Final Chapter: The Night At The Prom
I remembered it like it was yesterday. Dave Javellana, one of the members of the senior basketball team, had asked me to hang out with him at the parking lot in front of the five-star hotel where our prom was being held, and the next thing I knew, I was inside his car and making out with him.
I may have had flings in the past, but I wasn’t the type who would easily hook up with someone. Although Dave and I frequently see each other at Bianca Velasquez’s parties, we were never formally introduced.
So it surprised me why all of a sudden, I allowed myself to go with Dave and make out with him. He wasn’t my type to begin with. His playboy reputation was already a big turn-off, and I wasn’t into jocks. Maybe it was my alcohol-induced state that made me do these crazy things.
Or maybe, the fact that I’ve never been with a guy romantically for the past twelve months, fling or not, finally dawned unto me. Or the fact that most of my friends have already found their partners for this dance. Not to mention, Ben Hidalgo!
I couldn’t control it, but I felt a tinge of jealousy. I was jealous of my football friends, of Carly, of Ben and his new girlfriend. Maybe I’ve become too guarded of myself, too serious about my plans for college that I forgot to take risks and have fun.
So I guess that might be the reason why I just let myself go with Dave at the parking lot and make out with him. How I got into the elevator and inside his car, I couldn’t recall.
Luckily, though, I remembered how Dave’s lips–and tongue–felt like on my lips and neck. Ugh, gross. It was like getting licked by a dog. When his hand traveled beneath the slit of my gown and made its way to my thigh, I felt like getting doused over by a pail of icy water.
Only that time, I didn’t have the strength to fight him.
I told Dave to stop, but he kept on kissing me and crushing me with his lean, athletic build. I could feel the leather texture of his backseat as I screamed at him to get off me, but he wouldn’t listen. I shouted and kicked and pushed–until someone grabbed him from his collar and dragged him out of the car.
My head was spinning. When I finally gathered my senses and got out of the backseat, I saw someone pinning Dave against the side of his car and striking him with hard blows to his face. I could still hear the sound of fist connecting to jaw. Twice. Three times. Four. Five.
“When. She. Said. ‘Stop’. You. Should. STOP!” A deep voice roared like thunder, punctuating every word with a punch. His last word was accompanied with a jab that sent Dave crashing to the ground.
“Stop it! You’re killing him!” I grabbed the stranger’s hand–and realized he wasn’t really a stranger. It was Jake.
Dave got up to his feet and nursed his bloodied jaw. He shot an angry look at Jake, whose eyes had already turned murderous.
“The hell you care!” Dave barked at him. “Jealous that you can’t get in her undies?”
I was so focused on preventing Jake from doing further damage that I hadn’t realized that Dave insulted me. If I wasn’t in a state of shock, I could have thrown a punch at him myself.
I saw Jake’s eyes darken. “You motherfucker!” he yelled. It was so crisp it felt like a slap on Dave’s face. He was about to lunge at Dave, but I hurled myself at him.
“Stop! Just stop it!” I yelled, grabbing the fabric on Jake’s chest and pushing him away so he could keep his distance from Dave. The sight of his rage and the amount of blood on Dave’s face were enough to sober me up a bit.
Dave wiped blood from the side of his mouth and pointed a threatening finger at Jake. “You’re gonna pay for this, Madrigal. Watch your back.”
Jake was unfazed. He held up both of his arms, as if taunting Dave. “Oh, you want a piece of me, you sonofabitch? Be my guest!”
“That’s enough, Jake!” I shouted, wrapping an arm around him to get him away from Dave.
Dave just threw him a dagger look before spitting blood at the pavement and walking away.
My heart thumped as I went back to that night. I remembered looking at Jake as if he was a freak who turned homicidal on Dave, screaming at him to mind his own business and leave me alone. The stunned look on his face was palpable, but he just gave me his trademark hard stare and walked away without a word.
“I’m sorry for yelling at you that night,” I told Jake, casting a brief glance at him. “I was just mad at myself for being so stupid to accept an invitation from Dave Javellana. I mean, what were we going to do inside his car, talk all night?”
