Content Warning for: A known abuse victim with some bruises/injuries…so the implications of physical abuse.
Franco did not go back to therapy, even if Pansy bugged him a few times between classes about following up. He tried to be nice about it, saying that it was pointless to start something serious if he was going to graduate soon anyways.
It didn’t mean that Franco was fixed, though. He hung around the house all day for a while, drifting around. Remorseful and empty, and just plain confused. Maybe it was his weird alien brain after all.
If only there was an event he could bring himself to. One that mandated that he wear a tuxedo.
Franco did a quick tailoring job on one. It was made with herringbone fabric. When paired with a grey bow-tie, Franco had to admit that he looked fantastic in it. Perhaps he really did have something to lean on if painting fell through for him. It had just been so long since he had touched his sewing machine. The thing sat idle for months. It hadn’t even crossed Franco’s mind to make baby clothes, but that wasn’t going to be a concern any longer.
The goal was to get to prom. Franco didn’t even know why. The venue was nice, he guessed. The prom committee raised enough money to rent out the Ratcliff Hall Country Club in Pearlbrook for a night. But why was that enough to lure him there? Surely he could just beg his mum for a full membership. Aunt Amy was going as a chaperone, but Franco never needed an excuse to hang around her. She was kind of his stepmother, after all.
Whatever it was that drew him in, Franco bought a ticket at the last minute.
Right before he left, Annette cornered Franco to take some pictures of him. As a mother, she had to have reasons for fawning over her almost grown-up son.
“So, honey, you ready for the big night?” Annette asked, with a sweet smile.
Franco scowled, as he usually did. “I guess it’ll be worth fifty dollars.”
“It’s your choice. I dunno what prom is like,” Annette said. “So I can just hope for the best…” Her voice trailed off a bit.
Annette cleared her throat. “Alright, can we talk about something?”
She had a worried look on her face as she said it. “I know you’re still out of sorts over everything that happened,” said Annette. “I’m just scared that you’re going alone. It can’t be fun, and it just feels like…like you’re hating yourself.”
“Mum, I’m fine,” Franco said, grumbling.
“I bet you are. You do look snazzy tonight,” she said. “Handsome like your dad.”
Franco rolled his eyes at that.
Ratcliff Hall Country Club was a place that Franco had only passed by on trips in Pearlbrook. But it was a majestic kind of place, reserved only for the elite rich and teenagers with rental money. Franco was both, after all.
The inside was as great as the outside, especially in the main ballroom. From the chandeliers to the talented pianist in the corner, the whole thing was too great for a bunch of backwater adolescents.
It should have been posh enough to lift Franco’s spirits, and get him to socialize. Maybe to score a dance with the cute girl in the short orange dress. But after one minute of his awkward dancing, Franco wanted nothing more than a comfy place on the sidelines. If nothing else, he could butt into the chaperons’ group. Amy would introduce him to those two middle school teachers, right?
Or he could…it was something he wanted to get out of his mind.
It wasn’t a harmful idea of his, though Franco believed for it to be that way. He didn’t know that Hannah was going to be at prom until he saw her there. She was a little young for it, even if sophomores weren’t barred from attending. They just tended not to. And even if she stuck her foot in her mouth when it came to making a move on the blond guy next to her, Hannah was still so beautiful that night.
Franco squinted his eyes to get a closer look at Hannah, sighing as he watched her for what might have been a solid two minutes. It hurt him to see a fresh black eye and a gash over her right eyebrow. It looked like too big of a job for her foundation. But her winged eyeliner was perfect, and her floor-length teal dress put Franco’s skills to shame. He hated working with chiffon.
His mind drifted off to that afternoon inside the old strip club, dancing with her on the empty stage. The pianist at the country club even transitioned to a jazzy improvision.
What he wouldn’t give for that afternoon back.
But instead, Franco wandered out of the ballroom, towards the grand stairs at the entrance. No one told the kids that they couldn’t go upstairs. And the money that the prom committee spent was worth so much more than one floor.
He climbed up those red-carpeted stairs, towards whatever wealthy wonders awaited.
It was a well-lit game and leisure room, of all places. Franco could hear only the faintest of piano melodies from his new escape.
And some girlish giggling too.
Franco turned his head towards a dart game. So he wasn’t alone. And as much as Franco appreciated a friendly game of darts, he wanted different opponents. He still didn’t know what his true feelings about Will were, beyond them just being negative. Will had a girl in a ruffled red dress near him, who might have been his date. Between that and a great game, he must have been having a wonderful night.
It brought Franco’s spirits down. The only thing he seemed to beat that kid at that night was with his suit. Franco couldn’t stand that shade of navy blue as the main color.
After some turns and doors, there was a balcony that looked out towards the front of the building. And it was a place for Franco to be truly alone too! All he could hear was the gentle breeze through that overcast night.
