Great. What a freaking disaster. The entire school already made them out to be arch enemies. They were going to love this.
Angel being nominated was no surprise. His oldest brother had won both the homecoming and prom king titles and Alex took homecoming king last year. Valerie told her the only reason Alex didn’t make prom king was because at the time of nominations he was on probation for a fight. More like a slaughter, Valerie had laughed. The poor guy who’d made the mistake of disrespecting their sister Sofia never had a chance.
Sarah slammed her locker shut and began walking. “Don’t worry about it. You and Angel got this.”
Two of the girls from her track team rushed up to her and hugged her squealing. “Oh my God! I’m so excited. We’re so voting for you and Angel.”
Sarah smiled nodding in appreciation and thanked them. As soon as that little delay was over she was nearly tackled by Angel’s sister Sofia who came out of nowhere. “I knew it! I knew it!” she not only hugged Sarah she kissed her cheek loudly. “This weekend is gonna to be awesome!”
Sofia had been more than excited about prom for weeks now. Even though she was a junior she’d be going to prom with one of Angel’s best friends, Eric. They’d all gone shopping together for prom and Sarah really should be excited. She finally had not one but two girls she was very close to in her life and they were all going to prom together with their dream guys.
Conjuring up a smile she forced herself to snap out of it and squeezed Sofie back. “Yes, it is gonna be awesome.”
When Sarah pulled away she hugged Valerie, too. Forget Dana. Sarah wasn’t going to let that caddy little bitch and all her minions ruin this for her.
Angel squeezed Sarah’s hand. Every time he thought she couldn’t possibly get any more beautiful than she already was she proved him wrong. When he and Alex picked her and Valerie up he was almost speechless. This entire night they’d been surrounded by all the other girls attending prom completely done up but they may as well have been invisible. As usual Angel couldn’t keep his eyes or lips off Sarah. She was perfection in her body hugging black satin gown.
“Relax,” he whispered in her ear then kissed her cheek.
All week he’d gotten a bad vibe from her and she’d finally fessed up that being nominated for the prom court made her completely uncomfortable. She’d been afraid he might be upset with her for not embracing it as the honor it should be. Of course he’d laughed telling her that’s what he loved about her most. Unlike Dana who’d been hamming it up all week campaigning hard for votes Sarah was so reserved she’d barely even talked about it. The only times she had was when she was forced to by people that congratulated her and assured her she they’d be voting for her.
He thought about seeing Dana and her friends sneaking alcohol into their drinks earlier and wondered if maybe he should’ve thought of sneaking in a little wine for Sarah. It might’ve calmed her a little because if he had to guess she was probably wishing with all her might right about now that her name was not one of the ones about to be announced.
“Ladies and gentlemen it is my honor to present to you this year’s prom king and queen,” the principal paused as the drum roll started.
Angel could feel how tense Sarah’s body had gone and he leaned in her ear again as the damn principal took her sweet time looking around with the stupidest smile. “Breathe,” he whispered.
She smiled but did inhale deeply then let it out squeezing his hand.
“Angel Moreno and Sarah Fiero. Congratulations!”
Sofia was the first one to hoot jumping up and down then there was more applause, cheering and everyone talking at once as phone cameras flashed away. Angel hugged Sarah who seemed to relax finally but still didn’t look thrilled to be in the spotlight. As the principal and her assistants slipped the sashes over Angel and Sarah’s head another kind of chanting began soft at first but the droning sound got louder and louder.
The principal rushed back to the mic. “This will not be tolerated!”
“Not the king,” one of the girls in the crowd where most of the chanting was coming from yelled out. “We know Angel won. But we demand a recount of the queen!”
“Bullshit!” No surprise Sofie was the first one to retort followed by Valerie and all of Sarah’s other track team members and friends.
Angel slipped his arms around Sarah’s waist from behind and kissed her temple trying to remain calm for her sake. “Do not sweat this Sarah,” he said into her ear. “Sofie’s right. It’s pure jealous bullshit.”
Sarah said nothing just continued staring straight ahead as the chants went back and forth. Angel kissed her bare neck softly. She wore her hair up in a fancy up do. Small delicate ringlets of hair fell strategically around her soft skin. Everything about her was perfect tonight. But she was completely tense again and he hated it.
Dana was behind all this no doubt. He wouldn’t even give her the pleasure of looking her way. He glanced down at Sofie to make sure Eric could handle her. She was one of the loudest shouting in Sarah’s defense. Security began calming everyone down and after apologizing to Sarah they were given a chance to thank the teachers and peers that voted for them but it was such an awkward few minutes Angel felt for her.
After giving a quick thank you speech Angel turned to Sarah and finished his speech holding his hand out to her. “Now I’d like nothing more than to dance with my girlfriend and not only the queen of my life but very beautiful, very deserving prom queen, Sarah.”
With much applause and almost obnoxiously loud cheers from the crowd obviously on Sarah’s side they walked out onto the dimmed dance floor. He could feel Sarah finally relaxing as they danced in the spotlight to the romantic song playing. Just as things had calmed there was a commotion in the crowd again.
