Donna was past her best years, she knew that. At one time she believed she would be touched by magic, transformed perhaps into a star or genius or goddess. She had instead become more plump, and her brown hair was thinner. She remembered a time when she was seventeen and she believed the world would be hers.
She sniffed as she moved between the tables. She had a cold. When she walked past the mirror she saw her nose was red. While she wished she were taller, she did not wish it with the fierceness of her youth. She accepted the slump she had slid into: that was life, that was growing old, older, oldest.
“Hello, Judy.” Donna waved to her middle-aged colleague who taught algebra. Judy was undergoing a divorce and, worse than that, breast cancer. Donna didn’t really have any right to self-pity in this situation. Judy sat up straighter on the chair, smoothed her hair, made a wide smile on her face, and waved at Donna. One of their students, Tony, brought Judy a drink from the punchbowl, and she raised it in a toast. He became bashful and took a step back.
“Hello, Mr. Anderson,” Donna said. The principal sat on a folding chair against the wall and under the green and silver streamers. He looked tired. He had to go to every event, smile at every parent, argue for a bigger budget, and explain why the water coming out of the faucets was rust-colored in the spring. He said, “Good to see you, Donna.” He gestured around at the hall. “The kids have done a wonderful job decorating it.”
Tinfoil stars glittered on the ceiling; a banner above the door announced the April dance; a white cloth, still unspotted, covered the table holding the refreshments and a vase of chrysanthemums; on a smaller table was a glass jar with wands topped with stars. The juniors had decided on the theme of magic for the dance.
“Hello, Jim,” she said. He was the art teacher and helped the students with the stencils and cutouts. He sat next to his pregnant wife, Jennifer. Donna liked the promise of new life and was glad that Jennifer had come to the dance.
The electric lights were dimmed, and the votive candles flickered on the tables. The girls in their party dresses and the boys in crisp, long-sleeved shirts played at being grown-up. The music that wafted around them was an old tune, the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Jim took Jennifer’s hand and led her to the center of the floor, and they embraced in a dance. Tony danced with Courtney, Steve with Rhonda. The kids danced around Jim and Jennifer, swirling, hanging on to each other, as if they could be saved forever.
Cezarija Abartis teaches at St. Cloud State University. Her collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories, was published by New Rivers Press. Her work has appeared in Grey Sparrow Review, Ghoti, Everyday Genius, Word Riot, New York Tyrant, among others. Recently she also completed a novel, a thriller.