Miranda shuddered. They'd snuck into the Grand Hall of the Santa Barbara Historical Society by an emergency exit that had been propped open so prom attendees could slip out to get stoned, and glancing around, Miranda could see how getting stoned would be super-appealing. The walls of the room had been covered in blue satin with white stars embroidered on it, the four big columns in the middle were draped in red and white ribbons, the tables off to the side were covered in American flag-print cloths with fishbowl centerpieces in which the fish had been somehow dyed red and blue, and around the edges major American landmarks such as Mount Rushmore, the White House, the Statue of Liberty, the Liberty Bell, and the Old Faithful geyser had been reconstructed-out of sugar cubes. Courtesy of Ariel West's father. Ariel had announced the previous day at assembly that after the prom all the decorations would be donated to "the poor hungry people of Santa Barbara who need sugar."
Miranda didn't know if it was that, the balloons on rubber cords hanging from the ceiling that bounced lazily up and down as people passed under them, or foreboding, but she had a distinct queasy feeling.
Sibby was in heaven.
"Remember-most of the guys here came with dates, so try to be subtle with the Kissing Bandit stuff," Miranda said.
"And if you hear me call to you, you come."
"Do I look like a dog to you?" Miranda gave her a sharp glance. Sibby said, "Fine, okay, Funkiller."
"And if you feel like anything weird is going on at all, you-"
" - let you know. I've got it. Now you go and have some fun yourself. Oh, right, you probably don't know how. Well, when in doubt, ask yourself, 'What Would Sibby Do? "
"Can I unsubscribe from that list, please?"
Sibby was too busy scanning the room to respond.
"Whoa, who's that hot dinner in the corner over there?" she asked. "The guy in the glasses?"
Miranda looked around for a hot dinner but all she saw was Phil Emory. "His name is Phillip."
"Helllllo, Phillip," Sibby said, plotting a direct course for him.
Miranda stashed her skate bag underneath a table and stayed close to the wall, between the White House and Old Faithful, partially to keep Sibby in view and partially to avoid being noticed by any faculty members. She'd changed in the employee bathroom from her work suit into the only other thing she had with her, but although it was red, white, and blue, she didn't think that her Roller Derby uniform was really appropriate prom attire. There were two uniforms in her skate bag, a home uniform-white satin halter top and bottom with blue cape and red, white, and blue stripes on the skirt (if you could call something that was five inches long and required attached panties to be worn under it a skirt)-and an away uniform: the same thing, only in blue. She'd decided white was more formal, but she was pretty sure that wearing it with her black work flats was not helping the look.
She'd been standing there for a while, wondering how everyone but her was completely capable of being on a dance floor without debilitating anyone, when she heard a pair of heartbeats she recognized and saw Kenzi and Beth sliding through the crowd toward her.
"You came!" Kenzi said, giving her a big hug. One of the things Miranda loved about Kenzi was that she acted like she was on Ecstasy even when she wasn't, telling people that she loved them, hugging them, never embarrassed about it. "I'm so glad you're here. It didn't feel right without you. So, are you ready to unshackle yourself from the insecurities of your youth? Ready to own your future?"
Kenzi and Beth were dressed to own anything, Miranda thought. Kenzi was wearing a skin-tight blue backless dress and had gotten a black panther with a blue sapphire eye painted on her back. Beth was in a red satin minidress and had a gold snake bracelet with two ruby eyes wrapped around her upper arm (or at least Miranda assumed they were rubies since Beth's parents were two of the biggest movie stars in Bollywood). On them, adulthood looked like a totally cool and exciting party with an excellent DJ that you could only get into if you were on the VIP list.
Miranda glanced at her skating uniform. "I guess I should have known that when the time came to own my future I'd be dressed like a member of the Ice Capades B-squad."
"No way, you look fantastic," Beth said, and Miranda would have assumed she was being sarcastic except that Beth was one of those people who was born without sarcasm.
