Prom Nights from Hell Chapter One Hell on Earth
Hell on Earth
Gabe stared across the dance floor and frowned. He wasn’t sure why he’d asked Celeste to the prom, and it was another mystery why she’d said yes. Even more mysterious now, watching her grip Heath McKenzie around the neck so tightly that Heath was probably having trouble breathing. Their bodies flattened into an indivisible mass as they swayed against the beat, ignoring the rhythm of the song thudding through the room. Heath’s hands roamed over Celeste’s glistening white dress in an intimate way.
“Tough luck, Gabe.”
Gabe looked away from the spectacle his date was making to his approaching friend.
“Hey, Bry. Having a nice night?”
“Better than you, man, better than you,” Bryan answered, grinning. He lifted his cup of bilious green punch as if for a toast. Gabe touched his bottled water to Bryan’s cup and sighed.
“I had no idea Celeste had a thing for Heath. What is he, her ex or something?”
Bryan took a gulp of the sinister-looking drink, made a face, and shook his head. “Not that I know of. I’ve never seen them even speak to each other before tonight.”
Both of them stared at Celeste, who had apparently lost something she needed deep inside Heath’s mouth.
“Huh,” Gabe said.
“It’s probably just the punch,” Bryan said in an attempt to be encouraging. “I don’t know how many people spiked it, but ouch. She might not even know that’s not you out there.”
Bryan took another swig and made another face.
“Why are you drinking that?” Gabe wondered aloud.
Bryan shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe the music will start to sound a little less pathetic after I force a glass of this down.”
Gabe nodded. “My ears may never forgive me. I should have brought my iPod.”
“I wonder where Clara is. Is there some kind of girl-law that demands they spend a certain percentage of every event in the bathroom together?”
“Yes. Stiff penalties for girls who don’t meet the quota.”
Bryan laughed once, but then his smile faded and he fiddled with his bow tie for a moment. “About Clara…” he began.
“You don’t have to say anything,” Gabe assured him. “She’s an amazing girl. And you two are perfect for each other. I would’ve had to be blind not to see that.”
“You really don’t mind?”
“I told you to ask her to the prom, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, you did. Sir Galahad makes another match. Seriously, man, do you ever think about yourself?”
“Sure, every hour on the hour. And hey, speaking of Clara… she better have a great time tonight or I’m going to break your nose.” Gabe grinned a wide grin. “She and I are still good friends-don’t think I won’t call her to check.”
Bryan rolled his eyes, but suddenly found it a little difficult to swallow. If Gabe Christensen wanted to break his nose, he wouldn’t have much of a problem doing it-Gabe didn’t mind getting his knuckles bruised or his permanent record blemished if it meant righting something that was wrong in his eyes.
“I’ll take care of Clara,” Bryan said, wishing that the words didn’t sound so much like a vow. There was something about Gabe and his piercing blue eyes that made you feel that way-like doing the best you could at any given task. It got irritating sometimes. With a grimace, Bryan dumped the rest of his punch into the dead moss at the base of a fake ficus tree. “If she ever leaves the bathroom.”
“Good man,” Gabe said approvingly, but his smile twisted down on one side. Celeste and Heath had disappeared into the crowd.
Gabe wasn’t sure what the protocol was when you got dumped at the prom. How was he supposed to make sure she got home safe? Was that Heath’s job now?
Gabe wondered again why he’d asked Celeste to this dance.
She was a very pretty girl-pageant pretty. Perfect blond hair-so full it was fluffy-wide-spaced brown eyes, and curvy lips always painted a flattering shade of pink. Her lips weren’t the only things that were curvy. She’d all but shut his brain down with the thin, clingy dress she’d worn tonight.
Her looks weren’t the reason he’d noticed her, though. That reason was something else entirely.
It was stupid and embarrassing, really. Gabe would never, ever tell anyone else about this, but every now and then, he got this weird sense that someone needed help. Needed him. He’d gotten that inexplicable pull from Celeste, as if the shapely blonde was hiding a damsel in distress somewhere behind her flawless makeup.
Very stupid. And obviously wrong. Celeste didn’t seem interested in any help from Gabe right now.
