Something Like Faith, Chapter 11


Something changed between Guin and me during that trip.  Before, I’d felt like I was walking on Faberge eggshells (I broke one of Gretchen’s—don’t ask), preventing anyone from pinching me so that I wouldn’t find the whole thing was REM  neurons firing.  Now we stroll arm-in-arm like an old couple, laughing at our classmates when they fawn over or snipe at us.  We’re trying to decide if we want to go to prom in two weeks.  Guin says why not spend the night dancing together?  I tell her being at a high school dance would feel juvenile when our next big event will be a wedding. 

Honestly, part of me would love to go—how vindicated would I feel to have her all dolled up and stunning for me?  “Hey, that the loser who almost blew the playoff game?”  “Yeah, and she’s marrying him!”  But this is probably not my most mature motive, and the other truth is that I don’t want to spend a dime on prom, nor do I want Guin paying.  So I’m playing the “we’re too mature” card, because it sucks playing the “I’m still broke and trying to figure out how we’re coming up with thousands (and thousands) of dollars for college” card.  The latter is more mature, but I’m not ready to say it out loud.  She probably knows, but she’s not forcing it.    

Prom means graduation is close.  I’ve pulled off my classes, assuming I can eke out my math and chem finals.  Even counting uncertainties about the fall, I’ve never felt more secure…which scares the snot out of me.  The other shoe has always fallen in my life, eventually if not sooner.  I’m trying to get out of that mindset.  But I don’t know whether I’m safe to try.  “Secure” is a relative term for me.    

Guinevere won’t be valedictorian.  She decided having a negligible chance didn’t matter enough to take two extra classes she didn’t need or want.   Her parents probably blame me, but they’re polite.  Always.  I think they’re in the transition between hoping I’m a passing phase and grasping the implications if I’m not.  The other day, Gretchen asked if I’d heard back from all my colleges.   

“Oh, that’s right.  I’m sorry.  You already were accepted, weren’t you?  Are you still waiting to hear on scholarships?”   

“Yeah, I am.  From UCLA.”   

“Well, good luck with that.”  Then she thought a moment and added, more to herself than to me, “Good luck to all of us, I guess.”   

Jeff has not been hanging around much.  I can tell myself I’m busy and always behind and we don’t have a chance right now.  But when was I not busy?  It never kept us from getting together before, even if we only talked when he drove me around.  He had to pour a ton of money and effort into making his car pristine again, since a fender got munched and the cost of bodywork is insane.  But that’s not it, either. 


Guinevere and I tried to talk with him about Emily.  It didn’t work.  Okay, let’s say “disaster.”  I should have gone alone.  I couldn’t get it through my head that he would be feeling like a third wheel when he’s been my one unwavering support with her.  I suspect—though I haven’t told Guin—that Jeff wanted with Emily what the two of us have.  He wanted Emily to be his Guin.  It makes sense:  he’s the one who plans to stick around, work on cars, get his own shop and settle down.  He’s a much more qualified candidate for “find-a-wife-and-build-a-picket-fence.”  He’s friendly with Darla but no longer flirts.  She even asked me what happened.  What could I say?  I suggested he was on his period and when she laughed, I bailed. 

Forgive me if I summarize, but I don’t want to relive all the details.   

Us: Jeff, we think Emily isn’t the right girl for you.  

Jeff:  What the hell do you know about it?   

Us: It just seems to us– 

Jeff: Wait, Guin’s never even met her.   

 Us: Well, yeah, she has, we went out there– 

Jeff: You did what?  Why?  About me?  

Us: No.  Nothing to do with you? 

Jeff:  What?  That makes no sense.  Why? 


And then I tried to explain about Amethyst.  I could have said, before Guin knew, that I simply hadn’t told anyone.  Trinket did make me swear, after all.  But here I was telling him I had a secret I’d never told anyone, including my best friend—except that I had told Guinevere and also this girl…who we think isn’t good enough for him.  He just clammed up after that.  Nodded a lot.  Telling him Emily knew something about Trink just sounded too ridiculous when he’d already stopped listening.  I need to apologize, but more than just “I’m sorry for not telling you.”  I have to try to explain the whole thing, especially what happened out there with Emily.  So far, Jeff won’t allow a chance for that conversation.  So I’m stuck.   