"Truly," Kenzi confirmed. "You're deep in H2T territory." H2T stood for Hot to Trot. "I see great things for your adulthood."
"And I see a visit to the eye doctor for you," Miranda prophesied. In the distance Miranda saw Sibby pull Phillip Emory onto the dance floor.
Miranda turned back to Kenzi. "Do you think I'm a fun person? Am I a Grandma Grim? A funkiller?"
"Grandma Grim? Funkiller?" Kenzi repeated. "What are you talking about? Did you hit your head at derby practice again?"
"No, I'm serious. Am I fun?"
"Yes," Kenzi said solemnly.
"Yes," Beth agreed.
"Except when you get all MLAS," Kenzi modified. "And when you have your period. And around your birthday. Oh, there was that one time-"
"Forget it." Miranda's eyes drifted to Sibby, who now appeared to be leading a conga line.
"I'm kidding," Kenzi said, turning Miranda's face from the dance floor to hers. "Yes, I think you are really fun. I mean, who else would dress up as Magnum P.I. for Halloween?"
"Or think of entertaining the kids on the cancer ward by reenacting Dawson's Creek with Precious Moments figurines?" Beth added.Kenzi nodded. "That's right. Even children battling cancer think you're fun. And they're not the only ones."
Something about Kenzi's tone when she said the last part made Miranda worried. "What did you do?"
"She was brilliant," Beth said.
Now Miranda was even more scared. "Tell me."
"It was nothing, just some research," Kenzi said.
"What kind of research?" For the first time Miranda noticed that there was writing up the length of Kenzi's arm.
Kenzi said, "About Will and Ariel. They're totally not going out."
"You asked him?"
"It's called an interview," Kenzi said.
"No. Oh no. Tell me you're kidding." Sometimes having a roommate who wanted to be a journalist was dangerous.
"Relax, he didn't suspect a thing. I made it seem like I was making small talk," Kenzi said.
"She was great," Beth confirmed.
Miranda started wishing for trapdoors again.
"Anyway, I asked him why he thought Ariel asked him to the prom and he said"-here Kenzi consulted her arm-"'To make someone else jealous. So of course I asked who and he went, 'Anyone. That's what Ariel thrives on, other people's jealousy. Isn't that perceptive? Especially for a guy?"
"He's smart," Beth put in. "And nice."
Miranda nodded absently, looking for Sibby on the dance floor. At first she didn't see her but then she spotted her in a dark corner with Phillip. Talking, not kissing. For some reason that made her smile.
"Look, we made her happy!" Kenzi said, and she sounded so genuinely pleased that Miranda didn't want to tell her the truth.
"Thanks for finding all that out," Miranda said. "It's-"
"You haven't even heard the best part," Kenzi said. "I asked why he agreed to go to prom with Ariel if they're not a couple and he said"-glancing at her arm-"'Because no one made me a better offer. "
Beth reminded her, "With that cute smile."
"Right, with cute smile. And he looked directly at me when he said it and he was so clearly talking about you!"
"Clearly." Miranda loved her friends even if they were delusional.
"Stop gazing at me like I've been one-stop shopping at the Lobotomy Store, Miranda," Kenzi said. "I'm completely right. He likes you and he's not taken. Stop thinking and grab him. Go live ITM."
"In the Mo," Beth elaborated.
Miranda gaped. "No. Way."
"What?" Kenzi asked.
"Nothing." Miranda shook her head. "Even if he's single, what makes you think Will wants to go out with me?"
Kenzi squinted at her. "Um, breezing past all the sappy stuff about how you're nice and smart I have to say because I'm your best friend, have you looked in the mirror recently?"
"Ha-ha. Trust me-"
"Bye!" Beth said, interrupting her and dragging Kenzi away. "See you later!"
"Don't forget! ITM!" Kenzi added over her shoulder. "Drink a can of man!"
"Where are you-" Miranda started to say, then heard a heartbeat close behind her and swung around.
Nearly banging her shoulder against Will's chest.