“That’s it! I’m taking off these odious creatures!” I fumble to reach for the steel railings for support while I kick the monsters off.
Daphne gasps in horror, “What are you DOING? And you don’t call a pair of elegant black high-heels monsters! Do you even realise how ugly that sounds!”
I scoop up the pair of high-heels and begin walking away, “Get in first. I’ll find you later. I need to get my flats.”
Daphne places her hands on her hip disapprovingly, “This is a masquerade ball, Sandy. Masssss….kerrrr……red, I repeat. You don’t wear flats to massss…..kerrr….red balls.”
I pull down my silver mask and counter, “No one will know it’s me anyway.” I don’t bother to see Daphne’s reaction. I turn my back to her and tiptoe back down to our car, the coarse gravel biting on my poor feet.
By the time I’ve made it into the ballroom, I don’t even have the time to scan the crowds for Daphne, I’m a little too keen on holding my breath as I gawk at the decorations and food and the photography booth, where people are posing for pictures.
This paradise can’t be a part of our school.
I shake my head and tear my marvelling gaze away. I look down at my black flats. Couldn’t be as bad as Daphne had made it sound, right? I mean, at least I’m wearing a dress, and I hate dresses. I’ve made a monumental sacrifice.
I look around, taking in the trays of tarts on the table, and just when a grin is slowly making its way across my face, someone squeals in my ear. I yelp and freeze for a good while, my grin probably already contorted into something else. What the heck.
Daphne squeals again, her fist in the air.
“You just damaged my eardrum, you realise that?” I glare at her, trying my best not to yell.
Daphne makes a grip for my arm, “Guess who got Gregory’s number!”
I roll my eyes, struggling to get my arm out of her deadly clutch, “The whole school’s got his number since last month, Daphne.”
She loosens her grip and her smile drops, “How? And how is it possible I didn’t know this before?”
I start making my way to the refreshment table while Daphne clings to my side desperately. “It was recess time, and Gregory stole my chips. I was angry, so I got his sidekick buddy to blab out his phone number before I posted it on our school’s Facebook page.”
Daphne drops her jaw.
I grin, “It went viral. It was the first time I got three thousand likes!” I hold up a finger and correct myself, “Three thousand and still counting.”
Daphne stops walking and crosses her arms, “You didn’t tell me.”
I shrug and reach out for the egg tarts when I’m near enough, “You were absent for the whole week that time, remember? Guess it slipped my mind. Plus, it’s the diminutive unimportant Gregory, not Dave Franco.”
Daphne drops her arms angrily and grabs at the tart, before shoving the whole thing into her mouth as if the others around aren’t watching her, which in fact, they ARE.
The tart is that good. I’m on my third round when the lights suddenly go out. Yeah, it simply went out, they didn’t dim it down slowly like you saw in the movies. Welcome to our school. Now we couldn’t even move a muscle in this stupid darkness since not even a silhouette could be seen. And you wouldn’t want to bump into random people and make enemies, which I did last year. I’d accidentally jabbed a spoonful of ice cream onto Gregory’s suit.
A woman’s voice comes from the speakers, “Sorry about this. As you know, students, this is a ritual for the opening of our annual masquerade ball.”
I frown. Opening? Daphne and I have already chowed down a tray of tarts.
The woman continues, “And you may or may not have heard about the new game this year. We call it Stardust.”
I roll my eyes and stick out my tongue.
“The minute the lights go back on, you’ll see bowls of glitters on the corner tables, and from those, choose only one colour….”
Daphne nudges my side and gushes, “Oh this is gonna be fun.”
The woman takes on a mysterious tone, “And when you’ve picked the colour you want, dip your finger into the bowl and smudge the glitters onto your cheek.”
“What?” I wrinkle my nose.
Murmurings start to grow louder until the woman interrupts again, “Students! Let me finish first… so it’s pretty simple, you choose a colour, smudge it onto your cheek, AND….this is where the fun begins- you start looking for your partner for tonight’s dance.”
Loud conversations break out everywhere and the woman’s voice is buried for a moment. “Let. Me. Finish!”
The woman exhales into the mic, “Yeah. Hold your horses, hyped up youngsters. Listen! So you go hunt for your partner….”
I scowl at the word ‘hunt’.
“….based on the colour of glitter you chose. You only get to choose once. You can’t change your choice of colour and you can only have one colour. Get the rules and all?”
One of the boys asks, “Partner for tonight’s dance?”
“Basically your partner for tonight’s ball,” the woman answers, and the boy whistles. I could almost bet my bank account that it was Gregory’s voice.
Daphne squeaks from beside, “Lights on, lights on, come on.”
The lights come, and students start pushing their way to the corner tables while I stand rooted to the same spot, weighing my options. Black must be the least chosen colour of all, right? Yeah I’ll take black. Wait, no, black is a trendy colour, so no. Red? I shiver at that thought. No, I’d look like a Red Indian. Uh-uh. Yellow? Or-
“What are you doing? Go grab your colour glitters!” Daphne yanks on my arm, dragging me behind her while she pushes the people in front to make line for the bowls. She’s acting like a mother bear, I notice.
In the end, I decide to go with pink. That woman made it sound like there are going to be at least ten bowls of different colour here when the fact is, you only get to choose from four. Blue. Black. Pink. And green.
“Sandy, you gotta go with blue! This is common sense, hot guys always pick blue,” Daphne says while smudging a line of blue glitters onto her right cheek.
I smear the pink glitters onto my left cheek, “That’s the problem. I don’t wanna get partnered up with some snobbish, chauvinistic, hot guys tonight. I’d rather meet nerdy cute guys.”
