"I can't believe this," Aisling chased behind an up-to-high-doh Jenny, as she sought refuge in the toilets, having trouble keeping up with her, as the girl sped off like a missile aimed for Mars.
"This was supposed to be my night and now look at me. Look at me, Aisling!" Jenny was adamant, tomato juice caking her everywhere like a layer of second skin.
At a loss for words, Aisling took out her clean white handkerchief, bringing it up to her friend's face.
"No, leave it," Jenny tssked, before turning to stare into the mirror above the sink.
"I look hideous and my dress...my beautiful dress is ruined, all because of Erin Quinn and her friends," the ill-fated prom queen fumbled out through gritted teeth.
"You don't, you don't look hideous at all," an equally blood-red Aisling shyly reached for the other girl's face, only to have her flinch away.
"I get you're trying to be kind, but you don't have to lie about it. God, I'd so been looking forward to this, planning it for weeks on end only for them to…everyone was laughing at me," Jenny was near to hysterics, as she whirled her head away from the mirror, to avoid having to stand what her carefully arranged outfit and hairdo had come to for even a second longer.
"That's not true. Most of them were merely shocked. And the ones who did laugh don't have a working brain, you mustn't pay them any notice. Jenny, Jenny, don't cry, please," Aisling touched her best friend's shoulder, not minding getting more red muck onto her own hand, once she saw the girl's silent tears leak down into the drain, like testaments to her broken spirit.
Feeling the affirming touch, Jenny's taut shoulders fell down, causing her best friend to smile.
"Did she...did she hurt you? Erin, I mean?"
"Well, she pinched my arm like some ruffian, so I'll probably end up with bruises in the morning...what about you? Did you get hurt?" Jenny shifted away from her own despair, as she wiped at her eye, hereby successfully taking off more of the pulpy mess, as it clung to her finger instead.
"Michelle pushed me off the stage actually. I fell on my well...you-know-what," Aisling explained, looking down at the white clinical tiles, regretting that they'd both lost track of one another in the hubbub of the scuffle. She felt terribly guilty for not protecting Jenny better.
"Oh, Aisling, I'm so sorry. Honestly, she's the worst of the lot. She's so aggressive, always looking to start up trouble," Jenny shook her head with a scowl, before ripping off some paper towels and continuing to try and undo the damage, the smell of tomatoes starting to get too much, as it forced itself into her nostrils like a billiard cue.
"Honestly, the gall of these people...why, why would they do something like this? Everything was so perfect and…" Jenny's eyes were brimming with hellfire, as she thought of the dreaded band of five that always got in her way, no matter what. What made it even worse was that Sister Michael seemed much more sympathetic towards them, despite her absolute best efforts to keep in the headmistress's good graces.
Not being able to take it any longer, she broke out into sobs, angrily wiping at the sisyphean stream of tears plaguing her cheeks, which only served to irritate her skin, due to the soupy vegetable mask which had been vomited on.
"Jenny," Aisling frowned, still having her handkerchief at the ready, as she gently dabbed it over the other girl's face, quickly resulting in it getting fully mottled in red, which seemed to be the ongoing theme for the night.
"Here, I'll take this hey," she then reached for the tiny, silver crown, wiping it on the dry parts of her own dress with care, before neatly placing it back onto Jenny's head, where it very much belonged in her humble opinion.
"If it helps any, you still look a picture to me," the bespectacled girl gave her an encouraging half-smile, as she went back to work, in order to reveal more of Jenny's natural pale hue.
One corner of Jenny's mouth itched to climb upwards as she took in the expression on Aisling's face, only to get second thoughts, as soon as she caught sight of another unwanted flash of her reflection.
"No, it doesn't help. I'm well aware you're only saying it to brighten my spirits and it isn't working, so please save yourself the trouble," she abruptly pushed the other girl's hand away and faced forward, torturing herself further by looking at her dress properly and drawing her eyebrows together.
"I'm sorry, Jenny, but I did mean it," Aisling drew her lips into a thin line, her stomach feeling like an arrow had soared through it with great speed.
"Are you serious?" Jenny tutted, before the tiniest glimpse of a smile lifted itself amongst remaining dots of red against her cheek.
"Of course, you are beautiful...inside and out," the bespectacled girl swallowed, the direct confrontation with Jenny's rich dark eyes too much for her to bear, as she reverted her own to the sink, with her heart knocking against the walls of her chest like it was trying to tumble out.
"Aisling, can you still even see?" Jenny narrowed her eyes, as she finally zeroed in on the fact that the other girl's spectacles were drowning in the godforsaken scarlet flood.
Before Aisling could react properly, her friend had already carefully lifted them from her nose, taking her time to rinse them underneath the running tap, as she turned them this way and that.
"Jenny, you really don't have to do that," Aisling brought up her hand.
"Of course I have to," Jenny stated simply, plucking off more paper towels to get the excess water off, before raising the accessory back up to Aisling's face with steady hands.
"I really don't tell you enough just how much I appreciate you, do I?" She brought out quietly, slowly and meticulously pushing the girl's spectacles back in place, as she noted for the first time how pretty Aisling's eyes looked under the fluorescent lights, the soft greenish-blue never once reflecting malice.
"Oh, I wouldn't say that…" Aisling began, glancing off to the side, hoping the heat which blossomed up across her face wouldn't make itself known in the form of the dreaded colour which had wrecked so much this evening, as she had been just as invested in her friend winning that crown and having her moment of glory, after all of her hard work.
No one in the whole school quite seemed to think of Jenny as highly as she did, as people instead seemed intent on dismissing and mocking her, and it frustrated Aisling no end.
"No, of course you wouldn't, you're far too kind," Jenny's laughter toppled from Aisling's hearing canal right into her heart, as the clatter of it made her belly flip.
Hesitating for a few beats, Jenny leaned over, surprising her best and only friend with an impromptu kiss on the cheek.
As if a button was pushed, the skin beneath her lips flowered into a dusky pink and suddenly, Aisling wasn't all that upset about the sticky red glob which served to cover her tracks.
Jenny drew back, pursing her lips, a sheen of curiosity lighting her irises, when she saw a flash of something blaze across Aisling's timid gaze.
Thinking she'd merely imagined it, she was about to pull away completely, when a pair of quivering pink lips brushed over her bottom one in a wisp of a feathery touch.
"I'm sorry, I...I'm sorry," Aisling jerked back, bumping her back into the sink, her features a painting of mixed expressionist hues.
Jenny looked befuddled for merely a second, before her lips veered up into the shape of a grandiose gondola boating still waters.
"I fail to see what about," she murmured, her voice peeping up just over the surface of whispers, her smile still floating fabulously, before she ran the tip of her tongue over her lips, as she would always remember herself and Aisling's first kiss as decidedly tomato-ey.