Homecoming would have been quite an insult to the student of Eleanor's Home for Wayward Children. Insinuating that this was now their home and they would have to get used to it was rather against the point of the entire school. So for years, there were no formals or dances, and no one really cared.
That was, until the year of the murders. After that fiasco, Eleanor declared they needed something to cheer the students up. The idea became a Halloween dance.
"Everyone should dress in their world's best," Eleanor had announced with a grin. "If you don't already have something, Kade would be happy to help."
Kade, who had lost three of his allies and one of his friends, was actually more than happy to launch himself into a world of designs and sewing late into the night.
Everyone in the school, so tired of anxious waiting and anticipation, joined gratefully into something they could genuinely prepare for.
Fairy lights in all the colors of the rainbow plus some were strung up along the dining hall, along with streamers and balloons.
"I'm going to make candy apples!" Sumi pronounced gleefully. "At home we make them with licorice sticks, but those don't hold up here, so I guess we can use wood."
One of the girls who was good with string made cobwebs to hang, complete with little fake spiders that she would occasionally drop on one of the boys to watch them shriek.
Christopher had the grand idea to have a pumpkin carving contest, and when he wasn't helping Kade with outfits, he was practicing his carving skills.
"It's almost scary how good you are with a knife," Kade said. "I can swing a sword decently, but that's just getting surgical."
"I'm not Jack, and it's good practice for when I go home. Besides, you can swing that thing more than decently." Christopher eyed the gleaming golden blade, half-tucked behind a stack of Kade's favorite books.
Kade just clicked his tongue and went back to sorting out the wardrobe's surprisingly vast collection of neckties.
A girl by the name of Veronica had gone to a magic-science world of curses and potions, and volunteered to help make the drinks.
Cora went to watch her, and was frankly surprised by the amount of logic put into it.
"That looks like a bit more work than boil bubble, toil and trouble."
Veronica laughed, and pushed her short hair away from her face. "Yeah, it is. You stir c-clockwise for blessings, counter-clockwise for curs-ses. The number of turns matter too. The less you stir, the lighter the effect. The lo-onger, the more intense."
Cora eyed the bottles of fruit punch and pop Veronica had laying out, two plastic "cauldrons" already filled with one or the other. "I hope you're not cursing anyone?"
"Eleanor made me promise not to. She said- she said it would ruin the mood." Veronica rolled her eyes, and Cora stifled a laugh.
"So what blessings are you putting in then?"
Veronica scrunched up her nose in thought. "Happiness, confidence, contentment, the usual good things. Myles, my instructor, always said that it was the feeling that matt-matt-mat- was the most important. Like, it helped more to give someone confidence before a test than intelligence, because it was helping them more, more in the long term."
"Wow, that's... really nice."
"I try my best." Veronica gave her a half grin before pouring a bottle of Sierra Mist into another cauldron.
The night of October thirty-first bloomed windy and cold. The best part was, it didn't even matter, because the dining hall was aglow in candlelight and warm before the dancing had even started.
The first to enter, Kade led Eleanor in on his arm, both dressed to the nines. Kade was in an sharp suit, with a navy blue tie, while Eleanor was in a dress that somehow, impossibly, represented every single color ever. It was one of Kade's greatest sewing accomplishments, and a birthday present to her a year before.
Christopher deciding what to do for his outfit had been a little tricky, on account of living skeletons not actually having outfits. But he had settled for a long-sleeved shirt and pants, about the color of his skin, with the anatomically correct bones drawn on in glow-in-the-dark fabric marker. He had used an entire box of four, but it was worth it. He had even stolen a pair of Jack's old gloves, and when he waved upon entering, he was proud to show off the bones meticulously drawn on those too.
Veronica twirled in with a fluffy purple dress that fell to her knees in the front and her ankles in the back, with a matching witch's hat, several inches taller than could be considered safe to stay on her head. In her right hand she held a dark oak staff, with a hollow in the branches at the top that was just waiting for a stone to be placed within. It was the most magical she had looked since arriving to the school.
Cora had on a halter top the same pastel blue as a part of her hair, shaped like shells, and a skirt that fell down to her ankles and ruffled out, creating the illusion of water splashing around her feet. The material of the skirt glittered even in the soft light, and Cora herself seemed to glow with her smile.
Sumi skipped in with a dress not unlike the one Rini had been wearing when she fell into the turtle pond, all cake tiers and frosting ribbons. Her pigtails looked like they had been dipped in glitter, and her lips were painted with sugar. Eleanor gave her a soft smile, and readily accepted a hug.
From there, food and drinks were served, and the students chatted until the music started playing.
The musicians were two girls, Isabelle and Ade, who had come from different sides of the globe and ended up in the same world. They were fourteen and eleven, and they had fallen out of their world holding each other tight, each clutching a long string instrument.
The instruments were curious things, slender sticks with four strings, but in the world Isabelle and Ade had come from, they were sacred. The girls played their duets as entire religious worships, and not a single person could hear it and not stand in awe.
They played that night, both in white pantsuits that billowed around them like clouds, and everyone danced.
After several hours of dancing, only one small fire, and the results of the pumpkin carving contest (Christopher won with a goofy carving of the pumpkin sticking its tongue out), the lights were slowly extinguished one by one as the students shuffled off to bed. Eleanor assured the stragglers who tried to stay and help that the decorations could be cleared in the morning.
And as each of them fell back, exhausted, into their beds, it was definitely a good night, and they felt safe for the first time in a long while.