I don’t think anyone would go with girlish pink. I’d be safe for now.
Music starts playing and the woman announces the start of her so-called partner hunt. Daphne has pulverized into the crowd that very moment, leaving me alone beside the bowls of glitters.
My eyes scan the crowd. Daphne was right, most guys have picked blue, followed by black. Green is rare. And pink, nada. Girls on the other hand…..mostly blue and black. I don’t even get a glimpse of pink.
Daphne is at the far side of the dance floor, with a towering muscular guy smiling down at her. She snaps her head around and finally found my gaze. She throws me a helpless look and I couldn’t help but laugh at her expression. Good luck with that, Daphne.
I continue to smirk at her until I notice the figure walking towards me. Gregory. I curse inside.
“Bloody hell,” I curse out loud when I notice one other thing. He’s got pink glitters on his cheek as well. What was he thinking, choosing pink?
I swivel my body around, giving him my back. The bad thing that could happen, he’d think I was smirking at HIM just now. The worse thing, he’d want me to be his partner. The worst thing, he’d recognize me as his top one enemy and make me be his partner and then probably embarrass me in front of the whole student body.
A hand snakes its way around my waist. I bit my tongue to stop them from cursing further more. Think, Sandy, think. Oh yeah, how could I forget that Gregory HATES difficult girls?
“I found you,” he drawls into my ear. I stuck out just the tip of my tongue, barely holding in my gag.
I say slowly, “In your darkest hour? Not now, don’t think so.”
His breath is warm on my neck. I freeze, but manage to continue mocking him, “There’s no pouring rain as well.”
Gregory chuckles into my ear, “Well let’s say, I found you with the music playing. How’s that?”
I swallow. Eew, eew, EEW.
I ask instead, “What made you choose pink? Shouldn’t boys go with blue? Or black?”
He drops his hand from around my waist and I visibly relax, until he takes my hand in his own out of the blue, “Because…..pretty girls tend to choose pink?”
I glare at our entwining hands trying not to wince, “Wrong. Pretty girls tend to choose blue because they thought good-looking guys tend to choose blue.”
Gregory tips his lips, “Then you must be a special pretty girl.”
I choke on my own throat, coughing loudly. I feel like digging a hole right there and just bury myself in it. Why does this have to happen to me?
“You alright?” Gregory holds onto my shoulder. Filthy. Paws. Off. Me.
Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t like hot guys? Gregory is undoubtedly good-looking, but the case is completely different when he appears to be the school’s player and you wouldn’t wanna end up on his ex-girlfriends list, which is equivalent to the jokes among the students.
A new song starts playing, and the woman chirps into the mic once more saying that it’s dance floor time, which makes me grimace but Gregory doesn’t seem to notice that. He makes a move to pull me over to the dance floor but I stop him.
I wiggle my hand out of his, “I’m not playing this game.”
Say fine. Say fine. SAY FINE.
“Err…nope. You go by the rules, young lady. You gotta dance with me,” he grins, seeming to find this funny.
I shake my head firmly and cross my arms. How could you not recognize me, you idiot? Sandy Baker? The one who ruined your suit last year and publicized your number and got your phone spammed and facebook account reported?
I retreat a few steps and dip my hands into the bowl of green glitters without looking. Gregory walks forth and grabs at my waist, “Come on the dance’s starting.”
You ask for this yourself, Gregory. The second he looks away from me to the dance floor behind him, I bring my handful of green glitters onto his cheek, burying the pink glitters underneath. He jerks his head in surprise.
I point at him, grinning, “Oh look, you belong to the green now.”
I expect him to shove me away roughly and leave but, what he did was so unexpected I gape at him in terror. First thing I knew, a grin was breaking across his face and the next thing I knew, I was pinned against the wall and I had both my cheeks stained green. I glower at him. And he laughs.
“Who’s the genius now?” he flashes me an evil smile.
I wasn’t thinking clearly, and the next moment I was thinking clearly, I realised I had chucked handfuls of glitters onto the back of his vest. It might even look artistic if it only consists of one colour, but no, Gregory looks like he is just back from Colour Run, even his hair got a few chunks of pink glitters.
He isn’t laughing this time. He’s staring down at his tie and vest in shock. Seeing he’s distracted, I disappear into the crowd of dancing students quickly and look for Daphne.
She is talking to a different guy now but I don’t have that much time, so I wrench her out from their conversation and tell her we have to leave.
“What? Why?” Daphne whines in dismay.
“Sorry people I have to interrupt the dance for a while,” Gregory’s voice sounds from the speakers and I groan, burying my head in my hands.
“Shut the exit and main door,” he orders into the mic and his eyes scan the crowd shrewdly, probably searching for me. I avoid his eyes quickly and crouch down.
“My dance partner’s hiding from me. I need you guys to find her. She’s somewhere in the crowd. And she’s got glitters all over her hands.”
I clasp my hands together and look up at Daphne, trying not to make it all too obvious. Daphne gushes, “Gregory is so sweet. It’s like he’s looking for his Cinderella.”
I scoff up at her, “Except this time the Prince is killing Cinderella, not marrying her.”
Daphne shrugs and turns her attention back to the stage. I clap my hands lightly, hoping the glitters would fall off when Daphne looks back down at me and inquires, “Why are you clapping, San?”
Everyone around snap their head to me and frown at the same time. A few lift their brows at my hand. I plaster on a honeyed smile. Most are turning their attention back to Gregory when Gregory announces again, “Oh, and that Black Swan of mine, she’s wearing black flats.”
Almost immediately, Daphne and the others around flash their stares back down at me, their brows lifted at my flats.
I guess my life is technically ruined.