It was eight P.M. when I finished getting ready.
Through the window, I could see the sun setting over the beautiful lake.
The sounds of chatter coming from the living room broke my staring contest with the view, so I walked down the stairs to join my roommates.
I beamed at the sight of Rose and Kira posing, each one of them taking the perfect picture of the other. Kira was wearing a long silver dress that floated around her like a cloud. Its top was see-through and made of lace, covered in beautiful swirly patterns all the way from the neck to the long sleeves. The bottom was slightly darker satin, with snowflakes sewn to perfection all over it. Her blue hair was tied in two braids crossing over her head like a crown, little sparkly pins embellishing it. In her hand she held an ice blue lace mask with tones of silver all around the edges, and I grinned as I recalled what I thought when I first saw her this morning. She truly was a fairy.
As for Rose, she wore a gorgeous white saree. The top was sleeveless and covered in hints of golden glitter. The bottom of the skirt was covered in golden roses, shimmering under the lights. Her long black hair was draped proudly over her shoulder, and the contrast between her light gown and her dark hair made her look heavenly. Her mask was set on the table behind her, and keeping to the gold theme, it was a laser cut mask with patterns of golden roses.
“Oh my, Lilith! You look fantastic!” Rose exclaimed as she saw me, her bright smile never leaving her face.
“Not nearly as breathtaking as you look.” I replied.”You both look incredible.”
“That dress was truly made for you!” Kira nodded in approval.
“Thank you! Shall we go then? We don’t want to be late.”
“Oh it never hurts to be fashionably late my dear.” Kira smirked. “Besides we can’t possibly leave without taking a picture of us together looking all glamorous.” She grabbed her phone and ushered for me and Rose to join her.
“I have a better idea!” I smiled at the girls. “I’ll be right back.” I headed back up the stairs to my room and rummaged through my backpack. When I found what I was looking for I hurried back to the girls who were waiting around, a puzzled look on their faces.
“A Polaroid camera?” Kira asked the moment she saw the baby blue camera I was carrying.
“A selfie is good and all, but I find Polaroid pictures to be unique. Also they are a little harder to misplace than cell phones and I’m trying to avoid any accidents.” I swallowed as I remembered the fire I started back home.
“Alright then, let’s immortalize this moment.” Rose cheered, squeezing between Kira and I and smiling for the camera. Seconds later we huddled around the picture and watched as the details came slowly into focus. Bright smiles, sparkling gowns and excited eyes stared back at us from the tiny picture and the three of us sighed in satisfaction.
The distant humming of music reached my ears before I could spot the ballroom. We walked for a little over five minutes, the sound of our heels on the stone paths masked by our loud laughter. Dozens of students walked by in their fancy tuxedos and shimmering dresses, creating a rainbow of colors under the bright moonlight. Halfway through however, I noticed the nudging and whispering that took place this morning when I first got to school resumed. Girls and boys alike would stare at me for long period of times; confusion and shock clear on most of their faces. I was beginning to feel anxious all over again, wondering what was so wrong with me that it would elicit such reaction from the students here at Lixierra. But soon enough I pushed all those thoughts and questions aside. Here I was, on my first day at a new school, heading to a masquerade in a gorgeous dress and two new friends that were nice enough to take me in so soon. Why would I let high school gossip ruin my night? Determined to have a great time, I put the mask I was holding in my hand over my eyes. If I couldn’t avoid gossip, I could avoid being recognized at least for now.
At last, the ballroom came into view and a small gasp escaped my lips. Like everything else at Lixierra, the building was exquisitely large and beautifully executed. It was both baronial and modern at the same time, made out of large stones in a cream color separated by floor to roof glass windows. A few marble steps led out to the entrance of the ballroom, which was made up of a giant smooth wooden door with carvings all over it. Upon a closer look I realized those carvings were all over the walls as well, and that they were symbols of the elements. Fire, water, air and earth, in recognition of the magic surrounding all of us at Coleste.
Inside, the room looked even more astonishing. True to the theme, the ballroom looked like a scene from an old movie, engulfed in black and white. The whole place shimmered as the gold fairy lights that hung everywhere cast their light on the black tablecloths. White roses were set as centerpieces on every table, surrounded by expensive china that glowed under the light from the candles. The high ceiling was covered in crystal chandeliers, chiming as the wind caressed them every time a breeze entered the room. White rose petals covered the entrance from the floor all the way to the stage where a number of violinists and a piano player were bringing to life a sweet melody. The center of the room was clear, no doubt a space for dancing, and already people were shuffling towards it, embracing each other and moving swiftly to the beat of the slow music. Waiters holding trays of Champagne moved through the crowd of black and white costumes, smiling as they offered the drinks.
