Reflections on Royalty
I didn't ask for this, you know. I didn't ask to be nominated, and I certainly didn't ask to win. All the teachers say it's an honor, with big sappy smiles on their faces. They say I should be proud.
"It's kind of fun," all the past winners will admit while kind of rolling their eyes, "but also a total pain in the ass." And while my best friend Kory Anders swears a thousand times over that I was not voted as a joke, I'm well aware of the truth. I'm the antithesis of a homecoming princess. Which is how I ended up becoming one.
Our class always elects a legitimate prince and princess and a joke prince and princess. We're cruel like that, and I'll be the first to admit I'm in on the tradition. I just never expected to be the joke. Hell, I never thought I'd be elected at all. I have the tendency to fly under the radar; I'm not a loner but I don't stand out. The only times I do, I'm usually throwing a book at somebody. So when Bette Kane cheerfully announces that I'm one of the members of the homecoming court, I'm floored. Miss School Spirit isn't exactly stamped across my forehead. And that's when it hits me.
I'm the joke princess.
Kory swears she meant it as a compliment, and all things considered, I believe her. But refusing to accept ballots from anyone in the homeroom she represents in student council unless my name is circled is going a little far. She also swears that she had no idea her creepy stalker, Fang Thompson, would get elected too. But above all else, she swears that she was just trying to finally get Gar Logan and I together by forcibly "encouraging" her homeroom to vote for both of us, except that her plan kind of backfired. Which begs the question: is my situation really that pathetic?
Gar's been my best guy friend since the beginning of sophomore year when I finally figured out that there was more to him than the obnoxious prank-pulling surface would easily admit. And while he's still obnoxious and continues to pull pranks, he really does have his moments. Like when he brought me a burger back from In 'n' Out, godly food compared to our school lunches, when he went to a mid-day orthodontist appointment. Or when he listened to me rant for a full hour about how much I hated Mr. Mod, my sophomore English teacher, who actually turned out to be one of my favorite school faculty members by the end of the year. Or the time he gave me a ride through an hour's worth of traffic despite the fact that he had two tests the following day to study for and an entire house to clean before his parents got home from a business trip that night.
Most of my friends have never seen beyond the obnoxious front. But Kory has, and she's been trying to set us up ever since I stupidly owned up to liking him a few months ago.
There's just a small problem in her grand scheme: his girlfriend.
I'm in BCBG, shopping for one of three dresses I'm required to have as a homecoming princess. Kory, who was a legitimate princess the previous year, tells me I need a dress for the pictures, a dress for the dance, and a dress for the homecoming football game, where I will be presented to all returning alumni.
Not that there'll be many. Everyone who's ever attended our school is fully aware that we suck. Like, Division 13 suck. So there's probably a faster way to lose brain cells than watch our varsity team play. Like say, hitting your head on a wall successively for five minutes. I tell Kory this.
She just laughs and hands me a pair of heels she found that match the dress I'm trying on.
I call up my best friend from my old school, Toni Moretti. It's been a while since we talked last. Before she says anything besides hello, I tell her that I'm a homecoming princess.
She laughs so hard, I can still hear her when I hold the phone a foot away from my face. And then, in between gasps for air, she says, "Oh, wait…you were serious?"
Gar calls me a couple nights later, asks me how I'm doing. Decidedly casual. I say fine. He tells me that his holy terror of a girlfriend, Tara Markov, has been on his case again to take her to homecoming. In the three years that they've been going out, I can honestly say that they've broken up over thirty times. I'm not the only one who thinks he should just grow a pair and dump her for good. But whatever.
"So Homecoming Princess…" he addresses me in a teasing manner, and I snarl something vicious at him. Gar laughs and tells me he voted for me. I ask him why, and he says it's because I'm me and I'm special. I can tell he actually means it.
I say: "Yeah, whatever."
I want to say: "Thank you."
