It's undeniable that it would have been pink.
The dress would have razzled and dazzled, slender slits down the sides. And the tulle gown Meadow Pollack would have worn to her senior prom would have been fitted in a mermaid silhouette, topped with a delicate halter neckline and show-stopping open back.
“That's the one,” Meadow's boyfriend of four years told the teen's friends in a text message. "There’s no doubt that that’s it."
But she never got to wear it.
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The 18-year-old senior was one of 17 students and educators killed Feb. 14 when confessed gunman Nikolas Cruz shot up the halls of Parkland's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an assault-style weapon. Meadow's petite frame — riddled with nine gunshot wounds — was found shielding the body of a classmate, who, too, died in the gunfire.
Also dying in the bloody hallways was her dream of wowing the world on a night that most seniors plan for months: prom.
Held Saturday at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, the end-of-year dance was symbolic of yet another step on the long road to recovery for the Stoneman Douglas students. In between dinner and dancing was a memorial and 17 seconds of silence for the fallen seniors, Meadow and three others who died that day —Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver and Carmen Schentrup.
"This dress is completely Meadow; her whole family and friends have confirmed that," Carley Ogozaly said, fighting back tears. "And that's why I'm wearing it today — because Meadow couldn't."
Carley was one of Meadow's dearest friends. On Saturday afternoon, she joined more than a dozen others in for preparing for what school administrators said would be the most “over-the-top” prom in its history.
Last month the event sold out at 800 tickets as leaders scrambled to accommodate about 50 seniors from a wait list. Compared to the usual $100 ticket, the price was reduced to $30 for seniors and $50 for non-seniors after donors and venders stepped in, offering their services for free or at cost.
Also attending the prom: Emma Gonzalez , Alex Wind, Jaclyn Corin, Cameron Kasky and David Hogg, recently named to Time's Most 100 Influential People of 2016, for their work in raising the issue of gun control after the Parkland shootings.
Hair, nails and gown
Latin reggae played in the background as the teens giggled and munched on tortilla chips and mini-hot dogs. In between they told stories about their late friend.
The mood fluctuated.
"I would have just worn a simple black dress," Carley said. "But I know Meadow would have argued with me that it would be too plain. Me wearing this pink sparkly thing and me doing my nails the way Meadow would have is my way of making sure Meadow doesn't miss prom," she added, flashing her pearly pink French manicure.
During the final hours of her life, Meadow's mind was on graduation, grad bash and prom. She was going to go shopping that week.
"We talked about it and then she died. Let's change the conversation," Carley said.
Smoky eyes, check.
Extra firm hair spray, check.
Glittery stilettos, check.
But the girls needed more.
Nicolette Miciotta's left shoulder had Meadow's name written in black permanent marker. Next to it, a small crown. On her ankle was Meadow's monogram, and her wrist carried a pink bangle, with Princess Meadow emblazoned across it.
"I refuse to think Meadow isn't here with us. This is how I can have no doubt that she'll get to enjoy her prom night, that she'll get to walk across that stage on graduation and prove everyone wrong. She made it," Nicolette said, clenching a photo of the duo. "We met in seventh grade. She was my first friend."
Meadow's father, Andrew Pollack, watched from afar.
"I could barely get myself to come here," he said, directing his vision toward the wood floors, clasping his drink. "I'm here, though."
Meadow was one to mend friendships. Her glitz-and-glam attitude and passion for working out complemented her honest and quirky personality, her friends said.
"She was the friend you just thought you’d never have, nonetheless lose," Carley's mother, Kellie, said. "She always called herself a princess, and she really, truly was.
"But honoring Meadow didn't stop at jewelry, T-shirts and tattoos. At around 6:30 p.m, a magenta Cadillac pulled up to the home. The windows were covered in fuchsia paint with the words, "We love you Meadow."
Before boarding, Nicolette scrolled through her text message thread with Meadow.
"I talk to her every week or so. I keep her updated," she said, tears cascading down her cheeks. "Updated on life."
She battled with sending her a text at that moment and placed her phone aside.
What remained on the glowing screen was a one-way conversation: "I miss you.
Still hoping for a response I'm not gonna get but I love you. Please come back."