So-Far-Untitled Grave-Robbing Prom Dress Story…

Kristine Noel was on a journey to find the perfect prom dress. Everyone knew this because she talked about it the way some people sneeze uncontrollably at inappropriate times. She spent three essay-writing workdays in a row browsing dresses online, willfully drowning in a flood of ruffles, rhinestones, and lace, building a Pinterest board of gauzy, sparkling dreams.

I watched her clicking through images from my own laptop, logged into the program that allowed me to see all of my students’ computer screens, monitoring who was surfing around instead of working on their persuasive papers. She must have known I was watching. The students knew about the program. Kristine just didn’t care.

I should have shut her down right then, confiscated her computer, called her parents. But I didn’t, partly because if she wanted to waste her work time that was her own business, and partly because her dad was scary. When I coached Kristine in 7th grade volleyball, he reamed me out after a game for not letting her play setter. Or serve or something, I forget. Promised to get me fired. It was a whole thing.

And her obsession was mesmerizing. Like watching vehicles slow-motion collide on an icy street.

She got on a messaging app and shot a picture across the room to her friend Ivy Molnar. THIS IS THE ONE!!!! she type-screamed.

I had to admit it was pretty. The gown had a jewel-encrusted bodice and cascading folds of royal blue silk falling from it in delicate streams of fabric. Great, maybe now that she’d narrowed it down she could start writing a goddamn essay – just saying.

I LOVE IT ITS PERFECT!! You will look so good!! Wat earrings? Ivy replied.

The joyous moment was interrupted by a loud bang from the classroom next door. Damn freshmen. Somehow the rumor mill had churned out an old chestnut about Mr. Moss. Moss did two tours in Iraq before coming back to get his teaching degree, and legend said if you dropped a book from a desk or made some other kind of loud noise that he would dive to the floor shouting “IED!” or go apeshit on the nearest kid and break their neck thinking they were “a Taliban.”

I knew kids had tried it before and nothing happened, but I couldn’t help listening for a few moments over the gentle clacking of laptop keyboards for any kind of a ruckus. There was nothing from the next room.

When I refocused on my screen, I saw that Kristine’s savage joy had somehow, within a minute, transformed into utter tragedy.


Don’t panic I’ll look on ebay and craigslist there has to be ome somewhere Ivy comforted.

“Jesus take the wheel,” I muttered, dragging my fingers over my eyes.

“Miss Bellan?” One of my good students, little industrious Mia, approached me holding a freshly-stapled bundle of ivory papers. “Can you look over my draft and let me know what I need to fix?”

“Oh, yep, yeah.” I reached out and took the essay, but my eyes were hypnotized by the meltdown that was happening silently across my classroom.

This is the only 1 I like the rest are slutty and ugly!!! Its gonna be perfect it covers my hips and everything and I already have a purse that goes with it why is this happening!!

What about this its close to it. Ivy, forever helpful, a gardener trying to keep a fussy orchid alive, sent some pictures of a very similar dress.

Yuck no that collar is hideous… fml what am I gonna do!!!

“Maybe I could get the corrections before class is over so I can work on this over the weekend?” Mia suggested from my elbow.

“Right. I’m on it.” Reluctantly, I shoved the laptop away and started picking apart Mia’s arguments with my purple pen. Red is too judgmental (so they said in college) so I use purple or green.

By the time I finished and stuffed it back into Mia’s expectant hands, the bell was about to ring. The last thing I saw Kristine send Ivy was a news article from Des Moines. It was an obituary for an 18-year-old named Gillian Bierman.

After school, I stopped in to Moss’s room. There were equations smeared all over the board, but no sign of the chaos of pencil bits and scraps of paper that covered my floor. Though the kids made fun of Moss for being damaged, they were also afraid of him. His shoulders always carried a hunched, quiet anger, coiled like a trapped snake. The dude was massive – though he’d been out of the service for years, his ramrod posture and ropey muscles that strained against his dress shirts were clear indicators of his service. I agreed with Pam the secretary when she once whispered to me, “I hate to see him go, but I love to watch him leave!” as Moss exited the copy room and used his toned ass to climb the stairs. Let me end by saying that staring at him made professional development go a lot faster. I still got hot in the armpits talking to him, and we’d worked together for five years.

