Prom Night in Purgatory
Author:Amy Harmon

“Hello Margaret,” Principal Bailey said in her very official school administrator’s voice.


“Principal Bailey,” Maggie responded, equally deferential and polite. She tried not to hunch or reach up to wipe her eyes or rub the tear streaks from her cheeks. Doing so would only draw attention to them and further alert the woman of her distress. Jillian Bailey’s eyes ran from the top of Maggie’s head to her colorfully painted toes. Shad had insisted on painting them purple, gold and green, in honor of the Lakers, and not only was he horrible at staying within the lines, the colors made her toenails look like he had beaten them with a hammer. She curled her toes self-consciously.


“Have a seat, Margaret…or should I call you Maggie?” Principal Bailey’s voice had softened, and Maggie was suddenly certain that the woman didn’t miss much. She nodded her head toward a chair not far from Johnny’s bed and pulled another from the wall, creating an intimate little half circle with the bed. Maggie looked down at her toes, wishing this episode of the Twilight Zone was over. She sat primly on the edge of the chair and folded her hands in her lap, locking her fingers tightly to keep them from shaking.


“Maggie would be fine,” Maggie replied belatedly, as Principal Bailey slid into the chair beside her. Maggie stole another look at Johnny, but his face looked carved in stone, his hands lying loosely on the blankets in front of him. What was going on?? Maggie suddenly wanted to shake him or pull at his rumpled hair, anything to shake the frozen look from his face.


“Johnny, this is Margaret O’Bannon – Maggie,” Principal Bailey said briskly. “She’s recovering from the fire as well. She’s a senior at Honeyville High School this year and a very accomplished dancer.” Maggie’s head started to spin. Why was Principal Bailey acting like it wasn’t one o’clock in the morning in a hospital room, like Maggie hadn’t been caught somewhere she had no logical reason to be, and acting like Johnny Kinross was a new student in need of someone to show him to his homeroom class?


“Maggie,” she continued, “This is Johnny – “


“I know who he is!” Maggie interrupted sharply, her eyes flashing to meet Jillian Bailey’s startled gaze. “You know that, don’t you? I know exactly who he is.” Maggie lifted her chin stubbornly and crossed her arms. Enough of this charade.


Johnny still wasn’t saying anything, but his eyes had narrowed and his hands now gripped the rails alongside his bed.


“So who am I?” He queried slowly. The hair on Maggie’s arms rose and a shudder ran through her. His voice taunted her with memories of sweet words and quiet declarations. She steeled herself and met his eyes, confusion coloring her voice.


“You are Johnny Kinross.”


“And how do we know each other……Margaret?” Maggie gasped sharply. Did he mean to be cruel? Or was he hesitant to reveal himself in front of the woman who watched them in fascination?


“Don’t you remember?” She stared at him, willing herself not to betray her devastation. He held her stare silently for several long breaths, and then shook his head once. No. He didn’t remember.


“Tell me!” His voice was sharp now, as hers had been minutes before. She stared at him mutely, stunned heat spreading from the pit of her belly to the tips of her fingers. How in the world do you tell someone what he is to you…when he is your whole world? How do you tell him you love him – and that he loved you – when he can’t seem to remember your name? Maggie was going to be sick. She struggled to her feet, the room spinning and the fear inside her clawing to get out.


“TELL ME!!!” Johnny roared suddenly, his face contorting in anger. Maggie flinched as if he had struck her, and she reached toward him instinctively, unsure of whether to ward him off or pull him close. Jillian Bailey jumped to her feet and grabbed Johnny’s hands. He pulled them from her viciously and looked at Maggie again. He pointed at her.


“You know me? You tell me everything you know!” He was no longer shouting, but his voice was emphatic and his eyes were bright with feeling. The finger he leveled at her shook, and he dropped his hands back into his lap, shaking his head with obvious despair.


The door flew open behind them, and all three of them jerked to guilty attention.


“What are you people doin’ in here? And what’s all the yellin’ about!!” A small black nurse flew into the room, shoes squeaking and arms akimbo. She rushed to Johnny’s bedside and started looking at his monitors and fussing over him like there had been a murder attempt.