‘Yes.’ I don’t look up from my book as Angela sits next to me.
‘Yes I’ll go to the masquerade ball.’
‘I wasn’t going to ask—’ I look up at her with my oh-really-face. ‘How’d you know?’
‘Because it’s been almost three months since we’ve met, and every time a social event has happened you’ve invited me to it.’
‘But how did you know that’s what I was going to ask you?’
‘Why it’s elementary, my dear Watson.’ I close my book and interlock my fingers. ‘First, the tickets were announced to be almost sold-out last night. Therefore I knew you’d be organising numbers for a bulk purchase, since your payday was three days ago. Secondly, you sent me a text message to ask if I had any plans and wanted to go out on the weekend, suggesting the exact starting time of the ball, 6:30. And lastly, you messaged my girlfriend while we were watching a movie to tell her to meet up tomorrow, to convince me to go. Which would be today.’
Carlie arrives as I finish, sitting next to me.
‘You told him!’
‘Hello to you to.’ Carlie glances between us. ‘Told him what?’
‘About the ball?’
‘No… Wait you know?’
‘I even agreed to go.’
Angela thumped the table. ‘But how did you know?’
‘Carlie, remember you were in the kitchen getting drinks and your phone went off? I thought it was mine, so I picked it up. The conversation was open. I was going to mention it but this was more fun.’
‘Why? What did I miss?’
‘Nothing.’ It was fulfilling to see Angela sulk.
I arrive alone.
I’m standing in a black tuxedo with maroon trimming. It feels strange. I haven’t worn anything like this since formal. My mask has a point that gives me the look of having a small bird beak instead of a nose. And one eye has a red vine-pattern etched around it. Through it I can see the world in a very different light. I’m leaning against the bricks with one leg up, head slightly down so no one recognises me. But I recognise many of them.
Jason, Dame, and Jess walk straight past me. Dame has a black tux and a phantom-of-the-opera-esque mask on except it’s dark purple with a silver outline to match Jess’s dress. Jason has a plain blue mask with a white tux.
‘Fine, ignore me then.’
They all stop and turn stunned; until Jason realises that. ‘Holy crap, Jordan?’
‘Man, I didn’t recognise you!’
‘You could rob a bank with that on!’ Jess seemed impressed.
‘Well isn’t that the point of a masquerade party? To hide in plain sight?’
‘I don’t know about hide,’ Jason holds his hand up for a high five, ‘but you definitely look the part.’
I high five back.
It’s a short wait before Angela arrives on Harry’s arm.
‘What? I don’t tell you everything. Plus he’s really cute!’ followed by Aaron and Carlie.
She is beautiful. Her dress is a vibrant red with white trimmings and she has a glimmering silver necklace. Her hair is swept to one side and her mask is a soft, circular design with bright-red streaks around the edges. She’s always so quiet, so thoughtful, so soft. But now I see her as a vibrant, fiery person. She glides up to me and hugs me, and in that moment, I am both confident and intimidated. More so than I have been in years. She looks so simple, yet…
‘You look astonishing.’
‘You look quite dashing yourself.’
I see a young woman, and she seems lost. Perhaps she is waiting for someone. Perhaps she doesn’t know many people. But I notice her a few times through the night. Always alone, always slightly hunched, as if she is trying to withdraw into herself.
Her dress is black, only covering one shoulder and it seemed to sparkle as she moved. I noticed a few other people looking at her, but no one approached her. Towards the end of the night I see her leaving, and it is then that I get a good look at her mask. It is black, but glittered to match her dress. It covers her eyes, forehead, nose and part-way down her cheeks, with a single, gold teardrop beneath her left eye and feathers fanning out over her right ear. As she leaves she walks slow, as if exhausted. Perhaps tonight was not her scene. I did notice a tattoo on her uncovered shoulder of a teddy bear wearing a knight’s helmet and carrying a sword and shield. Perhaps she is still looking for her teddy-knight. Maybe she came tonight hoping to find him.
I am home now, looking in my mirror. My mask covers my eyes, but not my vision, and I am seeing everyone in a different light. Masquerades let’s people be someone different for a night, but maybe it’s the only time we truly remove the masks we wear all our lives. My mask leaves only my mouth exposed, which is fitting. I tend to hide behind my words when I face people. It’s easy for me. I take off the mask and look at myself in the mirror. I wonder what everyone else sees when they take off the mask. I wonder if they use the mask to expose, or hide what identifies them. Maybe Dame wants to be seen as a part of a couple. Maybe Carlie wants to be seen as the bright, outgoing, loud person that she was tonight.
I pulled my phone from my pocket and opened my contacts. I typed Golden Tear Mask, and sent a message.
And maybe the girl with the golden tear just wanted to make a friend.