“Freshmen do that dumb book thing again?” I asked as he looked up from the pile of papers on his desk.

“Yeah. Kids haven’t done that one in awhile,” he said, capping his red pen. Math teachers still used red. Because when you’re wrong in math, you’re really wrong and deserve to know it without a doubt.

“Get this. Kristine Noel finally found her perfect prom dress. After three days of wasting time in my class. Oh, this one is the wrong color of salmon! This one looks like something Taylor Swift would wear…”

He didn’t smile much, but I could usually get him to, and my impression of Kristine surfing her computer for the perfect dress worked.

“Anyway, get this. So she finds the perfect dress, and it’s all sold out everywhere. All the websites, ebay, everything.” I sniggered behind my chapped hand, skin cracked from too many washings with the school’s unforgiving antibacterial flesh-eating soap. “It makes you think there’s some justice in the universe.” Pause. “At least for some point.” Shut up, Gabi, or lick your lips ‘cause your foot’s headed for your mouth. “I mean, c’mon, it’s a stupid dress and she’s so freakin’ obsessed with it. There are other things in life, y’know?”

Moss nodded sagely, but I’d overdone it. He was a better teacher than me, and a better human being. Once I’d joked to him that I wanted to hold this freshman down and pluck her wild eyebrows. He said, “I think she should stay a little girl as long as possible.” That destroyed me.

Stacking his papers, he said, “Well, I’m sure her daddy can buy her something else.” Thank God, there was a little snark. He couldn’t be a saint all the time.

“Her dad is a nightmare,” I told him, eagerly recounting my story from several years ago. When that died down, there was an awkward silence, the soundtrack to my blushing. “So, you chaperoning prom again this year?” Our principal liked having Moss there in case some kids came in drunk or disorderly. The only other male teacher in the school was Mr. Ford, who was about as big as the F-150 he drove and rarely left his desk chair.

“Of course,” Moss said, standing up and stretching. I had to look away. “Hey, you should sign up, too.”

“Really?” I squeaked, trying to find something to do with my hands and eventually settling on crossing my arms over my lumpy spinster’s bosom.

“You can be like that old lady. You know, the one that died.” He stood, sliding on his super badass motorcycle jacket, such a contrast to his khakis and blue checkered tie.

“I can be the old lady… the one that died.” I frowned.

Another rare smile. “I don’t remember her name. You know, the one that would belittle everyone on the red carpet.”

“Joan Rivers!” I gushed, standing out of the way as he walked through the door and shut it, jingling his keys. “Oh yeah, I can totally rip apart some poor fashion choices, that’s for sure. Okay, yeah, I’ll, uh, go talk to Pam and get added to the list.”

“See you tomorrow.” He waved without looking back, leaving me marooned in the doorway of my classroom.

I hated to see him go, but I loved to watch him leave. “Please don’t be married,” I whispered after him.

There are a lot of reasons that I should be a better teacher than I am. First off, I’ve been doing it for eleven years, so you’d think I would have stopped sucking by now. I guess kids have a hard time respecting a pudgy woman in a cardigan who cuts her own bangs. Honestly, I don’t connect with my students. Each year I teach they become more remote and elusive, a cold and deadly alien race. But it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

Because adult life is just high school with credit card debt.  

I had a date for the prom, and I needed to get skinny quick. Ergo, two nights after signing up to chaperone the dance, I jogged pitifully along the streets of our small Iowa town under cover of darkness so nobody from school would see me jiggle. It was April, and the evenings were chilly, but the stocking cap I wore also helped disguise my identity.

