Time After Time
"A French manicure, really?"
Cindy rolled her eyes at her friend's disgust. The two girls sat at the drying station of Frederique's salon on Friday afternoon, having deemed it better to not have wet nails hours before they needed to get dressed. The week had been agonizingly long, but the big day was almost here. Flowers had been ordered, dresses were hanging in cotton garment bags in their respective closets, and respiratory masks were awaiting the cloud of hairspray that was soon to be in the atmosphere.
"What? The tips are silver. I thought it would look nice." Cindy had attended a fair share of dances over the years, and enjoyed the various rituals that came with preparation for the big event, but never had she been compelled to put forth the kind of effort that Libby exerted.
"Girl, that look is so five years ago. There are so many interesting things you could have done." She glanced down at her own intricately decorated fingertips that were painted the same electric blue as her dress, with silver glitter creating an ombre effect. "You need to live a little."
Cindy's let out a small groan. "Yes, my nail polish choice clearly indicates my deep seated cowardice."
"I would swat you, but my nails are still tacky."
"Oh I wouldn't say that," an annoyingly familiar voice rang out, "but your shirt definitely is." They turned their heads to see none other than Betty, being escorted to a dryer chair. "I'm joking of course, it's totally cute. Are you two primping for tomorrow? I've had Ivan wash and set my raven tresses, so I won't have to worry about a thing before the dance. I'm sure y'all are planning to do the same."
Cindy stifled a grimace. "Well, actually-"
"Goodness knows beauty sleep wouldn't be enough. You know, I must say it's really adorable how you two do everything together. It's like nothing has changed since elementary school, so cute." Her emphasis on the last syllable implied nothing positive.
"Well, you know how best friends can be." A wicked smile spread over Libby's face, "Oh wait, I guess you wouldn't."
Betty rolled her eyes. "No, I prefer to be friends with guys. They cause much less drama."
Cindy scoffed. "Uh, did Lord of the Flies teach you nothing?"
She ignored the retort and turned to Libby. "So, have you and Sheen gotten over your little spat? It would be a shame if you two broke up right before prom. Especially when you worked so hard to make the gymnasium so pretty. To show up alone would just be sad."
"I don't really see how their relationship is any of your business." Cindy spat out.
Betty turned to fix her gaze solidly on the blonde. "Oh Cindy, I almost didn't see you there. It certainly was a good idea to get a custom-fitted dress. I'm sure nothing off the rack would fit your," she glanced up and down, " athletic body. I'm assuming none of the girls' department formals matched your sneakers."
Cindy's jaw dropped in stunned silence. Her fists curled into fists. Give me a reason Quinlin, and pretty little ski-slope nose of yours will become a jagged cliff. Libby, fortunately, pounced to her friend's defense. "Quinlin, why are you even still a junior? Didn't you turn eighteen in October?"
Betty looked taken aback. "I-I was held back in second grade." Her spine stiffened. "I lot of people have to re-do school years and it' nothing to be ashamed of." She crossed her arms, her expression changing to one of smug indifference, "At least I have something you don't."
"And what's that? An IQ so low you could trip over it?"
Bystanders were starting to stare now, but no one made a move towards the trio. It must have been very strange to see a fight where two people were sitting, not wanting to smudge their nail polish and one with curlers in her hair. That didn't stop two little old ladies from making bets. "Twenty bucks on the blond."
Betty gave a humorless laugh. "Real classy Vortex. Big talk from someone with underdeveloped social skills. You wouldn't know tact if it was in the footnotes of your match textbook."
"Hah! Did you ever think maybe the reason you have no friends is because you act like such a cow all the time?"
She cringed slightly, "I have plenty of friends!"
"Boys who want to get in your pants don't count as friends."
Her face was quickly becoming engulfed with scarlet. "Whatever! You know, you two talk a big game about being buddy-buddy, but you're totally malicious to everyone not in your little squad."
"Well what do you expect when you go around making rude comments all the time?"
"Hey, you started this war, I only picked up the gauntlet."
"What the heck are you talking about Quinlin? You interrupted us here."
