Beddy opens her eyes. She is normal size again. The crowd is all looking toward the stage, and she follows their gaze.
Wade Scherer, a fellow sophomore, steps onto the stage carrying a folded piece of paper, his tuxedo pants slung low on his waist, his top too small, making his torso and arms seem more muscular than their reality. Training behind him is the trifecta of OHS vice principals, Rook, Haley, and Healey, who hurriedly set up a microphone and accompanying stand at the front of center stage, then scuttle to the back. Wade presents himself in front of the microphone, lit from below by globe-shaped light bulbs that stud the rim of the stage like bloated diamonds.
More than about Wade himself, Beddy knows about Wade’s parents. Mom is a corporate defense lawyer. Dad owns a sports training facility that services professional athletes and ex-Olympians. Summers in the mountains, winters in the tropics. Their estate sits behind the OHS campus, the west grounds accessible from a several mile-long snaking footpath through the forested hillside used by PE classes for outdoor recreation, and by students for doing intravenous drugs. The Scherers’ swimming pool is like any other rich person’s swimming pool except for its cover, painted with a photorealistic mural to look like an open pool. Everyone who’s seen it says it’s incredible, jaw-dropping, flawed only because the artist’s effort to capture the reflecting sunlight made no sense in Osmond.
“Sup,” Wade says into the mic. It screeches as he steps in front of the monitor. He steps back, sways a little, begins again. “Hey. I just wanted to say, um, I’m sorry?”
Beddy crosses in front of center stage to better receive whatever this is going to be.
“I, uh, drank at this dance, even though, uh, I knew it was wrong? Yeah. Def.”
The whole time he stares at his black and gold basketball hi-tops that match the color scheme of the banner above him. Flecked with stars and whirlpool galaxies and the spray of comets, it bears the title of the Spring Starlight Formal’s current theme, “Enduring Memories.”
“That’s um, why I’m up here, to apologize to you.”
He holds up the folded piece of paper.
“Where’s our apology?!” one student in the crowd yells. A ripple of assent follows.
Beddy shifts in place. She clutches idly at her throat..
VP Rook steps forward to the mic, his self-tinting eyeglasses reflecting back solid glare like a chain gang boss. “We bear no responsibility for the actions of that one, lone, Osmond policeman,” he says to the crowd. Wade tries to step off the stage and VP Rook blocks him with his body. “But your peer is addressing you about something very grave. Very grave. Something that relates to what endangered the life of our fellow OHS student.”
“Is she dead?” someone else interjects.
“No, she’s not. Though she was injured, and is intensive care right now.”
Beddy’s stomach roils.
“And she should be in all your prayers. Now, let’s let your peer Wade continue, and read the apology he wrote.”
He returns to the back of the stage where VPs Haley and Healey linger. Even at the end of her Sophomore year, she still doesn’t know which woman is which, and neither does anyone else at school. One has long, wavy, silver hair, and the other has long, straight, brown hair, and the one with brown hair looks much older. Tonight, with their figures casting spongy shadows over the screen, their fronts washed out by the frozen image, they look even more anonymous.
Wade unfolds the paper slowly and audibly in the microphone.
“’I haven’t been a good role model tonight,’” he reads. “’I drank alcohol, even though I’m underage. This is serious, and I thought it was fun. What I didn’t think about is how my actions would affect my classmates. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done tonight. I’m sorry to you all.’”
Beddy realizes she’s been gritting her teeth only when her jaw begins to throb.
Wade Scherer isn’t sorry. He delivered a twisted parody of an apology. The faculty obviously wrote that for him beforehand, in between inflating balloons and hanging the disco balls, knowing full well that a situation would arise. That’s what it’s like for the Haves. The Wades of the world never have to apologize, or if they do, they don’t have to be sincere. They don’t even have to pretend. Someone else will write their apology for them.
VP Rook brings Wade another piece of paper.