“We would, if it had been me,” Jake said, looking at me with concerned eyes. “But I know you better than to hang out with people like Dave and do something like that.”
I gazed back at him. “How would you know? We hadn’t spoken a single word to each other until now.”
“I just do,” he replied in a soft voice, his eyes not leaving mine.
I bowed my head and stared at my shoes, pressing my lips to keep myself from crying. All my life, I never had cried in front of a guy who wasn’t my dad or one of my brothers, but the past hour with Jake had made me vulnerable.
My lips quivered as tears formed in my eyes. When I couldn’t hold it much longer, I covered my face with both hands.
Jake took me in his arms and I didn’t complain. “Sshh, it’s okay. I’m here,” he murmured against my hair, running a comforting hand through my thick curls while I sobbed against his chest.
“I was so, so stupid!” I wailed. “I knew there was alcohol on the fruit punch, but I drank a lot of it, anyway. It tasted so good. And then Dave asked if I want to sober up and hang out at his car and I went with him!”
“Dave’s an ass. It wasn’t your fault.”
“But I still went with him!” I hiccupped. “If it wasn’t for you… If you weren’t there…”
Jake took me in his arms and I didn’t complain. “Sshh, it’s okay. I’m here,” he murmured on my hair, running a comforting hand through my thick curls while I sobbed against his chest.
“Sshh, I got you. That’s what matters.”
He hugged me quietly while I wept for God knows how long. It felt so good to be able to let it all out, as if a thorn had been plucked out of my chest. I wanted to tell it to Carly or to any of my football teammates, but I didn’t want them to think of me as a dumbass who swallowed every advice I gave to my friends. Don’t go with the guys from the basketball team; they’re notorious for fooling around. Control your alcohol intake. Take care of yourself. I tell my friends that every single time, but in the end, I was the one who needed my own advice.
When I fully recovered, I pulled away from Jake and wiped away streaks of wet hair plastered on my face. He offered a blue handkerchief (another shocker) and I blew my nose.
I wiggled my head and shoulders as if it will rinse every bit of that memory from my mind. “Ugh, I’m so sorry about this. I don’t usually bawl like this in front of anyone.”
“It’s cool. Everyone goes through these moments.” He gave me a comforting smile.
“I’m just used to being the strong person, you know? Whether it was with my football teammates, or with Carly.” I drew in a deep breath. “I’m the one who rarely cries over things, who is rational and logical, who offers a shoulder to cry on. This… it’s an entirely different feeling.”
“There’s always a first time; nobody’s perfect,” Jake said, the smile never leaving his face. “And it’s okay to cry. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re human.”
I pursed my lips before muttering, “Thanks.”
It was a wonder how I found comfort from the person I least expected would give it to me. Almost everyone in school knew him as ‘Badass Jake’. Seeing him smile and hearing his advice made me think I was standing in front of his clone or secret twin.
“Well, I’m glad that he’s expelled and nobody knew why,” Jake finally said, breaking the silence between us. “Or else, he wouldn’t live to see the day when we cross paths in the hallway.”
I sighed again. “Too bad I never had the chance to punch him in the face. I’d really, really want to do that.”
“That, I wouldn’t let you do. Your hands are too precious for that moron.”
I squinted my eyes at him, but I couldn’t hide my smile. “You really know your way with girls, do you know that?”
He broke into a flirty grin. “I can be charming. Given the opportunity.”
I playfully punched his arm. “Seriously, I almost got you into trouble.”
He shrugged, wiping my wet cheek with his thumb. “That’s okay. I wouldn’t mind doing it for any girl. Especially for you.”
We stared at each other for a minute. Here was Jake Madrigal, one of the toughest-looking guys in school, and he was acting and saying cheesy things. I never liked guys like that, but hearing him… it felt different.
The lunch bell rang. Neither of us moved as we looked at the basketball lying on the floor.
“Do you want to finish the game or are you willing to forfeit?” I teased.
He laughed. “Nah, I’ll forfeit,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “But I owe you some ice cream. Or pizza. Whatever comfort food you like. Wanna skip class?”
I chuckled, looping my arm around his. “You are trouble, Jake Madrigal. Let’s go.”