"Stop staring," Les hissed, elbowing her.
Missy shook her head, knowing she was pathetic and wishing that she wasn't. "Let's dance," she said, leading Les onto the near-deserted dance floor. She pulled him close; if she were here as a beard, she might as well make it count.
They danced and it felt impossibly good to forget, to just move. He mouthed the lyrics to her and undulated his hips. Her body was hard-wired to respond and it did. Somewhere she wondered how this would affect his bid to be seen as straight, if dancing this well cancelled out the suggestiveness.
Torrance and Cliff joined them on the floor, over Cliff's repeated objections. Cliff danced haltingly like the straight boy that Les pretended to be. He was hyperaware of the fact that everyone could see him, the class nerd with the head cheerleader. Underneath all of his wit and blasˇ attitude, he worried that one day Torrance would see it too.
The music slowed to a love song and Missy and Torrance each slid their hands around their respective beau's necks. Missy ran her hand through Les' hair, reminding herself that her partner was undeniably male, a male who was cute and gay and crushing on someone else, just like her.
She glanced over at Torrance and had no problem catching her eye, and for a moment she was surprised that Torrance was not completely wrapped up in Cliff. Her flaring hope flagged as she remembered that this was prom, and that afterwards Torrance and her brother would probably slink off to a cheap motel.
"You've been powdering your nose for the last five minutes."
Missy dropped her compact. It hit the tile and shattered. "Jesus, Tor!" she yelped, spinning around. She waited for her heartbeat to slow and knelt to collect the plastic casing.
"Sorry." Torrance blushed and carefully crouched to help. "Les was getting worried."
"So he sent you." Bastard.
She rose and smoothed her dress as Missy threw the compact away. "This is the ladies' room. Did you expect him to come?"
Missy sighed and attempted to run her hand through her tightly-woven coif. "Yeah, well. I needed a break."
"From what? It's not exactly a wild party out there." Torrance touched Missy's elbow, concerned.
Missy pulled back and looked away. "A break from the boredom, maybe." She splayed her hands against the faux-marble countertop. She sighed, then pushed off. "Break over. Let's go."
"No, it's cool. Come on, 'Tainted Love' is starting."
Torrance bit her lip, then shrugged her shoulders and followed. "Alright."
Les handed Missy a glass of punch when she returned to their table. She looked at it dubiously, then sipped it and smiled.
"Come on, Cliff," Torrance said, pulling her boyfriend from his chair. She glanced at her friends. "Care to get your grooves on?"
Missy waved her away. "You kids have fun. We're good for now." She watched Torrance and Cliff walk to the dance floor, then turned to Les. "Nice punch."
"Someone spiked it." He lifted his glass in a toast. "Here's to self-pity."
Missy smirked. "To self-pity." She drank then set the glass aside. "I thought that if they got together she would be happy. And she is. But damn if they can't help but be lovey-dovey right in front of me."
Les nodded sympathetically. "This too shall pass. Drink up."
Cliff smiled and adjusted his grip on Torrance's hips. The love songs were beginning to outnumber the new wave, and he was finally beginning to relax. He quirked his eyebrow at his girlfriend and sang over the music, "Yeah, you got me feelin' all those butterflies inside. In your locker, I would hide. The truth, it's only you I see and you're just what I need. I'll bring you flowers every day just to roll you in the hay..."
Torrance felt her ears heat with a blush. She stepped back as the song ended. "I'm really thirsty, so I think I'll have some more punch. Do you want some?"
"Sure. I'll check on Les and Missy." He watched her for a moment, then shrugged and walked to their table.
"Hey. Where's Tor?"
Cliff pulled out a chair and sat down. "Punchbowl. Where'd Missy go?"
Les made an empty gesture. "Cloakroom. We've had enough and thought that we'd cut out."
"Night's still young," Cliff objected.
"Yeah, maybe I'll convince her to go to a club. She could use some fun."
"She has been down lately." He frowned and shook his head. "I wonder what's taking Torrance."
The cloakroom--actually just a utility closet that had been commandeered for the evening--was quiet. Missy sat on a folding chair, head in hand.
"There you are."
Missy didn't look up at the sound of Torrance's voice. "Another break, just without the interruptions by giggling juniors. And I don't giggle, so don't even say it."
"And the coats are providing you with their own special brand of charm?" Torrance asked gently.
Missy walked over to the wall and retrieved another chair. "Are you here for an intervention?"
