Some might say that the feud between Liberty Tyler and Dixie Johnston was set as soon as they were named, though that tends to overlook the fact that Liberty was actually Mary Liberty and Dixie was a nickname for Dorothy. Nevertheless, from their earliest days in the kindergarten in Davis the two were bitter enemies, with a particular feud on the playground escalating into a hostage situation of sorts that made it into the Davis Democrat on a slow news day.

But since the Tylers were from Bud Tyler, the head of the city waterworks, and the Johnstons had antebellum roots in the county, neither family was going anywhere. That, plus the two-day difference in their ages and the low number of fellows in their school classes, put them on collision course after collision course.

There was the scuffle at the downhill derby in 4th grade, escalating parade float hijincks in 6th, and by freshman year both had taken to traveling with a posse for protection from the other.

At Davis High, tradition dictated that there was no seperate prom queen and class president but rather a single title for both: Master Davis for the men and Mistress Davis for the ladies. And, needless to say, both Liberty and Dixie had their eye on Mistress Davis from the word go.

Their playground rivalry escalated into a nearly four-year campaign of harrassment, intimidation, dirty tricks, voter fraud, and even an isolated case of bribery. But when all was said and done, Liberty Tyler and Dixie Johnston were the two candidates on tap, with their respective boyfriends reluctantly allotted to the running for Master Davis. The ballots were paper, and cast at the annual Electing Dance that opened senior year, to be counted out live onstage during the final dance. It was as if the situation had been tailor-made to inflame the Liberty-Dixie rivalry still further, and it worked. All it took was a single spark to set things off.

That spark came at quarter to eight from an errant cigarette snuck into the dance and carelessly flicked onstage. By the time anyone realized that the stage was on fire, the alarm was already ringing and the sprinklers already sprinkling.

But Liberty and Dixie were determined to rescue their ballots from fire and flood, determined to prove once and for all that they were better than the girl they’d hated tooth and nail since preschool.

The last anyone saw of either of them was as silhouettes onstage, as crepe-paper decorations were consumed by the blaze around them, struggling over the ceremonial ballot box and cursing through the smoke.

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