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Prom Nights from Hell (Chapter Five)

"Will died, Frankie," she said. "The fall, the way he landed… he didn't make it."

"I'm sorry… what?"

"Chen is on his way to get you. You'll stay with us, yes? As long as you want."

"No," I said. "I mean… I don't…" The box of waffles fell from my hand. "Will didn't die. Will couldn't have died?"

"Frankie," she said, her voice infinitely sad.

"Please don't say that," I said. "Please don't sound so…" I didn't understand how to make my mind work.

"I know you loved him. We all did."

"Just wait" I said. "Spray painting? Will doesn't spray paint. That's something a pothead would do, not Will."

"Let's get you to the house. We'll talk about it then."

"But what was he spray painting? I don't understand!"

Mrs. Yomiko didn't answer.

"Let me speak to Yun Sun," I pleaded. "Please! Put on Yun Sun!"

There was a muffled exchange. Yun Sun came back on.

"I'll tell you," she said. "But you don't want to know."

A cold feeling spread over me, and suddenly, I didn't want to know.

"He was spray painting a message. That's what he was up there doing." She hesitated. "It said, 'Frankie, will you go to prom with me? "

I sank to the floor, next to a box of waffles. Why was there a box of waffles on the kitchen floor? "Frankie?" Yun Sun said. Tinny, faraway sound. "Frankie, are you there?"

I didn't like that tinny sound. I pressed the Off button to make it go away.

Will was buried in the Chapel Hill Cemetery. I sat, numb, through the funeral, which was closed-coffin because Will's body was too mangled to be viewed. I wanted to say good-bye, but how did you say good-bye to a box? At the grave site, I watched as Will's mother threw a handful of dirt into the hole where Will lay. It was horrible, but the horror felt distant and unreal. Yun Sun squeezed my hand. I didn't squeeze back.

It rained that evening, a gentle spring shower. I imagined the ground, damp and cool around Will's coffin. I thought of Fernando, whose skull Madame Zanzibar had liberated after his coffin shifted in the wet earth. I reminded myself that the east side of the cemetery, where Will was buried, was newer, with tidy landscaping. And of course there were modern ways of digging graves now, more efficient than men with shovels.

Will's coffin wouldn't come undug. It was impossible.

I stayed with Yun Sun for nearly two weeks. My parents were called, and they offered to return from Botswana. I told them no. What good would it do? Their presence wouldn't bring Will back.

At school, for the first few days, kids talked in hushed tones and stared at me as I passed. Some thought it was romantic, what Will did. Others thought it was stupid. "A tragedy" was the phrase most often used, spoken in mournful tones.

As for me, I haunted the halls like the living dead. I would have ditched, but then I'd have been corralled by the counselor and forced to talk about my feelings. Which wasn't going to happen. My grief was my own, a skeleton that would rattle forever within me.

One week after Will's death, and exactly one week before prom, kids started talking less about Will and more about dresses and dinner reservations and limos. A sallow girl from Will's chemistry class got upset and said prom should be canceled, but others argued no, prom must go on. It's what Will would have wanted.

Yun Sun and I were consulted, since we were his best friends. (And since I, though they didn't say it, was the girl he died for.) Yun Sun's eyes welled with tears, but after a shaky moment, she said it would be wrong to ruin everyone's plans, that sitting home and mourning wouldn't do anyone any good.

"Life goes on," she said. Her boyfriend, Jeremy, nodded. He put his arm around her and drew her close.

Lucy, president of the prom committee, placed her hand over her heart.

"So true," she said. She turned to me with an overly solicitous expression. "What about you, Frankie? Do you think you could get behind it?"

I shrugged. "Whatever."

She embraced me, and I staggered.

"Okay, guys, we're on!" she called, bounding across the commons. "Trixie, back to work on the cherry blossoms. Jocelyn, tell the Paper Affair lady we need a hundred blue streamers and don't take no for an answer!"