Now I’m trying to be truthful about all of this—turns out it’s not easy.  Telling the truth is a lot more complicated than just saying what I think happens.  Obviously, but I mention this because the time with Emily really screwed up my picture both of “truth” and of…God, I guess, or whatever word you want to use.  I don’t pretend to have a handle on God, even whether “He” exists, much less how He thinks or if He acts, and least of all His opinion of me.  But before this, I was doing okay leaving it all vague, because nothing had really forced me to decide.  I thought the Silence, capital “S,” kind of argued for the whole business being in people’s heads.  Folks can pretend there’s a Universal Being if they want and it makes them feel better, so some people do and forget they were pretending.  I’ve made requests and comments for years, starting before Trinket left; it would take a lot to forget.  

But two things seem obvious from our trip.  First, Emily knew something she had no business knowing, and even if she has multiple personalities (one of Guin’s theories), mental illness doesn’t explain knowing my sister’s pet name.  She didn’t even get “Amethyst,” which I might be able to explain somehow, like she stumbled on a family record (and come on, that’s far-fetched).  “Trinket.”  That’s not Silence.  Maybe the one word I couldn’t ignore, and she said it. 

Second, and even more disturbing, I had a…strong inclination, an urge, to go to the Reservation by myself.  Even though it made more sense to take Guin, I didn’t want to.  If Guin is right—and I have no way to prove this either direction—I would have had more than a message about Trinket to be sorting out now.  Meaning (I hate saying this, but refusing to admit it doesn’t make it less true) I could have screwed up my whole life right there, and done so consciously.  On purpose.  Maybe pretending that’s not what I was after, but something about Emily…when I called Guinevere that morning and heard her voice, what I wanted one second before became the worst idea I’d ever had.  Then add how that would have played with Jeff.  Even if I had made the right choice when I got there, it still could have come out an irreparable disaster because we’re talking about Emily.  She could have said or done anything, then or afterward.  But I didn’t go alone.   

Sure, I could just call it a bad idea I had but decided, for once, not to act on it.  Maybe that’s what happened.   

But maybe not.   

See how truth starts to slide around merely from my choosing how to describe things? 


Three days before prom, we still haven’t decided.  We kind of have, though, because I needed to rent a tux last week and Guin hasn’t bought a dress.  Gretchen offered to take her shopping and Guin said she wasn’t sure she wanted to spend $500 that way.  Hard to argue with your daughter being mature.   

“Sure, Sweetie.  That makes a lot of sense.  We’ll use it for college expenses.  Maybe that will pay for your books first semester.”      

More cold sweat.  I try to freeze my expression, but fail.  Gretchen glances from me to Guin, then shakes her head just enough so I can see it.  Or did she try to hold back, too?   

“I need to make a few calls.  Will you be joining us for dinner this evening?”  One sign of their adjustment: my standing invitation to meals.   

“No, thank you very much, but I have to work this evening.” 

“You work a lot, don’t you, Paxton?”  Is she complimenting me or commenting on me?   

“Mom means to say that’s one of the things we admire about you, Paxton.  Don’t you, Mother?”    

I miss my days of beating sliced bread, but I think Guin feels more comfortable with the state of things now, even though she jumps to my defense all the time.  Maybe because she jumps to my defense all the time.   

Gretchen purses her lips.  Not the look that generated fantasy rumors about her.  

“Yes, Guinevere, of course.  I’m not sure what else I could have meant.”   

“I am.” 

They watch each other.  I dislike having them argue, though compared with fights at my house it’s  dueling with feather dusters:  someone’s eye could get poked out, but not likely.   

 “I’ll definitely take a rain check, though,” I interject into the silence. 

“Of course,” Gretchen agrees, and walks out before they can resume.  A cease fire after thirty seconds.  See?   

“She loves me,” I tell Guin when I’m sure her mother is out of range.    

“No, but I do.  And she will.”   

