One By One They Went Away
Pacifica smiled as she looked over the room. It was so full and lively, and everyone seemed to be pretty happy. For once she didn't actually find this thing boring. And despite what she had feared, everyone was getting along. The rich and the poor, all laughing together and having a good time. None of the wealthy people seemed to be holding any animosity... well, except her parents.
She saw them standing not too far off, scowling and looking at the towns people in contempt. They hadn't spoken to her since she'd let everyone in. She bit her lip anxiously, thinking about what they would say when they finally got the chance. Of course, they wouldn't dare make a scene in front of everyone.
That feeling of dread swelled up within her. It formed into a tense ball that sat in her chest, making it feel hard to breathe. Her gut clenched, and she clasped her hands together to stop herself from nervously fidgeting. It would be fine. They'd just yell at her again. And she would go back to her room and pretend like nothing ever happened. The true way of the Northwests.
Gathering her composure before anyone noticed, she looked away from her parents and out at the dance floor. Lots of people were dancing away, some with partners, some by themselves, or in a group. The most noticeable couple was Grenda and Marius. The larger girl was practically dragging him as she swept around the floor. But the both of them had huge smiles on their faces. It was actually quite entertaining to watch, and even made her giggle a little.
Not far away from herself, Dipper, Mabel, and Candy were dancing in a small group. They were doing a lot of weird moves, and not all of them matched up with the music. Mabel looked ridiculous most of the time, but sometimes she would grab her brother's hand and they would do a small dance together. It was fascinating to watch. They didn't seem to have anything planned, and they didn't communicate with each other. They just instantly started doing the dance, as if knowing exactly what the other wanted. It was interesting the way the moved together... It must have been a twin thing.
She felt a little left out and began looking around for her friends, Tiffany and Aubrey. They were nowhere to be seen. Maybe they'd gone home early... She felt herself deflate a little, disappointment welling up in her. She swore those two had some sort of animal instinct. They sensed a storm coming, and decided to get the hell out of dodge. It was a good idea... If only she could actually do it.
Once again she looked out at everyone dancing. It was strange to think that only a few hours ago, a fair amount of these people had been turned into wood. It was almost shudder inducing remembering watching Dipper be changed. His flesh turning to wood, slowly creeping from his legs, up his body, till he was completely lifeless. Fear and agony plain on his face. That was why she had done it. He had believed in her, he saw that she wasn't like her family. And he had given her the strength to defy them. It had been horrible to see it happen... It must have been so much worse for him to have seen it happen to his sister.
“What are you looking for?” a voice said behind her. The sound itself had her panicking for a moment. She whipped around, thankfully only finding Dipper.
“Oh, it's just you,” she said, her sigh of relief sounding slightly bitter out of habit. She saw the look of annoyance on his face and grimaced slightly. “Sorry. I was looking for Tiffany and Aubrey... but I guess they've gone home already.”
“But, aren't they like, your best friends or something?” he asked. “I mean, they follow you around all the time, so... Shouldn't they be here for the ball.”
“There's a bit of a storm coming. They don't like storms.”
“But the weather's meant to be clear all week,” he said in confusion.
She shook her head. “Never mind.”
Dipper looked at her a moment. She seemed downcast, and more quiet than usual. He knew they hadn't always gotten along, but things had changed tonight. He had seen an entirely new side to her, and seeing her like this was actually making him feel bad. “Hey, want to dance?” He held his hand out to her.
Pacifica quirked an eyebrow when she heard what song was playing. Don't Know Why, by Norah Jones. It was more of a slow song. “Can you even dance to something like this?” she teased. Still she placed her hand in his.
“Of course I can,” he said, instantly leading her off on a slow waltz. His arm came up so he was holding her waist, and her other arm automatically found his shoulder. His feet moved and hers followed, perfectly matching it, though she was barely aware of doing so. For a moment she was nonplussed by the movement. He was good... Really good.
“Wh-where did you even learn to dance like this?” she asked, slightly awed. She certainly hadn't expected this out of Dipper Pines.
He just shrugged. “When we were younger Mabel wanted to do ballroom dancing. So naturally I went with her.”
“Do you two just do everything together?”
