Months pass by like weeks. We revise and prepare for our start-of-summer exams. I remain completely loved-up with my mates, loving life. I stay over on sleepovers in the girls’ dorm for study nights and revision sessions.
When June comes, we take our final exams. It is stressful as hell. We revise pretty much every single lesson and every evening. My one shining moment of happiness comes in the middle of my exam week.
I walk into the cafeteria with Esme and Irene, Honey is FaceTiming Lawrence. Everything is seems perfectly normal, until I realise that nearly everyone is looking at us, making me feel extremely self-conscious.
The usually noisy, bustling cafeteria goes utterly silent. I look around to see what is going on.
Everyone’s eyes switch to The Four, who are standing a couple of metres away, right in the middle of the cafeteria.
What the hell are they doing?
I stare at them as they stand in a perfect line. Lucio reveals a large piece of white card from behind his back. He holds it up in front of his body.
Written in thick black marker pen, are the words ‘Go To’. Mal moves next and pulls out his card, which says ‘The Summer Ball’. Oro is standing next to him and holds up his sign; ‘With Us’. Esteban is last, he pulls a pleading face and holds up his placard, which only has one word on it; ‘Please?’
Go to the summer ball with us please?
“Oh, my God! That is the cutest,” Esme exclaims next to me.
Irene shakes me gently. “Emmie, you gotta give them an answer.”
I realise that I’ve been standing here, dazed, and shocked, for a few moments. My mates are looking expectantly at me.
“Yes,” I reply nervously, unsure as to what the summer ball even is.
I guess the name is pretty self-explanatory. Applause breaks out around the cafeteria and my face heats up. Luckily, my mates come over and steal me away before I can get too embarrassed.
Once up in their private lunchroom, they explain.
“It’s an annual ball at the end of term that marks the start of summer and the end of your time at the academy,” Oro explains.
“We want you to be our date,” Es adds happily. “We’ll have the hottest date there.”
“Damn right,” Mal mutters.
“The signs were Lucio’s idea,” Esteban drops him in it.
I look over at Lucio and see his cheekbones are a little pink.
“It was cute,” I reassure him.
“Cringy,” Oro corrects.
“But cute,” I add with a wink. “I loved it.”
“See? I told you she would like it,” Lucio says petulantly to Oro, who sticks his tongue out at him in response.
“What do you wear to the ball? Is it formal?” I ask them.
“Yes, you’ll need to get a dress, Em,” Lucio replies. “I can’t imagine your friends will pass up the chance for a shopping trip.”
“Nope, they will not.”
I’m unbelievably relieved when exams are over. Everyone is so grateful not to be stressed out anymore.
I can’t believe I have finished my school education after so many years of it. It feels surreal, walking away from the classrooms, knowing that I won’t be coming back.
Summer has officially started.
It’s bittersweet, though. I’m pleased that I don’t have to go to school again, but I am going to miss the atmosphere, the environment. I won’t get to be around my best friends every day or have every lunchtime with them anymore. I’ll actually miss my teachers a little, I was really lucky to get good ones.
Although school has finished, we are allowed to stay in our dorms for another week.
The girls and I decide to go shopping for ballgowns. Honey drives us into the city. I laugh at the endless texts that come through from my mates. They’re all complaining that I’ve taken a day off to go shopping. It’s a Saturday and they wanted to spend it together. I don’t know why they’re so bothered; we spend almost every waking moment together.
“Isn’t it their birthday soon?” Esme asks as we look through the dresses on the rails.
They were all born on the same day, but to different families. They will all be turning nineteen.
“Yeah, the day before the ball, actually.”
“Oh, wow! What have you got them?”
Not only have I been stressing about exams for the last month, but I have also had to worry about buying birthday presents for my mates as well. I think it is the only time I have maybe, just for the briefest of moments, wished that I only had one mate. Thinking of four lots of presents is tough.
I will be truly grateful when we can move home and not stress anymore.
My presents for The Four are very similar to their Christmas presents. I’ve just got them things they need and that they like. Their main present is from their parents. All four sets have joined together to get them something truly special. I have been helping them add the finishing touches.
To say that I am excited about their reaction is an understatement. I cannot wait.
Esme approves of my gift ideas. She holds up a deep purple dress to her figure. I nod in approval.
“Definitely try that one on,” I tell her and hold a silver one up to my body. “What do you think of this?”
She’s considering it as Irene walks over to us. “I think you need to try it on, it might clash with your hair.”
Irene looks between me and the dress. “I see what you mean, it might. Try it on, definitely!”
Irene tries on a load of different dresses; I think she is the hardest to choose for because of her red hair. There are lots of dresses that look good on her, but it takes time to find the perfect one that compliments her hair colour the most.
In the end, she goes for an emerald-green, silk dress. It hugs her figure and is a mermaid-style dress with a cowl neck.
Esme is debating whether or not to wear her glasses to the ball. She doesn’t like wearing contacts but says that she might wear them just for one night. We try and convince her to wear the glasses, she should come as herself, not someone she is uncomfortable being.
She has black hair and the purple dress she chose compliments that. She picks three different dresses, all identical colours but completely different styles. All three of us sit on the sofa to watch her try each one on so that we can choose.
We all agree on the halter neck dress. She is tall with a long neck anyway, and the tight dress plays on her svelte physique. The neckline is decorated with small silver jewels, and she buys a silver clutch to go with it.
Honey wants to keep her golden-brown hair down, so she has chosen a strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline. It has a net skirt so it pouffes out a little, but not excessively. She chooses a powder blue dress that brings out her eyes. She sends a picture of the colour to Lawrence so that he can buy a matching tie.
It takes me forever to find the right dress. I must try on at least ten. I can’t decide what colour will go best with my hair. It’s so white that I’m washed out by pale colours and dark colours are too harsh on me.
One of the members of staff notices my frustration and asks if she may suggest a dress for me. When she takes me into the back, I know already that it is going to be pricier than the others ones I’ve tried on. She explains that it is from a new delivery they received this morning but haven’t managed to process yet. She saw it and thinks it will go with my complexion.
I’m so fed up at this point that I readily agree to try anything. She hands me the dress and I feel the beautiful material. It is a very pale pink and I worry that it might wash me out.
When I try it on, I realise that my worries were for nothing. My tan compensates for the pale colour, and it actually emphasises my complexion rather than counteracting it.
There is a layer of silver, glittering netting over the skirt. It mixes with the pink and sparkles under the light when I move. It has a plunging neckline that I wouldn’t normally go for, but there is a piece of the same netting form the skirt across the cleavage, creating a little modesty.
I barely even hear the price when the member of staff quotes it to me, I’ve already decided in my head that this is the one. I just hope my mates like it.