I’m already regretting not saying no. Like, it wouldn’t have even been that hard. Sorry, student council members only. Oh, I’d have to run it by Shelly. The committee is already assembled.
Instead, I’m stuck in the supply closet with the most annoying person in the school. Maybe even the world.
“No… no…” Bec is saying as she casually tosses things from the once-meticulously-stacked boxes. “God, I thought this place was rich. Why do you have dollar store decorations?”
I pick up the plastic skeleton that she tosses to the floor.
“First off, they’re not from the dollar store,” I huff. “Second, I don’t remember asking your opinion. I just said, ‘help me get the decorations out of the closet.’”
“Yeah, and I’m still looking for decorations worthy enough to see the light of day,” Bec retorts.
I snatch the box from her hands, throwing in the cobwebs and streamers she took out.
“You know what? I got it.” I sigh. “Just… get the door.”
Bec pics up another box with a shrug, muttering something about how these supplies belong at a kindergarten. I try to ignore her. She walks ahead of me and kicks the door open with her shoe. She looks kinda like an action star, especially with her combat boots and ripped jeans. I try not to stare, especially since she is holding the door open for me with her foot.
“Coming?” she asks with a raised brow.
I blow a strand of hair out of my face and rush past her. We head towards the cafeteria, which is empty. Chairs are stacked on the tables and the trail of moisture on the floor tells me they’ve already mopped. I put my box in the corner.
“We can stack things here for now,” I tell her. “Then, when we have all the boxes, I can load them in my car.”
“Whatever.” Bec shrugs nonchalantly.
But she’s still making judgy faces at the decorations. I sigh, already stressed enough without her stoking the fire.
“Since you’re obviously allergic to decorations, why don’t you just print out the song list?” I suggest, digging in my pockets for my flash drive. “It’s on here, in the folder labeled Student Council, Fall Semester, Halloween Bash, Prep, then Song list.”
“How many folders do you have?”
“It’s intuitive,” I snap. “Just… the library printers are probably still on.”
I wait for her to leave, but she slowly takes the flash drive from me. I can tell she’s thinking, but I really wish she’d hurry up already. Some of us have schedules.
“Why do you need a song list?” she asks.
“So the DJ knows what to play,” I reply, almost adding an obviously for effect.
She makes a face at this.
“DJ?” she repeats. “Why not just connect Spotify to the speakers then?”
I roll my eyes.
“What’s wrong with a DJ?”
“Nothing. They’re great for boring weddings and rich kids’ sweet sixteens,” she mutters snarkily.
“Well, we always have a DJ.” I toss my hair. “And no one’s complained yet.” I pause and add, “Besides, it adds to the atmosphere.”
“You’d be better off with a band,” she says.
“Bands can only play certain songs,” I retort. “They’re limited to just a genre or two.”
“People can listen to songs on their phones anytime,” she counters. “You can’t listen to live bands anytime. That makes them special. Especially if you get a local band, you might be able to get some more free advertising.”
“We don’t need more advertising,” I say with a huff. “This is, like, the biggest fundraiser in town. Even people who don’t go to school here come and spend money.”
“What about people from other towns?” she asks. “You could really expand it from a lame high school fundraiser to—”
“It’s not lame,” I interrupt. “It’s just… ugh, you wouldn’t understand. You’re new here and can’t understand tradition.”
“I know,” her voice is slow and even, which is somehow more off-putting than her usual tone, “that if they want the same thing done year after year, then it’s pointless even having a committee. Why not just have an instruction manual for anybody to recreate it?”
“Song list,” I say firmly. “Now.”
Her brow raises, and she folds her hands across her chest. I know there are at least three security cameras in the cafeteria, but none of them can save me if she decides to strangle me.
“Please?” It comes out as more of a whine than I intend, and I clear my throat.
Before she says anything, or possibly brings her boot to my face, I turn and hurry back to the supply closet. When I come back with another box, she’s gone. I really hope she’s printing the file, and not rearranging everything on my flash drive. Maybe giving it to her was a mistake. I debate looking for her, but I still have two more boxes waiting to be brought out.
She’s back in the cafeteria when I come out with the last box (and dust all over my navy cardigan). I brush it off as best as I can and double check my navy plaid skirt is clean. She hands me the paper wordlessly, and I put it on top of one of the boxes.
“So what else do I have to do before I can go?” she asks.
“I have to put these in my car.” I motion to the boxes.
So I can take them home and clean them, I almost add, but I refuse to give her any more fuel.
“Once I have an inventory, I can figure out what decorations I need to buy,” I continue.
“Which is everything, probably,” Bec points out.
“And then buy the snacks and drinks to sell,” I cut in, trying to drown out her sass.
“Potato chips and soft drinks?” she guesses with a tilt of her head. “How do you guys make any money off of this?”
“We make a lot,” I snap.
“But how?” I’m a bit offended by the look of disbelief on her self-satisfied face. “I mean, so far it’s sounding like another boring school dance, except you invite the whole city.”
