Copyright 2000

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centerH2The Ball/H2/center

The romance started when he came to school. Okay, not romance, exactly. But they only called each other names when they walked into school for... Okay. Not romance.

His name was Jared. Her name was Amber. They called them the- what was it? The Opposites- at first. As time went on, they came to call them the Ops.

Amber had been going to Richard High for about three years. Ever since she was a freshman. Wonderful student. Loved to read, as I recall. She neglected her social life, though, and that was a slight problem when he came around. She read so much that the librarian, Mrs. Pearenoid, even trusted her with the library enough that she left Amber in there alone long enough to have lunch. And trust me, that was a great accomplishment. As I was saying, she was a truly marvelous student. Never got an F. Never took a sick day. And like isome/i people, she never checked out to go to concerts or the mall or something teenagers did. She came to school in sensible clothes- she didn't really show skin like the other girls. Adrienne, for instance, now that was a girl who tried to be in the spotlight. She wore tube tops, short skirts, high heels, often had her hair up to show off her long, slender neck, and she wore so much makeup that even I noticed.

October 1- that's when Jared came. He was the complete opposite of Amber (in case you haven't noticed). The first time I saw him, I thought of a sport jock. And he was. Right away, he signed up for soccer, baseball, and basketball. Then he went and got in all of the clubs that looked interesting. I don't know how he managed to keep up with it all- maybe he had a clone or two, I don't know.

October 1 is also when the trouble started.

Jared walked in as if he owned the school- I think he already pretty much owned all the girls who had already seen him. Well, as luck should have it, who should he literally run into but Amber.

"Hey! Watch where you're going!" she cried as she dropped all of her beloved books on the ground. Today, she had twelve. I wouldn't have been surprised if she had finished them all by lunch.

"Sorry, I didn't see you." One look, and I could tell he had already judged her. She was wearing jeans and a sweater that day, if I recall correctly. He added under his breath something I shouldn't repeat. I could hear it all the way down the hall, though.

"Excuse me? Did you just say something?"

"Is that your comeback?"

Just then, Adrienne fought her way through the crowd until she was standing next to him. She looked him over in a way that wanted to make me puke. "You'll have to excuse the Bookworm here. She doesn't really, uh, know the proper respect."

"Illiterate moiety of sculch," Amber muttered, glaring at her.

Adrienne smiled back sweetly. No one ever knew what Amber said when she used her big words. Parts, maybe. However, I knew. She had simply called Adrienne an illiterate piece of, uh, trash.

"Come on, new boy. I'll show you around."

"Really?"

"Really." She grabbed the front of Jared's shirt and started to pull him away. That was just how she was. Forward. Very.

But Jared did look back at Amber, who was walking away to her first class. And anyone who had cared enough to look at his face right then could tell that he was interested.

I guess you could say things were quiet for a while. A few of the Populars ran into Amber in the halls. They always got into small fights. Amber always won.

Then came Halloween. I've heard other high schools don't really do much for Halloween, but this was not true for Richard High. We went all out, you might say. We had a ball. It was much like a- what do you call it? Oh yes, a prom. A costume ball.

There wasn't much of a fuss about the queen. It was a senior girl, Marilyn, I think.

Needless to say, everyone was competing for the best costume. Adrienne and Jared were expected to steal the show, with their groupies- I think that's what you call them- working for them.

The only one who didn't seem to participate was Amber. They didn't think she had what it took.

Now, on to the ball. Adrienne and her friends had set up the decorations. All over the place, there were cute, stuffed, smiling pumpkins. The candy tables had toothbrushes with extra whitening toothpaste, courtesy of Cynthia. (Her father was a dentist.) The auditorium had a DJ by the stage. Lights were everywhere. Lord only knows how many glow-in-the-dark packs they had to buy- the theme was a pumpkin patch under a starry sky. The only relief from this so-called paradise was the fun house. Thank the Lord for seniors. (Never thought I would say that.)

Adrienne and Jared were there from the start, welcoming people, commenting on costumes. I was disgusted to glimpse them kissing once. I didn't go near the food tables for the rest of the night.

