“Sorry, dude, can't hang out this weekend. Me and Christine are gonna get our prom outfits,” Jeremy smiled brightly, “She said she wants a flannel theme. Don't know how we're gonna get those but I bet she'll work it out.”
“Flannel? That's… unique.”
Jeremy laughed softly. “That's exactly what I told her! And she was all like “That's the point!” Dude, it was so cute.”
Michael smirked. “You say everything about her is cute.”
His friend covered his face with his hands. “That's because she's just… awesome,” he mumbled through mushed lips.
Michael took a long sip from his drink. He looked up to see Christine bouncing on her heels on the stage. The first run had gone on for longer than intended, is what she told him. Something about a few people dropping out of the performance or some other theatre thing.
She insisted that the two of them leave without her but Jeremy was stubborn in his decision to wait and Michael was pretty content with staying in an air conditioned room.
“So… Is she gonna wear the matching flannel when she performs?” Michael asked, chewing on the straw.
“I don't think so… They've got some other get-up for the performance, I think.”
“Sorry that I can't hang out again.”
Michael waved him off. “Go be happy and lovey dovey with your girlfriend, dude.”
Jeremy’s face grew red as a tomato but he was smiling so wide, Michael couldn't tease him about it even if he wanted to.
He ended up having Rich over for the weekend. They were pretty close, and it was his (and in all honesty, mostly Jake’s) doing that Michael’s friend group had expanded so much.
He could say that he hung out with the ‘popular kids’ but he rarely spent one-on-one time with any of them, preferring to go out as a group most of the time.
The two were doing their usual routine of watching a very over-the-top melodrama, where they'd laugh about every aspect of the show. But Rich wasn't really in it that time; his jokes were half-hearted puns at best.
Michael nudged the shorter of the two. “C’mon man, you're fidgeting like nobody's business. Spill.”
Rich puffed out his cheeks and slowly blew out air. “So… I've been thinking… About- uh, prom…”
“I wanna ask Jake,” he spewed out in a jumble of words, “But like, I'll brush it off as a joke thing if he thinks its weird or whatever- but like- Mikey?”
He was staring wide eyed at Rich.
Holy fuck. The days- no, the months of listening to this boy pine and he's finally-
“I do not pine.”
“Shit, I said that out loud?” Michael winced. Rich only raised an eyebrow. “Look, I don't mean it in a bad way. I just meant that- and now you're laughing. Ha-ha, very funny asshole. Making me think you were gonna hit me with a chair.”
Rich was on the floor, having fallen off the couch, cackling wildly. Once he sobered up, he propped his arms next to Michael, sitting on the floor. His expression was nervous again.
“So… Should I go for it? Ask him, I mean.”
Michael leaned back into the cushions, silent in thought. A few moments passed before he nodded, quietly saying, “Yeah. Yeah, you go for it, dude. If he thinks it's weird then it's his loss.” He gave a crooked smile in Rich’s direction.
He received a gap-toothed smile in return.
By the time prom rolled around, the rest of their friend group had paired off with each other.
Jeremy and Christine were wearing their matching flannel themed outfits; Jake agreed to go with Rich as ‘bros’; Brooke and Chloe were too lazy to find dates, and as their go-to arm candy (Rich and Jake, respectively) were both preoccupied, they decided to go together as well.
Which left Michael with Jenna.
Now, Michael wasn't the straightest anything in the anywhere, so don't blame him for being a bit grumpy about this pairing at first. Not that Jenna wasn't a great friend- sure, she got a bit distracted every now and again but she was pretty rad overall.
Thankfully, by some silent agreement, they both understood that it was for appearances sake. So there was no awkward hand-holding or corsage giving or whatever prom dates entailed. They did take prom pictures, only because they wanted to take the cheesiest, corniest, and most ironic prom photos to ever exist.
Then there was Christine's performance. It had a lot of coloured spotlights, ribbons, and for some reason, a giant white sheet that was draped over them at the start of their act. It looked like some kind of cult ritual but once they got past that creepy segment, the performance was great.
It had their whole group clapping and whooping, and Jeremy had shouted, “WOO! THAT'S MY GIRLFRIEND! MY GIRLFRIEND!” He didn't even look embarrassed at how he was loudly proclaiming the awesomeness of his girlfriend and her performance.
… Despite the fact that about ten other people also performed with her. Michael didn't interrupt Jeremy’s cheering to tell him that, though.
After a few more performances, the music started calming down and a few brave couples began slow dancing. There were some people who danced together as a group with their friends, which seemed a lot less daunting than dancing as a couple.
The only real couple of their group had joined in too because of Jeremy’s insistence, surprisingly. The rest of them sat at a round table, idly chatting.
Chloe had brought some alcohol in a flask, which she shared with Jake, mainly because no one else at the table was particularly eager on getting drunk. Whatever she brought must've been strong, because Jake was already tipsy from a few sips. That, or Jake was more of a lightweight than Michael initially thought.
Jake had an arm around Rich’s chair as he giggled uncontrollably. “Guys, we- we're graduating. We're gonna go off to college and shit.”
“Jake. Jakey. Dillinger. You are going off to college. None of us have-” Chloe stopped when Brooke elbowed her in the gut.
“What she means, Jake, is that we're all incredibly proud of your scholarship,” she took over.
