The day of the prom, Mom took me to her hairdresser and had them cut my long frizzy hair into a trendy inverted bob, complete with flatiron treatment. The ladies in the salon went on and on about how beautiful I was, and for once, I could see what they might be talking about.
For a moment I decided to make an exception to my vow not to fantasize and let myself daydream about Quan’s reaction when he saw me.
His eyes pop out of his head. He runs toward me and sweeps me into a passionate embrace, leans me backward in his arms, and gives me my first kiss. “I’m sorry to be so forward,” he whispers, “but you look so gorgeous that I couldn’t help myself.”
Prom was going to be amazing!
Quan picked me up at six. We were going to dinner with Alicia and her boyfriend Chet at Citrus Hill restaurant before the dance, which was being held at the local German-American hall.
“Wow, Giselle,” he said as he slipped the white and purple corsage on my wrist. “You look great.”
“Thanks,” I said, blushing. Not exactly like I had imagined, but close enough.
“I bought this for you,” I said shyly, holding out a florist’s box with a white rose boutonniere. “Here, let me pin it on.”
His chest felt solid and warm beneath his tuxedo. His cologne smelled so good.
At the prom, I was more relaxed with my classmates than I had ever been in my life. I got so many compliments, even from the intimidating popular girls. Alicia and I goofed off with our dates, making fun of the dance’s medieval theme, trying out crazy dance steps to the upbeat songs, and swaying with arms holding up imaginary lighters during the slow ballads.
Then the DJ announced the final song. The smoky voice of Etta James crooned “At Last.”
“Milady, may I have this dance?” Quan said.
“Milord,” I said with a curtsy.
He led me to the middle of the dance floor. He guided my hands to his shoulders then put his hands on my lower back. As we swayed and turned slowly around the room, his hands pulled me closer and caressed the skin between my shoulder blades.
He sang along softly with the last line of the song, “and here we are in heaven, for you are mine, at last.” We swayed together through the closing bars of the music. Then he whispered, “You know, in college, you are going to have to beat men away with a stick.”
I felt my ears get hot as I stammered a thank you. I tipped my head up slightly to look at him. He moved his face closer to mine. All of a sudden I knew what he was going to do. This was the moment I’d been waiting for, my first kiss. I’d wondered if tonight could be the night. All day I had caught myself daydreaming about a soft sweet good night kiss.
Quan’s kiss was nothing like that. It was like kissing dry toast. He lips were tense, his stubble sandpapery, and he pecked at me as though he were a chicken and I was a kernel of corn. What a disappointment.
“Guess how long I’ve been wanting to do that,” he said.
“Since we started dancing?”
“More like the first day we met. Before I met you, Giselle, I thought Romeo and Juliet was a stupid story. I couldn’t understand loving someone so much that you would rather die than live without them. But now I think I understand that kind of love.”
I burst out laughing. First the horrible kiss and now these cheesy lines. It was so corny and over the top. How could anyone feel that way, about me? And the Romeo and Juliet thing was probably supposed to be romantic, but it kind of gave me the creeps. And he had wanted to kiss me since freshman year? Was he looking at the same girl I saw in the mirror?
“What’s so funny?” He looked hurt.
I immediately felt terrible. "Sorry, I don’t know why I laughed. Nervous I guess.”
We said our goodbyes to Alicia and Chet. Quan took me home and walked me to the door. “Would you do me the honor of joining me for brunch tomorrow morning?”
“Okay.” He was so sweet, how could I say no?
Then he kissed me again. It wasn’t any better the second time. If anything it was worse because it went on longer.
“I have to get inside,” I said finally. “See you tomorrow.”
The prom continued in my dreams. Quan and I were slow dancing and he kissed me again, only this time it was perfect. Then we fell to the floor and started rolling around together.