Chapter 70: Heathens - Twenty-one Pilots
I had never been to a prom. There was military ball at the school I attended, but opted not to go. I did not have a date and I did not have a group of friend I would be content to attend with instead. I did not have a date to Sella Moora’s prom, but neither did Morgan nor Ryan and there were plenty of other exciting elements to look forward to.
Sami and Finn’s big reveal lived up to the hype. Morgan worked her magic and his dress fit perfectly. Sami’s tuxedo and shoes were neat, clean, and polished. She had separated her hair into two low ponytails, making them visible beneath her top hat. The hair within them was teased and crimped. She couldn’t resist a touch of chaos.
“We truly are the classiest of individuals. I will be baffled if we are dismissed from the promenade.” Sami used an exaggeratedly fancy voice. She adjusted her necktie as Finn held her cane.
“It shall be an evening we recall for ages. You look most handsome, most handsome, indeed.” His voice was altered in a similar way hers was.
“Good riddance, foolish gentleman. My appearance lacks the need for commentary. Tis more recalcitrant than beautiful.”
“I concur. There is beauty in anarchy.”
“My dear, Watson, you will have more success swaying me when I am intoxicated.”
“I can remedy this issue.” He bent down and hiked up his gown to reveal and ankle holster.
“Ankle!” She gasped.
“Do you want to enjoy libations or not?”
“I most certainly do, but your indecency was unprecedented.”
I chuckled and shook my head. It was easy to tell they were fully dedicated to keeping up their ruse for the entire night.
“It is time to go pick up the girls.” Milo was looking down at his watch when he walked out of our room.
“They are women. They deserve to be regarded with the upmost respect.” Sami replied.
He looked up and smirked the moment he laid eyes on them. “You’re really doing it.”
“Sir Watson and I want the dear administration to know we are literate. We look most dignified.”
Finn turned around and looked over his shoulder. “Most dignified, indeed.” He batted his eyelashes.
I snorted, trying too hard not to laugh.
“Whoa. What am I looking at?” Ryan stumbled back into his room, startled by what he walked in on.
“A confident man with a derriere that will not quit.” Sami lightly tapped Finn’s rear-end with her cane.
“I’ll agree with you on the confidence. When are we heading over?”
“Now. Nicky is already over there.” Milo called the shots.
I needed to visit the kitchen. Milo was quick to join me.
“Whom are you giving that to?” He asked of the corsage I retried from the refrigerator.
“Morgan. We are not going together, technically, but I did not want her to feel left out. Everyone else will have one.”
“She will love it.” He gave me a pat on the back.
“Is it weird? I only want to be her friend. I do not want this gesture to be misconstrued.”
“No. It is nice. She appreciates kindness.” He retrieved Izzie’s corsage.
“I will trust your instincts on this one.”
“I am even willing to give it to her. That goes to show it can be given without romantic insinuation.”
I was still nervous despite his encouragement.
“Will you give this to Morgan and say it is from you?” I asked Sami during our walk.
She eyed it. “Why me?”
“You are her best friend.”
“Was this always the idea or…?”
“I was going to give it to her, but it will be more special coming from you.”
She accepted the box without further questions. She keyed into their suite as soon as we arrived. “Time to depart!” She announced.
Morgan was the first to leave her room. She wore a powder blue kimono. The cherry blossoms she pinned in her hair matched the ones on her dress.
“You look dazzling, Mother. Here is a corsage.” Sami presented her with the flower bracelet.
“It’s beautiful.” She rested her hand on her chest. “It matches my dress.” She smiled.
“It is also your favorite color.”
“Thank you.” She hugged Sami.
I was elated that it made her so happy.
“Adam, I made you a boutonniere.” She told me as Sami put her corsage on her wrist.
“This is your first prom. You need to have everything. Come with me.” She motioned me to her room. “It isn’t a real flower, but it looks it. I know you are sensitive to pollen.”
“How do I put it on?”
“I’ll do it. I’ve had three years of practice. This is the last time I’ll ever need to use this skill.” She picked up the flower creation on her desk.
“Is there something I need to do?”
“Stay still.” She lifted the lapel of my tuxedo jacket.
I looked down at it as she worked. “It looks nice.”
She wove the pin in and out of the fabric with ease. “I want you to have the full prom experience.”
“What will it be like?”
“There is no way to predict exactly what will happen. My best advice is to roll with the punches.”
“What happened last year?”
“We took a professional group photo that made the photographer keep asking if we were serious. I have it around here somewhere.” She went to her closet in pursuit of it.
She removed a photo box from the top shelf. She leafed through it.
