rites of passage by phoenix.writing

4 Jul

Andrew listened to one half of a conversation as his daughter answered the phone with evident anxiety.

“No, no, it’s fine….  Of course it’s all right….  No, you don’t need to do that….  Okay, okay…. Yeah, I’ll see you later.”

She hung up the phone, and Andrew watched as she squared her shoulders and then turned to face her dad.

She didn’t actually speak, but her face got the look that her mom’s always had right before she burst into tears.

He didn’t even try to stop her when she rushed past him.  He’d give her a few minutes to calm down, then try to do damage control.

He was a guy; he imagined that he couldn’t understand all the nuances of what had just happened, but he knew that this was her prom and that she had just been stood up.

Andrew sighed.

She was seventeen.  That was too young for someone to be breaking his baby girl’s heart.


There were many things that Liam liked about his life.  He liked being smart. He liked the freedom that came with the fact that he was only seventeen but didn’t have to worry about figuring out what he wanted to do with his life.

But there were some things that he didn’t like.  He didn’t like the isolation. Maybe no one else thought it was worth trying when it was him; he certainly didn’t think there was any point expending such effort when the people in question were complete idiots.

But every once in a while, there were people who were worth it, and sometimes, Liam hated all this responsibility and hated the fact that he couldn’t live a normal life.

He also hated hypocrisy; he was always telling everyone that normal was overrated.  Did he say that just because he had no choice or did he really believe it?

He found that it was much harder to believe that normal wasn’t great when being abnormal meant that he was going to lose the one most important person who had really made an effort with him.

But it was kind of impossible to refuse to help the Acronym Who Preferred to Remain Anonymous when they needed to stop a computer virus that could cause widespread international havoc.

It was all very logical.  Liam had always liked logic because it had straightforward, correct answers. But even he knew that logic wasn’t enough for this one, even he could tell that Alexandra had said the words but hadn’t meant them.  He had known that there was a part of her just waiting for him to show up at her door and prove that she was that important to him.

It didn’t help that she knew that he hadn’t really wanted to go to prom anyway.  He didn’t fit into that setting, was delighted that he was finally finished high school and could move on to better and brighter things, could start living up to his full potential in ways that even extra tutors and special classes and occasional time with international organisations wasn’t really helping.

He knew that she sometimes felt that leaving all the crap behind meant leaving her behind, too, and this was supposed to be his opportunity to prove that that wasn’t the case.

Damn cyberterrorists who had no respect for other people’s schedules.

Liam had spent the night doing what he excelled at, but he couldn’t seem to shake the image of Alexandra dancing with all the guys who thought she was crazy for agreeing to go to prom with Liam, never mind actually dating him.

He couldn’t help feeling that he’d just proved them right, and it didn’t matter how fast he could hack an international bank.

Still, he’d messed it up, so all that mattered now was that Alexandra enjoy herself.  That’s why he’d insisted that the limo still pick her up.

No point in making the evening a complete waste for everyone.

It was almost two in the morning when he got home.  He’d changed out of his tuxedo before he left, not wanting any awkward questions and hardly comfortable in the ridiculous outfit.

Alexandra was never going to speak to him again and had probably hooked up with someone handsome and … athletic or popular.  Someone normal.

It came as some surprise, therefore, when Liam flipped on the light in his bedroom and found a woman in a fancy dress in his bed.


If he’d had any sense, he would have let her sleep, but his voice woke her, and she sat up hurriedly.

“Did I fall asleep?  Sorry.”

He felt unusually wrong-footed and certain that he should be able to cope with this, but he hadn’t ever come home and found a girl in his bed before.

“What are you doing here?”

His surprise made the question come out more harshly than he’d meant it, and she rose hurriedly to her feet.

“I didn’t think you’d be back quite this late.  I’ll go.”

Liam realised that he was an idiot. He stopped her with a hand on her arm. She turned back towards him, and he could see that the colour of her dress perfectly matched the blue of her eyes.

“I thought you’d still be out,” he admitted quietly.

“You asked me to prom.  You’re the reason I said yes. What use would going without you be?”

“You’ve been waiting here for hours. You didn’t get to wear the dress out.  It doesn’t make sense.”

She shook her head, looking a little bit exasperated and slightly pitying–an emotion that Liam hated, only it was clear that he’d missed the obvious on this one.

“I love the dress,” she admitted.  “I got the dress to wear out because I thought I looked good in it, but the person I wanted to see me wearing it is standing in the room with me right now.  I’d rather be here with you than have danced the whole night away with other people I don’t care for.”

He was hearing the words, but he wasn’t altogether certain that he understood them.

She tried again.  “All I need for prom is you, me, a pretty dress, and dancing.”

“We aren’t dancing.”

He regretting the words as soon as they were out of his mouth; he was frequently accused of being too literal.

But Alexandra just held out a hand, and Liam acknowledged that arguing that there wasn’t any music was not the appropriate response.

Instead, he took her hand and tugged her closer.  She came into his arms willingly, and he found that it wasn’t so difficult to dance without music after all–perhaps because she had spent so long teaching him as they prepared for prom.

She had insisted that it was a useful life skill.  He hadn’t really believed her, but he also hadn’t minded the opportunity to stay so close.

It looked as though she was right, again, and he had never been more relieved.

She had chosen to wait for him.

He leaned close to her ear.

“The dress is perfect, and you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

She beamed at him, her grin absolutely brilliant, lighting up her eyes until they shone.

“Kiss me.”

It was hard to ignore a directive like that, and as Liam leaned in to kiss Alexandra, he reflected that perhaps being abnormal really was a good thing after all.


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