Aaron didn't say anything to Keeley about the returned earrings but the day before the dance a large box waited on her doorstep when she arrived home.
Inside was a burgundy A-line off-shoulder dress. The bodice was dotted with diamonds (she learned her lesson after the earring incident; there was no way they were fake) and layers of tulle flowed asymmetrically from front to back below the knee line.
Keeley didn't even want to think about how much this must have cost but that wasn't all. A pair of silver stilettos and the earring box she returned were inside as well.
"Why," she said weakly to the empty air as she sank onto her knees.
Why was this happening? What did this egomaniac want from her? He even looked up her real address! He wasn't like this when they were together before!
Did he only give extravagant gifts to women he wasn't in a relationship with? Honestly, that made a sad kind of sense.
Keeley finally texted him back. 'I'll apologize for what I said if you stop doing this. I really can't accept any of it'
He responded immediately. 'It's my money to spend, not yours. I want you to dress up tomorrow'
He spent all of that money because he wanted to see her dressed up. She felt sick to her stomach. No. She couldn't give in to him. She wouldn't.
Besides, she already had a dress that she rented from a secondhand shop for $49. It was pearl pink and sleeveless with lacy flowers on the bodice and a chiffon skirt that went to her knees.
Aaron's dress was dazzling but the one she had was still cute. Besides, her natural light blonde hair looked good with pastels and she refused to let him win.
He didn't speak to her until the end of literature class on Valentine's Day and only whispered "see you tonight" huskily into her ear, making her jerk backwards in alarm. It was going to be a very long day.
The rest of Keeley's classes ticked by sluggishly and she barely had time to go home and grab her outfit, makeup bag, and hairstyling tools to make herself up in the bathroom at the hotel between decorating and the start of the dance.
The homemade decorations didn't look terrible but they also looked out of place in such a fancy banquet room. It would probably be alright once the lights were off.
Keeley was so overcome with fatigue and nerves before the night even began that she nearly fell off a ladder while hanging some of the glitter hearts. She was halfway down when someone's hands sprung up beneath her back and stopped her fall at a 45 degree angle.
"Jeffrey," she sighed with relief. "You just saved my life! What are you doing here an hour early?"
"Relieving you so you can go get ready," he said cheerfully as he helped her down.
He already wore a white shirt and slacks with a light pink tie he borrowed from his dad. "I've got your corsage here but you can see it once you're done."
With a bright smile, she thanked him again and scurried off in search of a place to change. Keeley hummed absently to herself as she curled her hair and put on lipstick.
She wasn't the only student in the bathroom—other members of the decoration committee trickled in to touch things up before their dates arrived.
Satisfied with her appearance, she rejoined Jeffrey and held out her wrist so he could strap on the simple pink rose corsage.
"You look nice," he coughed out a bit shyly.
"Thanks, so do you."
They walked side by side onto the dance floor. It really did look better with the lights off. The glitter scattered tiny fragments of light across the room in a way that seemed ethereal.
The band was lively and people awkwardly danced in clusters to a popular song from the radio. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.
Lydia spotted her friends and waved them over. Her auburn hair was in a classy bun with a couple of loose ringlets and her satin plum colored dress flowed to the floor.
Her date was a cute baby-faced boy with freckles that Keeley was fairly certain shared her science class.
"Jonathan, these are my friends Jeffrey and Keeley," she introduced. "We're all going to get pizza together after this."
He gave them a friendly smile. "Nice to meet you guys. Shall we?"
The four of them found a spare bit of dance floor and let loose in the way only teenagers are capable of.
Keeley was able to let go and relax in a way she hadn't since being reborn. Nothing like catchy music and the mood of a crowd to get you to forget your troubles.
She was actually enjoying herself, goofing off with Jeffrey and letting him spin her around.
She waved her hands in the air as if she didn't have a care in the world, jumped up and down to the beat, and cheered along with everyone else as one student breakdanced in the middle of a circle of eager onlookers.
After a while, Keeley felt a bit thirsty and went to get a drink. She eyed the punchbowl warily, remembering what happened the first time she went to this dance.
Lacy wasn't around as far as she had seen. Maybe she wasn't a target this time since she wasn't Aaron's date. In the end she opted for lemonade out of a glass dispenser and avoided punch entirely.
She surveyed the dance floor, her vigilance suddenly returning at the reminder of her previous bad experience at this dance. Her friends didn't seem to be feeling her absence too much since they were still dancing around freely.
Max leaned against a wall while talking to some other diplomats' kids. Aaron was nowhere in sight. And Lacy was marching right toward the drinks area with a determined look on her face.
That was one confrontation Keeley was determined to avoid. She had no reason to be picking a fight now! It felt nice to brush right past her former enemy as if she was air and return to her group of friends.
If Keeley knew anything about Lacy Knighton, it was that she was a coward. She would never confront anyone in front of a group. Avoiding meeting her alone was easy in such a crowded place.