Billy Mann scanned books into the system while his mind drifted off into outer space. “The second chance college prom,” he thought to himself. “If you couldn’t get it right the first time, you won’t get it right the second time.” He repeated this mantra over and over in his mind while paying minimal attention to the students checking out books at the counter. Loud conversations rarely carried on in quaint libraries like this one.
The loud snapping of fingers, however, was enough to jolt Billy awake like a fire underneath his ass. He adjusted his thick rimmed glasses and saw the image of a lovely Mexican student in front of him, donning a black dress with floral designs and flipping her raven black hair around with a ruby red smile on her face. “Wakey, wakey! Eggs and bacey! Rise and shine! It’s breakfast time!” she giggled.
“Sorry about that, ma’am. Here, let me scan that book for you,” said Billy while fluffing his black hair and adjusting his checkered wool vest. “Can I have your name, please?”
“Man, you really are out of it today, aren’t you? What are you doing, thinking about your girlfriend?” said the lady with her elbows on the counter and her face in her manicured hands.
Billy just now realized the student’s library card was tucked in the pages like a bookmark. He shook himself awake yet again before reading the name on the card, which was Mia Rodriguez. “My apologies, Miss Rodriguez,” said Billy while scanning her items.
“You don’t have to say you’re sorry. I’d be out of it too if all I could think about was the second chance prom,” Mia grinned, flashing her pearly white dentistry.
The librarian’s face flashed a neon shade of red at that revelation. He’d been talking out loud this whole time? Were the other students just trying to avoid him? Is that why they didn’t speak up sooner? Billy felt like crawling under the desk and sucking his thumb into a deep sleep. His testicles seemed to shrink to the size of Tic-Tacs.
Speaking of which, a tiny winter mint capsule would have been nice at that point. He breathed into his hand and scrunched his face in disgust at what he smelled. That breakfast burrito hung around like a home invader. Or even more appropriate, a flirtatious Mexican lady who just wanted a fucking library book.
“If you wanted a breath mint, I could have given you one. I’ve got a million of them in my purse,” said Mia as she rifled through her belongings.
“No, no, that’s okay. I’m just, uh…” Billy could only complete his sentence with a deep sigh, as if the tunnel of air would relax his rapidly beating heart and his ice cold neurons.
“Look, if you’re that hung up on the second chance prom, just take one of these,” said Mia as she handed him a business card with her name and phone number on it. The redness in Billy’s face was a perfect match for Mia Rodriguez’s cherry-colored lips. “You don’t have to be shy around me. Just give me a call if you change your mind about the prom. Buenos tardes…Billy Mann! How could I not like a guy with Mann in his name?”
“Wait a minute, how did you know my name?” asked Billy. He looked down at his vest and at that moment noticed he wore a nametag this whole time. Mia giggled and waved goodbye at him before strutting away with her book. Billy hung his head in shame, wishing deep down that he could hang his head with an extension cord. He tucked his lips inward and bit down on them before tossing Mia’s business card in the dustbin behind him. He breathed out another sigh in a futile effort to calm his nerves.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked a black feminine voice behind him. Billy mouthed, “Oh no” to himself and then turned around to see his coworker Dottie
fishing Mia’s business card out of the garbage bin. With a hand on her purple
dress-wearing hip and an incredulous pout in her lips, she said, “You’re really
going to let this chick slip through your fingers, babe? I don’t think so. You
need to get out every once and a while and you literally had that opportunity
handed to you on a silver platter.”
“Yeah, like I’m going to trust her with my heart that fucking easily. Give me a break,” said Billy with his arms folded and his weight leaning against the counter.
“If you can’t trust her, who can you trust?” asked Dottie. “All your high school crushes are long gone, my friend. Sure, you could look them up on Face Book, but you ain’t bringing them all the way over here for a stupid dance. That chick was into you, buddy. Seriously, how often does that happen anymore?”
“So I’m just supposed to say yes to any chick who flirts with me? For all I know, this could be some kind of joke. I’ve had girls in high school joke around like this all the time. I know a faker when I see one,” said Billy.
“This ain’t high school anymore, Billy-Boy,” said Dottie as she tucked Mia’s business card in his vest pocket. “This is college. She’s in her twenties, just like you and me. You really think she would go up to just anybody and waste their time like that? She’s too old for that shit. You’ve got something that others don’t.”
