We arrived at the dance without comment, Blending seamlessly into the crowd of hormonal teenagers. I couldn’t help but take some sort of voyeuristic pleasure in seeing some of my classmates so far out of their element. Dougie Harding was swaying awkwardly as Tiffani Lessers attempted to grind with him. I spotted Liam near the stage, chatting up two cheerleaders, a look of pure joy spread wide across his face.
Pop music was oozing from the speakers. There was some sort of electric buzz in the air, making it impossible to not give into the simple lyrics and bubbly beats. I’m not the kind of girl who wiggles around and dances all sexy and what not, but it was difficult to resist shaking my butt just the tiniest bit to the Ke$ha song that Zooey had always loathed.
The song didn’t stop, but suddenly the room seemed to fall into a weird stillness. Mrs Grealey had finished setting up the voting box.
Half of the kids on the dance floor rushed over to cast their vote; the others—including myself—were attempting to show off how much of a “nonconformist” they were by hanging back. “Do you want some soda or whatever…?” Dawson asked me, mussing up his perfect dark brown locks. “Yeah. Sure.” I could tell this whole nomination business made him feel sort of uncomfortable.
Cassidy wandered over to where Zooey and me were discussing how very unlikely it was that she would be crowned queen. She was wearing a demure periwinkle dress with a pale pink flower pinned in her dirty blonde waves. She looked like a princess from one of the storybooks that my babysitters would always insist on reading to me. “Aww, Cass.” Zooey tucked stray curl behind her ear, “You look adorable.” Cassidy smiled, looking down and playing with the hem of her dress. “Really? This is the same dress I wore to my uncle’s wedding.”
“It’s really pretty.” You could barely hear my voice as Lady Gaga’s voice suddenly filled the room. I clenched my fists and practically jumped with joy, it was “Alejandro”—probably the only pop song that I was truly in love with. We formed a little dancing triangle, letting loose and belting along with the lyrics.
“Don’t call my name, don’t call my name; Alejandro! I’m not your babe, I’m not your babe; Fernando! Don’t wanna kiss, don’t wanna touch. Just smoke your cigarette and hush. Don’t call my name, don’t call my name; Roberto!”
I finally understood why people freaked out so much over high school dances: they were FUN!
When Dawson came back with our drinks, I gave him a delicate kiss on the cheek. “Do you want to just place our votes and get over with it?” He gave me a nervous smile. “Yeah.” We hooked arms and walked over to the voting station. I placed my votes for Zooey and Mike DeLavaggio, Dawson was right behind me voting for Zooey and Hayden.
Before we knew it we had already spent an hour and a half dancing and taking forbidden sips of peach Absolut. I was genuinely surprised when Principal Havender stepped up to the podium and the music paused. “Hello students, I would like to invite our Freshman Formal Court to join me on the stage.”
Cassidy shuffled towards the stage politely, while the rest of the court strutted with confidence (besides, of course, Zooey; who looked like a mouse in a room full of starving cats).
Seeing the popular kids lined up on the stage in a row reminded me of Barbie and Ken dolls on display at the toy store. Mike, Ryan, Hayden, Jason, and Nicolas looked like a row of models straight out of the Abercrombie catalogue. There was more variation when it came to the girls. Brielle’s sleek blonde bob and glittery turquoise dress screamed Paris Hilton. Ashlynn looked like the quintessential hooters girl: big boobs, strapless orange minidress, and trashy-looking hair extensions. Molly and Cassidy’s dresses were more conservative; with knee length hems and decent necklines. Zooey stuck out like a sore thumb with her avant-garde makeup and punky dress.
“Okay,” Principal Havender theatrically shuffled the two envelopes in her hands. “Our Freshman Formal King is… Jason Rhyse!” The room erupted in applause; Dawson shot me an I-told-you-so look. Mrs Grealey places the giant gold plastic crown on his head, cracking a rare smile. “Now, the vote was really close for the girls.” She lifted up a single brow. “And I am pleased to announce to you, That Brielle McKenzie is your Freshman Formal Queen!”
Brielle curtsied as Mrs Grealey placed the plasticy rhinestone tiara atop her head. She stepped to the podium. “I would like to have my wonderful friend Cassidy come up here and give a speech.” She yanked Cass by one skinny arm a pushed her up to the microphone. Meanwhile, Ashlynn had shuffled over to the side of the stage and was fumbling with some industrial looking cords and wires. It was painful to watch the confused expression on Cassidy’s face as she looked around—she obviously hadn’t prepared a speech. “I… Um…” She bit down on her lower lip.
The entire room screamed when the mice fell. Everyone except for Cass; She just stood there, a look of undescribable sadness in her eyes. She just stood there, as the box full of grey and brown mice was tipped over by one of the cords Ashlynn had pulled. She didn’t cry, she didn’t yell, she just stood there.