I asked Jason Miller to my prom. He dropped hints for like five weeks as if I would take anyone else. My mom got real excited and we went to the mall. I hadn’t been there since that stupid thing with Manny. I told her to park on the other side of the lot. I don’t know why. Before we got out of the car my mom turned to me, lightly touched my shoulder. She said, “Are you sure about this Jason Miller? He’s an odd-looking young man and you’re such a pretty girl.” Heat rose through my face. “I like the way he looks,” I muttered and then I clammed up. We went to a nice store, the kind that smells like perfume and new clothes and rich people. I tried to give her the silent treatment but my mom was so nice, smiling so much she hardly looked like my mom. She held dresses in front of me and had me pull my hair up. She said I should show my neck more. If she knew how many hickeys I’ve gotten in high school, she probably wouldn’t suggest that. The dress we finally picked was gorgeous and so expensive. I didn’t think a piece of clothing could cost so much but my mom told me not to worry, said she has her own money my dad doesn’t know anything about. She made me think someday she might have a life that has nothing to do with him. I would like to think we both want that for ourselves. When Jason Miller came to pick me up, he wore a dark gray tuxedo with a pink tie to match my dress, no cheesy tails, no silly top hat, just a classic, well-cut suit. He brought me a corsage of pink roses. His hands shook as he fastened the corsage to my wrist. I wanted to keep it forever. While my mom took pictures, Jason Miller kept staring at me, kind of like a creep if I’m being totally honest, looking at me like he had never seen a girl in a nice dress before. I loved it. We drove to prom in his dad’s car, a black Lexus. Even my dad was impressed, whistled as we walked to the car, and Jason Miller opened my door. He shouted, “You kids have fun.” It’s the nicest thing he’s ever said to my boyfriend. A couple weeks ago Jason Miller said he wanted to a rent a limo but I told him only assholes take a limo to prom. He got super red. Real quick I said, “Not that you’re an asshole, but you could use the money for something way better.” We danced all night even though normally Jason Miller hates dancing. He didn’t even complain. He totally lied about being a bad dancer. He was all over the floor like a wild man and I was right there with him. I know the girls I go to school with were jealous as hell. Those bitches never expected me to be the one who ended up with an awesome college boyfriend who can dance his ass off. Kylie Green went so far as to tell Jason Miller to keep his arms and legs to himself when she and her boyfriend were dancing too close to us. I told her to fuck off and me and Jason Miller just danced harder. Sometimes we drank from his flask, not enough to get trashed, enough to pretend we weren’t in a high school gym in a dead-end town. When we left, he carried my shoes because my feet were killing me and draped his jacket over my shoulders.
After prom, Jason Miller drove me to the overlook. We lay on the hood of his car, staring up at the sky, listening to Bob Marley in our bare feet. I asked if he wanted to have sex because that’s what you’re supposed to do on prom night. He didn’t go to his own prom so I thought it would be a nice thing to do for him, a way of thanking him for treating me nice. He said, “I always want to have sex with you, but you’re not ready.” Why does he think he knows me better than I know myself? I smacked his stomach pretty hard and walked away, not far. I wanted to figure out why he makes me so happy and so mad at the same time. I couldn’t do that thinking when his leg was hooked over mine and he was singing Bob Marley and making my skin feel tingly and sharp. The air was perfect, foggy and wet, cool. He called after me but I didn’t answer. I hid behind a tree because I knew he’d come looking or at least I hoped he would. After a few minutes I heard footsteps and started to get nervous. All kinds of people go to the overlook. I worried maybe it was a serial killer. The teenage slut always gets it on prom night. When I saw his tall, lanky body about to move on by, I reached out and grabbed his arm and pulled him against me. I could still hear the Bob Marley and the beeping of an open car door. “Why’d you run off?” he asked. I shook him a little. “You make me feel like you don’t want me, and if you don’t want me I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be for you.” I just blurted it out without even thinking, something I would never normally admit to a guy. I tried to take it back, said, “Forget I said that.” Jason Miller told me to close my eyes and even though that makes me nervous I did. A few seconds later, he said, “Open your eyes.” He was holding a long jewelry box and my heart started pounding so hard. I couldn’t breathe, didn’t need to. Jason Miller said, “I found something better to spend my money on.” He looked so handsome and happy and I wanted to believe I had something to do with that. As I opened the box, I said, “What the fuck did you do, Jason Miller?” Inside sat a beautiful necklace, a silver chain with a diamond pendant in the shape of three intertwined circles. I pulled my hair up and turned around. His breath fell on my bare shoulders as he fastened the necklace. I moved to turn back around but he wouldn’t let me. He rubbed my shoulders softly and leaned in real close and started whispering. Between words, he kissed my neck. He said he wants my heart not my body and that he’ll know I’m ready when I don’t shake or look scared after he touches me. He said other things I can’t tell you. I pressed my forehead against the tree and felt the weight of the most beautiful thing I’ve ever owned hanging from my neck and the weight of his words, and the foggy, wet air holding us together. He said he likes how I always say both of his names. I said, “I like keeping your name in my mouth as long as possible.”
I’ve always wanted to stay at the Walker Hotel in the city. I don’t remember telling Jason Miller how much I loved that hotel but somehow he knew. When I was younger I imagined what it would be like to sleep in a huge, soft bed, ordering room service, watching movies. After graduation (he came and even sat with my parents), Jason Miller took me to the hotel and when we checked in he gave me his last name, said we only needed one key, and pressed the small plastic card into my palm, let me lead the way with one hand on my back, the other carrying a bag with our clothes and toothbrushes and deodorant and such. I was nervous sliding the key into the door even though I’ve been alone in bedrooms with lots of boys. The room was cold but exactly how I imagined, with beautiful antique furniture and a big bed covered with lots of pillows. I was burning for Jason Miller, how he made me wait, how he knew I wanted and maybe needed to wait, how he always let me know he wanted me even though we were waiting. He set the suitcase near the dresser and stood with his hands in his pockets. It was my turn to take the lead so I pulled him to the bed and I asked, “What do you want?” biting my lower lip and closing my eyes because this time I really didn’t want him to push me away. He slid my shirt off over my head and kissed my collarbone and between my breasts. He said, “I want you in any way I can have you.” I wrapped myself around those words and I wrapped myself around him and he didn’t fuck me. The word fuck is way too ugly for what he did to me, but it was the first time I ever felt anything worth feeling with a boy or a man. Later, Jason Miller sat with his back against the headboard and I sat between his legs, playing with his feet, which I pulled up into my lap. He kissed the back of my neck and my shoulders over and over, his lips soft and wet, his breath warm. I’m pretty sure it was his first time for sex too because the look in his eyes was something. My eyes, I am sure, looked the same. It was kind of like my first time too, that’s what I told him. I like that maybe Jason Miller is always going to be only mine. ♦
A version of this story originally appeared in Prairie Schooner.