Torrance sat and scooted the chair so that she could face Missy. "It's the prom. The greatest time of your teenage years."
"Don't tell me that you haven't found this night anti-climatic."
"You should be having fun, new wave and all." She sighed and rested her hand on Missy's knee, trying to form a connection. "We haven't...we haven't been the same since Nationals."
Missy offered her usual erudite response: she shrugged.
"I know that I've been busy with Cliff and I--I like your brother, Missy. He's a great guy and he's put up with a lot to be with me and..." She rubbed her eyes with her free hand. "A little help, Missy."
"And..." Jesus, she didn't need this. "And you're going to run off and elope?"
"No!" Torrance shook her head and repeated in a calmer voice: "No. I like him. Very much. But--I don't know what I want except that I don't want to hurt him, or you, or anyone, and I really shouldn't be having this conversation in the cloakroom on prom night!"
Missy looked up at Torrance cautiously. "I thought that Cliff was who you wanted."
"I do, and he's fun and sweet, in his punk rock way, I just..." Her ability to form complete sentences seemed to have left her. "I wonder."
Missy didn't know what possessed her--or rather, she did know: months of pent-up emotion and nearly half the punchbowl. She kissed Torrance hesitantly, then with more confidence as Torrance's hand left her knee for her hair. She knew that Torrance had also drunk the punch, that tomorrow their friendship would be damaged beyond repair, and that Torrance and Cliff's relationship might be ruined as well, but as she slid her tongue across Torrance's bottom lip she simply didn't care.
Cliff drummed his fingers impatiently. "Should we look for them?"
"They haven't really gone anywhere," Les said reasonably, but he was worried. Encouraging Missy to drown her sorrows hadn't been the best course of action.
Cliff scanned the room for the umpteenth time. "Torrance isn't anywhere in here." He paused his finger drumming. "How do you think we should search the bathrooms?"
Missy leaned back, breathless. "Scratch anti-climatic."
"My God," Torrance murmured, tracing her lips with one finger.
"Christ on a crutch," Missy agreed.
Missy closed her eyes and sighed. "Tor, the punch was spiked. You're drunk. Don't worry about it."
"I'm not drunk, Missy," Torrance said sharply. "Are you? Is that why you...?"
"No." She shook her head vehemently. "God, no. On the wagon, totally. Are you saying--"
"Yes." Torrance looked away. "Yes, I am."
Missy sat for a second in thought, then replied with the most romantic sentiment she could manage: "Shit."
Torrance's head snapped up. "What?"
"Cliff's my brother. Yes, he can be annoying, but I don't want to hurt him anymore than you do." She rested her head in her hands and rubbed her eyes. "I thought that playing matchmaker would be a good thing. Shit."
"You played matchmaker?"
She shrugged at the term. "I helped Cliff get his head out of ass when it came to going after you. I thought--I don't know, that you should at least be with a Pantone, if not with me. Closure, or something."
"You wanted me?"
"I want you, I want to kiss you again, I--" She gestured at their surroundings. "We can't do this here."
As if taking a cue, Cliff opened the door. "Hey. What are you girls doing in here?"
"Nothing," Torrance stammered as Les hurried to Missy and slapped his hand across her neck.
Missy recoiled. "The hell is wrong with you?"
"Mosquito," he explained. "Sorry, guess I was a little too enthusiastic. It got you anyway, I think." He leaned closer and mouthed, "Hickey."
Missy's hand flew up to cover Les'. "I think you're right."
Cliff walked over and removed their hands. "Jeez, Mis. You'd better stop in a drugstore for some calamine lotion on the way home."
"Yes, good idea. Very good idea." Missy stood, knocking her chair into a pile of coats. "And now, Les and I are going. Have fun." She grabbed Les by the collar and dragged him from the room.
Cliff stared at the doorway for a moment before shrugging and turning to Torrance. "What's up with her?"
"No idea. Why would I know? We're not even that close," Torrance babbled, knowing that her face must be brick red.
"Okay," Cliff said slowly, eyeing his girlfriend cautiously. "Whatever it is, it must be catching." He pulled Torrance to her feet. "What do you say we go back out to the main hall and dance some more?"
"Sounds like fun."
"Great." He nodded and headed for the door.
"Cliff," Torrance called, making him pause and face her. "Cliff, you know that I love you, right?"
He smiled. "I love you, too, Torrance."
She smiled back, years of practice at false cheer hiding any strain. "Just checking." She took his arm. "Let's dance."