“Sorry to cancel on you at the last minute,” Gabi says, walking with Sam up to her bedroom. They have a standing agreement to accompany each other to any date-less event, and Gabi’s senior prom was almost one such event.
“It’s cool,” Sam says. He lies down on her bed, careful not to touch her dress. “I heard you have a hot date.”
Gabi doesn’t answer. She takes out a box of bobby pins from her desk and starts putting up her hair.
“How come you haven’t told me who the guy is yet? Are you bringing some kind of spy to prom? Or, no, wait. Mr. Kraz?”
“Ew, no!” Gabi throws a pillow at him. “To both. I didn’t tell you because it’s... not a guy.”
Sam sits up on the bed. “Oh?”
“I’m going with Sara Pearson,” Gabi says, and then quickly adds, “But it’s not what you think!”
“What do I think? That you’re dating the hottest girl in school and you didn’t tell me? And apparently bisexual?”
“Okay, that’s true, she’s really hot, but it’s so not like that. It’s a whole revenge thing.”
She talked to Sara after everything went down, and they’re in this together. Sara says that Brandon lied and said he and Gabi were broken up at the time, and Gabi believes her. Brandon was always the one she should have been mad at, anyway. Sara didn’t cheat on anyone. They’ve spent the past couple of weeks cooking up a revenge plot during their mutual fourth period free.
“Oh, okay, that makes it much less gay.”
“Shut up, it does! We’re just going together to make Brandon jealous.”
“So he’ll take you back? Both of you?”
“It’s not about that, it’s like, just saying one last ‘fuck you’ to him.”
“Sure it is,” Sam says.
Gabi looks over to see him smiling superiorly. He might drive her up the wall sometimes, but Gabi is impossibly glad to have Sam back in her life. She would never have admitted it at the time, but having to go through her breakup with Brandon without Sam to talk to made it even worse.
“Can you toss me that?” Gabi asks, pointing the hairbrush on her night table.
“If you answer one question.”
Gabi laughs. “Fine, okay.” He can ask her as many times as he wants if she’s a lesbian or something now, the answer is going to stay no. It’s about Brandon.
Sam throws it to her, and he asks, “Aren’t you still mad at her at all?”
Gabi wasn’t expecting that. “Maybe a little. I guess I spend some time thinking about why Brandon liked her. Her hair, her lips, her body. She always smells like apples, which maybe isn’t what you’d expect, but I think it’s nice. And how she stares right into your eyes when she’s talking to you. I mean, I get what Brandon saw in her.”
Sam raises his eyebrows and smirks at her like he knows something she doesn’t.
“You said it, she’s the hottest girl in school,” Gabi says.
“I did say that.” He keeps on smirking.
Sam is impossible to talk to when he’s like this. Gabi rolls her eyes and goes back to doing her hair.
“You know, not all of us can just start dating our best friend slash Netflix co-producer that we’ve known for a million years. Romance is complicated, Samuel.”
“Thank you for that nugget of wisdom, my elder of two whole years.”
“Just doing my job.”
Sam looks down at his phone. “I should go,” he says, standing up. Gabi knows by now that Fridays are movie nights with Peter. “Those foreign art films aren’t going to watch themselves.”
“Have fun at date night,” Gabi says, giving him a hug.
“Oh, I won’t,” Sam says cheerfully. “And, not to beat a dead gay horse, but are you sure this is really about Brandon?”
“I’m sure,” Gabi says. Sure, Sara Pearson is incredibly attractive, but that’s just the empirical truth. Gabi is going with her to prom to get revenge on their terrible mutual ex boyfriend, and that’s it.
Gabi finishes getting ready and goes over to Madison’s house for pictures. She had to drive barefoot, and spends a minute putting her shoe back on after she parks on the street. She’s still bent over in the driver’s seat when someone knocks on her window.
Gabi jumps and sits back up to see Sara Pearson waving at her through the window. She waves back, and then grabs her clutch and gets out of the car.
Sara looks beautiful. Her dress is white and strapless, flowing around her in the warm breeze. Her hair is loose, cascading down her shoulders, and her lips are a soft, glossy pink.
Gabi allows herself a moment to stare. She still feels a bite of jealousy, like what she was trying to explain to Sam—Brandon at least has good taste. She can feel Sara’s eyes on her too, making the same appraisal of Gabi’s dark blue dress and elaborate updo.
“Oh, I got you something,” Gabi says, opening the door of her car again. On the passenger seat is a small box, and Gabi hands it to Sara.
Inside are 2 identical corsages: bright white roses tied with delphiniums and blue ribbon.