Then Rich cut in and started talking to Jake about said scholarship, which Michael tuned out most of. His short friend was smiling the whole night, and was probably blushing too, but it was difficult to see in the low lighting.
Jenna tapped on Michael’s shoulder as she stood. “Hey, I'm gonna try and get some digital copies of our prom pics. I'll send ‘em to you later.”
He nodded lazily and she took off in the direction of the photographer. Michael propped his chin in his hand as he observed his friends.
Chloe wasn't tipsy per se- she was just a bit louder than usual, which was already pretty loud to begin with. Brooke tried to distract her by making flowers out of paper napkins and braiding them into her friend’s hair.
He moved his gaze to where Jeremy and Christine swayed along to the music.
As cheesy as it sounded, Michael was happy that his friend was happy. It didn't matter that he had feelings for Jeremy; they would always be best friends first and anything else second.
It wasn't like Christine was a horrible monster either. She was genuine, and a bit much at times, but she was good. Good to Jeremy, good to Michael, hell, even good to Jake after she realised that he didn't try to hurt her.
So Michael was content with letting his feelings simmer and hopefully fade over time. His friend was happy. And that made him happy too.
Michael looked away when he saw Jeremy lean down for a kiss, wanting to give them some privacy.
A few moments after the couple returned to the table, Jenna came running towards the group. She slammed her hands on the table, nearly spilling the barely touched glasses of fruit punch.
“Guys! Group photo! We gotta take a group photo!”
“Jen, calm down,” Christine said, her hand still in Jeremy's.
Michael started to stand. “Yeah, a group picture sounds cool. Let's do it.”
Jenna clapped her hands with a wide smile on her face. She gripped Michael's wrist, dragging him with her as she booked it to the photographer.
When they got there, he massaged his arm as he saw the rest of their group walking in their direction. Rich was laughing and Jake was smiling down at him.
I swear, sometimes that guy is as straight as an iron bar and other times-
“Alright, so we all have to pose, got it?” Jenna commanded.
Michael nodded seriously. “Sir, yes sir!”
She burst out laughing.
It took a bit of organising and squishing to get them all to fit into the frame but they managed.
Rich was hoisted up on Jake’s back, in which Jake realised that his friend was not as small as he previously thought when they went through with his “piggy-back ride” pose.
Michael was very, very tempted to make an innuendo but decided against it, only because Rich looked like he figured it out himself judging by how hard he was blushing.
Chloe and Brooke dramatically posed, hair down and everything, while Jenna splayed her arms and hands, gesturing to the pair with a serious face.
Jeremy and Christine had crouched down on their knees in front of Rich and Jake, facing the camera; Jeremy had an arm around her as she leaned into him.
Michael tried to fit himself next to Jenna and mimic her pose when Jeremy called him over.
“Michael, next to me, c’mon!”
“Yeah, Michael, there's more space here,” Christine added.
He gingerly kneeled beside his friend, and let out a small yelp when Jeremy threw his other arm around his shoulders.
“Ready?” the photographer asked in a bored voice.
“Just- Take the fucking picture!” Jake got out, as he struggled to carry Rich.
“3… 2… 1… Smile,” he said with fake cheeriness.
After the bright flash dissipated, Jake dropped the smaller boy almost immediately.
“Oh, shit, dude- I'm sorry-” Jake started apologising.
“Nah, bro, s’all cool,” Rich told him, standing up. The look he had on his face made it clear that he was smitten. Michael wondered if Jake could see it too.
Jenna squealed, causing all of their heads to turn. “It looks great!” Then, to the photographer, “Can I get extra copies for all of us?”
The older man sighed. “I can give you digital copies and you can print them out yourselves at one of our stores. Might as well frame them while you're at it,” he mumbled that last part with a large heaping of sarcasm.
She pumped her fist in the air. “Yes! Thank you!”
The photographer did not look as thrilled as Jenna.
A week later, Jenna dropped by his house to give him the printed versions of the pictures. (He had all the prom night photos on his phone, but that didn't stop Rolan from printing out copies for everyone.)
“Jen, you didn't have to come all the way here-”
She scoffed. “Nonsense. I'm going to everyone's house and giving them today if it kills me.”
As she pulled out of the driveway, Michael waved at her, loosely holding the brown envelope. When she turned the corner, he padded back into the house and fell onto the couch.
He ripped open the envelope, when a few smaller copies fell out. There must've been an offer or something. Michael wouldn't have been surprised if she just printed out more anyway.
Picking up the smaller prints, he placed them face down on the small coffee table and directed his attention to the largest one. It wasn't the size of printer paper but it was too big to be folded and placed in his pockets. He looked at it and a smile broke across his face.
Jake had managed a smile despite having Rich on his back. The short boy was red in the face and grinning wildly. Brooke and Chloe looked effortlessly beautiful and by that Michael meant hilariously dramatic. He recognised Jenna’s pose as that one Will Smith meme. How he didn't catch it on prom night astounded him.
Crouching in front of the five of them were Jeremy and Christine, who had their flannel themed prom outfits showed off in their full glory, looking like the happiest couple. Then, Jeremy had pulled Michael closer, so that it looked like both him and Christine were leaning into Jeremy.
The next day, Michael bought a frame.