I can’t help grinning like an idiot, any more than I could help wincing at $500 for books.   

“I love you, too, Guinevere.”   

“Let’s get married.”  We say this all the time.  It’s sinking in.   

“Let’s get married and be dirt poor.”   

“If that’s what you want,” she says.   

“Guin, are you bummed about prom?”   

“Nah.  Maybe just a little.  I like showing you off.”   

“You mean you like seeing people do double takes?” 

“You can call it what you want.  Don’t blame me that I’m ahead of the game.  They’ll see.”   

I hope so.   

“I’m sorry we can’t afford to go to prom, Guin.”  

“Honey, if we wanted to go, we could go.  We could spend my parents’ money—yes, we could, if we chose—or we could just dress up in whatever we’ve already got.  Nothing legally requires us to get a tux or a dress, or go in a limo.  I’d think one thing you might have learned this year is that we can do things any way we want.  Do you really care what people think?”  

She’s actually beautiful when she’s making sense.  It’s just a by-product that she also makes me look stupid.  And I know she’s right.  It shouldn’t make me angry.    

Yeah, I care what people think.   

My question is Why? 

The week before most school dances, Phil triples my task list because sections of the school have to be ready for “townies,” as he calls them.  Board members, chaperones, parents dropping off and picking up their kids, lots of opportunities to see how well the school is kept.  Or isn’t.  So we clean and shine and fix and replace, and then the kids come in and party and destroy and Sunday we find a complete disaster that we again have to clean and shine and fix and replace.  I never would have understood why certain custodians (not Phil, mind you) come to hate the students they work for—or against, Phil would say.  “They’ll attack at the stairwells, the bathrooms and under the bleachers, where they think they can’t be seen.”  We never get to prevent attacks, merely prepare for and recover from them.  Phil declared me part of “us” instead of “them,” which isn’t strictly true, so I try to deserve my pronoun.   

Prom, though, does nothing to increase our workload; prom happens far from school property.  Custodians at a fancy restaurant/lounge/banquet hall thirty miles away get to wage this doomed campaign.   

I have to speculate that geography figures large in Phil’s attitude toward prom.  He talks as if he actually kind of likes it.  There may be history there, but I’m not asking; when Phil volunteers information about his past, that’s his choice.  I’ve never felt encouraged to pry.   

“So what plans do you and your lady friend have for Saturday night?” Phil asks from where he’s crouched down, trying to fix a door hinge that someone managed to kick hard enough to break.  Looks more like they took a small battering ram to it.   

“We haven’t really made any yet.  You want me to hold this up or go start on the mopping?”    

“Better stay, I can’t get enough leverage from here if you’re not holding it.  Unless you want to get your nose down in the grease and have me prop it up?”   

“I could do that.”    

He always offers me the dirtier end of the chore, but once I agree rarely takes me up on it.  I can’t complain too loudly about my job—at least not while here—because Phil works about ten times harder than I do.   

“No, I mean the dance.  What are you two doing?” he clarifies.   

“I don’t think we’re going.”  

Phil sets down his screwdriver and pliers.  Then he stretches his massive turtle neck around the bottom of the door so he can peer up at me.   

“You’re not taking Guinevere.  To her senior prom?”  

One advantage—if you can call it that—of having my parents:  they never start these conversations with me, simply because they don’t pay that kind of attention to my world.  They have no idea prom is this weekend, they wouldn’t ask me about it unless I first told them I were going, and then they would question anything I might need from them (“Why can’t one of your expletive friends drive you?”).  So I’m caught a little off guard.   

“No, we decided not to go.” 

“’You, plural’ decided not to go, or ‘you, Paxton,’ decided not to take her?”   

“We decided together.”   

Phil stands up, which is no small task from that position.  He takes two steps toward me—about two more than I would prefer—which means he’s looking down at me, his huge chest and belly within a few inches of my face and chest, and I can smell his breath.  I’d rather not.   

“And she said she was completely fine with not going and would prefer to sit home with you and her parents and miss this dance?”   

“That’s not a verbatim quote.”   

“She agreed not to go because you are a cheapskate and she didn’t want to make you feel bad.”  