“It’s actually really fun,” I tell her, almost adding you just don’t know it yet.
“You know what’d be more fun?” she begins, but it doesn’t sound like she’s waiting for me to answer. “Get local vendors to rent booths and sell their food and drinks. Then, you just sell the space, they get free advertising, and you don’t have to worry about buying a bunch of sad snacks and portioning them out. My old community center used to do something like that every—” but then a shadow crosses her face and she falls silent.
I raise a brow and give her my most dubious look. I will not admit that it sounds fun. It’s not the way the Bash works.
“Yeah, but we’d have to find vendors,” I point out. “And have booths.”
“Booths could literally be some of these tables moved outside.” Bec gestures at the cafeteria tables.
“Yeah, well… that’d be a hassle anyway,” I say weakly. “Now… help me move these boxes…” I see her arched brow— “please.”
She picks up a box and follows me to my car. I’ve moved it in front of the school in the car drop-off lane. I know it’s allowed because Principal Crowe said it was okay and it’s, like, 6pm already. But I still feel like I’m doing something illegal. I pop the trunk and place a box inside.
Bec isn’t saying anything else as we move the rest of the boxes to my car. The silence is making me feel more nervous than when she was trying to redesign the Bash. I wonder if I should ask her what’s on her mind.
She doesn’t speak again until I close the trunk.
“So… I guess that means I’m done helping?” she asks. “Since everything is already planned, I can just come by to set up on the day?”
“What?” I squeak, feeling a sense of panic.
Which is weird, because I was literally just wishing she had never come to help. I clear my throat and glance around, like someone is spying on us.
“I mean, I still could use some help on the haunted maze,” I say. “I mean, just an extra set of eyes for what will make it really scary. But, of course, I already know what’s scary. I just need… an extra set of eyes.”
I am the world’s worst liar. I try to give Bec a confident look, but I’m pretty sure she knows I’m lying through my teeth.
“Why don’t you just have the drama club plan it?” she suggests. “You said they’re the ones acting in it anyway.”
I laugh, forgetting for a second how new she is.
“Because they aren’t on the committee,” I reply. “I have to be in charge of everything. If something goes wrong, it’s all on me.”
“Well, I just think since they’re all actors and set designers, maybe they know what they want to do.” Bec shrugs. “And since there are more of them, there’d be plenty of ‘extra sets of eyes.’”
“It’s just,” I begin.
“Not how things are done,” Bec finishes with a roll of her eyes. “Yeah, I’m starting to pick up on the strong sense of tradition in you.”
I try to think of a response as she tosses her hair and pulls out her phone.
“Well, I’ve got a curfew to make,” she says. “So… see you later.”
“Yeah,” I glance around. “Oh, um… do you need a ride?”
She tilts her head towards the parking lot.
“Got my own, thanks,” she says.
Of course she’d have a motorcycle, I think. I try not to stare as she struts across the parking lot and puts on a shiny black helmet. She raises a hand in farewell, and I give a quick wave before jumping into my car. I wait until she leaves the parking lot before I head out. She doesn’t look like a safe driver, and I’d rather not have to share the road with her and her death trap.
The next morning, I’m ten minutes early to the student council meeting. It’s the committee for the Bash—Fraya (unfortunately), Kevin, Iz, and Ginny— and Shelly, who texted me that she’d come to check in. Even though it’s our first meeting, and I only just got the decorations cleaned up.
It obviously isn’t early enough, though. Fraya is already there, her perfect blond hair cascading over her shoulder as she smiles at Shelly. She waves when she sees me and, with an internal groan, I join her. If I knew it wouldn’t have looked bad, I’d have made sure she couldn’t be on the committee.
“Perfect timing, Ash,” Fraya gushes, scooting closer to me. “I was talking to Jeff last night.” She pauses and glances around. “He’s the hottest new DJ on the local scene.”
“Oh my God,” Iz gasps, and I don’t know if she’s trying to hype Fraya or just naturally excited. “I saw him live once and it was so good!”
Iz starts to ramble on about the large animal mask and glow-stick necklace the DJ wears, and I resist the urge to roll my eyes and tell her we don’t have time for another one of her winded stories. Fraya shoots me a triumphant look, though, and I know she knew this would happen.
I have a feeling I know where this is headed. I suddenly have an image of me trying to hold the door to the committee closed, and she’s on the other side with a hatchet, hacking away, like we’re in a real horror movie.
“Anyway, he is, like, really interested in the Bash,” she continues. “I think he’d be a really good DJ this year. I have his number, and we follow each other on, like, three social media apps, so I can totally get in touch with him for you, Ash.”
She’s just hacked herself a large hole in my door and is trying to fit her designer shoes through. And I know this is only the beginning. Next, she’ll just happen to have a connection to a store with massive discounts on food. Then, she’ll just happen to have her mom’s designer friend volunteer to help with the haunted maze. Before I know it, she’ll be taking all the credit for the Bash, and I’ll be the sad poster child for missed opportunities.
