The fabric of my lilac gown brushes my bare legs, sending shivers of delightful anticipation up my arms. The flowers cascading down my skirt are so wispy and delicate, they look sugar spun. Light flashes in and out of my eyes, timed to the rhythmic turn of the disco ball that casts the entire gymnasium in a haze of sparkling light. Warm hands curl around the small of my back at the exact moment the music swells. My heartbeat crescendos with the music as I tilt my chin up to finally see my dance partner, none other than—
I’m ripped from my daydreaming as Agatha violently chucks a textbook into her locker.
“Do you remember during freshman year when they promised us we wouldn’t end up with a shitty graduation song?” She pulls her locker door in to look me in the eye. “We really have to send off our youth to Don’t Stop Believin’? Just hold me back at this point.”
“Is this outrage going to last for more or less time than your annoyance about the prom theme?” I ask, recovering quickly as I swap out my chemistry binder for my US government notebook. Not for the first time, I’m glad Geraldo Inglaterra was so open to exchanging his locker—perfectly spaced between Linds’s and Ags’s at the front of the alphabet—with me for a few bouquets of my roses. I can’t imagine all the chisme I’d miss out on if I was subject to my end-of-the-hall, R-last-name locker.
Lindsay’s knees crack as she kneels to open her locker. “Don’t get her started on that again.”
“Sue me for wanting a classic prom theme,” Ags shoots back.
“Technically Under the Sea is a classic theme,” I say. “It’s just classically shitty.”
In every fantasy I’ve ever had of prom, not once did I imagine decor reminiscent of the scuba-diving expedition Mom and Dad took me on during our family vacation to Mexico two summers ago. Evidently, neither did Agatha.
Lindsay snorts. “I’m more concerned with this omnipresent they who knew what all our senior year selections would be when we were still puny freshmen who’d barely voted in our class representatives. We didn’t even know how to open our lockers yet.” She accidentally spins her combination too far and curses under her breath. “Okay, so maybe some of us are still working the locker thing out.”
“Some of us are still puny too,” I joke, nudging Lindsay with the toe of my sneaker. It earns me her stuck-out tongue.
“Whatever,” Agatha says as we shut our lockers and head down the hall. “After our reps made our class color that awful rusty orange, I should’ve known not to get my hopes up. If we had all just applied for senior council at the beginning of the year, like I wanted, this wouldn’t be happening.”
“Maybe I would’ve if the senior council president was still Vijay Khan from last year,” I say, fanning my face while Agatha rolls her eyes. “Seriously, why couldn’t he have just taken one for the team and been a super senior? He was easily the best president.” Lindsay shoots me a look. “Okay, at the very least he was the most swoonworthy.”
The stifling spring air hits me at the same time Lindsay’s nudging shoulder does. I regret wearing my sunflower jeans, even if the floral patches make me smile, and envy Lindsay’s breathable running shorts and tank top. At least I’m better off than Agatha in her turtleneck sweater dress, but it’ll be a cold day in hell when Ags admits that comfort can trump fashion.
“Ignoring Ophelia’s thirstiness,” Lindsay starts, and this time I stick my tongue out at her, “need I remind you that senior council meets on Sunday mornings when I have church and Ophelia has her weird gardening rituals?”
Sammie and Wesley are already waiting for us at “our” picnic bench, mouths occupied with their food instead of with talking to each other. Wesley is picking at leafy greens while Sammie inhales a cafeteria veggie burger that looks barely edible, even under the mound of ketchup he’s drowned it in.
“My gardening rituals are not weird,” I protest, sitting beside Ags on one side while Lindsay squirms between Sammie and Wesley on the other. She ruffles Sammie’s mop of black curls and smiles at Wesley. Both boys look pleased by the attention.
Sammie swallows the last of his fries, speaking around the mush in his mouth despite missing the first half of the conversation. “You’re right. It’s totally normal for teenage girls to spend their weekends obsessively watering, pruning, and fertilizing their personal rose garden.”
“I like that she didn’t deny the ‘thirstiness’ part,” Lindsay adds.
“I, for one, think it’s sweet that O has a hobby she cares so much about,” Ags says, patting me on the head. I swat her hand away. “I just wish it didn’t get in the way of the thematic integrity of our senior year.”
“No one said you couldn’t join senior council on your own, Ags,” I reply. Lindsay nods in agreement.
Ags rolls her eyes, her bedazzled lashes shimmering in the sunlight. I swear a light breeze fans my face as she blinks. “Like I want to deal with other people.”
“Is she still worked up about the prom theme?” Sammie asks, making a face.
“Started off annoyed at our grad song, but we’re circling around to prom again,” I reply. Tomorrow, prom will officially be three weeks away, so her irritation was due to return.
Wesley, shockingly, speaks up, unshockingly keeping his eyes locked on his salad. “What’s so wrong with Under the Sea?”
“It’s a tragic cliché! It’s like the school wants us to spike the punch bowl and lose our virginities in a limo,” Ags huffs.
