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The Misadventures of Johan O’Malley: Chapter 1

Staring at myself in the mirror, I fixed the knot on my dark green tie. The black tux contrasted nicely with the green of the tie, vest and my eyes. I’d never looked so nervous and excited.

I’d been waiting all year to ask out Melody. When Promposals started, I knew I had to take the opportunity before some other guy beat me. The sparkle in her brown eyes told me everything I needed to know. She wanted this too and tonight I had the chance to make my move. 

“You look like a penguin,” my older brother said. He waltzed into the living room without a care in the world. A can of soda in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. 

“A hot penguin,” I responded as I waddled toward him ready to fight. He just chuckled and turned on the TV. Wit wasn’t my strength. It took me a while to think of comebacks, but by then, it was too late. If my brother excelled at anything in life it was pissing me off. How I dreamed of being an only child. 

Sadly, my attempts to sell my brother online didn’t work out. I figured nobody else wanted him. Well, except my mother and my stepdad. They worshiped the ground he walked on. Even now, home from college and bragging again about his straight As. It didn’t matter that one of the hottest girls at school wanted me. All they cared about was perfect Liam and his perfect college lifestyle. 

“There he is,” my mom said. Her black hair hung down her back in a tight ponytail. She had the fancy camera in her hand and smiled. My stepdad trailed behind her, nodding in approval. He fixed my jacket and moved a lock of dark brown hair that somehow got out of place. 

“Looking sharp, kid.” 

“Thanks,” I mumbled. 

It wasn’t that I didn’t like Arthur. He treated my mom well and never bossed me around. But I hated the feeling of him replacing my dad, who Arthur was nothing like. Arthur wore suits every day and drove a fancy sports car. My dad preferred cardigans and had an absent-minded professor aesthetic. Arthur could only be described with one word: boring. Plus, the fact that he and Liam acted like BFFs pissed me off to no end. At least living with Arthur meant a fancy house in the ritzy part of town.

“Are you ready to go?” my mom asked. She grabbed her oversized purse and car keys to take me to Melody’s house. A large group of us were meeting there beforehand to take pictures and eventually get in a limo that would take us to Prom at the Four Seasons in Boston. 

“I’m ready.” With one last look in the mirror, I knew Melody wouldn’t be able to resist this. 

#

I did a double take when I saw Melody walk out of her large stone mansion and onto the patio. Her green dress hugged every curve and she looked out to the large circular driveway to smile at me. My heart beat right out of my chest and my palms turned red. 

“Ready?” my mom asked as she put the car into park. 

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” 

“I can’t believe my baby is going to Junior Prom. Where did the time go?”

“BABY!? I’m not a baby! I’m a man, a big strong man!”

I let out a huff as I stepped out of the car and started to move toward the house. When she got all sentimental like this, my best move was hightailing it out of there. Sentimental meant my dad and talking about him usually brought me to tears…something I wouldn’t let happen on my big night with Melody. 

“Sorry,” I heard my mom mumble behind me. I felt bad for a fraction of a second before she was greeted by Mrs. Walsh, Melody’s mother. Melody stood on the front lawn with her mindless group of friends. 

I literally felt more stupid every time I had to be around Ashley and Ashleigh. The two practically shared a brain. Ashley wore her bleached blonde hair piled on top of her head. Her hot pink dress contrasted with her orangey spray tan. While Ashleigh’s long red hair hung down her back and her cream-colored dress almost matched her fair skin perfectly. 

Their dates, John and Blaine, were typical lacrosse bros. They couldn’t complete an entire sentence without the word dude. For a fraction of a second, I felt sad that my two best friends had a different group for Prom. But then Melody’s light brown eyes met mine and my heart did a funny dance in my chest. 

She moved away from Ashley and Ashleigh and stopped two feet in front of me. “Hey, Johan. You look great.” 

My cheeks went warm from the compliment. “Thanks, so do you.”

“Come on, it’s time to take pictures.” Her soft hand wrapped around mine as she pulled me toward the rest of the group. Our parents stood in a row with the camera’s pressed close to their faces. Every combo possible was photographed and by the time we finished, I desperately wanted to get to dinner and away from the adults. 

Melody and her friends convinced the parents that we needed a white stretch limo for the night. When I stepped inside the leather interior, John and Blaine already had the music blasting so I couldn’t hear myself think. If only Melody agreed to go to Prom with me…alone. I distracted myself by looking at scenery out the window until we arrived at the restaurant. In less than two hours I’d be at the dance and then Melody would be all over me. 

#

Dinner felt like it went on forever. I tried not to sigh in between bites of my steak. John, Blaine, Ashleigh and Ashley wouldn’t stop talking about their boring summer plans and useless gossip. I kept trying to create side conversations with Melody, but every time someone interrupted me, asking Melody about where she’d rather summer or if she heard the rumor about Tessa getting a nose job for her birthday.

When the limo pulled up to the Four Seasons, I breathed in the city air and relaxed my shoulders. No more of these idiots until the drive home. I helped Melody out of the car and she held onto my arm to steady herself in her stiletto heels. 

“Ready?” she asked me. 

“Ready,” I said, giving her my sincere smile. 

We did all of the usual Prom activities. We took a picture in front of a cheesy backdrop, danced to bad music and sipped fruit punch that someone must’ve spiked with rum. Everything went smoothly. She even let me hold her close for a few slow dances. Even my friends gave me thumbs up from a distance when they saw how well tonight had been going for Melody and me. 

The only thing that could’ve made things more perfect: getting a goodnight kiss. It was all I thought about while dancing and then during the drive home. The limo pulled up to the mansion and everyone said their goodbyes. I told my mom we would arrive later than we actually did to get some alone time. Melody and I sat on the bench outside her house with hardly any room between us.

“Tonight was amazing,” I said. 

“Thanks for asking me, Johan. I had a great time.”

“Listen, I’ve been excited about asking you to Prom for a while. I thought maybe it could be the beginning…the beginning of us.” I paused for a moment and closed my eyes, leaning toward her. I must’ve looked like a total idiot because I stayed that way, lips puckered and all, when I realized she had no intention of kissing me back. 

“Johan,” she started to say. 

“Forget it.”

“No. I’m so sorry, I just don’t feel that way about you. I think we should just be friends.” 

I waited a while for her to add “with benefits” but the words never came. She left me alone outside while I waited to leave. Her words played in my head the whole way home and even after when I collapsed onto my bed. What a way to end the “perfect” night. 

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