h2>Dating : The Promposal
A story of Pride, still a fairy tale for so many
Everything was perfect. She’d looked online to find out when the sun was likely to go down, so the warm glow would hit Carmen’s face as they took a selfie. She had the whole Instagram Story planned: the ocean, her asking, she and Carmen kissing for the first time. But if that last part didn’t work out, she’d just do the sunset.
She’d texted Carmen that she needed to talk and wanted to meet at the beach near school. Carmen had texted back “k,” so it was all set.
Elsie knew this was crazy. Especially now, standing here freezing in her sleeveless, polka dot rockabilly dress and boots (because Carmen had once said,” Cute dress” while she was wearing it), she looked out at the ocean wondering what she would say if Carmen said no. Even worse, what if Jordan had gotten all that stuff about Carmen kissing Hayden wrong and Carmen wasn’t that into girls and had only liked all of Elie’s old posts as as joke?
But it was too late now: Elsie felt a tap on her shoulder and there was Carmen with her black ponytail whipping around like it was afraid of the wind.
“Hey, what’s up?” Carmen said.
“Not much,” Elsie said. “What’s up with you?”
“Well,” Carmen made a show of looking confused. “Someone texted me and said they needed to talk to me, so…”
“Yeah, totally,” Elsie forced a laugh. “I did want to talk to you about something.”
“Yeah, I got that part,” Carmen laughed. “Let’s walk.”
And she turned to walk up the beach, but Elsie had picked this spot because there was a rock to hide the roses behind.
“Actually, can we just stay here?” she asked.
Carmen turned around, and now she actually looked confused. “Yeah, okay. What’s going on?”
Elsie took a deep breath and looked at Carmen — really looked at her: The fine fringe at her hairline, the tiny scar on her chin that she didn’t yet know the story behind, the flecks of gold in her eyes.
She was about to ask out a girl. Not just ask her out, but ask her to prom. The sound of the waves blended with the rush of blood in her ears. Even though lots of kids at her school were cool, she still caught plenty of shit for being queer, and somehow in the process of getting amped up about the asking, Elsie had forgotten that she actually had to ask.
Carmen’s eyebrows were crinkled and she shifted her weight. Now or never.
“Carmen, we’ve been friends for a little while now, and I’ve always thought you were really cool…”
Suddenly her feet were freezing cold, water seeping through the seams in her cheap boots.
“Fuck!” Carmen yelped and ran a few steps away from the water. Elsie followed, feeling like the wave had crashed over her head.
“Shit that’s cold,” Carmen laughed. When she saw the look on Elie’s face, she said, “Oh my God, please just tell me what’s going on!”
The sky was barely orange; the moment for the perfect selfie had past. Maybe none of this was worth it. Maybe she should just go with friends like she’d done last year. What if her mom was right and everything was just going to be harder for her? Prom was so stupid anyway, with its lame king and queen and bad music and hotel parties.
“I just hope we can keep hanging out this summer and stay friends after we graduate.”
Carmen tilted her head to one side. “Yeah, me too, but you did not text me and have me come to this cold-ass beach to tell me that.” She grabbed Elsie’s shoulders and shook her gently. “Just fucking tell me or I will kill you.”
“For real, it’s nothing. I’m sorry I dragged you all the way out here.” And now Elsie felt near tears and had to get out of there. She took a few more steps up toward the parking lot and turned her head to blink it all back.
Carmen took a step forward and there was a crinkling. They both looked down. The bouquet of roses had half blown out from behind the rock, and Carmen was stepping on the plastic.
“Why are these…” She bent down, picked them up, and looked at Elsie.
“Were these…” Carmen began and Elsie nodded quickly, not trusting herself to speak.
“I…listen…oh shit, Elsie. This is about prom?”
Elsie nodded again and this time she couldn’t stop one tear from falling before brushing it away angrily. She’d been so stupid. A heavy, gray brick of despair fell onto her chest. She willed the wind to make her numb.
Carmen touched one of the roses then looked up at Elsie. “This totally sucks. I mean, the timing sucks. Matt just asked me yesterday, and we’re just going as friends, but he’s all freaked out about the whole prom thing, so I don’t want to back out on him.”
Elsie just kept nodding. Things were going to be harder for her. She nodded.
“But, listen. Elise, listen to me.” Carmen grabbed her hand. “Look at me.”
Elsie hated when people said that, but when she looked up, Carmen’s eyes were so warm.
“Listen,” Carmen said softly, but Elsie could hear her over the wind. “If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said yes. For real. And just because we aren’t going together doesn’t mean we can’t hang out while we’re there.”
Elsie nodded again, not trusting her voice.
Carmen held the roses out toward her. “I know this might be stupid, but would you ask me anyway?”
Elsie smiled and took the bouquet. She took a deep breath.
“Carmen, would you please hang out with me at prom?”
Carmen took the roses back, smelled them, and batted her eyelashes. “I thought you’d never ask.”
Elsie rolled her eyes, and Carmen laughed as she pulled Elsie by the hand. “Now let’s get off this cold-ass beach.”
Elsie let herself be led up the beach through the increasingly furious wind, fighting the elements together. Hanging out at prom wasn’t the same, and it wasn’t what she wanted, but it was enough to lift the brick of dread. None of this was ever going to be easy, but it might not all be a shitshow either. Sometimes, girls would even smile at her and take flowers from her the way Carmen had. And in the dimming light, that felt like hope.