Savor the Moment

By: Nora Roberts

PROLOGUE



As THE CLOCK TICKED DOWN ON HER SENIOR YEAR IN HIGH school, Laurel McBane learned one indisputable fact.

Prom was hell.

For weeks all anyone wanted to talk about was who might ask whom, who did ask whom—

and who asked some other whom, thereby inciting misery and hysteria. Girls, to her mind, suffered an agony of suspense and an embarrassing passivity during prom season. The halls, classrooms, and quad throbbed with emotion running the gamut from giddy euphoria because some guy asked them to some overhyped dance, to bitter tears because some guy didn’t.

The entire cycle revolved around “some guy,” a condition she believed both stupid and demoralizing.

And after that, the hysteria continued, even escalated with the hunt for a dress, for shoes, the intense debate about up-dos versus down-dos. Limos, after-parties, hotel suites—the yes, no, maybe of sex.

She’d have skipped the whole thing if her friends, especially Parker Right-of-Passage Brown, hadn’t ganged up on her.

Now her savings account—all those hard-earned dollars and cents from countless hours waiting tables—reeled in shock at the withdrawals for a dress she’d probably never wear again, the shoes, the bag, and all the rest.

She could lay all that on her friends’ heads, too. She’d gotten caught up shopping with Parker, Emmaline, and Mackensie, and spent more than she should have. The idea, gently broached by Emma, of asking her parents to spring for the dress wasn’t an option, not to Laurel’s mind. A point of pride, maybe, but money in the McBane household had become a very sore subject since her father’s dicey investments fiasco and the little matter of the IRS audit.

No way she’d ask either of them. She earned her own, and had for several years now. She told herself it didn’t matter. She didn’t have close to enough saved for the tuition for the Culinary Institute, or the living expenses in New York, despite the hours she’d put in at the restaurant after school and on weekends. The cost of looking great for one night didn’t change that one way or the other—and, what the hell, she did look great. She fixed on her earrings while across the room—Parker’s bedroom—Parker and Emma experimented with ways to prom-up the hair Mac had impulsively hacked off to what Laurel thought of as Julius Caesar takes the Rubicon. They tried various pins, sparkle dust, and jeweled clips in what was left of Mac’s flame red hair while the three of them talked nonstop, and Aerosmith rocked out of the CD player.

She liked listening to them like this, when she was a little bit apart. Maybe especially now, when she felt a little bit apart. They’d been friends all their lives, and now—rite of passage or not—things were changing. In the fall Parker and Emma would head off to college. Mac would be working, and squeezing in a few courses on photography.

And with the dream of the Culinary Institute poofed due to finances and her parents’ most recent marital implosion, she’d settle for community college part-time. Business courses, she supposed. She’d have to be practical. Realistic.

And she wasn’t going to think about it now. She might as well enjoy the moment, and this ritual that Parker, in her Parker way, had arranged.

Parker and Emma might be going to prom at the Academy while she and Mac went to theirs at the public high school, but they had this time together, getting dressed and made up. Downstairs Parker’s and Emma’s parents hung out, and there’d be dozens of pictures and “oh, look at our girls!” hugs and probably some shiny eyes.

Mac’s mother was too self-involved to care about her daughter’s senior prom, which, Linda being Linda, could only be a good thing. And Laurel’s own parents? Well, they were too steeped in their own lives, their own problems, for it to matter where she was or what she did tonight.

She was used to it. Had even come to prefer it.

“Just the fairy dust sparkles,” Mac decided, tipping her head side to side to judge. “It’s kind of Tinker Bell-y. In a cool way.”

“I think you’re right.” Parker, her straight-as-rain brown hair a glossy waterfall down her back, nodded. “It’s waif with an edge. What do you think, Em?”

“I think we need to play up the eyes more, go drama.” Emma’s eyes, a deep, dreamy brown, narrowed in thought. “I can do this.”

“Have at it.” Mac shrugged. “But don’t take forever, okay? I still have to set up for our group shot.”

“We’re on schedule.” Parker checked her watch. “We’ve still got thirty minutes before ...”

She turned, caught sight of Laurel. “Hey. You look awesome!”

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