Sep 26, 2021 8:28 AM
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"If you put salt in the punch, I will not stake you, but I will tell a chaperone who did it."

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"Spoilsport," Alli says, not looking terribly crushed. "All you, date lady. Let me know if you need help with anything."

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"I think I got it."

Soph sets up a large rhinestone and several little sachets of herbs and a few marks in charcoal on the tiles of the floor, and sits, and pulls out her cheat sheet and starts chanting.
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Alli dumps her punch into the sink, dries out the cup and pours the salt out from her collection of baggies into the cup. This will be, in her opinion, at least slightly easier to get at for emergency throwing-at-ghost reasons.

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The chant is long and repetitive.

Prom-related sounds may be heard, as may boys grumbling about the "Out of Order" sign on the door to the bathroom that Bella placed.
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Twenty minutes of repetitive chanting later

the shape of a girl

drifts through the wall.

Her colors fade in and out, sometimes fully there, sometimes looking more like a trick of the mind in light too dim to really make out hue.

"What are you doing?" she asks them in a soft, sharp voice.
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Alli decides to save the salt for when she really needs it. "Bonding with my date," she says promptly. "We're both really into this shit."

True, as it happens.
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Soph keeps chanting, urgently, quietly.

"This is your date?" says the ghost skeptically. "Really."
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"Okay, seriously. When did this school get so damn homophobic?" Alli asks her, huffing. Focus on me, please. "Why can I not bring a girl as a date?! I like my date! She's a great date! I got her flowers that matched her dress and everything!"

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Bella locked the door on her way out, but she turns the handle anyway. In she comes. "Minnie," she says to the ghost.

"And you," says Minnie, "don't you even have a friend to pretend for you?"

"Maybe he's gone back to the car to replace a broken shoelace. You don't know. Are you going to try to kill me just in case?"

"What's his name?" challenges Minnie.

"John."

"John," Minnie scoffs. "You made that up."

"People are really sometimes named John."
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"John Cleese? John Legend? John Mayer, curses be upon his name?" Alli suggests helpfully.

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"You're trying to deliberately confuse me," complains Minnie.

"While you are in a state of uncertainty about whether I have a date do you actually want to strangle me?" wonders Bella.

"That's - not the point!"

"What is the point?"

"I think you're lying?"

"But maybe I'm not. Can you tell?"

"Argh!"
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"Man, if you have a lie detector, can I borrow it?" Alli asks innocently. "My sister is being a shit about the holidays again, I want to call her out on it."

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"Do you want to strangle me?" Bella prompts Minnie.

"...No."

"Do you want to want to strangle me?"

"Not really. I just, I get mad."

"And you would want to strangle me if you decided for sure that John wasn't real."

"Yeah."

"And you're asking about him anyway."

"I..."
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"You could tell us about your day instead," Alli offers.

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"Alli, I don't think you're helping," Bella mutters, as Minnie flares into colors and hisses at her.

"You think you're awfully cute, don't you," Minnie snarls at Alli. "You think -"

"Minnie," says Bella. "The guy who killed you is almost certainly dead. Even if it wasn't a satisfying death, even if he just shriveled up in a nursing home, he's gone. You're still here."

"But he killed me," howls Minnie. Some of the sinks turn on.

Bella turns them off. "But you're still here. You can talk. You can learn things. You can imagine John exists enough not to try to kill me for being luckier than you."

"So he's not -"

"He's in the car looking for spare shoelaces. Maybe he couldn't find the ones he thought were in there and he's making a run to the store," lies Bella. "You could decide you don't believe me and then something about the way you became a ghost would force you to try to kill me."

"I just get mad."

"I know. So believe me about John, okay?"

Minnie growls.
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Soph chants faster.

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"That last one was serious, too," Alli grumbles, but she shuts up as requested.

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"I don't have days!" shrieks Minnie. (Toilet stalls lock themselves. The mirrors shake in their fittings.) "I have prom nights! That's all I have and he never came back and I can't leave and he killed meeeeeee -"

"Minnie, he's gone. He's gone. He doesn't even get to watch a prom once a year."

Minnie sobs into her hands.
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"- finite," whispers Soph.

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Minnie floats to a hovering position over the rhinestone in the middle of Soph's little circle. The lights flicker, then stabilize; the stall doors unlock and and swing gently open.

"What did you do?" Minnie asks.

"Soph is the expert," murmurs Bella. "Soph?"
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"I, um, attached you to the rhinestone," says Soph, wobbly-voiced. "So now you're... not attached to the prom."

Minnie blinks at her.
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"You go, Soph!" Alli cheers. Quietly.

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"What does that mean?" asks Minnie.

"Uh," says Soph, "if the rhinestone moves, you go with it. The rhinestone exists all the time and prom doesn't, so you don't - wink out, when prom's over -"

"Oh my god!" squeals Minnie.

"- and the rhinestone doesn't have anything to do with how you died so it might make it so you don't, uh, get so mad. Um, Bella."
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"Now we decide what to do with the rhinestone, and consequently, what to do with you," Bella says.

Minnie reaches for the rhinestone but can't quite touch it. "You're - you're not gonna -"

"We could destroy it. If you weren't so personable I'd do it."

"N-no -"

"But when you're not mad you're a - wronged teenage girl."

Minnie sniffles.

"The question becomes, where do we put you, and can you behave, detached from prom, or will you keep getting mad and killing people. You will not kill more people and get away with it."

Minnie trembles. "So - so pick up the rhinestone and - and -"

"Yeah," says Bella, "that's what I'm thinking."

She picks up the rhinestone.

"I will crush this if you go out of control," she warns.

"I know," murmurs Minnie.

"John never existed. I snuck in without a date."

Minnie blinks at Bella.

"I don't care!" she crows gleefully, flinging her hands into the air, colors supersaturating.

Bella breathes a sigh of relief.
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