The Mark of the Mask

The girl slowly pushed her broom down the dim hallways of St. Mary Hannah Academy. Overhead the weak light flickered and threatened to go out. Nervously Alice Swift looked up, watching the bulb struggle to give light. The last thing she needed was to be stuck in the dark inside the old gothic building that hosted school for a multitude of spoiled wealthy teenagers. It was spooky enough in the light of day. Outside the cool autumn wind howled, pressing against the window near her.
“Are you done yet, Alice?” The tired looking janitor asked as he peeked around the corner from another hallway behind her.
“Not yet, dad. I just need to finish this section.” Alice answered him, pushing back a strand of dark stringy hair that had gotten loose from her straggly ponytail. “I think this light is about to go out. It keeps on flickering.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Larry Swift responded wearily as he turned back to his own tasks. “It does that. Hurry now so we can be home in time for dinner.”
Biting back a sigh, Alice went back to what she was doing. Back and forth she swept the black and white tiled floor of the hallway, moving slowly past the rich wood of the old fashioned doors that led into the classrooms.
It was not long ago that she had stated attending the Academy. If it were not for the fact her father worked here, she would not have been allowed in at all.
Up ahead was the gym. Warm light spilled about around the edges of the door reminding her that she was not alone. Briefly she wished she was. If she was lucky, no one would discover her as she finished her work. Yet once again, it seemed as if luck had deserted her.
The doors to the gym burst open suddenly and out walked the Halloween masquerade planning committee. In the lead was the tall redheaded beauty, the darling of the academy. Wealthy, talented and charming she succeeded at whatever she did. Unlike Alice. Arabella Bordeaux was the embodiment of perfection.
With a voice like an angel she led the conversation. Others responded to her chatter but it was as if their voices were lost in the wind whenever she spoke. It was no wonder Arabella was first in the girls’ choir, Alice thought to herself as she huddled against the wall, listening to that lovely voice.
In silence she struggled to be as unnoticed as much as was possible, keeping her head lowered just in case. Through her strands of unkempt hair she views with interest the others who walked alongside the beauty queen. There was the second favorite, bookish Nina Sinclair with long blond hair and china doll looks, who was the president of the student council and head of the debate club. Football captain, Brian Wallace flanked Arabella’s right side. Tall and well-built he projected charisma coupled with slight cockiness. Veronica Landis, Jeremy Clem, and Travis White were all stars in orchestra and band with Veronica being the drum majorette.
They were unofficially called the Golden Clique. They were the elite of the elite. The difference between her and the Golden Clique was galaxy wide. If Alice could choose a time to be anywhere other than where she was, it was now. The sudden silence told her that she had been noticed.
In front of her now, Arabella paused and sniffed delicately in the air then wrinkled her perfect nose as if spelling something unpleasant.
“What is that dreadful smell? It smells like……cleaning disinfectant!” Looking puzzled and slightly troubled she looked around dramatically then feigned surprise when her lovely green eyes fell upon mousy Alice. “Oh! It’s you!”
Petite Nina said nothing. Instead she watched it all with her intelligent cruel eyes and a slight cunning smile on her lips. Brian said nothing as the others sniggered behind their hands. He just looked bored and gazed everywhere but at Alice.
“Look who is already ready for Halloween!” Veronica jeered then whispered, “Monster!”
“Oh, Veronica dear,” Arabella practically purred. “Alex is not wearing any mask. Alex’s face is just scared from burns.”
“My name is Alice.” She should have kept her mouth shut.
“Alex, Alice. It makes no difference.” Arabella shrugged.
“You are a girl?” Travis exclaimed as if surprised and peered at her closely as if inspecting something from a petri dish.
“It is hard to tell underneath….her work uniform.” Arabella shrugged and pouted prettily. “Anyone could make that mistake.”
“It looks like you are already for our masquerade dance tomorrow night.” Jeremy piped up suddenly, his face indifferent yet brutal.
Tears threatened to fall from Alice’s eyes as she reached up to cover the half of her face that was filled with old burns. The fire that had claimed the lives of her mother and younger sister had left its mark on her face forever. Arabella clucked sympathetically.
