“Never Grow Up” by Jenna Kauffman

   “Striped? Or not striped?”

   “Is that even a question?”

   “Paige,” Wes exclaimed, exasperated. “Please.”

   “Wesley,” Paige stated, using his full name and giving him a look. “Why?”

   “This is important to me,” Wes stated. “You know that.”

   “Obviously not striped,” Paige finally answered. “Who wears a striped tie to a dance? Besides chaperones? Unless you’ve changed perspective. Or unless your date’s wearing a polka-dotted dress, then by all means clash-”

   Wes just sighed and ignored his friend’s rambling, but picked up the plain tie.

   “I don’t get why you’re not going,” Wes commented, struggling to tie the tie himself. “I realize I might be a bit cliché with stating this, but it’s not just a dance, it’s prom. And even though I’m a guy… it’s just something you want to remember about high school, isn’t it? To forget all the shitty moments?”

   “Eh, I’ll be fine,” Paige said, finally getting up from sitting on her best friend’s bed to help the hopeless teenager tie his tie. A task she had learned from helping her father numerous times due to the fact that he was a business man and always had to dress ‘Business-Professional.’ “Besides, the last season of Friends is calling my name.”

   “You’ve seen it at least a hundred times,” Wes exaggerated, although, if the two friends were being honest, he probably wasn’t too far off from the precise number of times. “But I get it, I guess. Just remember I tried asking-”

   “And I denied, I’m totally aware,” Paige finished. “Now go have fun. Who knows, maybe something unexpected will happen tonight.”

   Wes didn’t realize how accurate Paige was going to be.

***

   Wes and Paige had been best friends for as long as Wes could remember. It honestly scared him how he couldn’t remember how or when he had first met her; he had even asked his mother and his mother reassured that the two juveniles met when they were really young, via their mothers. But something about that answer didn’t sit well with Wes, mainly because, well, his mother and Paige’s were complete opposites.

   Paige’s mother left her husband and daughter the year Wes and Paige both turned five. What Wes did remember and know from the few photos Paige had of her mother, was that Paige definitely had her hair and eyes. That was where the similarities ended, or at least that was what Wes thought. Paige was definitely more grounded and, in comparison to his own mother, Paige’s mother seemed reckless whereas Wes’s cared that every little thing went right. How did two women with such different senses of maturity get along? Let alone, enough so to get their kids together for a play date?

   Paige had to rely on her father for the most part growing up, but she needed a female figure in her life, she relied on Wes’s mother. And in Wes’s point of view, that seemed to work out just fine. There was never any complaint or question that Paige wasn’t as happy as she could be given her difficult familial circumstances.

   But as life would have it, Wes was wrong.

***

   It  took him a minute, but an hour into the dance, Wes simply glanced toward the door and did a double-take and noticed someone else had walked into the ballroom of the hotel the dance was being held in. That certain someone, just happened to be Paige.

   Her dress was a light periwinkle and honestly looked like something out of a fairytale, as cliché as that probably sounded. There was no other way to describe it. He noticed Paige smile lightly as she looked around the room, and smirked when her eyes fell on his. Wes nodded towards her, and excused himself from his date, who didn’t mind as she went to get a glass of punch (NOT spiked, we’re not gonna get too high-school cliché here).

   “You actually showed up,” Wes stated once he was finally in front of Paige. She looked at him, almost shyly. “You look great.”

   “Thanks Wes-ticle,” she slyly said, making him glare at her for a moment for the embarassing nickname. “I figured I would see what it’s all about. You know, since it’s supposed to be one of those things I’m supposed to look back on for the rest of my life.” Wes couldn’t tell whether she was being sincere or not. “Kind of a last minute decision.”

   “I’m sure you found that dress at the store right after we parted earlier,” he said sarcastically, not buying it. Paige just shrugged. “But regardless, now that you’re here, the real party can begin.”

   Paige just laughed as Wes drug her out onto the dance floor. Before everything was silenced between them, and the two lost themselves in the music, Paige stated, “Here’s to the normality, for one of the last times.”

   Wes had no idea what she meant by that, but decided not to question it, especially when at that exact moment, the DJ decided to turn the music up, blocking out any possible conversation.

***

   When graduation came around, Wes saw Paige briefly before the ceremony and during. But afterwards, when he went to catch up with her, he couldn’t find her anywhere.

   “Paige?” he yelled, looking around, when all of a sudden, the girl he had taken to prom, Roxy, showed up in front of him and gave him a hug in congrats. He smiled at her, momentarily distracted, but for just enough time to not see Paige stealthily sneak out of the high school’s auditorium.

***

   Wes never saw Paige again after that. He asked his mother if she had heard from her, but to no avail. In fact, when he asked his mother again a week after graduation, it was almost as if Paige was a distant memory for her. To say Wes was confused would be an understatement.

   It wasn’t until after Wes graduated college that he got the note. The note that made absolutely no sense but complete sense all the same.

   The story had been that Paige moved the west coast with her father in order to try and track down her mother. Why they would have waited so long, Wes did not understand, so he never believed the story.

   And somehow, Paige knew he wouldn’t. But that didn’t mean he ever found out what happened to her. He simply had clarification on why she had ran away.

   On his desk his fourth day into, at the social services agency he now worked for, was a note that simply stated the following:

   “Never grow up. It’s a trap.

   And even though the note wasn’t signed, Wes somehow knew it was from Paige.

Posted on May 5, 2016, in Short Stories Spring 2016 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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