Part of being a homecoming princess is getting presented not only to whoever stupidly decides to go to the football game, but to the entire student body at the dance. And part of "being presented" is getting escorted and danced with by one of the princes of your grade level. And since the other, legitimate princess, Kole Weathers, has already asked the legitimate prince, Wally West, to escort her, I'm stuck with the pathetic excuse for a human being known as Fang.
I want to hate Kole for snatching Wally first, but as we're sitting together and talking while waiting to have our 11th grade court pictures taken, I realize that I can't. Because had I been in her position and gotten to Wally first, I'd have had no regrets whatsoever.
The photographer, some guy named Mr. Arthur Light, has to be on something for him to be this hyped. And it's not the good, happy kind of hyped either. No, he's fidgeting spastically and moving Wally and Kole and Fang and I in every direction in an attempt to find a pose he likes. And the whole time, he's talking like we're the retarded ones, asking us if we're dyslexic because we're not sure what we're supposed to be doing or why he keeps moving us. Um, I wasn't aware that my ability to put letters in order for the purpose of forming and reading words had any bearing on this photograph.
Finally, he takes the picture. I think I look like I'm going to kill somebody.
I have lunch with Gar at Subway. And as I sip the tea I picked up from the Starbucks next door and he devours his veggie sub, I ask him how homecoming is going to work; if I'm allowed to make eye contact with him, or would that provoke Tara enough to make her want to light my dress on fire? Gar considers this as he chews, and then decides that maybe avoiding one another would be best.
I shrug and take another sip.
Everywhere I go at school, it's "Hey Princess" and "How's it going, Princess?" I've managed to death-glare a few into silence, but some of my antagonizers are so used to my malicious stares that they've become immune.
So even though Kory says it's cute, I just try to ignore them.
I'm told that someone can cut in on the slow dance with Fang if I don't want to touch him for too long. Immediately I hit up my friend Victor Stone for some assistance.
But he has a date.
It's not a secret, really. Not anymore. Everyone knows that I like Gar and Gar likes me. Everyone also knows that Tara and Gar's own severe lacking in testicular fortitude are constantly keeping us from making the jump from friends to more. Not that it's something I admit easily. But everyone seems to be aware of it anyways, so why bother denying it at this point?
Gar calls me again on Sunday night, five days before the homecoming dance. He asks me if I'll fuck him if he cuts in on Fang. I think he's buzzed, and I tell him so. He just laughs; doesn't deny anything.
Oh yeah, he's buzzed.
I mention the definite possibility of my death if I fuck him, but then Gar says that Tara's not attending homecoming. He also says that I'd probably be able to take her if she didn't bring a flamethrower. So I say that I'll fuck him if he knocks Fang out cold for the entire duration of the dance and cuts in. He laughs again, says okay. It's a game we play with each other. He says he wants to fuck me, and I give him a task I know he won't do with sex as the reward upon completion.
We both know nothing will come of it, but it's fun while it lasts. I spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that it's okay, because he and his girlfriend hate one another most of the time anyways. But it's not working. It never really does.
I ask him why he wants to fuck me so badly. He slurs something in response, so I ask him to repeat himself.
"Because you're one of the most honest girls I've met in a long time."
Kory and I are sitting in the library during one of our free periods when she asks me if I really hate being a princess that much. I tell her that it's not so bad, and I think she knows I'm lying. Then she asks me whether I'd rather be friends or hook up with Gar, if I could only choose one.
"I'd rather be friends with him," I say, and I'm positive she knows I'm telling the truth. Then we pull out our Honors British Lit book and get to discussing that moderately whorish Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales.
Some people are actually congratulating me, like it's a fantastic thing to be a princess. Lilith Clay-Jupiter says she voted for me. Grant Emerson makes sure I know that he doesn't hate me, he just voted for me because he thought it'd be funny if I was a member of the court. Linda Danvers hugs me, and I swear I never speak to her more than once a month. Dick Grayson gives me a pat on the back and a trademark smile, although I think it's mostly because I'm standing with Kory. They broke up a while ago, but there are obviously still lingering feelings. Even Cody Driscoll, who's a known two-faced asshole, says he's proud of me.