“No!” I say, as forcefully as I can in these circumstances.   I’m talking to his chin.   

“No?  Did she say she wanted to go?”   

Now, I could lie to Phil.  It’s not like he’s going to corner Guinevere tomorrow and fact check my story.  Besides, she would tell him that we had decided not to go.    

“She said she only wanted to go a little bit.  It wasn’t a big deal to her.”   

“You’re an idiot.  Is that a big deal to her?”   

Phil doesn’t wait for the answer I don’t have. 

“Paxton, you don’t get to come back later for the things you skipped.  You’re getting married young, which will fast-forward you into the adult world, whether you understand it or not, whether it turns out you like it or not.  You’re making your decision and that’s the consequence.  Period.  I’m not saying you won’t be happy, but you won’t be kids anymore.  You have a few chances left to be just a couple of teenagers in love before you start keeping house and paying bills and making decisions that will affect the rest of your lives.  It’s not bright to make her skip the one she’s going to remember—including if she doesn’t go—and her daughters will ask her about.”  Phil never lacks confidence in his views, but…  

“Phil, it’s a high school dance.  We have the rest of our lives to dance together.”  

“You think so, but that’s not how it works.  And maybe you two will be the exception and go dancing every weekend for fifty years.  She’ll still look back and—oh, hell, you know what you’re doing.  Go mop; I’ve got this.”  He turns from me, shaking his head, and lowers himself back onto the floor. 

“You sure you can–” 

“Go,” he says, flat and stony.  It would take an absolute fool to argue with Phil once he uses this tone.  

I walk toward the broom closet.   

I’m almost there when my legs stop moving.  The door knob and I stare at each other.   

Then I walk back. 

“Phil, I’m not a cheapskate, I’m broke.  Beyond broke.  We’re trying to figure out how to pay for college and I’m never going to have that much money, no matter how hard I work, and my parents sure aren’t going to help, and her parents—taking their help is like admitting they’re right that we shouldn’t get married, which I know you think, too.  So this is me, working my butt off, trying to handle all this… and no, prom doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me when it’s just the same idiots we’ve been dealing with for four years, dressed up and drunk, pissing away thousands of dollars with dates they won’t even talk to next year—or next morning.  Books cost $500 a semester.  Prom costs a year’s worth of books—assuming I had that money in the first place, which I don’t!”    

Phil hasn’t moved.  He doesn’t answer.  He’s working.  

So I walk away, again.   

Then I walk back.   

“Sorry I yelled, Phil.”   

“Kid, you did nothing to be sorry for.  I’m not your Yoda or anybody else’s.  Go do the mopping.”   

While cleaning the bathroom floor, I try to imagine what real parents would say in a situation like this.   

I suck at that game.   


At nine o’clock, Phil’s gone.  He always tells me when he’s leaving and reviews what needs to get done and how soon.  So I walk through the halls for five minutes, checking the teachers’ lounge, classrooms, offices.  Finally, I shout his name and listen to the echo die.   


He got me this job, he’s the only one helping me have any chance to afford my life, and I tell him to stick his advice.  So what if it makes no sense to me?  I should have just said, “I hadn’t thought about that.  Thanks.”  Biting the hand, though, that’s good strategy, too.  Idiot.   

It’s about two AM when I finish everything Phil gave me to do.  I shouldn’t stay so late with school “tomorrow,” but I figured 1)more hours, 2)improve the odds of finding Dad asleep, and 3)no way I’m falling asleep before exhaustion takes over; might as well be productive.   

I’m grabbing my backpack and change of clothes from my “corner” of Phil’s office (a miniature, water-stained table jammed against the middle of one wall) when I see a long envelope with “Paxton” in Phil’s block letters.   

Phil fired me. 

Makes sense, except Phil would never fire someone with a letter.  He’d call that “cowardice.” 

It’s too thick for a letter.  

Twenties.  Phil gave me…three hundred dollars in twenties. 

School money?  A bonus?  I get paid in checks from the school district.  No note, just cash.  Doesn’t matter, though:  I can’t take it.  Phil has done more than anybody else for me and I won’t get ahead to repay him unless he reaches 120.   