As I ran, I tried to focus on prom night. I’d show up in a dress – not a prom dress, but a cocktail dress. Nothing seductive! But very classy. Like something with a v-neck. And I’d walk in, bathed in the dancing lights of the disco ball, and catch Moss’s eye. He’d pause as he poured himself punch, and look me up and down, and then pretend he hadn’t been looking. After we had a ball chaperoning the dance and making fun of the students for taking this stupid milestone so seriously, I’d say, “Hey, let’s go to Perkins and get a piece of pie” and then we’d stay there until two in the morning just talking. And then start texting. And then…

“Baby you’re a firework…” I sang under my breath as I approached the cemetery. The good news was that the cemetery marked the last leg of my predetermined jogging route. The bad news was that it was a cemetery, and it was kinda freaky at night. Hence the Katy Perry to calm my nerves.

Sure, the cemetery had your usual modest flat graves, square and modern and nonthreatening, sometimes adorned with tasteful flowers in vases or hanging from shepherd’s hooks thrust into the ground. But that was just one side of the little hill where this town rested their dead. The other side was the old section, studded with broken tablets and threatening obelisks, and the occasional dead-eyed angel stretching her stone wings.

I wasn’t from here, not even from this state, but every Halloween some kid would bring up how the town cemetery was haunted. And I wanted exactly none of that shit, because paranormal stuff freaks me out. I can’t watch Ghostbusters. Yes, it’s that sad.

I tried not to look, but I couldn’t help it. My eyes swept the boneyard for anything ghostly/ghastly/abnormal.

I skidded to a stop with a muffled, “Holy shit!” There was a light hovering over one of the graves in the newer section. And there was movement. I tore my earbuds free and turned off the music with a shaking tap.

Voices came through the silent dim and I squinted in the vague light of the streetlamps. Two people – humans, not ghosts – worked busily over a grave. One of them disappeared completely by dropping down into a hole beneath a headstone. I checked my phone. 11:00 at night was a little late to be doing a burial, wasn’t it? Maybe they were getting the grave ready for a funeral tomo—

“Ivy, will you shut up?” a voice trickled through the wind. “Hand me the crowbar!”

“No way,” I whispered, stealing off the sidewalk and into the shadows of a line of cypress trees. I crept closer through the damp grass and peered around the foliage.

There was a series of loud bangs, and then a sickly metallic groan. I rubbed my eyes, and they finally adjusted to the dim. Ivy Molnar knelt by the open grave, a shovel nearby, wringing her hands and peering into the hole. After a few moments, a hand shot up from the grave with a bundle of something sparkly clenched in its fist. Ivy took the bundle and shoved it hurriedly into a duffel bag, then reached down to help her friend out of the hole.

Kristine Noel emerged from the grave.

Without wasting time, the girls filled in the hole as best they could, shoving with gusto. They even thought to tear up and lay back down the moist sod so it wasn’t quite so obvious that they’d seriously just dug up a grave. I must have watched them for a half an hour before they made off like Assassin’s Creed in the night, racing into the woods that bordered the graveyard on the western side. As I attempted to stand up, I heard a car fire up somewhere in the distance. My legs were completely cramped up and frozen, and it took me the better part of five minutes to get my walking right.

The name on the grave was Gillian Bierman. She didn’t go to our school, but her family must have been from around here. There were fresh flowers and a teddy bear placed carefully at the base of the black rectangle that said her name and was inscribed by lasers with her image. She smiled at me in the night and I took off running.

When I ran out of breath about two blocks later, I milled around on the darkened street, not sure what to do. After a while, I shuffled in the direction of my apartment over the town laundromat, but my eyes were fixed to my phone. I googled Gillian.

She’d died of a prescription drug overdose. Her mother had a speaking engagement at a Des Moines school recently where she shared Gillian’s story. Here was her obit. And here was a tweet from her cousin. “#RIP my sweet cuz @GillyGal – they buried her in her #prom dress. Dancing in heaven.” This was followed by several praying hands emojis.

