Jude stared at himself in the full-length mirror with disgust. In his 18 years of being alive, he had gotten out of wearing a suit with an almost 100-percent success rate.
Weddings? He’d wear sleek black jeans with a nice dress shirt. He’d the same thing for other special occasions or parents. The only time his parents truly forced him to wear a suit was when they had a funeral to attend and, lucky enough for him, he’d only gone to two in his life.
He fluffed out of the dress pants he was forced to wear. They were a bit baggy on him and they made a rustling sound when his thighs rubbed together as he walked. When he complained about it, all his mother had to say was that she told him to get the suit fitted before tonight. Apparently, he had no one to blame but himself. He supposed that was true. He didn’t get the suit fitted because he thought if he had “forgotten” to do it, he’d get out of wearing it.
The shirt fit just fine but the buttons at the end of the shirt were bothering him. The small plastic pieces rubbed against his wrists – not tightly, but just enough to be annoying. He tried to fold the button over, rolling his sleeves up a quarter of the way.
Whenever he did, his mother appeared by magic and “fixed” them for him. He tried to leave them unbuttoned but that didn’t work either. His mother wouldn’t stand for that because it looked too sloppy.
Jude didn’t even want to talk about the shoes. They fit him fine, but he must preferred his sneakers. He had half a mind to sneak his sneakers into his car so he could change without his mother’s knowledge. He was lucky she wasn’t chaperoning the senior prom. Otherwise he’d be in big trouble.
Looking at himself in the mirror, Jude realized something. He cleaned up nice. However, if he didn’t feel good in the suit, he didn’t care how good or bad he looked. He wanted to feel comfortable so that he was able to have the best time he could.
His father now entered Jude’s bedroom. Jude sighed knowing his mother had sent him into the room. He had most of the suit on so now they were arguing about the tie. It wasn’t fair that his mother didn’t feel fit enough to fight that battle. So she tagged her husband in to take her place. Jude didn’t have anyone to tag in, so what was he supposed to do?
“I brought three of them. You said your date is wearing a black dress, right?” his father asked.
Jude lifted one shoulder into a small shrug. “I think she said it was mostly black but it had silver specks in it. She said it looked like a starry night.”
“Oh,” his father chuckled holding up a tie. “So, I guess you don’t want to wear this one?”
Jude’s eyes widened at the tie his father presented to him. It was a crisp white with large, black polka dots all over. It looked like a cow and Jude didn’t want to be caught dead wearing that.
“That’s hideous,” he said.
His father continued to laugh as he tossed the tie onto the bed. “Alright then, you’ve narrowed it down to two.”
Two ties were held up in front of Jude’s face. One was a sleek black that seemed to be almost as shiny as his new dress shoes were. The other was another black tie with gray at the bottom. The gray dissolved as it climbed to the top of the tie allowed for small gray specks in the middle of the tie. Jude thought it looked as though someone had spilled something on the tie, but he thought it looked okay enough. He pointed to the black one with the gray specks.
“That one actually probably matches Paige’s dress.”
“Ah,” his father grinned, tossing the black one onto the bed. He stepped toward his son with the gray tie and tossed it around his neck. “So you do care that you match your date.”
“No, I do not,” Jude said firmly. “But I know girls tend to like this kind of stuff and can go overboard with the whole matching thing, so I guess I might as well try to make Paige happy about it.”
Jude sighed. His father’s “sure” was always code for, “We both know I’m right so I’m not putting in the effort to argue.”
“Is Paige excited?” his father asked tightening the tie around his son’s neck.
Jude swallowed a lump in his throat hoping he’d be able to breath. Who invented ties, anyway? They were such a stupid way of being classy. There was no need to choke yourself in order to look good so you can have a nice time.
“I think she is. She hasn’t said too much about it, to be honest,” Jude explained. He put a hand on the knot in his tie trying to loosen it just ever so slightly as his father took a step back to admire his handy work.
“You look good, son,” his father said, a proud grin on his face.
Jude didn’t reply in fear he’d say something mean. He certainly didn’t feel good.
“Have you asked Paige much about tonight?” his father asked.
“Asked her what? I wanted to know about her dress because we need for match for some weird reason. I’m just glad she didn’t pick a bright pink or purple dress.” Jude rolled his eyes. He turned back to look at himself in the mirror dropping his hands down by his side. On the outside, he looked good. On the inside, he felt like a dope. Prom better go quick.
“Aside from making sure your tie matched her dress and asking her to the prom, have the two of you talked about it at all?” his father asked again.
“What else is there to talk about?”
His father let out a sigh.
“What?” Jude peeled his eyes off himself in the mirror and at his dad.
“Do we need to have a talk about woman?”
“God, Dad. No.”
“Alright, well, make sure you listen to her tonight, okay?”
Jude’s face twisted in confusion.
“Girls live for senior prom. Paige is probably way more excited than you’ll ever be about it. You want to make this night special for her, not for yourself.” His father sat down on the bed and patted the seat beside him, but Jude ignored the gesture.
“I need to make this night special for her by dressing up fancy even though I’m uncomfortable?”
