Prom Night in Purgatory
Author:Amy Harmon

And so Maggie waited. Three days after she had awakened from her coma, she could wait no longer. That night she bided her time until the nurse on the night shift left her desk. She had been checked on mere minutes before – at night the staff was much more laid back, the rounds fewer and farther between. She figured she would have sufficient time to see Johnny, talk to him, reassure him, and make it back to her room without detection.


Gus had told her what room Johnny was in. She had wheedled it out of him, promising that she would wait for his go ahead. She was breaking her promise. She just couldn’t wait any more. She had to see him for herself. She’d had the sneaking fear that it was all just a grand story to pull her back among the living. She was certain that when she was sufficiently healed, Gus would confess that he had concocted the tale for her own good. She had accused him of as much; that accusation finally convinced Gus to tell her where Johnny was recovering. It was only four doors down.


Her heart in her throat, Maggie padded down the hall in bare feet, a robe Irene had brought from home wrapped around her flimsy hospital gown. She had brushed her hair and teeth, but she knew her blue eyes looked too big in her face and her skin was too pale in the fluorescent lights. Nerves skittered under her skin. Johnny was free now. He could go anywhere and do anything. Would he want to be with her still? Would he look at her straight brown hair and big glasses and think he could do so much better than a girl like Maggie? She squared her shoulders and shook off the self-doubt. The door to his room pushed open easily. The bed was perpendicular to the door, and the curtain was partially pulled at the head, making it impossible to see who occupied the space. Maggie froze.


“Johnny?” she whispered. Her heart was pounding so loudly she doubted she would hear him if he responded. “Johnny? Are you awake?” She forced her feet forward and approached the base of his bed. The bed squeaked suddenly, causing her to yelp. Maggie could see that the person occupying it struggled to sit up. A whirring sound commenced and the bed moved, the upper half lifting and halting in an upright position. She still couldn’t see his face; the hanging curtain blocked her view from mid-chest up. She tiptoed to the side of the bed and, holding her breath, looked down into his face.


She had wondered if she would be able to see him with her glasses on, or if, like before, he would be visible only when she took them off. However, even with her glasses perched in their usual position on her small nose, Johnny was crystal clear. His hair was pushed off his face, like he had run his hands through it repeatedly. She was a little shocked to see him looking less than perfect – he had never had even a stray hair before. Now it stood up in little tufts at his crown, and his face was creased from sleeping. But that face…it was the same. The same strong jaw and well-formed lips, the same slashing brows and perfect nose. The same piercing blue eyes. Those eyes regarded her now as she regarded him. For a moment, gazing down at his beloved face, she forgot her awkwardness and fear, and she drank him in, every precious detail. She felt her face split into a grin so wide that her dry, cracked lips protested painfully. She pressed her hands to them to ease the sharp pain and soothe their sudden trembling. A sob tore from her throat, and Maggie wondered briefly at the unpredictability of female emotion – smiling like an idiot one moment and holding back sobs the next. She fell to her knees beside the bed and pressed her face against the arm that was unencumbered by his I.V. For several long moments she cried, resting her face against his warm skin and pressing soft kisses into his palm. He made no move to pull away and said nothing but sat silently as she eventually calmed the storm of tears and spoke again.


“Johnny?” She spoke again, her voice shaking with emotion. “You’re here. I thought I had lost you.” She gripped his arm and raised her eyes to his once more. Slowly, Maggie’s euphoria drenched senses started registering several things at once. First, Johnny didn’t seem overjoyed to see her. Second, his stare wasn’t hostile…but it was guarded and very tense, his lips pressed into a tight line, a deep groove between his brows. She could tell he was waiting for her to continue.


“Johnny?” This was the third time she had spoken his name in the very same manner, but he had yet to move or respond. Something was very wrong. Maggie’s hands fell to her sides. She backed away a step. His eyes stayed fixed on her face as he watched her retreat. Maggie felt the tears well up in her eyes again, but this time for an entirely different reason. This wasn’t the reunion she had imagined.


The door behind Maggie swung open suddenly, and Maggie turned guiltily, coming face to face with Principal Bailey. Maggie couldn’t see her expression; the light behind her threw shadows across her face as she halted in the doorway, clearly surprised to find Maggie in the room. Jillian Bailey looked beyond Maggie to Johnny, lying as still as a corpse, watching the drama unfolding in front of him. She looked back at Maggie, and then leaned over and turned on the light, illuminating the room in a wash of fluorescent white.


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