Sara holds the box open for a moment looking at the flowers, her expression inscrutable.
“We don’t have to wear them,” Gabi says.
“No, we totally should,” Sara says, putting hers on and smiling at Gabi. It’s a smile Gabi’s become familiar with in the past few weeks of Brandon-related plotting, different from her polite smile for teachers, her ‘as-if!’ grimace at the weedy freshman boys who think they can ask her out, her polished look for Instagram photos with just the right amount of teeth. Sara takes Gabi’s wrist to put on her corsage, and Gabi thinks she looks genuinely happy.
Gabi smiles back, and they go to take pictures.
Almost the entire class at Hanover is here on Madison’s lawn, taking pictures in couples and small groups and lines. Gabi and Sara find a spot near Brandon and the rest of the jocks and recruit Haley Attis to take adorable couple photos. In the next 20 minutes, Gabi becomes intimately familiar with the smell of Sara’s hair. They do the classic prom pose (Sara stands in the back, because she’s taller), hold hands, gaze at each other exaggeratedly from a variety of vantage points. Madison has a wooden swing hanging from the Japanese Maple next to her porch, so they wait their turn and take a few photos sitting there together too.
It’s all very cute and couple-y, maybe even more so than the photos Gabi took with Brandon at junior prom. Sara goes to take some photos with her friends, and Gabi is roped into a debate team group shot. After, she hangs around and ends up talking to Sierra Sherington. They compare photos, and they’re, well, pretty similar. Sierra is here with her boyfriend, and those are nice and inoffensive and everything, but she also shows Gabi pictures with her and her girl friends. They look, infuriatingly, like the pictures Gabi and Sara have been taking all afternoon. Sierra and her friends blow kisses at each other, hold each other’s hands, stand in the classic prom pose, and it all looks completely platonic.
Gabi explains their problem to Sara while they stand together for the class-wide photo.
“Brandon didn’t even notice,” Gabi says, smiling for Madison’s mom’s camera. “Maybe we should just give up.”
Part of her expects Sara to say that they should, that this was a stupid idea anyway, and she has other people she would rather be spending this night with. But she doesn’t.
Sara scoffs and tightens her grip on Gabi’s waist. “No. We need to go harder.”
Gabi leans into Sara’s touch and her apple-scented shampoo. She could be down for that.
Going harder turns out to mean slow-dancing to every song with sub-70 BPM. They’ve danced to Faithfully and Take My Breath Away and Time After Time , Sara’s sure hands around her waist.
Good Riddance comes on, and Sara pulls her onto the floor again. It’s nearing the end of the night, and they both took off their shoes an hour ago. The floor is vaguely sticky beneath her feet, but Gabi doesn’t care. Maybe it’s the song, or seeing all the faces she’s grown up with on the dance floor beside them, but Gabi is overtaken with nostalgia. She talks a big game about wanting to get out of this boring town and do something with her life, but she really will miss people.
Gabi makes eye contact with Brandon over Sara’s shoulder. That’s one person she won’t miss. He looks surprised, but it’s not the absolute decimation she was hoping for. Maybe he still doesn’t get it? Groups and pairs of girls have danced together all night, but no one else except Emily Hershey and her date have for as many dances as Gabi and Sara. But he really could be that dense.
Gabi pulls away to look at Sara. Her eyes flick down to her glossy lips, and then back to meet Sara’s gaze. “We should kiss,” Gabi says.
Sara furrows her brow, but she doesn’t step back.
“Brandon is looking,” Gabi explains. “Go hard, right?”
Sara doesn’t answer. Maybe Gabi took things too far. It’s one thing to take cute pictures and slow dance with another girl, but this would cross a different sort of line. One that female friends don’t usually cross.
But Sara holds her gaze and leans in and, oh God, Sam was right. Sara Pearson is about to kiss Gabi in the middle of the dance floor, and she wants her to . Weeks of misdirected jealousy come into sharp focus.
“Wait, stop,” Gabi says. This is wrong. She can’t ask Sara to kiss her for revenge on Brandon when it would mean so much more than that to Gabi. And there’s a small, hopeful part of her that wants their first kiss to have more meaning than this.
“I just— Brandon’s gone,” Gabi finishes lamely. She lost her nerve. There’s no way Sara would want her outside of this charade, and she doesn’t want to be rejected. The night will end after a few more songs, and they’ll go back to their separate existences in discrete high school social spheres.
“I don’t give a fuck about that guy,” Sara says. She leans in again, and this time Gabi doesn’t stop her.