“Champagne?” I asked, looking at Kira in astonishment. The event might not seem like it was a high school dance, but distributing alcohol to minors felt wrong even for supernatural creatures.
“Fancy isn’t it?” she smirked. “Alcohol doesn’t affect mystics they way it affects humans. It dulls out our magic a little but that’s about it. Enjoy my dear.” She waved her hand dismissively and reached for a glass of champagne as a waiter passed by. Rose grabbed two glasses, handed one to me with a smile, and clacked her glass with Kira’s and mine. “To new experiences!” She cheered.
I was about to decline, argue that I didn’t want my first drink to be a glass of champagne on my first day of school and that I wasn’t even sure that I was a mystic that will not be affected like the rest of the attendees, but something inside of me twisted and I kept quiet. I had no idea if this truly was my first drink. What if the girl I used to be two years ago had already had her first drink? And although I had no recollection of my life, somehow standing here with Kira and Rose cheering and sipping champagne felt very familiar. Ever since I stepped foot in Lixierra, beyond the feelings of stress, anxiety and fear, under all of that I couldn’t help but feel like I somehow belonged in this world. I might not know who I am or what I am capable of, I might not understand these magical powers that have appeared out of nowhere one night and I might even doubt myself and everything I know or don’t know, but I have always trusted my guts. Meeting the girls, seeing this place, I felt comfortable. I felt right at home.
“Oh, food!” Rose’s clapping pulled me out of my reverie and I laughed as she grabbed me and Kira by the arms and dragged us towards an open buffet. My mouth watered as I gazed upon the wide selection of delicacies provided on the beautifully decorated tables. From sweet to savory to foods I didn’t even recognize, it was obvious to me that mystics didn’t play around when it came to social events. I didn’t even realize I was hungry until my nostrils were invaded by the different exquisite smells emitting from the tables. On one side, I noticed perfectly roasted ducks glazed with orange and honey, baked coconut shrimp, garlic Rosemarie pork tenderloin, Caprice skillet chicken with avocado, and a variety of salads ranging from the quinoa to the Greek to the vegan. On the other side of the buffet the caterers arranged the sweet dishes and desserts in a matter that made every single one of them look more appetizing than it already was. A myriad of cakes were displayed: chocolate, red velvet, cheesecake, fruit cake and cupcakes with colorful frostings and sprinkles. Glazed donuts covered in gold specks sparkled under the fairy lights and a fountain of chocolate stood at the centre of the table surrounded by plates of cookies, strawberries and marshmallows.
I was lost in the infinite number of choices, unsure what to try first, when a husky voice grabbed my attention.
“Nice mask!” I looked up to see a tall boy wearing what seemed to be a very expensive tuxedo. His black hair was styled in a messy just-out-of-bed way and his dark brown eyes sparkled under his mask. His plum rosy lips were parted in a warm smile and his long lean fingers were toying with a strawberry.
“Thank you!” I gave him a smile while my mind strained to remember where I’ve seen his mask before. My eyes widened as a bolt of recognition struck through me.
“You have the other half!” I pointed at his mask then mine, remembering the lady at the shop telling me that my mask came with a male one, that they were a couples’ masks.
“I do!” a soft, melodious laugh escaped his lips and I felt a warm tingle run through my whole body. It sounded like angles singing in heaven, like a melody I’ll never tire of listening to, and I immediately started to question my sanity as the intensity of my feelings towards I guy I have just met dawned on me. What the hell was wrong with me today?
“The phoenix is a great choice! You must be a fire mystic.” His warm smile never left his face as he extended an arm towards me. “I’m Chase, nice to meet you!”
“Nice to meet you too, Chase!” I took his hand and was surprised at how warm it felt in mine. “I’m Lilith.”
“Have we met before?” He tilted his head slightly to the side, as if straining to remember a long lost memory.
“I don’t think so, I’m new here.” I gave him a smile, silently praying he hadn’t heard about me or my ‘condition’.
“Oh so you’re a freshman here?” He asked, mirroring my smile.
“Not exactly…it’s a long story.” I cleared my throat. I was trying so hard to have a good time so I didn’t want to get into the whole thing again. Not to mention that I didn’t really know this guy. One could argue that I didn’t really know Kira and Rose either but the girls already knew my whole story so it wasn’t as hard to befriend them. Thankfully, he didn’t press the matter any further. Instead he just said:
“I’d love to hear it someday.”
“There you are!” Kira’s voice interrupted us before I could answer him, and I turned around to see a weird look on her face. “I look away for one minute and you stray away. Come on, I’ve found our table.”
“Hello Kira, it’s nice to see you again.” Chase looked at the blue haired girl, a bright smile drawn on his rosy lips.
