She’s a Fugitive Cinderella
Her boyfriend asks her to the dance in a dragon’s lair: a fort of crackly sticks and overgrown weeds, broken bottles and used condoms. Branches heavy with leaves droop like tossed bridal veils. They ignore the fact that neither of them will be able to go to the prom. She’s already lost all her chances: ten detentions. He was suspended too many times and is supposed to make up his hours through community service. She borrows a sewing machine anyway and makes a dress out of a lemon colored tablecloth, thrift store chic. Drapes it long behind her like a bridal train to hide her shoeless feet.
On the night of the prom, she jokes that she’ll wish herself a pair of shoes out of a dozen dandelions picked from fields along the highway. He broods in the car in black jeans and a t-shirt. They eat free food at a church: bitter lemonade in flimsy paper cups and shortbread cookies. Before she can stop him, he’s jaywalking across the street to a mall, and hurtles out the door fifteen minutes later, one shoe shoved down the waistband of his jeans, the other hanging out of his back pocket, an alarm blaring behind him.
They’ve stolen stuff before. Packs of gum, earbuds, candy bars. They have a rule they never break: if one of them gets caught, the other one is free to ditch. As he tosses the shoes to her, she sprints away, and hides behind a prickly bush, watches the policeman sneak up behind him, tackle him to the ground, chain him with handcuffs and shove him in the car.
Face pressed against the glare of the window, his words distort, and she hears him say that she reminds him of the sugary melt-in-your-mouth roses on a white birthday cake, butterscotch candies, Black-eyed Susan’s and rotary phones.
She tries not to think about him slumped and scowling in a stuffy room, sitting in a hard, plastic chair. When she calls him later and he asks how she is doing, she tells him she is fine, doesn’t tell him that the silver sandals he stole are a size too small and hang from her hand like a pair of roses, glitter sprayed and wilting.
She’s glad the policeman didn’t kick him in the balls or press a boot against his face. She tells him that she’ll find the money to bail to him out soon and imagines herself dancing, a fugitive Cinderella and him beside her, dirt soft beneath her bare feet.