I don’t think I would have done it for anyone else.
But Meg was something else. “Please don’t take this the wrong way,” she started. “But I need a date for the prom or my parents will force me to go with one of their friend’s kids, Cory. I hate him. He wants me in a bad way, and this doesn’t bother them for some unsettling reason.”
I told her not to worry. Meg was my friend, and the sheer entertainment value of taking Meg to the prom was too good to pass up. I originally was going to go alone, but Stu feared they’d toss me out. Stu has to be credited for being the one who thought up this crazy plan, taking a Lesbian to the prom.
As I walked up the steps in my traditional garb, I reflected the irony that this ex-football star had a lesbian daughter, and he apparently didn’t know it. Meg’s parents were right out of a high-school dream book. The football star and the cheerleader. Both with rich parents. Both inherited a ton of money. Meg was their only child, and despite several attempts to spawn a male, finally Meg’s mother had to get a hysterectomy, and that was that. But I guess Meg in the end gave them a compromise, a boyish girl.
I rang the bell. A pair of yippy dogs started going berserk. I saw the window next to the door rustle with curtains. Then the sound of two deadbolts unlocking. As the door opened, I rang the bell again. The dogs went nuts, one of them wearing some sort of plastic funnel collar was falling this way and that, barking as if she had a quota to unload.
Her dad answered the door. He was about six feet tall, I saw him a lot at the grocery store growing up, so I knew what to expect. His stern face cracked for a second upon seeing me. I smiled at him, a slim lock of straight hair draped across my face. “Heya Mr. Peterson, I am here for Meg.”
Oh, he was not pleased. His stern face did not crack in joy, but in a threatening furrow, like Thor’s brow before Ragnarok. The pause lingered in the air like volatile fumes.
“Your daughter, Meg. Margaret Peterson? This is 1452 Beachtree Lane, right?” I asked, looking at the slim brass house numbers by the side of the door. I knew it was 1452 Beachtree Lane. I wanted him to acknowledge my presence. “Margaret Joanne Peterson?” Mr. Peterson looked at me as if he was deciding to slam the door in my face. “Shall I let myself in?”
No, I was not looking for a beating. Or maybe I was. I don’t know. But the sick curiosity of how far I could push this bulk of a father was too intriguing to pass up, and almost too intriguing to keep from laughing at his face. I actually considered adding, “I hear she gives good head,” but Meg would have never been allowed outside again. No point in using your heaviest ammo and running out too soon.
“Your dog is loose,” I added, and watched his exasperated expression as he launched past me to retrieve Fifi, or whatever the hell that thing’s name was. Thankfully for him, the poor pathetic domesticated life form tripped on the plastic collar while he ran after it. Fifi’s companion ran around my legs and barked. “I have treats!” I stealthily whispered it its ear while handing it a small doggie treat, thus immediately commanding its attention for the rest of the evening. My mom used to sell door-to-door, she gave me that trick.
I threw myself down in the chair by the fire. It had to be his. It had a commanding presence, was well-worn, and didn’t quite match the rest of the upholster furniture. This chair had to be the result of an old domestic squabble that involved the words, “Betty, the chair STAYS, and that’s final!”
“I think you need to sit on the couch,” said the father. He was a massive gent, to be sure. Despite where I think most of his girth was, he probably had enough muscles to snap me in half. The smell of expensive cigars wafted in the air around Mr. Big’s sweater as his butch haircut glistened with sweat.
“No, this is fine, thank you,” I said, sensing that was the wrong answer and loving it. I decided to shift his brain gears from third to reverse. “Your couches look so nice, I’d hate to soil them with my presence.” A one-two-switcheroo. I had beat him to the insult, and confused him with details. He made a grunt, as if three things he wanted to say jammed in his mouth. I smiled my Ferris Bueller smile, and flicked one of my larger earrings with my middle finger. What a subtle gesture. Magilla Gorilla in front of me was trying to say something, but his whole body, now tangled in the same jam his mouth was in, started to sway like a pacing tiger.
“You must be Edward,” said a rather overdressed woman whose face looked like is was chiseled from a fine New England Cheese. She eclipsed Frankenstein’s monster like a diplomat about to prevent an armed conflict between two clueless Arabs. “Margaret has said some very nice things about you.” Her voice was attempting to be warm and well mannered, but the hint of frost that escaped her lips was not quite in check. She was being polite at pure face value.
“Like what?” I asked, leaning forward in the chair. I started picking at a scrap of torn leather from the arm of the chair without even looking at it. I felt the father stare at what HE should have been peeling. I had called Mrs. Peterson’s bluff! Now SHE would have to come up with something pleasant about me, and lord knows that was coming from an empty barrel. “Hmm?” I added, trying to confuse the issue with urgency.
“Well,” she said, buying time for an inevitable vague statement. “You met her at school?”
“When I still attended,” I countered. That was untrue. Well, not really. I still went to school, but not since 4pm today, like most kids on a Friday. This was fun!