Betty rolled her eyes. "Surely you're not that obtuse. You were never even on my radar until Neutron developed a case of puppy love in the fifth grade. Suddenly it was your mission in life to make me miserable. Well he's off my back and the vendetta is still here for no reason what so ever. You must admit it's understandable if I try and defend myself when you still have the forgiveness capacity of a toddler."
Libby crossed her arms. "Defend yourself? You call mocking her body defending yourself? You can't just make low blows then pout when we return the favor." She turned to Cindy for reinforcements, but the blond girl had gone even paler in the face. She seemed to be stunned. "Cindy?"
A small voice peeped, "She's right."
"I said she's right." Cindy turned to face the brunette. "Betty, I'm sorry."
"What?!" Now all three were stunned.
"Girl, have you inhaled too much acetone?"
"I said I'm sorry, ok? Isn't that what you want?"
"Is this some sort of joke? Nice try Vortex, I'm not falling for it."
"It's not a joke! I really am sorry. Kind of. No I am; I may high slightly been a little overly critical of you in the past. And the present. You didn't deserve all of my antagonism. So, yeah."
"Um…" she stood awkwardly. "Ok, apology accepted, I guess."
The bystanders all turned back to their own business, disappointed the feud had not come to blows.
Libby grabbed Cindy's arm. "What are you doing?" she hissed.
"She's totally right. Betty never said a word to me before…you know. And we've spent the last six years sniping at each other for no reason."
"I don't know about that, she's said some pretty nasty things-"
"And I've said worse in retaliation. Libby, think about it: you didn't use to hate her. Why do you dislike her now?"
"Because she talks crap about you and I don't want… oh my God, you're right. When did we become the type of people who hate people on principle?"
"Around the same time I became the type of girl who doesn't like other girls." Betty rubbed her arm in embarrassment. "The drama thing's a load of bull. I would kill to have a friendship like you guys do. I just, I don't know. I wouldn't know where to start."
Cindy straightened up. "Well, you could try not prying into other people's relationships."
Libby glared at her, "Do you really want to go there?"
She smiled. "I'm just kidding. Girlfriends do that all the time."
"Oh what, you think we're friends now?" Betty gave an awkward laugh, trying to let them know she was kidding.
"Yeah, 'friends' is a little too extreme. Don't expect me to start a group hug or anything." Libby's glower softened, "But maybe we could… hang out one night while Elke's still in town. It might not be the worst thing ever."
Betty gave a small smile. "That might not be the most terrible thing ever."
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a moment, not sure how to proceed.
"Well," she started back to her dryer. "I guess I'll see you guys tomorrow."
Alone once again, Libby turned to her friend. "Well, that did not turn out as expected."
"I don't want to talk about it." Cindy rubbed her forehead with the palm of her head.
"Should we start singing kumbaya with the manicurist now?"
"I'm just kidding! But that was super cheesy."
"Yeah I know. That is by far the most ridiculous thing I have ever done."
And that's a pretty high bar."
"Love you too, babe."
BWAH BWAH BWAH!
Cindy leapt up and spun around, nearly knocking Humphrey to the floor. She slammed the off button ending her alarm's blaring screech. I could have sworn today was a Saturday. Why is my alarm on school time?
She was about to curl back up and become a blanket burrito when she looked down and noticed her silver tipped nails. It suddenly dawned on her what day it was. A sudden burst of energy welled up inside of her and she threw the covers off. (Before carefully making the bed to its usual pristine standard.)
She performed her morning routine before pulling on a pair of shorts and a green t-shirt and heading down the stair with a sense of cheerfulness about her.
It didn't last long. Her mother sat at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper with the usual incensed expression plastered on her face. She didn't look up. "Good morning Cynthia."
"Good morning mother."
"Would you like blueberries or agave on your oatmeal this morning?"
"Blueberries, I suppose."
She rose to move to the stove, pouring raw oats into the saucepan. Cindy's suspicion arose when she noticed that Sasha was clad in a simple blouse and cotton shorts unlike her usual tailored suit. "Are you going somewhere today mom?"
