As crazy as it sounds, part of the reason people might not have been paying quite as much attention to Sean was that there were other things to think about. For example, prom was that Friday. The administration had been talking about canceling it after everything that happened with Keith’s accident, the massive number of reporters, and the abduction of Keith’s uncle, but somehow they didn’t.
What this meant on a practical level was that I still had to go. Not that that was all bad, but I was going to not one, but two proms.
Late in February, I realized that if I didn’t ask Haley to prom, I’d be guilty of criminal girlfriend neglect. I’d skipped prom last year, partly out of lack of interest, partly because I didn’t have a date, and didn’t feel like hanging around everybody I normally ate lunch with only in a tuxedo.
When you’re dating someone, you pretty much have to go.
So, one night when Haley and I were sitting together in League HQ, I asked her.
“Yes,” she said. She smiled at me and said, “Will you go to mine?”
I didn’t say anything for a moment.
She frowned. “You don’t have to go.”
“I’m not saying no. I’ll go, but… what if they’re on the same day?”
“They’re not. I checked. Mine’s the week after yours.”
“Ok. Let’s go.”
So yeah, two proms.
By the time I made it to lunch, I found Chris Cannon sitting with Keith and Courtney. Next to them, Andy, Mike and Kyle were misquoting scenes from Monty Python and cracking themselves up. They were sitting at one of the round tables in the short end of the L-shaped cafeteria.
Noticing Keith, I said, “I thought you were in the hospital.”
“I got better.”
In the background, Andy said, “She turned me into a newt!”
Ignoring them, I put my tray on the table and sat down.
Courtney leaned over the table and said, “After his uncle got away from the kidnappers, he brewed up a new batch of juice. Keith transformed and when Keith turned back, he wasn’t hurt anymore.”
“Actually,” Keith said, “I’m still a little sore, but I’m getting better.”
“No you’re not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment.” Mike said.
Kyle snorted and said, “But I’m not dead!” in a bad British accent.
I liked Monty Python, but there was a limit. Really, there was. For me, the limit was if I couldn’t conduct a conversation, they were quoting it too much.
“How’s your uncle doing?”
Keith seemed surprisingly untroubled by anything that had happened. “He’s doing great. No thanks to Sean. From what my uncle said, Sean didn’t do squat, really. The Heroes League did everything.”
“No doubt, but from what he said, it could have gone either way.”
While it was nice to know that everybody didn’t worship Sean, I struggled to think of ways to change the subject.
Nothing came to mind.
“Hey Nick, are these seats taken?” Cassie’s voice knocked me out of my indecision.
Kayla and Cassie sat down next to each other. Vaughn squeezed in between them and me.
Andy, Mike and Kyle stopped quoting Monty Python. Keith looked over at the group of them and said, “Uh… hi.”
Courtney smiled a little, but didn’t say anything.
So yeah, awkward. Between Cassie and Kayla, you had the better players in half Central High’s girls sports teams. Andy, Mike, Kyle, Courtney, Keith and Chris represented the core of Science Olympiad and Debate.
Basically all they had in common was me, which is to say, nothing.
Well, Vaughn and Chris could have compared notes about being grandchildren of major supervillains, but Chris didn’t know that. I wondered if Man-machine ever worked with Red Lightning, and decided to look it up sometime.
Cassie smiled and said, “Hi everybody.”
Kayla’s expression said, “Why am I here?”
On my left, Chris muttered, “Does she have enough food?”
Cassie’s tray held her normal amount of food — about three times as much as anybody else.
Taking in the table, Vaughn said, “So what’s everyone doing for prom?”
Keith said, “Courtney and I are going.” He looked over at Courtney. “I’ll be more talkative than last year’s date.”
Last year Courtney and a friend of hers had each bought tickets for two, and brought along human sized puppets. Courtney’s had been a moose.
“I don’t know,” Courtney said, “Hector was quite the conversationalist, but alas, he couldn’t come this year. The principal’s prejudiced against puppets.”
Rules for buying tickets to this year’s prom had included, “Couple’s tickets may only be bought for two human beings. No animals (living or stuffed) will be allowed inside.”
Andy said, “I like how they included the ‘living or stuffed’ part. Just to make sure someone didn’t bring their dog.”
Cassie nudged Kayla. “Poor you. You can’t bring your horse.”
Kayla smiled without enthusiasm, and poked at the lasagna with her fork.
Mike picked up his dinner roll and took a bite. Then he said, “Hey Keith, someone told me that Logan Prescott’s going to be bringing that power juice stuff to prom. You know anything about that?”
Keith shook his head. “Nothing. Vaughn, do you?”
If Vaughn felt annoyed about becoming the table’s resident druggie, he didn’t show it.
“I’m out of touch these days,” Vaughn said, “but it wouldn’t surprise me. Logan always went for the new stuff.”