Prom was all that anyone could talk about in the days leading up to the event. Girls discussed their dresses in hushed tones, adamant about not letting their dates overhear about what they would be wearing, but at the same time eager to brag to their friends and compare. Julia was surprised at how invested the guys themselves seemed in the event, talking amongst themselves about their plans for before the dance and after, some more explicitly than others.
"Guys at my old school would always just pretend to be too cool to get excited about dances," Julia explained to Megan one afternoon.
"Yeah, well, it's not like that much excitement happens here, anyway," Megan said. "But people look forward to senior prom for literally four years, sometimes more. It's the high school event."
Soon enough, the very day came. Megan came over in mid afternoon so she and Julia could get ready together, doing each other's hair and makeup. A white boutonniere was sitting on Julia's desk, waiting to be pinned on Will's suit. Will was picking Julia up at 5pm; the senior class had a tradition of taking prom pictures at a park just outside the town before going to city hall, where dinner was served before the dancing began.
"You look so good," Julia said as she was finishing up Megan's makeup. Megan had opted for a dramatic makeup look, with sparkly eyeshadow and bright lips. Her hair was braided into an updo. It matched her sparkly, two-piece peach dress with a high neck very well.
"Well, I think you're might best work," Megan returned the compliment. Julia went for a more natural look, her hair in soft curls with a few braids pulling it partly up. "But I should really go," Megan said. She had left her dress at home where she would be meeting the friends who she was going to the dance left. "You need to get dressed."
Julia walked Megan to the door, and gave her hug before she left. "I'll see you soon," Julia said.
"Can't wait!" Megan exclaimed. "It's going to be so much fun!"
Chuckling, Julia closed the door as Rory came out of his room. "Megan just left?"
Julia nodded. "Yeah, Will should be here in about half an hour."
"Well, then you should probably finish getting ready," Rory advised her.
Julia rolled her eyes, but gave him a smile. "Yeah, I figured, thanks."
Julia went back to her room and closed the door. Her dress was hanging in a plastic bag on her closet door, and she carefully took it out and off the hanger. Slipping it on, Julia zipped up the side zipper before turning to look at herself in the mirror. It fit her perfectly. She added her shoes and jewelry, fastening her charm anklet as a final touch. With one final look in the mirror, she headed into the living room to wait for Will.
Rory was sitting there when she came in, and a bright smile came across his face when he looked up and saw her. He stood up as she approached and gave her a hug.
"You look absolutely beautiful," he said sincerely.
Julia blushed slightly. "Thanks, Rory," she said. "I'm really excited for tonight."
"You should be," Rory said. "You deserve to have a good time."
Julia sat down on the couch next to her uncle, letting her feet rest before being on them for several hours.
"You're quiet," Rory commented.
"I guess I just haven't been this excited for something this normal in a really long time," Julia said. "I'm almost, nervous."
"Nervousness and excitement are very similar feelings," Rory said. "And often mix together."
At that moment, there was a knock at the door. Rory smiled, and kissed Julia lightly on the forehead. "Have a good night," he said.
"Don't wait up for me," Julia said, chuckling.
Rory laughed and shook his head before going into his room and shutting the door, giving his niece some privacy.
Julia took a deep breath, walked over to the door, and opened it.
Julia had never seen Will become so speechless, so quickly. He took half a step back and spent a few moments just staring at her. Julia's dress was almost entirely a deep blue, a color that reminded Julia of the ocean. The bodice had a white, beaded design on it and was tight, with a deeper v-neckline than she usually would have dared to wear. Just above her hips, the fabric loosened up, and the skirt flowed loosely around her legs.
Will finally found his voice. "You look, absolutely stunning," Will breathed.
While Will had been looking at her, Julia had done just as much admiring. Her boyfriend looked wonderful in his dark suit, with a dark blue bowtie and matching suspenders. "You look amazing as well," Julia complemented.
Will grinned, stepped forward, and gave her a brief kiss. "Give me your hand," he said.
Blushing, Julia held out her left hand, and Will slipped a corsage decorated with a cluster of small white roses. Without saying a word, Julia pinned the boutonniere on Will, her hand shaking slightly, but getting it secure after a moment.
"Well," Will said, looking down and admiring his flower, "shall we?" He held out his arm.
Julia grabbed her clutch, took Will's arm, and shut the door behind them. Once down at the car, Will opened the passenger door and helped her inside before getting behind the wheel and driving off. The park wasn't that long of a drive from Julia's house, and once they arrived and found parking, they saw many of their classmates, all dressed for the occasion, already taking pictures. The park was filled with flowers, and there was a beautiful fountain in the center that many used as a backdrop to their photos.
Julia and Will quickly found Megan and her two friends, and Will patiently took pictures of the four of them, as well as just her and Megan. Megan then returned the favor and took a lot of pictures of Julia and Will, more, Julia later realized, than Will had taken of the girls. Julia suspected that Megan would be getting a lot of these developed for her.
