I didn’t think I’d get swept into her world like this. When she came knocking at my window earlier tonight I was already wide awake with my thoughts. Still, she startled me and I jolted out of bed. I reached for the baseball bat my mom reluctantly purchased me. She wanted so much for me to try something “girly”, like dancing.
But back to Candace, knocking at my damn window in the middle of the night. I creeped up to the window, bat at the ready. Then, I heard it, her small voice.
“Emma? Are you awake?”
I recognized her voice immediately. I drop the bat and it clatters. I stop for a moment to listen for the stirring of my mom in the room down the hall. Thankfully, she was a deep sleeper. As soon I was certain it was safe, I ran to the window and lifted it open.
“What are you doing?” I say to her, taking her in. She was wearing a blue shirt with the word “Resist” across the front in red lettering, tucked into high-waist jeans. Her hair was wild, her curls bounced with her as she stepped back slightly tumbling into the hedges that separated our houses.
“Wanna go on an adventure?” She says with an air of mischief.
Candace, or Candy, as the rest of our high school class knew her, had barely said a word to me all year. She had fallen into a new crowd. Not a bad one, though the cheerleaders were known for their sexual prowess. Depending on who you ask, that wasn’t a bad thing though, but if you asked my mom, it was scandalous. However, to be fair, I had also avoided her all summer after she found that stupid diary entry. Even now, I blush, knowing what she read.
“What kind of adventure?” I ask with reasonable hesitance.
“The dangerous kind,” she says with a smirk.
“You know my mom would lose her shit.”
“Well, I need you. I don’t want to be alone.”
“Why? Did something happen”
“I’ll tell you if you come.” She was being coy. “I need my partner in crime.”
“We haven’t talked all year.”
“I know. I know,” she say exclaims rolling her eyes. “I’m sorry. I know I’m the worst, but tonight I need your moral support.”
Of course, I give into her, and five minutes later, I’m in the passenger seat of her Honda Civic. An early graduation gift from her parents. The drive starts in silence. Without meaning to, I found myself looking at her face. I can catch snippets of it as we drive by one street lamp after the other. She wasn’t wearing makeup which was out of the ordinary for her. She calls it her war paint “for fighting the patriarchy” she said to me one day as we were getting ready for softball practice. Later that night, after practice, dirty and sweaty, she looked like a warrior princess. That’s when I knew I was fucked.
“Emma.” She said my name like a question, as if to make sure I was still there. This was our thing.
“Candace.” She smiled.
“I’m upset with you,” she says in a matter of fact tone.
“You ghosted on me.”
I knew she was right. However, I didn’t know where this was coming from. Then, without warning, she takes a hand off the wheel and reaches for my own. We sit in silence, holding hands, and I am willing my heart to be still.
“Where are we going?” I had to break the silence. With a squeeze, she lets go of my hand so she can use both hands to make a turn. I look up to realize where we are.
“Are you taking us to the coast?”
“Yup,” she says with a smile. “I promise we’ll be back before your mom notices.”
I laugh nervously.
“So what’s this really about?” I watch the smile disappear from the corner of her mouth.
“You’re lucky, your mom is so supportive.”
“Supportive of what? We fight all of the time. I had to fight to stay on the softball team, and don’t get me started on the fight we had when I cut all of my hair off.”
Candace laughs. “Still, Emma, she’s trying.” I look at her again, I can see tear in her eyes and something started to click.
“Candace…what is this about? Did something happen with your parents?”
More silence. The road is empty and this car is quiet compared to my old gas guzzling jeep. Moments later, as we are getting off our exit she says so quietly, I strain to hear her, “I came out to my parents.”
I know Candace’s parents well enough to know that this didn’t go over well. Her parent’s love was conditional. The conditions were as follows: she had to be the perfect daughter in every way society dictates she should be, and they would give her the world.
We finally park in an empty lot near the beach. Before I can say anything, she pops the trunk and goes to grab something. She comes back with a blanket whose black and white striped pattern I had seen many times before. Since we could drive, we had been coming to the beach together, but never in the middle of the night.
“So, I’ve never done this in the middle of the night. The moon is bright so maybe we can use the light to find a good spot.” I felt like I needed to say something. Something supportive. That will let her know that it will be okay. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I thought. I was so mad at myself for not having the right words. I just watched her and followed her to beach. I walked behind her, watching as the wind whipped her hair back and forth. She carried the blanket in a bundle underneath one arm and had her cell phone in the other.
Once on the beach, and away from the light of the street lamps, she turned on the flashlight on her phone.
“This helps, I guess. Let’s go there, near the weeds. Even with the flashlight, and the light of the moon, we are just dark shapes moving in the night.
“This looks good.” I say. I really just want to stop this trudge through the sand and talk to her. We lay out the blanket with little struggle. Once we’ve settled down, sitting next to each other, legs crossed, I speak.
“What did they say?”
She takes a breath before answering. “They’re in denial. They think I’m confused and stressed about going off to college.”
“I get thinking you’re confused. That’s what my mom thought, and I’m certain she still hopes that I’ll wake up one day and tell her it was all a phase.”
“I don’t think that’s it. I think she just needs time.”
“Are you an expert on my mom now?”
She laughs. “No, but she’s not like my parents. She talks to you. She doesn’t insist that you’re not…gay.” The word comes out as a whisper and I can’t help but laugh at her.
“You know, you can say it out loud. No one here is going to hear you.” I say gesturing to the empty beach.
“Shut up,” she says slapping my arm.
I reach my arm around her as I had done so many times before. She lays her head on my shoulder.
“You know that thing you wrote in you diary about me?” I tense up.
“I—I feel the same way about you.”
She sits up suddenly and looks at me. It’s dark, but I can still see her deep brown eyes, reflecting the light of the moon. I take a chance, I lean in and our lips meet. Hers are soft and her perfume is gentle and subtle. I pull away so as not to overwhelm her but she deepens the kiss. My heart is doing cartwheels in my chest and I overcome with butterflies in my belly. We pull apart for a breath, noses still touching. I can’t help but smile from ear to ear.
“Can I ask you something?” I can hear the smile in her voice.
“You just did.” I said laughing.
“Shut up.” She laughs.
She kisses me again and it feels like I’m melting. She cups my face with her hand and her touch drive me wild. She pulls away again.
“Now, where were we?”
“You were going to ask me something.”
“Oh yeah...Well, it’s stupid. You can say no.”
“Oh my god Candace just ask.”
“Will you go to prom with me?”
“Yes,” I say and I bite my lip from excitement. “I don’t think your parents will approve.”
“I’m wearing a dress, that’ll appease them.”
“They’re going to hate me. They’re probably going to think I made you gay.”
She throws her head back and begins to cackle. I laugh with her.
“Not a chance Emma.”
No, Candace was not one to be manipulated.
She moved closer to me, and I took her into my arms. “They are going to be pissed though.” She said quietly.”
“Give them a chance and some time.”
“What if they never come around?”
“Then, my mom and I can be your new family.”
“I’d like that.”