As I stood in the grand hall fiddling with my cufflinks, I waited for my drink. My brother came by and ran into me, playfully nudging my arm.
“How many times are you going to fix your suit?” Darrel teased me.
“What? I want to make sure that I look good. I don’t want to look a mess!”
Darrel was my older brother and he knew more about fashion than I did. He was very dapper. But I had trouble picking out clothing to wear to special occasions, so Darrel was my help. Darrel and I were five years apart. Our father was extremely wealthy and our mother was too. We lived in a huge mansion with a lot of property, and we even had a maze in our garden that was behind the house. My father grew up with a rich family, and when his relatives passed away they left the money and valuables to my father. From there, my father invested and saved money. Being in the upper class wasn’t really all that great. My parents had hired a maid to clean up and prepare meals for us every day and night. Sometimes, I wished I could take a break from being on the top because I can do things such as eating, dressing for the day, or brushing my teeth by myself. I didn’t need a servant to help me with simple tasks like that. But still, I wouldn’t want to be in anything lower than the upper class because I would be looked down upon. My parents somewhat forbidden Darrel and I to marry or even talk to anyone in the lower classes. While Darrel was talking to me, I was watching the bartender make my drink. Watching the bubbly mixture pour into the glass forming foam. My brother was beside me rambling right by my ear about the women that he was going to meet at this masquerade ball. Darrel was always all over women because he was in such a rush to have a son of his own and take his name. However, I was independent and I wasn’t ready to be looking for a woman. The bartender put the glass on the bar, and I took it. Bubbly rose champagne. I took a sip as the fizzy bubbles touched my lips. It was a fine day. I didn’t know anybody at this ball except Darell. As much as I liked being independent, I despised being by myself.
I walked with my glass in hand across the white marbled floors through the grand hall. This was the first ball that I ever been to because I was always too young to go. My parents would always leave me behind with Darrel and we would stay home and play games. Now, that I was old enough to finally go to one of these events, I was anxious to know what it was like. I pushed through the walls of people and went to go mingle with the crowd of people by the tables. For some strange reason I was assigned to sit alone away from Darrel. I looked over from where I was sitting and I saw that he was sitting next to the women. I knew no one here and I felt left out. I watched the women pass by walking in their fancy poofy gowns, all black and embroidered with intricate lace on their corsets. Their faces were powdered with a pasty white complexion and their cheeks were very rosy. Their eyelids were painted in the darkest shades of black, and their lips were full and filled in with different opec shades. Dark velour blue, dark wine shades, or mostly black. Their eyes appeared very doll like from the voluminous lashes they wore. They were so full, they could hardly keep their eyes open. Most of their hair was either fake or real; and was arranged in an outrageous up-do. Some had bangs that were fanned out in the front while others had many curls that hung down loosely by their ears. They walked by with their escorts fanning themselves with the most beautiful fans. Ones with prints of japanese flowers, and colors that contrasted with their gowns.The men’s makeup was dramatic with eyeliner that was shimmery gold and winged at the ends with metallic blues and blacks smudged on the bottom lashline. Their hair too was done in big voluminous curls, middle parted and tied back with a ribbon. They wore black waist coats, shirts with puffy sleeves, and shiny cufflinks. To top it off, they wore buckled shoes and stockings. I felt like I was different because I was just wearing a black suit with a black tie. I was told that it was just a formal event so I guess I didn’t get the message. Darrel wasn’t dressed fancy either, he just wanted to come to flirt with the ladies. I started to get bored just sitting at the table and dinner wasn’t for a while. Getting up, I weaved my way through the couples dancing and twirling about as I started to wander in the grand hall.