“That’s… so sweet of you,” I mumble, feeling a lump in my throat. “But…” I raise my voice and straighten my shoulders. “I’ve actually decided against a DJ this year.”
The room goes so quiet I feel like I can hear my own stomach digesting this morning’s cereal.
“I mean,” I continue with a quick smile. “I feel like this year, we should be capitalizing on social media. We could have a local band play, which brings their fans to us, and have some hashtags and videos of performances.”
“Yeah, but bands can only play so much.” Fraya’s tone is icy and judgmental.
I know she’s about to pull out the claws soon. I try to give her a sympathetic smile.
“But seeing a live band is an experience,” I explain in a patient tone. “Honestly, it could be a real selling point.”
“I guess it makes sense,” Shelly says slowly, nodding her head. “But, wouldn’t the band be expensive?”
“No more than a DJ,” I reply confidently, even though I really have no idea.
I didn’t exactly plan to say any of this, but it spills out like my brain has sprung a leak.
“I’m also planning on looking into local vendors,” I add.
Fraya tenses at this, and I know she was definitely planning on offering to take over snacks too. I try not to feel so smug at beating her to this.
“It can be more advertising and less prep on our part,” I explain, like I’ve thought this through (spoiler alert: I haven’t). “And I feel like they’ll make more Instagram-able food than us.”
The others chuckle, and the knot in my throat eases slightly.
“Any other grand plans?” Fraya’s voice is clipped, and I can tell she’s about to blow a fuse.
“I… think the drama club is going to have more input in the haunted maze,” I add. “Since they have more firsthand knowledge of what really worked for the maze in previous years and what they can sell… performance-wise.”
“Wow, sounds… like a whole new Bash,” Fraya replies, and I know she’s choosing her words carefully to inflict maximum damage. “I mean, if I didn’t know better, I’d say it’s a completely new thing.”
I sense Shelly tense, like she’s thinking over Fraya’s words.
“We’re still keeping the heart of it,” I say quickly. “But it’s nice to update traditions sometimes.”
“Well, either way it’ll be a good test.” Shelly gives me a pointed look. “Like an experiment… to see what works and what doesn’t.”
Her words are really clear: do a good job, and I’ll be a legend. Mess it up, and I’ll be lucky to be allowed back into Student Council, let alone president. I try not to gulp as I nod.
Bec is at her locker, preening her short locks in a mirror. She sees me and closes her locker door with a raised brow.
“I really hope you know what you’re doing,” I begin, looking around in case someone is spying on us.
“What do you mean?” She leans against the lockers casually.
“I told Shelly about your ideas,” I say. “We’re gonna try the whole band and vendors and drama club thing.”
It looks like surprise and maybe a little joy on Bec’s face for a half-second. Then, she narrows her eyes.
“What made you change your mind?”
I quickly mutter something about Fraya and back-stabbing. I can see a smirk spread across Bec’s face.
“I get it,” she says with a nod. “Classic revenge then? Outshine her and steal her glory?”
“More like make sure she doesn’t steal mine,” I retort.
“She’s the typical rich white girl,” Bec continues. “Definitely one of the first to die in a horror movie.”
“We aren’t killing her,” I say quickly, and Bec snorts.
“Obviously.” She rolls her eyes. “What is this, Scream?”
I know from her tone that the last word is definitely a movie title, and it sounds like one I should know.
“Is that… the parody of the horror movies?” I ask. “With the really loud girl in the movie theater?”
“No, that’s Scary Movie I think.” She gives me a weird look. “How do you not know Scream? The mask is iconic.”
“The chainsaw guy?” I guess with a raised brow.
I’m pretty sure I remember posters of a masked guy with a chainsaw. Bec’s jaw drops.
“Okay, how are you supposed to be in charge of A Night of Horror if you don’t even know horror?” she demands a little louder than necessary.
I quickly cover her mouth with a hand and look around. It’s still, like, ten minutes before the first bell even rings, so no one else is in the hallway.
“Okay, so I might need to do a little research,” I admit sheepishly. “You don’t have to announce it to the whole school though.”
Bec shakes her head, and I realize I’m still holding her mouth. I drop my hand quickly.
“Ok,” she sighs. “I’ve got a collection of the best Western horror movies. Why don’t you come by my house later and I’ll help you research?”
I hesitate. One: I’d rather just read a few synopses without any grotesque pictures. Two: I’d rather not waste my Friday night with a girl who’s clearly a serial killer in the making. Rebel? Check. Extensive knowledge of murder? Probably. I don’t need to be a horror movie expert to know this.
Then again, I kinda need Bec now that we’re redoing the whole Bash. And better her house than mine.
“Okay,” I agree.
“It’s a date,” Bec says, and then sees the surprise on my face. “Kidding. I’ll text my address later.”
And with that, she disappears down the hallway, not even glancing back at me. I feel my face flush as the bell rings.