Authors: Melody Carlson
Tags: #General Fiction, #(¯`'•.¸//(*_*)\\¸.•'´¯)
I HAVE AN IDEA
for someone who could be my prom date,” Casey announced from the backseat as DJ was driving to youth group.
DJ and Taylor exchanged glances.
“Who?” Rhiannon asked eagerly. She was in the backseat with Casey.
“Hey that’s a great idea,” Rhiannon told her. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of that already. Lane would already have his tux lined up and everything.”
“Wait a minute.” DJ turned down the road to the church. “We don’t know for sure that Eliza’s not coming back.”
“I thought it was hopeless,” Rhiannon said.
“Yeah,” Casey agreed, “you said—”
“Something came up,” DJ said quickly. “Grandmother is talking to Mrs. Wilton at seven.”
“So you think there’s a chance?” asked Rhiannon.
“I think so.”
“That’s great.” Rhiannon said.
“Yeah, just great.” Casey sounded deflated again.
“We’ll still find you a date,” Taylor called back.
“That’s right,” Rhiannon agreed. “There are lots of guys to choose from.”
“Yippee,” Casey said without even a slight glimmer of enthusiasm.
Soon they were in the youth hall. DJ had made sure to get them there early enough for some “social interaction.” And she was pleased to see that Conner and Bradford were both talking to Emery. So it was the most natural thing in the world to go over and join them. Casey was the only one who didn’t know Emery, and Conner introduced them.
“I can’t believe you don’t know Emery,” Taylor said as she squeezed in between Emery and Conner. “Because he is entirely worth knowing.”
Emery’s cheeks were flushed. “Oh, I don’t know about that.”
“Emery was just telling us that he got accepted to Princeton.” Conner directed this to Taylor. “You’ll have to tell Harry that he’s got another Princeton man to take his side in the ongoing battle of the universities.”
Taylor laughed. “Yes, Emery, you should join us at the lunch table if you want to see a bunch of seniors acting like second graders.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” he said.
The chatting and banter continued, and DJ actually thought they were all doing a pretty decent job of making Emery look good for Casey. Plus, Emery really seemed to be enjoying the attention. And when it was time to be seated, DJ had to ask herself—why hadn’t they done this before? Not for Casey’s sake, but for Emery’s? Here was this really nice guy who happened to be uber-shy…and with just a little encouragement, he was suddenly smiling and joking and having fun. Really, what had taken them so long?
Rod Michaels, the youth pastor, was talking about how God loved to give people second chances. He told the story of the disciple Peter and how he denied Jesus—not just once, or twice, but three times. And yet Jesus forgave him and Peter became one of the strongest Christian leaders of all time. “Sometimes we need to fall flat on our faces,” Rod said finally, “to realize how much we need God. Because after we’ve tried everything and blown it and feel like total failures, we begin to understand how weak we are and how strong God is. Our perspective changes and we’re ready to ask for help. Let’s ask God for help now.” Then he led them in a prayer, and it was all DJ could do not to nudge Casey with her elbow as in
But she didn’t.
As usual, they had refreshments and games afterward. Conner invited Emery to partner with him against DJ in a game of pool. So DJ grabbed Casey to be her partner. “I better warn you,” Conner told Emery, “DJ is a shark, and I’m guessing Casey might be too.”
“Oh, we’ll take it easy on you,” DJ assured them.
About midway through the game, DJ asked Conner if he had ordered his tux for the prom yet. Of course, she knew he’d already done it, but she pretended not to and he played along nicely.
“I can’t believe it’s on Saturday.” DJ leaned down to take a shot, which she easily made. “It’s going to be so fun.” She stood, then looked at Casey. “Oh, I’m sorry, Case, I shouldn’t be talking about—”
“Yeah, DJ,” said Conner.
DJ went around the table for her next shot, then paused to talk to Emery. “Casey was invited to the prom,” she explained quietly, “but her jerk of a boyfriend—”
“DJ,” warned Conner, “just play pool, okay?”
“Yeah, right.” DJ leaned over and took her shot, missing this time. She stood and tossed Casey a sympathetic look. “Sorry, it’s just that I wish you—”
“Hey, why don’t you go to the prom with me?” Emery said suddenly.
DJ knew that Conner had been coaching him on it, but she was impressed with how natural it seemed.
“I—uh—” Casey was tongue-tied.