“I don’t want Angel to think I had anything to do with it.” He heard Dana cry as one of her friends tried holding her back. “He already hates me. Why did you guys do that?”
He squeezed his eyes shut as he felt Sarah go stiff again. “She’s been drinking, babe. Ignore it. This is your moment.”
“We can leave after this right?” she whispered back.
“Whatever you want,” he said trying not to let on how pissed he was that Dana had ruined what should’ve been one of the best memories of Sarah’s high school years. It’d be memorable alright but for the wrong fucking reason now.
About to kiss her neck when Dana’s cries distracted him again, he glanced up the irritation nearly uncontainable. The moment his eyes met with Dana’s her face crumbled. “I swear I had nothing to do with all that.”
She wasn’t allowed to say much more before security escorted her and several of her friends out. Sarah pulled away from him just then. “Let’s just go.”
“No, Sarah,” he leaned down to look at her face. Fuck! She too looked like she might start crying. “Baby, let’s just finish the song. She’s gone now.”
Taking a deep breath she leaned her face against his chest but there was no denying she was upset. Her apprehension all week about tonight had proved to be right on the mark. Maybe Dana hadn’t put her friends up to this but it was because of her that the protest had started. It was all her cheerleader friends and girls from the flag and dance team that she was so tight with. None of them had ever liked Sarah. Least of all when the question of Sarah’s faithfulness had come into play earlier that year. That was all Dana’s doing. The rumors that Sarah had cheated on Angel and that’s why they’d split briefly had spread quickly just after Angel confirmed to Dana they were broken up.
Ever since, they’d done everything to make Sarah out to be a cheating girlfriend that got caught. That is until everything was straightened out and the real truth came out. It was nothing like that but by then the damage had been done and he knew people still questioned whether she actually did and Angel had been a sap to take her back. He didn’t give a shit what anyone thought. He knew the truth and that’s all that mattered.
With the formalities finally over, they were able to get their things together and start heading out. “So you got Sof, right?” Alex asked as they all headed out the lobby of the banquet hall.
Angel nodded. He had a feeling Alex and Valerie wouldn’t be joining them at the high school after parties. His brother was in college now. Between that and football he didn’t get to see Valerie often. Even though they weren’t formally a couple Alex acted every bit as if they were when they were together. Times like tonight when he actually got an entire night with Valerie were happening less frequently now that football practices were getting longer. Angel was sure his brother was going to make up for every minute he hadn’t been able to see her in the last week.
Valerie congratulated them again and then they were gone. Sofie held them up a few minutes because she wanted to take a few more pictures with Sarah before she took her crown and sash off. They walked out of the banquet hall the girls a few steps behind them comparing pictures on their phones.
“Angel,” Dana’s tear streaked face pleaded. “Can I talk to you for just a second?”
“I can’t,” was his immediate response but she looked so damn broken up he couldn’t help feeling bad for her.
“I just need a moment,” she begged.
Angel turned back to Sarah who stood next to Sofie. They both looked at him waiting for his response and though Sarah’s expression wasn’t as severe as Sofie’s she didn’t look happy. He lifted his hand for them to give them a second and Sarah immediately walked away. Sofie went after her but not before giving him that look he only ever saw on her when she was furious. Shit. Eric went after them giving Angel a sympathetic look.
“Make it fast, Dana, you’ve caused enough trouble tonight.”
“But that’s just it. I didn’t! That’s what I wanted to make sure you knew. I never asked any of them to do that. I’m so pissed at them right now. Do you know how bad that made me look? It was bad enough not to win but to make me look like a bitter ass loser?” She wiped her nose with the back of her hand and swatted at her continued tears. “I don’t even care so much about that as I do that you think I planned that.”
“Alright,” he said starting to walk away. “I believe you. okay? I’m not mad at you and I don’t blame you. We’re good but I gotta go.”
She reached out and caught his arm. “I know you’re with her now and all but I do want you to know I’ve always cared about you genuinely.”
He nodded taking his arm back,certain the alcohol had something to do with the ongoing tears. “Got it,” he said taking another step away from her.
“I’m serious, Angel. You’ll always hold a special place in my heart and as much as I wish it was me in your life not Sarah I’d never set out to hurt you or her because I know how much she means to you. I really hope you believe that.”
Not really but at the moment he’d say anything to just get the hell away from her and get back to Sarah. He started to walk away again.
“I love you, Angel.” He slowed only for a moment to glance back at her. “I always have.”
Yep, she was drunk. He didn’t even respond to that and kept walking.
“Do you mind taking me home, Eric?” They were the first words Sarah had attempted to say since walking away from Angel and Dana. Sofie had been doing most of the talking assuring Sarah that Angel was just being his typical self—Dana’s tears were the only reason he’d given her the time of day.
Sarah had never discussed this with Sofie but she had good reason to harbor insecurities about Angel’s feelings about Dana. She just wouldn’t get into all that now. All she wanted was for this night to be over now.
“Sarah!” Angel called out as rushed to them.
Not wanting to even look at him she turned to Eric but he shrugged. “I would Sarah but you really think he’s gonna let you leave with us like this?”
“Leave where?” Angel asked as he reached them.