“Pretty much. We're twins. She's my best friend. Most things we wanted to do together anyway, and the rest our parents made us go with each other. Mabel wanted to dance, I wanted to do boxing. They thought it was a fair trade.”
“So you can both box and dance?”
“Well...” he said, drawing the word out. She got the impression that if his hands were free, he'd be scratching the back of his head nervously. “Not exactly. I can dance, and Mabel can box... Not the other way around.” He gave her a sheepish grin. She smiled back.
She never realised how nice he really was... She probably never knew because she was too busy being horrible to them. She started to feel the guilt slide down her throat like an unpleasant tar. She realised that she didn't want to be that person. The Pine twins were so nice to her, and she wanted to be nice back... they deserved it. But not only that, she didn't want to be who she was. She didn't want to be like her family. She'd always had her doubts about them, always knew that at least part of what they were doing was wrong. But she'd never had the courage to do anything about it. Never been able to stand up to them, but Dipper had showed her that she could do it. She just had to be brave enough.
She looked back to where her parents were, only to see them glaring at her. The lack of air to her lungs happened astoundingly fast, and her head felt a little light. She was going to have to be very brave. Settling with distraction for now, she looked back up at Dipper. At seventeen he was over a head taller than her... not something hard to achieve these days. He had a light little bit of stubble on his chin, and his brown eyes were sparking under the ball lights. He looked nice in the suit she'd lent him, but he did look a little odd without his hat. She was just so used to him wearing it. He was looking over her shoulder, his facial expressions changing a bit every few seconds and she realised he was pulling faces at Mabel. Some sort of silent communication. He looked back down at her and grinned again, albeit a little nervously. As he did, his hair moved about she saw something red on his forehead.
“Hang on, what was that?” she asked curiously.
“What was what?” He seemed a little confused, and tried to follow her eyeline upwards.
“That red mark on your head.”
Hastily he took his hand away from her waist to flatten the hair over his forehead. For a moment he reached upwards, as if to pull the brim of his hat down, only to find nothing. He looked a little dejected at that. It almost made her laugh. “It's nothing,” he said, placing his hand back on her waist. “Just a birthmark. I tend to keep it hidden.”
“Yikes, fair enough. I'm glad that mine is somewhere easy to hide. No wonder you're always wearing that hat.”
“You don't know the half of it.”
The chorus of the music grew louder, then. And the two of them just continued to waltz, listening to the smooth lyrics.
heart is drenched in wine
But you'll be on my mind
Something has to make you run
I don't know why I didn't come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don't know why I didn't come
I don't know why I didn't come
I don't know why I didn't come...'
Slowly the music faded out, and their movements slowed to a stop. Dipper stood back from her and gave and awkward chuckle, scratching at the back of his neck.
“Yeah, so... now you know my secret.”
“Secret?” she said, a little confused. What secret? Did he mean about the journal and all the weird stuff that went on in this town? His birthmark?
“Yeah, that I can dance.”
She smirked. “Out of everything, that's your secret?”
“Well, not one of my biggest ones, but yes. I usually just tell people I don't really dance.”
“Well, you're not horrible at it.”
“Yeah, well, neither are you.”
“Of course I'm not. I used to compete!”
“Really?” he said, sounding delighted and surprised. “Me too!” He seemed to realise what he'd said. “I – I mean...”
She just giggled at him. He seemed so uncomfortable about... well, everything. It was actually kind of endearing... She did not just think that.
Looking about, her face drained of colour. When had the room gotten so empty?! What had once been a full ball room not too long ago, had now dwindled down to the dregs of people. She watched as another couple left, waving a goodbye to the hosts. Since they weren't the towns folk, her parents gave a half hearted wave back. They still didn't look very happy. This wasn't good.
“What's wrong?” She looked up to see Dipper looking at her in concern.
He looked at his watch. “Well, yeah, it's actually past midnight. Some people walked here, so they left a bit early. You really don't want to be out alone at night in this town.”
“Because of all the crazy things here?”
“Yep. Not even I know everything that goes on here. I only have one journal.” She looked at him questioningly. “There's three of them. I have the third one. Gideon Gleeful had the second, but I have no idea where that went. We've never seen the first. And we have no idea who the author is. That's my main priority at the moment. Just... well, the town is so over run by all these creatures I keep getting distracted.”
