The cool air that filtered through Vincent's collar was all that kept him from completely melting out of sheer nervousness.
He was finally to meet Andy as he was - a poet and a lover - at their final year's mascarade ball. And he was terrified.
His eyes were locked onto his reflection in the mirror as he pedantically tried to fix up his imaginary imperfections.
Parker was the one to break him free from the confines of his own mind with a hand to his unrest shoulder "It's going to be okay"
"How do you know?" Vince asked, his voice wavering with anxiety.
Parker thought back to years ago now, when a strange man threw him a packet of cigarettes saying that someone could save him. It wasn't long ago, with his arm around his girl's shoulder that he met eyes with that same man, his fingers laced between his wife's, his daughter bounding beside them.
There was a nod shared between the two strangers who changed one another's perspective.
Parker shrugged his shoulder, fixing his tie for just a moment "It always seems to be"
Vincent's jaw almost dropped as his best friend walked outside their apartment, his manor shocking the boy.
It made him smile, those words. Not long enough ago, Parker would have never thought things would be even close to okay.
Vince grinned brightly, leaving their apartment with his mask in hand and running down to his car.
Meanwhile, the vibrant girl he cared so deeply for was bouncing her knee nervously, causing Sloane to roll her eyes for the billionth time as she continued doing Andy's hair.
"For god's sake, how the hell am I supposed to do your hair with all this movement?" Sloane scolded, fiddling with the curling iron that kept bouncing around at Andy's movement.
At the teasing, the red head stopped bouncing her leg, huffing with bright pink cheeks "Shut up, my nervous system is breaking down"
"Calm down for a hot minute, good god" Sloane giggled, her natural laid back style seeping into her mouth. Her nimble fingers - painted golden but covered in paint and ink - twisted Andy's hair into a partial up-do, allowing her length to be shown but her face to be uncovered.
Andy rolled her eyes, folding her arms as she grumbled back to the other girl "You're only so relaxed because you got a quickie before getting ready"
"You know I did" Sloane grinned mischievously, completely unembarrassed about her actions and time well spent with her lover in the previous hours.
Both girls were dressed in dresses fit for models, Sloane was dressed in textured gold. Her spaghetti strap bodice was tight, before the fabric became loose and flowed down her legs. The thigh slit - something Parker had asked for - reached the perfect place, and gave Sloane the confidence she feigned.
Andy's dress was of a deep raven silk, tightly fitted to her delicate frame throughout the whole dress. Strapless, it complimented what she had and what she didn't - something she always wanted, but didn't need. She was beautiful regardless.
Bea wore a vibrant white lace spaghetti strapped dress which complimented her larger bust. Ruched slightly past the bodice, the rest of the dress was just as tight. Her silhouette was that of an angel, her blonde tendrils flying in each step. The partial slit left her looking as if she had the longest legs anyone had ever seen.
They wore their outfits with pride and found themselves behind their coloured masks, until they reached the open doors of their ball.
The three girls entered the hall, the least of all ecstatic being Bea.
Sloane noticed immediately, resting her hand on the honey blonde's shoulder, sympathy arising in her irises "are you okay?"
Bea nodded curtly, a tight-lipped smile on her face "ye-"
Her words were stopped immediately by the girl's cocked eyebrow.
The blonde blew out a breath, thinking of her dreaded ex, and all she had faced in very few years "I learnt a lot here. About myself, about other people. I met my abuse and I fought against it. All that shit i went though, apart from my mother, stops now." Her eyes met Sloane's golden irises beaming back at her with their kind intent, and she didn't really want to speak more. But she admitted what hurt her "it's just scary that I get to be happy with myself now."
Sloane's lips formed into a hopeful smile "Happiness isn't something to fear," she whispered, her eyes following Andy as she left to the outer pavilion she was to meet her admirer at "you only find it at times you don't expect."
The misty eyed girl blinked at her best friend, just as a mysterious man clad in black found his girl in gold.
Vincent watched as Parker's arm wound around his lover, a sweet kiss landing on her cheek.
His lips pursed, jealous of the blush that painted Sloane's soft cheeks, a delicate smile reaching her lips as she kissed the gentle giant beside her quickly.
He wanted that kind of love. Without the work it took for it.
Vince was filled to the brim with anxiety as he turned to Andy's desired meeting point.
He didn't smoke. He never did.
But fuck, if he didn't want to right now, as he saw his singing nightingale perched on the railing of the pavilion - her feathers stolen from a sleek raven to hide her milky skin.
She was watching the artificial stream gush through to the frog pond, thinking about nothing but the prince -or princess, she corrected herself - she wanted so desperately to meet.
Andy's eyes began to prick, the wells which swelled over their edges attempting to leave her irises.
She didn't know why she wanted to cry. She just felt so much.
"My, my, blackbird. You do know that those silks are meant to strangle the men who dare stare, I presume?"
