The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Two days before prom, my grandfather informed my mom that she wouldn’t be bringing her boyfriend to prom. Instead, she would be bringing Pat, a boy my mom had met at work and who had helped her during an asthma attack. Her father had no love for John, maybe because of his hippy personality, or maybe some gut feeling, but after getting to know Pat he decided he would be a better match for Doreen than the flower child that was John. My mom enjoyed Pat’s company. He was her friend, but she didn’t love him like she did John. Still, my mom was raised in an environment where what her father said was law, so the idea of disobeying him never really crossed her mind.

“Daddy, please!” Doreen said.

Her father crossed his arms.  “Doreen-”

“John already has his tux and-”

“That’s enough. I’ve already told you that you aren’t going with him, and that’s that.” Her father stared at her, mouth firm. The man, though small in stature, had a stare that weighed one thousand pounds.

A painful silence passed between them, one which cracked something inside of Doreen.

Her father walked up to her, placing a hand on her now tear-stained face. “Pat is a nice young man,” he said. “You two will have a wonderful time together.” Her father’s eyes were kind, but set. Doreen would not change his mind.

 

The song came to an end and Pat stepped back, smiling.

“You want a drink?” He asked, yelling slightly over the dull roar of the teenage crowd.

“Would you mind?” Doreen said.

Pat shook his head, slicked-backed hair not moving an inch, and moved to the punch bowl.

Doreen had to admit, she was having a good time, despite Pat’s powder blue tux (the only part of which that matched her dress being the large ruffles on the sleeves and lapels), but couldn’t stop thinking about John. They’d been planning to go to prom together for so long, and had been so excited, but it was all usele-

“Can I have this dance?” A voice. A boy’s. John’s.

Doreen turned slowly, unable to comprehend. There he stood in a bright white suit, the perfect match for her dress.

“What...what?” Doreen stuttered, ecstatic and confused.

John shrugged. “I already had the tux. Didn’t see why I shouldn’t come anyway.”

There was a splash, and the sound of a girl screaming. The two looked away from each other to see Pat, easily distinguishable in the sea of black tuxes, stomping toward the door, leaving a puddle of red punch and a girl with a stained dress in his wake.

“This was a bad idea, wasn’t it?” John said, half to himself.

“I’m sorry,” Doreen said. “I’m sorry. I’m so glad to see you, but...I’m sorry.” She wrapped her arms around him, dimly recognizing how much more there was to him than Pat, kissed him on the cheek, and ran after Pat.

 

The chill air of the outside made her shiver, but Doreen’s pounding heart pushed down the chills she felt rising. Her neck craned, eyes searching the overflowing parking lot not for a face, but for a color.

It didn’t take long for Doreen to hike up her dress and run towards the powder blue figure.

“Pat!” Doreen said. She froze, gawking at his bleeding fist which was clenched at his side, and the shattered remains of his windshield.

Pat barely seemed to notice his bloodied hand. “Why is he here?” he said in a low growl, not unlike a cornered dog.

“I-I don’t know. I told him he wasn’t allowed to come.” Doreen stepped closer, voice gentle. “Pat. You’re bleeding.”

He glanced briefly at his hand, vague concern passing over his face.

“Please,” Doreen said gently. “Let’s just leave. I’ll drive us home so we can fix up your hand. I’ve seen the doctors do it enough. I should be able to.”

Pat numbly moved to the passenger seat and climbed in.

Doreen opened the other door, ready to leave the night behind, but something caught her eye. Looking back to the ritzy building that had been rented out for the night, Doreen locked eyes with John, heartbreak clear on his face. Doreen smiled sadly, raising her and giving a small wave before climbing into the car.

 

Prom

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1982
New Jersey

Two days before prom, my grandfather informed my mom that she wouldn’t be bringing her boyfriend to prom. Instead, she would be bringing Pat, a boy my mom had met at work and who had helped her during an asthma attack. Her father had no love for John, maybe because of his hippy personality, or maybe some gut feeling, but after getting to know Pat he decided he would be a better match for Doreen than the flower child that was John. My mom enjoyed Pat’s company. He was her friend, but she didn’t love him like she did John. Still, my mom was raised in an environment where what her father said was law, so the idea of disobeying him never really crossed her mind.

Recorded by Robert Mulry on March 30, 2018
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