Chapter 19 – The Fashion Show
For the first time in as long as I could remember, my bedroom window was locked up tight and the curtains were drawn shut. My cell phone was silenced and across the room and my dad had strict orders that I didn't want to answer any calls on the house phone.
Of course he'd noticed my behavior as soon as we'd all disembarked from the plane. I put as much distance between myself and Todd as logistically possible and had been silent for the entire drive home. Todd tried, briefly, to explain but I'd shut him down and disappeared inside my house.
I'd been avoiding him ever since, exchanging only the barest of greetings at school. Naturally everyone had noticed and wondered what had put a wedge between us but no one knew. And no one would ever know if I had my way.
There was another pleading tap on the window, "Ginny...please open up!" Todd's voice was muffled beyond the glass but I could make out the words and fill in the blanks.
"Go away Todd!" I shouted before grabbing a pillow and pushing it down over my face, hoping to tune him out completely.
Unfortunately my mind betrayed me as memories and moments from that night in San Francisco flashed into existence. The kiss. The shock. The wounded heart.
"Ginny, I've fallen for you all over again these last few months," he'd rushed to explain as I stumbled back. "You're incredible, a rock and I...I know this is horrible timing but, we're graduating and I want you to know before..."
"No, no...." I was shaking my head, moving further from him. "I have a boyfriend and even if I didn't...there's too much water under that bridge...." His face had fallen. I'd wanted to go back to him, wrap my arms around him and help him but now everything was different.
Everything was wrong.
I scowled at the bright, perky smile that adorned the poster. "Queen Chrissy" had chosen an elegant script font to punctuate her "royalness" in her campaign for prom queen. "I'm resisting the urge to give her a mustache...and chest hair..."
Erik chuckled, then reached into a pocket of his back pack to produce a black pen. "Go ahead..." he said. My artistic endeavors were thankfully interrupted by Tim's abrupt arrival.
"I need your help," Tim looked near frantic as he approached with Todd and Nai'a in tow. Todd tried to catch my gaze but I averted my eyes quickly.
"What's up?" I said, desperately hoping my voice didn't sound as squeaky as it did to my own ears. I reached out for Erik's hand, as much for my own strength as to remind Todd to keep his damn mouth shut. Deep down, I knew I needn't have bothered. Todd wasn't out to sabotage my relationship with Erik.
The gesture hit its mark though and Todd's eyes fell to the ground. The same look of rejection I'd seen in the dark that night filled his face.
"We have a Prom emergency," Nai'a said, drawing my attention back to their anxious faces. "We don't have enough money..." she said, her voice low so as not to be overheard.
"But we have a plan," Tim said quickly, shooting her a panicked look. "Which is where you all come in. Please?"
"Please what exactly?" Erik asked, nervousness etched across his face.
"We're planning a fashion show and auction, with donated formal wear. I need models..." he glanced at Todd, "and bachelors willing to be auctioned off..."
"This is a bachelor auction?" I asked, my eyes widening.
"Only partially – the clothes will be the primary auction items but we thought a few high profile seniors might be talked into giving up a dance or two...?" Nai'a gave Todd her most charming, Hollywood smile.
Todd frowned but shrugged, "sure, not like I have a better offer."
"Yes! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Nai'a's shrieks drew a few odd glances until she settled down under Tim's serene gaze. "Um, and you two...will you be in the fashion show at least?"
Erik groaned, causing me to elbow him. "Well I will, sure." After a moment Erik nodded, begrudgingly so the trio left happy. "Thank you," I said, pecking Erik on the cheek.
"Why, exactly, did I just agree to that? It's just a school dance."
"It's Prom Erik, not just any school dance," I said, still amazed by his total apathy for school functions.
Erik wrapped his arm around my waist and tugged me closer. "I seem to remember we've already had Prom," he said, a mischievous and playful grin on his face.
"And that was only as juniors...just think how much better it can be this year," I teased. "We'll never know though if we don't help raise the money for it." Erik groaned again but was placated.
"Okay Gin, give it up...." Nai'a was sitting on the counter, playing with a make up brush while I sifted through the various dresses that had been donated for the auction. "What is up with you and Todd?"
"Huh?" I shoved the dresses apart to catch her eye. "What do you mean?" I squeaked.
"Seriously girl? You think you're fooling anyone with that? It's been what, two weeks since you got back from San Fran? You two have totally been on the outs since then and it's ridiculous. So spill!"