“Sorry,” Emery said quickly. “I guess that was socially stupid.” His cheeks got flushed again. “I’m not very good at that—”
“No,” Casey said quickly, “if you’re serious, I’d like to go with you.”
Emery looked honestly stunned. “Really?”
Casey nodded, smiling shyly. “Yeah.”
“That’s so great.” DJ gave Emery a high five.
And Conner gave one to Casey. “We can all go together,” Conner said. “Some of the other guys and I got a limo reserved. Emery, you just need to get your tux.”
“Cool.” Emery nodded, then leaned over to take his shot, which he made.
DJ wanted to break out in a happy dance, but for Casey’s sake controlled herself. She didn’t want to be too obvious.
Of course, by the time DJ was driving the girls home, Casey was questioning the whole idea. “I should’ve said no,” she told them.
“Why?” Rhiannon questioned.
“Because I don’t even know the guy,” Casey said glumly.
“You’ll get to know him,” Taylor tossed back.
“But he’s such a
guy,” Casey argued. “And I am so not like that.”
“You grew up like that,” DJ reminded her.
“But I’m not like that anymore,” Casey protested. “Really we’ll be like the weirdest couple at the prom.”
“No you won’t,” Rhiannon argued.
“It’s just all wrong,” Casey persisted. “I should call him and cancel.”
“That would hurt his feelings,” DJ pointed out.
“But it’s crazy!”
“Why?” Rhiannon demanded. “Why is it crazy?”
“Because he’s such a
guy!” Casey shouted.
“So?” Rhiannon shot back. “What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with going to the prom with a
“Because I’m pregnant.’“
The only sound was the hum of the engine and soft whine of the tires on the road—no one said a word, and DJ was too stunned to even glance at Taylor.
Rhiannon’s voice came out like a squeak.
Casey swore quietly.
“She said she’s pregnant,” Taylor said casually.
“That’s what I thought she said.” Rhiannon still sounded shocked. “Is it true?”
“Yes, it’s true,” snapped Casey. “And I think it’s stupid for a pregnant girl to go to the prom with a nice church boy, don’t you?”
Again, the car grew quiet.
“No…” Rhiannon’s voice was stronger now. “I don’t think it’s stupid.”
“I don’t either,” said DJ.
“Me neither,” added Taylor.
Casey let out an exasperated sigh, and that was the end of the conversation.
It wasn’t until the next morning that DJ was able to ask her grandmother about the phone call to Eliza’s mother. “How did it go?” she asked.
Grandmother’s expression was hard to read. “I’m not sure.”
“But you gave it your best shot.”
“Yes, I did.”
“But Mrs. Wilton didn’t say whether or not Eliza was coming back?”
“She did not.”
The other girls started to come in for breakfast, and DJ decided to let it go. She’d call Eliza later to see if she knew more. But when she called Eliza it went straight to messaging, and that didn’t seem like a good sign. So when they got to school, DJ didn’t see the point in trying to revive Eliza’s prom queen campaign. Why get everyone’s hopes up needlessly?
DJ tried to call Eliza again during lunch break, but with the same result—straight to messaging. This time DJ left a message. “Call me, Eliza, and tell me what’s up. I know my grandmother talked to your mom, but did it do any good? Is there any chance you’re coming back? I hope you’re doing okay. Hang in there.” She closed her phone and turned to Conner. “It’s not looking very good for Eliza.”
“Well, you’ve done all you can do to help, DJ. You’ve been a good friend.”
“I wish I’d been a better friend early on.”
He patted her back. “You can’t change the past.”
“I hope I get a chance to change the future.”
Most of the talk at the lunch table was driven by the girls and focused on the prom. But DJ wasn’t saying much. Mostly
she was ready for the whole prom queen thing to just be over with.
“I can’t believe that everyone’s predicting Madison will win,” Daisy said sadly. “Now that Eliza’s out of the race.”
“Maybe we should campaign for Haley” suggested Kriti. “She’s nicer than Madison.”
“Depends on who you talk to,” Casey told her. “I know girls who hate Haley.”
“Maybe we should go ahead and vote for Eliza anyway,” offered Taylor. “What could it hurt?” She nudged DJ. “Are you in?”
DJ shrugged. “Sure, why not.”
“It’ll be like a protest vote,” Kriti told them.
“Yeah,” said Daisy, “a protest over that stupid lowlife who made the MySpace page. I wish they’d catch her.”
DJ didn’t recognize the car in front of Carter House when she got home, but figured it must be one of her grandmother’s friends. She was barely in the front door when she was practically tackled—by Eliza!
