The following is an excerpt from The Sky Blues, a young-adult novel by Robbie Couch, published on April 6, 2021, by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. The story follows 17-year-old Sky Baker as his plans for an epically gay promposal to his big crush blow up in flames, rattling his small town in northern Michigan.
My bedroom is nestled away in the farthest corner from the stairs, which gives me the type of privacy the other Brandstone kids can only dream of. Hardly anyone comes down here but for the occasional construction worker, Thelma and Louise, and me and Bree when we feel like forgetting about the rest of the world, which has been most of senior year. The downfall is, my room is also part of the renovation. Let’s just say it’s not uncommon to feel sawdust between my bedsheets.
Like every other wall in the basement, the ones in my bedroom have been primed boring-ass white. My deal with Mr. and Mrs. Brandstone is that, for letting me stay at their house indefinitely, I have to paint the room a color of my choosing at some point. Which, c’mon, has to be the most reasonable rent agreement ever.
Knowing I’ll be painting over the primer eventually, me and Bree decided to utilize one of my bedroom walls like a blank canvas while we still could, and covered a patch with dry-erase paint Mr. Brandstone had in the garage. At first we used it to keep track of all the movies we wanted to see together.
But it quickly became one of the most egregious manifestations of my love for Ali Rashid yet.
“It’s coming along nicely,” Bree says, plopping down on my flattened futon bed and scanning the wall left to right.
I sit next to her, scooping the remaining Reese’s from my cup. “We have a lot to choose from.”
High up on the wall, DAYS LEFT: 30 has been written in thick erasable marker. Right below that it reads SKY IS GAY FOR ALI: PROMPOSAL IDEAS. And yes, the wall has become exactly what it sounds like: a daily countdown to the Senior Beach-Bum Party, along with all the ways we’ve brainstormed about how I can ask Ali to prom.
Did I mention we’re extra?
Here’s the catch. I can’t just ask Ali to prom. At Rock Ledge, promposals are A Whole Big Thing for seniors, and there’s an annoyingly high bar. So beneath DAYS LEFT: 30 and, SKY IS GAY FOR ALI: PROMPOSAL IDEAS, there are three columns where we’ve been writing down all our ideas to pull it off. REAL POSSIBILITIES, MAYBE, and LOL HELL NO (just to document our most absurd proposals).
Like, one time, Bree truly thought it’d be a good idea for me to prompose to Ali dressed in drag as Megan Fox—the hottest actress alive, as Ali once told a friend while I was eavesdropping in Anatomy. I think Bree was extra slaphappy after we’d played Mario Kart with Petey for three hours that Friday when she suggested it. Petey laughed so hard, he had to spit out his Coke, which gave us our answer. MEGAN FOX DRAG went on the LOL HELL NO list.
“Oh!” Bree says, leaping up from the futon, still holding her ice-cream cup. “I noticed a Detroit Pistons bumper sticker on his car tonight. Is he a fan?”
“A huge one.”
She bites her bottom lip in excitement. “Okay, so . . .” She begins to pace. “What if you write, ‘Prom or Pistons?’ on a basketball, then ask him to play a game of one-on-one at the courts next to the lake during the Beach-Bum Party. . . .”
“Then, when you guys are playing, he’ll see what you wrote on the ball, and that way, in case he’s a little hesitant to say yes to prom, he has the option to go with you to a Pistons game instead. Get it? Prom or Pistons?”
I stare at her.
“You’re providing a second option to him that may be an even better option for you!” she clarifies, annoyed I’m not immediately overjoyed.
“Okay, but how is a Pistons game a better option for me than prom? I hate basketball. The only sport I like is men’s Olympic bobsledding.”
“Oh, right. Because of the skintight uniforms.”
“At a Pistons game, you’ll be alone with Ali. Well, except for the million other people in the stadium. But they’ll be strangers. At prom, you’d be stuck with every other annoying person in our class. The basketball game would be a legitimate date. And who knows, maybe he’d say yes to both?” She winks.
I roll my eyes, grinning. “Could I borrow your car to drive to Detroit?”
I think for a second. “I like including the game as an option, but I hate the idea of playing basketball at the beach and looking like a complete idiot.” I think some more. “Let’s say MAYBE.”
There’s no way I’m doing it, but Bree looks especially excited over the idea. I don’t want to let her down.
She grabs the marker, hops over to the wall, and scribbles Prom or Pistons? in the MAYBE column, right under SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS SPONGE CAKE—an idea from Clare that has since devolved into a definite LOL HELL NO.
Then, with the sleeve of her sweater, Bree rubs away 30 in the daily countdown and replaces it with 29.
Twenty effing nine.
Things are getting real.
Bree crashes down onto the futon and opens her laptop. “Kimmy Schmidt? She spreads out across my blankets. “Or Schitt’s Creek?”
I cozy up to her, pulling a blanket over my torso, because the basement’s chronically cold, and angle my head so I can see the screen too. “Your choice.”
Thinking about promposing to Ali is fun and all. But truthfully, I mostly like spending time with Bree down here, not thinking about my mom, or Mars, or where I’m going to live after I graduate, or if I’ll end up being able to afford community college in the fall, or all the awful people in this terrible town.
Down here, we’re basically twelve-year-olds again. I don’t know how the outside world so easily fades away beyond these primed white walls, but it does. I think that’s the real reason we’ve been going over promposal ideas for weeks and still haven’t decided on an idea to run with. It’s not entirely about Ali after all.