"There's nothing to spill," I said, ducking back behind the clothes so she couldn't read the lie all over my face. "We just had a disagreement and things have been weird since..." I stole a glance around the rack and she looked unconvinced. "Have you ever been stuck on a plane with someone you've fought with? It's horrible!"
Nai'a just shook her head, "I suppose. Seems like you're not telling something...but whatever, keep your secrets."
"This one is nice," I said, pulling a dress from the rack and holding it up against my body. "Do I get first dibs as the VP's life long friend?"
"I think the VP's girlfriend gets first pick," Nai'a said, hopping down from the counter. "Thankfully, I already chose mine and hid it away," she said with a chuckle. She dug into one of the costume closets and pulled a garment bag from the very back.
I leaned in, eager for a peak at the dress she'd felt the need to squirrel away from the other models. Of course Todd chose that moment to interrupt. Nai'a glanced between us both and then hid the dress once more. "Yeah, I'll just be...going," she said, pointing awkwardly toward the exit. I didn't get a chance to stop her before she darted around Todd and vanished.
"Ginny." He made a show of looking at the rack of dresses and then frowned, looking around the small dressing room with confusion.
"The tuxes and suits are on the other side...in the guy's dressing room," I said.
"Right, of course," Todd said. I started to move around him but he stopped me with his arm, "Ginny, can't we talk?"
"No, I think we've said everything. Too much water under that..."
"Bridge, right you said that already," Todd said. "I don't want this to ruin our friendship Ginny! You were right, of course, I was an idiot – you're obviously in love with Erik and I'm just...in the way."
"You're not in the way Todd," I said quickly, hoping to terminate that line of thought. "You're my best friend and that's how I want us to always be – best friends."
"Only," he said. The sad, dejected face was back in place, making me hurt inside for him. "I just wanted to say, I'm sorry – for putting all this awkwardness between us."
"Yeah," I tucked the dress over one arm, "well I'll see you later." This time he didn't try to stop me as I left.
Erik shifted awkwardly under the tux and growled, "I hate this," he muttered.
"I know," I said, trying to hide a grin. "But you look great. It suits you." Beyond the curtain, there was a clamor of noise as the audience took their seats. There was a fairly equal mix of parents and students filing into the auditorium now, giving my stomach mild butterflies. "Wow..." I said, peaking out beyond the curtain.
I didn't have a chance to focus on the nerves for long before Tim and Nai'a came through the back stage area, clipboards in hand. "Okay, listen up," he began detailing the order of events. "Pair one," he checked his clipboard and pointed toward two people standing toward the back, "get ready."
Erik and I were scheduled in the latter half of the show so we pulled away from the crowd, letting the early pairs get in position near the stage entrances. "Ginny! There you are!" Nai'a said, dodging another model on her way toward me. "Change of plans...we need you to walk now."
"What? Just me?" The whole show had been planned around 'couples' walking the catwalk together. Tim had said something about how 'one can't promenade alone.'
"No, with Todd. Your dress color coordinates with his suit better. Tammy will be walking with Erik instead," she said as she fiddled with my hair. Erik just shrugged, which Nai'a took for approval and she drug me away from him.
As she positioned me on a tape marked X just behind the curtain, I could see Todd in the other wing, standing on his own X. "You didn't arrange this did you?" I hissed at Nai'a. I couldn't imagine why she would, beyond the obvious awkwardness between Todd and I, but this seemed like a bit too much of a coincidence.
"No," Nai'a looked truly baffled by my question so I shook it off. "What's it matter? It's just Todd. Now go on and make Chrissy a jealous wreck," Nai'a said with a wink.
Todd made it to the first marker a step ahead of me and extended his hand. We'd both practiced the strut with our previous partners during the week and the stage was well marked so we knew exactly where to stop and pose.
At the end of the walk, there was a flurry of flashes and then the auction on our clothes began. This was the most unnerving part of the whole experience. I struggled to keep a straight face as the bids rose on the dress. After several minutes of alternating between two pre-practiced poses, both outfits were sold and we were released to return behind the curtains. Nai'a was waiting for me with another dress in hands. "What's this?"
"Tammy chickened out..." Nai'a grimaced. "Can you change in lightening speed?"
