I would like to say that the day of the Mid-Summer Ball was gorgeous, but it would be a lie. It was humid enough that I could feel my hair sticking to my forehead underneath my glamour and my armpits getting sticky. Probably leaving stains on my snooty dress. I wondered if the glamour would hide them too.
Even though I parked at the very far corner of the school parking lot, I felt like everybody was watching me as I got out of the El Camino. I lifted my skirt to keep from dragging it through the oil-stained asphalt that I could just make out in the dull evening light. The dark stain reminded me of what Finn had said about faeries. He had told me once that every time someone bled to death on the bare ground, a faerie was made.
“Does that mean,” I’d asked him, “That ambulances are like birth control for faeries?”
But I guess what it meant was that first-world countries were really missing out.
Still holding my skirt up, I kicked the El Camino’s door shut and turned around to find myself face to face with Brad Wells. He smiled widely. “New ride, Taylor? It’s kind of pimpin’.”
A lot of the girls thought he was cute, but I couldn’t stop looking at the one pimple on the very bottom of his chin. Behind him, a bunch of other cars were pulling up, disgorging more fancy dresses and consorts. I had to remind myself that I’d worked really hard to get here.
It was funny, how me and Finn had become friends. I had just walked home from the grocery store, the end of my fingers turning purple from the weight of too many plastic bags twisted around them, and summer sweat really attractively down my forehead. I’d set down a gallon of milk by the door so that I could insert my key into the lock.
When I came out later that night to get away from Godzilla 1 and Godzilla 2, Finn was sitting on the tire swing, spinning around and around and kicking his legs. What I remembered most from that meeting was his riot of red curls and the two blunt horns that protruded from them.
Finn tossed an empty milk jug at me. “Thanks,” he said. Fireflies glowed around him, their lights flashing in his eyes and revealing a face spattered with constellations of freckles.
“I didn’t mean to give it to you,” I said.
Finn shrugged and grinned. “Close enough. For government work.”
I didn’t know then how young Finn was. He’d been made when a seventy-year-old man fell down his back steps and cracked his head on the concrete. Finn told me later that it took three days for anyone to notice he hadn’t been getting his paper. He’d stood there all that time.
Finn is a lot of things. Patient is one of them. I could never be that patient.
# # #
There were a lot of, um, guys. At the ball. The girls were like flowers, spinning and flashing bright colors, while the guys wove around between them, grabby, dark beetles. And they were all looking at me in my brilliantly blue dress. I wasn’t used to the attention or wearing something that didn’t have Levi’s printed on it.
Godzillas 1 & 2 were there, of course, in the finery that Mother of Godzilla had bought them, and they shot laser eyes at me when they saw me. I wondered if they thought I’d walked all the way from home. They were both sort of talking to boys, but Godzilla 1 broke off and started to wheel slowly toward me through the crowd.
Just as I was about to lose my nerve, Adam Earhart, the very person I’d gone through all this for, says my name. “Taylor, I didn’t know you came to these things.” He pretty much looked like James Bond — not any one in particular, just all of them rolled up into one eighteen-year-old body. I tried to regain the powers of speech.
“Um, yes. I do. Well, this one, I do.” I scowled at him, irritated at him for stealing my coherency. I glanced at Godzilla 1, who was glaring at me and Adam, and Godzilla 2, who had stopped in midsentence to stare, having clearly sensed a disturbance in the Force. “Not that I’m very impressed, so far.”
“We could dance,” Adam said. “I promise not to step on your feet.”
“I don’t,” I said, and Adam, bless my black heart, looked crestfallen, so I clarified. “Promise, that is. I’ll dance.”
So we went out to the dance floor, him staring at me like he’d never seen me before, and me looking at the disco ball they’d installed in the gymnasium ceiling.
Me and my Prince Charming.
# # #
Finn didn’t understand my desire to go to the ball. He had been righteously indignant when Mother of Godzilla bought her daughters gorgeous dresses and told me I could find a way to pay for one myself, but that was mostly because he didn’t like them. He’d also been aggravated when the Godzillas told me there was no room for me in the cute sportscar they were taking to the ball, but he shrugged when I wailed that the school was too far to walk to.
“It won’t be as good as you think it will be,” Finn promised. “They never are. There will be groping and bad food and bad dancing and pimples.”
“It’s a rite of passage in this town,” I said. “And my last possible chance to make Adam Earhart notice me.”
“He won’t be as good as you think he will be,” Finn repeated. He was catching gnats in between his cupped hands and blowing on them to turn them into daisies. “There will be groping and bad food and bad dancing and pimples.”
“The Godzillas are going!”
Finn smiled wickedly. And when I say he smiled wickedly, I mean wicked. You don’t know a wicked smile until you’ve seen one on the face of someone blood-born. “I can fix that.”
I waved a dismissive hand at him. “I don’t want them not to go. I want me to go. But I have no dress, no way to get there, and they know it.”
Finn dropped an armful of daisies over my head; some of them stuck in my hair and the rest fell into my lap. “Don’t appeal to my pity, Taylor. I don’t have any.”
“I didn’t ask for anything!”
He turned a daisy back into a gnat and put it in his mouth, regarding me thoughtfully the entire time. “I know.”
# # #
Finn had been wrong. Dancing with Adam Earhart was everything I had imagining. He smelled good, and felt good leaning against me, and he was, like a proper Prince Charming, didn’t grope or whisper come ons in my ear. The music was a little heavy on the corn-factor, but it wasn’t out and out cheesy. And the Godzillas looked like they were going to die of envy.
I mean, it wasn’t bad. For what it was.
And my shiny heels, by virtue of their make up, didn’t even chafe from all the dancing.
“You’re amazing,” Adam said.
# # #
So Finn got to work. If there is one thing that Finn is good at, it is glamour. He once glamoured himself to look like a wild boar, knocked on our front door, and then, when Mother of Godzilla opened it, ran through our house squealing and knocking crap over. What can I say, he’s a good friend.
So the first thing he did was glamour my Depeche Mode t-shirt and jeans to look like a ball gown. A brilliant blue one.
“Matches my eyes,” he said with a grin, leaning back on my bed with his arms behind his head. And he glamoured my favorite tennis shoes to match. “Can’t cover up the smell, though.”
“Nice,” I said, witheringly. “Turn around.”
He turned around, or at least looked like he turned around — how can you really trust someone who can make your t-shirt into a dress? — and I put on the dress and shoes. Finn regarded me.
“Heh.” He waved his fingers at me, and I swear, my boobs got bigger.
“Supersize me,” he said. “Fits the dress better.”
“I didn’t say I liked it better,” he replied. “Jeans are fine for me and you’re looking at someone who has never, personally, worn shoes.”
It’s true, and one of the things I, stupidly, like best about Finn. His terminally filthy feet.
Later, in the garage, Finn turned the old wheelbarrow into a spring green El Camino.
“I am amazing,” he told me.
# # #
As the old clock on the gymnasium wall struck midnight, Adam asked me if I wanted to go out sometime, before school started again.
“I have to go,” I said.
“Now,” I said, emphatically.
Adam searched my face, and must have seen that I couldn’t be swayed, because he said, “Give me your number first. Please.”
I couldn’t believe myself when I said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Thanks for the great time.”
And then I ran from the gymnasium. On the way out, I kicked off my fake slippers, watching them turn back into my tennis shoes as they skidded across the asphalt, and I bolted towards the El Camino.
In the darkness, I saw fireflies clustered by the car, and their lights reflected in a pair of eyes and constellations of freckles. Waiting patiently.
Author’s Note: I never liked prince charming.
image courtesy: B Tal