"Look how far we've come." (1)
Ryan climbs out of the car after Ros and April. He holds out his hand, and I take it as he helps me out of our escalade. He then holds out his elbow, and I link my arm around his. The two are already ahead of us, excited to know and see who’s with who, what’s everyone’s wearing and, of course, what surprise is waiting for us mere students. As we make our way to the building, Ryan and I watch April and Ros half-run to the main doors, and his laughter rings out like pleasant Christmas bells beside me. I shake my head because these two are acting unladylike.
As we walked towards the great hall, time seemed to stop because all eyes were on us. Unfazed at the prying stares our fellow schoolmates bore on us, Ryan doesn’t tolerate his friends who are whistling and cheering him on as they look at us. I try my hardest to ignore how deadly the girls’ glare daggers could stab me right here and there. Ryan unlinks his arm from me to pull me closer, resting his warm hand on the small of my back, and I hold my clutch where my phone, touch-up cosmetics and journal are.
The few seconds of useless fame merely fades away as I wait with Ryan in front of the closed, hand-carved, mahogany doors of the great hall, alongside our fellow schoolmates. Ros and April have found some of our classmates who are idling in the courtyard. I notice some of the students are scattered and mingling in there as well. All of us, waiting for the doors to open. We can hear melodious symphonic music from the inside, and lovers start dancing. I giggle at how ridiculous and innocent we all are.
When finally the clock tower chimes at seven, the men in white uniform open the doors, and we see the great hall has transformed into a magical kind of aura. Ryan’s fingers intertwined with mine as we entered alongside our schoolmates. The high ceilings have a ton of hanging fairy lights, and the crystalline chandeliers radiate with a warm, yellow glow. The greyish stone walls are draped with silver and white curtains, and I never noticed the floor, without the usual lunch tables, is white marble, not cobblestones. At the far centre of the hall stands a stage where musicians are playing a slow, violin dominating tune, and in front of it lies the wooden dance floor.
April walks beside me when she spots me in Ryan’s arms. She says Andrew has taken Ros somewhere private, and now she asks us to keep her company. We found a table near the stage where we can dine and rest after dancing. When we sit down, Ryan stays standing.
“Let me get you girls some drinks,” says Ryan and, his lips grazing on the back of my gloved hand. He grins at me before heading to the bar.
April responds, “That would be nice. Thanks, Ryan!” and when he’s gone, her face is so beetroot red, her head could pop as she squeals at me. She then fans herself, laughing. “Is it getting hot in here?”
I laugh at her. “You make it sound like me being with Ryan is a huge thing.”
“Wasn’t it romantic when he showed up at your door to take you to the ball?” She gasps, “You two are the fairy tale couple!!!”
“Fairy tales aren’t real, April,” I say, rolling my eyes at her.
But she ignores me and continues to talk and then wonders how she’s gonna score with Gabriel. I tell her to be brave and ask him later for a dance. Her eyes suddenly widened at my suggestion, and she protested that she couldn’t do that.
“Then how are you gonna attain your own ‘fairy tale’ story if you just sit here with me for the rest of the evening, hm?” I sarcastically say.
She huffs and puffs.
I take her hand. “April… You will never get over the what-ifs in the future if you don’t do something about it now.” I watch her avoid my eyes. “Look, I will go with you when you ask Gabriel to dance later, okay?”
She smiles gratefully at me. “Thank you, Mari,” but then she sighs. “Yeah, you’re right. I forgot you grew wisdom instead of a lump when the chair hit your head.”
We laugh as we wait for Ryan. I observe the room, and all I can say is that being here feels so elegant. The linens on tables are draping in white laces, and on the centre of it is a cluster of arranged flowers in a beautiful vase. On each set of service china plates, a boutonniere in a flower tube is placed. The chairs also are blanketed in white drapes. I notice the musicians are wearing the trends of the Edwardian era. And then it hits me; this was the event in my dream before I realized that I am in the past.
Before I could think further of how I’m gonna play out the last few hours I have left, I feel a warm hand tapping on my shoulder to catch my attention. I turn around to see who it might be and smile at the sight of the one I’ve always wished to see.
Looking dapper in his tuxedo coat with satin, stripe, flat-front trousers, white, plain front, wingtip collar dress shirt with white cuffs links, white vest, and white bow tie, Nate has a heartfelt smile plastered on his face as I look up at him.
“Wow, Mariana, you look divine.”
I could feel April’s boring a hole in the back of my head as she watched me talk with Nate. I blush and hide it while giggling as I hit him lightly on his arm. “Don’t be silly, you tuna melt!”
He takes his silky top hat off and runs his hand on his pomaded, pushed back fawn hair. With another dazzling smile, he says to April, “She always calls me names.”
She giggles and is slightly surprised at how open Nate has become because she gives me a side look. My eyebrows arch at her as I watch her contemplate whose side is she on, Nate or me, Mariana, her best friend. She shrugs as a reply to him.
I roll my eyes, shaking my head with a smirk. “Does it make you feel special?”
“Certainly, um, you English Brit?” he tries.
April laughs beside me. “That is so redundant, Nate!”
We burst out laughing, and I try to compliment him back, but he looks away, and this time, I watch his cheeks redden. He places down his top hat on the table and decidedly to sit with us, I hope! I see Ryan makes a beeline towards us, balancing three flutes of mocktails.
“Oh, bro, I didn’t know you’re gonna sit here with us. I would’ve gotten a drink for you too,” says Ryan as he sets down the glasses on the table. He gives April a drink, and she murmurs her thanks. Ryan hands me the glass. And then he gives the other to Nate but refuses to take it.
“It’s okay, Ryan, thanks but, I’m gonna grab one,” he says. “Excuse me for a while.”
Ros and Andrew walk hand in hand towards our table and blushes as April teases them. Ryan leans closer to me, bemused, to ask in a whisper what was going on between them. Happily, I spill him the tea, but Ryan seems distracted when I look deeply into his expression.
I caress his arm. “Hey, is there something wrong?”
Before he could say anything, Nicole, Kayla and Paul head to our table. Paul asks, “Are these seats taken?”
Ros answers. “No, go ahead!”
I shoot her a look, but she doesn’t notice. Then Jason and Jared sit next to Andrew and Paul! Now there’s no seat for Nate! I look over my shoulder to search for him, and I see him holding a glass, walking towards our table. When he looks over and sees the table is full, his smile falters for a bit but puts on the façade again when he reaches us. He gets his top hat from my sight.
“I’ll catch you guys later!” he says and raises his glass.
Jared speaks to Ryan. “Mate, why are you hanging out here with us freshmen?”
Jason laughs. “Yeah, dude,” then he nudges his brother. “Nah, bro, he’s here with our Princess Mariana, don’t question the Man!”
The table laughs as I stare in disbelief at Nate as he walks towards his friends on the other side of the freaking hall! I sip the mocktail Ryan gave and the taste of raspberry and mint with a lime splurge in my palette. I take another sip.