Whenever you see ‘Jenny’ or ‘Jason’ above a section, that means it is from that character’s perspective.
“You look fine Jenny, stop freaking out,” Meg, my best friend says. I gaze at her in awe. Her long curly brown hair hangs down past her shoulders in waves, just brushing the small of her back. Her lilac-colored dress sparkles in the evening light, casting a million tiny pinpoints of light around the room. Plum colored flowers wrap around the base of the dress which touches the floor. She looks amazing. I glance down at my own dress. My family is less fortunate than Megs, so my dress is not nearly as extravagant. My dress is baby blue, matching my eyes. It’s made out of soft cotton, and it reaches just below my ankles. My blonde hair is done up in a simple bun with navy blue felt flowers tucked around the outside.
“Sorry,” I mumble, my cheeks flushing, “I’m just… nervous,”
“Well duh, it’s prom! And you’re always nervous,” Meg says as she puts the finishing touches on my makeup. I nod and clasp my hands together in my lap. I’m not a huge fan of parties and dances. I would give just about anything to be at home reading a book right now. “Oliver and the others are going to be here in about five minutes,” Meg says, checking her phone. Oliver is Meg’s boyfriend.
“Okay,” I say. Five minutes. Five minutes until I have to spend three hours at a dance. With people. Third-wheeling with my best friend and her boyfriend. Not that there won’t be anyone else in our group, Meg has invited some of her other guy friends to come with us as well.
“Looks like they’re here early!” Meg says, rushing down the stairs and opening up her front door. I grab my clutch and follow after her.
“Meg!” Oliver says, kissing her on the cheek as she comes out the door, Jenny following her close behind. Meg looks super excited, but Jenny looks like she’s about to have a nervous breakdown. Not that I blame her. I don’t want to be here either. I’d rather be home playing video games. Jenny gives me a small smile as she passes and gets into the very back seat of the car. Meg takes the passenger seat, Oliver takes the drivers, and I and a couple of other guys squeeze into the middle row. The whole way to the dance, Oliver, Meg, and the other guys laugh and talk.
When we finally get there, my stomach squeezes. There were people everywhere.
“I’m so excited!” Meg says, squealing. “C’mon Jenny, it’ll be fun!” Meg hops out of the car and grabs Jenny’s arm, pulling her towards the door.
“How about Jenny, huh Jason?” Oliver says with a mischievous wink. I roll my eyes at him and shake my head.
“Nah, I’m fine,” I say. Oliver just smiles and we walk in.
“Isn’t this just insane!” Meg says excitedly, pulling me along behind her. I wince as other people stare at us. I know what they’re thinking. Why is the rich girl hanging out with such a loser? Why does that blonde girl’s dress look like it came from a thrift store? I look down at the floor, my cheeks burning. Why did I ever agree to come to this?
Eventually, Meg gets over her initial excitement and we go to find the guys. The first song comes on and they all go out to dance. I sit at a table and watch them, trying not to look like a total loser.“Hey,” I nearly jumped out of my seat. Jason is standing behind me, looking sheepish. “Is this seat taken?” he nods his head at the seat next to me and I shake my head, looking down at my feet. We both sit there in awkward silence until I can’t bear it any longer.
“I’ll be right back,” I say, standing up abruptly. “Bathroom,” I make my way around the crowded dance floor, trying not to step on anyone’s feet. Meg sees me and mouths, “Get back here,” I shake my head and walk into the bathroom. I lock myself into a stall and tell myself to breathe. I rub my palms together to try to calm myself down. What is my problem? I’m probably ruining this for Meg. She probably hates me right now. She’s probably thinking, “Wow, why am I best friends with such a loser?” One of the small felt flowers falls out of my hair and into my lap. I pick it up and clutch it in my palms.
“-a minute, I’ll be right back,” the bathroom door opens, and the music from the dance leeks into the room. I hold my breath and hope that whoever walks in doesn’t notice me. No such luck.
“Jenny Ann Gilles, what are you doing hiding in a bathroom stall?” Meg says. She sounds playful, but I can detect a hint of annoyance in her voice.
“I-um,” I stammer, trying to come up with an explanation. Meg sighs.