The grand hall was humongous in size. There must have been more than a hundred of people at this event. The grand hall had white marble columns supporting the many balconies in the room while the tables in the room were gathered in clusters. Trays of food lined up on the side of the room, and there was a live orchestra playing in the front of the room. The ceiling was painted with stunning designs and the walls were painted with wisteria flowers that cascaded over the grand mahogany staircase that sat in front of the entrance. A huge crystal chandelier hung above the people in the center of the room, with a million luminous crystals creating rainbow reflections on the walls. I was in awe. How lucky was I to be here! I put my hands behind my back folding my hands and walked in the hallway admiring all the paintings that decorated the walls. As the music started to get quieter and the people started to disperse, my heart skipped a beat when she walked into the room. I took a glance at the grand staircase and I stared in awe. I felt warm inside and my heart instantly bloomed. Standing on top of the grand staircase was she. She stood peering over the railing of the staircase shyly hoping that no one would see her. When the light showed her, I felt like I was looking at the early morning sun. Standing on the stairs, she wore a flowy canary yellow gown. With many layers of ruffles falling like a waterfall below her hips, the gown fell to the floor in the most elegant manner. I looked around me and all I saw was black, and here she was wearing a bright color standing out in her own way. She was lean, had proper posture and a prominent collarbone while her dark brown locks of hair were coiled up in an up-do that was different from everyone else’s. I was in lust of her. My eyes met with her face that was completely covered with a plain white mask. She made the whole room silent. So silent that my heart beat could almost be heard. As she made her way down the stairs, all eyes were on her and she was looking at me. She was the light of life. Out of a sea of dark depressing colors, she brought the brightness of day. I was in Heaven when someone tapped my shoulder.
“I hope you’re going to take my word and not going to dance with her..” Darrel called out to me as the women around him rolled their eyes. “She seems to be somewhat deceiving. Anybody who hides their face like that is considered to be a sin!” Darrel shouted as the crowd around him started to gossip and whisper.
“Well, I don’t care. If she is a sin, then the Devil can drag me to Hell!” I yelled as I took the girl’s hand in mine with confidence, and the orchestra started to play. Together, we took a waltz and glided across the white marbled floor while the crowd stared in dismay. Whispers could be heard from the people with stares of disgust. I didn’t care. There was something about her that I became bounded to and letting go never existed. She was an element of nature that made the whole world stop turning. As the tune came to an end, I stood in front of her admiring her beauty. But all of that beauty was trapped underneath that mask. Why was she wearing it? She simply had the most perfect skin complexion. No blemishes, nothing. I asked,
“Why are you wearing the mask to shield your beauty?” At first no answer, then her lips parted and she spoke. I could see her glowing green eyes stare into my soul.
“There is something that I don’t want you to see,” she replied very calmly. Her mask looked as if it was her own skin, it matched perfectly. Almost as if the mask was plastered onto her real face. I was more in shock about her answer so I tried to convince her to remove the mask.
“But there’s no need to hide. No one’s looking.” I told her as the crowd started to move away and we were the only ones on the dance floor. I knew then right then and there something wasn’t right. The temperature started to drop, and I could feel it pass through my body. I started to get a weird vibe that this lady wasn’t just a lady. I blew hot air into my hands and rubbed them together to create heat. I spoke to her again.
“I don’t see what you mean. I don’t understand why you have to hide your face in this way,” I said as I started to remove her mask. She started to fight with me putting her hands up in front of her face trying to block my hands.
“Just let me see…” I said as I started to slowly remove the mask. The air as extremely cold. I felt the urge to stop but it was already halfway off so there was no stopping now. I found it the mask to be very stiff and hard to remove. She stopped fighting and just stood there looking at me with those pale green eyes. When the mask was completely off, I wasn’t prepared to see what was underneath that mask. Underneath the mask showed something that was horrifying. The girl’s skin was covered in wrinkles and had discoloration. Her skin was grey in color like it was decaying. Underneath her eye sockets hung dark bags and layers of skin that were more wrinkly. I stared into her eyes with horror trying to accept her appearance. I didn’t want her to know that I was frightened because I didn’t know what she was going to do to me. Giving her back the mask and backing away, she looked at me confused and said,
“What’s the matter? I’m just an old beggar woman. I told you not to take it off! If you would not have removed the mask, then you wouldn’t have known!” She was angry. Hurt. I watched her as started to become more skeleton like and before I knew it she disintegrated into black dust before my eyes. Only the mask and the yellow gown was left behind. The mask that kept that one secret and made her deceiving because of who she was and how people looked at her. They looked at her as nothing. Worthless. I picked up the mask and held it in my hands. She left a mark on my heart, one that I would never forget. I held the mask to my chest, as one tear streamed down my cheek. I was touched forever. But I lost it all.