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“Well?” she prompted.
“Well?” he returned.
They both fidgeted, imagining more itches under their formal wear than actually were there. She flashed a sudden, brilliant smile, an adrenaline grin, and he very nearly lost it. Her eyes danced in the dimmed half light, color high in her cheeks. She started to unpin her corsage and he giggled—giggled like an eight yearâ€‘old. He swallowed hard and wished he could grab that stupid, scared sound back. But it was gone and he turned his attention to the business at hand. When she reached for his bowtie he giggled even harder than before.
The plan had gone off perfectly. Alibis had been carefully arranged; they were both supposed to be at separate parties at two different sets of friends’ houses. The room had been paid for in advance by his understanding employer. “Slide it to ‘er one time for me,” Mr. Tillman had said with one of his altogether improper winks before dropping the key into his hand. There would be plenty of arched eyebrows and locker room innuendos to deal with tomorrow night at the pizzeria, but that wasn’t even the glimmer of a concern right now. The boy stopped fiddling with his cuffâ€‘links and kissed her deeply as she sat at the very edge of the immaculately made hotel room bed. Pulling back from the tremulous press of lips, they both inhaled sharply. The boy went back to work on his unfamiliar accoutrements with only one thought bouncing through his head. “Thank you, Mr. Tillman…thank you, Mr. Tillman…God bless you, Mr. Tillman…”
They had danced for three hours straight, even obliviously clinging together through the Class of ‘99 Prom Song; a synthâ€‘driven oldie by a guy who changed his name to a symbol (more than once the boy had wondered how the Purple One signed his royalty checks). The retroactively timely tune had been receiving an obnoxious amount of radio airplay all year and the boy had memories of listening to a stifled version of it thumping from his old babysitter’s Walkman headphones its first time around the top forty. But on this night “(Tonight I’m Gonna Party Like It’s) 1999” was the best song ever written. The only song.
Now, after the traditional bad catered food and the traditional swiping of decorations, they were cooly damp through their respective layers of clothing. Trembling, but not from the cold, the boy slipped his tux coat off and it hit the floor with a wet thud. She swept her thin fingers through the fine blond hair just above his reddening ears, finding it matted and dark from sweat. Another kiss and he sent his hands in search of the zipper in back of her dress, marveling at the tightness of the material, at the shape of her under satin. Their hearts hammered in their dry, dry throats. Their breath small, quick, and out of sync.