“Hey Chase, it’s good to see you too.” Kira’s smile wasn’t as genuine as his. If anything, she looked tense.
“For a new girl, you seem to have made some great friends so soon.” His words were directed to me this time and I wondered how well he knew Kira.
“I guess I’m really lucky.”
“Say Chase,” Kira spoke up, “where is your ‘better half?’ She threw the quotes in the air and rolled her eyes.
“She is still getting ready. You know Catherine; she likes to make an entrance.” Chase’s smile wasn’t as bright this time and the spark I saw in his eyes earlier seemed to disappear so suddenly.
“Speak of the devil, the drama queen is here.” Kira let out with a smirk and we all turned to the door.
A sudden silence spread over the ball room for a few long seconds as a tall, lean figure appeared in the front door. As everyone took in the view in front of them, the silence turned into loud whispers and oohs and ahs could be heard all across the room. The girl that stood before us was deserving of the attention she received from the crowd. When everyone was wearing black and white, her thin body was wrapped around in a silky, form fitting red dress, with a plunging neck line and a high slit on the left side that showed off her long, milky leg. Her icy blue eyes shone through her red mask and her pouty lips were pressed together in a smirk. She had long golden locks that were draped on her bare back and her high nude heels matched her tiny purse. She looked around the room, an air of confidence surrounding her as if she knew that she owned the crowd, and her eyes finally landed on our small group. She strutted towards us, every step she took looked so effortless, almost like she was floating, and I couldn’t help but feel a little pinch of jealousy. If what kira insinuated earlier was true, this girl –Catherine- must be Chase’s girlfriend. As soon as she reached us, she wrapped her arms around Chase and gave him a peck on the cheek, leaving a red lipstick mark on his glossy skin. Together, they were the poster image of a perfect couple. Two incredibly good looking people standing side by side, giving off an aura of poise and grace, basking in the attention they got from the rest of the student body. As I looked around and noticed how everyone was now staring at our little gathering, a lump formed in my throat and my heart started to race. Clearly, I did not like being the center of attention. Admittedly no one was looking at me since all eyes were on the beauty in red, still I was self conscious and awkward and I hadn’t exactly been flying under the radar here at Lixierra. The realization that the only people I knew here seemed to be the “It crowd” dawned on me, and as much I wanted to blend in with the cool kids, I couldn’t help but feel anxious, stressed and afraid. Something deep inside of me made it extremely hard for me to trust people, hell it was even harder to trust myself.
How could you trust someone you didn’t even know?
“Hello Kira.” A sweet, low voice pulled me out of my daze and I looked back at the small circle I stood in. Catherine was the one who greeted Kira, her small smile strained and unfriendly.
“Catherine.” Kira nodded, as every bit as cold as the girl in red. “I see you didn’t bother to stick to the theme of the ball. Again.”
“As I always say, why blend in when you can stand out?” Catherine let out a small melodious laugh that would have made anyone fall for her if it wasn’t so obviously fake. The tension between the two girls was so clear I wondered if the whole room felt it too and I went back to wondering about what possibly could have happened between these two to cause such palpable detestation.
“And who is this?” Catherine’s tone suddenly changed as she looked me up and down and took in the distance between me and Chase. To anyone else we looked completely normal, just a couple of people chatting by the buffet, but the look on Catherine’s face and the icy glare she gave me determined that I was overstepping my boundaries.
“This is Lilith.” Chase introduced me with a soft smile. “She is new here.”
“And why are we slumming it with a freshman?” The disdain in her voice ran through me like a dozen sharp knives. “Run along little girl, the new kids sit over there.”
“Catherine!” Chase gave her a fiery glare, disapproval showing on his features.
“Why don’t you tone it down there, Ice queen?” Kira stepped forward, narrowing the distance between her and Catherine and crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Last time I checked, you didn’t own this school. Besides, Lilith is not a freshman, she is a senior and she has as every right to be here as you.”
“A senior?” The daggers she was shooting at me from behind her mask momentarily faltered as a baffled look came over her face. “She can’t be new here we don’t exactly take transfer students.”
“For the love of Magic, Catherine just stop. You’re making a scene.” Chase rolled his eyes, exasperation dripping from his voice, He pulled back from her, slowly removing the hand that was around his waist and dropping it. The mood suddenly shifted and I didn’t want to stick around for what seemed to be a lovers’ quarrel about to erupt.
“Let’s just go Kira.” I pulled my friend’s arm and tugged slightly at her sleeve. She broke off the ongoing glaring contest she had with Catherine and finally looked at me.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
“It was nice to meet you Chase.” I offered him a smile and watched as his deep brown eyes went from pissed off to confused and then brightened up. For a second I wished he would take that mask off so I could take him all in, but I brushed that thought aside as I walked away with Kira towards a smiling Rose.