“Oh, you are in college?” she asked. Her voice squeaked slightly as her own throat closed on her in panic. I saw the lizard waddle marks on her neck begin to stretch like they would suddenly snap like a cheap brassiere. Both dogs now found me and started jumping up on my lap, sniffing and panting excitedly. I petted them, but it was obvious they wanted whatever magical treats came from my hands.
Ogre turned away from me, and went to pour himself a drink. They had a small bar table with drinks in crystal decanters. In the living room. Meg was right about how she had access to any alcohol her parents had. Hell, so did Fifi L’Collar and her wondertwin Zippy.
“No, not in college. Still a senior in High School,” I smiled. The dogs were licking my hands excitedly and whimpering. The one with the collar was banging it across my knee as the weight of it dragged his neck to and fro. “I was making a joke.” I knew she had no sense of humor. The stupid rarely do.
“Romeo! Juliet!” she called out. The dogs paid attention to her for a few moments, but it was obvious they HATED to. I could sympathize. Torn between their love of food and a supposed beating from Mistress Lizard-neck was causing the kind of frustration only a four year old with a full bladder could pull off. And those names! Of course. Probably every pet Meg ever owned were in paired off names. I could bet serious money they used to own a “Cleopatra and Anthony” or “Salt and Pepper.”
“Eddie?” called out a voice of sanity that rang like a comforting bell from the stairwell. “I am almost ready!”
“You have a corsage, I assume?” suddenly asked Mr. Peterson, whom I had almost forgotten about.
“It’s in the car,” I said. Before he could ask me to go get it and slam the door behind me, I added, “I left it in the car because I know your dogs have allergies to flowers, and I didn’t want them to sneeze, being sick and all.” I pointed to what I guess was Romeo and his collar.
God, it was easy to stun that dumb ape. I wondered if he had ever held a real job, or just didn’t know where the money came from, like how goldfish must look at the yummy flakes that fall down on the water’s surface from time to time. Maybe Mrs. Peterson had the money. Or maybe some accountant, sunning himself in Miami, was giving them just enough to think they are rich, but he skims the rest for his own jet-ski lifestyle. I read about that in the newspaper once. But here was a mountain of aging muscle stuffed into a pastel sweater like some Easter sausage who just never knew what to say. I know the very fact that I was in his chair and HE wasn’t was just shorting out all kinds of circuits. His primal instinct was to kill me, but I kept jamming that thought with what basic civil skills he had, causing a mental traffic jam like a parade on main street during rush hour.
But my attention was stripped away from him as Meg ran down the stairs. She looked surprisingly stunning. Not to say she wasn’t supposed to be stunning, but I expected a more plain garb from someone who had no desire to go to the prom. She was dressed in a vanilla white gown with several hints on veils and pearls tucked about the collar line. Legs that were used to worn athletic socks were not encapsulated in a sheer white hose that made her feet look unusually big. Her hair was not in a pony tail, but actually hung to one side with ringlets framing her ear like some kind of modern artwork. She fumbled with shoes by the edge of the stairs, while her mother rushed over to nip and tuck what imperfections she saw in her daughter’s dress.
I must admit, NOW I felt underdressed. I was wearing a leather jacket around a black tee shirt, ending with some new blue jeans and old combat boots. My attempt at frivolity was to wear a bow tie around my exposed neck, but that seemed more childish right now. I had really expected Meg… well, to be more herself. I am not sure what I expected. She was so… elegant.
“Hey Eddie, let’s go!” she said, snapping me out of a shamed trance. Her mother picked up a Polaroid, but Mr. Peterson gently put her arm down. He didn’t want me to be in any picture that was in THEIR house. Her mother sputtered as we left the door, trying to find some words of wisdom. The night air felt cold, even though it was almost summer. Seeing her dressed as adult made me… feel nervous about an upcoming graduation. Was this the transition to be an adult?
We ran down across the lawn to my car. I ran past her and bowed as I opened the car door for her. She giggled and snorted. When I got on my side, she had already opened the clear plastic corsage box. “Ooh…” she gasped like she was touched by deep sentiment, “A white lily.”
I had originally chosen a death lily for the humor value. But now… well, it matched her dress kind of nice. “That’s some dress,” I commented as I tried to put the corsage on. This was turning more into a heterosexual date every second. What was going on?
“Yeah, my mother paid some god-awful fortune for it. I have spent most of the day with my hair in evil salon machines. I figured why not screw the bastards.” But she paused as she looked at the corsage. She looked at me for a second, and we both looked away, seeing the same expression in each other’s eyes. “Let’s just go,” she said.
I started the car, and drove on down to the high school. We didn’t say anything during the ten-minute trip. Normally, we laughed and joked during car rides, but I just couldn’t think of anything to say for some reason. I guess she felt the same, because whenever I looked at her, she was looking away out the window, gently biting her French-tipped nails.
We arrived at the gym. Bad contemporary music blared out of the open double doors, where men in cheesy suits hung around the entrance like animals in their pen during feeding time. I parked the car and we sat for a moment in silence, looking out of a dirty windshield.
“So… let’s go.” I said, breaking the silence with a dull axe.
“Yeah,” she said. “I hope Alice could make it.”
Alice, of course, being her girlfriend.