I'd just finished combing our daughter Cherry's hair, parting her hair on her left side, and now I stood back from her, hands on her shoulders. "You make a handsome, elegant picture," I told Cherry, with all the pride of a father. My wife, Brianna, was making the finishing touches on her hair, tucking it under to give it a light androgynous impression.
"She's truly all grown up now," added Brianna, tears in her eyes. Indeed she was, and she would be off to Pacific Tech in the fall, almost before we knew it.
Cherry's cheeks turned faintly red. "Aw, Momma, Daddy, I'll always be your daughter."
Brianna and Cherry had done the lion's share of the work dressing up and preparing Cherry for the Prom. It was all way too complicated for me, although I did contribute a little, helping here and there, reserving the corsage, and taking Cherry to pick out and be fitted for her tuxedo.
Brianna had both feared and anticipated this time, a milestone in the life of her precious baby daughter. Meanwhile, I'd also noticed that our son Liam, a sophomore and two and a half years younger than Cherry, was also growing up.
"If she's happy with whoever she chooses," I'd told Brianna once. "You'll be happy for her. Right? I'm sure I will. I hope," I'd added as a soft afterthought, mostly to myself.
Nevertheless, we were both surprised when Cherry announced that she would attend the Senior Prom in the man's role. I recovered first; when we were alone, I reminded Brianna that if Cherry was happy then we were happy.
We were going to meet Cherry's date at her house, to do the photographing and the other standard pre-Prom bits. Brianna and I would meet her lady friend for the first time, and a rental limousine would be ready to take them to the Prom. Hopefully, the standard interrogation by her parents would be limited.
"Well, shall we go now?" I asked nobody in particular.
"No, not yet. I want to get a few pictures in," answered Brianna. So we had to do the photography thing here at home as well. Aware of this evening's events, I'd remained in my work outfit. Brianna got in a few pictures of Cherry and me, arms around each other. "You two make a cute couple."
"Ew, Momma." Cherry pulled away. "That's Daddy there!" as if Brianna had forgotten.
"Oh, I know," said Brianna. "Makes it all the more adorable!" She sighed. "Too bad Liam wouldn't be here for this once-in-a-lifetime event."
I agreed. "'Tis indeed a pity." He simply had to be off doing who-knows-what with his pals.
After a few more pictures of Cherry and Brianna, Cherry and me, and Cherry by herself, Brianna announced that it was time to go and meet Cherry's lady friend. I retrieved the box with the corsage from the refrigerator, and handed it to Cherry.
It was only a couple blocks walk. I admit, I couldn't help being nervous about the visit, and Cherry looked nervous as well. I kept wondering what could go wrong.
At the front door, Cherry met each of our eyes, and rang.
A young lady answered the door, a pretty girl a year or two younger than Cherry, nicely dressed in a skirt and blouse, not dressed for the Prom of course; she wasn't Cherry's date. I couldn't help checking her out, as surreptitiously as possible. "Hey, Cherry!" She quickly embraced her, then turned to us. "Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Please come in. I'm Melda." We followed her into the living room.
"Mom, Dad! They're here!" called out Melda. She turned back to us, as her parents entered. "Leigh'll be down in a few minutes. She's not my sister, by the way. Her parents were unable to prepare her for the Prom, so we took on the job." Well, that wasn't nice of her parents! I glanced at Brianna, meeting her eye, getting the identical sentiment from her.
Sure enough, the interrogation began. Melda's mother said, "I have to admit to the strangeness of the situation."
"Yes, indeed," answered Brianna. "It is strange. I only hope that nobody reacts badly to Cherry and Leigh together."
"Only a decade or so ago," I added, "Many people would have reacted badly to something that -- let's face it -- is none of their business. When we first heard about this, we had to remind ourselves that if Cherry's happy, we're happy. Right Brianna?"
The conversation drifted around to different topics, including Cherry's plans for school -- Pacific Tech, of course. Things ended when Melda announced, "Leigh's coming!"
We turned as one toward the stairs. Atop appeared a vision of loveliness yet simplicity totally appropriate for the Senior Prom. Leigh wore a sky-blue sleeveless, ankle-length gown, along with tights and high heels. Her long hair draped over the front of her shoulders.
Two friends escorted her, a young lady to her right, and a young man to her left. She slowly descended the stairs, holding the front of her gown up to help her step forward and down.
Cherry went forward. "Hello, Leigh." She presented Leigh with the yellow corsage, wrapping it around her left wrist. "This is lovely," said Leigh, in a soft, shy voice.
As Leigh embraced Cherry, she looked over at us, and I caught her eye. I managed to limit my reaction to widening my eyes momentarily, as I realized the extent of the strangeness at hand. If Brianna noticed, she gave no indication.
Again, we went through the process of having taking photographs, mostly of Cherry and Leigh together, but also of everyone with everyone else in various combinations. Of the two friends besides Melda, the girl was Wanda and the boy was Espen. My suspicions aroused, I recognized Melda as a boy proficiently posing as a girl, but wasn't sure about Wanda. I was pretty sure that Espen was a genuine boy.
But as we photographed and videoed Cherry and Leigh escorting each other to the waiting limousine, nothing weirded me out as much as my daughter and son reversing roles and going with each other to the Senior Prom.
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