Amanda sat in clothes that seemed to better fit a medieval crusader as she waited for Lisa and Elina to get out of the changing rooms. She leaned back against the white-washed walls, and let her mind's eye take over. It was like watching television, but better. She saw huge orchards in a distant land, being blown about by sand - men herding their stubborn livestock to get inside. A legion of soldiers on horseback - red crosses emblazoned on their white uniforms - leapt out from the horizon and charged through the orchards. Amanda could hear every sound, smell every remote scent, see every miniscule detail these 'ghosts' had to offer her. And yet, they could not interact with or see her. It was a strange, abnormally-powerful sensation. She could see herself unsheath a broadsword and look at the metal shining the light of a blazing-hot desert sun.
Amanda woke up and blinked, a slight headache throbbing in the veins of her temples. She pinched the bridge of her nose and shut her eyes tight.
"You okay, daydreamer?" Lisa asked her, "What are you dressed as?"
Amanda groaned and looked up as Lisa sat next to her, "I was getting in character," she said, "You can never have too many crusades," she looked at Lisa and furrowed her brows, "What the hell are you dressed as, Andy? The Fairy Godmother, except... slutty?"
Lisa was dressed in a blue dress that was cut high up at a mid-thigh length, a little tiara on her head, and fishnets. Her breasts were straining to pop out of the sweetheart cut of the bodice. The dress - if it could be called that - had so much glitter sparkling on it, you'd think a unicorn had vomited all over it. It was the strangest thing in the world, in Amanda's opinion anyway, but she had to admit - Lisa pulled it off well.
"Okay, okay. Okay," Amanda laughed, "You are not nearly drunk enough to be walking around in that. We are here with a teenager; you realize that?"
"Yeah," Lisa said, looking bored as she inspected her fingernails, "this way she'll know she can go in two directions when she grows up," she outstretched her arms to make a V-shape, "Like you or like me."
"Yes, limit her to two options. One," Amanda gestured to Lisa, "shamelessness and irresponsibility," then she gestured to herself, "Two: morbidity and insanity."
Lisa shrugged, "I always said we'd make a good couple, you and me."
"I'm not gay," Amanda laughed.
"But if you were...!" Lisa said.
"You're not gay," Amanda told her, "Neither of us is gay."
"Excuse me, but I am delightfully undecided," Lisa pointed out, "I am experimenting and, have to say, enjoying it immensely."
Amanda shook her head, "Of course. You would be."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Lisa exclaimed, laughing in an incredulous manner, "Elina, Amanda's slut-shaming! Be careful what you put on in there!"
"It didn't mean anything," Amanda smiled, "I was just pointing it out."
"You say it like you've never been adventurous."
"I've never been to an orgy," Amanda laughed.
"That happened once," Lisa said, pointing at Amanda and then added quickly, "Well, twice - but the second time I was drunk, so it doesn't count."
"I'm sure you were drunk for both," Amanda replied.
"Nah-uh," Lisa said, "The first time it happened because there was nothing to drink. Shit got boring."
"What are the two of you on about?" Elina said, sliding back the curtain of her changing room and stepping out.
Amanda smiled at her, "You look gorgeous."
Lisa rolled her eyes and muttered, "You look boring."
Amanda nudged Lisa with her elbow and stood up. She held Elina's shoulders, felt the soft bottle-green fabric that rested upon them. In her place, Amanda could see the bearing of some ancient princess smiling at her. There was energy – some form of an aura – emanating from Elina, and Amanda could not understand or comprehend it. She had never seen such a thing before. Amanda blinked, attempting to bring herself back to reality. She looks beautiful, Amanda told herself, that’s all this is. And Elina was – with her large brown eyes and a sprinkle of freckles running over her cheeks and nose – standing in a pretty dress or not, Elina was a very beautiful girl. Amanda’s friendship with Elina made her even more so.
"You're going to look gorgeous, come prom night," Amanda told her, "Hair, make-up, shoes... You're going to turn all the heads."
Elina scoffed and looked away, "I don't know if I'll go."
Lisa stood up, "Why not?"
"I don't really have anyone to go with. Or to do hair and make-up with," Elina said. She sighed.
"We could come," Lisa offered and then checked with Amanda, "Right?"
"I don't know," Amanda said, "I'm not really for hormone-enraged parties, and that... business trip to England with Elina's father is coming up pretty soon."
"Oh, bother with that!" Lisa said.
"Wait..." Elina turned to Amanda, her dress turning with her, "You're going to England? With my dad? Why didn't he tell me?"
"It was confirmed today," Amanda explained, "He was probably planning to tell you when he got back home."