She stirred in the water, slowly adding in flaxseeds. "Oh no, I just thought we would re-do the shelf paper in the cabinets today. I bought some with a lovely Byzantium-style pattern last week, what year did that empire rule?"
"300-1453 AD; we're doing what now?"
She dished the food into a small bowl and set it on Cindy's placemat, along with a glass of almond milk. "It's 330 AD to be exact, and you should. We're removing all the dishes from their shelves and putting new paper down. The old layer will need to be removed with a putty knife and excess sanded off. We can get out the supplies after you finish breakfast. Would you like half a grapefruit as well?"
"Wait, we're doing all this today?"
Her mother set down her spoon in frustration, letting out a small noise. "Yes, Cynthia, you know I hate repeating myself. I assume you completed all your homework last night." She raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Then there shouldn't be a problem. I thought we would polish the silverware while we're at it; it's looking a bit tarnished."
Cindy couldn't believe this. She resisted the urge to scream out in frustration, but instead looked down at her hands. "The polish might mess up my nails."
Sasha gave her a disbelieving pointed stare. "Your manicure will be fine Cynthia. You have plenty of time to prepare for the dance this evening, especially since your date is too ch-" she broke off mid sentence and collected herself, "Since Jimmy is so economical as to have you eat at his house instead of a restaurant. You don't need to spend all day preening like some vain fool. Now eat! Skipping breakfast has been shown to slow your metabolism."
Cindy picked up the spoon and tentatively scooped a small section of the brown mush. She struggled to hide the hand shaking with rage. Of course she would do something like this. I can't even have one day for myself. I bet Libby gets to spend the morning sleeping in and putting gardenia scented lotion on her already perfect skin. Calm down now, it's not her fault your mother is insane. It could be worse: she could have decided to mulch the flower garden or change the oil in the car. She pushed the last blueberry around until it was fully squashed and pathetic. Just like my life. Whoa, dramatic much?
"Mom, it's fine!" Jimmy stood in the living room, decidedly uncomfortable in his tuxedo, with his mother attempting to strangle him with a white bow tie.
"I just want to make sure you look impeccable, sweetie. You know Cindy will be dressed to the nines, so it's the least you can do to have your tie straight."
She stepped back and admired her work, then immediately grabbed him in a tight embrace. "Oh my sweet boy, you've grown up so fast!"
His dad nodded in agreement, "It seems like just yesterday we auditioned you for diaper commercial and they turned us away because your head was so big."
"You promised to never mention that- MOM let me go, you're crushing my larynx!"
"Ok, ok I'm done. Now, go get your date for pictures, the rest of the group will be here soon."
Jimmy awkwardly crossed the street to wait at the front door. There was a moment of hesitation before the bell sounded, signaling his doom- er – Mrs. Vortex. She glared down at him for a moment, assessing him like a predator watches a small rodent. "Be sure to wipe your feet. I've just had the carpet cleaned." Mr. Vortex was waiting inside. "Sasha, be polite. Hello Jimmy, how goes everything?"
"Um, great Mr.…V." What the heck is his first name?
"Cynthia! Your date is here. Come down so we can get take some photos before you leave!"
"Ok, now remove the individual curls from the duckbill clips and spay them with the maximum strength hairspray."
"Shouldn't I put my dress on first?"
"No, you don't want to get the sticky spray on it. Just be careful while zipping it up," Libby instructed through the computer screen. Cindy would never admit that she had to call her already perfectly coiffed friend last minute for hair advice, but what could she do? Her mother had only given her an hour to take a shower and get ready before the agreed time of Jimmy's arrival.
"You know we could have just gotten ready together. You're right across from our dinner spot anyways. My mom would have been cool with driving over."
Cindy shook her head. "As soon as we finished the stupid shelves I had to vacuum the living room and shampoo the carpet. It's funny how none of this could have been done last weekend. Or tomorrow. Or literally any other time ever."
"Don't stress girl, you're going to look amazing. But I've got to go, Sheen's downstairs and I need to make my grand entrance. See you in a bit."
