The next couple of weeks after Homecoming brought no new events. I hardly saw Lynna, except in classes and between periods. Ella’s parents eventually returned after three days and reset the house systems. Ella was restricted from driving though. She was chauffeured to all her events by her mom in the sedan that was Ella’s car, but I believed she didn’t mind that form of punishment. She called me the Sunday after the lockdown offering her thanks for what transpired on the field. Lynna apparently wasted no time in regaling my gentlemanly attempts at salvaging her flailing social status, though I was sure she didn’t care about that anymore. Since that night, the pair of them was stuck together like glue. They ate at the same table during lunch, they went to the same parties together, and whenever Ella’s parents left the town, Lynna stayed over at her house.
I tried joining them whenever I could, but hockey took up so much of my time now. Due to my heroic stunts at the Homecoming game, our team moved up a rank. Coach started pushing us towards winning more games with the chance of us entering the playoffs; this was an event that hadn’t occurred for the team before, so it was a big deal.
Justin calmed down, after it grew clear that Jacelyn and Kyle were serious about each other. Those two were nearly inseparable. Even the teachers had a grim time prying the couple apart in the halls between periods. Every time the two met up after classes, their lips instantly locked and hands started groping, not caring who onlooked. The truth was it sickened me from the sight of it, and I wasn’t the only one. The only people who seemed to stare at the two of them in awe were their respective friends and girls who dreamed about being in her position.
October passed into November and soon the winter formal approached quickly. Teresa, Kevin and Clara sat at a lunch table near the cafeteria stage when I picked a spot by them. I quietly pulled out my notebook and pen. They discussed the student council agenda regarding the upcoming dance. Kevin munched on his hamburger while I took notes from class and completed homework for my private tutor. My classes were arranged so that I could learn Italian while the rest of the students learned Spanish or German, two languages I had already mastered.
Drew arrived and sat down beside me. He faced Clara and Teresa. “It’s official,” he announced.
I barely glanced up at him, but paid attention to the conversation, nevertheless. He had news about something important, though I didn’t know what.
Clara perked up right away. “Really?” she squeaked out.
“Yeah. Ms. Camden liked the idea so much that she decided to go with our decision rather than wait for any other ideas.”
The table shook as Clara and Teresa bounced up and down in their seats with excitement. I had to stop writing so it wouldn’t look like scribbles on my paper. “Yay!” they squealed in unison.
Kevin stared at the two of them, his mouth full of hamburger. “Care to dish?” he muttered.
Even I glanced up wondering what this was all about. With their squealing I couldn’t concentrate on my work.
Teresa beamed at him, eager to spill the secret, but she didn’t say anything. The table stilled as well as the rest of the lunchroom.
Out of the corner of my eye, Jacelyn appeared with Kyle in tow. She was looking murderous and apparently her mood was the reason behind the sudden silence. Her eyes rested on us and she rushed over.
“What is the meaning of this?” Her voiced shrilled over the chatter that resumed once other people figured out she wasn’t after them, but someone at our table. “Ms. Camden says there’s not going to be a nomination ballot for the dance this year! How am I supposed to campaign for Autumn Beauty?”
I focused my eyes back down onto my notes the minute she made her way over. I wanted to avoid answering her, and hoped the others felt the same. One quick sweep of the table let me know no one wanted to explain things, but they were caught in a situation where someone would have to answer her questions and make her disappear again.
“Did she explain to you how it would work?” Drew asked smugly.
She scoffed. “Yes! But how will anyone know it’s me?”
Teresa went into a coughing fit, but I distinctly heard words mumbled in the noise. “By the way you dress,” she coughed aloud.
“What was that?” Jacelyn snapped at her.
Kyle finally approached us, as he hung back, avoiding us until it was necessary. He moved and put his arm around Jacelyn’s shoulders, pulling her close which she allowed.
Teresa’s cough increased, and Kevin ended up patting her on the back.
“Jacelyn, we wanted to do something different this year with the formal,” Clara answered her with complete ease.
I peered over at her. She looked complacent and not as ecstatic from before.
Jacelyn flashed her fiery gaze at her. “But you could’ve left the campaigning alone! None of you will be nominated anyway so I don’t see why you changed it!” she interjected before Clara could finish.
Drew smiled at her. “The campaigning would interfere with the theme of the formal. Ms. Camden agreed which is why the vote won’t be taken until the night of the dance.”
My head shot up. This was new.
Kevin stopped munching right away. His eyes glanced over at Teresa, who swallowed and hid a smile.
“And just how are people supposed to vote for me if they won’t know who I am?” she asked us like we had an answer for her.
No one responded to her demand.
“I think that’s the point,” Ella greeted her. She walked up and squashed her body in between Drew and mine. We both moved apart to allow her room to sit down.
Jacelyn glared at her while Kyle moved his gaze elsewhere. “You’re basically saying everyone will be able to vote for a piece of trash like you and that girl who can’t speak a word of English?”
Ella glared back at her. “Well, duh. And Lynna’s not trash. Plus, she speaks several languages, English being one of them.”
The tension flared anew in between the former friends.
Clara cleared her throat, “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You have some time to prepare your costume,” she suggested to Jacelyn hoping the girl would leave.
Jacelyn’s face went back to normal as she contemplated this idea. “You’re right. I can still win this. I’ll tell everyone what to expect.” She left after that, taking Kyle with her.
Once she was gone, Ella went back to her normal self. “I’ll know to look for the knife in the back.”
“I was going to go with a hoe instead of a knife,” Kevin chuckled.
Ella smiled and giggled from her seat, a drastic change from her mood a month earlier. “That too.”
Chatter resumed now that Jacelyn and her new entourage of the ‘in crowd’ students had left. Since Clara and Teresa hung out with Ella and me, Jacelyn had dug up some new friends of sympathizers and self-loving gloaters. There were always girls who wished to join her inner friendship circle.
“What is this about the dance again?” My interest piqued the moment it was mentioned. I was curious as to why the voting system had Jacelyn all a twitter.
Ella smiled as she fixed her hamburger toppings. She apparently knew the news. “Well, Clara told me what happened with the Homecoming votes, so I started thinking, like I always do.”
Drew smiled. “The council wanted to do a masquerade at some point…”
“But the winter formal usually crowned the Autumn Beauty…” Teresa picked up.
“And having a masquerade with the point of no one knowing who you’re dressed as would essentially destroy the ballot,” Clara finished.
Ella eyes twinkled. I knew her mind had filled with one of her brilliant ideas. “So, we decided to scratch the ballot and vote on the best costume. We would reveal the person at the end of the night for the winner.”
I completely understood what the fuss was about. “You guys made it to where anyone can win, and not just the popular crew.”
“Exactly.” She stressed the word throwing me a malicious grin.
I thought about the idea. I liked it. “That’s brilliant.”
Ella grinned from ear to ear throughout the rest of lunch.
Teresa, Kevin, and Clara discussed party decorations with Drew. I went back to my work, but I noticed a tiny word scrawled on my paper. I focused on the red ink, and it enlarged itself in my vision. When I glanced away it was barely indiscernible again, though I could remember what it read. The funny thing was, it was written in my handwriting and it was in Latin. All I saw in those few seconds was a word, Karis, and I had no idea how it got there.