But, then, I don't exactly trust someone like Cody.
I haven't done my Trigonometry homework in over a week and Conner Kent tells me it's all due today when I pass him in the hall. I hunt down Gar, who's been making an effort to do his homework recently in a desperate attempt to salvage his grades. But he's in one of his moods and hands me a sheaf of papers without a second glance in my direction.
He does that sometimes; spaces out and acts as though everyone around him is the equivalent of boring wallpaper. And it always makes me want to punch him.
It's the day of the dance, or the morning rather. I'm late for some stupid breakfast the school's Mother's Club puts on for the homecoming court. And when I finally get there, I inhale a few dozen pieces of pineapple while the headmaster Mr. Queen announces how exciting it is that we're all on the court for Jump City Preparatory School's 75th anniversary year. And even though most of us are just sitting there like, "Yeah, sure, whatever, get on with it," he really does seem excited. So we all applaud when he's done to make him feel good. All in all, he's a pretty cool guy.
Then the gifts are presented, tiaras for the princesses to be worn at the dance and the game and pens for the princes. Wally looks at his pen for a moment, then at my tiara. I ask if he'd like to wear it for the day because he has this strangely longing look in his eye, and he grins widely and accepts my offer because he's just like that. I'm hardly sad to see the tiara go, all things considered. I just end up hoping he doesn't lose it, or else Ms. Lance, head of all things homecoming and Mr. Queen's fiancé (although we're supposed to be oblivious to the latter), will probably throttle me.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not exactly immune to Wally's charms. There are a million girls who'd jump him in a second. I'm just one of the many.
Kory asks me where my tiara is, if I had thrown it in my locker or something. I tell her Wally wanted to wear it, and she giggles. She's a Wally fan too. But as soon as she sees Dick pass her on his way to Chemistry, she stops laughing and gives him a sweet smile. He waves back.
Like me, she knows where her loyalties lie.
I get to Latin early, and the classroom is empty except for Gar, who's sitting on top of his desk, drumming on the chair in front of him with his fingers. I nod in greeting and he nods back in time with the beat he's been creating, but as I pass him on the way to my desk, he grabs me and pulls me close to him. Instinctively, I wrap my arms around his torso and sigh. We both know that as long as there's Tara, this is as close as we're getting.
As I pull away to put my bag down, I notice a wide ribbon tied around Gar's wrist. He's been wearing it for a few days now, constantly pulling it lower so it covers his wrist and the base of the back of his hand. I touch the ribbon; ask him why he's wearing it. He says it's because it makes him feel pretty. I shake my head and push the ribbon up his arm so that the top of his wrist is exposed. He tenses at first, then relaxes slowly.
"And because you've been trying to hide your exema," I remark. I know he's sensitive about his skin condition. He nods and gives me a half smile. Calls himself a diseased child as he eyes the raw patch of skin I exposed. Then he pauses and considers me for a moment. Asks me who I would dance with, given the choice: Wally or him. Wally's one of Gar's best friends and Gar is well aware of my moderate fascination with him.
"You," I reply automatically, and when he asks why, I unconsciously touch the scabbed, raw skin around his wrist and say, "Because you're you." He acts like he doesn't get it. But when he puts his other hand over mind, I know he does.
Then Mr. Jordan strolls in, donned in green as usual, followed by a handful of our class just as the bell rings. And the moment is gone.
Kory and I take a full four hours to get ready at her house. We do each other's hair and nails, apply makeup, redo the hair, then opt to skip dinner in favor of slipping on our dresses and shoes. And once Kory's uncle Galfore is done taking a million and one pictures without making a single comment regarding the possibility of dyslexia, we glide out the door and floor it to the dance, because we're already beyond fashionably late. Mostly because I managed to lose my tiara in all the madness of getting ready.