“That was… interesting.” I said as we sat down at our table. It was surrounded by several other empty tables and I noticed that pretty much everyone else was either dancing or chatting by the buffet like we were. I gave a last glance to where we stood only a few seconds earlier and I noted with a heavy heart that Chase was gone. I couldn’t fathom how those two were a couple. Granted I didn’t know them very well, but from our brief time together it seemed like Chase and Catherine were very different people.
“What happened?” Rose asked as she took a small bite out of a golden glazed donut. She had several plates in front of her and I couldn’t help but notice that she had gotten at least one plate from every dish at the buffet. For a tiny girl she seemed to have a big appetite.
“Lilith had an encounter with the Evil Queen herself.” Kira scoffed at the nickname, frustration all over her face as she took off her mask and threw it on the table in front of her.
“Already?” Rose laughed. “I figured we’d have a few days before you had to meet her.” She smiled at me apologetically.
“So did I, but our sweet Lilith here was cozying up to Chase. It was only a matter of time, really.” Kira gave me a quizzical look, like she disapproved of my behavior.
“I wasn’t cozying up to him! He complimented my mask, that’s all. What’s the big deal?” I mindlessly touched my mask.
“Catherine is the big deal.” Rose explained. “She is crazy jealous and very protective of what’s hers. And unfortunately for the rest of the girls at this school, Chase falls under that category.” She sighed wistfully and I would have laughed at the dramatic moment if I weren’t confused and slightly pissed off.
“But nothing happened!” My tone was louder than I expected it to be and I wondered what was fueling this sudden rage. “We literally just talked for a minute.”
“Just do us all a favor and stay away from him, will you?” Kira put her hand over mine, eyes pleading. “It’s just not worth the fuss.”
“I agree.” Rose nodded. “Especially with the way you look.”
“Rose!” Kira snapped.
“What do you mean the way I look?”
“Never mind her.” Kira looked back at me. “Just drop it okay? It’s not a big deal.”
“Please?” she pleaded and I had no choice but to keep quiet. I didn’t know what to do; on one hand these two were my only friends here and I was very grateful to have found them so soon, but on the other hand I can tell that they are keeping a secret from me. What was it that Rose said? Especially the way I looked? What was wrong with me that they desperately needed me to stay from Chase? I needed to figure this out soon.
“Would you like to dance with me?” Rose pulled me out of my reverie as she extended both arms towards me and Kira. “Come on, everybody else is, it’s about time we start having some fun.
With a smile, Kira and I got up and headed to the dance floor.
The ball went on into the late hours of the night. It took me a few minutes to get over the Catherine encounter, but as soon as I put that aside I started having the time of my life. Kira, Rose and I danced all night, bathing in the euphoria of the magical atmosphere, each others’ company and the buzz of the champagne. The food was as every bit as delicious as it looked and Rose took it upon herself to get Kira and me to try everything on the menu. We gladly munched on our food as we danced awkwardly around the buffet and our table, hurrying to get back on the dance floor and sway the night away. I was genuinely surprised to find myself enjoying my time, not worrying about other people watching or judging me, not stressing about school or magic or the fact that I was literally pushed into a world I knew nothing about. It all seemed irrelevant at that moment as time froze, and all that existed was me and my friends, the sound of the smooth music and the flashes of black, white and gold as we swirled around.
We left the ball room at around 2 in the morning, giggling all the way back to our house. Rose was skipping along the brick pathway- the only one of us who kept her heels on- and she would laugh every time she thought the sound her heels made against the stones resembled a popular song. Kira and I were holding our shoes in our hands, too tired to care where we step, and our long dresses proved difficult to maneuver. Kira kept yelling at her dress, calling it names and threatening to tear it apart every time she tripped on the hem. The scene was hilarious, made even funnier by the fact that we were completely alone as everyone else either left the party a long time ago or were still dancing inside.
We finally made it back home and Rose and Kira decided to head straight to their rooms, crashing on their beds and surrendering to blissful sleep without even bothering to take their dresses off. I guess they were a bit more influenced by tonight’s drinks than I was, as I tried my best not to drink too much because I wasn’t sure how it would affect me. I might be having fun, but I was still the same ball of anxiety and insecurities. Following the girls, I went up to my room and closed the door. But instead of falling right asleep I grabbed my phone and called my mom. She was still up, waiting for my call. I let her know I was fine and that I was onto her little trick. She laughed and said that if she had told me about the ball beforehand I would have made up an excuse and went to school the day after. I started to say that she was wrong but instead I laughed because deep down I knew she was right and the fact that she knew me that well warmed my heart. We said our goodnights and I love yous and I hung up, changed in my pajamas and went to bed.