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The Ball

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Well, today is the day that 99.99% of EAS was waiting for. I say 99.99% because it seemed like the only person who was dreading the once-every-three-years EAS ball was me. Even Chase seemed to be somewhat looking forward to it.

But then again, not everybody at EAS had to take advantage of the last ball to go on a quest to Portland, Oregon and then to the Arctic Circle in order to save a thousand children from the Pied Piper tale. I mean, I didn’t see the point of dressing up in elaborate dresses and suits just to go to a fancy dance.

Okay, I’m lying. I’m excited. Just a tad.

Just like three years ago, the ball is in April and just like three years ago, the tournament took place a few days before. I’ll be turning 16 in a few months, but the only difference between the last ball and today’s ball is the fact that I used the last ball to go on the quest. Chase and I are still the best fighters in EAS, although we still fight over who’s the better swordsman.

I was sitting at a quiet corner in the courtyard - away from the ball preparation mayhem - reading a book Lena found for me about sword fighting techniques when Lena plopped down on the chair next to me, startling me and the bowl of Fey fudge I was holding. She looked expectantly at me.

“What?” I asked.

“What do you mean ‘what’?” she replied, sounding quite annoyed with me. “The ball’s tonight! What are you going to wear? Come on Rory, you spend more time in the training courts than you do in your own home!”

“Someone has to teach the new kids!” I replied with the same frustration and exasperation I was sure she felt.

“Yes, but not all the time. Gumdrops, Rory, you’re as bad as Chase now! Maybe even worse.”

I had no answer for that. She was probably right. Lena’s the smartest kid in our grade, probably the smartest person in all of EAS. Plus, since Chase and I started dating a little less than 2 years ago, we have pretty much spent every waking moment together.

“So what are you going to wear?” she asked again, this time with a smile, knowing that she had beaten me again.

I couldn’t hold back a little smile myself. “Mom found a really pretty lavender dress with dark purple flowers embroidered into the material. It’s nice, I like it. How ‘bout you? What are you going to wear? And now that we don’t have a quest to go on, Kyle is definitely going to want to have that dance,” I teased her, my grin breaking out freely.

She smiled and looked down bashfully, but not before I caught her blush.

“I’m taking your color. It’s a green dress with a silver shawl.”

“My color?”

“Yes, your color! You wear it all the time.”

“I’m not doing this with you right now,” I told my best friend as I spotted Chase looking for us. He joined our table a second later.

“The mighty Triumvirate, together once again,” he announced dramatically with a grin, plucking my Fey fudge from my hand and stuffing his face with it.

“Hey, Chase,” Lena greeted him as she got up to leave.

“Where are you going? Don’t leave me with him!” I said, mock horror dripping heavily in my voice.

“Melody and I are working on a new experiment. We want to finish it before the ball tonight,” Lena explained. She waved goodbye and headed in the direction of her workshop.

"So..." Chase began.

"Yes?” I waited for a bit, expecting him to go on, staring into his expectant green eyes. “Don't do this with me, too." The last thing I needed was to have Chase on my back as well.

"What?! I didn't even say anything!"

"You didn't have to. I saw it in your eyes."

"You saw it in my eyes?" His voice - and shoulders - shook with desperately suppressed laughter.
"Oh, please," I said, rolling my eyes. "Don't worry. I'll be there." I brought my attention back to my book as soon as I stole back my Fey fudge from my boyfriend.

~~~~

Mom was waiting impatiently for me when I got home. She grabbed my hand and dragged me to my room where the dress was lying on my bed.

"You came back so late, I thought we weren't going to have enough time to get you ready, but if we work fast and efficiently then we might just make it!" Mom chattered excitedly.

I smiled to myself, remembering when Mom used to drag her feet - metaphorically, not literally - through every procedure and cause in EAS. Now she was fully supportive of me teaching in the training courts and going on quests. She even volunteers to give the orientation to the new Characters when she has the time.

"First things first,” she continued. “You need to go take a shower. Don't argue with me, I know you just taught a class. I won't have any daughter of mine going to a ball all sweaty and gross!"

"Fine," I sighed, heading to the bathroom.

I took a shower long enough to deal with my unruly hair and when I came out, Mom was ready for me, armed to the teeth with all of her brushes, flat irons, hair products, and makeup.

We put on a CD of all the Disney classics and sang along as we did my hair. Mom took the front parts of my hair and tied each side into a braid, which met each other at the back of my head into a single braid. The rest of my hair flowed down my back.

After finishing my hair and makeup, I slipped on the dress. My dress was a simple one, a light lavender design that fell to my knees, cinched around the waist with a simple, dark purple ribbon. Along the edge of the skirt and the edges of the cap sleeves was a gorgeous design of endlessly connected flowers in the same shade of thread as the ribbon around my waist. To complete my look, I wore simple jewelry: sterling silver heart earrings and a silver heart necklace that rested just above my collarbone. Accompanied with a nice pair of silver flats, I felt very princessy indeed.

Mom beamed as she snapped a couple of photos.

“Have fun tonight, sweetie,” she said, kissing my cheek and giving me a hug after leading me to the door of our apartment.

“I’ll try,” I replied, with a small smile.

~~~~

The courtyard of EAS was adjourned with hand-made, colorful tissue paper lanterns, each one glowing and displaying their dim light on the walls. People in frilly dresses and tuxedos milled around the courtyard mingling with friends and dates, waiting for the doors to the grand ballroom to open.

I stood to the side as I watched EASers and Fey alike talk and laugh, their excitement and anticipation for one of the greatest balls in EAS history bursting through. Someone tapped my shoulder. Turning, I found Miriam smiling down at me - she definitely towered over me with those heels she was wearing - with George on her arm.