Do I hand it back to him, or just leave it in his desk?   

Well, he didn’t do this face-to-face, so I can write a note thanking him but telling him he’s done enough.  I’m reaching for a post-it on his desk when I see the paper, folded in half, with huge Phil letters in black permanent marker.  I can still smell the marker fumes that kids pretend to get high on.   



You’re reading this because you decided you can’t take the money.  Thanks.  I respect you for that.   

I don’t feel sorry for you.  You’re probably the most extraordinary young man I’ve ever known, and that you don’t see it keeps you bearable to work with.  Your arguments make sense and are more sound than mine…except you’re still wrong because you have limited perspective.  But you are right about this:  you shouldn’t spend the money you’re saving for college on prom.  Call it an early wedding present, or an effort to put my money where my big mouth is.  Or call it what most kids get at one time or another from their folks.  Just don’t call it a loan, because I won’t take a cent of it back.   

Now take the damn money.  I mean it.   

I run humming “Safety Dance.”  The whole way home.  

 I should be wasted today, going on four hours sleep, but I’m hyper, greeting people in the hallway, knees bouncing the whole hour of calculus, strategizing the right time to tell Guin.  I’m tempted to slip her a note without any explanation. 

Lunch is our first moment alone.  We walk laps around the school grounds and eat sandwiches she made.  It provides us a loop tour of couples tucked in secluded spots copping feels, some guys playing “touch” football, and a group of smokers palming some manner of smokes out by the road.  Shocking how the rules against PDA, fighting and drug use get bent from 11:30 am to 12:15 pm.   

Two more months of school.   

I wait until she’s chewing tuna.   

“Hey, I’ve got a stupid idea.”  

“Mmrmph?” she asks. 

“No, no way,” I return.  She laughs, then swallows fast.   

“I said, ‘want to have sex with me?’”  She laughs louder. 

“I stand by my answer,” I say.  “Besides, this space is in use.”  I gesture with my head, not looking at the rustling bushes we’ve just passed.   

“Touche’.  And liar.”   

I’m the liar?”   

“Okay, advantage Paxton.  What’s your stupid idea?” 

“Wanna go to prom?  With me, I mean.” 

She grips the top of her brown paper bag and swings it at me.  Her apple smacks my right tricep.   

“Ouch!  Is that a ‘no?’”   

“Paxton, you don’t want to go.  You don’t get credit for being ‘willing’ after waiting until it’s impossible.”   

“We could just go in what we have.  That’s not such a bad idea.”   

 “You’re almost past being funny.  Now it’s deuce.  No, advantage me.” 

“Why?  How’d you score?”  

“You double-faulted.  Twice.  You know you have to buy tickets for the dinner.  They stopped selling them this morning.”   

I reach into my back pocket and slowly withdraw two long, glossy white rectangles with cupids and hearts on them.   

I’m waiting for her to hug me.  Even shriek (out of character as that would be).   

She just tilts her head. 

 “Paxton, those cost fifty dollars each.  Why did you do that?  You told me–”   

I cut her off.  “I’ll explain, but first you better call this point, don’t you think?” 


“’Game, Set, Match?’”   

She shrugs me off.  “Why did you spend this much money?”   

“Because a smarter friend convinced me it was a good idea.  He marshaled some powerful arguments.” 

She just walks.  No reaction.  I try to wait her out by watching robins scrounging for bag lunch crumbs.   

Screw it.   

“Do you really not want to go now?” I ask.   

She stops. 

“I always wanted to go,” she says, hitting me harder with her eyes than she did with the bag.  “I’ve never been to a dance with someone who really mattered to me before.”  

“I have, but you were always dancing with someone else.”   

At first, I just thought these quips.  Then, I would say them and cringe.  Now, I almost look forward to chipping one in.  She usually agrees or even ducks her head, as if she’s embarrassed, as if I’m not lucky merely to be with her.  This time she ignores it. 

“Paxton, why are you asking me to prom?” she asks.    

“The smart friend.  He’s buying.”   

“What?  Jeff?” 

“Be serious.  He’s not speaking to me.”    