No one noticed the other boy who appeared behind them. Adam Norrington started towards them walking confidently with a look of thoughtfulness as if he pondered something deep.
“You poor dear. It must be awful to be so ugly.” Arabella handed something the Alice, unaware of the other person nearby.
Alice dumbly looked down at what was handed to her. It was an ordinary black mask.
“Perhaps you can do us all a favor and wear this mask whenever you are out in public.” Arabella continued with spiteful sweetness.
“Yeah, that way you won’t scare all the children!” Jeremy laughed then hollered as Adam walked by, shouldering him. “Hey! Watch where you are going!”
“Excuse me. I didn’t see you there.” Adam lied as he adjusted his glasses. His brown eyes stared at everyone as if he could see past their facades.
Torn between hope and extreme shame, Alice kept her ruined face hidden from the boy she had secretly admired. She could not help but sneak a glace into his brown eyes. They were the kindest eyes she had ever seen.
Startled Arabella tried to recover from this unexpected interruption.
“Why, hello Adam.” She simpered prettily. “I didn’t expect you to be here this time of night.”
Calmly Adam looked at all of them, not fooled at all. “Would that have changed things if you knew?”
No one needed to be told what he was talking about. But still they tried to cover it up.
“What are you talking about?” Arabella tried to look sweet, innocent, and confused.
“Who do you think you are?” Brian spoke up then, not wanting to be showed up by a guy who was shorter than him, even if it there was not that much difference.
“I think perhaps you should be quiet now, Brian.” Nina smiled like a Cheshire cat. “It’s not good to get the Headmaster’s son all upset is it?”
“You don’t have to worry about anything, Nina.” Adam replied smoothly. “ I can take care of myself. However, you all seem to have a problem with a fellow classmate of mine. I just want to see if I can help.”
“All we were trying to do was encourage Allen to come to the party tomorrow.” Arabella pouted, turning on her charm to full blast.
Adam frowned and turned to look at Alice then, something in his eye…perhaps pity.
Unable to keep from crying anymore, Alice fled from them all the way to the stairs; their laughter followed her. If she had looked back she would have seen Adam’s concerned look and attempt to follow her. Nina stopped him. “Leave her alone. She will be ok. She just needs a little time by herself.”
Suspiciously Adam looked at the girl then back to where Alice had fled. He had seen for himself how fragile the other girl was and he had to be honest with himself, he had something to do with it though he didn’t know what. Perhaps it was best to do as Nina suggested.
“I am leaving now. I advise you to do the same.” He told them curtly, the tone in his voice implied trouble if any of them were to argue.
Without waiting to see if they followed, Adam left, hoping and trusting Alice’s father to take care of his daughter.
Stumbling up the flight Alice sought the roof for escape. Harsh sobs racked her thin frame as she collapsed just at the top of the stairs. Her body lay sprawled along the corridor. Not wanting anyone to find her she covered her mouth desperately to prevent any sobs from coming through.
Down below on the first floor she could hear Arabella lie to her father and tell him that Alice had already gone home. Part of her wished for her father to see through the lie and to stand up for her to Arabella and her minions. But another part wanted to be left alone by them all. So when Larry Swift chose to believe Arabella and leave, Alice did not know whether to cry or laugh. She did both.
Finally she was alone. As the doors were shut behind the last person, Alice could hear the echo of the locks all the way up to the third floor landing.
Getting to her feet she stumbled to the wall and sagged down, shoulders drooping then rested her weary heat in her arms.
All was still. Alice didn’t know how long she sat there, but eventually she became aware of the extreme quite. Slowly she raised her head and looked around. Outside the wind had died down. The dark clouds that had covered the moon had long since disappeared. Now its soft light radiated quietly through the window above her head, bathing that portion of the hallway in its gentle glow.
Another light shown down the hallway, highlighting a door that stood ajar. Frowning, Alice got to her feet and stared. She didn’t remember that door being there before. Curiosity got the better of her and she moved forward towards the strange door. As she got closer she could see it was not an ordinary door. It was set apart from any other door from the school. It was made from an unidentified material that shimmered, almost like it had precious jewels hammered into it. Tentatively she ran her hand down the cool and smooth surface then peered around the door. To her surprise she saw stairs curving upwards.
