Today’s Friday Flash Fics made me think of Christian (or Ian) and Dawn where they left off at the end of “There & Then” in Of Echoes Born. So, spoiler warnings for that story in particular, as this picks up when they go to the prom that Dawn decided was definitely going to happen, despite everything they’d been through.
To the Blues
A riot of colour greeted them as soon as they were through the doors to the gym. Too many shades, too many patterns, and too many people to sort it all out, but there were definite threads of commonality. Amused yellows, disgusted greens, annoyed reds, angry reds, embarrassed reds…
It was as though Christian and Dawn were crossing against the light and rapidly running out of time.
“This is fun,” he said.
Dawn squeezed his hand. “Don’t tell me.”
“Don’t worry. We are surrounded by an ocean of blue,” he said, and smiled at her. She’d been helping him with this for weeks. Blues seemed to generally be nice colours. Friendliness or kindness, or something like that. It was more complicated of course, but so far all the associations he’d figured out for blues were good.
Dawn snorted. “Liar.”
“You’re sure about this?” he said.
They went in.
She looked amazing. Pretty in peach—it wasn’t pink, she’d adamant about that—Dawn’s dress was simpler than many of the other girls, but Christian couldn’t help but think she wore it better. He was biased, of course, but still. Her hair was done up in a series of loops and ringlets and held together by… he didn’t know, magic, probably… and small pearl earrings glinted by the lights of the gym.
“Would you like some punch?” Christian said. This would be fun. She wanted this so much—needed it—and he was here to make it happen. They only had days left in this nowhere town and if Dawn Solati could walk into prom with her head held high with pretty much the entire student body staring at her, so could he.
“We can go together,” she said.
They headed toward the bowl. Christian did his best of filter out the worst of the auras and for the most part even succeeded. Progress. They scored a cup of punch each and stepped to the side.
“To the prom, the end of school, and getting the hell out of here,” Christian said, raising his plastic cup.
Dawn tapped her cup to his. “To the blue.”
All the hair on the back of Christian’s neck stood up. He turned, trying to catch an even breath, and took a gulp of his drink when his mouth went completely dry.
Bao Nguyen rocked a suit. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was incredibly unfair. He was there with Theresa Brown. She was holding his arm and smiling, and—Christian couldn’t help it, he looked—there was a soft blue-green whirling around her like cotton candy in a machine. Theresa was nervous. Bao, on the other hand, had a pale purpley-red thing going on that Christian hadn’t seen before, which could have meant homicidal tendencies for all he knew.
“Hi,” Dawn said. “Blue is more a state of mind.” She shrugged, like she hadn’t just said something super weird and somehow it came off cool.
Christian would never understand how she did that.
“Are we having fun yet?” Bao said, and as jokes went, it wasn’t a complete failure. Some of Theresa’s aquamarine nervousness was showing up in him, now, too.
Are they nervous about us, Christian thought, or nervous to be seen with us?
“I’d have less fun at home,” he heard himself say, and much like Bao’s sad excuse for a joke, it didn’t land entirely flat. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Bao though.
Theresa smiled at him. “Right?”
She ran on the track team, too, Christian remembered. Which meant she’d know Bao and Dawn. He couldn’t remember if they’d ever really spoken before.
“The punch is not terrible,” he said, holding up his cup. “So there’s that, too.”
Every time one of them spoke some of the worry broke away and drifted off out of Christian’s line of sight. Beneath it, a more relaxed pale yellow seeped in. He knew the colour of relief, and was glad to see it.
“So how long have you two..?” Dawn raised an eyebrow.
Bao and Theresa looked at each other and they both laughed at the same time.
“No,” Theresa said. “We’re here as friends.”
Christian stared down at his cup. He didn’t want to see any of the colours happening between Bao and Dawn at that particular revelation. When he was sure there’d be nothing to notice, he finished his punch and put the plastic cup on the little table beside the punch bowl where the empties were gathering in little stacks.
Theresa and Dawn chatted about which universities they’d applied to, and what programs. Christian smiled, relaxing in increments. Then he noticed Bao was watching him, and Christian tried a small smile.
Okay. He had no idea what that meant, but it’d do.
The song changed, and Dawn turned her head. “Okay. Now we dance?”
Christian pointed to the dance floor. “After you.”
The four of them hit the floor, and danced.
Hours later, Christian and Bao waited outside the girls’ room while Dawn and Theresa did whatever girls did together in a bathroom. Christian held Dawn’s flowers, which were drooping a bit now. She’d taken them from the table they’d sat in. She wanted to press them.
She wanted this memory, he realized, and he wondered if he felt the same way.
“You okay?” Bao said.
Christian looked at him, unsure.
“Your eyes. For a while there, they were…” Bao waved a hand in front of his own eyes. Bao had gorgeous eyes. Super dark brown.
Christian swallowed. “Burst blood vessels. It’s fine. Though it was gross.” And that hadn’t been the half of it. And they hadn’t been speaking since then.
Some kids passed them by. Christian tensed, waiting for it, and sure enough, after they passed, the cloud of colours around them shifted, and there were whispers.
“I’m sorry about your grandmother,” Bao said.
Christian let go of a breath. “Thanks.”
Bao shifted on his feet. It had been better when they were all dancing. Moving and laughing and keeping the topic light had made for a passable evening, really. In fact, a few times, for a few songs, Christian had been having fun. He could forget how he and Bao had left things, forget that the whole school knew about what had happened with Dawn—and that somehow Christian Simon (of all people!) had had something to do with her stepfather getting caught—and just… dance. Even the colours had mostly melted away, and the ones he had seen?
They’d been blues.
“I got in for law enforcement,” Bao said, out of nowhere.
Christian couldn’t help but smile. “You’ll be great.”
“Thanks,” Bao said. Then he took a breath. Opened his mouth. Closed it. Opened it.
“I’m gonna use the bathroom, too,” Bao said.
Christian nodded. “Okay.”
Bao turned to go, but at the door, he paused. “Just so you know… I didn’t say anything. To anyone. I… Well. I didn’t. I promise. And I won’t.”
The colours flared up around them, the world coming alive with emotions. Dark bruised puffs of blacks, deep undulating reds, sharp purple shards, twisting oranges…
Too much. Christian closed his eyes. He remembered the moment, remembered yelling at Bao.
“I don’t even like her that way, Bao. I don’t like girls that way. Okay? Do you get it now?”
“Thank you,” he managed, then he waited to hear the sound of the bathroom door before opening his eyes again.
Christian slid down the locker until he was sitting on the floor in the hallway. It wouldn’t be long now. Weeks he could count off in days. He’d be out of here. He’d be in Ottawa. He’d been accepted at university there.
He looked at Dawn’s flowers.
A peach dress. Not-terrible punch. Dancing.
He fingered the pink rose on his lapel. He could put some of the petals in his grandmother’s Bible.
He’d take it—and the memory of this night—with him to Ottawa.
“To the blues,” he said, and raised Dawn’s flowers in a toast.