For Kip, Anne, Beth Rose, Emily, and Molly, it’s the perfect end to their junior year. The night they’ve been waiting for—a night to wish upon a star.
Kip just got the ultimate kiss-off: Her boyfriend, Mike, suddenly wants to be “just friends.”
At the start of junior year, Anne and Conrad were Westerly High’s most popular couple. Now everything’s different, and Anne wonders if the whole school knows her secret.
Beth Rose was a perennial wallflower before she met Gary. She’s crazy about him, but he’s never once said the L-word.
Emily’s life just fell apart, and all she wants is for Matt to make the pain go away.
Molly’s furious that Con is taking Anne to the dance when she knows he really loves her. She’s about to plot the perfect revenge . . .
For five very different girls, it’s a dance they’ll always remember. Will it be a night of love—or loneliness? An ending—or a new beginning?
About the Author
Caroline B. Cooney (b. 1947) is the author of nearly a hundred books, including the famed young adult thriller The Face on the Milk Carton, an international bestseller. Cooney’s books have been translated into several languages, and have received multiple honors and awards, including an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults award and a nomination for the Edgar Allan Poe Award. She is best known for her popular teen horror thrillers and romance novels. Her fast-paced, plot-driven work often explores themes of good and evil, love and hatred, right and wrong, and moral ambiguity. Born in Geneva, New York, Cooney grew up in Connecticut, and often sets her novels in dramatic New England landscapes. She has three children and four grandchildren and currently lives in South Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
A Night to Remember: Book Two
By Caroline B. Cooney
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1987 Caroline B. Cooney
All rights reserved.
Kip thought it was possibly the worst phrase in the English language. Yes, Mike had said, if you want to go to the Last Dance, I'll go with you, but we're just friends, remember. It's not a date.
Kip remembered. Clearly.
"Just friends," she muttered to herself as she fixed her hair. "Yuck. Boys don't look at you until you're thirteen. Then for the next two years they make gagging noises and jab each other in the ribs whenever they see a female person. When they're sixteen, they show off like insane cave men. At seventeen they take a quick plunge into dating—like swimming off the coast of Antarctica. Six months later they leap back to the shore of all boys' company and want to be just friends."
Kip ran to the door of her bedroom, stuck her head down the hall, and yelled to her four brothers, "I'm against it! Just you behave better when you're old enough to date! Do not, repeat not, be just friends."
Only one of her brothers was home, and he was young enough to have been put to bed already, so nobody took her advice. It was Kip's experience that nobody ever took her advice anyhow.
She had agonized over what to wear to the Last Dance. It was being held at the Rushing River Inn, at the foot of Mount Snow, a resort that featured an elegant ballroom and a vast screened verandah overlooking the ski lifts. Rushing River had a swimming pool, tennis courts, restaurant, game rooms, stables, croquet courts, and trails for cross-country skiing in winter and hiking in summer.
Supposedly the high school group was restricted to the ballroom, verandah, and terrace.
Kip was very grateful not to be in charge of this dance, as she had been of the Autumn Leaves Dance. She would stake two years allowance that the restrictions were going to be broken quickly and often.
What do you wear to a dance that will be chilly with air conditioning inside and hot with June mugginess outside? What do you wear if you might be sitting on the stone steps or leaning against a tree—but you also want to be perfect for flirting by candlelight near the grand piano?
Kip had bought a blouse of filmy white, with a lacy camisole under it, and a tealength skirt of hot pink with splashes of yellow and violet. It was one very loud pattern. Half of the time Kip stared into the full-length mirror and decided she looked absolutely smashing, and the other half of the time she decided she was an embarrassment to the fashion world. She had fixed her hair with three very thin velvet ribbons of the same gaudy colors, their long delicate ends trailing over her thick brown hair and down over her bare shoulders. The back, but not the front, of the blouse was very low cut. Kip liked herself better from behind and kept turning to stare at herself over her shoulder.
Oh, Mike, Mike.