"Ok, bye." She turned off the video chat and went over to the closet. Despite the morning of hard labor, her ensemble was incredible. She couldn't wait to get out of this house and actually start having fun. She pulled the delicate material of the dress on and made a few adjustments. She admired the full effect in the mirror watching the waterfall of curls cascade over her back, when her mother's voice rang out, signaling her to come downstairs.
Jimmy stood between the two Vortexes, attempting to figure out what to do with his hands when he heard a familiar voice say, "Just a sec!"
She hesitated for a moment before coming to the top of the stairwell. She paused for dramatic effect, showing off her dress before descending slowly. Her face was simply made up with some sparkly stuff on her eyes. Her hair was pulled away from her face with a bejeweled hair clip; the length gently curled over one shoulder. The dress was dark purple, embellished small silver spangles. The hem of the full skirt was sparsely speckled with sequins, but further up they increased their presence until it was almost completely covered in silver. The thin sleeves were sheer over her shoulders, and met the opaque bodice with a small star pendant. When she finally made it down the stairs, he was close enough to see that the sequins were actually little clumps of glitter that were connected to form constellations. She looked like a glittering night sky in all its glory. He looked a little closer and noticed the formation on the front of the skirt was… Promixa Centauri. He smiled. Only Cindy.
When she reached the bottom of the stairs, her mother walked up to Cindy and gave her the once-over. After a brief moment, she said, "Good, the shoes go well with the dress," in an unimpressed tone. Cindy's face fell, and a visible change came about her demeanor. She sidled up to Jimmy and presented him with a small box. Inside was a corsage and matching boutonniere that consisted of a dark purple rose with sparkly star and moon cutouts. She pulled out the small pin and attached the flower to his jacket. He noticed her hands shook ever so slightly.
"Would it be a compliment to say you make the perfect red dwarf?" he asked quietly.
"From anyone else, no." She tried to inject humor into her voice.
"Sweetheart, you look marvelous." Her father snapped a photo before gesturing, "Now stand together and act like you like each other."
"Must you make such jokes?" Mrs. Vortex crossed her arms.
"Yes." He took a few photos before handing Jimmy the camera.
"Would you take a few Jim?"
"Come here Sasha, let's get one for the family album."
"Are you joking? I'm filthy! I haven't had time to take a shower yet."
"It's Cindy's big day, no one will be looking at you."
"Then why bother being in the photo at all?"
He clenched his jaw, "Stop acting like a child. It is our daughter's prom night and you will not spoil it for her." They eyed each other for a beat before she moved to stand beside Cindy. Jimmy took a few shots before handing it back.
"Oh no, you keep it and have your folks take some of the whole gang. They can just bring it back later."
Cindy went to the closet and grabbed a silver wrap and a small black handbag before heading to the door.
"Goodbye Mr. and Mrs. Vortex. I'll have her back at a decent hour."
"You'll have her back by 11:30!"
"Sasha! Have her back by one Jimmy. Or whenever, she does have a key. Just don't get a tattoo or anything like that!"
"Very funny dad. Have a good evening mother."
"That is an expensive camera, be sure your parents are careful with it!"
"Sasha! Enough! Have fun kids!"
They made their way across the street, carefully stepping over the various potholes. Jimmy struggled to think of something to say. He could tell Cindy was upset by her mother's callousness, but wasn't sure quite how to comfort her.
"So… my parents set up an ivy arch in the backyard."
"Yeah, it's really cheesy and stuff, but it's for the pictures. My mom thought it would give them a professional look."
"That was nice of her." She wouldn't look at him.
"You look beautiful."
"What do you mean, you know?"
"I know. I look darn good."
"Oh. Because your mom-"
"If I depended on my mom for self-esteem I would be in serious trouble. I just wish.. I mean, sometimes…"
"Well, you do look nice. I mean, you always look nice. Actually, you always look like you could kill a man with just one glance, mixed with a sophisticated grace, not that your looks are the only thing I notice about you- I mean, you're the only person I know who's memorized Beowulf and can recite it in middle English, but what I'm trying to say is-"
She grabbed him in a hug and cut off his train on though. He returned the embrace, and for once didn't have to think about equations to distract his emotions.
"Shut up Nerdtron, if you make me cry my mascara will run and then I will have to kill you."