The first person I run into on the dark dance floor is Miriam Delgado. Miri to her friends, not that she has a whole hoard of them. She's already completely trashed, and I have a feeling that she's been that way for a while. As soon as she sees me, she throws herself at me in a messy hug, shouting over the music that I look so hot that if she were a guy, she would fuck me. I thank her and slowly detach myself from her grip. Kory rolls her eyes and moves away quickly. Miri's been after Dick for ages, and even though he and Kory aren't together anymore, she still feels protective over him. Luckily Miri's with some other guy tonight, so she's safe from Kory's wrath.
Karen Beecher grabs me and suddenly I'm dancing with her, even though she's here with Vic. Somehow I don't think he minds all that much.
The homecoming court meets outside the gym where the dance is being held at 9:30. Kole gives me a hug and Wally smiles. I don't bother looking at Fang. I decide I won't deal with him until I absolutely have to. And that's not for another ten minutes.
When Ms. Lance gets us to line up in the order we're going to be presented in, Wally leans back and tells me that Gar's probably not coming to the dance. At least, that's what Gar had told him that morning. I ask him why he thinks I gave a crap, and he doesn't say anything in response. He just gives me a look.
While we're all standing in front of the student body and smiling really big, fake smiles, the King and Queen are announced, seniors Roy Harper and Donna Troy. And then the sappy song starts playing and I have to dance with The Most Disgusting Person Ever, also known as Fang. When I look over at the watching crowd of students, I see Karen and Vic standing together behind a small digital camera, grinning evilly. Without a second thought, I remove my hand from Fang's arm and flip the camera off, smiling in mock-celebration.
On my way out of the gym to get some water after my personal public humiliation, Mr. Mod stops me to chat. Knowing that I can say pretty much anything to him without being judged, I go off about how badly I want to Lysol my hands at the moment, but that would only kill 99.99 of the germs, and what was I supposed to do about the other 0.01, exactly? He knows how much I hate Fang. And as I'm ranting, Cassie Sandsmark stops by to listen in. Cassie was in my English class last year, and when I stop to take an aggravated breath, she gives Mr. Mod a smile and asks if he misses me and my daily dose of sarcasm. He laughs as he answers her.
"Every day, love. Every day."
The dance ends much sooner than I think it will, and Kory convinces me that it's a good idea to go to Duella Dent's after party. So we catch a ride with Vic and Karen, and suddenly I'm lost amidst a sea of people with everything from water to pot. And maybe it wasn't such a good idea to skip dinner, because it only takes about two shots of vodka mixed with some frozen orange juice concentrate I'd found in the refrigerator and half a beer for me to tell a total of eight people, two of which I don't even know, that I want to fuck Gar Logan, who has a girlfriend. And then I get it into my head that I should call Gar up and inform him of this fact, but he doesn't pick up the four times I call.
By the time Kory and I get back to her house, we're completely sober. It's 2:30 in the morning and we're both starving, so Kory wrestles some calzones out from the freezer and bakes them until they're crispy, just the way we like them. So we sit together on the couch, reviewing the night and munching on calzones until we run out of things to say. We fall asleep watching a rerun of House MD.
I wake up to the sound of a buzzing phone. Shaking the sleepiness from my head, I flip open my cell and vaguely greet whoever's on the line. I didn't bother to check.
"How's your head?" Gar asks me, and I tell him that it's actually pretty okay. Apparently Wally told him that I was smashed out of my mind last night. I insist that I wasn't that bad. And then I ask him why he didn't go to homecoming.
He says that he was planning to, but then Tara called and said she wanted to go too. So he drove over to pick her up, except that they had a huge fight as soon as she got in the car and so they sat in front of her house for an hour yelling at each other. Then he told her to get out of her car, and when she wouldn't, he tried to physically remove her. And when he did that…
"I'm sorry, she bit you?" I repeat incredulously, moving away from Kory so she can continue sleeping peacefully.
