On a nightstand in a teenager’s room, a glass vase filled with violets leans precariously against a wall. The only thing saving the vase from a thousand-piece death on the hardwood floor is the groove in the nightstand’s surface that catches the bottom of vase, and of course the wall itself. The violets, nearly a week old, droop in the light of a waning gibbous moon. Wrinkled petals are already piling up on the floor between the nightstand and the wall, and a girl only six days sixteen stares at the dying bouquet from her bed.

And it wasn’t just us. It wasn’t just that we were high school, me a junior and you a senior, with our clothes all wrong for restaurants like this, too bright and too rumpled and too zippered and too stained and too slapdash and awkward and stretched and trendy and desperate and casual and unsure and baggy and sweaty and sporty and wrong.

Everyone is born a freak,” notes Hayley. “Every newborn baby, wet and hungry and screaming, is a fresh-hatched freak who wants to have a good time and make the world a better place. . . . Most teenagers wind up in high school. And high school is where the zombification process becomes deadly.

A few other couples joined us on the dance floor and we lost ourselves among them. I’d never been able to figure out exactly what was involved in slow dancing, so I contented myself, as I had since high school, with gripping my partner to me, letting out awkward breaths against her ear, and tipping from foot to foot like someone waiting for a bus. I could feel the sweat cooling on her forearms and smell a trace of apples in her hair.

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