Andy's eyes sparkled as she met Vince's, hidden behind a black mask "You're here" she breathed out in disbelief.
Those sparkling eyes made Vincent feel as if he were going to melt. He managed to keep his cool composure, however, his voice continuing in the slight accent to mask his identity "Where else might I find myself?"
"Wherever you had been"
"Which was wherever you were"
Andy's nose scrunched "Creepy"
"My apologies" Vincent laughed, rubbing the back of his neck "it sounded sexier in my head"
"I'm sure it did"
Andy was taken aback at the stranger. He seemed like Vincent. Same height, build, hair. But his voice was wrong, and so was his stance. He was more confident, less relaxed. She so wished it was Vincent hiding behind the wrong man.
Of course, however, that would be a fairytale. And Andy's life was no teen romance novel.
"I have a question" the words rolled off her lips before she could even think of them.
The boy watched as her fingers tangled within one another, and wish it was his hand in hers "I can imagine you have many"
"Touché," A soft laugh left her glossed lips "But this is my first." She took in a deep breath before she spoke "Why did you start writing to me now?"
He couldn't stop himself any longer, as gently took hold of her small hand, fingers lacing between hers with no argument "I haven't just started, my darling. I have been writing to you since I met you. I only began to give you what I wrote recently. I couldn't help myself, really. With eyes like those and lips the colour of your blush... I had nothing I could do, bar go insane, if I didn't"
Vincent brought the hand up to his lips, placing a gentle kiss before he let her have her hands back. Her lips parted in an unspoken gasp.
"Why not you?"
"I don't know." Andy fiddled with her freshly manicured nails, a lame attempt to not throw her confused fists into her hair and pull each strand out "I just... didn't expect to have a secret admirer is all"
"You haven't seen a true mirror recently, then"
She folded her arms over her chest, quirking an eyebrow "So you're here now. Does that mean you're actually going to show your face to me? Reveal your hidden Bruce Wayne?"
"I thought you might have figured out my identity for yourself by now"
"I'm not the most observant, if you haven't realised"
"Oh, I've noticed. Believe me"
Vincent tilted his head with a playful smirk running across his mouth "Stop what?"
"How am I doing that?"
"I don't know, ugh!" The girl reached behind her own head, untying the mask to let it fall into her hands "Just!- Mask off. Now"
"The anticipation is killing me!"
The masked stranger reached behind his head, pulling the lace ribbon of his mask.
"Wait!" Andy interjected, the idea that her perfect prince charming might not be as charming as she would have hoped getting to her "Do you have one last note for me?"
"I was hoping that maybe I'd be able to describe how your lips felt by the end of this"
Andy's eyes widened, impressed by his boldness "That was so smooth, holy shit"
"Thanks, I've been working on it my whole life"
"Seriously. You've told me you love me. I want to know what it takes for you to write like that"
Vincent hardly had to look at her for a second before words began rushing into his head like floodgates had been released.
He had never voiced his poetry, no matter how much he wanted to. But now, with Andy in front of him, he knew he could.
"She stared into the eyes of a stranger, the stars glistening from the reflection that came from the midnight sky.
It was now the moon that was jealous of the man who stood in front of her, the sun that envied how he could gaze upon her gentle features.
With each flicker of the light between the two the world stood uneasy.
Waiting in baited breath to see how the story would end.
Or how the story would begin"
Silence struck a moment, before a quiet voice interrupted it.
Vincent raised a hidden eyebrow "What?"
"How do you come up with that?"
"I look at you"
Andy stepped forward, her curiosity getting the best of her in the moment that she wanted so desperately to kiss the stranger standing before her.
She reached behind his head, pulling the ribbon as his Adam's apple bobbed up and down from his sheer nervousness.
His masked dropped down from his eyes, falling into her hands.
Vincent stared down at the girl as she held onto the last thing that separated him and his secret.
She had yet to look up.
"You know, it's kind of weird being the only one - apart from you - without a mask at a mascarade"
Hesitantly, her gaze lifted, taking in what she could.
When she met his eyes, no longer covered by shadow, the world stopped.
He, the man she could only have come up with in dreams, was Vincent, the man of her dreams.
Her jaw was slack as her eyes scanned over his features, double checking that this was, in fact, Vincent.
And it was.
In a sudden rush of anger, the fact that he had kept this from her, she raised her hand, slapping him firmly across the cheek.
Vincent, honestly, had expected much worse from the girl.
"Vince, you bitch!" Andy shouted as Vincent kept his face turned away from the girl.
Her heavy breathing slowed as she stared at him "Fuck, loving you sucks"
At her words, she took his face between her hands, smashing her lips into Vincent's.
In that moment of bliss, they were engulfed in the emotions and feeling of holding one another so intimately. It was all they could have asked for - soft lips, blushed cheeks, cool air, gentle moonlight.
With someone they both, truly, loved.
we have only 5 extra chapters to go before Loving Her is finished :)