He took a seat on the stone-tiled floor and watched the Pearlbrook sky. Half clouds, half stars, and a few skyscrapers peeked out beyond the trees. Ratcliff Hall was tucked into a suburban grove of willow trees. It wasn’t quite swamp, but it looked…just like a city 45 minutes away from Twinbrook should look.
Yes, it was a lovely venue. But Franco couldn’t help but feel that he made a mistake going to prom. Something led him to think that it was instant fun there, downstairs on the dance floor. But Franco still missed his sanity. He missed stability in his life. He missed how nice it felt to look forward to graduation and college and adult relationships.
And there was still Hannah, downstairs and being the same failure he was.
“It must be nice getting to waste fifty on doing nothing.”
Franco turned around to see Benji, for the first time in ages. They avoided each other after Carmen’s death, which Franco embraced. Carmen’s brand of rudeness was a little easier to swallow. She had a tone to her voice that made it sound like she was taking the piss with whatever she said. Benji was harsh and sincere, at least some of the time. His impeccable notes for math classes they shared didn’t fix that!
He got up from his seat on the ground. Franco’s eyes went wide. “Uh…isn’t that what you’re doing right now?” he asked Benji.
“Just for a bit. It is a lovely night,” he said, with a hand slipping into the pocket of his slate-colored blazer. “And we haven’t really talked about…stuff.”
“Maybe it’s because of how you always made fun of me for mourning.” Franco thought back to Benji being a taunting little shit after Bill’s death. Or after Shark’s.
Benji pouted. His eyes squinted, as if he was about to cry. “Fine. This is my first time losing someone. I get how much it hurts now,” he said. “And, like, I knew Carmen before I knew anyone.”
“It still hurts?” Franco asked. Benji gave him a shy nod.
“I…I wish I had advice. It all stings me too.”
Benji crossed his arms over his midsection. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about this,” he said. “You abandoned her pretty hard.”
“Well…well, what else was I supposed to do? She slept with that Goode kid,” Franco said, stammering. “I don’t care if she was alone! I’m able to function alone.” Even if the last one was a lie on Franco’s behalf, he hadn’t made love with anyone but Carmen…ever.
“She had her issues, and only I know about them!” Benji stamped his boot on the ground. “It’s not my fault you weren’t her first. You just should have been.” Franco read between his words and shuddered at the thought.
“I’m…I’m sorry,” he said. “She never told me anything like that.”
“So, yeah. She put up with your issues, and you should have listened to hers. But…we’re here now.”
The whole balcony fell silent for a while. Franco almost considered escaping, but as soon as he took a step, Benji grabbed him by the arm.
“Eh, that’s depressing stuff,” Benji said. “I just wanna enjoy the night.”
“I…I bet you’d like that,” said Franco. “So why keep me here?”
“Close up the conversation? You could have saved my twin.”
Benji leaned in, whispering in Franco’s ear. “I’m not letting you back downstairs until you know that I wanna fucking ruin you for that.”
He walked away, with a smug grin. “So, Hannah came without a date tonight, huh?” he asked Franco.
Franco took a gulp. “Uh, seems to be that way.”
Franco took a slow walk downstairs, slipping away into the bar. It was open that night, albeit just serving soda and cranberry juice. He found Amy there, and took the stool next to her.
“Hey there,” she said, once she noticed Franco. “It’s not something your mum would like, but is this whole place nice?” He nodded.
Franco leaned over on the counter, burying his right fingers into his hair. “I want to go home,” he said.
“Well…I have to be here all night, and you’re my ride,” said Amy. “I’m sorry it isn’t going well for you, though. You deserve a nice night more than anyone here.”
“I just don’t know what’s bothering me anymore.” He took a look through the open doors, catching a glimpse of Hannah and her long gown. “Or…I don’t wanna face it.”
Amy rubbed her shoulder. “Uh…just hang in there. I’ll ask for some advice when I get home.”
Franco spent a lot of time hanging out along the perimeters of the room. He did strike up a nice conversation with the two other chaperons. They were new hires, and thought that Franco’s ambitions for art school were noble. He showed him a few examples he kept on his phone…and the conversation ended. He was left alone again, watching the crowd.
Most of the attendees were dancing, as was expected at proms. His eyes drifted towards a conversation on the dance floor, even if just because it sounded unpleasant.
He approached it with caution. Franco felt the pressure rise inside him once he made out the details and took a listen.
“It’s pretty lonely for a sophomore to be here alone.” It was Benji, making flirty eyes at a shocked Hannah. His casual date for the night stood nearby, her arms crossed in anger.
Hannah was stuck stuttering on her words.
“I’d rather you not be ruined by the pink one,” Benji said. “I’ll help you come out of your shell.”
She squeaked out a reserved “…no.”
Franco stormed closer to them, keeping one fist clenched. Benji must have noticed, as he then lunged towards Hannah, grabbing on and keeping her in a choke hold.
