"Lester, we have to do this," I said, grinning and giving his shoulder a violent shake.
"You have to do this," Anna agreed.
Lester kept his head down. He kept his head down so we wouldn't see that he was smiling too. Even he couldn't deny we had to do this.
He took his hands out of his jean pockets, wrapped them around his teenage-sized chest, rocked back on his brown shoes and shoved his hands back into his pockets. "Alright," he finally said, looking up. "But if we're gonna do this right we're gonna need screwdrivers."
"Dude," I said. "I can get us some."
Anna laughed. "You guys are so sweet! Emma's a lucky girl."
During our preparations and plannings Lester and I talked extravagantly about our undying love and devotion for the once and forever, delicate Emma. We didn't realize that really only one of us could have her; we had always done everything together and shared everything we owned. I would wear his caps as if they were mine and he would tell my jokes as if they were his. This never bothered us.
"Her eyes, they are like little pools of arctic water just before turning to ice."
"Yeah," he said.
"And her smile, it is both the best and the worst part of her. Best because she uses it to laugh when I say something funny. Worst because she only laughs when I'm not trying to be funny. What do you think about her?" I asked.
"I like the way her nose wrinkles up sometimes."
On the afternoon of our mission, we tasked Anna with the part of getting Emma to the table in the cafeteria that Lester and I were sitting at, side-by-side, nonchalantly eating our apples and ham sandwiches. Anna performed like a natural, easily approaching Emma as if she was just asking a question about geometry and laughing about who-knows-what. That's one of the greatest things about Anna: she knows how to talk to everyone whether old or small, disabled or arrogant. I can't do that.
Anna led Emma to our table, "Want to eat with us?" She asked casually.
"Sure! We're not interrupting anything, are we, guys?" Emma said in her unusual, but somehow sweet, little voice.
"No, please..." Lester said, making a wide gesture with his hand to the two chairs across from us.
Emma was a tad hard to talk to at first, but after awhile we were all laughing and I felt like the time was right so I nodded at Lester and said, "I gotta go to the bathroom."
Lester cleared his throat and stared at Emma in a way that probably weirded her out. "Yeah, me too."
"Alright, let's go!" I said as we jumped up, leaving Emma staring after us. As soon as we exited the double-doors, we ran down the echoing linoleum hallway to the locker room where Lester opened one of the lockers, pulled out two, identical, pink roses and handed one to me. I disappeared while Lester stuffed the rose into his coat, adding two screwdrivers to his large pockets.
He stood for a moment, peering inside the empty locker, but not really looking into it, zipped up his jacket and ran back to the cafeteria. Before he could stop himself, shift his weight or even just swallow the pool of saliva formed at the back of his throat, he darted to the table, faced Emma and stammered, "Will you go out with me?"
Emma blinked. "Out?"
"I mean like outside."
"Oh, umm, yeah. Sure."
She stood up and followed Lester out into the hallway. Fearing that she would see him as a pyscho, Lester said, "I just wanted to show you something." A quick glance from Emma made him feel like he had probably just made it worse so he quickened his pace to arrive at their destination sooner.
Leading her outdoors, Lester abruptly spun around to face the confused Emma. Finally gulping that pool of saliva, he knelt on one knee, romantically, just above a sewage grate. "Emma," he said, unzipping his jacket with as suave as a gesture as he could muster, "well, I wanted to know if you would want to go to prom with me?" And he pulled out the pink rose, now with a broken stem.
Before she could answer, there was a TAP TAP TAP.
"What is that?" Emma asked.
"I don't know, but..." TAP TAP TAP. "It seems to be coming from down there," he said, pointing to the sewer grate. "Let's find out!" he said, maybe a little too enthusiastically, while pulling out the screwdrivers. He handed one to her. "Looks like we'll have to open this." He dropped to his knees and without knowing what else to do, Emma dropped down beside him. Together, they shoved the screwdrivers under the grate and pried it open.
From the hole, I emerged, holding the identical pink rose and dropping to a knee in front of Emma. "Emma, will you go to the prom with me?"
Lester knelt down by my side. "Now, wait a minute. Emma, will you go with me?"
"Uh, Lester, what are you doing? I'm asking her that."
"What? But I asked first."
If Emma was confused before, she was utterly lost at this point.
"Well," I said. "Will you go to the prom with both of us?"
"Ha. Well... yes!"
Sometimes we make mistakes, but one thing can be sure about Lester and I: in the end we always stick together.