When the doorbell rang, I didn’t even look away from the television. It wouldn’t be for me anyway. I’d been snuggled on the couch in sweats and a ratty t-shirt, wallowing in a bowl of M&M’s mixed with pretzels and relishing the heaviness to the beautiful up-do that had somehow survived an afternoon of crying and binge eating. Whoever was at the door wouldn’t want to see me in this state.
I couldn’t hear all the way down to the lower level to discover who Mom had let in the door, and I didn’t care. I laughed at another joke on Big Bang Theory and picked the salt off a pretzel, letting it melt on my tongue.
A light knock on the doorframe at the top of the third story flight of stairs drew my attention away from the show and I dropped my bowl of candy and pretzels, causing it to scatter all over the coffee table.
He leaned against the doorframe in a tuxedo so hot it should have been on fire. His hand was tucked in his pocket, pulling aside the tail of his coat and revealing a cummerbund the color of his bowtie, which perfectly matched my dress, and a corsage in a little plastic box resting in his outstretched hand.
His husky voice carried just barely over the volume of the sit-com. “Will you go to prom with me?”
I grabbed the remote and turned off the distracting noise, allowing my focus to rest fully on him. The room was suddenly quiet as I rose from the sofa and brushed the scattered candies and pretzels from my lap. “You’re here?”
“Sorry it took me so long,” he said, clearing his throat.
“How long did it take you to get here?”
“About eleven months.” He lifted his mouth in a half grin and pushed away from the door. Was this really happening? When he reached my side, he lifted my hand in his and kissed my knuckles like a gentleman inviting his lady to a ball. “What do you think? Want to slip on that elegant pink dress and come eat some lobster with me?”
“I don’t even like lobster,” I said, stepping closer and looking up into his eyes.
“That’s what I thought.” His brow creased, and he smirked. “Grilled chicken and a spinach salad?”
“Much better.” I fell into his arms and clung to him like he was a lifeline sent to rescue me from drowning.
He leaned down close to my ear and I shivered. “Will you be my date tonight, Samantha?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” I whispered.
“I can’t take you to prom in your t-shirt and sweats, so go get that dress on.”
“Okay.” I pulled away reluctantly and stumbled down the hall in a daze.
I was just pulling the dress off the hanger when my mom came into my bedroom and closed the door. “Want some help?”
“Yes! Oh my gosh, Mom, can you believe Brandon’s here? He came all the way up here just to take me to prom!” I danced around the room holding my dress and letting the taffeta spin and fluff and wrap around me and my mom. She laughed along with me as we spun then she halted us and held onto my arms.
“You’re making me dizzy, girl.” She stumbled away, smiling. “Let’s get the princess ready for her ball.”
“Okay,” I said, spinning over to the bathroom and closing the door halfway. I brushed my teeth, touched up my makeup, then slipped into my dress, letting the silky layers fall around me.
I stepped out of the bathroom to dig around for the strappy heels that perfectly matched my dress but stopped short when I saw that my mom was slumped over onto my pillows.
“Mom? Are you asleep?”
“No, I’m awake. Just overworked myself today, that’s all.” She sat up and took a deep breath then stood and smiled, her hands coming to her heart. “You look beautiful, Samantha!”
“Thank you.” I spun around one more time to show her how my dress splayed out around me and settled as it wrapped around my legs. “Time to go meet my prince charming.”
“I want to get pictures,” Mom said, following me.
As I stepped into the living room, I relished the look on Brandon’s face. He stood from the sofa where he’d been waiting, his mouth gaped and at a loss for words. He stepped closer to me, holding up the corsage he’d brought.
“How did you know what colors to get?” I asked.
“The tux shop in Petoskey had Charlie’s stuff just sitting there and were thrilled to get it rented out for your replacement date.” He held up the little plastic box. “The florist had already dropped off your corsage and everything.”
“That’s so cool.”
“You ready to go dance the night away, princess?” He held out his arm for me to drape my hand in the crook of his forearm.
“We have to get pictures first,” I said. “My mom will freak out otherwise.”
“We wouldn’t want that.” He turned to my mom. “Where do you want us?”
“On the grand staircase for sure,” she said, pushing past him to the door. “And in the formal library near the fireplace, and then outside in the flower garden.”
“Of course, the flower garden. Why didn’t I think of that?” Brandon thumped himself on the head. “Although I’ll probably be tempted to go to the shed and get out my pruning shears.”
“I’ve been working in the garden a little,” Mom said. “There’s a lot to be done. How soon is your semester over?”
“In two weeks,” Brandon said, following her down the stairs. “I’ll head straight up here the day they kick us out of the dorms.”
“You’d better. No slacking on this job.” Mom’s banter with Brandon was adorable.
“No, ma’am.” Brandon gave her a mock salute, then winked at me. His dark blue eyes bored into mine. Gone were the pretenses and hiding behind the façade of a brother-sister relationship. Although he hadn’t come right out and admitted he liked me for more than a friend, I could feel it in his gaze. I needed to make sure by the end of the night that he knew I liked him as well.
As he led me down the staircase, several guests looked up from where they were sitting in the library. Their faces lit up in excitement.
Mom had us turn this way and that, getting just the right angles for the shots she wanted, some on the staircase, some in the library, dozens of photos in the gardens.
The guests followed us around, snapping photos of their own, and we smiled and smiled until I didn’t think I could smile any more, except that I couldn’t stop smiling from being on Brandon’s arm.
Finally, we made it all the way around to the front where Brandon’s blue Mustang sat waiting for us. He opened the passenger door for me then ran around to the driver’s side and hopped in. This was already the best night of my life, and it had only just begun.
Running To You
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