I clicked on Gillian’s profile. And right there was a selfie of her in the dress that Kristina wanted. “Picked out my hawt sexy #prom dress from @FlareFormals #iwokeuplikethis!”

I turned off my phone and shoved it in my pocket, and then stared at the moon for a few long minutes. It was only after a dog started barking from a nearby backyard that I plodded home, my mind a numb vacuum of white noise.

I didn’t tell anyone what I saw. I didn’t call the police, the girls’ parents. I didn’t text my college friends, post to facebook, or alert the principal. I didn’t tell Moss. I guess I was sure that someone else would figure this out, that any day now a headline would appear on our little town paper about teenage grave robbers. I fully expected everything to be resolved on the nightly news.

But nothing happened. Apparently no one knew except Kristine, Ivy, and me. And maybe Gillian, if she knew somehow from the Other Side. So I sat there grading essays, every once in a while stealing a glance over to Kristine. There were no more prom dresses on her computer screen, and she worked busily to plagiarize an essay sent to her by a student I had a couple of years ago, changing every third word to a synonym and assuming I wouldn’t notice. If I was afraid to confront her about grave robbing, of course I wasn’t going to accuse her of plagiarism. Shit, I knew what these girls were capable of. A’s all around.

Keeping Kristine’s secret made my stomach hurt pretty much all the time, which prevented me from my nightly ritual of eating half a block of cheese while watching NBC game shows, so I actually did lose some weight even though I’d quit running in favor of some old Tae Bo videos I’d found in my mom’s basement. I was too freaked out to run past the cemetery, even in daylight.

The Saturday of prom was gray and uninviting. I couldn’t concentrate on anything – grading, reading, Netflix binging, nothing. I paced around my apartment all morning before giving up, throwing on some sweats, and going for a walk. Before I knew what was happening, I’d walked to the cemetery. Swallowing hard, I plunged in, my sneakers swishing over the damp grass, and marched right up to Gillian’s grave. The hole the girls had dug was sunken in, forming an unflattering divot beneath Gillian’s prim gravestone, but if you didn’t know it’d been dug up, you’d think it was just soil erosion.

I bit my lip and kicked a little rock around with my toes for a minute or so before diving in. “Hey, uh, Gillian,” I said softly, though the graveyard was completely deserted. An occasional car whispered past (or thundered, in the case of Bryce McAvoy and his stupidly loud car stereo thumping bass as he rolled down the street toward Hardee’s). “Um, so, I’m sorry I didn’t do anything. I mean, I saw… Okay, look, you probably already know this, and this is like a ‘duh lady’ type of thing, but… Kristine Noel dug up your body and stole your prom dress. I think she’s planning on wearing it tonight to our prom and… I just want you to know I’m sorry I didn’t say anything.” I sighed, rubbing my head, my voice growing as the frustration poured out of me. “I’m just a chickenshit, okay? I’m a teacher afraid of a student – how pathetic is that? It’s just that she’s popular I guess, and her dad, whew, don’t get me started… Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen to her when she wears that dress. Like, let’s be honest, we’ve all heard that story about the woman who wore the corpse dress to a dance, and when her pores opened up the embalming stuff got inside and she died or whatever… but…” I sighed harshly. “I don’t know. I’m just sorry, okay? And I’m sorry that you’re dead. There it is.”

Of course there was no answer. The wind sighed through the tender buds of spring that studded the trees, low and cold.

“Okay, bye.” With that, I shoved my hands in my hoodie pocket and stomped home, pissed at myself. God, there was still time to do something, wasn’t there? But I just couldn’t… I was in too deep now. There was no making this right.

I ate a couple of fig newtons for dinner, and then did a shot of vodka before brushing my teeth. Yeah, I know, okay? But I was nervous. I tried to convince myself I was nervous about Moss, but I was really terrified to see Kristine show up in that goddamn dress. But I shoved myself into a dark blue v-necked cocktail gown and wobbled in my heels to the school.