"You've been spending way too much time with Libby."
"No, she doesn't spend nearly enough time with me!" They glanced over to see Sheen helping Libby out of his dad's sedan. Mr. Estevez tossed Sheen a disposable camera before speeding off. Libby ran over to hug her best friend and the two proceeded to compliment each other's outfits.
"What do you think? The yellow flowers were a brilliant choice if I do say so myself!"
"What are you going to do about the other one you bought?"
"Shh, I'll just save it for homecoming or something. Mom will never know the difference."
"You are truly a mastermind."
Sheen wandered over, spinning around to show off his white-on-white suit accented with the bright aquamarine tie that matched Libby's dress. "Isn't this great Jim? I look like a telenovella star. My Libs sure can dress a man!"
"Yeah, real nice, Sheen." Jimmy thought for a moment, "Hey, how did you get the money to get all this stuff?"
"Well, after you all so rudely told me to get a job, I did. I'm an assistant to a local photographer." He nudged Libby's arm, "Your man is an artist now."
She rolled her eyes, "All you do is sweep the floor and refill the paper tray."
"For now! And anyway, he let me have an advance on my paycheck. I even get a discount on portraits. I think I'll have some glamor shots made." He struck a model pose.
"Hey guys!" Carl wandered over with Elke in tow. Poor Carl had donned his dad's 1970's style frilly tux, which oddly worked for him. It would have clashed horribly with Elke's simple mint green strapless gown, except their light pink flowers tied the whole look together. Jimmy wasn't one for fashion, but the pair did look spiffy together. Spiffy? Am I turning into my dad?
His mom opened the door to usher them into the backyard. "Good evening everyone. Hand me your cameras, and I'll get some photos before dinner. Oh Cindy, aren't you lovely? All of you are."
Carl flushed, "Thank you Judy."
"Carl! What did I say about that?"
They took a predictably large mount of photos, some serious, some with humorous poses. After what felt like hours, they went back inside. Jimmy's dad waited at the table dressed in a traditional butler suit. Where on earth did he get that? He gestured for them to sit at the ornately set table.
"Good evening valued patrons. Would you like me to tell you today's specials? I wanted to print up formal menus, but Judy wouldn't let me." He moved around, filling their water glasses.
"Hugh, don't start. I hope everyone likes past-"
"LET ME DO IT! I hope everyone likes pasta, because we will be starting the meal with spinach and cheese ravioli, completely Gluten free." Carl gave a sigh of relief. "Following that will be a vegetable pesto tart with zucchini and bell peppers as well as roasted asparagus in garlic butter. We'll end the meal with rice milk ice cream topped with cherries."
Libby almost teared up. "Mrs. Neutron, Thank you so much. You didn't have to do all this!"
"It was no problem dear, I do love a challenge."
Her words didn't stop Libby from jumping up and hugging her.
"This really is thoughtful Mrs.– er, Judy." Cindy joined the hug, and before she knew it, the whole group had enveloped the small woman."
"Oh, you all are so sweet. Ok, let me go. All right. CARL! Go sit next to your date."
After everyone had thoroughly stuffed themselves and the girls and Carl had powdered their noses (to prevent night sunburn) the gang climbed into the hover car and took off for the school gymnasium.
"Do you guys think there will be polka music tonight?"
"Why would there be polka music, Carl? It's not 1956."
"If you requested that crap I will end you llama boy!"
"I was just wondering!"
They could hear the thump of the DJ's bass from outside. Carl inserted his protective earplugs before offering his arm to Elke.
"Shall we enter, my ultra beauty?" Sheen bowed low in front of Libby.
She rolled her eyes but held out her hand. He grabbed it with enthusiasm and skipped forward, dragging the poor girl behind him.
Jimmy pulled at his jacket sleeve. "So, there's the school."
"Not this again."
"Well, should we go inside?"
She fiddled with her corsage. "Yeah, just give me a minute."
"Come on Cin, let's go. What's the worst that could happen?"
"You unleash a futuristic plague that turns us all into cannibalistic mutant squirrels?"
"No they- wait what? That was oddly specific."
