Excerpt from Daniel Everhart and the Skylands of Caterra
I nod like a codfish. Then I get a good look at her, and my jaw hinge stops working.
Elaina’s wearing a full-length pink gown with a lacy belt tied in a bow, and her auburn hair is pinned up in little swirls with sparkly diamond things stuck in there. One loose curl sweeps across her neck.
I swear it takes a million pounds of self- control for me not to reach out and touch it. “Whoa. You’re gorgeous,” I think, then I realize I said it out loud. And I don’t even care. I’ve never seen anyone look so glamorous. Not even on a billboard. And I feel awkward and awesome at the same time.
“Thank you,” she says.
Mom finds a parking spot right in front—of course—and I let myself out. I walk to the front of the car, stand on the curb, and wait for Elaina. But she just sits there and looks at me, then at her door, then back at me, and I figure out she’s trying to telemessage me to be a gentleman and open it for her.
I grab the handle, and Elaina takes it from there. In what can only be described as a slow-mo movie scene, she emerges like a star on Oscar night. She cocks out her arm, and I figure out I’m supposed to take it, and next thing I know we’re walking into the school-cafeteria-turned-red-carpet-showroom, and everyone’s staring like Elaina’s a shooting star and I’m a fizzled-out comet.
The slow-mo screeches to a halt as Fane steps into view. I swear his face is an angry anime with steam billowing out his ears.
I’m toast. Burnt can’t-even-scrape-it-clean toast.
I lose track of where Elaina’s leading because, yeah, she’s totally running this show, and all of a sudden the lights drop, and I realize we’re dead center on the dance floor.
“Put your hand around my waist,” she whispers.
I obey. And I realize there’s only one explanation for this entire night. Divine humiliation. God hates me. “Look, Elai- na . . . I don’t know how to—”The music starts, one of those slow-kissing songs, and I wonder what will happen to Elaina’s pretty dress when I spontaneously combust. And if the janitor will sweep me up with the same powder they use to clean up vomit.
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