Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Utterly Unbelievable... by Meg Gray

This can't be happening...

Erika Evans blinked. Ray’s words, “Yeah, so I’m going to take Sandra to prom instead,” floated around her head like an animated wreath. The kind that encircled a character’s head in those cartoons her little sister Shelby watched on Saturday mornings.

Un. Be. Liev. Able. She thought to herself as she watched Ray and Sandra walk away from her.

She blinked, hydrating her stinging eyes. How could Ray tell her three days before prom that he didn’t want to go with her anymore? Was that even legal? She had the dress. And the shoes!

Both were in the corner of her room, the teal, sparkle-studded dress hung from its fancy padded hanger on a nail where her framed Brittney Spears poster used to hang. Her shoes were posed beneath the skirt.  The beautiful fake, yet bejeweled sapphire and diamond earrings she found at the mall were tucked in her jewelry box. Everything was ready.  Everything was perfect. Until now.

Ray couldn’t back out.

But he did.

And right now, watching Ray’s hand tuck into the back pocket of Sandra’s jeans, which was a completely illegal move in the halls of the high school, just went to prove it.

Men are jerks, she silently steamed. A burning well of tears pooled at the brim of her lashes.

Erika wiped off the dropped-jaw, dumbstruck look she suddenly realized she was wearing on her face. Other students were making a wide circle around her and staring as if the I’ve-just-been-dumped brand was cooling on her forehead.

“What’s up?” Caden said, oblivious to her new status as a prom-date reject.

She looked up at him, not saying anything, and headed straight for the door. She was pretty sure the ridiculous display Ray and Sandra were putting on at the bottom of the front steps, locking lips like they were playing out some scene in a romance novel, provided enough information to bring her neighbor/friend up to speed on the latest happenings in her life.

Caden didn’t say anything as they rode the city bus to their apartment building. He dropped Erika at her family’s door with a smile and friendly pat on the back before he went upstairs to his apartment. Ohhhh, it was so embarrassing. Everyone was going to look at her that way tomorrow.

Oh, no, everyone at school would know by tomorrow that she’d been dumped by Ray.

Inside the quiet apartment she went straight for her bed—where else does a girl who’s been dumped go? Flat out and face to the pillow, she cried. She didn’t stop until her nose ran like a leaky faucet and her eyes puffed into narrow, swollen slits.

Her tablet chimed and she picked it up to connect with her two best friends.

“Ohmigosh, ohmigosh,” Yvette said, the moment Erika’s tear-stained face appeared on her screen.

“What happened?” Cassandra asked.

“Ray’s taking Sandra to the prom.” A fresh stream of tears spilled from Erika’s eyes.

“Are you serious?” Yvette asked.

“Can he do that?” Cassandra asked, her eyes growing enormously big.

“Of course he can do that,” Yvette said, exasperated. “It’s just a really jerky thing to do.”

“I bet it’s cuz you didn’t go all the way with him at that party last weekend,” Cassandra said.

Seriously, she was bringing that up? Unbelievable.

Last weekend Erika snuck away to a party. She lied to her parents, telling them she was going to the mall with Yvette and Cassandra. Which she did, and left from there in a taxi to get to the party at a house on the west side. Ray was there and took her upstairs to a room, where he’d tried to you know…, but she wouldn’t let him, and then she had to leave to get back to the mall in time to be picked up by her dad. It had been a bad night but not a disaster. She thought Ray was okay with everything, but now that she thought about it, Sandra was at the party too. Is that when the other girl made a move on Ray? After she left? Ugh…so much drama.

“Well that’s really going to suck not to have you there.” Yvette’s face turned sour.

Yeah, her friends were still going, but she wouldn’t be there. Why was this happening to her?

“What are you going to do with that dress?” Cassandra gasped.

“I don’t know.” Erika looked at the dress hanging in the corner. She’d been so looking forward to getting dressed up and having a fun night on Saturday, but that was gone. Ruined.

The front door opened and closed, and then her bedroom door did too. Shelby walked in dropping her backpack on her bed and came over to Erika. She smiled and waved at Erika’s friends on the screen.