The chaperones were there early to be well-situated for when the students arrived. Moss and I volunteered to watch the snack and drink table so we could be on the lookout for any “tampering,” which was stupid because everyone knew the kids drank in their cars before coming into the building. But whatever.

Mr. Ford guarded the door on his Rascal scooter, and the choir teacher, Miss Nelson (whom the students lovingly referred to as the “Music Nazi”) sat with Mrs. Winters (famous for her “impossible labs” and “stupid hard tests”) at the ticket table. Principal Hurd had the stomach flu, so it was just the five of us versus about a hundred and fifty juniors and seniors.

The DJ’s gear had been set up that afternoon. He was Mr. Moss’s nephew, and from the looks of it even at 30 he was on a one-way train to scooter town. Like I had room to talk. The only successful diet I’d ever been on had to be triggered by the trauma of watching my students dig up a dead body.

“I got a bad feeling,” Moss said to me as the students trickled in, the girls squealing over each other’s dresses, the guys slapping high-fives.

“Hmm?” My head jerked up from where I had been examining the Chex mix, counting the pretzels that made it shitty.

“My gut,” Moss said, running one of his hands over his fabulous abs. “I feel like something bad’s gonna…” he shook his head. “When we were over there,” he began, and I knew exactly where “there” was, “I would get a feeling sometimes. And then something bad would happen.”

“Do you think Travis Whacker’s going to finally shoot up the school?” I asked, panic inching my voice up to shriller and shriller levels. Travis, as you probably guessed, was the weird loner who wore trench coats and a lot of Iron Maiden tee shirts.

“No, no, he’s at a concert tonight anyway,” Moss said. “His own little form of protest, I guess.” He poured himself some punch, sipped, and made a sour face. “Besides, Iron Maiden kicks ass.”

“Yeah, they kinda do,” I was forced to admit. I wanted him to keep going, but I was afraid to speak. Moss never talked about Iraq. “I guess we should keep a pretty close eye on this punch or whatever,” I said, scooping some up into a red solo cup.

I saw Moss rub his gut when Kristine Noel and her date, the oh so intellectual Bryce McAvoy, waltzed in. Kristine was stunning in the dress, and it fit her perfectly. Her grin split her makeup-caked face as her hair cascaded from side to side in flawless brown ringlets. Ivy showed up a few minutes later, drab and forgotten in peach and gold crystals.

“So, how about the whole exposed midriff dress trend this year?” I choked, watching Kristine work the room. I sniffed the air, trying to get a whiff of decay or embalming chemicals.

“It reminds me of I Dream of Jeanie or something,” Moss said, downing his punch, trying to make a go of it, even if his face was grave in the mirrorball’s dancing lights.

“Yeah, my God, look at all these sequins and crystals. It’s like Liberace threw up in here.”

That got a laugh, at least.

I shit you not, the DJ was playing “Thriller” when the gym door opened and Gillian Bierman stalked into prom wearing nothing but a pair of lacy blue panties and a strapless black bra. I think that’s part of the reason why nobody stopped her — they thought it was some sort of prank or like a flash mob or something.

Honestly Gillian was looking pretty good for having been dead for a month or so. True, she was leaking viscous, foul-smelling fluid worse than my dad’s Trans Am, and the skin around her mouth and fingers had shriveled, pulling back to reveal claw-like nails and gnashing teeth. Her eyes were milky white and lolling about, unfocused and glassy. Yet she lurched with a purpose. She was headed straight for Kristine Noel, who was dancing in a circle with her girlfriends.

It’s really too bad the DJ was running the music from a computer, because a record scratch would have been unbelievably perfect. The music went on, even changing songs, as the next few minutes of insanity unfolded.

