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Cicada Nights
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Dad was munching on a piece of bread. Some crumbs dropped, he murmured an oath. Right beside him was Mom, she was the one speaking. She watched Rachael carefully. And Rachael, of course, respectfully held her gaze.

“It’s just a thought, Rachael! Your father and I,”

And she swept an arm around Dad. Dad raised a hand in a cute wave.

“We’re not going to pressure you, of course.”

Mom was speaking carefully, reassuringly. The way she usually spoke, and Rachael felt no negative emotion besides the vague static-y sting of foreboding in her chest. Mom and Dad had suggested she bring a group of friends out to a dance. Nothing fancy had been what they had said. Nothing like prom, just something casual.

“Yeah,” Rachael responded with a polite smile.

Other words came to mind, but she wasn’t sure. She wanted to carefully think over a response. Dad was faster than she was.

“Are you nervous about the idea, honey?”

His voice boomed out as it always did. Dad was the sort who was always a bit too loud for the situation. It was the sort of thing that comforted Rachael, at least when it was him. Still, she felt raw nerves gently prickling and curdling.

“Uh, a bit. I’ll be honest.”

A hand found her forearm. She gently brushed the softness of her sleeve down. The momentary urge to avert her eyes crackled through her nervous system, but it was okay. She didn’t need to do such a thing, not here.

“Sorry,” Rachael finished the very next second.

Mom and Dad both carefully nodded, at different speeds. Dad slower, more dramatically; Mom with plenty of energy. They glanced at each other, then smiled at her. Mom’s hands raised a bit. Like a peace treaty, maybe written in three different languages of cheerful wood fey.

“We understand if you don’t want to. We just think it would be fun!”

They were probably right. If Rachael considered it carefully there were no problems. She had ideas, friends to invite. She’d been to Junior Prom with friends. Everything added up neatly. The moment of dull panic abated, and Rachael could carefully nod and consider.

“Okay Mom, Dad. I’ll try my best.”

-----

((Rachael Langdon: begin))

Apparently this dance was to raise money for the cafeteria. That was a pretty nice touch, Rachael thought. Halloween wasn’t the sort of holiday she normally celebrated in an exciting way. It wasn’t exactly scary but most of the events just didn’t appeal to her. This dance, however, had seemed nice. Something simple and easy, but still in the spirit of the holiday. She’d invited Daniel and Kitty on a whim, but she had then realized that she shouldn't need to expect them to come.

I shouldn’t always need close friends around to go to an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people. The greatest adventures all start with a bit of risk after all. I need to learn to be less of a scaredy cat, just like Mom and Dad are trying so hard to help me with.

That was what she was still telling herself as she strode through the dimly mood lit gym hall. The thought was on repeat just like the melodies and rhythms of the songs they were playing. She guessed they were actually alright songs even if she wouldn’t have gone out of her way to listen to them, but it was a bit odd that they weren't even the familiarly cute bubblegum pop songs she’d listened to before meeting Daniel. They were heavier, more abrasive, the lyrics were sleazier. It was almost frightening to reflect on how things had changed when she hadn’t been paying attention, like meeting an old friend built of childhood memories suddenly made unfamiliar.

Rachael shuffled to a spot by the refreshments table, hands carefully clasped in front of her. She hoped she blended in a bit with her dull black dress, it almost seemed to become backdropping or ambient noise because of the room’s lighting. Now she had to muse on what to do besides lingering around nervously. She casually recognized a few faces from art class! Maybe if she had time to take a few deep breaths and steady her nerves a little…

Suddenly someone caught her eye. She realized with a frisson up her spine that she recognized that face, and that nod, and that smile.

Brandon Baxter, his buzz cut and piercing eyes. He was close with Johnny, and Johnny had mentioned in passing ‘seeing parts of him others don’t get to see’. Paraphrased, but. Rachael had heard a lot of good things about him from Johnny, but she’d also heard really scary things about his temper and he just even looked so intimidating as much as she hated to admit that such a shallow thing colored her opinion of him and

And her first instinct was probably the right one. She raised her hand in a small wave and raised her lips in a small smile as their gazes met. She let her greeting linger a second longer than she had to, desperate and stubborn against her own will.

The greatest adventures...

She reminded herself again and again and again and again
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Torn Jeans and Prom Queens · P.J. Hobbs Senior High School
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