Prom Night in Purgatory
Author:Amy Harmon

“Would you like us to come back another day, sir?” Johnny’s voice was deferential and his manner very businesslike. Maggie stared into his face, wondering why he hadn’t even looked in her direction. She waved her hand at him experimentally. His eyes stayed trained on Mr. Honeycutt.

 

“No…no. Today is as good as any. The keys are in the ignition. The car has been pulling a little to the right. I told Gene. I don’t think it’s anything a little adjustment can’t fix. Change the oil while you’re at it, too.” Johnny stepped back from the door, and Mr. Honeycutt turned the key off, opened the door, and heaved himself out. Maggie moved to scamper out of the Cadillac after him and was instantly sitting in the big, black Buick parked behind Irene’s Cadillac. A few seconds later, Johnny slid in behind the wheel of the Buick. He pulled the door closed and leaned out the open window. His right hand slid up to twelve o’clock on the wheel; his bicep bunched in a hard mound. Maggie reached out to run her hand along it softly but felt only the barest hint of something warm beneath her finger tips and nothing more. Johnny didn’t flinch but swatted at his arm, as if he had felt her touch and thought it was the wispy legs or wings of an insect landing on his skin.

 

“I’ll bring it back tonight, sir, unless there’s a problem, in which case we’ll call you. Should I leave the keys in the ignition or will someone be home to leave them with?”

 

“Someone will be here, son. Tell Gene hello. He always takes good care of us.”

 

Johnny nodded and waited for the man, who was obviously Irene’s father and Maggie’s great grandfather, to turn and head into the house. Turning the key and shifting into reverse, Johnny eased the bulky car backward and swung out into the street. Maggie breathed in deeply and smelled Old Spice and the hint of a cigar, just like her great-grandfather must have smelled. Funny… she couldn’t feel anything, but she could still smell. Could she smell in all her dreams? Maggie slid over next to Johnny, as close as she could without dissolving into him. She breathed deeply. She smelled citrus and soap and the warmth of sunshine; his scent made her dizzy. Maggie stuck out her tongue experimentally and ran it along the line of his jaw to see if he tasted as good as he smelled. Hmmm, nothing. Darn. She might as well be tasting the air. She whispered into his ear.

 

“This is a wonderful dream, Johnny. I hope I never wake up.” Maggie smiled happily to herself as she drank in his handsome profile, the length of his black lashes, and the straightness of his nose. Johnny worried his lower lip with his teeth and then sang a little, his voice husky and a little off key as he extended his left hand out into the afternoon sunshine and let it stream through his fingers as he drove. “I’m just a fool, a fool in love with….” It was that song. They had danced to that song.

 

“Ah, Maggie,” he sighed. “Where did you go, baby?”

 

He was talking to her. He had said her name! Maggie struggled to answer, to tell him she was here, right beside him. But she couldn’t speak. Her throat was on fire. She wrapped her hands around her neck, as if they could block the pain. Her throat was raw and each breath she took torture. Maggie moaned, and Johnny shimmered next to her. Maggie gasped as something sharp was inserted into her wrist. She held her hands out in front of her, gazing down at them in disbelief. A needle slid smoothly into a pulsing vein below the base of her left palm. Someone said her name, and something icy traveled up her arm from the origin of the inserted needle. She was jerked from Johnny’s side, and she grabbed for him futilely as she was sucked through a narrowing black tunnel. Johnny became a rapidly fading point of light at the farthest end. He never even turned his head to see her fly through space.

 

***

 

The burn in Maggie’s throat receded with the cool relief injected into her veins. She heard voices around her, speaking faintly and efficiently. They pulled at her, but she pushed back, eager to fall back into the dream that had given her a glimpse into Johnny’s life before Purgatory. He was so real. She refused to heed the voices around her, and they began to fade until they were nothing more than the buzzing of distant traffic. Maggie drifted in a warm, black cocoon and was aware of nothing more.