“Sounds good to me,” Sammie says, chewed-up veggie burger threatening to fall out of his mouth as he speaks. “Plus, Linds can just wear a mermaid tail and call it a day.” He tugs on a strand of her naturally vibrant red hair. She throws a carrot at him in retaliation, but he easily smacks it away, flinging it at Wesley’s chest. I bite back a laugh as Wesley slowly brushes carrot water off his expensive-looking gray polo.
“I can glue seashells to everyone’s corsages,” I add.
“Don’t make me protest prom, Rojas,” Ags threatens, wielding her fork. I bite back a dinglehopper joke.
“You think I can wear swim trunks?” Sammie asks before lobbing the last of his burger into his mouth. “I think it’d be tastefully in theme.”
“I think it’s a surefire way to guarantee you’ll be going stag,” Linds teases. Sammie and Wesley both visibly stiffen. She clears her throat and bites another carrot.
I feign ignorance. “You are always complaining when men don’t comply with the Met Gala theme,” I say to Ags. Bless her, she doesn’t double back to Lindsay’s comment.
“Me? Complaining?” She gasps, lips twitching into a smile.
The conversation drifts off while I pick at my dried mango slices. I’m half listening to Wesley stumble through complimenting Lindsay on her hair when Agatha nudges her bare knee against mine.
“Check your phone.”
I pull it out of my back pocket, no questions asked. I’ve got a new text from her.
wanna make a bet?
I raise my brows. We haven’t made a bet in months. The last one was at Lindsay’s eighteenth birthday party back in November, when I bet Ags three bucks that Wesley would be the first one to arrive and be immensely overdressed for the occasion. Agatha had faith he’d know not to show up to a house party in slacks and a tie, but she was horribly mistaken. Had Wesley ever tried to befriend me past casual smiles and obligatory greetings at lunch in the year since Lindsay pulled him into our group of friends, maybe I would’ve warned him to go with a graphic tee and jeans instead.
Suffice to say, I’d begun to worry we’d outgrown our betting. With Agatha trading in NorCal for SoCal when she leaves for fashion school in LA in the fall, part of me has taken every fragment of change in our relationship as a sign that she’s going to forget all about me the second she’s surrounded by avant-garde fashionistas whose wardrobes extend past floral print and canvas shoes. But maybe this means she isn’t ready to let go either.
what are we betting? I reply.
five dollars says lindsay picks wesley before graduation
I give her a pointed look. “Really?”
She shushes me and motions to my phone, eyes flickering to our oblivious friends.
doesn’t seem like our business, I reply
we’ve watched this shit show love triangle bullshit go on for months. i think it’s our business now
She’s got a point. I love a good love triangle as much as the next romance fanatic, but if I have to suffer through one more movie night where Sammie and Wesley crowd Lindsay on one side of the room and ignore Agatha and me the entire night, I might spontaneously combust.
fine. but if she picks sammie you better pay up, I type back, and she smiles brightly, her matte magenta lipstick starting to crack.
“Shake on it?” she asks. It’s then that I realize our other friends have gone silent.
“Are you two making a bet?” Sammie asks with narrowed eyes.
“We would never!” Agatha clutches her hand to her chest. “You know we gave up that immature practice decades ago, dear Samuel.”
“You’re so full of shit.” He shakes his head at her, then turns to me. “You promised I could be in on the next bet.”
“I didn’t think there would be one,” I admit, and shrug, slightly annoyed that the first time I successfully lied to Sammie in all our years of friendship came back to bite me in the butt.
“Hey, you’ve never promised me I could get in on a bet,” Lindsay says to Agatha. Ironic, given how often she accuses us of being immature for betting chump change on meaningless things—like the time I bet Ags a quarter that more girls would wear purple to homecoming than red, or when Agatha bet me a dollar that she could go a whole day without cursing and lost before we even made it to third period.
“Sorry.” Ags snorts. “I’ll up the amount of empty promises I throw your way.”
“Come on, we want in.” Sammie rubs his hands together.
Wesley musters up the courage to agree. “Yeah, me too.”
I glance at Agatha, both of us trying to keep a straight face, though it’s harder for me than for her. “I think you guys might want to sit this one out, trust me,” I reply.
“Wait.” Lindsay’s face softens. “Is this about you two still trying to find prom dates? I told you I don’t mind asking the guys on the track team if any of them would take you. It’s really no big deal.” She looks at me. “What about Trevor Yoon? You were practically drooling over him at my last meet.”
“I was not!”
“You were,” Sammie says. “It was gross. But doesn’t Trevor have a girlfriend?”
Agatha shakes her head while chewing. “They broke up last week.” She swallows. “He got into NYU and she’s staying local, so they called it quits early. She was a mess in ceramics.”
“She’s going with Mark Vega now,” I say, remembering the few weeks Mark and I spent as partners in freshman biology. He almost caught me doodling Ophelia Vega in the margins of my notebook more times than I’m willing to admit. “He asked her during English, I think?” I look to Ags for confirmation.
Copyright © 2022 by Racquel Marie