When she reaches the twin doors she pauses, paralyzed by awe. Most of that awe is for the terrifying unknown, sure, of what lies beyond those doors, but some of it is reserved for herself. She got here. Ambushed. Delayed. But she’s here.

She throws open both heavy doors, tearing the lid off the music inside, which comes rushing around her head like winged creatures.  Immediately two frosty security guards with uniforms indistinguishable from police pat her down and shine a blue-ish light into her purse.  There’s a nanosecond of fear when she thinks they might think her tape rigging means she’s strapped to explode, but they hand her freshly ransacked purse back to her and send her on her way, leaving her to all her items.  Even her pepper spray.

Her heart plays Flight of the Bumblebee as she proceeds down the hall, observing the inside of The Grove deep in recovery from the outside.

A boy at the bar holds a bag of ice to a girl’s face.  When he removes it, her eyes are busted tangerines. The UV dye covers her face like a birthmark.  Another boy chokes over the sink behind the bar, splashing his face repeatedly with cupped handfuls of water while the faculty bartender looks on anxiously.

At the photo booth, a couple stands in front of the vaguely starry cloth backdrop, lost in their smartphones, beaming scant character bulletins out to the world.  The photographer pulls at his gray hair, trying vainly to instruct them.

The sounds of Formal swell as she nears the end of the hall.  Doubt creeps in.  What if her enemies still have something more planned?

But this makes no sense.  Kelsey is in a hospital bed somewhere, and she didn’t show up with Todd because he didn’t show up at all.  Which really only leaves Duffy, but what could one boy really do that he hasn’t already done?

The hall opens into a mezzanine overlooking the main floor of the venue, and she gasps.  It’s gorgeous.  Even more than she imagined.

Three disco balls rotate on the ceiling, throwing kaleidoscopic lights that chase each other across the floor and walls like intersecting schools of incandescent fish.  The crystalline structures of chandeliers lay dark, now apt blank slates that catch and refract.  Twisting languidly from the ceiling by long tails of fishing line are what must be thousands of stars, cut from tinfoil and many colors of cellophane, and hanging just out of reach of the tallest person in the room, even if they jumped.

As she descends the stairs, she scans the dance floor.   No friends.  No enemies.

The commotion outside, and earlier exoduses from boredom, impatience, and seeking opportunities to screw, has winnowed the crowd into a group of fifty to a hundred people, making the venue seem cavernous.  There is to be no drawing for king and queen, so there is no compelling reason to stay to the end, no crescendo.  Her sister Ona was part of the last graduating class at Osmond High to do that.  Each year since, a memo has gone out to the students, consistently using keywords “popularity contest,” and “counter-productive.”

On a tall white screen draped from the ceiling at the back of the stage, a film is being projected.  People dancing, having a wholesome, serene time.  Some scenes have the raw patina of a home movie, and others, the sheen of upscale cinema.  One moment she recognizes no one, and the next is populated with familiar actors.  Every era seems to be catalogued.  She sees pompadours, ducktails, shoulder pads, skinny ties.  Smiles, bashful glances, clasped hands, sweet rushes of blood to the face.  She sees a moving mosaic, fantastic, skittering across time and space, binding fiction and reality until they’re identical,  the totality dedicated to capturing one subject: The Prom Experience.  The untarnished one Beddy wanted so badly to have.  She winces because this projection may be one of the most beautiful things she’s ever seen.

She glances around to the other attendees, assuming they share her entrancement.

No one is watching the projection.

No one is dancing, either.  They’re gathered near the stage, shouting excitedly at each other over the music.

This galls her.  Why are they taking it all for granted?  This is all here for them.

Miss Macht said there was a half-hour left of Formal.  But she can’t verify this, and certainly shouldn’t rely on it.  She has no watch, and there’s no clock to be seen.  So she’ll have to hurry.

She moves in front of the right side of the stage, where the DJ’s cage-like booth is erected beneath a silver banner emblazoned with “Introducing DJ Quaranteen.”  She places herself directly in front of an eight-foot tall speaker.

Beddy begins to dance.

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