They spent about an hour at the park before everyone got back in their cars and headed into town once again. There wasn't that much parking around city hall, so a lot of the students had to walk a little way to get to the building. Entering, they were ushered into a large event hall that was decorated with hanging lights and strands of crystals. The tables were covered with white tablecloths, with simple white flower bouquets in the center.
Will and Julia were assigned to a table with Megan, her two friends, and another couple who Julia recognized from her Calculus class. They were served three separate courses, and the food was good, but in Julia's opinion, not as good as the food she and Will ate at Tina's. They enjoyed nice conversation with the other people at their table, but Julia was really just looking forward to the dancing. She wasn't a great dancer, but she enjoyed it, and especially looked forward to getting to dance with Will.
It was just at this moment that the music started, and the students let out a great cheer. Will grinned and took Julia's hand, pulling her up and toward the dance floor. Most of the songs were very fast, and very loud, and no one was doing much more than jumping around with their partners, shaking heads and trying to get their arms to coordinate with their movements. Will and Julia weren't much different. Holding onto each other, with either one hand or two, they danced for what seemed like both an eternity and just a brief moment. Will was giving her one of the most genuine smiles that Julia had ever seen from him, and she was sure she was returning the action. It was a sight she never wanted to forget.
Julia was sweating like crazy and her legs and feet were killing her, and just when she felt like she had to stop, the DJ playing the music announced that the next song was the last song.
"Ah, the best part of the night," Will said, his eyes shining.
The pace of the music slowed drastically, and Will held out his hand in invitation. Julia smiled and took his hand, accepting the invite. She put her other hand on Will's shoulder, and his went on her waist.
"You know, I was really looking forward to this," Will said softly. They swayed in time to the music, holding each other close.
"Yeah, so was I," Julia agreed.
"I think this is the most normal night we've had as a couple," Will commented.
The normalcy didn't last for long. Barely 30 seconds into the song, and loud siren sounded through the hall. Julia was confused, but she seemed to be the only one. Everyone else groaned.
A teacher who was chaperoning the dance but Julia did not know got up next to the DJ. "Alright, everyone," she announced, "please head through the doorway to your right and follow Mr. Finch down into the basement. Hopefully, this will all pass soon."
There were still grumbles of protest as the students began to funnel out of the room. Julia kept a firm grip on Will's hand.
"Er, what exactly is going on?" Julia asked.
Will looked surprised at her question, but then a look of understand crossed his face. "Ah, that's right," he said. "You've never been through one of these." He hurried on to an explanation as Julia continued to look confused and concerned. "It's just a tornado siren," he explained casually.
"Oh, just a tornado siren?" Julia didn't find that something to be so casual about.
Will gave her a reassuring smile. "Look, they're not that uncommon," he explained. "I've been through a few in my life time." By this point, the senior class was shuffling down stairs into the basement level of the building. Mr. Finch led them away from the main staircase they had come down into a room that seemed to be the center of the building. Once there, the students began to sit on any surface they could, including the floor, or leaned against the walls.
"So, are we still going to have a town when this is over?" Julia asked when she and Will had found a corner of the floor to sit down on.
"What do you mean?"
"Look, the only time you hear about tornadoes living in California is when there's a really big one that wipes out a town or something," Julia said, slightly exasperated. "And other than that, my only source of knowledge comes from The Wizard of Oz. And if city hall ends up in Oz and I have to dance down the yellow brick road in stilettos with the entirety of the senior class," she had just seen Daphne at that point, getting disgustingly physical with Jacob in a not dark enough corner, "I'm going to lose it."
Will couldn't keep himself from laughing. "I think you watch too much TV or something," he chuckled. When Julia glared at him, he held up his hands in defense. "No, look," he started to seriously explain, "usually when these things happen, its really small, it doesn't always even touch ground, and they just sound the siren to make sure no one is doing anything stupid. I doubt it will even last that long."
Julia relaxed slightly. "Right," she said. "Thanks. It's not like I've ever had to worry about tornadoes when I lived in California."
"No, I suppose you not," Will agreed. "But you guys have to deal with earthquakes, those sound horrible."
Julia shook her head. "Nah," she countered. "I mean the super big ones, sure, but I've never experienced one of those. Most of the time everything shakes for a few seconds and then you go on with your day."
"Don't you have to dive under the nearest table or something?"
Julia shrugged. "Yeah, if it's strong enough or last a long time. You kinda get a feeling for what requires a lot of cover after a while. But most of the time they're not worth that, cause you know that nothing is going to fall on you and that your house isn't going to cave in."
Will shook his head. "I think I'll stick to tornadoes, thanks."
"Suit yourself," Julia said, finally relaxed and able to laugh. "How do we know when it's over, anyway?"
Will nodded to Mr. Finch and the other teachers, who were clustered together. "They'll be listening to the emergency radio station," he explained. "They'll put the all clear out on that, and TVs."
"I gotta be honest," Julia said, following Will's gaze. "I never would have guessed that Mr. Finch would volunteer to chaperone prom."
Will smirked. "Yeah, doesn't really seem like his vibe," he said. "Maybe he lost a bet."