About ten- after the crowning- a most spectacular creature walked through the doors. She was wearing a sleeveless white satin dress that reached the floor. Her light brown hair was done up to reveal a straight, long neck. Large white butterfly wings. She had on a white masks that only covered her upper face- like the expensive Mardi Gras masks without the feathers on top. The rest of her face was covered in glitter. She walked in and calmly paid. From the start, everyone's eyes were on her. Adrienne saw Jared looking at her curiously and glared at this new girl.

Jared was not the first boy to approach her though. First it was a senior, then a freshman. She danced with them all. And the odd thing was, she was exquisite. She made it look easy, even for me, the person with two left feet. No one, however, could get her to tell what her name was.

It was nearly eleven thirty when Jared finally asked her to dance. Adrienne was with her friends near the punch, which I'm positive was spiked at some point that evening.

"Would you like to dance?"

"Certainly." She offered a gloved hands. White gloves- very expensive.

Jared led her onto the dance floor and started to lead. It was a slow song, but he still managed to twirl her a few times.

"So why won't you tell anyone your name?"

"Because it is my right to know," came the reply, with a slight smile.

"Oh, come on. We can't keep calling you 'Beautiful Stranger.' Even though you are beautiful, it would be nice to put a name with it."

She laughed. "Why don't you make up a name?"

Jared twirled her and spun her into his arms. "Hmm. Let's see. A name fitted for the most beautiful girl at the ball. How about Cinderella?"

She laughed again. "Why, Prince Charming. That would mean that I would have to leave before midnight."

"We wouldn't want that."

"We?"

"All right. I. I wouldn't want that."

She smiled at him. "Sadly, I ido/i still have to be home by when the clock strikes twelve."

"Will you at least allow me to drop you off at home?"

She smiled, deep in thought. She'd chosen her words carefully until now so as not to reveal her true person. Would she drop a hint? "Who knows? I might leave something."

And that was that. He danced with her until it was fifteen till twelve. And then she politely excused herself.

Jared leaned in. She smiled but stood still, as if she didn't know what to do. One of Adrienne's friends pointed to them; Adrienne immediately stormed over.

"What are you doing?" she yelled.

Jared jumped back, caught. "I-"

"I- what? You were cheating on me? Come on, Jared. If you don't like me, tell me. I've- I've been good to you, haven't I?" Tears appeared in her eyes as if on cue. "I mean, I loved you, Jared."

"Oh, Adrienne, I didn't mean- I'm sorry." He hugged her. iSuckered/i, I remember thinking. But as he was hugging her, he looked over her shoulder for a sign of the Stranger.

She'd disappeared.

The dance ended at one. Jared sat down, holding Adrienne's hand.

A few seconds later, a familiar person came through the doors. "I almost forgot," the Stranger said. She tossed a shoe to Jared. He caught it and gaped at it. When he looked back to the doors, she had vanished.

"It's so small," he muttered.

"She's either a freak, or not human," Adrienne said sharply.

He looked at her, then went back to examining the shoe. It wasn't only small, it seemed to be made of glass.

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Nothing was quiet for the next few weeks. Everyone was talking about the Beautiful Stranger, and who she might be. (No one called her Cinderella. The name didn't seem to fit her, they decided.) Jared tried to find out the hardest. No one, needless to say, was found to be guilty.

That was when the trouble between Jared and Adrienne started. It seemed like the daily fights between Jared and Amber were over with, but the fights between Jared and Adrienne were escalating. Sometimes, all three of them would get involved.

"Do you realize you're obsessed with her?"

"I am not obsessed with her."

"Yes, you are."

"No! He's not!" Amber interjected.

"No I'm not!"

There was a whole lot more, but that was how nearly every fight started.

There wasn't another ball until Christmas.

The same thing happened. This time, the Stranger was wearing a long, holly berry red dress- velvet. Long sleeves. Tight to show how slender she was. Hair done in much the same way, glitter, a mask of fake, but real looking, holly leaves. She wore a small tiara on her head that shimmered in the lights as if they were dew drops.