“I don’t want to play guessing games.  You’re confusing me.  Did I guilt you into this?”  She’s accusing me and herself at the same time.  Even though I don’t care what they think, I’m glad we’re out of gossip monger range.  I start walking again to make certain.   

“Guinevere, I don’t know why, exactly, but Phil gave me a lot of money.  He strongly suggested I use it to escort you to this dance.  Do you have other plans for Saturday night?”   

She was a step behind me, but now she takes my hand and pulls me back even with her.   

“I’m available that night.  I’m a little confused about why Phil—no, that’s not true.  It makes sense to me.”  She says, suddenly with more certainty than I have.   

“So we’re going?” 

“Yes, Paxton.  I will go to prom with you.  Weren’t you nervous about asking me to such a big event?”  

Watch this. 

“Guinevere, I love you.” 

“I love you, too, Paxton.”   

See?  That’s crazy.   

“I didn’t really get how important this was to you. You could say Phil helped clue me in.”   

“I didn’t think it was.  But I’m glad we’re going.  I don’t want to buy a dress, though.  I’ve got another one I’m going to buy, and this would feel silly by comparison.  I’ll just wear my nicest formal dress.  It’s black.  You can wear whatever you want.  A shirt and tie are fine, if you don’t have a suit.  Anything that goes with black.”  Guin waves, and I look up to see Therese holding hands with her new sophomore boyfriend.  Ken (or Kent?) plays flute, I think.  But she’s too into him to want to do more than wave, so we travel on uninterrupted.   

“Can I wear a white tux?”   

“Sure.  You wear white, I’ll wear black, we’ll call it our wedding photo negative.  Paxton, I’m serious: I don’t care if you wear white tie and tails or white t-shirt and jeans.”  

“If I called you on that bluff…” 

“Then you’d find out.  But don’t feel a need to.  Take my word for it.”  

By the afternoon, I feel a little overwhelmed.  It doesn’t matter how I look or how we get there, but I’ve got to wear something and we’ve got to drive something.  Yes, we could take one of the Kintons’ cars, but the idea kind of makes me ill.  I don’t exactly have a wardrobe full of prom-ready clothes, and I can’t think of anyone we’d want to double with, let alone anyone who would want to go with the engaged couple, other than for bragging rights.  It’s a hundred bucks to rent a tux and two hundred, minimum, to rent a limo, but when I call from the payphone, Formal Wear Palace says they’re down to their last few styles and “lesser-demand sizes,” and the guy at Ron’s Taxi and Limo—I’m guessing Ron—laughs at me.   

As I’m leaving with Guin, spinning this in my mind while trying not to look stressed, Nill grabs me.   
“Hey, you have the history notes from today?  I had a doctor’s appointment.”   

“Sure.”  I dig into my backpack for my history notebook.  “Can you read my writing?”   

 “No, but I’ve got context.  I read the chapters.”   

“Dude, you’re just trying to boost my ego, slumming to borrow my–”  Ding.  “Jared, could you do me a favor?  Are you going to prom?”   

Guin subtly elbows my ribs.   

“Hon, he’s a guy.  It’s not like I’m asking one of your friends whether she managed to scavenge an invite.  If Nill wanted to go, he could ask someone–”   

“Whoa, now,” Nill interrupts, “I don’t want to be the cause of division here, and I am going.  I not only asked ‘someone,’ she said ‘yes.’”   

I’ve got a shot ready, but Guin speaks first. 

“Awesome, Jared.  Who is it?”   

“Carrie Andrews,” Jared says.  “We’re actually kind of going out.  Not that I would expect you two to know that.”   

Carrie is gorgeous in a glasses, long hair in a bun, braces way, meaning you can see how in five years, when she gets straight teeth, contacts and her hair down, she’ll come back to our reunion and guys will rack themselves for having missed her, then dig out their yearbooks to prove they weren’t stupid and blind.  I’ve actually heard both Jeff and some guys on the team discuss “investment dating,” though to my knowledge none of them has tried it.  But she would be a perfect candidate. 

