and i'd give up forever to touch you,
cause i know that you feel me somehow,
you're the closest to heaven that i'll ever be,
and i don't want to go home write now...
It's prom night.
Girls say they dream of their prom, and all right, Jerome can buy that. But really, they dream of going to prom with their boyfriend-crush-dream-guy. Not just the prom, but the person who comes with it.
Of course, no guy would ever admit it, but they dream of slipping a corsage onto that special girl's wrist, dancing together, maybe even their first kiss as a couple. It's not just a night for the girl, it's for her date, too.
It's silly, but being alone on the night of the prom is actually kind of Jerome's worst nightmare. He likes to think that he can at least pick up a date for the night- even just a date for a single dance. But no, while he's surrounded by goo-goo-eyed Nina and Fabian and every other moony couple in the room, he has to be alone.
The worst part is that the one girl who he actually would want to dance with is dancing with someone else.
Jerome can't quite put his finger on it, but Mara means something to him. A lot more than he's really comfortable with, actually. Ever since his parents ditched him, he tried to avoid close relationships, but between her and Alfie, that didn't really work out, now did it?
And on top of him betraying himself by- oh, God, he doesn't want to say it, but he has to- loving Mara, he had to go and pick a girl with a boyfriend. And of all people that boyfriend could be, he had to go and pick Mick's girlfriend.
Now, Jerome can definitely put his finger on this: he hates Mick Campbell. Hates him for being so popular, hates him for getting what he wants when he wants it, hates him for having parents and a life and Mara. He hates how stuck-up and "perfect" like everyone says he is even though he's an ass, and he just hates, hates, hates that he doesn't honestly appreciate Mara. Maybe it's because he's a total cheeseball, but if he could ever have Mara as a girlfriend, he'd probably love her and never let her go, or something like that. Even if that is something out of a Motown song that Nina would listen to on a bad day.
Masochistic- for whatever reason, that word rises to mind as he watches Mick and Mara dance. It means the kind of person who likes torturing themselves- well, Amber used it after she read Twilight, and it sounds like it fits. It certainly fits as Jerome watches them twirl around together, because he can't stop watching how perfectly they go together. It's like... vanilla and chocolate, or night and day. They're completely, entirely different, and that's why they work perfectly as a pair. Mick is snarky and stocky and athletic and kind of mean; Mara's beautiful and sweet and things he won't let himself think.
and all i can taste is this moment,
and all i can breathe is your life,
cause sooner or later it's over,
i just don't wanna miss you tonight...
Finally, after what seems like forever, the song changes, and before Jerome can really think about what he's about to do, he slides up next to them. "Mind if I cut in?"
He's pretty sure that ordinarily Campbell would rip him limb from limb if he tried to dance with Mara, but it's prom night and he's obviously willing to let Mara do what she wants, because he looks at her. "Mar?"
"If you don't mind," she answers, her face flushed and radiant with happiness. Mick steps back, and Jerome takes her hand in his and places his other hand around her waist, the way he thinks he's supposed to. "Having a good night, then?" he asks as they begin to move.
She laughs. "The best. Couldn't get better."
"Then no night in your life will ever be as good as this?"
Mara tips her head. "Maybe," she answers thoughtfully. "It's not the most interesting night, is it?"
"Speak for yourself," he mumbles before he can think the better of it.
"And what makes your night so interesting?" she asks, unfortunately picking up on it.
"You know, I almost died tonight," he answers conversationally, still not letting his words run through his brain before they reach his mouth. He's already started spilling the beans, but if he keeps going with it, it sounds less like a secret and more like a joke.
As Jerome suspected, Mara doesn't seem to believe him; instead, she smiles. "Did you now?"
"Oh, yeah." He nods seriously, trying to keep his composure. "I got trapped in the history room with a maniac."
Now she rolls her eyes. "And he was going to poison you, right?"
"Actually, he had poisonous bugs," he corrects lightly, twirling her around. "He was going to put them in Amber's ear."
Clearly incredulous, Mara laughs out loud at this. "That's probably the best lie I've heard out of you yet, Jerome."
Something about the way she says this needles him, as though she's used to hearing him lie, cheat, and steal his way through life or something. It actually hurts, just a little bit, and he falls silent before he makes some biting comment in return. It only takes a moment to recover, though, and he answers, "But I saved Nina's life, too! Shouldn't that get a reward?"
"What do you have in mind?" she asks, eyes sparkling, and for a moment he thinks she'd give him anything.
