I sucked in a breath as Priscilla pulled my corset tighter. The party to celebrate my 21st birthday was in less than an hour and my mother was running around the house like a madwoman. Priscilla pulled again and I was pretty sure I felt my leg go numb.
“Gracias,” I thanked her and stopped her from cutting off my circulation any further. She grabbed my dress off of the form in the corner and handed it to me.
The deep green color of it wasn’t quite appropriate for an April party, but it was my birthday and I’d be damned if I couldn’t wear what I wanted.
I slipped into the dress and studied my reflection. The seafoam green made my skin look golden, and my sun-kissed dark waves framed my face.
You’ll look more mature with your hair up, mija, my mother had commented when I told her I wanted my hair down.
Why you let the sun damage your hair is beyond me, she mumbled as she watched me bask in the sunlight.
I rolled my eyes and the memory and raked my fingers through my hair.
“21 doesn’t look too bad on you,” Dominic said as he stepped into the room.
“Dominic!” I whisper-shouted, “You’re not supposed to be in here!”
“Why? Is it bad luck to see my girlfriend before her party?” He laughed as he shut the door behind him.
Priscilla saw him enter and reprimanded him with a tsk tsk tsk.
“You look beautiful,” he commented as he slipped his arms around my waist.
“Thank you,” I said while straightening his tie. The deep gray suit he wore suddenly made him a million times more attractive, but then again, the fact that he was all mine didn’t hurt either.
When he leaned in for a kiss, Priscilla remarked, “Dios mio. La vas a arruinar, Dominic,” |You’re going to ruin her, Dominic| and left the room.
I laughed and slipped out of his arms, only for him to pull me back.
“Did I already tell you how beautiful you look?” he whispered as he planted kisses on my neck.
“You did,” I said coyly and finished putting my earrings in. “But,” I grabbed his face to stop the barrage of kisses, “we can’t do this right now.”
He huffed and ran a hand through his hair. “Why?”
“Because I have to be at my party...” I reached for his watch, “now.”
Small talk was the soundtrack of the evening, polite conversation covering everything from fashion to literature. Halfway through dinner, my father proposed a toast. “I won’t say much,” he started, “but Mila, estoy orgulloso de la hermosa joven mujer en la que te has convertido, y aún más orgulloso de llamarte mi hija.” |I’m proud of the beautiful young woman you’ve become, and I’m even prouder to call you my daughter.|
Cheers erupted as the guests gulped down their champagne. “To Camila!”
The doors to the library opened up as the band started playing, their music filling the twilight sky. People rushed into the library dancing. Champagne brought life to men and women as they danced freely to the rhythm. My heart synched with the rhythm of the music as Delilah and I danced the night away.
As it got darker outside and the stars began to shine, the music slowed, and couples paired off to dance together.
“May I have this dance?” Dominic asked and stretched out his hand.
The minute I took his hand, he pulled me to him, and we started to sway to the slow jazz.
I placed my head on his chest and listened to the rhythm of his heart.
“Batte per te,” |It beats for you| Dominic leaned down to whisper in my ear.
For all I know, he could have been cursing me in Italian, but his words were so sweet my heart melted.
“Now is probably a good time to tell you I can’t speak Italian,” I lifted my head and looked up at him.
“I know,” he smirked.
We continued to sway to the melody of the music in silence for a while. The sky had turned an inky black as a soft rain began to fall. It was minutes after midnight, and the dance floor began to clear.
While the rain poured and people left, Dominic and I swayed.
While the mixologist packed up and the staff moved the tables inside, we swayed.
Even when the band left, Dominic and I kept swaying to a silent song that was meant for just the two of us.
Everyone had cleared out of the library, as the hands on the clock neared one in the morning.
“I got you a gift,” Dominic said.
“You didn’t have to,” I commented as I looked up at him.
“But I wanted to,” he let go of me and fished something out of his jacket.
In his hand was two pieces of paper.
“Remember when we first met, and you said you’d never been to Italy?”
“You didn’t,” I gasped and stared at the papers in his hand.
“And I said that I wanted to take you?”
I smiled at the memory and waited for him to hand me the papers.
“Well, I got us tickets and -”
I got sick of waiting and wrapped him tightly in a hug. I was so happy I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Dominic laughed and returned my embrace, whispering into my ear, “Happy birthday, Mila.”
I squeezed him tighter and finally let go so he could hand me the tickets. The paper was warm from being stuck in his jacket, and I hugged it tightly.
Happy tears fell as I whispered, “Thank you.”
“Anything for you,” he shrugged with a smile.
The gentle rain had progressed to a steady downpour, and I watched the raindrops hit the window from the floor of my room. I was still glowing with happiness and had tucked the tickets to Italy in my nightstand. It was barely past two in the morning, and everyone else had gone to sleep.
The corset of my dress began to poke me, and I went started to remove it. The ribbons holding me in my dress fell to the floor as I slipped on my deep blue pajama pants and camisole.
I shuffled back towards my bed and tossed all the pillows onto the floor. I thought I heard a knock at the door, so I stopped unmaking my bed and listened.
I heard the knock again, walked to the top of the stairs.
Someone knocked on the door a third time, so I tiptoed downstairs and grabbed the nearest weapon I could find - a book.
The Bible my mother kept on display by the door was heavy in my hand and just enough to knock someone out. Gingerly, I opened the door and saw the forest green eyes I thought I’d never see again.
“No,” I whispered to myself and shut the door. He knocked on the door again, and I started to head back upstairs.
I had way too much champagne, I chuckle to myself and walk up the steps.
“Hello?” Hearing his voice made my blood run cold.
He knocked on the door again and I started to go back towards the door.
Be reasonable Mila, I chided myself and grabbed the Bible again. Bash is dead, you’re seeing things.
Calmed by my rationale, I took a deep breath and opened the door.
“Happy Birthday Mila.”