The Masquerade Ball (a really long short story)
Marianna fought constantly with Mitchell, her twin brother, but she knew that if she needed him, he would be there. Tonight she needed him, but he was nowhere to be found, not that she could tell one masked face from another. He hadn’t allowed her to see his costume before leaving home, so she had no idea how he was dressed.
Tears streamed down her face. Why couldn’t life be simple? All she’d wanted to do when she came to the party was have a little fun with no one knowing that she was the person behind the mask. They wouldn’t have accepted her, if they’d known. She knew that. It hurt, but…
Where was he? She needed to leave, NOW. Her gaze roamed the room, trying to find any sign of her brother-a glance of his jet black hair, a slight limp from stepping on their younger brother’s legos, anything. Nothing.
Marianna glanced around once more then made her way to the door. She couldn’t stay here, but she couldn’t leave either. Outside, she sat in a chair hidden in the corner of the porch. She sniffled. Without the aid of tissues, she wiped her nose with her sleeve. It didn’t matter anyway, she’d never again wear the costume her mother had painstakingly created for her.
Without her permission, her thoughts scurried back to what caused her search for Mitchell in the first place.
“Do you think she’s here?” A female voice that sounded vaguely familiar asked the group that surrounded her.
“Nah, she wouldn’t dare leave her house,” a male voice answered.
“I saw Mitchell. He was looking mighty fine in his costume,” a different girl interjected.
“He’s so different when she’s not around. Cool, ya know. I’m not sure why he puts up with her anyway. Who cares if she’s his sister. Those scars would scare me away no matter who she was.” Another male voice, different from the first.
Marianna had gasped. Thankfully the noise from the party drowned out the sound. Her seat behind the potted plants hid her from their view.
“Let’s just go have fun and forget about scarface. She wouldn’t dare show up and try to ruin our fun even if my mom did make me invite her.” The first girl voice again.
New tears formed as she huddled in the dark waiting, hoping Mitchell would look for her soon. The scars weren’t her fault. She couldn’t do anything about them. If she could, she would have. Didn’t they know that? Why couldn’t they see past what the fire had done to her? Why couldn’t they see who she really was on the inside?
Maybe she could just walk home. It was only a mile or so. She looked down the street lined with lights for a couple of blocks, but then blackness enveloped the road. Her mom would faint dead away if she showed up without Mitchell.
She rocked back and forth in the chair making her mind go somewhere else, anywhere else. A hand touched her shoulder and she stifled a scream. An unknown boy in a costume stood above her.
“What’s the matter Cinderella? Don’t like the party?” Another voice she had heard before, but not one of the group from before.
She shook her head.
“Can I sit with you for a while?”
She shrugged. It wasn’t her brother. No one else cared enough to sit with the real her, but Cinderella was beautiful.
“Why are you crying?” His voice sent shivers down her spine. No one, in all her seventeen years, had been able to speak comfort to her soul so quickly. She wanted to answer, but then he would know.
“I’m not wanted here,” she whispered, hoping that it wouldn’t give her away.
The door opened again.The tell-tale black hair emerged, and relief whooshed through her. She sat still, frozen to her chair. If she moved, the guy beside her would know who she was, but if she didn’t Mitchell wouldn’t see her and take her home.
“Excuse me,” she mumbled and walked slowly to where her brother stood looking around.
“Can you take me home?” She spoke low enough that only he could hear her.
He looked at her closely. His fists clenched. “Why are you crying?”
“It doesn’t matter, just take me home. I shouldn’t have come. I told you, but you thought it would be okay. I trusted you, but you were wrong. I’m not wanted here and I just want to leave.”
He looked over her shoulder to the guy who stood by where she was sitting. “Addison, what did you do?”
“Nothing, Mitchell, I promise. I just asked why she was crying. I don’t even know who she is.”
Mitchell growled and she placed her hand on his arm. “Take me home.”
“No. There’s a contest in a few minutes and I want to win it.”
She turned away, fresh tears streaming down her scarred face. Walking back to the chair in the corner, she sat and rocked, closing her eyes tight to blot out everything around her. She’d been wrong. Mitchell couldn’t be counted on when she needed him. He was just like everyone else in her world-unreliable.
A click confirmed that Mitchell had returned inside. She stood and started walking toward home. A short way down the street, a hand on her arm stopped her.
“Let me take you home.”
The streetlights illuminated Addison’s blue eyes. Kindness radiated from them, but she shook her head anyway. “No. I know you don’t want to because I’m sure by now you know who I am. It’s okay. I’ll just walk. No one will mess with ‘scarface’.” She cringed at the moniker, even though it came from her own lips.
“I do want to. Please. It will make me feel better to know you made it home safely.”
She removed her concealing mask, expecting him to turn away just like everyone else-even her father, but he didn’t. He reached up and ran a thumb over the scars on her cheek. They were ugly, but they weren’t the worst. The worst were inside where no one could see. The pain of rejection from her father, from her best friend, even from strangers.
“I don’t care about your scars, Marianna. They don’t define who you are. They are only on the surface. It’s what’s in your heart that makes me care. I’ve watched you watching us through your window when I come over to play basketball with Mitchell. I heard you gasp when I broke my leg doing that stupid trick on the bike. I know you made the dinner your mom brought over. It’s your heart that makes me want to be your friend.”
Marianna shivered and sighed. New tears formed. Could he really want to be her friend? “Will you take me home, Addison?”
He smiled and offered her his arm. She accepted it and let him lead her toward friendship.