"That's it?" Nora said. "She didn't flip out, scream and yell, or throw things?"

I laughed. "No. I mean she was disappointed, but she gets that it's my choice."

"Wow. I thought your mother was really uptight. Justin said your parents try to control everything you do."

Maybe my parents were too involved, but they meant well. I'd been pleasantly surprised by how easily Mom had accepted my decision. She wasn't happy about it—that much was obvious—but she wasn't going to keep me on a leash for the rest of my life, either.

Zoe ordered me to sit on the toilet seat. She moved the scissors through my hair, snipping fast enough to make me nervous, then stepped back to assess her work.

Nora whistled. "Oh my God. That's fantastic!"

Justin's words echoed through my head. You know what's amazing about you, Ari? You don't even know your potential.

They shifted to the side so I could see the New Ariana. My hair hung down, not out, in soft curls. Frizzy ends littered the floor.

"I don't look like me," I said.

The first time I'd met Justin, he'd said I was beautiful. Or something like that. I needed my friends to tell me how I really was, I realized. Being alone made a person too nearsighted to see herself clearly.

"You look awesome," Zoe said.

I squinted into the mirror.

Nora stepped in front of me, blocking my view. "Pay us back. Popcorn. Next to the microwave."

When I returned with two large bowls, Zoe and Nora were sprawled on the bed, cotton balls wedged between their matching salmon-pink toes.

"Better than going to that insipid prom," Nora was saying.

Zoe drew her foot to her mouth and blew on her wet nails. "Speak for yourself. Boys drop to their knees, begging me to go with them."

"We could go to the prom by ourselves," I said, climbing onto the bed. They curled their toenails away from me.

"I like Justin's idea," Nora said. "Think of the money we'll save. No tickets. No overpriced dresses."

Zoe wrinkled her nose. "I don't do dresses."

"What idea?" I asked, hurt that once again Justin had shared something with Nora first.

"Oh, he's got something up his sleeve," Nora said teasingly. "A huge surprise."

Zoe rolled her eyes at Nora's mysterious act. "Justin thinks we should skip the prom. The real one, anyway."

"He wants us to have our own party at this really cool place," Nora blurted out before Zoe could ruin her grand reveal. "Lowell's Cemetery."

"How do you know about Lowell's?" I asked her.

"It's his favorite place to hang out. Justin was dying to show me."

"Without me?"

Her smile vanished, and I realized what I'd said. Nora looked at me as if she'd stepped in something disgusting. "I don't know. Maybe you were at your lesson that day."

"Think about all the money we'll save," Zoe said. "We can eat and drink in style. We can even afford our own graveyard caterers." She turned to Nora. "What did Justin call it again?"

"The Prom with the Dead," Nora answered.

"Yeah, that's good." Zoe's eyes hopped from Nora to me, then back again.

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