Something made her want to go further into the doorway and see what lay beyond. Yet she felt a bit of uncertainty as she climbed the steps. But the last bit of reservation left her as she stood in the room at the top of the stairs. In awe she looked at the glass domed ceiling that let the starry filled sky into the room.
All around the dark wood floor lay forgotten treasures from ages past. In one corner a whole carousal sat, still beautiful in its nostalgia. Gilded mirrors, lamps from far way places, Persian rugs, and treasure chests filled up the space.
In wonder she walked forward trailing her hand leisurely along the many priceless treasures that lay there. Somehow she felt as if this all was for her. In the far corner sat a chest all on its own. Something about it made her temporarily forget about the other treasures.
Kneeling down before it she opened the lid to see what was within. Elaborate masks of every color and style lay inside. Remembering the remarks earlier she fought back feelings of both awe and resentment. Yet as if on its own, her hand reached for one mask. Diamonds and pearls lined the sliver façade, glittering enticingly in the moonlight. It was so lovely and fine. Never had she seen such exquisite detail. In reckless abandonment she put it on and in an instant, felt all the fear and pain from earlier melt away. For once in her life, she actually felt beautiful. A happy feeling bubbled within her as she got to her feet and ran to one of the mirrors.
In astonishment she stared at her reflection, not recognizing the girl who looked back. Instead of lanky black hair, it fell in smooth curls down her back. Twirling around in delight she almost last aloud. Then something sparkled and caught her eye in the mirror. Behind her she saw the matching dress to the mask on an old mannequin. Underneath sat the glass slippers.
In no time at all she had the dress on. Soft gossamer fabric dropped her slender body like a dream, each jewel from the gown glittering I the light of the moon.
“I look like a queen!” She whispered in amazement.
Maybe this all was a dream. Thoughtfully she took off the mask. None of this was hers to take. Who was she to steal what was not hers?
Look in the mirror, a faint mysterious voice whispered.
Startled, Alice did as the enigmatic voice told her and almost screamed. All her burns were gone.
All that you see here is for you. This room is for you. It can be accessed anywhere, no matter where you are.
“Who are you?” She called out as she searched for whoever was there with her.
A friend, was all it replied.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she recalled a tale told long ago. When receiving a gift from the faerie, one should not be rude and expose them. But rather, the recipient of the gift should gratefully receive the gift.
“Thank you.” She curtsied respectfully in the direction she thought the voice came from.
When silence answered her, she knew she was alone again. An old grandfather clock chimed the time, alerting her at last that time had slipped from her reality. Looking down at her shabby wristwatch she saw that somehow the hours had drifted by while she was up in the magic room. It was now the evening of the masquerade. What seemed like a short time in the room had been longer on the outside.
Turning back around she took off the old watch, replacing it with some simple but elegant jewelry she had found from an old alabaster box. Calm hands put the mask on again and after one more look in the mirror for reassurance, she headed down the stairs. Briefly she wondered if anyone had missed her then dismissed the thought. It didn’t matter anymore. Tonight would be a brand new start for her.
Gracefully she stepped through the ornate doors and walked down the empty hall way of the third floor. It was still somewhat dark up there, but some light from the activities below faintly lite up the area around her. Music from the party drifted up to her ears. Pleased, she smiled. It was good the party had started. Before heading down the stairs she looked back and saw the beautiful ornate door has vanished. Hidden in her hand was a key that glittered, translucent, disappearing even as she gazed at it. Somehow she knew it was part of her now. All she had to do was think on it and it would appear.
From the third floor she descended into a world transformed. No longer was it merely the stately halls of St. Mary Hannah Academy, but now it resembled the gilded palaces of renaissance Italy.
Shaking her head in wonder she could not help but smile. For all their meanness, the Golden Clique knew how to decorate. She supposed it helped to be wealthy.