On the afternoon of the dance, two hours before Jeremy was due to pick up Yun Sun, I crammed my stuff in my duffel bag and told her I was going home.

"What?" she said. "No!" She put down a hot roller. Her makeup lay in front of her on her vanity, her Babycakes body glitter and Dewberry lip gloss, and her dress hung over the hook of her open bathroom door. It was lilac, with a sweetheart neckline. It was gorgeous.

"It's time," I said. "Thank you for letting me stay so long… but it's time."

Her mouth turned down. She wanted to argue, but she knew it was true. I wasn't happy here. That in itself wasn't the issue-I wasn't going to be happy anywhere-but moping around the Komikos' house was making me feel trapped and making Yun Sun feel helpless and guilty.

"But it's prom," Yun Sun said. "Won't that be weird, being alone in your house on the night of prom?" She came over to me. "Stay till tomorrow. I'll be quiet when I come in, I swear. And I promise not to go on and on about… you know. The after-parties and who hooked up and who passed out in the girls' bathroom."

"You should get to go on about that stuff, though," I said. "You should stay out as late as you want and come in as loudly as you want and be giddy and spazzy and all that." Unexpectedly, my eyes filled with tears. "You should, Yun Sun."

She touched my arm. I pulled away, but in what I hoped was an unobvious manner.

"So should you, Frankie," she said.

"Yeah… well." I heaved my bag over my shoulder.

"Call me any time," she said. "I'll keep my cell on, even at the dance."

"Okay."

"And if you change your mind, if you decide you want to stay-"

"Thanks."

"Or even if you decide to come to prom! We all want you there-you know that, right? It doesn't matter that you don't have a date."

I winced. She didn't mean it the way it sounded, but it most certainly did matter that I didn't have a date, because that date would have been Will. And I didn't have him not because he liked another girl or was suffering from a terrible case of the flu, but because he was dead. Because of me.

"Oh God," Yun Sun said. "Frankie…"

I waved her off. I didn't want any more touching. "It's all right."

We stood in a bubble of awkwardness.

"I miss him, too, you know," she said. I nodded. Then I left.

I returned to my empty house to find that the electricity was out. Perfect. This happened more often than it should have: Afternoon thunderstorms threw tree branches into the transformers, and entire neighborhoods lost power for several hours. Or the power would go out for no reason. Maybe too many people had their air conditioners on and the circuits overloaded, that was my theory. Will's theory was ghosts, ha ha ha. "They've come to spoil your milk," he'd say in a spooky voice.

Will.

My throat tightened.

I tried not to think about him, but it was impossible, so I let him exist there with me in my mind. I fixed myself a peanut butter sandwich, which I didn't eat. I went upstairs and lay on my bed without turning down the covers. Shadows deepened. An owl hooted. I stared at my ceiling until I could no longer make out the spider-web cracks.

In the dark, my thoughts went places they shouldn't. Fernando. Madame Zanzibar. You're just like all the rest, aren't you? Desperate for a heart-stopping romance?

It was that very desperation that gave birth to my stupid Madame Zanzibar plan and even stupider wish. That's what prodded Will into action. If only I'd never taken the damn corsage!

I bolted upright. Oh my God-the damn corsage!

I grabbed my cell and held down the "three," Yun Sun's speed dial. ?One? was for Mom and Dad; ?two? was for Will. I still hadn't deleted his name, and now I wouldn't have to.

"Yun Sun!" I cried when she answered.

"Frankie?" she said. "S.O.S." by Rihanna blared in the background. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," I said. "Better than fine! I mean, the power's out, it's pitch-black, and I'm all alone, but whatever. I won't be for long." I giggled and fumbled my way into the hall.

"Huh?" Yun Sun said. More noise. People laughing. "Frankie, I can hardly hear you."

"The corsage. I've got two wishes left!" I jogged downstairs, zinging with glee.

"Frankie, what are you-"

"I can bring him back, don't you get it? Everything will be good again. We can even go to prom!"

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