Billy laughed sarcastically and waved Dottie’s talking points off with his hand. “Please, Dottie, I’ve got absolutely nothing. I’m a super nerd who works at a college library. It doesn’t get anymore uncool than that.”
“Uncool? Really?” asked Dottie with raised eyebrows. “Yeah, you really are stuck in high school if you’re talking like that, honey. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do, my friend. If you don’t want to date her, that’s fine. Just don’t yammer on about the second prom out loud to the customers. You’re scaring them off like a bus stop psychopath.” Dottie walked away and left Billy to contemplate her arguments.
The librarian tucked his face in his hand and shook his head. The embarrassment was killing him like snake poison flowing through his veins. Any more of this psycho babble and he was out of a job. What if this Mia Rodriguez really was the last opportunity for him? Was it that easy this entire time? His mind blazed through a whole rolodex of girls he could have asked on dates when he was in high school. The cheerleaders, the geeks, the sweethearts, each and every one of them had fallen away from his grasp. The images of them flipping their hair and pursing their lips forced a single tear to build up in his eye.
“Excuse me! Hey! Hello!” shouted an impatient customer, which snapped Billy out of his trance and put him in apologetic mode once again. That was the difference between Mia Rodriguez and everybody else who checked out books here: harshness wouldn’t even cross her mind. Even if she was being disingenuous, it was better than the grating voice of a three hundred pound frat boy staring down at him like a bear waiting for his next meal.
Nightfall descended upon the college town and Billy’s shift was thankfully over. Somehow, the thoughts of Mia flirting with him so openly got him through a tough work day. He actually smiled and chuckled as he exited the building. How long as it been since even a hint of happiness crossed his face? He had to stop by the florist and pick up a bouquet of roses. He had to stop by her apartment. It really was his last chance and damn it, he wasn’t going to let it pass him by! He picked up the pace in the parking lot and hurried to his respective destinations.
The dashboard clock read 7:30 and Billy drove over to Mia’s apartment in record time. He wondered about the shoddy conditions of the building. The wood splintered and the paint peeled. Plus, there was a neon green swear word spray painted on the walls. Maybe Mia secretly needed a gentleman like Billy to take her away from this horrifying place. Whoever said romance novels weren’t real had never felt the beautiful rhythm in Billy’s heart before. With flowers in hand, he exited his Prius and ascended the stairs to her apartment.
He knocked on the door and Mia told him to come in. The interior of the apartment looked much lovelier than the exterior, or it could have been the angelic glow of lava lamps placed every which way. Or maybe it could have been Mia’s wide smile that could have brought the toughest men to their knees. “You brought flowers! Don’t just stand out there! Come on in, sugar-booger!”
The two would-be dates for the second chance prom met in the center of the room and hugged tightly, Mia’s high heeled feet lifting off the ground. She kissed his forehead and said, “See? I knew you wouldn’t be in that trance forever!”
Except Billy was in a trance now. He couldn’t take his eyes off of Mia’s brown beauties. This is what second chances looked like. This is what happy endings felt like. This is what…gang initiations looked like? His lustful trance morphed into a frown of fear when Billy found himself surrounded by Mexican gangsters in basketball jerseys with tattoos running up and down their arms. “Mia…I trusted you…” he whispered with quivering lips.
“I know you did, honey,” said Mia with fake sympathy. “But if you came here looking to lose your virginity, you can still do that. Isn’t that right, boys?”
The gangsters all unzipped their jean flies and chuckled evilly at Billy while one of them closed the front door and bolted it shut. Mia backed away and Billy could feel tears welling up in his eyes. He kept mouthing the word, “Why?” without having a powerful enough voice to speak it.
One of the gangsters said, “That’s right, buddy, you keep moving those lips. You’re going to need them! Open wide, sweetheart! It’s initiation time, bitch!” The gang bangers circled around Billy and wrestled him to the ground, already proving that broken hearts and loneliness were better than broken bodies and mind-numbing trauma. He screamed like Mia would have done in a similar situation, but she just laughed it off while the gangsters had their way with Billy.
By the end of this night, a group of thugs would earn their stripes and a victimized librarian would lose his mind, his soul, and his cherry all in one night. Tears flowed more violently than the blood in his mouth and asshole. If something was too good to be true, it probably was. Billy had lied to himself this whole time and that was a more vicious lie than anything Mia could have spun up.