They had had such a good time for ten weeks. Ten precious weeks that worked out just the way Kip had hoped they would: laughter and love and kisses and talk and time together.
Then it was baseball season. "See you later," said Mike, and it turned out he didn't mean later that afternoon, or even later that week, but later in the year, when baseball was over. Kip went to all the varsity games, huddled in a blanket when it was still cold, and perspired in the sun when it was not. Baseball was too slow for Kip; every game seemed to last a dusty lifetime. And Mike never even looked her way, whether he was on the bench or pitching. I don't know the secret of life, Kip thought glumly, but that little round white ball with its little white stitches has sure got some answers.
Okay, they would go to the Last Dance and be friends.
After all, Kip had close to seventeen years of experience at this "we're just friends" stuff. It wasn't as if she was a beginner at being "just friends."
Tomorrow, summer vacation would begin.
Kip had her first full-time job: waitressing at a fish house.
If when she came home smelling of fried flounder and tartar sauce, she knew that after her shower, Mike would take her out, it would all be bearable. But she had her doubts. Mike had his first full-time job coming up, too, and it wasn't in Westerly: he'd be driving every day to Lynnwood to work on a construction site. And he was, Kip thought gloomily, just as excited about his summer job as he had been about baseball.
Please, please, don't let this really be our last dance, Kip Elliott thought. I want to dance with Mike forever!
The L word.
It was what all the girls wanted to hear.
But, oh, it was a scary word, that L word, and rare was the boy who was willing to use it.
Anne Stephens, trembling with fear, sat waiting for Con to come and get her. Con wasn't about to use the old L word, that was for sure, but he was taking her, and he had promised over and over not to leave her. Not for one dance, not for one soda, not for one minute.
She was only going because Con said she had to. It would be good for her, he explained. She would get tough. She had to face everybody sometime, and it might as well be now.
Anne agreed only because there was no school the next day. She would not have to see anybody again until September 5, if she chose.
Last year, on September 5, she and Con started junior year as the most loved couple: the most beautiful girl and the handsomest boy, the brightest, funniest, most popular pair in the entire high school. Ah, but that was last year. And this was the last dance.
But it was Anne's first. First in many months.
Okay, stay calm, Anne told herself. Either kids will ask about it or they won't; either they'll be nice or they won't. You can't control it.
But what will I say? she asked herself for the thousandth time. When they say, "Where've you been since January, Anne?" do I say, "Oh, off having a baby." When they say. "What did you name the baby?" do I say, "Whoever adopts it gets to name it?"
Anne had held the baby for ten minutes. It was a little girl, so tiny she had a hard time believing that's what a baby was. She had thought they were much more substantial. She kissed its tiny bald head, and her tears fell gently on its red wrinkled skin and Anne thought, I can't give her away! I have to take care of her, and feed her, and see her grow, and—
And give this miniature daughter no father, no family, no home, no future?
And for herself, Anne—no high school diploma, no husband, no home, no future?
Anne was given a little paper to read about the parents who were going to adopt her baby. (She always thought of it as "her baby," not as Con's, because Con was so horrified by the whole thing you would have thought Anne had become an alligator hunter, not a mother.) The parents were over thirty, they were both college graduates, the mother (Mother? thought Anne. That's what I am. The mother. How impossible!) planned to stop working and stay home with the baby she had been dreaming of for over ten years.
It had not been a dream for Anne.
It had been a nightmare.
But it was over now. She was slim again, which was apparently what mattered most to everybody else, and her parents and her grandmother were practically normal with her, and it was time to get back into the swing. Con was taking her to the Last Dance.
Anne thought it was an absolutely horrid name. Who could have thought of such a thing? Why not Summer Prom or The June Fling? Last Dance sounded all too prophetic.
It was a hot evening. Windows were open to catch any slight breeze. She heard a car two blocks away, and the downshifting of the motor, and the slam of the door.
No, no, I can't do this, thought Anne Stephens. But nothing showed on her face. It stayed perfectly lovely and calm in the mirror in her hand, as if the face belonged to somebody else.
