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I smiled. “We do have that, don’t we? But we don’t have a fashionable event to attend, so I guess we’re out of luck. Do you want to work on a few samples of our final project? You can play as I paint and—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. You can’t just change the subject because we do have a fashionable event to attend.”

“And that is?”

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and held it my way. “Aria Watson, will you go to winter formal with me this Saturday night?”

I chuckled. “Seriously?”

He nodded.

“No way. My mom would never let me go. Plus, there’s that whole six months pregnant thing I have going on.”

“You don’t worry about that. You just have a dress ready and your dancing shoes on. I’ll deal with your mom.”

* * *

Levi asked Mom on Tuesday if he could take me to the dance. She said no.

He asked on Wednesday. She said no.

Thursday before my therapy appointment—no.


When Saturday night arrived, I figured Levi had given up on the idea of me going to winter formal with him. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try on every dress in my closet, but most of them didn’t fit anymore anyway.

Maybe that was for the best.

I watched Mike and his date Jamie get ready with James and Nadine before they all headed off to the dance that I wasn’t allowed to attend.

It wasn’t fair.

Thirty minutes after the dance started, there was knocking on the front door.

Peeking around the corner, I saw Mom opening the door. Levi was standing there giving her that charming smile that made everyone in the whole wide world fall in love with him.

“Hello, Mrs. Watson. First and foremost, these are for you,” Levi said, handing flowers to Mom. My heart started beating faster and faster.

“Thank you, Levi, but I think the answer is still the same. We think it’s best that Aria doesn’t attend the winter formal tonight.”

She said ‘we’ like Dad was a part of the decision when really, he didn’t even know there was a dance.

“I know, but if I may?” He gestured toward the foyer, and Mom let him step inside.

She shouldn’t have done that. Once Levi entered someone’s house—or heart—there was no way to ever get rid of him.

He was wearing a black tuxedo with a polka dot green and white bowtie. He cleared his throat and stood tall, giving Mom that dangerous smile. “I want to take her to the dance. I understand why she wouldn’t want to go. I get why you wouldn’t want her to go. Her life is going to change within the next few months. Nothing is going to be the same, everything is going to be different, and you fear that all of the changes are going to be too much for her. Plus, the idea of me in her life is just another stressful thing added to the equation. Trust me, I’ve been trying to leave her alone for the past few months, but she’s ruthless at getting my attention. I get that you worry about what others will say about her ever-growing stomach and how she’ll be judged and criticized by other kids. Any good parent would worry about such things and any loving parent would want to keep their kid from that.

“But I want you to know that I’ll protect her. I’ll make her forget that there is anyone else in the room. I’ll make her feel comfortable and beautiful because her beauty is comforting to me. I’ll dance slow and not too often so she’s not on her feet all evening. I’ll make her laugh at really corny math jokes and give her really watered down punch.”

Mom placed her thumb in between her lips. She was probably debating if she should shove him back outside and double bolt the locks, or if she should drag me to my room and put me in a dress.

“Levi, you have to understand. Aria isn’t in a place where she should be dating. It’s actually the last thing she should be doing.”

He nodded. He frowned. He looked past my mom and saw me hiding behind the corner. He gave me a half smile.

I gave him the other half.

His eyes traveled back to Mom. “You think I want to date Aria? God, no. There’s nothing about your daughter that I want to date. She’s cool and all, but by all means, she has officially been friend-zoned in my book.”

“I think we both know that’s a lie.” Mom sighed, crossing her arms.

“No, Mrs. Watson, it’s not. You see, there are girls and then there’s Aria. Aria is the kind of girl who you go to the music store with and listen to destroy the sounds of music. She’s the kind of girl you talk to about your views on realism compared to impressionism. She’s the girl who tells you that abstract art is the best art, even though you fight her tooth and nail about it because you think it’s meaningless, but the next thing you know you’re sitting in a library staring at books filled with pictures of abstract artwork and your heart feels ready to explode.”

Levi turned to me as I stepped out from behind the corner. Our eyes locked, and he kept speaking. “Because you get it, you know? You get that the colors and the lines and the curves aren’t trying to be like everything else in the world. You understand that the abstract art is standing out against the norm because it’s the only way abstract art knows how to stand. And you get so fucking happy because it’s so beautiful. And unique. And edgy. And…abstract.”

The room filled with silence as the three of us stood with no words coming to our minds. Levi adjusted his bowtie, turned back to Mom, and cleared his throat. “So, if it’s okay, I would like to take your abstract masterpiece to the dance tonight. Friends only.”