Prom King

By: Penny Wylder



The doorbell rings, and I internally groan. I’m not even sure why I ordered food, I’m too sick to my stomach to eat. And I don’t want to see anyone. Not even the delivery guy. Closing my eyes, I lean my head back against the couch. Maybe if I ignore him long enough, he’ll just leave the food by the door.

I’m in clothes that no one should ever witness me wearing and probably would be better off in the trash: A t-shirt that’s so worn it’s falling off my shoulders and ratty sweatpants that would never be decent in public because they have more holes than pants. But I didn’t want to put on anything nicer. Not after tonight. These are the only clothes worth wearing in my state of mind.

The doorbell rings again.

Just go away, I silently beg him. Leave the mozzarella sticks and milkshake. Leave me to wallow in my self-pity. But he rings the doorbell again, and then my phone starts to buzz. Damn it. Answering the phone is even worse than answering the door. I know it’s the just the unfortunate person who’s trying to deliver my food, and I cringe.



“Yeah,” I say, my voice squeaking. “Can you just leave the food by the door?”

There’s an uncomfortable pause. “Sorry, you have to sign the receipt.”

“Oh,” I say. “Okay, I’ll be right there.”

Let’s get this fucking over with. I keep my blanket wrapped around my shoulders so that my ratty clothes are less visible, and go to the door. The guy is just standing there with my food and I feel even worse for making him wait. “Sorry,” I mutter, taking the receipt and not meeting his eyes. I give him a good tip before sealing myself back on the safe side of the door. My goal was no more humiliation for tonight. Missed that shot for a mile.

I suppose it’s my own fault though, I didn’t have to go on that date. In fact, Lorraine told me that it was a bad idea. But he was cute and I hadn’t been on a date in a really long time. I think it’s going to be another very long time before I risk that again.

Sinking back into the couch and my cocoon of pillows, I take a sip of the vanilla milkshake. Sweet bliss. I know that I shouldn’t drown my sorrow with sugar and fried cheese, but fuck it, I can go back to being healthy tomorrow.

I’m re-watching one of my favorite TV series—an overly polite British reality show about amateur bakers. I mean, amateur my ass. They may not get paid for their baking but you better believe they’re experts. I’m the amateur. I can’t make a cake that doesn’t come out lopsided. It doesn’t mean that I don’t try, though.

Stupid moron, I say to myself. I’m not sure whether I’m talking to myself or to Jason, my ill-fated date, but the words fit regardless. I try to lose myself in an episode about making the perfect identical little cakes, but the embarrassment keeps rolling through my head like my brain has the track on repeat.

I thought it had been going well enough. We went to a little Mexican place on the Lower East Side, and it was nice. He was sweet and charming and the conversation was flowing. He works for one of the larger law firms downtown, and even though all of our interests didn’t align, enough of them did. In my mind, it was one of the better first dates that I’ve ever had. Until we walked to the subway.

With an effort, I freeze the tape in my mind. I’d really rather not relive it again, though I know it’s only a matter of time.

A text buzzes on my phone, and I glance at the screen. It’s Lorraine.

How did it go?

I roll my eyes. Of course she’s going to want to know. But she can know later.

A couple of minutes later my phone buzzes again.


I turn the phone upside down on the other end of the couch. It vibrates a couple more times, but I don’t look. It’s judging time and I want to see how the raspberry mint cakes stack up against the orange cardamom. Even if I already know the answer.

There’s a knock on the door and I jump. Did the delivery guy forget something?

Then a loud, brassy voice. “Ollie, it’s me. Let me in.”

Fuck. Lorraine. “Go away!” I want to wallow in my misery, and Lorraine isn’t going to let me do that.

There’s the sound of a key in the lock and I groan. The door opens and her heels—Lorraine always wears heels—click on my floor. “I should have never given you that key,” I say.

“Yes, you should have,” she says as she comes around the corner into the living room. She sees me in my nest of blankets and my comfort food. “What the hell happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”