The world around him seemed to slow to a crawl as Parker Davis made his way through the crowd. This is my moment, he thought. He was there. She was there. Everything was falling into place. He knew it wouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to cross the room. At that point, he would find himself in the presence of Mary Walsh, the girl he’d had a crush on since the first grade.
She knew. She had to know. How could she not know? he thought. His mind raced as he pushed through the other prom attendees. He thought back to that day about a month ago when he worked up the courage to ask Mary to the dance. “Oh, Parker, that’s really sweet,” she had said, and he knew there was a but coming, just from the tone of her voice, “but I’m already going with Wyatt.” The disappointment must have really shown on his face. It would make sense. He was extremely disappointed. “I’m sorry. He asked me last week, so I said yes.”
Of course she was going with Wyatt. He was a star athlete. He lettered in just about every sport the school offered. He was only the most popular guy at RFK High School. It made sense for them to go together. What with her being student body president. And smart. And kind. And drop dead gorgeous. If only I’d asked a week sooner, he thought. Maybe she’d have said yes. Or maybe she’d have just come up with a different excuse for why she couldn’t go with me. He hated when his mind went to places like that. He wasn’t the most confident kid in the world. I’m not a bad guy, Parker thought, Maybe she’d have said yes.
He continued his slow motion movement toward the girl of his dreams. He wasn’t even halfway there yet. Parker’s mind went back to the first time he met Mary. It was the first day in Mrs. Keller’s first grade class. Parker was the new kid in school. He remembered feeling very awkward. Everyone in the classroom apparently knew each other from having spent the previous year together in kindergarten. Thanks to seemingly random chance, Parker’s assigned seat was right next to Mary’s.
From the start, Mary was very nice to Parker. Being new, he didn’t have the same list of supplies that the others had received in the mail over the summer. So he didn’t have anything yet, and wouldn’t until he gave the supply list to his mom when he got home from that first day of school. Mary let Parker borrow anything he needed to use that day. After that, they became friends, in the same way a lot of little kids become friends. These just happen to be the people you see every day of the week, so it’s best to get along with them.
Over the years, Mary and Parker drifted in and out of each other’s lives. Mostly, this was determined by class scheduling throughout middle and high school. In all that time, Parker never had the guts to let Mary know he liked her. He never really considered asking her out until he decided to ask her to the prom. He always told himself that the timing was never right. She was dating this guy or that guy. She was too good for him. All these doubts were constantly creeping into his head. But tonight, he would doubt no more.
The crowd continued to part, making way for Parker as he grew closer to Mary. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Wyatt standing near her. Parker really hated that guy. Sure, he was popular. Sure, he had a knack for scoring touchdowns and sinking 3-point shots. But Parker knew him a little better than the folks in the community. He knew Wyatt better than most of the other kids at school. Wyatt was a bully. And he was the kind of bully that wasn’t stupid. Wyatt picked on kids because it helped himself feel better, pretty typical for a bully. But he did it in such a way that he could never get caught. He was methodical and very careful about the times and places he chose to attack. Parker was the object of Wyatt’s bullying on more than a few occasions throughout their high school years.
Parker didn’t care that Wyatt was only a few feet away from Mary. It’s not like they were seriously dating. This was just a prom. And if Parker didn’t act now, he would spend the rest of his life wondering what might have happened if he’d just taken a chance during that one moment at the prom.
His heart was pounding. Here he was, directly behind the object of his affections. Parker reached out and tapped Mary on the shoulder. Suddenly, the music was deafening. He couldn’t hear Mary’s voice, but he could read her lips as she said, “Hey Parker!” Her face broke into a smile as she said hello to him. He said nothing in return. Instead, he leaned in and kissed her full on the lips.
Parker had never kissed a girl before that moment. He was pretty sure he was bad at it. He didn’t care. He was kissing Mary Walsh. He could die now and be content.
He pulled away and looked at her. Her eyes were closed and he was able to register the look of shock on her face, along with the hint of a smile. Parker was able to see that look on her face for a split second before being violently shoved to the floor.
“The hell do you think you’re doing, Davis?!” Wyatt yelled as he stood above Parker.
Totally worth it, Parker thought.
Wyatt reached down, grabbed two handfuls of Parker’s tuxedo, and pulled him back to his feet. Parker could see the rage in Wyatt’s eyes. All he could do was smirk at this popular jerk who had made his life miserable for so many years. “Wyatt!” chimed the sweetest voice in the room, “Put him down!”
Wyatt held on tight. “I’m not about to let this little douchebag kiss my girlf–”
“Whoa!” Mary cut Wyatt off, “I am not your girlfriend!” She pushed Wyatt and separated him from Parker. “Just because I agreed to come with you to the prom does not make us a couple! And that’s certainly not gonna happen with the way you’re acting now!”
“But he just–” Wyatt began.
“Yeah, I know. And I’ll deal with him when I’m done with you,” Mary said, crossing her arms. Parker could see that she was furious. Probably with both of them. “Actually, I am done with you. You can find your own ride home.”
Parker laughed. “You made Mary drive you to the prom?” he asked, looking right at Wyatt. Later, when Parker looked back on prom night, he would have to admit that his comment was a mistake. Mostly because, in a flash, Wyatt took a step toward him and delivered a well-placed right hook. Parker found himself back on the floor.
The next few minutes were a blur. He remembered the principal, Mr. Zimmerman, escorting Wyatt away and, most likely, out of the gym. He didn’t remember getting up and walking out of the gym himself, but somehow he got to the cafeteria, where he and Mary sat alone while she applied an ice pack to his swelling left eye.
“That was really stupid,” she said softly to him.
“I know. I’m sorry,” Parker said, “I know I shouldn’t have kissed you, but, I mean, it’s been building up for 12 years.”
Mary laughed a little, “I wasn’t talking about the kiss.”
“Oh, well, yeah. I guess I could have held back what I said to Wyatt. But I was nervous. I lose my filter when I get nervous.”
“I’ve noticed,” Mary laughed again. She turned his face so that she could look directly into his good eye. “Did you really think I hadn’t noticed you over the years?”
“A little,” Parker began, “maybe, I don’t know.”
Mary moved the ice pack away from Parker’s face. She leaned closer to him and kissed him softly. “You’ve really gotta get better about picking your moments, that’s all.”