Jared’s not that kind of guy, which is exactly why this could work for him.  I’m tempted to laugh, but that would not go over well, and I certainly will not be explaining investment theories.  I smile and nod.   

“Oh, she’s sweet!  That’s great, Jared.  Congratulations!”  

“Yeah, killer, Nill!  And here I thought you were committed to monkdom.”   

Jared laughs politely, which tells me he really likes her.   

“Did you say you wanted to ask me a favor, Paxton?”   

“Actually, yeah.  Do you have a black suit, Nill?  We’re pretty close to the same size, right?” 

“I think so,” Nill says.  “You aren’t renting a tux?”  We’re trying to size each other up without looking too carefully.  Guin giggles at us.   

“Boys, you’re virtually the same size.  Paxton might be one coat size bigger.  I don’t know about your waists.”   

“No,” I tell Nill, “I’ve got about twenty-four hours here.  Guin refused to go with me until today.”   

She smiles and lets it stand.  I love that about her. 

“Oh, okay,” Jared answers, clearly baffled, “Yep, I have a black suit you could borrow.”   

“Good, that’s one,” I say.  Then I look at Guin, shooting for telepathy.  She doesn’t pause a blink. 

“Oh, definitely!  If it works.”   

“Jared, I’m wondering if we could go with you two.”   

Now we’ve struck him dumb.  He looks at me, then at Guin, then at me, hoping one of us will reveal the joke.   

“We think it would be great to double with you,” Guin clarifies.   

“But…Carrie and I have been going out for three weeks, and you two are…”  We’ve pitted Jared’s natural niceness against his sense of the absurd.   

“You don’t think we’d be a fun date?” I ask.  Guin elbows me flagrantly this time.  

“No, it’s fine, Jared.  You’re right, that could be awkward.  We don’t want to make it any harder on you.”  Coming from anyone else, that’s a slam, but Guinevere didn’t intend it as one and Jared didn’t take it that way.  I’m the only one.  

“Yeah, it was a stupid idea.  The suit would be cool, though,” I say, ready to let it drop.  But I can see Nill’s niceness kick in hard.  Apparently, it’s competitive. 

“Well, I mean, it could work okay.  I should talk with Carrie about it, but I can’t see why she’d mind.  We’d just ride there and back, that’s not a big deal.  Jeff isn’t…?”  Nill hints. 


“So I’ll call Carrie and then—should I call you at home, Paxton?”   

I’m going to talk with Guin a few minutes while the school clears out, then see how many hours I can squeeze in, since I’m not not working tomorrow night.  But if Carrie says “no,” he’s not going to want to tell Guinevere.  But he won’t reach me at my house and I don’t want him leaving a message with either of my parents.  Crap.  Sometimes it would be really convenient to have a home.   

“How about if I call you a bit later.  Like seven?  Think you’ll have talked to her by then?”   

“Oh, yeah, I’ll call her as soon as I get back from the library.”   
“Nill, it’s Friday.  It’s the Friday before prom.  And we’re seniors.”   
 “Yup,” he agrees.  “But we’re going out tonight, too.  I’m getting my work done first.”   

Guin looks at Nill, her eyes wide.   

“Whoosh.  Impressive, even by my standards.”  She flutters her hand over her heart.   

“Enough trying to steal my woman.  Go outgeek us and I’ll talk to you at seven.  And hey?  Thanks.  I appreciate your help.  Oh, did you rent a limo?” 

Nill shakes his head, “Carrie thinks that’s silly.  We’re just going in my car.”   

“Cool.  Have fun reading those notes.”   

“I can get them back to you tomorrow.  Or tonight,” Nill calls over his shoulder. 


“Is he always…” Guinevere asks as we walk to her mom’s car. 

“Oh, good gosh, yes.  And more.”   

“So, do you think you and Carrie…?”   

Guin breaks and runs for the Accord.  But I am faster, if nothing else.  I catch her around the waist and yank her off the blacktop.  She’s laughing too hard to fight back.   

“Man, I’m dense!  You’ve had this master plan the whole time.  No wonder you wanted to go to prom so bad!” 

I dump her back on her feet and she spins around and kisses me.