This time, she left Jared her tiara.

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The trouble was worse than ever now. A teacher was always guarding the hallway. It was by chance that I passed by the art room that afternoon, after school. Right after New Year's, I believe.

"That looks horrible." The voice I recognized as Amber's.

"I'd like to see you do better." Jared.

Silence. "Hey!" Amber shouted. "These paints never come out!"

"Tough."

"Why you-" I heard the sound of something being squeezed. Then again. Followed by laughter. Very loud laughter with remarks that obviously weren't meant.

Then, something was knocked over.

I rushed in.

There they were, lying on the floor like children, wallowing in a puddle of paints of every shade and color. Amber finished dumping a bottle of purple of top of Jared's head. He returned with a bunch of red slop.

"Stop it!" I ordered.

They turned to face me, then looked at each other. They blushed through the paint on their faces and moved away.

"Clean this mess up now!"

"But-"

"But what?" I asked Amber.

"Shouldn't we, uh, at least wash this stuff out of our hair?"

"iAfter/i you clean up."

Slowly, they got to their feet. I watched as they got wet paper towels and started scrubbing. I left, trusting them to do a good job. I heard giggling all the way down the hall.

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After that, things were different. There weren't any more fights in the morning; Amber and Jared didn't seem to hate each other as much- although they didn't associate as far as I know. Jared had lovely hair by then; it was a nice shade of purple. No one could have guessed how good Amber looked as a redhead.

Things were back to normal.

And then came the second to last ball of the year. It was time for the Spring ball. Once again, I went, as did everyone else. Although everyone else was simply wishing to catch the Stranger.

The auditorium had once again been decorated by Adrienne and her groupies. Flowers were all over the place. There were so many people with allergies there that they had to sell Advil at the front desk. I walked around and examined the decorations. Green and pastel colored crepe paper was everywhere. I even saw some of those dancing and singing flowers.

Adrienne had come well dressed for the occasion. She wore a white ball gown that reflected the lights above hazily on her top, and then the skirt poofed in silk. Her mask? Glitter. Her hair was up. She was the closest impersonation of the Stranger as yet.

At nine o' clock on the dot, the Stranger entered. Her dress was much like Adrienne's. It shimmered slightly on the top, but the skirt was made of layers of lace, into which she had sewn flowers. Her hair was up, as always. She had stuck flowers into it. Her mask was also of flowers; her face was covered in glitter. She was slightly nervous and kept looking at the pink lights hopefully.

Right away, Jared got up to dance with her. She accepted.

It was odd. This time, they didn't stop dancing together. They talked as if they were old friends. I looked to where Adrienne stood. She was fuming. A few boys asked her to dance, but she didn't say anything to any of them.

It was ten o'clock when the major event of the evening occurred.

"I'm sick of this!" Adrienne screamed suddenly in the middle of the dance floor- people had started to dance around her since she hadn't moved. Almost no one stopped or took much notice. Adrienne proceeded to walk onto the dance floor. She went up to the Stranger.

"Would you like to cut in?" the Stranger asked politely.

Adrienne didn't say anything. She simply grabbed the Stranger's mask and pulled. It came off with an audible snap.

Everyone around them gasped.

In the middle of the floor, the Stranger's head dropped for a second. Then it came back up. Now everyone could see that it was Amber.

"You!" Adrienne hissed.

Amber sank into a mock curtsy. "And you."

"You- you-"

"I- I- what?" For the situation she was in, Amber seemed to be taking all of this quite calmly.

"I'll bet you stole that dress."

"Excuse me? Just because I don't have a reason to buy all the clothes you wear doesn't mean I'm poor."

"I still bet you stole it. Even you couldn't afford that. iEspecially/i you."

"Well, I didn't. I mean, this one, I bought. The other two, I made."

"You made?"

"Well, modified. Inheritance."