“Here it is.” She held it up. She returned to me.
I took it into my hands.
Izzie and Milo were in the middle. He was kissing her cheek as she looked up at the ceiling with a smile. Ryan had popped the collar of his jacket with a smoldering gaze and compatible smirk. Elle had one of her hands behind her head, the other on her hip, and leaned back into him as she made eyes at the camera. Sami had balled both of her hands into fists, placed them on her hips with her legs apart, and stared off into the distance like a superhero. Nick shrugged with a smile. Morgan laughed. Finn put his hand on his forehead as if he was trying to make out something in the distance.
“This looks like it was so much fun.” I voiced my thoughts.
“It was. Elle won prom queen via write in votes. Juniors can only run for princess or prince. Sami and Finn rigged Elle’s prom princess campaign pens to explode so that they would stain Anna’s dress. She knit picked with Elle earlier in the night. Sam and Finn struck again, dropping confetti and balloons via a contraption they had built and attached to the ceiling. It was a good night, wild, but definitely fun.”
“Do you think I will have trouble keeping up?”
“No, not at all. Relax.” She smiled, playfully pushing me.
The two of us went back into the living room. Everyone was there. Elle took pictures with her phone of Izzie pinning on Milo’s boutonniere.
His eyes were glued to her and a soft smile was present on his face. She was oblivious to it, struggling to attach it properly.
I had grown all too familiar with the look he was giving her. He was too consumed with her to think of anything else. It generally appeared when they had spent a significant amount of time apart, she looked particularly nice, or she was tending to him in some way. She looked beautiful in her gown. It was cream in color and featured embroidered golden flowers. The dress’s fabric was softly draped and the sleeves fell off her shoulders. Her hair was curled and pinned up, exposing her collarbones and long neck. Her appearance in conjunction with her taking care of him rendered him utterly helpless.
“Iz, we’ve got to take a selfie.” Elle motioned her over once she was finally finished with Milo.
Milo kissed her and reluctantly removed his arms from her waist. Elle used that time to adjust her cleavage.
“Do you have a back up dress if they turn you away for your current one?” Morgan asked her.
“There’s nothing hanging out. They can’t send me home for this.”
The top of her dress was light gray in color; the fabric was a delicate lace with jeweled flowers. The neckline plunged to her ribcage. Her ample breasts were secured to her body by a sheer, flesh-tinted panel built into the dress, allowing what was there to be seen, but untouchable. The dress fit her body like a glove until it reached her hips, where the fabric transitioned into tulle and trailed onto the floor. The capped sleeves were needed to balance out the back cutout.
“But if they do.”
“I will argue my butt off. I had this custom fitted months ago. They changed dress code a few weeks ago. I did not have enough time to abide by the rules. They can either reimburse me or shut up about it.”
“I will too. She’s out done herself. I’m not letting that out of my sight without a fight.” Ryan pointed at her.
Elle winked and kissed the air in his direction. He put his hand on his chest and shook his head with closed eyes.
Elle and Izzie took their pictures. Elle grabbed Nick next. She yanked him out of his shell, forcing him to pose and interact with her.
We walked to the banquet hall as a pack.
All of us were granted access to the prom, including Elle. She was too confident to question as she handed her ticket to the chaperone in charge of collecting them. He was too intimidated to open his mouth or maintain eye contact.
“And that’s how you do it, kids.” She looked over her shoulder and smiled at those of us who were behind her.
We first visited the photographer. I was excited by the knowledge I would be a part of the silly group photo.
“We are going to take a couple photo first.” Morgan took my arm.
“What?” I stumbled behind her as we went to the line dedicated to single and double photos.
“Uncomfortable date photos are a part of this. I hope I suffice as your fake date. I can grab Elle if you want a higher quality photo. She is always up for a photoshoot.”
“A mom and stepdad photo is more appropriate.”
“Too scared to touch her?” The two of us watched as she socialized with everyone in sight as she waiting in line with Nick.
“A little.” I wasn’t lying. I spent far more time with Morgan. I felt comfortable with her.
“It takes a little while for the sun effect to wear off.”
“Sun effect?” I looked over at Morgan.
“She is so beautiful that you can’t help but look at her. It hurts when you do it for long periods of time because she looks too perfect to be real. It took me two years to see her as a human. You just need more time.”
“Do you think we will still be friends after school ends?”
“Yes. How many times do I have to tell you that you are one of us?”
“It feels too good to be true.”
“You earned our trust. Not many do. We won’t let you slip away. You know too much.” She pushed me playfully.
