Todd or no Todd, the dance goes on. And even if she makes it in time for only one song, she is going to dance to that one song.
She throws open her door and marches down the hall to the single upstairs bathroom. Turns on the water in the shower and steps in before it gets hot. Even under cool water, the cuts sting brilliantly.
There isn’t much time before Formal will end, but she is used to taking quick showers since Ma turned the water heater down for the dubious solution “to save money.” Quickly she massages in shampoo, expunging the last evidence of Mrs. Antatola’s sculpting of her hair. Rinses. Sticks her face into the soothing stream. Holds it there, luxuriating in the hot water unfurling over her head, weighing down her hair, roaring over her ears. If she could live right here, without having to breathe, or without her body temperature dipping, it would be perfect.
Reluctantly she comes up for air. She soaps up her body, wincing at the sponge’s tactile glide over the cuts. The soap alights inside them, and then her body is humming.
Quick come the torrid flashes of Todd in the women’s locker room, acting out her revered former fantasy. The shower drops in temperature. She cursorily rinses the soap from her body and shuts off the water.
She steps out and dries off with one towel from the rack, massaging her wet hair at the temples, repeating, “I am not a tale of woe. I am the fucking afterglow.” The other towel from the rack she wraps around her body. She walks down the hall, throws open her closet and quickly rummages through it. There’s nothing suitable for Prom.
No. She was going to wear that dress, and so that’s the dress she’s going to wear. She walks over to where it lays draped around the legs of the chair like a shucked skin. Lifting it up, stretching it out in her arms, it looks twice the dress it was.
Suddenly she is intimidated. How to make it whole again?
Duct tape. That’s it. She’s capable with a needle and thread but no whiz, and certainly not fast enough to do it in the time provided. Duct tape is perfect.
She dashes to the hall closet and rummages through a few drawers before she finds it. Carrying it back to her room, she tells it, “All right. People are always talking up your virtues. So, can you save this dress? This night? Do you have it in you?”
She throws the tape roll onto her bed and sheds her towel. Grabs a pair of panties from her closet and slips them on. Lifts the dress up again from the floor. Draping it around her body, she pinches the off-the-shoulder sleeves so it won’t slide down. It yawns open accusingly.
She eyes the tape on the bed, thinking this task would be better expedited with an extra arm. Then, failing that, hugging her elbows to her sides to hold the dress in precarious place, peeling off a strip of tape long enough to attach, touching it down along the beginning of the neckline, compressing it against the bodice with her left hand and pulling taut the strip running from the roll with her right, letting off more length while still anchoring the first side, releasing the tape to bunch the dress in the center, lowering the entire wet tape edge gently across the bisection, smoothing it up to the roll and anchoring the strip again and ripping the roll away, she puts the first poor man’s suture into her dress.
This logjam of muscular actions cramps both the top of her right hand and deep in the crook of her neck. But the dress stays up without her elbows’ assistance, and she massages the cramp from her neck. From there it is a matter of laying strip after tape strip down across the entire bisection until the job is done.