“I wonder why they suddenly started to show themselves now?” she mused.
“Oh, they've been out and about for years. It's just that no one remembers. Turns out that Old Man McGucket was this brilliant scientist who worked with the author. But he couldn't handle what was going on and built a memory ray. He used it on himself so much that it drove him insane. But he also founded this secret society called The Blind Eye, who basically went around kidnapping people who'd seen something and erasing their memories of it... wonder why they never got me, Mabel, and Grunkle Stan...”
“...This town is messed up,” was all she said in response.
“Hey, Dipper!” Maybel's harsh voice called out. “Grunkle Stan's here to pick us up. He doesn't want us walking home so he came to get all of us.”
“Yeah, okay,” he called back. “Just give me a minute, I need to grab my clothes. You go on ahead.”
“Okay!” She was pretty close by, but that didn't stop the eccentric girl from shouting. She gave her brother a wave before heading out the door with her two equally strange friends.
Dipper turned back to Pacifica. “Um, would you mind telling me where I got changed again.”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “This way.”
She led him out of the main hall and into the corridor. Even though she didn't dare look, she could practically feel her father's glare follow her till she was out of sight. Once she was in the corridor, she visibly relaxed. She knew that being out of his site would do nothing to ease what awaited her, but it made her fell a little better... Well, until she thought about what awaited her, that is.
Her house was huge, but she knew it so well that it wasn't long till they were at the guest room where he'd changed. A butler had neatly folded his clothes and placed them at the end of the bed, his hat sitting atop the pile.
“Um... what should I do with the suit?” he said uncertainly.
“Just throw it in the hamper.” She shrugged. “Or keep it. I don't know, your choice.”
“Okay, thanks. Ah, I think I know my way back from here if you want to go back to the party.”
“Right... Yeah. I should do that...” She paused at the door, then turned back slightly. “Um, Dipper? Thanks. For everything.” She shot him a small, but sincere smile.
“N-no problem,” he stuttered. Okay, maybe it was still a little strange seeing her be this sincere. It was a nice change, but still a little odd. “I'll, um- I'll see you later.”
“Yeah, later...” She forced another smile, then left to let him get changed in privacy.
Since the party was technically still going, she had no choice but to go back to it. It was the polite thing to do, and to be honest, she would only make it worse for herself if she didn't. Walking back she felt like she had a rock sitting in her stomach. It weighed her down, making her moments slow. Her hands were so jittery that she screwed them up in the purple fabric of her dress.
When she reached the ballroom, her heart almost stopped. There were only seven guests left! The room looked fuller than that of course, considering all the staff who were still working away. But she had been trained to look past them, and she knew her parents thought of them as practically non-existent until they wanted something. She saw their head butler, Murphy, standing not far from her parents. Seeing her enter he gave her a sympathetic smile.
Since there weren’t many people left, there was no reason for her to mingle. Instead she stood politely at the edge of the room, making sure she was close to the door. It wasn’t long till Dipper ran out past her, waving a goodbye.
Marius left almost immediately after him. And not long after that the two policemen left, saying that they should patrol the roads and make sure everyone got home safely. Barron Applegate was still talking to her father, but two others walked out the door. Two more. There were only two guests left.
The thought made her stomach churn, and she started to feel sick. Her nerves grew more and more tense as every moment passed. The woman in the fuchsia dress received a call to say her ride was there, then bid them a goodnight, and left. It was getting hard to breathe. She was – she was… she couldn’t breathe. Was she hyperventilating? She was most certainly becoming light headed and things started to spin slightly. She was watching her parents talk to Barron Applegate as if she were staring down a long tunnel.
He gave them a low bow and swept out the door. She flexed her shaking fingers, trying to get rid of the feeling of pins and needles that had crept into them. That was it. He was the last guest. Gone.
Her father walked over to the door and shut it behind the man. Then he went to the side and placed his hand on the lever that she had pulled only a few hours ago.
She couldn’t breathe.
He pushed the lever up. The main gates closed with a resounding thud.