Gar assures me that she did indeed bite him, and when he finally got her out of the car, it was too late to go to the dance, so he just drove home and got shit faced and woke up in Roy Harper's bathtub. Roy is his neighbor and neither he nor Gar has any idea how Gar got into the house, considering that Roy was at the dance being homecoming King and all the doors were locked.
I tell Gar that it's better than the time he woke up in a tree with his friend Bart Allan in the adjacent bush. He agrees with me.
I give Kory the rundown of my conversation with Gar when she wakes up twenty minutes later. And just like me, she reacts most to the part where Tara bit him.
"In front of her house?" she questions, eyebrows raised. "Don't her parents look out the window and see their daughter biting her boyfriend and think 'What is WRONG with our daughter? God, what a freak'?"
I laugh, because Kory's commentary always makes me feel better about things.
I finally make it home and shower as soon as possible. Feeling much more awake and refreshed, I'm attempting to tackle my homework when my cell phone starts buzzing again. It's Kory, telling me that she thinks she might've hooked up with Dick, except she's not sure, and did I happen to know? I say that I lost track of her somewhere between person number four and person number five of people who were now acutely aware of who I wanted to screw, given that they remember any of last night. Kory groans, now positive that she hooked up with Dick, and as I think about how many times I'd called Gar, which he mercifully neglected to mention, I realize that maybe we had been that bad.
Gar calls again a few hours later; inquires as to whether I'm going to the game. I dryly state that I have to, making my displeasure as obvious as possible without shipping him a neon sign that says MY LIFE SUCKS. He asks whether his presence might cheer me up. I suggest he come and find out for himself. He says he'll try.
Kory and I pick up some fried chicken before the game. I'm truly envious of her because she's in jeans and a Jump City Prep sweatshirt, and I'm wearing a dress. Plus, the tiara on my head is really drawing some weird stares from the people who walk by Kory's car and see us inhaling legs and thighs. One guy just won't look away for a full five minutes, and Kory has to physically hold me back or else she knows I'll bitch him out.
I don't deal with staring very well. Especially when I'm wearing a tiara, for God's sake
In theory, I'm supposed to be sitting in the specific "Homecoming Court Section" of the bleachers, but Kole and Wally aren't here yet and Kory convinces me to make a very long bathroom run. And while we're buying chips to snack on at the concession stand that some students have set up, I see Gar enter the field.
And next to him is Tara.
It's a known fact that Tara hates every fiber of my being. Her stated reason is that I'm too much of a social outcast to be hung out with, but no one really believes her. So I'm not surprised when Gar and she pass me without so much as minimal eye contact from the former. She, on the other hand, definitely gives me a full-on death glare as Gar stops to purchase a burger. At this outward display of animosity, I jab Kory in the ribs and suggest we relocate. She agrees, and we quickly slink away.
In retrospect, I think I should have winked at Tara. Just to add fuel to the fire.
For the second time in two nights, I'm paraded out in front of a number of people for absolutely no good reason whatsoever with a smile plastered rigidly on my face. I'm afraid that if I keep this up, my muscles might freeze this way. And from my place on the field, shrinking away from the Thing Named Fang at my side, I can see Kory snapping photos of me, Mr. Mod discussing something with Gar, who was also in my English class last year, and Tara with her head on Gar's shoulder.
I keep smiling, because when you're a homecoming princess appearance means everything.
I take the long way to get back up into the bleachers in order to ditch Fang, now free to sit wherever I want. And as I'm walking up the stairs, I pass Tara and Gar walking down the stairs, one before the other respectively. I choose not to look at Tara, because I'm probably already pushing my luck by breathing the air within three feet of her. But I do allow myself to shoot a quick glance at Gar, who is actually gazing back at me with an aggravated expression on his face. And now that he knows I'm looking, he makes a gun out of his fingers, puts it up to his temple, and mock-kills himself.