At the threshold of the doors to the party she hesitated. Inside it was even more festive and grand, reminding her that she did not really belong. Doubt caused her dark head to fall but then she saw the grandeur of her sparkly gown and raised her head again.
“I do have a right to be here.” She whispered to herself.
Ignoring the admiring stares of her fellow classmates, her eyes searched for one person only. Not everyone wore masks so he was easy to find. He stood against the far wall talking with several of his friends. In her eyes, Adam Norrington shined above his friends. Dressed in a sleek tux she thought he looked splendid.
Feeling bold, she slowly made her way to him. Once there she forgot what she wanted to say. All she could do was smile as the words got stuck in her throat.
Adam’s friends backed away slightly to give her some room, easily accepting her even though they did not recognize her. It was a new feeling, one she liked; being accepted.
Cordially she made herself smile at them all but her real focus was still Adam.
“Would you like to dance?” She forced herself to ask and smile shyly.
“It would be my pleasure.” He smiled and offered her his arm.
Feeling like a princess, Alice was led out onto the dance floor. Then the music swelled up and they began to dance. She would never be able to remember quite right the name of that first song. All she knew was that it was beautiful and it swept her up into the heavens.
A dozens thoughts raced through her head as she tried to quiet her heart. The depth of her feelings for Adam almost scared her. But from the first she had known he was special. Now it was time to show him that perhaps she was worth it too.
“I don’t know who you are, but you dance very well.” Adam smiled at her and she almost melted looking up into those brilliant beautiful brown eyes of his. “I am not sure we have met before.”
Feeling brave and bold again she smiled, leaning up to whisper in his ear. “I am Alice Swift.”
If he was surprised, he did not show it. Instead he smiled a genuine warm smile. “I am so glad you came. You look beautiful.”
Quietly she thanked him, feeling suddenly shy again. But he danced with her unaware, whirling her even more grandly around the room. As she turned with each step, her dress swirled prettily around her. Yet she had to ask.
“You said you were glad I came. Why?”
“I have wanted to meet you for some time.” He answered honestly and thoughtfully. “I remember when you first came to our school. I saw you in the library. The way you looked at the books, the way you held them and touched them, I knew you were special from the start.”
Alice almost stopped cold with his words. They tore something at her heart that made her feel both pain and happiness.
“You thought I was special?” She whispered in disbelief. “But I was ugly.”
“You were?” Adam seemed genuinely surprised. “I never thought that. I am only sorry you did.”
His gentle hug broke the last wall remaining around her heart. “I always thought you were beautiful.”
Her heart skipped a beat but she made herself speak anyways.
“It’s funny, but I was just thinking that about you too.”She smiled back.
“Oh, were you now?” His brown eyes twinkled down into hers. “Then I am the luckiest guy here!”
If there were such things as happy endings, this would be one of them. But she knew in her heart that this was not a happy ending. It was a happy beginning and for the first time in her life, she embraced it.

7 comments:

  1. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW :D I am so glad that Alice got her prince and she got to show up those snooty rich people :D
    Wonderfully Written :D i could see it all in detail, like i was there :D AMAZING!!!! :D

    *hugs*

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  2. Wow!!
    Kallie, that was... Beautiful.
    Absolutely beautiful.
    I love this story!!
    I really wanted to punch that queen bee in the face!!
    I am so happy for Alice though!!

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  3. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

    TATALLY ****ING AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

    OMG WHEN WILL THERE BE MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. That was so cute!

    I rarely hand out smiley faces, but this is certainly an opportune time:

    :)

    Very well written!

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  5. This is a brilliant tale.

    I love the very ending it is simply inspired :)

    You create such beauitfully real characters.

    Your writing has depth and style and emotion and everything.

    Bravo my love.

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  6. Thank you everyone for your kind comments. I am glad you enjoyed this story. :D

    *hands everyone cupcakes*

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  7. *squeals*

    fksajdhlfhjdfkhjshkfhjkdsgkjdfkgkjds

    ReplyDelete