I rolled my eyes and grabbed the hanger from her but Chrissy materialized and clamped her hand over it. "I'll do it," she said, smiling brightly. "Ginny looks so tired after all. Given her condition and all, it's not so surprising." She shot me a cruel look and then yanked the dress from my hands before I could protest.
"Chrissy!" Nai'a hissed, running after her. I thought about pursuing but she was right about one thing; I was tired.
Instead, I left her in the hands of Nai'a and made my way back to where Erik was reading a book while waiting his turn. "We may be walking together after all...or you might be stuck with Chrissy the wench."
Erik frowned, "last week this whole thing was beneath her, what changed?"
I just shrugged, "who knows. She's probably up to something." When Nai'a tracked us down, she wasn't holding the dress and looked pissed off. It was easy to tell what happened based on her attitude. I turned to Erik and shook my head, "good luck."
"Sorry, Tim overruled me when Chrissy volunteered for the dance card auction as well. I guess having the potential prom queen in the line up was too tempting," Nai'a said with a groan.
I was in the audience when they came out on stage and had to resist the urge to boo loudly. Instead, I bit down on my lower lip as Chrissy made a point of pressing herself to Erik. She caught my glare and smirked before leaning in Erik and pretending to whisper in his ear seductively. On the bright side, the dress was ill fitted for her body and hung in all the wrong places which made her look like a fool. I pulled out my phone and took a few extra pictures of the fashion disaster to send to Veronica.
We were in a text conversation about it when Erik found me and took the seat beside me. "You did great," I said, giving him a smile. Though I'm sure he'd just as soon leave now that he'd fulfilled his fashion duties, he settled into the seat and draped an arm over my shoulders. "V says you looked great by the way," I said, showing him my phone screen.
After another twenty minutes of the parade of formal wear, the excitement in the room kicked up a notch for the dance card auction. I flipped through a discarded program and had to admit to being impressed by the seniors Tim had corralled and cajoled into participating. As a last minute entry, Chrissy's name was not on the list but it would fit in well with the rest of the "popular" crowd. Most of them had agreed to auction off a single dance at the Prom but a few, like Todd, had actually consented to auctioning off the whole evening. The fact that someone would be buying Todd as a prom date made me a little ill.
Most of the early auctions were short and averaged a few bids each. Michael Canton broke the mold by sparking a bidding war when he ripped his shirt off, baring a well sculpted chest. His single dance sold for nearly two hundred dollars. Chrissy's sold for thirty – another fact that I had to text to Veronica with sick delight.
Finally, Todd was welcomed to the stage with loud applause. As one of the front runners for Prom King, the football captain and all around nice guy, he had many eager bidders and there was an early frenzy between six or seven girls. One by one the price got too high and they began to drop out until it was between only two. It seemed like Tisha was going to win at three hundred, when Chrissy popped up, "five hundred."
I'd been texting Veronica furiously throughout the auction. "OMG, C bid on Todd!" I was surprised at how quickly my fingers moved across the keys.
"Outbid her!" The response was nearly instant.
"Six hundred," I said, trying not to think about where the six hundred dollars would come from. Todd and Erik both turned to look at me, stunned.
"Seven," Chrissy said, crossing her arms across her chest and glaring.
I gulped, "Eight." I thrust the phone at Erik, "explain it to V," I whispered.
"Nine hundred," Chrissy said. I could see the frustration breaking out across her face and hoped she was about to break.
"One grand," Erik whispered, showing me the incoming text from Veronica.
"One thousand dollars," I said, trying not to let my nerves show through my smile. Chrissy looked livid but she backed down and was forced to sit down.
"Going once? Twice.....SOLD!" Tim shouted, pointing his gavel my direction. "To Genevieve Bartlett for one thousand dollars."
I took the phone from Erik and fell into my seat. I dialed V's number and tried to steady my breathing. "I sincerely hope you have a thousand dollars V," I said by way of greeting.
"I've got it covered," she said. "Tell Tim you brought it by proxy and I'll arrange payment."
After hanging up, I gave Erik a quick recap and then headed back stage to track down Tim. I was sidetracked as Todd swept me into a flying hug. "I knew it! Well I didn't but I hoped..."
"Todd," I sputtered, trying to regain my footing.
"No, no need to speak...I'm just glad it's you. I couldn't imagine going to prom with anyone else at this point."
And then he kissed me, again. This time it was hungrier and more fervent as if he knew someone would be coming around the corner in just a moment to destroy this fantasy with a crash of reality.