The photographer needed to instruct us on how to pose when it was our turn to take a picture. Morgan and I stood at an angle. I was behind her and had my arms around her waist. Her hands were on top of mine, showing off her corsage.
“Awkward?” Morgan asked as we walked away from the backdrop.
“I thought that was the idea.”
“It was. I needed to make sure I’m doing a good job.” She rubbed my back.
The nine of us got together for our group photo once everyone was done with their solo ones.
Sami was in the center, standing tall with her cane and holding her monocle to her eye. Finn had stolen her top hat. He tilted down its brim. Ryan squatted down and held out his arms, right below Sam. Izzie was on Milo’s back. Elle kissed Nick’s cheek. Morgan and I jumped, holding our arms up and making silly faces on either end of the group.
“That was really fun.” I told Morgan as we walked to our table.
“You’re doing well so far.”
We ate dinner before going out on the dance floor. I was not a dancer. Unsure of what to do, I looked around for references. That is when I noticed people were angling their phones in Izzie and Milo’s direction and appeared to be documenting their interactions. I switched into work mode. I decided against contacting the far guards. Milo would be upset if I ruined his prom by giving them a reason to come inside and hover over him.
I sought Finn and Sami. They were passing a flask back and forth as they haphazardly danced.
“There are people taking pictures of Iz and Milo.” I told them without fear of interrupting.
“Who?” Sam looked around.
I did not need to answer. The culprits were easy to spot.
“You need not worry, Sir Adam. We shall defend their honor with indecency.” She walked away utilizing her cane.
Finn shoved the flask he was holding into my chest. I was left with no choice other than to take it or it would have dropped to the ground.
“I know how much is in there.” He pointed at me.
“I wasn’t going to --
“Hide it.” Morgan instructed.
I screwed on the cap and put the flask into the breast pocket of my jacket. I glanced around to make sure no one had seen me do it.
Sami snatched the first phone she saw angled in Milo and Izzie’s direction. She checked it to see what they were doing. Assuming she saw something pertaining to them, she yanked out the memory card and handed it to Finn. She then threw the phone to the ground and jumped on it.
“You were warned.” She gave them their shattered phone.
They repeated this procedure until all of the secret photographers were confronted or they stopped what they were doing out of fear of losing their phones.
“You made their night.” Morgan leaned over to tell me.
“They made mine.” I was still in awe of Sam’s intimidation factor.
I was left with no other choice than to dance once the threat was neutralized. Unfortunately, it was a slow song. I had even less of an idea as to what to do.
Izzie and Milo started slow motion chicken dancing instead of traditionally slow dancing. As if planned, the six others joined them in a circle. I followed their lead. It was really fun once I got the hang of it.
“As headmaster, it is always my duty to announce the winners of prom court. This year you all decided to get particularly crafty. --“ Headmaster Lawrence interrupted the DJ.
“Senior names were written onto the junior princess and prince ballots. The senior king and queen winners were written in. Without further ado, here are the winners – “ He unfolded the piece of cardstock he was holding.
“The titles of prom princess and prince go to Ryan Stephens and Elle Woollard.”
The crowd applauded as they made their way to the stage.
He sighed when he returned his eyes to the card in his hand. “The students who have won prom king and queen were voted for virtually unanimously. I cannot speak as to why it happened, but –“ He paused to shake his head, trying hard not to voice too much of his opinion. “Sami Elkins and Finn Watson.” He unenthusiastically announced.
“Did you rig this?” Morgan was quick to ask them.
“No, ma’am.” Sam replied.
The crowd went crazy as they paraded up to the stage.
Sam marched right up the microphone. “How splendid. We are being coronated as royals, Sir Watson.” She looked at him as she spoke in the fancy voice she had maintained for the entire night.
“We are indubitably qualified. Our attire lends itself to accolades.” He continued.
The audience loved them. Headmaster Lawrence wanted them off the stage as soon as possible.
“May I have the tiara, Kind Sir? It shall rest on the brim of my top hat quite nicely.” Finn derailed his plan.
The headmaster complied with visible frustration. Sami and Finn regally waved as Elle and Ry were crowned.
The crowd’s reaction to them made it very obvious as to why they were chosen. Everyone was upset about the dress code restrictions. They were the only ones with the conviction to challenge it.
The four of our friends on stage rejoined those of us on the ground. We danced and played for the rest of the night.
There was something about being within their ragtag collective that made me feel unwaveringly confident. They were not the most popular cliques, nor did they have a particularly large network of outside friends. They were the only ones they trusted. Each one of them had a role to play within their unit. They were more than close, they were a family and they considered me to be a part of it. I was no longer an outsider. I was a part of something special.