But it was her grandmother who flung open the screen door and came in the house. In the shadow of the living room, Anne stared at the grandmother who had been so disappointed in her. "Anne, darling, you look so lovely," said her grandmother, hugging her.
But it wasn't the same hug as last year's. They were all slightly afraid of her: because she had become a mother? A woman? Or because she had not been, after all, the child they thought they knew so well?
Con would greet her with the same hug: nervous, quick, moving back before she could take any comfort from it. Anne's life and body had changed so much in the last months and his not at all. He was still a reckless crazy teenage boy, who had to pay a fortune for car insurance and whose chief pleasure was his sound equipment: the stereo, the compact discs, the videos.
"You look beautiful, Anne," he would say next, in his husky, sexy voice. It was the one thing that had never come into question: her beauty. But she didn't care how she looked. She wanted him to say, " and I love you, Anne." He was exactly her height, so that their eyes always locked and their lips always met. Con was dark, with an athlete's build and a perfect smile, with hair as thick as her own, but almost black, as hers was almost gold. His profile should have been on some antique coin, with that long nose and that uplifted chin.
He wanted to take her to the Last Dance.
But he was so distant from her! So nervous with her! Sometimes she thought it was just because (just?) of their baby but sometimes Anne though he had another girlfriend, one who had not gotten heavy, or presented difficulties, or made him feel guilty. Sometimes Anne pictured this other girlfriend and felt sick, and full of rage, and full of fear. And sometimes she didn't care, either.
Oh, if Con would only say "I love you."
But that L word was scary.
And nobody scared quicker or more thoroughly than Conrad Winters.
Anne Stephens moved quickly to the phone. She could not go through with it. Con was not enough support. She dialed his number fast, before he could leave his house and get to his car, and when he answered she said, "Don't come, Con. I don't want to go to the dance."
Beth Rose had chosen a summery dress in soft flowery colors, and the thick infuriating red hair that had been the bane of her life for so many years had finally become a joy, and now it hung in heavy ringlets from a long narrow comb that gave her a mane like a wild horse. She loved the contrast of her strong firm hair with her fragile papery dress. She was in a dancing mood. All week, music had run in her head: music to dance by, music to flirt by, music to laugh by but mostly and always music to adore Gary by.
Oh, what had life been before Gary?
Pallid, dull, repetitive.
Well, first it was scary. Yes, Beth Rose would have to put scary ahead of romantic. Because you couldn't count on Gary. He never said you could count on him—in fact he stressed that you couldn't—and Gary didn't lie. He wasn't reliable. And that was scary.
But if he showed up—oh, then it was romantic!
Beth Rose considered herself the most stodgy of personalities. She was the sort of person who would always stay for cleanup, and never skip the middle of boring books, and always, always pay her library fines. She had also been, until Gary, a wallflower. Last year, at another dance, Gary said, smiling, "Well, a flower anyway," and kissed her. Now when Beth Rose stood by a wall, she felt she was not a wallflower, but truly a rose, because to be with Gary was to be special.
She even got along better with her parents because of Gary. The new pleasure of being popular made it easy to laugh when they nagged, and Beth Rose discovered something astonishing: If she laughed, her mother and father laughed! Life at home had moved from a sour lane to a sweet one.
The only snag was that Gary did not have what you might call an attentive nature. Sometimes he helped in his father's restaurant, sometimes he got interested in school, sometimes he worked in the drama production, and sometimes he was fixing his car. And sometimes, with about equal emphasis, he wandered over to Beth Rose's and took her out. Gary never saw anything wrong with this: He felt life was perfect—a dose of mechanics, a dollop of girlfriend, a smidgen of studying, and a speck of work.
It was Beth Rose who felt the proportions were off. She would have liked to see ninety percent girlfriend and ten percent other. She said that to Gary once. Gary said, "You're kidding," and laughed and kissed her and they went on to a movie and shared popcorn. It never crossed Gary's mind that no, she was not kidding. The L word.