"Hold on," Jared suddenly said. He went over to his table and looked inside his backpack, which he had brought when he had come to help Adrienne decorate. When he came back, he settled the tiara on Amber's head. He held the shoe in his hands for her to see. "Want to try this on now or later?" It was obvious that he didn't care that Adrienne was standing right beside him, glaring at the two of them.

Amber laughed. "I think I'll go for later." She looked back at Adrienne. "I guess this means I'm nominated for Queen."

I was quite pleased to see that Adrienne was fuming.

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The Ball, needless to say, is a big deal at Richard High. It was the equivalent of a prom. Actually, I believe it is a prom. It was three weeks before the end of school. That might sound awfully early, but since kids started to not come to school two weeks before its end, the teachers thought it was nothing but appropriate.

This is the major ball of the year, so large and extravagant, in fact, that the school newspaper, iThe School-Stuff Related Paper,/i capitalized the T in "the." I suppose one of the reasons it was because any of the children from any grade could be the King or Queen. Whoever won these titles at this ball were viewed as the overall King and Queen, so, needless to say, it was very important to many people.

The students had to take care of everything. The freshmen were "forced" to bring the food and drinks, of which they ate and drank more than anyone else. The sophomores took care of the band and other entertainment and found a place to hold the ball. The junior class decorated, as always, and the seniors, as always, merely came.

Although I am truly reluctant to do so, I must congratulate the sophomores. This year, they'd rented the Palace, truly a magnificent place. However, this only helped the excitement. The Ball was, in short, a teacher's worst nightmare.

Eight girls and eight boys were nominated. Two from each class. From the Senior class: May Anne Mardi, Jessica Lewis, Rob Hannigan, and Martial Ball. In the Junior class: Adrienne and Amber Malcolm, Jared Parker, and Grant Hayden. The sophomores had nominated Cynthia Wells, Henrietta Johnson, J.T. Crab, and Doug Powe. The freshmen nominations were: Patricia Gables, Rebecca Ball, Bobby Twain, and John Hoag.

This started something else. Adrienne and Amber had the same last name! The children were going crazy with the news.

"Adrienne, you never told us you were related to iher/i."

"That's because I'm not. We just have the same name, that's all."

Then they would go and ask Amber, leaving Adrienne alone, and ask her.

"We're sisters, actually. Stepsisters. My dad married her mom after my mom died."

"Your family's that rich?"

Amber would nod thoughtfully. "My dad is. Her mom quit her job when they got married."

"Why don't you- um..." At this point, they'd be at a loss of words, but Amber always filled in the blanks.

"I know my dad would give me the money if he weren't out of town so often, but my step mom never gives me anything. I started a savings account, though, and that's for college and to get me started when I get out into the world."

The word spread like a forest fire burned- fast. The two were actually stepsisters. And Adrienne's mother was using Amber's father's money. Amber was actually really rich. Adrienne merely had to ask for money; Amber had to work for it. The truth started to stretch, slowly but surely, and by the next day, it appeared that Adrienne and her mother had planned the entire thing; Amber was practically a slave in their house, and who knew what else. I tended to lock myself in my room and grade papers. By the end of the week, I was grading them two to three times over.

Of course, Adrienne campaigned like crazy against the seniors. I heard rumors from other teachers that she even bribed many people to vote for her.

Through it all, Amber didn't do a thing. Jared did very little campaigning, but even the seniors didn't stand a chance against him, and everyone knew it.

Adrienne's group got smaller; Amber's began to grow. Adrienne got meaner every day, and Amber started to look like an angel.

Or at least she did...

I was walking through the halls on my way to my car on the Monday afternoon before the dance when I heard the muffled sounds of crying. I followed them. After a few moments, I found myself at the door of the Art room, which I pushed open softly.

I stood in the doorway, staring in awe at the painting on the opposite wall. It was beautiful. A tall woman, with a straight back, slightly curly sand-colored hair, hazel eyes, and a small nose was gazing out affectionately over her right shoulder at me. I moved, and the eyes followed. I understand it is somewhat hard for artists to get that effect with their work. She was wearing a long, dark velvet dress- the color of night. Golden stars were sprinkled here and there, and a few round, nearly orange moons were riding the waves of the ruffles of her long skirt. Her neck was tall, graceful, and the wrinkles caused by the woman turning her head seemed to make her even more beautiful.