“Hi Shelby,” Yvette and Cassandra said in tandem. They thought Shelby was the cutest thing to walk the earth and loved it when she said hi to them. But neither of them had little sisters, so they didn’t know how annoying it really was to share a room with someone so much smaller and who was always getting into your clothes and make-up.

“Hi,” Shelby said back and then turned to look at Erika. Her little sister scrunched up her nose. “What’s wrong with your face?” she asked.

“Nothing. Go away,” Erika said, swinging a pillow at her little sister. Shelby ducked and ran out of the room.

“I gotta go,” Cassandra said. “Mark’s coming over and then I have to get my nails done for Saturday.” She dangled her fingers in front of her of the camera.

“Me too,” said Yvette. “Sorry you can’t go anymore.” Yvette made a pouty face. “Maybe next year.”

Erika didn’t care about next year. She cared about this year. She turned off her tablet and pushed her face back into her pillow. She must have fallen asleep because the next thing she knew her mom was there with the phone.

“It’s Caden,” she said. “He’d like to talk to you.”

Erika rubbed her eyes and shook her head. She wasn’t up to talking to anyone right now.

“Caden, can I have her call you back?” her mother said into the phone. “Okay, bye.”

Erika rolled to her back, making room for her mother to sit down beside her, and stared up at the ceiling.

“I think he’s kind of worried about you.” her mother said as she sat down.

Tears spontaneously started to flow again.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Erika shook her head.

“Caden said Ray was with another girl after school today.”

Erika didn’t say anything.

“Are you still going to the prom together?”

Erika shook her head and heard her mother’s grateful sigh. Unbelievable. Her parents were probably thrilled. They never liked Ray in the first place.

“Well, there are other fish in the sea,” her mother said and patted her arm. “You’ll see.”

Really? Her mother was comparing her heartbreak to a catch and release expedition. She so didn’t get it. Erika rolled away from her.

“Do you want some dinner?”

Erika shook her head as her mother stood up.

“Tomorrow’s a new day,” she heard her mother say before she left her room.

Tomorrow. Erika didn’t want tomorrow to come.

But of course it did. Erika stepped out of her family’s minivan into the spring sun and squinted her still puffy eyes. She faced the door and breathed deeply, preparing herself for all the pitiful looks, the stares, and the pointing that she would surely have to face as she walked the halls to her first class.

Erika stuck to the brick walls and edged around the groups of kids congregating before the first bell. Nobody looked at her as she slipped into the library, thinking it would be a safe place to hide until the bell rang. She headed for the back corner where the maps and atlases sat on the shelves. Nobody ever went back there. She leaned into the books and took a deep breath.

“How you doing?”

Erika spun around. It was Caden. Had he followed her? “I’m okay,” she said. “Sorry I didn’t call you back last night.”

“That’s okay,” he said, dipping his hands into the pockets of his shorts.

 The first bell rang, but neither of them moved. Why was he looking at her like that? All sweet and stuff?

“So, I know you really wanted to go to prom and all, but I was wondering if you’d like to go to a charity ball with me on Saturday instead. My mom got me two tickets. That way you can still get all dressed up and there will be a live band for dancing.” He smiled, softening the nervous edges around his mouth. “She said the governor is scheduled to make a surprise appearance.” He held a finger to his lips, letting her know this was top secret information. Caden’s mom was an event planner at Perfect Daze and always going to fancy parties that she planned in the city.

Caden dug an envelope holding two tickets out of his backpack. “I talked to your mom and dad about it last night. They said it was all right with them if you wanted to go. So, what d’you say? Will you do me the honor of being my date on Saturday night?”

Erika didn’t know why she hadn’t been clued into how sweet Caden was until now. That lopsided grin she’d known since she was three suddenly made her heart thump and her cheeks blush. He was always such a good friend and she couldn’t believe she took him for granted up until now.

“I’d love to,” she said. Saturday night couldn’t get here fast enough. She had a feeling she was in for an unbelievably good time with the most unbelievable guy she’d ever known.
Meg writes clean contemporary romance novels, featuring strong female characters. As a mom to two young girls, Meg is passionate about creating stories centered around female empowerment. She grew up in the Pacific Northwest where she still lives today with her husband, daughters, and crazy pets. She splits her time between homeschooling her girls and writing in the hours after she has put her husband and children to bed.

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