"Here we are!" Christian led his little car into the driveway where about four other cars were parked and girls dressed like princesses frolicked about with their prince's in hand. As I looked out the window I spotted my best friend and Christian's girlfriend, Chelsea, waving excitedly from the shady strip of the driveway. This was the day she had been counting down for, prom night. We were still juniors, but we had senior dates, mine being just a friend that I had met in guitar class last year. "Let's go take some pictures." Jake, my date, handed me my shawl that he had been holding for me and stepped out to help me. For being just friends, he was acting overly friendly.
I didn't know she was going to be there either. In fact, half the people there I had no clue was coming with us. How were we going to fit all twelve of us in the limo? Christian came up behind us and grabbed Chelsea around the waist, an innocent gesture of youthful love I desperately missed, not being emotionally "over" my last boyfriend yet. Natalie pulled me aside, away from the others. "So are you two getting a hotel room after prom too?"
Shocked by what I heard, I stared at her, unsure of how to answer. "What?"
Natalie rolled her eyes and placed both hands on her hips. "Alex and I are, even though I'm not sure I like him like that. But I guess I'll find out tonight, won't I?" She offered me a wink but again, I wasn't sure how to respond.
"Jake and I are just friends," I answered. "Besides that, I'm saving sex for marriage."
"Does he know that?"
"He should," I sighed. What had I gotten myself into? "If not he's going to find out if he tries anything."
Natalie rolled her eyes again in that annoying way she has perfected. "Oh, Lea, c'mon, it's prom! You're allowed to let loose every now and then, you know."
"Not that loose," I muttered under my breath, annoyed that someone would even try to pressure me into sleeping with my friend.
Looking back on that night now, I can't believe what I didn't see coming. I never thought I would be stuck in a situation where I was honestly and totally helpless. I never thought I'd be hanging out with the type of kids I've been warned about my entire life and have no control over where I would go. I've done a little biblical research to calm the tears that put me to sleep once I got home that night. Here's what the bible says about situations like this:
Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will."
The limo driver opened the door and helped Jessica out first since she was by the door (and sitting on her boyfriend's lap). I took the limo driver's hand as he helped me out and clumsily stood. Jake continued holding my shawl for me as we all entered Sakura's and checked our things in for them to hold. We all took our seats at the sixteen-chair table and ordered as the chef began cooking right in front of us. "Excuse me," Jake mumbled and left for the bathroom with Alex and AJ.
"What're they doing?" I asked Chelsea and Christian.
Christian folded his napkin and set it by his plate as he stood and pushed in his chair. "I don't know, but I'll go find out."
Chelsea looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. "Lea, Chelsea," Sarah whispered in our direction and gestured for us to come to her side of the table. "Ok, Lea," she said in a low voice, "Are you ok with Jake making moves on you?"
"Making moves on me?"
"Yeah, are you ok with that?"
"Um." Of course not! "Like dancing with me and stuff?"
"Like kissing you."
I froze. "No, not happening."
"Ok, then I'll tell AJ to tell Jake to lay off."
Chelsea and I left for the bathroom.
"I told you he likes you," Chelsea laughed and touched up her lipstick while I nervously rearranged my purse.
"I knew he did, it's not like it wasn't obvious. I just thought he'd accepted the fact that nothing was ever going to happen between us."
"Apparently not," Chelsea turned to look at me. "If you're uncomfortable we could always leave. I sort of am."
I shook my head. "Jake's still my friend and I still want him to have a good time. AJ's telling him to not 'make any moves on me' so hopefully he'll listen. Do you want to leave?"
"Not just yet, but I have a feeling we're really in for it tonight."
"What do you mean?"
Natalie chose that moment to stroll into the bathroom. "There you two are! What're you doing?"
"Just talking." Chelsea zipped up her purse and made her way to the door, stopping to wait for me.
Natalie grabbed my arm. "Just FYI, Alex is giving Jake 'advice,' if you know what I mean."
What was happening? What happened to the sheltered world I had once lived in with no fear of every being caught in uncomfortable or tough situations like this? Why was one of my "friends" receiving tips on how to sleep with me? Prom wasn't supposed to be like this, I thought I was going out with his friends for dinner and dancing and then going home while looking pretty and riding in a limo... what happened to that? Anger burned inside me. "Well tell him to knock it off. Nothing's going to happen." I spoke through gritted teeth.
