The Best Years of Your Life
What exactly was the point of prom? To torture people’s ears with the same Top 40 songs they played on the radio over and over again, or to humiliate yourself on the dance floor. He wanted to take the streamers off the walls and stuff them in his ears. The oversized tux was itchy, and his hair felt like a helmet. He sank deeper into his chair and glared across the table at the people dancing. His conclusion: prom sucked.
“Would you stop looking like someone took a crap in front of your nose and enjoy yourself?” Craig glanced to the left at the girl sitting beside him and frowned. She was dancing in her seat and laughing with the other traitor at their table. This was all her fault and his too. What kind of friends were they? They just had to drag him along for their demented plans.
“There is nothing to enjoy. I’m staring at people, who pushed me into lockers and taped signs to my back, frolicking around like idiots. I blame you for my torture. Why did you do this to me?” he whined.
“Stop being so dramatic. Unlike you, I want to enjoy my senior prom with someone I actually like, but you are my making me rethink that decision,” Marie said, wrinkling her nose in disdain. Craig could understand that. After all, Marie had really dressed herself up for the occasion. Her dark hair was pinned up into the back in some bun thing, and she had a purple floor-length dress. It was a far cry from the jeans, t-shirts with unknown rock bands, and multi-colored hair. She was really going for normal; it didn’t sit right with him.
“Have you forgotten that these people made our high school lives hell? They actually dug a hole and dumped us in one,” Craig muttered in her ear, over the pounding beat. He still remembered calling his older brother to come get them. That had been embarrassing, and his brother never stopped laughing the entire ride home. Stupid jock.
Marie shrugged her shoulders. “They just did that to you and Joey, not me. They lightened up on us over the years. Besides, I don’t care about them anymore. This is a celebration for surviving these four years. We are done. We never have to see these people again. Try to think of that.”
“Whoever said high school was the best time of your life was clearly delusional,” Craig pointed out.
“And on drugs,” Joey added. Their other friend paused and started looking a little green. “I think someone spiked the punch.”
Marie leaned over and smelled his cup of punch. “Really? That is so 80s.”
“See, I told you that this was a bad idea! Now, we have a drunken teenager on our hands,” Craig cried, waving his arms around. Joey and Marie just stared at him.
“Dude, I’m not drunk. Relax.”
Craig propped his head up on his hands and sighed. He knew he was being stupid, but this was all too much. The damage had been done, and he could never look at these people the same way again. Pretending to like them and party with them was out of the question. In their eyes, he would always be the lanky nerd who spent too much time playing video games. There was no changing what they thought of him, and he wasn’t going to try. His date must’ve seen the look on his face because she whispered something in Joey’s ear. He nodded and left the table.
“I can see that this is not working for you, so we’re going to leave.”
“How? Mr. Lewis is guarding the door like a security guard patrolling a bank. They’re not letting people leave early.”
“I have my ways.” Marie grabbed his arm and dragged him towards the exit. Mr. Lewis spotted them and puffed out his chest like some horrible parody of a superhero. Then suddenly Joey popped out of nowhere, moaning.
“Mr. Lewis, I don’t feel so good.” He proceeded to vomit all over the front of the teacher’s suit. Then he collapsed to the floor. As Joey distracted the swarm of teachers, Marie broke into a run, tugging him along. How she ran in high-heels? He would never know.
Everything was a blur of colors and noises. Soon, Craig found himself in Marie’s car as it sped out of the parking lot. “Where are we going?”
“Just close your eyes and shut up. You’ve already ruined prom for me. I’ve come up with a new plan of attack. The least you could do is stop complaining, or I will dump you on the side of the road.”
“Fine but I will be filing charges for kidnapping later.” The ride took a good thirty minutes, and he wasn’t tempted to peek. Part of him actually felt a little bad but not too much.
“We’re here, but don’t open your eyes just yet.” He heard the sound of her getting out of the car and the slamming door. Then he was being manhandled out of the car. Marie was little, but she was strong. She loved to point out that she had bigger biceps then him, which was sadly true.
He followed her directions as they climbed stairs and zigzagged down different hallways. Then they came to a stop. “Wait here.” Voices sounded from a little further away, and then he felt Marie’s hand in his once again. “Alright, come on, loser.” A couple minutes later, they stopped.
“Open your eyes.” He did exactly that, and his mouth dropped open. They were on a huge basketball court.
“Please tell me we aren’t where I think we are, and how did you get in. You didn’t break us in, did you?” The expression on his face was pure terror. He couldn’t go to jail.
“Don’t be stupid. I knew someone, and they owed me a favor,” she said with a smug look, kicking off her shoes. An older gentleman came out wheeling a case of basketballs.
“Here you go, Marie.”
“Thanks, Vinnie. I owe you one.”
“No problem. Remember, leave the place exactly the way you found it.” Vinnie tipped his baseball cap at him and left the way he came.
He looked around blinking rapidly. The arena was huge. “What is all of this?”
Marie had a ball and was trying to bounce it between her legs, despite the fact that she had on a long dress. “Craig Davis, this is the beginning of your new life,” she announced in an anchorman voice.
“Marie, I don’t…” he hesitated and bit his lip. Confusion clouded his mind.
She sighed in frustration and glared at him. “It’s for you to have fun. This is your new beginning. This is where you get to start over. College is all about reinvention, man.”
“I’m a loser, Marie. You said so yourself. There’s no reinvention for that.” He stuck his hands in his pocket and looked across the sea of chairs.
“High school was crappy, but college doesn’t have to be that way. You can make it better. I’m not going to let shitty memories hold me back; it’s in the past. For God’s sake, I just want Craig Davis to have fun for once in his miserable life.” Marie took a shot from the free-throw line. It sailed through the air and made a swishing sound as it went through the net.
Marie ran over to get the ball and stalked back over to him, throwing the ball from her other hand to the other hand. “So, tell me. Are you ready to make a change and forget these jerks?” She put the ball behind her back, holding it in both hands and stared at him expectantly.
Craig didn’t meet her gaze for a few seconds, instead focusing on the words on the middle of the court. Marie was right. He had been pessimistic for weeks now about going to college, praying it wouldn’t be the same. But, standing here now made him realize that this was bigger than him. This was about rebirth, about starting over. This was time. Although, a thought crossed his mind that made him freeze on the spot.
“Why did you do all this for me? Is this the part in the movie where you declare you were in love with me since we first met?”
Laughter was the first thing he heard. Marie was bent over laughing at him for a good two minutes. For a second, he was offended. “I like you, Craig but not that way.” She straightened and got closer to him, holding the ball in one arm, hands on her hips. “I did this for a friend who was in desperate need of a reality check. Are you going to answer my question or not?”
He locked eyes with her and shook his head, putting his hands on his hips, mimicking her. “Yeah, I think I’m ready.”
Author’s Note: This is another one of those writing exercises from that same class, Fiction Workshop, that I don’t particularly care for.
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