“What are you doing here?” DJ demanded.
“We just got here,” Eliza told her as she grabbed Casey and Taylor and hugged them both.
“My mother came with me.” Eliza nodded toward the library. “We’re having a meeting in there, and your grandmother wants you to join us, DJ.”
“Sure.” DJ followed Eliza to the library to find Grandmother and Mrs. Wilton sitting at opposite sides of the desk.
“You’re just in time, DJ.” Grandmother smiled. “Please, sit down, girls.”
“How are you doing, Mrs. Wilton?” DJ asked as she took the seat next to her.
“As well as can be expected…under the circumstances.”
DJ nodded. “I understand.”
“And I understand you were involved in Eliza’s kidnapping and—”
“Involved?” DJ felt alarmed. “What do you—”
“I’m sorry that came out wrong.” Mrs. Wilton smiled slightly. “I meant to say you were involved in helping her. Eliza told me how grateful she was for your help, DJ. I want to express my gratitude too.”
“No. Thank you, DJ.”
“Well, we’re kind of like a family here.” DJ glanced over to where Eliza was sitting nervously, literally on the edge of her chair. “And we’ve really missed Eliza.”
Mrs. Wilton sighed. “Yes…and Eliza has missed you.”
“And we were really hoping she’d get to come back,” DJ continued. “There’s so much going on right now. Prom, the fashion show, graduation…”
“Yes, I’m aware.”
Grandmother cleared her throat. “Yes, we had really hoped to have Eliza with us until the end of the year.” She smiled at Mrs. Wilton. “I had hoped that you would join us for the Mother’s Day fashion show. It’s a charity event and Dylan Marceau will be so disappointed to learn that he’s lost one of his favorite models.”
Mrs. Wilton frowned. “I really don’t enjoy playing the heavy role, but you must understand my concern.”
“As I said, I understand completely,” Grandmother reassured her. “I can’t apologize enough for not contacting you directly about the Palm Beach incident.”
“But she tried,” Eliza pleaded.
“After we got back to Crescent Cove, Eliza begged me to allow her to handle it.” Grandmother folded her hands on the desk. “As you know, I try to treat the girls as adults…for the most part. I expect them to take responsibility for themselves.”
“And I let her down,” Eliza told her mother. “And I told you I’m sorry. And I told you that I just wanted to bury the whole thing. It seemed easier that way.”
Mrs. Wilton looked upset. “Don’t you realize how dangerous that was, Eliza? You could’ve been killed.”
“I know, Mother.” Eliza stood and began pacing. “But that wasn’t really my fault. I mean, I got myself into it, but the guy was a creep.”
“That’s right,” DJ agreed. “And he stalked Eliza without her knowing it.”
“But I’ll bet she’d know if it started to happen again,” said Grandmother.
“Don’t be too sure.” Mrs. Wilton frowned.
“I know I’d be a lot more careful,” Eliza shot back. “I did learn a thing or two, Mother.”
“Yes, yes…I know you did.”
“Here’s what I think,” DJ said suddenly. “I think something like that could’ve happened anywhere. In Louisville or Paris or even here in Crescent Cove. I mean, it’s pretty hard to prevent someone from being evil. But Eliza is eighteen, Mrs. Wilton, and next year she’ll be in college, and she’ll be even more on her own than she is now. So you’re going to have to let her go.”
Mrs. Wilton nodded. “Yes, you’re right.” She looked over at Eliza. “I suppose I’m feeling a bit guilty.”
“Guilty?” Grandmother looked surprised.
“For not being more involved in Eliza’s last year of high school.”
“But you and Daddy had your hands full with the vineyard and everything,” Eliza said. “And I’ve really liked being here in Carter House. I’ve made some really good friends. And we’ve had some good times. I’ve actually learned a few things…and I hope I’m growing up a little.” She gave DJ a wistful smile. “But I know I have a long way to go.”
Mrs. Wilton smiled ever so slightly. “Yes…it’s good you know that.” She turned to DJ. “Is it true that you’ve been accepted to Yale?”
DJ glanced at Grandmother. Where was this going?
“Yes, it’s true,” Grandmother said proudly. “And she’s been invited to visit their campus.”
Mrs. Wilton turned back to DJ. “How about if I make a deal with you, DJ?”
“Yes. I will allow Eliza to come back for prom and the fashion show…and possibly until graduation…if…”
“If you let Eliza go with you for the Yale visit.”