It was a game, after all. It made sense that eventually we’d make it to the school gym.Grant Powers pulled me down the hallway by the wrist, laughing as he hitched up the black gown pooling around his khakis. The tassel tickled my nose as his cap nearly fell off my head in the mad dash through the double doors to the bank of athletic offices high on the fifth floor of Howell.
The gym was empty. Of course it was. Grant stopped short, and I crashed into his broad back, briefly breathing in the grassy, detergent smell of him. He reached backward and pulled me into a one-armed embrace, squashing me against his chest.
He bit my ear, and I squealed.
“What now?” I asked, my voice still muffled in his gown. “Does the prom king have any last requests before he abdicates the throne, in, oh, about an hour?”
Grant spun me outward, and his cap finally did fall.
“Let me think about that,” he said, with a wicked grin. Then he nodded to something over my shoulder.
I turned my head and saw the equipment cage, the chain-link enclosure in the most shadowy corner of the room.
Before I could answer he had maneuvered me into the rusted-out metal box.
The next thing I knew, I was flat on my back, my butt squeaking against the nubby, padded nylon of a gym mat. Grant was on top of me, unbuckling his belt. The sunlight pouring through the big, glass windows flashed across something on his wrist, momentarily making me squint.
The sun moved and I saw that they were cuff links. Specifically, they were 14-karat gold cuff links engraved with his initials. Etched onto the back of each were a heart and the letter A.
I knew that because I was there when Audrey bought them for him, as a present for his eighteenth birthday.
I pushed that thought out of my head and concentrated on Grant, arching my back, trying to lose myself in the heat from his palms on my skin.
We weren’t technically having sex yet, but my underwear had been flung to the side and a condom retrieved. He went to unzip my skirt.
“Wait,” I said, lifting my head off the floor. “What?” he asked, his voice excited, even hysterical.
I shook my head, concentrating, but it was gone. “I thought I heard something,” I told him.
I looked at him, suddenly suspicious. His voice was too casual to match the glitter in his eyes. I pushed him off me and sat up, holding my half-unstrapped bra to my chest, straining to hear. The gym was empty.
Then the heavy, metal doors leading up from the locker rooms boomed open—and the gym was decidedly not empty.
The entire senior class, capped and gowned, breathless, cheeks rosy with excitement, thundered in. I stumbled to my feet, twisting my underwear around my ankles, needing this not to be happening.
But it was happening. The distracted bustle in the air could protect me for only so long, and eventually, like dominoes, their eyes fell to the equipment cage and to me, stumbling back into my clothes. And, also, to Grant, who was laughing sheepishly and buckling his pants at a leisurely pace. A boyish whoop blew through the room. Someone yelled, “Fuck, yeah, Powers!”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t think. All I could do was try not to melt, and then Grant put his mouth next to my ear. “Hey, Kendall? Don’t worry,” he breathed.
“How…?” I couldn’t finish the query, looking wildly from person to person, identical in black and blue, and not recognizing any of them, just the look of witness-to-a-train-wreck delight on their faces.
I finally turned to Grant. “You knew?” I squeaked. “The seniors…” I tried to shake some focus into my head, but failed. “You knew they would be here?”
He had been grinning at his friends, but then he looked at me, affection in his eyes. “You’re really cute when you’re nervous,” he said. He bent down and kissed me on the cheek.
He sauntered away, pausing only to pick up his graduation cap, leaving me alone and unprotected in the cage.
Actually, scratch that: in high school.