Another sob snapped me out of my trance.
I went forward slowly, not sure who I might find and in what situation.

"Amber!" I nearly shouted, amazed when saw who it was. She looked up at me and then away again in renewed sobs. I was shocked. All the times people had picked on her, all the times any normal would have broken down at, she hadn't cried. Over the years, I suppose I'd come to think of her as indestructible. Yet here she was, crying her heart out. I bent down near her on a knee. "Amber, what's wrong?"

She wiped her face with her hands, and then changed her mind and used her sleeves; her hands didn't help at all. She pointed to the painting. "That's my mother." She sighed shakily and leaned back against a desk.

"Is that why you were crying?"

She shook her head and then hesitated. She seemed to be under control now, perhaps still a bit shaky, but it seemed as if she were done crying. "I suppose I am crying because of her. She got sick when I was ten. The doctors don't know what happened. If she had been around longer, perhaps my dad wouldn't have ever thought of Adrienne's mom."

"Ah," I said, even though I had no clue what she was talking about. I think she understood.

She smiled a bit. "That was her favorite dress. I was going to wear it to The Ball."

"Your inheritance?"

She nodded and stood up. "I have four dresses that are hers. Cruella threw away the rest- unless there are some in the attic. I think she threw them up there and left without marking where she put them- if there are dresses, that is. She hates mice and rats, same with Adrienne."

"So why don't you sneak out?"

"She's taking my car apart. I live about ten miles away. And I refuse to walk wearing that." She pointed to the dress in the painting.

"We'll work out something."

"We?"

"Sure. Why not? I am, after all, authority as far as school and school functions are concerned. Call Jared. Tell him to meet us at the Wendy's up the street."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure. We'll make it work."

"Promise?"

"Promise.

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The Ball started at nine. Jared and Adrienne had to be at the Palace at eight to get everything ready. They'd taken care of the decorations earlier in the day; they just had to go early to put on the "finsishing touches."

While Jared was stuck with Adrienne, Amber and I had to take care of her mother.

I drove to their house, which was actually more like a mansion, hopped out of my '67 Chevy, and walked to the door. I rang the doorbell a bit nervously.

After a few moments, the door was thrown open. "Yeah? What is it?"

"Mrs. Malcolm? Good evening. I am Mr. Hahk, Adrienne's English teacher. May I please speak to you for a moment?"

"Adrienne do something wrong?"

"Oh, no. Not at all. I just wanted to talk to her improvements lately." That was a flat out lie. Her grades had plummeted.

"Oh. Come on in, I guess. You want somethin' to eat?"

"No, thank you." From the looks of it, Mrs. Malcolm had enough food on her to feed the whole of the people in Africa. Or Starvin' Marvin and his clan, as Jared would say.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Amber sneak through the door. I'd left the car unlocked. The plan was that she would lie down in the back seat, I'd come out and drive to The Ball, and then she'd come back and willingly accept the punishment.

However, I had to talk to Cruella in the meantime. Things like, "Your daughter has shown a great improvement. Myself and the other teachers were wondering what program she was getting the help from. It would do wonders for children everywhere. Did you do that with her? It's marvelous." "Yes, all the teachers value your charming little girl. She isn't half as lovely as you, though."

Finally, it was time to go back out to the car. It was nine-fifteen. I started walking out, silently screaming that Cruella would stop walking beside me and leave me alone.

"Is this your car?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Well, I suppose teachers really can't afford that much. Come out to the garage; I'll show you what a real car looks like."

"Well I- I, uh, really need to be getting to the dance, Cru- ma'am."

"Aw, come on. It'll take a sec."

Seeing no way out, I forced myself to follow her.

"Now ithis/i is a car," she said, waving her hands to show the huge, rusty, age-worn Ford truck in all its beauty.