With the emotion still at her throat Sarah was afraid she too might cry like stupid Dana, so she swallowed hard and glanced away. “Babe, I’m sorry I just…” he took her hand in his. “Look at me,” he turned her face gently to him frowning when he saw her flooding eyes he kissed her softly then turned to Eric. “We’ll meet you in a little bit alright? I’ll call you to see where you’re at?”
Eric and Sofie walked away leaving them alone. “Just take me home.” Sarah tried pulling her hand out of his.
“No,” he insisted pulling her to him. “I’m sorry, Sarah. She just wanted me—us to know she didn’t plan what happened inside.”
The anger Sarah had felt building earlier boiled over and she glared at him this time pulling her hand free. “Funny she didn’t ask to speak to me did she? It was just you she wanted some time alone with. And of course you thought she deserved a chance to explain herself because it’s not like all the crap she’s pulled since me and you got back together takes anything from her credibility.” She shook her head trying desperately not to read too much into the fact that Angel had not only given in so easily to Dana’s request to speak to him after what she’d just pulled but he was actually buying the bullshit that she had nothing to with it. “Just take me home, Angel or I’ll call my mom to pick me up. You can go do all the damn after parties by yourself. Maybe you’ll run into Dana again and she can feed you some more lies you’ll gladly believe like you always do.”
“No babe, wait,” he stepped in front of her as she tried to walk past him toward his car and peered at her questioningly. “What do you mean always do?”
She swallowed hard again refusing to cry. “I’ve seen pictures okay?”
His eyes opened wide now as his eyebrow lifted. “Of what?”
“Of you and her.” The very thought burned her up and the day she’d come across them she’d stared obsessively at the photos of Angel holding Dana, kissing her neck and nibbling on her ear feeling nauseated the entire time.” Your friend Ty’s girlfriend and I are facebook friends. I was looking through some of her old pictures and you and Dana were in a lot of them. You two were more than friends once upon a time.”
“No we weren’t,” Angel took her hand in his again. “I’ve never lied to you about her. Yes we did hang out but she was never my girlfriend. Besides what does it matter now anyhow? That was a long time ago.”
“What does it matter?” She glared at him knowing she wouldn’t be crying anymore because now she was pissed. “How about because I will forever know that this girl who’s done nothing but attempt to do and say things to cause problems between us since day one, the same girl whose been doing everything she can to keep up the rumors that I cheated on you is the very girl you ran to just two days after we broke up.”
“I didn’t run to her,” Angel squeezed both her hands now. “We’ve been through this. I was desperate for answers. I was actually hoping she’d tell me something that day anything that would shed light on things and hopefully make me change my mind about the break up.”
“You could’ve called me and I would’ve explained but instead you chose to go to her for answers. Maybe you did because you knew there was no way she of all people would be shedding any positive light on the situation.”
He slipped his arm around her waist and as angry and hurt as she was she actually welcomed it. She needed to feel his warmth. Feel the sincerity in his touch. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him she just hated the doubt she felt especially after seeing all the nauseating pictures that confirmed that what he had with Dana was much more than he’d ever admitted and maybe just maybe he still felt something for her.
Angel lifted her chin. “Sarah, do you have any idea how relieved I was to find out the real truth? Any idea how glad I am every time I think back to those days and remember how fucking miserable I was without you that we worked it out?” He kissed her softly and suddenly she was feeling emotional again. “I’m sorry that I gave into her tonight. I just saw her crying and figured it wouldn’t kill me to hear her out for a minute and while I knew you wouldn’t be thrilled if I had known you’d be this upset about it I wouldn’t have. But I need you to know you have nothing to worry about when it comes to Dana or anybody.”
She bit her bottom lip staring at his after he kissed her again wanting nothing more than to believe that with all her heart. “Do you have to be so sweet to her?”
He smiled the mood finally lightening up. “I’m not sweet to her. I just tolerate her. But there’s only so much I’ll tolerate. I promise.”
“And you really believe she had nothing to do with what happened tonight?”
He shrugged. “I believe she was sorry about the outcome. Whether she planned it or not that shit backfired on her hard. Even she knows what a bitter dumbass it made her look like.”
Sarah sighed leaning against his chest. “One more month until graduation and hopefully we’ll never have to deal with her again.”
Angel rubbed her back. “I know things like tonight are hard to ignore. But you should do like I do with all the other shit her and her friends do at school. Ignore it. I don’t feel like I’m dealing with her at all. Her existence to me has zero significance unless of course it upsets you and then I draw the line but like I said babe, I swear you have nothing to worry about.”
Even if it was a tough one to swallow—those photos of him and Dana were now burned in her brain. “I’m just glad tonight won’t be ending like I was envisioning it would.”
“How’s that? He pulled away to look at her his expression more than concerned.
She shook her head. “I wasn’t thinking we’d be breaking up over this or anything but I did think I might be slamming your car door shut when you dropped me off and I’d be spending a sleepless night tossing and turning over this.”
Looking a little less concerned but still obviously bothered he frowned. “C’mon, Sarah, you know me. In what world do you think I would’ve let that happen?”