“He doesn’t deserve you,” Benji said.
Hannah grit her teeth. “And you don’t deserve me!”
“If you’re as great as you always say you are, then-”
Franco had to use that fist, and he used it to cut Benji off.
It was a blow strong enough to tear him away from Hannah, and to send her down to the floor. Benji let out a blood-curdling scream and landed on his knees.
Hannah got up, grabbing onto Franco’s arm. “Franco, what was that?” she whispered to him. He looked over his shoulder at a bunch of confused students, and three pissed chaperons.
“I parked my car down the street,” he whispered back. “Hold on.”
Like a strong draft horse, he dragged Hannah along like the light load she was. They shook off anyone from prom chasing them down during their short run. Franco, against his usual logic, floored it once he got behind the driver’s seat. He had no idea where in Pearlbrook to run to. It just had to be anywhere not in view of Ratcliff Hall, and Pearlbrook was a sprawling place. That could be anywhere.
“Hey…you like tea?” Hannah asked him, during their roaming drive.
“Well, mum and uncle Shark did…I guess it rubbed off on me,” he said. “I dunno.”
“We passed by a café half a mile ago.”
It was in the town center, situated in an old brick apartment building. Arabesque Café, which Franco once heard his mum speak fondly of.
They soon were situated outside, with a pot of rose petal tea to share. Franco nodded at the barista, and she left to tend to matters inside.
Franco savored his tea, finally understanding why the rest of his family loved it. This blend smelled so floral and comforting. But he still couldn’t take his eyes off Hannah for long. In the glow of the city’s lights, she still looked so radiant. Definitely too good for Benji. Probably too good for Franco too.
“I forgot to thank you,” Hannah said to him. “I’d still say no to him without you.”
“Thanks.” Franco sulked in his chair.
He glanced off to the side. “I don’t get it. Why do I still care about you? I thought I got over you.”
“Well…you’re Franco,” Hannah said. “You care about people.”
“I…I just thought my life would be better without you, but-”
“-But it hurts.” Hannah gave him a knowing stare.
She glanced off to the side too. “Well, it hurts me. And I guess that’s obvious, but I only got a ticket because I hoped you’d get one.”
“…It does hurt,” Franco said. “Prom was a waste. I should have just invited you out for tea.”
They both chuckled, looking away from each other.
Franco then looked up at Hannah, locked into her brilliant blue eyes. He held up his right hand, reaching out as if to touch her. “I forgot to tell you how beautiful you are tonight.”
“With these?” She looked over her shoulder, to a giant purple bruise over her scapula. “You really think so?”
She gave him a sultry smile. “Well, your face is intact. So you have me beat.”
Franco walked up behind Hannah’s chair, with his hands behind his back. “Are you done going to my parents’ parties?” he asked her.
“After blowing Matty? Yeah.”
“Did you brush your teeth?”
“Franco, it was weeks ago…oh.”
He put a hand on her shoulder, and gave a look that silently asked Hannah what she wanted. Once she nodded, he lifted her out of her seat with one swift motion.
Usually, Franco would find it shameless to grab Hannah and kiss her in full view of downtown Pearlbrook. But he felt all the torment in his heart scurry away. A small smile curled on his lips once she cleared a bit of the hair from his face.
Franco let Hannah back down to her feet, though she immediately came up behind him for a hug. She rested her head on his shoulder. “It hurts a lot less right now.”
“Guess I found a painkiller that works for my species,” he replied, squeezing Hannah’s waist a little tighter.
“Party’s over, kids.”
Franco and Hannah turned around to one angry Amy, standing near Franco’s car.
“I had to walk all the way over here! I thought you knew better than that, Franco,” Amy said. He had never heard her sound so stern. “I…just drive us home. I’ll let your mum handle you.”
When they came home, Franco explained everything to his mum. Her only response was stick her thumb up.
“He did a great job telling Benji to fuck off. I was worried about him there for nothing,” said Annette. Franco cracked a smirk, as he basked in Annette’s approval. “And it looks like he’s…moved on.”
Franco felt a little sick when his mum nodded to him and pointed towards the kitchen. It was where she kept the household’s condom supply, in a cookie jar. But he didn’t want a repeat of that drama any more than she did.
Prom might have been a bust, but it also turned out to be one of Franco’s few great decisions.
A/N: Ratcliff Hall Country Club is property of Joria, a lovely simming friend of mine. I wasn’t able to find a separate download for it, but it is included in the Union Cove custom world. It’s a lovely lot, but I’d be lying if I said that the rendering times and delay to enter Build/Buy were non-issues. Use with caution! It’s huge!
(I also re-did the flooring on the balcony and added ceilings where there were none, but shhhh-)
My real-life experience with prom was probably weird. It was never held at my school, and my date and I didn’t match in the slightest. And like Franco, I disliked it, and unlike him, I didn’t get to go out for tea with my true love afterwards. 😦