High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What’s A Girl To Do?

As the crowd cheered, the most incredible thing happened: Jeff looked straight at me. He was glancing all around the room, making eye contact with his adoring fans, and when his eyes lit on me, they came back. It was like “oh, it’s you, hi,” And then, “what? Woah!” And then he was just smiling at me, his teeth like shooting stars in the changing light, his mouth open, his eyes puzzled, his eyes happy, and me just grinning like an Elmo doll. Then everyone on stage was staring at me. Then everyone in the crowd was staring at me. Then I felt my cheeks starting to get hot and my heels starting to sweat.

The coach, oblivious to my excitement, wiped his brow again and went on. “So, uh, moving along here...the choice of prom QUEEN seems to have been a more difficult one...Nevada LeBlanc, our front-runner, bowed out of the race at the last moment with a bad case of the stomach flu.” He glanced again at Sylvia, nervously. “Aaaannnd…between the two remaining candidates, we have, um, a tie.” Debra and Donna stopped hugging each other and started glaring at each other, not noticing the coughing and fidgeting of the crowd. “Three votes each.” Their cluster of giggling girlfriends squealed and clapped and whistled.

But Jeff ignored them. He leaned into to the microphone in front of Coach to say something. A hush fell over the crowd. His dimple was gone; he was dead serious. And then the most miraculous thing happened. He spoke out loud. He waved a little wave, and said, “Hi.”

The coach patted his pockets, reaching in here and there, pulling out bits of paper. Meanwhile, Jeff pointed at me and said, “How about you?” By all rights, I should have fainted right then and there. It was so romantic, so flattering, so scary. I felt like I was floating above myself, looking down on the scene.

“So. Um.” The coach glanced nervously at Sylvia again, and kept speaking, shouting really, since Jeff was breathing heavily into the mike, waiting for some sort of answer, as if anyone could have answered that question. I stood there, rooted to my spot, unable to stop smiling. “The prom committee, or, ahem, the ‘revered administration of the crown,’ you could call it, decided to let blind justice choose our queen.” The coach pulled out a shiny silver dollar and held it up. His hands were shaking.

“Yes, you,” said Jeff, again, nodding, beckoning me now with his adorable finger, and there came the dimple again. In the years since, I always deliver this line at this point in the story: “What’s a girl to do?” And everyone laughs at my seemingly rhetorical question. But at that moment, I really had no idea. The coin went up, up, up, and I took a careful step forward in my shoes that should have been in a museum. The coin came flying down but when the coach reached out he missed it; it hit the floor, ringing in the silence, bounced off the stage, and rolled into the oblivious crowd. Yes, oblivious; hardly anyone saw this but me, while I was seemingly floating above my body. Everyone was totally tuned in to Jeff, who stared at me with such intention I was mesmerized. My feet took another step or two for me. There was a smattering of applause. Debra’s face fell. She jabbed Donna with her elbow. They both stared at me. Suddenly, my knees seemed to magically transform into stuffed animals.

Someone out there yelled, “I vote for her!”

Then everyone started shouting. “Me, too!” “She’s the one!” Just when I thought my stuffies would collapse, people reached for me. Hands touched my arms, pulling me, pushing my back, gently, helping me get to Jeff. Hands guided me to the stage, practically lifted me up the stairs. The coach shrugged, and signaled to the band behind him to start playing again. Ana Sueño, last year’s prom queen, returning from college for this special moment, put something on my head as I walked past, but I barely noticed. Sparkling stars were shooting into the edges of my field of vision. All I could see was Jeff, reaching for my hands.

“Hello, gorgeous,” he said.

“Hello, yourself.” His hands were very warm and steady.

“You look fine,” he said, and I felt like I was in an old romantic comedy I’d watched many times with mom and dad.

“I feel fine,” I responded, as if reciting my line. But it was true. I did feel pretty fine, in a way I never had before. The cheering crowd parted as we walked down off the stage to dance, and the band started playing the dreamlike Fairytale Waltz that had been played at our school's prom since the legendary class of 1929.

There are moments in everyone’s lives where they feel as if the current of a greater story has swept them up; when suddenly, without warning, their lives converge with destiny, and somehow the confusion of everyday life dissolves, and they know just what they must do. This is how Jeff describes the moment he saw me and lifted that adorable finger. I felt that way, too, but in a strangely passive way. Like, it wasn’t my own actions that mattered in that moment, but people around me suddenly knew what to do. And that, I believe, is what made my life a fairy tale—not the coincidental details of shoes and godmothers and pu(m)pkins. The feeling I got to experience, of being chosen just for being who you are, is different in a fairy tale than in a hero’s journey. And this was my wonderful fortune.

Wonderful not only because Jeff “discovered” me…but because also, at this point, it was time for Harry to stand up to Sylvia.


Post a Comment