Jude’s face deadpanned. He didn’t know what else to say to his parents at this point. They didn’t know Paige, but if Jude thought about it, he didn’t know too much about Paige himself.
No, the two of them had never really talked about prom or anything else. He saw Paige across the room in math sophomore year when she moved to the area and he had wanted to talk to her ever since. They barely spoke a word to each other when he asked her to go to prom with him. They were working on a lab project together in science just two months ago and he blurted out, “Will you go to prom with me?” instead of a normal greeting such as saying hello.
Much to his surprise, she found it amusing and agreed.
Most girls Jude knew were going ga-ga for senior prom. It was true, he heard them talking about it ever since freshmen year. He didn’t doubt his father when he said some girls lived for senior prom. He wasn’t so sure one of those girls was Paige though.
In fact, the more Jude thought about it, the more he realized that when he asked Paige what color dress she was wearing so they could match, she didn’t seem too enthused about the idea. He got a weird tone from her voice over the phone when she described it. She only seemed to be excited about the starry night part of the dress.
Jude paused in his thinking. Maybe she wasn’t actually excited to go to prom at all. Maybe he was forcing her to do something she didn’t want to do. Maybe she was too nice and didn’t want to say no to going to prom. That was possible, wasn’t it? Some girls actually didn’t care about the prom stuff. Or maybe she didn’t actually want to go with him but she had already made the commitment a few months ago that she’d feel bad going back on her word or feigning ill. He knew he had asked her too early!
“Uh, Jude? Are you okay? You’re making an awful lot of faces.” His father stood up holding his arms out as though he thought Jude was going to fall over and he needed to catch his son. “It’s okay to be nervous. I sometimes feel that way when I’m nervous too. Just head to the bathroom now and get it all out before you leave.”
Jude stared at his father horrified.
“Otherwise you’re in a long night of embarrassment in front of your entire school.”
“Dad, please stop talking,” Jude sighed. “I’m not nervous. Of course I want Paige to have a good time. It’s just…”
He stared at his father who patiently waited for an explanation. Except, Jude had no idea how to explain this to his father and he didn’t want to get into it just then. He knew he needed to pick up Paige in about ten minutes.
“I need to leave now,” Jude said.
“That’s the spirit!” his father cheered.
Jude left his bedroom with his father trailing behind. He didn’t know what his dad meant by his cheer, but he didn’t want to ask.
After saying a quick goodbye to his parents – well, it wasn’t as quick as he would have liked. He needed to take the corsage from his mother and take a couple of pictures first. Once that was out of the way, he got into his car and headed to Paige’s house, which was about ten minutes from his own house.
He had to do the same thing at her house. They took picture after picture. Individual pictures, pictures together (all in various poses), pictures putting on the corsages… Jude was seeing so many spots he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to drive to prom.
Throughout the picture taking, Jude grew more nervous. Paige seemed to be in an okay mood, but she didn’t seem to want her picture taken at all. She was flattered by the corsage and even his tie, but she wasn’t overly excited about any of it. Jude knew there had to be some other guy she wanted to go with or maybe she just wanted to go with her group of friends. Jude shouldn’t have asked her in the first place. How was he supposed to help her have a good time when it didn’t seem like she wanted to have a good time with him from the get-go?
They made it into the car and as Jude pulled away from her house with Paige waving goodbye to her parents, Paige let out a long groan which startled Jude.
“Um, are you okay?”
“My mother picked out the floofiest dress,” Paige said.
“I hate wearing dresses. I just wanted to wear pants. I even tried to compromise with her and told her I’d wear dress pants instead of jeans. She didn’t budge, as you can tell.”
Jude took his eyes off the road for a moment to look at her. “Well, I think you look lovely.”
Paige snickered. “Listen, you don’t need to feel like you have to make me feel good or pretty or anything tonight, okay? Let’s just have a good time.”
“Do you want to have a good time with me?” Jude asked. He didn’t know where the question came form and wanted to rewind the moment it came out of his mouth, but there was no going back now. He continued before Paige could answer. “I mean, you don’t seem all that excited for prom. I didn’t know if you agreed to go with me because you felt awkward saying no or maybe I asked you too early… I know we barely talked before I even asked you and it’s kind of a weird situation.”
“Dude, shut up,” Paige laughed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you think I didn’t want to come with you or anything. I just don’t like getting dressed up. I want to experience prom but I also want to be able to move at prom.”
Jude let out a sigh of relief. “Oh, okay. Well, we’re in the same boat then. I didn’t want to wear a suit or even these shoes.”
“The shoes look good though. I brought an alternative.” Paige pulled a pair of sneakers from the floor in front of her.
Jude glanced at her. “Where did you pull those out from?”
“I told you, this is a floofy dress.”
“I’m going to step on your feet at least eleven times tonight, would you rather I do so in heels?”
Jude shook his head. This was the most he had ever heard her speak. He didn’t mind it though.
“I’m sorry you need to wear those shoes all night,” Paige said.
“Nah,” Jude smirked, “My sneakers are in the trunk.”
Paige grinned. “I knew I liked you.”