“I’m fine,” I said quickly, moving to the sink and wetting a paper towel, trying to do something about my face. I pulled my hair down, bobby pins spilling everywhere. “Just a rotten night, that’s all.”
“Well, I heard Noah was drunk,” she said, whispering the last word and taking a furtive look around. “You poor thing. And what happened to your dress? Oh my God, Halley, turn around. Look at that!”
“I know,” I said, my teeth clenched. I couldn’t believe I was mooning Melissa Ringley. “I just want to get out of here.”
“Well, you can’t go out there like that,” she said, moving around behind me. “Here, hand me some of those bobby pins, I’ll see what I can do.”
So I stood there, with Melissa behind me muttering to herself and stabbing bobby pins into my dress, all the while wondering how the night could get any worse. And then, it did.
Elizabeth Gunderson was wearing a tight black dress and spike heels that I could hear clacking outside before she even opened the door and came into the bathroom itself. When she saw me she narrowed her eyes and looked me up and down before moving to another sink and leaning into the mirror.
“Well, this should at least get you through the rest of the night,” Melissa said cheerfully, coming out from behind me and tossing the extra bobby pins into the trash. “Just don’t try any radical movements or anything.”
“Okay,” I said, staring at my reflection. I could feel Elizabeth watching me. I told myself it was only fitting she was with Macon; they deserved each other. This didn’t really make me feel better. “Thanks, Melissa. Really.”
“Oh, no problem,” she said in her chirpy little can-do voice, fluffing her blond bob with her fingers. “It’s all part of being prom chairwoman, right?” She waggled her fingers at me as she left, the sound of music—something slow and easy—coming in as the door opened and then drifted shut behind her.
Beside me, Elizabeth was putting on eyeliner, leaning in closer to the mirror. She looked tired, worn out, now that I was looking at her more closely. Her eyes were red and her lipstick was too dark, making her mouth look like a gash against her skin.
I took one last look at myself, decided there wasn’t much I could do under the circumstances, and started to leave. I had nothing left to say to Elizabeth Gunderson. But then, just as I was reaching for the door, I heard her voice.
I turned around. “What?”
She pulled away from the mirror, brushing her hair over her shoulders. “So.” She wasn’t looking at me, instead down at the purse in her hands. “Are you having a good night?”
I smiled, in spite of myself. “No,” I said. “Are you?”
She took a deep breath, then ran a finger over her lips, smoothing out her lipstick. “No. I’m not.”
I nodded, not sure what else to say, and reached for the door again. “Well,” I said, “I guess I’ll see you later.”
I was halfway out, the music loud enough that I almost didn’t hear her when she said, “You know, he still loves you. He says he doesn’t, but he does. He does.”
I stopped and turned around. “Macon?” I said.
“He won’t admit it,” she said quietly, but her voice was shaky, and I thought of how I’d envied her that night at Ronnie’s, stretched out across the bed examining her toes. I didn’t now. “He says he doesn’t even think about you, but I can tell. Especially tonight. When he saw you out there. I can tell.”
“It’s nothing,” I said to her, realizing how true it was. It was just a feeling, a whooshing in my ears. Not love.
“Do you still love him?” In the bathroom her voice echoed strangely, louder and then softer all around us.
“No,” I said quietly. And I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, my wild hair, my ripped dress. You could even see the scar over my eye where the makeup had brushed off. But I was okay. I was. “I don’t,” I said.
And Elizabeth Gunderson turned from the sink, her hair swinging over her shoulder just it had before she tumbled off a million pyramids at a million high-school football games. She opened her mouth to say something more but I didn’t hear it, never got a chance, because just then the door slammed open and Ginny Tabor burst in with a blast of pink satin, her voice preceding her.
?Halley!? She stopped, fluttering one hand over her chest while she caught her breath. “You’ve—you’ve got to get out here.”
“Why?” I said.
“Scarlett,” she gasped, still breathing hard. She held up a finger, holding me there, while she gulped for air. “Scarlett’s having the baby.”
“What?” I spun around to look at her. “Are you serious?”
“I swear, she and Cameron were getting their picture taken and Brett and I were next in line and right when the flash went off, she just got this look on her face and then boom it was happening—”
“Move, ” I said, pushing past her out into the cafeteria, around the dance floor and the people drinking punch, past the band and to the edge of a crowd gathered around the tiny wooden drawbridge where everyone had been posing for pictures. There was a buzz in the air and a photographer with a huge camera wringing his hands and finally, with her face bright red and way too many people pressed around her, Scarlett. When she saw me, she burst into tears.
“You’re fine, you’re fine,” I said, sliding around to her other side, by Cameron who was looking kind of ashen. Someone was shouting about an ambulance and the music had stopped and I couldn’t even remember the breathing patterns we’d learned in Lamaze class.
Scarlett grabbed me by the neckline and jerked me toward her; she was surprisingly strong. “I don’t want an ambulance,” she said. “Just get me the hell out of here. I am not having this baby at the prom.”
“Okay, okay,” I said, looking to Cameron for support but he was leaning against the edge of the drawbridge, fanning himself with one hand. He looked worse than Scarlett. “Let’s go, then. Come on.”
I helped her to her feet, her arm around my shoulder, and started to push through the crowd. Mrs. Oakley was on one side of me, saying she’d already called someone, to stay put, and somewhere in an explosion of pink was Ginny Tabor, yelling about boiling water, but all I could think of was Scarlett’s hand squeezing my shoulder so damn hard I could hardly even see straight. But somehow, we were making headway.