He scanned the dance floor again but couldn’t pick her golden hair out of the crowd. He sighed.
“Hey, Bry, did you miss me?” Clara, her dark curly hair full of glitter, bounced free from a herd of females and joined them against the wall. The rest of the herd dispersed. “Hey, Gabe. Where’s Celeste?”
Bryan put his arm around her shoulders. “I thought you left. Guess I’ll have to cancel the hot plans I just made with-”
Clara’s elbow caught Bryan in the solar plexus.
“Mrs. Finkle,” Bryan continued, gasping the words and nodding toward the vice principal glaring from the corner of the room farthest away from the speakers. “We were going to sort failure notices by candlelight.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want you to miss that! I think I saw Coach Lauder by the cookies. Maybe I could talk him into some extra-credit pull-ups.”
“Or maybe we could just dance,” Bryan suggested.
“Sure, I can settle for that.”
Laughing, they pressed their way toward the dance floor, Bryan’s hands winding around Clara’s waist.
Gabe was glad Clara hadn’t waited for an answer to her question. It was a little embarrassing that he didn’t have one.
“Hey, Gabe, where’s Celeste?”
Gabe grimaced and turned to the sound of Logan’s voice.
Logan was also solo for the moment. Perhaps it was his date’s turn to exhibit girl-herding behavior.
“I couldn’t say,” Gabe admitted. “Have you seen her?”
Logan pursed his full lips for a minute, as if debating whether or not to say something. He ran a hand nervously across his springy black hair. “Well, I thought I did. I’m not exactly sure, though… She’s wearing a white dress, right?”
“Yeah-where is she?”
“I think I saw her in the lobby. Can’t be positive. Her face was sort of hard to see… David Alvarado’s face was all over it…”
“David Alvarado?” Gabe repeated in surprise. “Not Heath McKenzie?”
“Heath? Naw. It was definitely David.”
Heath was a linebacker, blond and fair. David barely cleared five feet; his coloring was olive and his hair was black. No way to confuse the two.
Logan shook his head sadly. “Sorry, Gabe. That sucks.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“At least you’re not in the stag boat alone,” Logan said forlornly.
“Really? What happened to your date?”
Logan shrugged. “She’s around here somewhere, glowering at everyone. She doesn’t want to dance, she doesn’t want to talk, she doesn’t want punch, she doesn’t want to take pictures, and she doesn’t want my company.” He ticked each negative off on his fingers. “I don’t know why she asked me in the first place. Probably just wanted to show off her dress-it is hot, I’ll give her that. But she doesn’t seem to care about showing anything now… Wish I’d asked someone else.” Logan’s eyes lingered wistfully on a group of girls fast dancing in a male-free circle. Gabe thought he saw Logan focus on one girl in particular.
“Why didn’t you ask Libby?”
Logan sighed. “I don’t know. I think… I think she would have liked it if I’d asked her, though. Oh well.”
“Who’s your date?”
“That new girl, Sheba. She’s a little intense but really gorgeous, kinda exotic. I was too shocked to say anything but yes when she asked me to go with her. I thought that she, well, that she might be… fun…” Logan finished lamely. What he’d really thought when Sheba had all but commanded him to take her to prom didn’t seem entirely appropriate to be spoken aloud, especially to Gabe; lots of things seemed inappropriate around Gabe. It was just the opposite with Sheba. When he’d gotten a look at her mind-blowing red leather dress, his head had been full of ideas that somehow didn’t feel in the least bit inappropriate while her deep, dark eyes had been focused on him.
“I don’t think I’ve met her,” Gabe said, interrupting Logan’s brief fantasy.
“You’d remember if you had.” Although Sheba had forgotten Logan quickly enough once they were in the door, hadn’t she? “Hey, do you think maybe Libby came alone? I didn’t hear about anyone asking her…”
“Er, she came with Dylan.”
“Oh,” Logan said, crestfallen. Then he half-smiled. “Night’s bad enough without getting tortured on top of everything else-weren’t they supposed to have a band? This DJ…”
“I know. It’s as if we’re being punished for our sins,” Gabe said with a laugh.
“Sins? Like you have any, Galahad the Pure.”