"He's not going to be here?" Elina said, "And you. You're not going to be here either?"
"I didn't really want to go, if it helps," Amanda offered.
"This sucks!" Elina cursed, "Are you going to be here, Lisa?"
Lisa looked to Amanda and back to Elina, "I... I don't know. I might be flying out with your dad and Amanda."
"Urgh!" Elina cried, "I'm going to be stuck with Gemma?" she turned to Amanda, "Can't you postpone the flight? Until after, like, prom?"
Amanda shook her head, "Your dad might be able to. You can ask him."
Elina nodded to herself quickly, "Why not you? I thought you guys did the same thing, you're in the same position."
"Your father is in a better relationship with our bosses than me. They might listen to him more," Amanda said, "But come on. Let's take off these," she shook her chainmail, "ridiculous costumes, maybe pay for yours, and get something to eat. I'm starved."
"You can't be serious!" Elina cried out, "I... I can't do this. I'm putting this dress back," she turned around to go back into the dressing room.
Lisa went into the neighboring changing room, "Oh, come on, Elina. You'll still have fun at prom."
"No, I won't!" she said, much like a toddler might.
Amanda took a changing room, shut her eyes without thinking about what Elina was saying. She changed into her own clothes, and never feeling more comfortable in them. She fixed her white shirt and momentarily considered buying a tie. Then she shook her head and decided against it. She was fine just the way she was. Amanda threw the costume over an arm, and drew back the curtain of her changing room. She set it on a rack and waited for the others to come out. Elina was still talking, but it was all flying passed her head. Amanda was thinking far too much about Elina's father to be paying attention to anything else.
"I hate that pig-headed bastard," Amanda muttered.
Lisa stepped out of her changing room and gave Amanda a look, "Morbid, as ever," she commented, "Would it kill you not to button that shirt so high up?"
Amanda slapped Lisa's hand away as she reached out to 'fix' her shirt, "It's fine the way it is."
Lisa furrowed her brows at Amanda, "You are single, right?"
Amanda passed her a dangerous look.
"Sorry, sorry," Lisa said, looking away and raising her hands and muttered, "I forgot you're married to your imaginary boyfriend."
Amanda curled her lip. She looked up at the ceiling and murmured, "I'll wait at the checkout."
Lisa turned her head as Amanda walked away. She could have sworn she'd heard the older woman's voice crack, but said nothing.
Amanda stepped out of the woman's changing rooms and handed the costume to the attendant. She took a moment to wipe her eyes with the back of her hands. She felt stupid, being hurt by such a harmless comment. But hurt it did. Like a reminder of a reality she didn't really want to face. Amanda tried to fill her mind with rainbows and sunshine, horses running across wide, green fields, dotted with little yellow flowers that faced the sun. Amanda sniffed and sighed. It was the most ridiculous cure, but it helped.
"You okay?" asked someone, "I'm clearly asking against my better judgement, but-"
Amanda spun and punched whatever was in front of her.
Han flew back and held his jaw. A trickle of red streamed down his lip. For a moment the only sound was the music playing around the store. Every person was staring at them, unable to move or say anything.
"I hate you," Amanda breathed.
Han stood straight and raised his hands, "I... I deserve that. I'm sorry."
"What are you doing here?" Amanda asked, "Get out."
Han came forward, "Really, Amanda? In a public place?"
"I told you to stay away," Amanda scowled.
"I'm here to collect my daughter, okay? It has nothing to do with you," Han said.
Amanda stared at him and moved closer, "Your daughter... she's having social problems," Amanda whispered to him, in a very angry tone of voice, "I suggest you help sort these problems out before you leave to go gallivanting off to save the world."
"What?" Han said.
Amanda grabbed Han's collar and pulled him forward, "And if she asks, Han, I didn't tell you this," she rasped, "She's picked out a really nice dress for prom, and she would fucking own that party in it. You had better buy it for her, and encourage her to go."
Han nodded, "She is my daughter, Amanda," he reminded her.
"Then pay more attention to her, she needs you," Amanda wiped away the blood on his chin with her sleeve and threw him away. She touched her head, "If Lisa asks, I've gone off to find the nearest bar to see if alcohol poisoning gets to me before you do."
Han sighed, "Amanda..."
"When's the flight?" Amanda asked him.
"Friday," Han replied, trying to use as few words as possible.
"Amanda," Han called her.
She looked up at him, "What?"
Han paused, brushed his tongue over his sore lip and winced with pain. He shook his head, "Never mind," he said.
"Don't be worried about me," Amanda said, a sinister air in her voice and a dark look masking her face. It was eerie to behold her, to say the least, "I'll be fine. Fate's not kind enough to let me fade just yet."