Soundtrack: Starry Eyed, Ellie Goulding
My bedroom door creaked open, but I ignored it and brushed my mascara wand across my eyelashes one more time before tucking it back in the tube.
“Oh-em-gee, Katie, you look amazing! Like a real faerie princess,” Maya came to my side at the vanity mirror and gingerly fingered the gauzy shimmer lace layered over my silk bodice. Her aquamarine mermaid costume, complete with matching demi-mask, was equally as shimmery and far more revealing than my own silver and lace, floor-length gown. The sea-inspired blue color was a perfect complement to her olive skin tone and waist-length, auburn curls. Her look was exotic where mine was fair, and our personalities were just as polar as our looks.
Maya had been my closest friend since we were babies, and I was thrilled to have her at my party, and helping me to get ready for it, too. But, even after all these years, it still drove me a little nuts when she started a conversation with oh-em-gee.
“Thanks. You look great, too.” I stood up from the vanity and made for my walk-in closet to grab my shoes. The clear heels coated with a light dusting of silver glitter had been a last minute, but much needed addition to my costume. I claimed them from the top shelf of my shoe rack and carefully slipped my feet into them. “Ready?” I asked Maya as I emerged from my closet.
“Ready,” she agreed and linked her arm in mine. On my way to the door, I reached out with my free hand and grabbed my mask from the vanity. The shimmery, silver number was barely big enough to cover my eyes and would do nothing to hide my identity. It was purely for show. I couldn’t attend my own masquerade party without a mask. With Maya’s arm still looped through mine, I managed to tie the ribbons together behind my head, securing the mask in place over my eyes without even messing up my hair.
By the time we made it to the landing at the top of the stairs, my arm was starting to sweat where Maya’s touched it, and I was trying to think of a polite way to extricate myself from her hold. “This is going to be so much fun,” I told her, pulling my arm out of hers and clapping my hands together. Then I set both hands on the banister and leaned over to survey the foyer below.
At the bottom of the stairs, partygoers were already milling about, moving from one downstairs room to another, exploring. Still more guests were arriving—some servant, or caterer, or whatever, I didn’t recognize was opening the door every few seconds it seemed like, to allow another group to enter.
“Hey hey, beautiful!” Brad’s voice sounded from somewhere behind me.
I closed my eyes and counted to three, hoping that when I opened them and turned around, Brad wouldn’t be there. Maybe if I wished hard enough, he wouldn’t even be here at the party. Inviting him had been a mistake. I knew that when I did it, but even if I hadn’t invited him, he would have come anyway. Brad was like that, too cocky to realize when he wasn’t wanted. And he definitely wasn’t wanted. If I could have been rid of him completely when we broke up however many months ago, I would have been perfectly happy. But I just couldn’t seem to shake him.
Sure enough, when I turned around, there he stood, dressed as a vampire, complete with fake blood at the corners of his mouth. “Brad. You do know it’s a masquerade right?”
“Chyeah, totally. That’s why I’m wearing this costume.” He posed proudly, voguing the way he must think a vampire would with hands on hips, feet askance, and fangs showing.
What did I ever see in him?
“Ooh, who is that?” Maya’s question drew my attention away from my mistake of an ex-boyfriend and toward the front door. The guy standing in my foyer hadn’t drawn only Maya’s attention, but also the attention of several of the other kids loitering in the entryway. And with good reason. He was dressed head to toe in black, from his scuffed motorcycle boots to his black denim pants to his black T-shirt under a black leather jacket. And he’d topped it all with a black motorcycle helmet, aviator sunglasses, and a black half-mask over his mouth. He was impossibly tall and lanky, but his lean build didn’t make him any less imposing. His look, his whole countenance was both alluring and dangerous at the same time.
“So, babe, when’s the music going to start? I’m saving my best dance moves for you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Later.” I waved him off like a pesky mosquito and made for the stairs, making sure to place each step carefully, with purpose. A few minutes ago, my heels had seemed so perfect; now they seemed ridiculous because they were keeping me from getting downstairs to figure out who this mysterious bad boy was.
I kept my eyes glued to him as I descended, and my heart sank when he started toward the great-room-turned-temporary-ballroom. A quick scan of the room ahead of him proved that it was already overcrowded. If he made it in there before I could get to him, it would take me quite some time to find him again. I picked up the pace, practically racing down the final few steps. On the last one, my right heel caught in the hem of my gown. I grabbed tight to the banister and lifted my foot to remove my heel from my dress.
By the time I’d extricated my foot from the lace, my mystery guest had disappeared into the crowd beyond the foyer.
“Hey, Katie! Great party,” Amanda Simpkins sidled up to me and wrapped me in a hug. Her too-large nest of teased red curls tickled my nose in an unpleasant way, smothering me with the scent of too much hair product. “Happy birthday, Bestie!”
Bestie? We were barely friends. She must have been trying to impress whoever she was with. I didn’t bother trying to figure out who she was trying to dazzle. Instead, I pulled out of her hug, patted her on the shoulder and took off for the ballroom, dodging other partiers on my way there.
The room was even more crowded than I’d thought; I realized that as soon as I stepped through the arched entry. I skirted friends and acquaintances, stretching to see over their heads. Anything to possibly catch a glimpse of my mysterious biker. When did I start thinking of him as my biker?
It didn’t matter. I’d lost him.
I gave up my search and wove my way through the mob of dancing teenagers toward the edge of the room. They were suffocatingly close, and I needed space right then. The party had only just started, and already I needed fresh air. When I turned back to face the room, I spotted Brad and Maya both standing at the doorway to the foyer scanning the room for me.
I ducked out onto the terrace before they spied me.