.
“Looks like you’ve finally broken free from your chrysalis,” Joseph praised, raising his bottle of water to salute me.
“It was bound to happen at some point. I just didn’t know when that would be,” I said. “It felt good, so so good”
“And her head didn’t explode?” Alex chimed in.
“Oh, I’m sure it did once I was upstairs, but at that moment? Nothing,” I replied.
“She said nothing?” Joseph asked.
“Nothing. I was expecting her to clap back at me in a barrage of Spanish curses, but it never came.” I shrugged, eating a forkful of my caesar salad.
“So what brought this on?” Joseph asked, curiously. “Start from the beginning.”
I wiped my mouth and hands that were getting dirty with dressing. “I’d just come home from the mall with Alex and my mom asked me why I had so many bags. I told her I did some shopping for prom. That’s where it got interesting.”
“Keep goin’,” Alex said.
“She started to tell me that the dance was unnecessary and how I wasn’t allowed to go. That’s what set me off. I told her that I had every right to go, especially because I spent the better part of the year planning it.”
“You go girl,” Joseph commented. I smiled warmly at him. I knew he wanted this for me from day one.
“I went on to tell her that I’m pretty much done taking orders and that I plan on having the time of my life.”
“Whoop whooooop!!!” Alex cheered.
“Sienna Martinez will be no one’s bitch,” I concluded, picking up my fork and taking another hefty bite of my salad. Joseph’s water bottle had been in between his lips when he broke out into a fit of coughs.
“Holy crickets, are you okay?!” I exclaimed. I started to get up from the table, but he lifted a hand to stop me. He chuckled, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“...oh god. Yeah I’m fine, I just didn’t expect you to say that. It caught me off guard.”
“It’s okay. You feisty little thing.”
“I’m just so proud of you,” Alex and Joseph said simultaneously.
“Haha! Oh my god. That was so weird but so cute!” I commented.
“Oh shush,” Alex said, throwing a baby carrot at me.
“I have an entire fruit cup that I am not afraid to use. Don’t start a food fight you won’t be able to finish,” I warned, taking aim with the container of peaches in my hand.
“Alright, alright. I surrender... but only because I’m not properly armed this time,” she said.
“Ha!” I laughed, taking off the lid and popping a slice of the sweet fruit into my mouth.
⋅. ✯ .⋅
After lunch, Joseph and I headed down to the gym for our final prom meeting. This was my first time seeing everyone’s progress since my little break. The place looked spectacular; so spectacular I could have cried. We did this. We banded together and created our dream prom. With so many ideas being bounced off one another, it was hard not to be inspired.
Rose gold garlands by Jasmine swung above the entryway allowing anyone who walked through them to make a dazzling entrance. I moved further into the wonderland, admiring the streamers and the long tables also decorated with the romantic silk as table runners. In the middle were white rose centerpieces, courtesy of Mindy’s mother’s flower shop. She was getting the biggest thank you hug from me.
My favorite part was the addition of our senior memories. I mentioned the idea to Joseph and he ran with it. He may not have started the year with us, but that didn’t stop him from making a lasting impression on all who he encountered during his time here.
Teaming up with the yearbook club, he had gone around the school using his amazing photography skills, catching the student body during the happiest, weirdest, and of course, the most fun and liberating moments of the year. Hanging along the walls were shots of our star athletes scoring during sporting events, including the famous Damien Wells who assisted the winning goal during the lacrosse team’s last match of the season. It was an epic day.
On another wall were highlights from the school car wash fundraiser, and the photo that sat right in the middle on display was of Alex. She sat atop the hood of a patron’s SUV in her candy apple red bikini top and denim shorts. From head to toe she was wet with soapy water and in the snap she was caught mid head-shake; soap flying everywhere. Also an epic day.
Memories like those were posted around the gym and in the hallway leading here. Without a doubt in my mind, I knew tonight would be a night to remember.
“We did a pretty damn good job, huh?” This time I didn’t get scared because I knew he was there. I turned to meet Joseph’s satisfied face with a smiley grin.
“We sure did.”
“A-are you going?” he asked, his usual confidence faltering in the slightest. I caught it instantly, though. I’ve spent a good bit of time getting to know him.
“Alex told me you’ve never been to a school dance,” he continued.
“I guess the secret’s out,” I replied.
“But tonight’s the night I break the cycle.” He instantly lit up at my words. “What about you, are you goin’ to this thing?”
“Mariposa, after all this I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”