I really didn’t feel like rehashing the night even though I knew my parents would’ve been happy if I told them that Bradley and I were finished. “I’m tired. Thanks for waiting up.” I hugged my mom and then disappeared into my bedroom. I unzipped my prom dress and let it puddle on the floor, not caring enough to hang it carefully. It wasn’t really a memory I’d be looking forward to reliving.
I changed into my pajamas then padded to the bathroom to perform my other nighttime rituals of washing my face and brushing my teeth. When I went back to my room and saw my dress, blue eyes flashed through my mind. I was surprised that was the memory my mind decided to give me with the dress. Why had he agreed to be my fake date anyway? He said it wasn’t my smile but we’d been interrupted before he’d answered what it really was. Curiosity burned in my chest. Maybe he thought I was cute? I did look great in that dress.
I gently picked it up and placed it over my desk chair. Why was I analyzing his motives anyway? It didn’t matter. My brain was tired. I needed sleep.
But my brain wouldn’t shut off. It kept analyzing. It thought about prom and how half the school had witnessed fake Bradley’s breakup performance. They’d all be talking about it tomorrow. I didn’t need anyone feeling sorry for me. How could I smooth that over? I pulled up Twitter.
Guess I’m single again. Who’s throwing me a party?
There. Now everyone would know I was perfectly fine. Because I was. Perfectly fine. I stared at the screen, an urge to delete that tweet rising up my chest. Sleep. I just needed sleep. Everything would be clear in the morning.
Except it wasn’t. My mind had chosen to fill the night with dreams of a nameless boy and his mysterious motives. A boy who, even if I wanted to talk to again, was only reachable through a girl who hated my guts. She’d never help me get in touch with her brother. He probably didn’t want to talk to me anyway even if the only reason I wanted to talk to him was to satisfy my curiosity.
I wandered downstairs to see my dad at the kitchen table with his sketchpad. I knew better than to disrupt him while he was revisiting a left-behind dream. He had once wanted to be an animator for Disney. Apparently that’s a nearly impossible goal. A dream not even close to where he had ended up as a CPA, sitting at a desk, only using the left side of his brain. His pencil glided over the paper with an ease he displayed in no other aspect of his life. He was really good.
The bowls were in the cupboard behind his chair so I opted for a banana and started to take it to my room when he stopped me with a “Good morning, Gia.”
“Hey, Dad. Mom at the grocery store?”
He nodded. Our house felt like a perfectly working clock. We all turned at the right time and said the right things and maintained the same rhythm day in and day out without ever deviating. It was nice to have that routine. To feel grounded in something. Safe.
“Sit and tell me about prom last night.”
“That’s okay, you’re in the middle of something.”
He waved his hand at his sketchbook, the relaxed state he had been in moments before replaced with a straight back. “I’m nowhere near the middle. More like way past the end.”
I sat in the chair across from him, knowing he wouldn’t give up until I gave him a summary. And besides, it was time to tell him what he’d been wanting to hear for two months. “Bradley broke up with me.”
His eyes went wide, then happy, then sympathetic, all in under a second. “At prom?”
I shrugged. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Do you need me to drive to UCLA and beat him up?”
I raised my eyebrows.
“You’re right, he’s way too big for me. I’ll have your brother do it.”
I gave him the laugh he was looking for then took a bite of my banana, knowing that even if my dad were being serious right now, Drew would never beat up anyone for me. We weren’t close enough for that.
My dad folded his hands on the table. “Chin up. There are other fish in the sea. It’s a big ocean. Sometimes we need to catch and release a few before we find the keeper. Just keep swimming.”
“I don’t think that last metaphor applies here.”
“I was on a water roll. I just went with it.”
I smiled then stood and threw away the banana peel. “All I ask is that you wait until I’m out of the house before you and Mom throw a party over this.”
He gave me an overly serious nod as I left the room. There. That wasn’t bad. I could now check off talking to my parents about the breakup from my list.
I went through the rest of the day in a haze, answering tweets about my newly single status and what parties were happening this weekend where I could celebrate. Bradley didn’t respond to the tweet about being single. He’d probably unfollow me soon. I wondered if I should unfollow him first. I didn’t.
That night I slept hard, thankful no dreams tried to remind me of prom.
School would be a good distraction, I thought as I jumped into the shower the next morning. I wasn’t sure how long I stood under the water and it was possible I’d conditioned my hair twice. I picked out an outfit carefully, knowing I’d be on the other end of a lot of staring today, and stood in front of the mirror to get ready.
By the time I looked at my phone, I realized I’d spent way too much time perfecting my look. I’d have to skip breakfast. On my way through the kitchen I grabbed a granola bar.
“Running late, Mom,” I called as her whole body turned to follow my path through the kitchen. Her wide eyes proved she was shocked I wasn’t eating breakfast with her like I normally did. “I’ll see you at five. We have a meeting after school.”
“Okay. Love you.”
“You too.” I let the door swing shut behind me and threw my backpack onto the floorboard of the passenger seat before climbing into the car after it.
“Wow, you look good.”
Claire pointed to my front porch where my mom waved good-bye to us. I smiled and waved back.
“I swear your family should be on some Perfect Family billboard or something. What’s it like to have the world’s best parents?”
“They are pretty great. They always seem to do everything by the book.”
“What book is that?”
“I don’t know, What to Say to Your Kids 101?” I took a deep breath and opened my granola bar.
“You didn’t eat breakfast?”