Evernight Page 27

I told myself that I wouldn’t keep going on like this. I was going to the Autumn Ball with the handsomest guy in the whole school. It was the one really wonderful thing that had happened to me so far at Evernight Academy, and I wanted to enjoy it. No matter how many times I repeated that in my mind, though, I never believed the dance could really make me happy.

That changed when I put on my dress the night of the dance.

“I took it in a little at the waist.” Mom wore a tape measure around her neck and a few straight pins stuck into the cuffs of her shirt. She knew how to sew—really sew, any kind of clothing you can think of—and had altered the catalog-bought dress for me. (She wouldn’t alter my uniforms for me, though, explaining that she only had so much time in the day. This turned into a suggestion that I learn how to sew myself, but no way. Mom didn’t believe in sewing machines, and I couldn’t see spending my free Sunday afternoons learning how to use a thimble.) “I lowered the neckline some, too.”

“You want me to flash the guys?” We both laughed. It was kind of ridiculous for me to act modest while I was standing in front of her in panties and a strapless bra. “This plus more makeup than I’ve ever worn before—Dad’s not going to be happy with you.”

“I think your father will manage to endure, especially once he sees how gorgeous you’re going to look.”

I stepped into the midnight-blue dress, which rustled softly as Mom helped me pull it up. She zipped up the side, and at first I thought she’d taken it in too much—but then she hooked the clasp, and I realized that I could still breathe. The bodice was molded perfectly to me, until it melted into the full skirt. “Wow,” I whispered, spreading the soft, filmy fabric with my hands, marveling at how good it felt to touch. “I want to see.”

Before I could move to the mirror, my mother stopped me. “Wait. Not until I do your hair.”

“I just want to look at the dress! Not my hair.”

“Trust me. You’ll be so happy if you wait to get the full effect.” She beamed. “Besides, I’m really enjoying this.”

I couldn’t exactly say no to the woman who had spent the last week altering my dress. So I sat on the edge of the bed and let her start brushing and braiding.

“Balthazar’s a terrific guy,” she said. “Seems that way to me, at least.”

“Yeah. Definitely.”

“Hmm. That sounded less than enthusiastic.”

“It isn’t. At least, I don’t mean it to be.” My protests sounded weak, even to me. “I just don’t know him very well yet. That’s all.”

“You study together all the time. I’d say you know him well enough for a first date.” Mom’s deft fingers wove a slender braid at my temple. “Is this about Lucas, maybe? Whatever happened with you two?”

He tried to turn me against you and then started beating up on construction workers in town, Mom. So naturally he’s the one I want to be with. Maybe you and Dad would like to go chase Lucas with flaming torches now? “Nothing really. We’re not right for each other. That’s all.”

“You still care about him, though.” She spoke so gently, and I wished I could just turn around and hug her. “If it helps any, you and Balthazar obviously have more in common. He’s someone you could be serious about. But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re sixteen, and you don’t need to think about being serious. You need to have fun at this dance.”

“I will. Just wearing this dress is sort of amazing.”

“It needs something else.” Mom stood in front of me, studying her handiwork with her hands on her hips. Then her face lit up. “Eureka!”

“Mom, what are you doing?” To my dismay, my mother was walking over to my telescope, scissors in hand, and snipping off the ends of my strings of paper origami stars. “Mom! I love those!”

“We’ll fix them later.” She held two small strands now, the ones with only the tiniest stars on the end. Their silvery paint sparkled as she put them in my hands. “Hang onto those for a second, will you?”

“You’re nuts,” I said, the moment I realized what she was doing.

“Tell me that again after you see it.” After Mom slid the last bobby pin in place, she wheeled me around to face the mirror. “Look.”

At first I couldn’t believe that the girl in the reflection was me. The midnight-blue dress made my pale skin look as creamy and perfect as silk. My makeup wasn’t all that different from what I usually wore, but my mother’s experienced hands had shaded everything more softly. My dark-red hair was pulled back from my forehead in several small braids of varying widths, then flowed down my neck—the way women might have worn their hair in the Middle Ages. Instead of a wreath of flowers like they wore in old pictures, I wore silver stars in my hair, small enough to look like jeweled clips. They glinted as I turned my head from side to side, studying myself from every angle. “Oh, Mom. How did you do this?”

Tears were welling in my mother’s eyes. She was such a sap, in the best way. “I had a beautiful daughter, that’s how.”

She always told me I was pretty, but this was the first time I’d ever thought Mom might be telling the truth. I wasn’t some magazine-cover knockout like Courtney or Patrice—but this was beauty, too.

When we went into the living room, my father looked about as shocked as I felt. He and Mom hugged each other, and she whispered, “We did good, huh?”

“We definitely did.”

They kissed each other like I wasn’t there. I cleared my throat. “Uh, guys? I thought teenagers were the ones who were supposed to make out on prom night.”

“Sorry, honey.” Dad put one hand on my shoulder; his hand felt cool to me, as if I were glowing with warmth. “You’re absolutely stunning. I hope Balthazar knows what a lucky guy he is.”

“He’d better,” I said, and they laughed.

I could tell that Mom and Dad wanted to go downstairs with me, but to my relief, they didn’t. That would have been taking chaperoning a little too far. Besides, I liked having a few moments to myself as I went, the skirt of my dress lifted in one hand and fluttering as I made my way down the steps. It gave me a chance to convince myself that all of this was real and not some dream.

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