I don't know if I completely believe his gesture, but I manage to pat him on the back without Tara seeing before continuing up the stairs towards Kory. And perhaps I'm being self absorbed, but part of me kind of believes that he just came to the game to see me.
I'm home twenty minutes later, having had no intention of staying at the game longer than absolutely necessary, enjoying the thought of finally being free from all homecoming princess duties when my phone buzzes. And while I'm wondering why I never put my cell on ring anymore despite my truly kickass Red Hot Chili Peppers ringtone, I actually bother to check the Caller ID.
It says Gar.
I brace myself and flip open the phone. We get past the standard greetings, and then he asks me if I'm still at the game. I tell him no, that I left as soon as I possibly could. He expresses his regret, saying that he was planning to drive back to see me after he'd dropped Tara off at her house. I mention that they looked rather cozy on the bleachers, and I can almost see him shaking his head and rolling his eyes as he goes on about how she forced him to bring her.
And I don't quite know if I believe him now any more than I believed him when he pointed the finger-gun to his head, so I finally let him have it. I mean an all-out lecture on how he's obviously miserable and needs to please just dump her so that he can move on with his life. I make it clear that everyone – his friends, my friends, people he doesn't even talk to – is with me on this.
He says he'll think about it.
So we kind of carry the rest of the conversation on idle comments regarding the events that went on the night of the homecoming dance, piecing together what he had heard and what I knew happened. And when we finally run out of things to say, we just kind of don't say anything at all. But it's a comfortable silence, and I don't think either of us really minds it. Then suddenly he's speaking again, and it takes me a full minute to actually comprehend his words.
"You looked beautiful tonight, by the way. Like, really beautiful."
I've always heard that when a guy calls you beautiful, it's radically different from when he calls you hot or cute, and it's a pretty powerful thing. I never believed it. But then Gar goes and says it, and my entire world seems to freeze. I manage a thank you, but his words just keep playing over and over again in my head. It's the only think I can think about for the rest of the night.
The following Monday, I'm sorting out my books by my locker when Kory comes up to me with two cups of tea, one in each hand, grinning widely and announcing that she and Dick are officially back together as an indirect result of the questionable after party hookup. And after I've gratefully accepted a cup, taken a few sips, and congratulated her, she asks me what the best part of the whole homecoming princess experience had been. I tell her the pineapple I ate at the Mother's Club Breakfast was probably Princess Time at its peak.
And even though I haven't told her about last night's talk with Gar, I think she knows I'm lying.
It seems that this is turning into something of a tradition. Maybe it's because something crazy (in a chick-drama kind of way) always happens to me during the Homecoming season. This year it was being crowned Homecoming princess. I have no idea how I got myself into that, but whatever. My latest annual installment of Raven's Angsty Homecoming Goodness (featuring a new love interest this year! Such is the way of high school. Not that these oneshots are supposed to be in any kind of continuity) is here for you now, and that's all that really matters. Oh, and for the record, I based this Tara Markov much more on the "I HATE EVERYONE, I'M SO ANGRY AT LIFE" comic book Terra rather than the Terra from the cartoon. I really don't hate Terra. I promise. Don't set fire to my living room. Another random little note: there are a lot of fragments in this piece. I was kind of utilizing artistic license in this situation, because this is supposed to be more like collected random thoughts than a polished piece. And as everyone knows, thoughts are hardly always in complete sentences.
Y'know what the REALLY sad thing is? Like Lysol, 99.99 percent of this story is true. I mostly just changed names and kept my experiences the same. Although that may have skewed the characterization of Raven throughout narration because of personal influence, I kind of like the end product.
BONUS: Throughout the chapter I made exactly 29 DC (mostly Teen Titan) comic book and Teen Titans cartoon character references. See if you can get them all!