"I dunno, a kiss?" he teases lightly.
Mara's attitude changes instantly. "Jerome, you know-"
"It's all right," he cuts her off, his voice suddenly flat and dark. "I get it. You don't want to mess things up with Mick."
"Well, not that. I've just been wanting to say... I'm sorry."
"For what?" That's not what he expected.
"For whatever I did a few weeks ago that got you all mad at me." She pauses, then extends the simple olive branch of "Friends?"
No, Jerome wants to scream. No, because you mean so much more than a friend to me. I want the whole world to know that you made me a better person than I've ever been in my life, and I love you, Mara Jaffray.
"Friends." It's not enough, but she seems to be happy with it.
The song is ending and Mick comes to reclaim Mara. He lets her go and says thanks for the dance, and maybe she can tell that something isn't right, but she doesn't say anything but "You're welcome." He gets to a place where he doesn't think they can see him and then runs outside. His emotions are making it hard to breathe.
and you can't fight the tears that ain't coming,
or the moment of truth in your lies,
when everything seems like the movies-
yeah, you bleed just to know you're alive...
Why? Why does it have to be now of all times that Mara decides to care about what he's doing? Couldn't it be while she was split up with Mick and not while he just wants to be alone?
Finally he stops. He's somewhere outside the school, somewhere soft and green that he doesn't totally recognize in the moonlight. He doesn't want to move. It's a nice place.
Mara stops behind him, timidness emenating from her. "Are you all right?"
"Like I said. I almost died." His voice is ragged with tiredness and hot with emotion, and a lot of other things. Jerome doesn't want to let her know how rough it's been- Rufus threatening to kill him, being trapped with the others, and the surety that Alfie was going to die, not to mention her running back to Mick- but he can't control himself around her. "It's been a bad day."
Still hesitant, she takes one step forward. "So you mean you weren't joking? You really almost died?" Her voice is hushed and suddenly scared.
Exhaustion is swamping Jerome's mind. He needs to think of some kind of way out of this. Really, he shouldn't have even let slip that his night was hard, but his guard is down too far when he's with Mara. Maybe he needed to let it out somehow, but he can't help but feel that even if it's over, he's just put Mara in some kind of danger. "Never mind that. Go back to the prom."
She sighs. "Not unless you come with me."
"At least one more dance. You're really good!" she persists. He can feel that she's not going to give up. "Just one dance, and I'll stop, I swear."
"I just gave you a dance."
"Oh, come on, Jerome!" Mara pleads, a smile hidden in her voice. "One!"
He sighs and turns to face her, wondering why she wants this so badly. "One." He wraps an arm around her waist and clasps her hand in his.
For the first time that night, he really looks at Mara. She's beautiful, like all girls who go to prom want to be, but only some are. She has her hair curled and her amazing dress, and that makes her look nice. But she's radiating happiness, and she's content with being there with him.
That's why she's beautiful.
Jerome can't tell if it's minutes or hours later when he spins Mara away and pulls her back, and she's wrapped up inside his arms. She looks up at him and smiles and he almost says he loves her, but he can't bring himself to. Instead he manages to say, "Maybe one more?"
She laughs and twirls away. "I was hoping you'd say that."
It's only when the crowd of students floods into the moonlit green that they stop. Mara's giggling like a little girl and Jerome's feeling better than he has since before he met Rufus and got tangled up in the mystery. She smiles, but it's colored with regret. "I have to go find Mick."
He understands, but that doesn't mean he thinks it's okay. Still, he manages a smile, and says, "Go on, then."
The green returns as the people leave, but not Jerome. He can still see the sparks that flew and feel the magic that blossomed, and he doesn't want to move until the sparks dim and the magic breaks.
He's about to finally back to the house when Mara comes out of nowhere and says, "One more, then?"
Jerome smiles and pulls her in. "One more, and then bed. I can't dance forever."
As it turns out, he can if it's with Mara. They dance until the sun comes up and their legs give out beneath them and they're stuck in the grass, laughing. They haven't said they love each other, but they've come as close as they dare. They don't really need to, anyway. They already know.
When they finally go back to the house, they're exhausted but giddy and everyone knows exactly what's changed between them. Mick isn't surprised to see them together; it makes Jerome wonder if when Mara went to find him, she went to split up with him. Everybody smiles at the sight of them together and they all understand that somehow, last night, something magical happened.
and i don't want the world to see me,
cause i don't think that they'd understand,
when everything's made to be broken,
i just want you to know who i am