“You have five minutes to get your sorry butt out here, and please, just try to have fun?” now she sounds really annoyed. The bathroom door opens and closes again as she leaves. I sigh and stand up, unlocking the stall. I’m just opening the bathroom door when suddenly several loud pops fill the room. I stare out at the dance floor, confused. That’s when I see the glass and sparks raining down from the ceiling. It looks as if several lights had exploded. The sparks hit the tissue paper decorations and they go up in flames. In second, the room is ablaze, people running everywhere, screaming. I freeze. My mind is fuzzy with panic and I just can’t seem to move.
“Jenny!” a voice shouts. Meg emerges from the smoke and grabs my wrist, yanking me towards the now flooded exit. People batter against me knock me from side to side. Suddenly, Meg’s hand lets go of my wrist and I’m thrown backward, into the mass of panicked students. Someone shoves me aside and I hit the ground hard, my head slamming into the brick wall. Darkness envelops me.
My lungs feel as if they have been set on fire. Screams fill the air, though I’m not sure if they are screams of terror or screams of pain. I cannot tell.
I rush towards the exit, doing my best not to shove anyone. I lost Oliver and Meg somewhere back when the lights exploded and I can’t see them anywhere. I hope they made it out okay. I’m about halfway to the exit when I realize it’s hopeless, there’s no way to push through the crowd. I let out a frustrated sigh and run my fingers through my ash-covered hair. That’s when a flash of blue catches my eyes. I see Meg grab Jenny’s arm and run towards the exit. I try to make my way towards the, but the crowd’s too thick. I see Jenny stumble back from Meg and then get shoved to the ground. It’s too hard to see, but I can tell that she doesn’t get back up.
“Jenny!” I shout, stumbling towards her. Now I pay no attention to politeness. I shove people aside and run to Jenny as fast as I can. She has a deep gash on the right side of her head and it’s gushing blood into her blonde hair. Her face is covered in ash and her eyes are closed. I kneel next to her and pray that she’s alive.
“Jenny!” I say, wiggling her shoulders. Please wake up. Please don’t be dead. I’ve never had a chance to tell you how I really feel. I don’t even know myself how I really feel. Jenny lets out a soft moan and her baby blue eyes flutter open. For a moment, she stares at me in confusion. She lifts her hand to her head and touches her gash wincing with pain as she brings it back down. When she sees the blood, her eyes widen in panic. “It’s okay, I’m going to get us out of here. Can you walk?” I ask, putting an arm under her shoulder to help her sit up.
“I think so,” Jenny says, her face contorted with pain.
“Hey,” I say, “It’s going to be okay,” she looks up at me and I give her a small smile. She smiles back. Then suddenly, I’m leaning towards her, and she’s leaning towards me.
Ash and fire rain from the ceiling and I pull away. I shove Jenny away as hard as I can. Her terrified face is that last thing I see.
It’s been three weeks since that night. That horrible, awful night. I’ll never be able to wipe the image of his body crushed beneath the burning heap of the roof. I tried to pry it off of him, but hands grabbed at me, restraining me. I remember screaming his name until I could no longer even whisper. He sacrificed himself for me. Why? It’s all my fault. If I had seen it coming down, I could have saved him. I could have saved him. But no. I didn’t. And now Jason is gone.
“Are you okay?” Meg slides next to me on the park bench. Am I okay? I do not know. I don’t know if I will ever be okay again. Not after seeing what I have seen.
Why did he save me? The question keeps resounding in my head, haunting my dreams, plaguing my every thought. I had never even bothered to talk to Jason before then, so why would he care about me now? And what happened right before the roof came down…
“Yeah,” I answer, not wanting to worry Meg.
“The scar doesn’t look that bad, you know,” Meg says. As if that's what I’m worried about. When the ceiling fell, a piece of metal sliced down the side of my cheek, nearly taking my eye out. The doctors said it would never go away, but it may fade with time. I wonder if Jason’s memory will fade with time. Maybe this pain that I am feeling right now will fade to a dull ache. Maybe I can learn to live with my guilt.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I squeeze my palms together. I can hear Jason’s last words whisper into my ears, “It’s going to be okay,”