"Yes, very nice," I acknowledged. Meanwhile, I felt slightly disappointed. She called this a car? The thing shouldn't have even been let onto the streets!

It took ten minutes, but I finally managed to break away. When I got to the car, I jumped in, muttering a rushed good-bye and took off.

"Hi, Mr. Hahk."

I almost lost control of the car at the sound of the unexpected voice. "Who the- Who's that?"

"Um, Mr. Hahk this is my other sister, Aurora. She kind of... dropped by."

"I figured you'd be going to the dance."

I pushed my glasses back on my nose. "Are you not allowed to go also?"

"Right."

I sighed and shook my head. "At this point, there's no turning back." In the rearview mirror, I watched as Amber smiled and heard Aurora's squeal of delight.

When we reached the school, we were definitely late. Thankfully, the Coronation didn't happen until 10. Amber thanked me as she rushed out. Time: 9:30.

I walked in with Aurora, who was talking excitedly about this being her first dance. It turned out she had helped Amber cover up for the last few balls. I was relieved when she walked over to a slightly shy boy on the football team and asked to dance.

Amber, although she wasn't wearing a mask, still made a slight disturbance. Jared's face immediately went from the gloomy I'm-hating-every-minute-of-this to I'm-so-happy-I-look-like-a-really-weird-puppy. And the effect on Adrienne was glorious! She dropped her queenly routine at once and sneered at Amber. Not that Amber minded in the least- She and Jared were already dancing.

Happily, I wandered over to the drink table to pour myself some punch before remembering that it was probably already spiked.

"Man, doesn't Amber look hot?" I turned to see two boys with their faces away from me.

"Yeah, man. I mean, you just want to-" I chunked a piece of ice at them.

Half an hour later, Robbie, the SGA president, went up to the mike. "Ladies and germs-" No one laughed. "Yeah. Okay. So, uh, enough with that, right? I," he gestured to himself extravagantly and held his head up high, "am here to announce the King and Queen of The Ball!" he rushed excitedly.

A few people clapped; the seniors snickered; and a macho freshman shouted, "Either announce 'em already or get off the stage!"

Robbie pretended to grin. "Well all right." He took a piece of paper out of one of the envelopes in his hands. "And the King is... Big surprise here, folks, Jared Parker!" There was applause as Jared jumped on stage and received the crown, which a senior girl placed on his head.

"And now, for the announcement you've all been waiting for. The Queen of Richard High is..." He opened the note inside the second envelope, then dropped his mouth as his eyes bugged out. "It- It's a tie. A tie between Adrienne and Amber Malcolm."

Adrienne leaped on-stage, accepting the little bit of confused applause. Jared didn't seem pleased with this, but he helped Amber onto the stage, carefully avoiding looking at Adrienne.

"Wait!" Someone shouted in the back. Everyone turned to see who it was. Aurora was standing there, suddenly looking as if she wanted to disappear under a rock with the football player beside her no doubt thinking the same thing. "I- I didn't vote."

"Yeah?" Robbie asked, speaking directly into the microphone and making everyone's ears hurt. "So who do you vote for?"

Adrienne was looking at Aurora with an odd mix of confidence, fear, hope, force, and anticipation. Jared and Amber looked at each other as if it didn't really matter before looking calmly at Aurora.

"I vote for... Amber!"

One person over half the crowd cheered, and a few more joined bit by bit until the entire room was applauding.

"Wait!" Adrienne shouted. "That's against the rules! She can't do that!"

Right then, the doors were thrown open, and in walked none other than Mrs. Malcolm, a.k.a. Cruella. Before I could hide myself behind the scrawniest plant in the Palace, she caught sight of me. "YOU!" she bellowed.

She charged at me, knocking people off their feet in every direction; every single person must have flown at least twenty feet- if not more. And then, a boy one eighth her size stood in front of her and positioned himself. She ran right into him. For a few seconds, he held his ground; then he started to slip.