Beth Rose and Anne had discussed that L word at length. Gary was definitely not in love with Beth Rose. He liked her fine, but he also liked everything else under the sun fine. It was useless even to ask Gary if he loved her because he would have said, "Sure," and then he would have said, "You wanna borrow my Dad's motorcycle and helmets and we'll go up to Mount Snow? You wanna ride the ski lift in summer? It's pretty. I love it."
Beth Rose did not want to be loved the same amount as a ski lift in summer.
Her mother came into the room, where she was fixing her dark red hair for the second time. "You be nice to Anne, now, Brose."
A year ago Beth Rose would have tensed and gotten upset. Now she just laughed. "Mother, I've been nicer to Anne than anybody, including Con. It's my Aunt Madge she went to live with, right?"
Mrs. Chapman shook her head. "I still don't see why she couldn't stay at home."
"Because our town sends pregnant unwed teenagers to a special high school in Lynnwood, and Anne didn't want to go. She was crying twenty-four hours a day, Mother."
Beth Rose took the comb out of her hair and tossed her head violently, and now the curls sprawled all over her head like a garden of red poppies. Sometimes Beth Rose thought the best thing about this excellent year was not even Gary, but her new friendships with Anne and with Emily, girls in the junior class who never even knew her name before—never spoke to her because they never noticed her—and now each was on the phone with her at least once a day, talking boys, and life, and boys, and parents, and boys. (Emily and Beth Rose liked to start and end all conversations with boys.)
Mrs. Chapman said, "I don't want you out late, dear."
"That means no later than one A.M., dear."
"That means leaving the dance shortly after midnight, dear."
"Mother, I know! My middle name is Cinderella. Gary knows. He's been taking me out all year! We've got the rules down!" Beth Rose laughed, surrendered her wild hair to the elements, hugged her mother, and dashed downstairs to leap into the car with Gary.
She could never wait for him to come inside. She was always ready early, always halfway on the date before Gary was even halfway to her house. She always ran out and jumped into the front and slid over the seat, and Gary would be laughing at her exuberance, and she would kiss him hard and he would just sit there, letting her, and then he would back out of the driveway.
This time she didn't do any of that.
This was the Last Dance.
And Beth Rose wanted Gary to do it right.
Molly was schizophrenic.
She was half wild with excitement. She adored dancing, and she had the best dress in the world, and she was crazy about Rushing River Inn, and her silver slippers on her small slim feet were the perfect finish for her outfit. Her dress was very short, very purple, with one lightning strip of glitter; her stockings were lace, her belt a silver chain with a dangling silver sun and stars, and her matching earrings reached to her shoulders. When she danced, she rang like tiny bells.
But half of Molly—the invisible half—was seething with rage.
Con was taking Anne.
Talk about blackmail. It wasn't Con's fault Anne hadn't been careful. Anne should have known better. And if Anne was such a dork she had to leave town and go live with somebody until she had the baby, because she wouldn't have an abortion, well, that was Anne's problem. Con, perfect Con, should not be subjected to such a thing, and she, Molly, had seen to it that from January to the first of June he wasn't.
Molly had been laughter and fun, lightness and giggles.
She never asked anything of him; they never talked of anything serious, and gradually Con had stopped calling or visiting Anne. Anne was fat, anyway, and repulsive. And of course every time he had to visit her, Con was reminded of what happened, and Molly felt this was unfair. Somebody as wonderful as Con should not have to feel any guilt because Anne was dumb. Certainly she, Molly, would never be that dumb.
So here they were at the Last Dance, the pay-off socially for the whole long winter and the whole wet dismal spring, and who was Con taking?
It was enough to make you spit.
Molly pounded her silver heels on the floor, and it was no dance—it was a tantrum.
But she blamed nothing on Con, and she blamed nothing on herself.
Excerpted from Last Dance by Caroline B. Cooney. Copyright © 1987 Caroline B. Cooney. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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