Again, Natalie rolled her eyes. "I know, Jake's telling him to cut it out but Alex is stubborn. He thinks the only way Jake will have a good time is if he gets with you."
"Jake's ignoring him?"
"Yeah, you guys coming back out?"
I breathed a sigh of relief. Jake liked me, but he wasn't going to pressure me into having sex with him. I knew I could trust him to do the right thing. "In a sec."
Natalie exited the bathroom. Chelsea turned bright red and glanced at me. "At least Jake isn't giving in."
I nodded and took a look at my reflection. I felt proud. I looked pretty, but innocent. All the other girls were wearing cleavage-revealing, butt-cheek short, skin-tight dresses that covered as little as they could get away with. My dress was floor length, beautiful, and showed nothing except for a little back that was always covered by my shawl when I wasn't sitting. I was overwhelmed with pride, but also encouragement. I felt God smiling down on me. And anything I was about to be put through and have to resist that night was totally worth that smile. Chelsea put two comforting hands on my shoulders and gave them an encouraging squeeze.
1 Corinthians 10:13 "No Temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Actual prom was no better. In fact, it was worse. After checking our bags and coats in again, Jake, Christian, Chelsea, and I got in line for pictures where we all danced and actually had a good time while we were waiting. But after we had taken the pictures, Chelsea and Christian left to dance while Jake led me through the room to introduce me to some of his other friends. And after what I had experienced so far, I wasn't in the mood for meeting anyone else like the people I had just been with. Luckily, the only thing that happened was one of them pulling me into a hug. So Jake and I left to find Chels and Christian again. When an upbeat song came on, Alex pulled me aside. "What's the story with you two?'
"Me and Jake?"
"Yeah, what's going on with you guys?"
I could barely hear him, I had to strain my ears to understand what he was asking. "We're just friends."
"So why aren't you dancing?"
"I am dancing."
"No, dancing like," he demonstrated a grinding motion in the air.
Again, how could this be happening to me? "You call that dancing?"
He dismissed me with a wave. "Whatever."
He called me something as he turned away, but I didn't catch what it was over the loud music. Fighting my way through the crowd, I found Jake and asked if we could get some water. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine." Liar.
James 4:4-8 "You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Romans 12:9-21 "Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good... Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need... Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position... Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
"You guys want to go to the waterfront?" AJ suggested as everyone piled back into the limo, trying to arrange ourselves to fit comfortably.
"Yeah!" There wasn't a single objection. I breathed easily for once. Under the stars with my friends listening to the waves, what could go wrong? The driver took us to the waterfront and occupied plenty of parking spaces, but no one else was there.
Alex tugged on Natalie's dress. "Hey," he whispered, "let's go skinny dipping."
I felt sick.
The other eleven broke out the cigars and alcohol as they undressed. "Can we go for a walk?" I asked Christian, Chelsea, and Jake. They looked as stunned as I was and unsure of what to do.
"That's a good idea." Christian said as he began to guide Chelsea in the opposite direction of the skinny dippers. Jake led me away.
I don't think I need to explain how I felt or what it was like driving back to the house with everyone soaking wet and sitting on each other's laps making out again. I also don't think it's necessary for me to explain how difficult it was to tell my parents what had happened when I finally got home at 1:00 am even though I resisted everything. Nothing surprised them. They weren't shocked with how the other kids acted, and they weren't shocked by how Christian, Chels, Jake and I had handled it.
I quoted my favorite bible verse Jeremiah 29:11 over and over to myself that night while the tears sped down my face as I tried to fall asleep. " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' " God made me experience what I did for a reason, even though the purpose is not clear, it is clear that something good is going to come out of it. Maybe the four of us who didn't do anything wrong "planted a seed" for the others. Maybe God would reward us for not giving in. Maybe we had passed a test. When I finally woke up, a sense of comfort and peace had overcome me and I no longer felt like crying. Instead, I felt strong. And like "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13).
Photograph Property of Lilies Among Thorns Magazine. Photograph taken by Tara Willinger.