The girls stopped dancing and stared at Gillian, as did nearly everyone else in the gym. Though there was a definite sickly sweet, chemical stench coming off of the walking corpse, nobody screamed until the dead girl grabbed Kristine and wrenched her around, clawing at the zipper on the back of the jeweled bodice. Kristine’s friends stood there in frozen stupidity as a zombie tried to tear off the dress. She got the zipper part of the way down before Kristine lunged free and snatched the garment from her own body, revealing her bra and a pair of nude spanx. She gave a breathless, terrified squeaking shriek and tossed the dress at the corpse.

Gillian, her movements strange and jerky, stepped into the heap of silk and raked the dress up over her skeletal frame. As she did, large clumps of blonde hair fell from her scalp, dragging flesh with it. At last, she managed it up and over her shoulders where it hung against her rotting skin.

Bryce McAvoy, being slightly less useless than previously thought, finally came to Kristine to help her up. But as he moved to kneel at her side, Gillian’s corpse snatched his arm and yanked him into an embrace, draping her arms around his neck in her attempt at a slow dance.

“Holy shit,” finally eeked free of my frozen throat. “Moss—”

I looked over, but he was gone.

“Hey!” Mr. Ford blustered as the gym doors creaked open and a horde of ragged people stumbled their way into the dance.

See, Gillian had brought some friends. Not sure if it was on purpose, but her whole “coming back from the dead to get my prom dress” thing had awakened seemingly every corpse in the town cemetery. Fresh and ancient, they trotted into the gym, milling about as if looking for something. “Holy shit,” I repeated. There was Joyce, Pam’s predecessor, who had had a heart attack when our boys won the state championship last fall, lumbering about in her Sunday best.

Mrs. Winter, who was blind as a bat, and most especially blind in low light, squinted at them through her massive spectacles. “Excuse me! Tickets please!” Miss Nelson hushed her, grabbing her by the shoulder and ushering her over to the wall.

“Get… off him!” Kristine managed to gather her legs beneath her and stand. Now she attempted to cut in between her boyfriend and the corpse-girl who had him locked in a terrifying, lurching dance to the back end of “Thriller.”

Gillian’s wide mouth split wider and she howled, a ghastly, unnatural, bone-grinding expression of rage. With the sweep of her arm, she flung Kristine to the side, slamming her into Ivy, who had been standing nearby, transfixed and helpless.

The other corpses in Gillian’s entourage stretched their maws and howled in echo. And with that, they attacked, falling upon the high schoolers in their finery, most still too stunned to move. Hell, I was too stunned to move, until Joyce noticed me and threw herself over the snack table, her teeth gnashing, scrabbling for purchase on my skirt with her stinking claws.

Without thinking, merely reacting, I lifted the punch bowl (sloshing my shoes soundly in the process) and crashed it down over her head. It shattered, and Joyce was down, flopping to the floor as Chex mix rained down upon her.

And suddenly there was Moss coming in the side door from the parking lot. He had a baseball bat in each hand (tape on the side read “Property of NHS Athl. Dept” on it in Sharpie) and something dark shoved down the front of his pants. Sliding against the wall, he shuffled to me, trying not to draw attention to himself as the students grappled with the corpses, who moved slowly but had incredible strength and felt no pain.

The bulge in his pants (hehe) was a handgun. Moss tossed me a bat. “I called the cops!” he shouted over the next song that cued up (“Low” by Lil’ John). “Follow me — watch my six!”

“Six what?” I shrieked as he plunged onto the dance floor. “Oh, wait, like six o’clock, like your backside, yeah I — aw crap—” An ancient, skeletal man in a rotting vest and shirtsleeves lunged at me. I wound up and swung, knocking his head clean off his body like a golf ball from a tee.

And so the teachers leapt into action while the students panicked and flailed about and froze up and cried. Mr. Ford’s nephew, the DJ, got into it too until two fresh corpses slammed him into the wall. He hit his head and curled into a ball as they scratched at him. This continued until Mr. Ford rammed into them with his Rascal, which could move surprisingly fast. Mrs. Winter and Miss Nelson picked up their folding chairs and whacked zombies as fast as they could. Mrs. Winter did whack a few students in the process, but that really wasn’t her fault.