"CRUELLA!" someone shouted. Cruella stopped and the boy, none other than the shy football player himself, fell to the ground, no doubt in the midsts of a heart attack. I turned to see who it was talking.

There was Amber, looking like the most beautiful medieval lion tamer anyone had ever seen in the most beautiful dress with a silver crown on her raised hair and her hands on her hips.

"It's her fault Mama! She did it all!" Adrienne wailed, pointing at Amber.

Next to me (more like fifteen feet away because of the Bull Run), two senior girls whispered to each other, "She calls her mom Mama? Eeeeewwwww!"

"YOU! What are you doing here! I locked you in your room, and then I go to get you to clean the attic, and you're gone!"

"Well, duh."

"What did you say?"

"D. U. H. iDUUUUUUUUUUUHHHH/i."

"Don't get an attitude with me, you sniveling little brat."

"Oh, look at me. Oh gee golly. I think I might be shaking. Am I?" It was obvious that she wasn't.

"I'm taking you home."

"No, you aren't," Jared said quietly.

"And who the beep are you to tell me what I'm going to do?"

"I'm your daughter's former boyfriend, but I stopped dating her because I was so disgusted with her."

And then I remembered. I'd planned for this, even if the children hadn't. I looked in a pocket. Good. I could feel the ball of fluff. Carefully and quietly, I walked behind Cruella and held my breath.

Carefully, I placed the rat, Fluffy, (whom I had, uh, borrowed from the biology lab) on Cruella's shoulder.

"AAAAAEEEEEEEEEEE!" she screamed loud enough to bust everyone's eardrums. She turned quickly, saw the ball of fluff on her shoulder and shrieked again. Now, she was imitating the Beastie Boys, dancing in their music videos as she tried to get the rat off. Finally, she took one of her gigantic hands and swung at poor Fluffy, who went flying onto none other than Adrienne.

Adrienne shrieked much like her mother had and did the same sort of dance. I saw Amber and Jared try to help her out, but Adrienne was apparently a bit dangerous. After a few minutes of listening to the horrible shrieks from Adrienne and Cruella, Fluffy decided he'd had enough and jumped off, scurrying towards a plant.

Adrienne and Cruella both made a run for him, obviously hoping to squash the poor creature to death. I ran to stop them, after all, I'd taken Fluffy, and I wanted to return him. Jared and Amber tried to hold back Adrienne while Aurora and her new friend tried to hold back Cruella. In the end, we all collided with each other.

"I'm sick of this!" Cruella leaped up, shouting. She pointed a shaking finger at Amber. "When you come home, you'll be punished. Your father will hear of this, be sure of that."

"So will the TV stations," Amber said quietly.

"Excuse me?"

"Well, it might not actually be big enough to get on the news, but I think it could certainly make its way into the newspaper- what happened here. All that needs to happen is that someone here opens their mouths to a reporter. I mean, they think Aurora and I are somewhat abused- and they're right. We are pretty much slaves. I'm sure we'd come out as the good guys- wanted to actually live for once. Have a few nights of joy."

Cruella shook with rage. "No. They'll believe me. I'm the adult."

"Like that matters," Jared told her. "Look how many people are here to verify everything."

Amber stood up and dusted herself off. "I don't think there's anything left to say. Goodnight, Cruella," she said curtly.

Cruella stormed out of the room, dragging a wailing Adrienne behind her.

The music was turned back on, and people gradually started to dance and talk again.

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In the senior year, Adrienne didn't show. Amber reported to me that she and Cruella had moved out, leaving herself and Aurora with her father. Aurora switched schools to Richard High, and I believe it's safe to say that the two "ruled the school."

Jared went to a college on a scholarship for both academics and sports; Amber went to the same one with an art scholarship. Aurora's boyfriend, Grant, also went to the college on a sports scholarship, as did Aurora with a math scholarship.

We all lived happily ever after, you might say- except for Mrs. Zoolica, the biology teacher. She was very worried about Fluffy. No one ever knew what happened to her. One day, Mrs. Zoolica asked me where I'd gotten her for the dance.

I blamed the freshmen.