"Given that he has to deal with that," Julia said, nodding to Daphne and Jacob. Mr. Finch had apparently drawn the short straw and was currently breaking them apart and telling them off for their behavior. "I would say yeah, definitely lost a bet."
Will laughed and kissed Julia's temple. "Yeah, they're not really being very subtle, are they?"
Julia just echoed his laugh and then leaned back into him. Will wrapped his arm around her. "So what was that you were saying about this being our most normal night as a couple?" she teased him.
Will groaned, putting his head back against the wall. "Yeah, I really shouldn't have said that, should I?"
"I don't think even Will Rivers can command a change in the weather using just his words," Julia continued her teasing. "But it was rather ironic." Julia lightly moved her hand up and down his arm. "I'm sorry about the dance, though."
Julia felt Will shrug. "What can you do?" he sighed.
Julia knew that Will's question was rhetorical, but she began to give it serious thought as Will put his arms around her and she shifted to get more comfortable.
They were down in the basement for about half an hour, but finally one of the teachers stood up to announce to them all that the all clear had been given.
Julia was grateful to be able to get off the floor, but despite the fact that their dance had been cut short, no one seemed in the mood to resume. In small groups, the senior class made their way back to their parked cars. Fortunately, whatever extreme weather happened had not happened anywhere within the town.
Will, refusing to allow the night's chivalry to be destroyed, opened the car door and assisted Julia in just as he had done at the night's beginning.
"I don't want to go home yet," Julia said as Will started the car.
Julia noticed a mischievous spark in Will's eyes as he turned to look at her. "Well then," he said, "where would you like to go this fine evening?"
"I'm hungry," was all Julia had to say.
On their way out of town, Julia got a text from Rory, making sure she and Will were okay. Julia replied with a smiley face and then asked after him. She got her same reply back, making her smile.
"Don't tell me you're texting another guy?" Will feigned jealousy.
"Ah yes, I'm sure you're greatly threatened by my uncle," Julia said sarcastically. "He's just making sure we're okay after the warning."
Only because Julia knew him so well could she see Will's expression tighten just for a moment, but it was gone so fast she almost thought she imagined it. "That's nice of him," he said, almost wistful. A moment of silence, and then he took her hand, and the weird moment was behind them and Julia forgot all about it.
Most of the high school's in the area had prom on the same night, so Tina's stayed open late for hungry students after the dance. Because of this, as Julia and Will entered the diner, there were several other couples already there, but none were from Redwater.
"I hoped you two would stop by," Tina was at the entrance, beaming at them. "You both look wonderful."
"Thanks, Tina," Will said, hugging her.
"I did hear that your prom got cut slightly short," Tina said sympathetically after hugging Julia.
"Yeah, well," Will said, "the important thing is that we're together. And safe."
Tina looked at them fondly. "Well, I figured you two might be making an appearance," she said, "so I saved your favorite table for you. Follow me."
The couple followed Tina to the back of the diner. They're table was all the way in the back, nestled in a corner that was half hidden from the rest of the diner.
"I'll give you two a minute," Tina said, leaving them alone with the menu.
"I'm not sure we need a minute," Julia joked to Will.
"Those milkshakes never get old."
"Well, since you know what I want," Julia said, "you can order for me if Tina comes back. I need the restroom."
Will nodded as Julia got up and headed in the direction of the bathroom. Scanning the room, Julia spotted Tina behind the counter. Checking to make sure that Will wasn't watching, Julia diverted from her path to go talk to the owner.
"Hey, Tina," Julia said quietly to get her attention.
Tina turned toward her. "What's going on?" she asked.
"Listen, I had an idea…"
Julia did actually have to go to the bathroom, so by the time she got back, Will had already ordered. They sat there for quite a while, and because Julia was sitting on the side of the table with a better view of the diner, she was able to keep an eye on the other couples, the only other people in the diner, and watch them leave one by one. Eventually, she and Will were the only ones left.
"We should probably get going soon," Will commented. "It's getting pretty late."
Almost as if on cue, the lights in the diner dimmed slightly.
"Apparently they're kicking us out," Will joked.
Julia stood up. "Not exactly," she said. A new song started playing, louder that the music usually was. It took Will a moment to recognize it, as he was focused on pulling out cash to pay for their food. Once he realized, however, that it was the same song of their interrupted slow dance, he looked up to see Julia standing, her hand extended. "May I have this dance?" she asked.
Will looked shocked, but elated. He took her hand, standing up and pulling both of them around in a quick circle before drawing Julia close to complete the slow dance that had been taken away from them.
"Did you do this?" Will whispered into her ear.
"I may have had a hand," Julia replied. "I just, I wanted to have an actual happy ending to the night. It didn't seem right, the way the dance ended."
"I completely agree."
Will seemed to be sitting on something as they drove back to Redwater.
"Is everything alright?" Julia asked.
"Do you still not want to go home?" Will asked.
Julia was silent for a moment. "No, not really."
Julia woke up late the next morning, cozy in an oversized sweatshirt and pair of sweatpants belonging to Will. He lay next to her, still asleep, arms pulling her tightly toward him. Smiling to herself, Julia closed her eyes once again.