Ari wasn’t sure when his feelings for Marisol Milito began to change. Maybe it was the moment he watched her scold his foster mother, Mrs. Bock. Maybe it was when she came to Mrs. Bock’s funeral, and instead of pretending to be sad and morose like everyone else, she showed him a funny YouTube video on her cell phone to cheer him up. Maybe it was when he went to her house for a party, and she played his favorite song on the bass, then danced with him three times in a row. All he knew was that whenever he saw Marisol at school, whenever she looked his way and smiled, his heart did wild back flips.
He made up his mind to ask her to the Senior Prom. But he was so nervous, that he kept putting it off. He wanted Marisol to think that he was really smart and attractive, so he read her favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird, and spent hours at the gym, working out. He had a part-time job at the supermarket to pay the bills, but he asked for extra hours so that he could afford to take a girl as rich as Marisol out to the prom.
But it was not to be. One night, Ari went to the house of one of his classmates, a guy named Steven Hsu, for a Christmas party. To his surprise, he spotted Marisol through one of the windows. Hiding in the bushes, Ari saw Marisol and Steven flirting with each other. When Steven leaned over and began to kiss Marisol, Ari felt the blood drain from his head. He backed away from the window and ran all the way home. Marisol and Steven Hsu? He couldn’t believe it! Then again, maybe he could. Steven Hsu was super popular, and a pitcher for the Varsity Baseball team.
In his bitter disappointment, Ari turned to his old friend, Isabelle Shores. “Well, I’m already going to the prom with my boyfriend,” she told him, “but if it makes you feel better, you can stay the night here at my house. You shouldn’t be alone when you’re so sad.” Ari agreed to stay the night. But he was shocked when Isabelle took off her clothes and began to pull him toward her bed.
“Look, Isabelle,” he said, taking a step back. “Yes, you’re pretty, and sexy, and everything, and a great friend. But this just doesn’t seem right. I mean, you have a boyfriend.”
“So?” Isabelle shrugged. “I’ve had sex with plenty of guys who aren’t my boyfriend.”
“Plenty of guys?” Ari gaped at her. Isabelle was only seventeen years old! How many guys had she been with? Where was the kind, innocent girl he used to know? Just then, to Ari’s relief, the doorbell rang. It was Isabelle’s boyfriend. Ari ducked out of sight, and while Isabelle and her boyfriend did—well, whatever they did, Ari fell asleep in the guest room.
The next morning, Ari slipped out and took the subway home. When he arrived, he found a little garden snake near his mailbox. Ari scooped up the snake and headed to the little park across the street. While he was looking for a good spot to release the snake, he ran into a girl he recognized from school – it was Steven Hsu’s sister, Heather.
“Oh look, what a sweet snake!” she said. “Is it your pet?”
“Uh – yeah.” Ari looked down at the snake. He could probably keep it as a pet. “I call her Eve.”
Heather giggled. She and Ari talked for a while. “Well, it’s getting pretty cold. I should go,” Heather finally said.
“Hey!” Ari had a sudden idea. “Will you go to the prom with me?”
Heather’s eyes widened. “Sure!” she said, smiling at Ari. “I’d love to.” Ari sighed with relief. Then, on a sudden crazy impulse that even he could not explain, he grabbed Heather and kissed her, right on the mouth. “Wow!” Heather’s eyes were even wider when they pulled apart. “Um – does that mean you want to be my boyfriend, too?”
Ari hesitated. He didn’t know anything about Heather Hsu. But because he was feeling rather reckless at the moment, he shrugged his shoulders. “Sure, why not?” he said. Heather shrieked, then leaned over to kiss Ari again. Then his new girlfriend waved goodbye to Ari and his pet snake, Eve.