She shrugged, "Our class has a poll going."
"Why do you guys always- you know what? Never mind. It cannot be worse than that." She smiled and grabbed her things before walking to the front of the school where their friends were waiting. Libby gestured for them to go in first.
"Are you ready?"
She took his hand, "Yes. Let's go." She pushed open the door to the gymnasium.
The crepe-paper covered room was lit with an assortment of colored Christmas lights. Various classmates danced around to whatever pop hit blasted from the speakers. The ones closest to the door noticed them, stopped dancing, and turned.
Jimmy smiled nervously, but Cindy stood tall, ready for any snide comments that could come. The crowd grew larger as they walked further into the room. Brittney pushed through to the front of the multitude of students. "Oh my gosh," She hesitated before pointing to them, "…Libby and Sheen are back together!"
A group of people ran past Cindy to where Libby and Sheen stood behind her. The couple fawned as they greeted their adoring populace. A few people turned to wave at the stunned two, but no one commented.
Jimmy looked dumbstruck. "I think we've been upstaged."
"This must be strange for you, not being the center of attention and all. Quick! Make a scene so things can return to the norm!" He glared at Cindy's smirking face.
"Are your snarky comments really necessary?"
At that moment, Betty and her date walked past. She paused and waved timidly. Cindy smiled and waved back. Betty gestured at the two and gave the thumbs up.
Jimmy looked bewildered but Cindy just chuckled.
"What on Earth is going on?"
"Honestly, you need to do a better job of keeping up"
Betty turned to talk with one of her senior friends, when Cindy noticed the tall-brown haired boy who was her date. They made eye contact when she realized it was-
No! It couldn't be!
Matt winked at her before taking Betty's hand and walking away.
She was staring, dumbfounded when Jimmy noticed her. "Who's that?"
She smiled. "Just… a friend."
"Weird. Well, wanna dance?" She nodded and he led her into the center of the floor.
After the slow song and an upbeat boppy one that called out unhelpful instructions (that somehow Cindy and everyone else except him seemed to know) ended, they walked over to the edge of the floor to get refreshments. The punch bowl was on a table next to the photo station.
Jimmy read the description outside the makeshift cloth tent: "Get the ultimate souvenir from a night you won't forget."
"No matter how hard you try" Cindy sipped the coral-colored beverage.
"Oh come on, they've pulled out all the stops! Look- a small ionic column to put your hands on, a fake under the sea background, and I'm sure the camera has a bubble filter."
She sighed, "Alright. Let's get our cheesy picture."
"WELL, if you insist"
The night was all they imagined: loud, with seizure-inducing lights, and a crowded sweaty dance floor, so all in all, enjoyable. After about two hours, the group grew tired and Sheen said what was on everyone's mind: "I'm kind done with this prom."
Elke adjusted her shoe, "I concur."
He took off his jacket and draped it over his left shoulder. "Well we've danced to all the songs that Libby requested. I say we blow this popsicle stand!"
"Nick's throwing an after-party while his parents are out of town, I say we all go and destroy the place."
Libby giggled and the two hurried towards the door that led to the coat check.
Cindy rolled her eyes and tried her best to hide her smile.
"Well," Jimmy turned to her, "What do you say? Want to go get Nick grounded until he's thirty?"
"Hmm, I don't really think a party is our speed"
"Well what about Jupiter?"
She smiled. "Now Jupiter sounds fantastic. We can watch the solar flares, or…"
"Just listen to music." He took her hand, "Solar flares will be there later, but you have to be home by one."
"That sounds wonderful", she kissed him on the cheek. "Race you to the hover car!" She bolted, starting to serpentine her way through the dancing couples.
He started to sprint after her, trying to ignore the pain in his side. He jogged into the parking lot, doubled over and wheezing. "No fair! You're on the soccer team, I haven't run in like three years"
Cindy was leaning against the vehicle, not even breathing heavy. She chuckled, "Tough luck, Jimmy!"
"You don't play fair"
She put her arms around his neck. "You're just a sore loser."
"But a happy one." And with that she kissed him.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, TwoDaysTooLateWrite a Review