High school senior Ashley St. Helens
has suddenly found herself living a fairy tale life....
Which is not as much fun as it sounds.
Until... the other shoe drops.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wannabe Prom Queens

The next day, while Sylvia bustled The Girls around, I tried to keep a low profile, since every time I walked by one of them they’d ask me to do something. I was moody; I kept feeling flashes of anger, but I noticed how good I was at not saying anything. The injustice of it all kept bothering me, in a way it never had before my “bitch session” with Harry. My head was full of questions. Where had things gone so wrong? Why couldn’t I just stand up for myself? Why did I care so much about those coffee cup rings on the furniture? But mostly: Do I or don’t I want to go to the prom? It didn’t really feel like a possibility, but then again, I had that beautiful dress, and it was mine, mine, mine alone. It meant the world to me, and just thinking about it made my head sparkle with hope and excitement.

I really loved my attic room—the slant of the walls, the window that popped out under its own little roof, the musty, cozy smell. The corners of the door were even carved off to fit the opening into the angle of the ceiling. There were books stacked up all around the edges, where the walls were too low to put any furniture. Almost every book in the house was in my room. I had rescued box after box of them from the Goodwill box when Sylvia redecorated, and they made the place feel very cozy. Old books. Great Books. Piles of paperbacks. So I was never at a loss for entertainment. I read every night after my chores and homework were done. Before I talked to Harry, I had been planning to make some headway through Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead as soon as I had the house to myself.

The dress was hanging on the inside door of the antique wardrobe (the room had no closet), hidden behind the acid-yellow sweater and the vinyl coat, which was the color of a spray-tan. Every time I got back up there, between tasks and errands, I’d stop and peek at the dress, smell it, explore the cheerful pattern with my eyes, feel the pretty rhinestones with my thumbs.

I loved having a secret, too. When The Girls came in to lord it over me that they were going and I wasn’t, I didn’t really care. To me, Debra and Donna looked ridiculous. Between them, there was enough makeup to paint all of my exposed walls. Their bangs were hairsprayed straight up, as if they were competing to appear taller than one another. Their gowns looked like they had come from the lingerie department.

“How do we look,” they asked, jutting their hips out and flexing their legs, as if I was someone to impress.

I tried to give a compliment, really I did. “You look like wannabe prom queens,” I said. Not that I would know. I’d never seen a prom queen before. But the fake boobs Debra had gotten for her eighteenth birthday did look spectacular in the silky dress she sort of had on. My compliment did not come off well. Both of their eyes narrowed.

”Too bad you’re not going,” said Donna. She sort of sounded nice at first.

“Too bad no one asked you,” said Debra.

“Too bad you have no friends,” said Donna. The sarcasm was escalating.

“Too bad you have nothing to wear,” said Debra, fingering my jeans, which I kept folded over a chair back. Then she spotted an old dress of hers that I’d pulled out of the Goodwill box, and laughed. “Oh, are you going to fix that up?” Like I could fit into it.

Donna grinned and said, “You’ll need some birds and mice.” Debra high-fived her, clumsily knocking over a stack of books.

“What are you going to do with all your free time tonight,” she asked, her wide-open eyes made up to look as ginormous as the spots on a peacock feather.

“Maybe clean this dump up,” Donna suggested. I focused on my breathing, thought of my dress—being careful not to point to it with my eyes, and started counting the seconds until they left. “Bye darling!” When Donna tossed her natural-looking curls, they moved like plastic.

“Have a nice time,” said Debra, noticing that Donna was out-prom-queening her. She blew a beauty-queen kiss, so Donna had to, as well, as they stomped down the wooden stairs in their dangerously sleazy high heels.

I called after them. “Break a leg!” But what I really meant was “Break your artificial noses.”



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