Finally, a few students became useful. I saw someone petite wearing a seafoam chiffon number pry a fire extinguisher from the wall and go to town on the undead with it. “Hell yeah, Mia!” I shouted, bringing my bat down on another rotting head that exploded like a Gallagher melon. To be perfectly honest, Mr. Ford’s Rascal scooter had more “kills” than anyone else.

It actually didn’t take long to re-kill the dead. They weren’t flesh eating zombies or anything. They just seemed to have a bone to pick with the living. It was just at the end of “Low” when we finished.

Gillian was the last one standing. She struggled with Kristine and Bryce, lunging after them as they tried to escape. In a desperate move, Bryce shoved her against the glass trophy case in the hallway connected to the gym and threw himself out of the way, abandoning Kristine and fleeing into the boy’s locker room. Kristine sobbed on the floor at the corpse’s feet. “Bitch,” I thought I heard Gillian snarl.

Moss dropped his bat with a clang and whipped out his gun. He emptied the clip into the zombie, shattering her back into the display case in a shower of glass. A country song started that I didn’t know because I don’t listen to Republican music. No one and nothing moved.

At last, Kristine struggled to her feet. Sobbing, she limped back toward the gym, trailing a streamer under her foot like a rope of toilet paper. She opened her arms for someone to comfort her.

I wiped sweat and corpse juice from my upper lip. “No. Uh uh. You don’t get sympathy, Kristine. You’re the one who done did this. This is all your fault!”

“Miss Bellan…” she blubbered piteously as everyone stared at her in her spanx.

“No! Maybe next time try writing an essay for once!” Okay, that didn’t make sense, but nothing else did.

Moss was shaking. He dropped the gun and lifted up his hands, watching them quiver. I just put my arm around him and petted him like a scared class guinea pig. By this time, parents and cops were arriving and all hell broke loose. There were no answers to anyone’s questions. The disco ball spun over the paramedics and the frothing parents and the crying teenagers and the motionless former residents of the graveyard. I just sat with Moss on the chairs behind the DJ booth and waited for him to stop shaking.

“You did good,” he said finally.

“I’ll watch your six anytime,” I promised. Like especially when you’re walking up the stairs from the copy room.

My stomach dropped when Kristine’s dad, crimson in the face, charged through the crowd towards us. “Hey, what’s this I hear about you trying to blame this on my daughter? Yelling at her after she’s been attacked by some psycho?”

I wiped my body-fluids-and-punch sticky hands together and stood up. “Mr. Noel, that wasn’t just some psycho. That was Gillian Bierman, and your daughter dug up her grave to steal her prom dress. I guess Gillian was none too happy because she came here with a posse tonight to get it back.”

“That’s insane! What in the hell is the matter with you?” he roared, getting in my face. “How could you let this happen? I’m gonna sue the shit out of this school I can promise you that, negligence, no security, and I’m gonna have you fired!”

Moss started to stand but I put a hand on his shoulder and guided him back down. “Okay sir, okay, please don’t get upset. I think the best course of action here for everyone involved…” I could see his fists unclench and that same smug smile on his face, the one he flashed when I’d apologized so profusely about my “atrocious” coaching decisions. “… is for you to just go ahead and fuck yourself.

“What?” he stammered, turning his head to make sure he was hearing me right.

“Fuck yourself. Go fuck yourself,” I repeated loudly. Several bystanders turned to watch this little spectacle I was making of myself.

He launched into a shocked, enraged tirade that I smiled through until Mr. Ford rolled over and ordered him to take his grave robbing daughter and go home.

The DJ’s computer switched to the last song on the playlist, the final slow dance of the prom. I pulled Moss to his feet and out under the mirror ball where we danced in a puddle of spilled punch and corpse goop. Later on, after the police and everyone left, we went to Perkins.