“What are you doing standing to the side?” she admonished me, playfully. “Go hunt down your boyfriend and Lena! Have fun!”

I laughed, “I’m waiting for them to show up!”

“Well, you look nice, Rory,” she replied. George nodded his assent, then excused himself when he spotted a fellow sparring partner. Miriam smiled fondly at George’s turned back before returning her full attention to me.

“How’s high school?” she asked with a knowing smile. My grimace must have been apparent on my face because she chuckled loudly (but not unkindly).

“Seriously, though,” I grumbled. “Fighting the Snow Queen was so much easier than going through high school.”

“You’ll get through it,” she said encouragingly.

“Easy for you to say, now that you’re done and in college. Plus you had George,” I replied.

“And you have Chase, who, may I remind you, does change schools every time you do just so he can be with you. George didn’t go to the same highschool as me, remember?”

I grinned despite myself when she mentioned Chase. We were at that point in our relationship where I didn’t get butterflies every time someone brought him up anymore, but I couldn’t help but smile every time I was reminded of the golden-haired boy with emerald green eyes and fiery wings.

“Rory!” I heard my name being called from the depths of the crowd behind me. Lena waved at me with a wide grin from the other side of the courtyard.

“Enjoy tonight, Rory,” Miriam said when I turned back to her, after I waved to Lena. “You didn’t have the chance last time.”

I let a ghost of a smile pass over my features as she said goodbye. I watched her as she walked away, joining George and his friend. Lena caught up to me by then and gave me a huge bear hug, her bony arms digging into my ribs.

“Where were you? I was looking all over for you, and so was Chase! He looks really nice, by the way. And have you seen Kyle? I’m not missing my chance to dance with him this time! And you look really nice! I love your dress!” Her excitement and infectious energy gushed from her as her words fell rapidly from her lips, tripping over each other in quick succession, each trying to claim their place in the world before the next arrived.

As I smiled and waited for her mini tangent to finish, I took my chance to admire her beauty. Lena was always very pretty, but tonight she shined. Her hair was out of her normal braids, cascading down her back in loose curls. An elegant silver hairpiece was tucked into her hair, just above her temple. She wore contacts tonight, so her big eyes were luminous and gleaming as she continued on with explaining what her latest experiment was. Her dress, just as she had told me, was a leafy green that fell just short of her knees with a heart bodice and simple, yet elegant sleeves. Her silver shawl glimmered as it was held into place by her elbows, spilling just below her back, resting on the skirt of her dress.

Lena noticed that I was waiting for her to finish and stopped rambling. “Sorry,” she said, still grinning sheepishly.

I laughed and linked elbows with her, joining the crowd as they poured into the grand ballroom, the doors finally open.

“He’s probably inside,” Lena said, noticing that I my not-so-subtle search for Chase.

“Am I that obvious?”

“A little.”

“Well, I put some effort into this dress, so I kind of want him to see it,” I said cheekily to mask my blush.

Lena smiled knowingly. Kyle popped up from the crowd at Lena’s shoulder.

“Lenawouldyouliketogivemethehonorofhavingthisdancewithyou?” He spoke in one breath and just as fast as Lena was earlier, his nervousness evident. Lena looked to me, hesitant to leave me alone, as Chase still hadn’t joined us.

“Go! Have fun!” I shooed them both away with a laugh. I watched as they made their way to the already packed dance floor.

“You look beautiful.” I turned, beaming as I saw my boyfriend for the first time tonight.

“You’re looking quite dapper yourself!” I replied. I wasn’t just flattering him. Chase really did look nice. His suit showed off his fine figure (a fact that I was enjoying quite a lot, mind you). He had managed to comb his usually unruly golden curls into something decent and presentable and his bright, emerald green eyes shone with amusement. He had a white rose tucked into the front pocket of his suit, making him all the more dashing and elegant.

He studied me as I stared at him, his eyes coming up to meet mine.

“Would you do me the honor of having this dance with you?” he asked as he held his hand out. I smiled and nodded as I let him take my hand. He leaned in and whispered in my ear, “And the next one, and the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that, and pretty much all of the dances?”

I dissolved into peals of laughter as we stepped onto the dance floor. The dancers on the floor seemed to part and let us through ‘till we reached the center, the music slow, calm, and soothing.

“Chase,” I said between laughs. “I don’t know how to dance, remember?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. You danced just fine when we were in Titania's Court!”

“I was under the Fey spell,” I reminded him dryly.

“Well, in that case, I’ll just have to teach you, just as I taught you then.”

He gripped my waist with one hand, directing my hand to his shoulder with the other. Taking my free hand with his, he leaned in and began to whisper in my ear the steps I needed to take.

The world seemed to fade around me. All that was left was me, Chase, and the music. The strokes of the violin swept through the room, seeming to take me and Chase in its sway and letting us float into the air.

We danced for hours, talking and laughing (and yes, sharing the occasional kiss). After a while, Chase tugged on my hand and led me back out to the courtyard, where the
moon shone bright and full in the night sky.

We stepped into a tucked away balcony and stood, hand in hand, my head resting on his shoulder, as we watched the millions of glimmering stars adorning the night sky, keeping the moon company. Chase took the white rose from his breast pocket, still fresh as if it had just been picked, and placed it gently behind my right ear. I smiled softly and leaned into his touch as he let his hand cup my cheek gently.

“I love you, you know that right?” Chase said, a little bashfully, his emerald eyes wide and earnest as they searched my face.

“I know. And I, you,” I replied as nonchalantly as the fireworks going off in my heart allowed me to.

Yes, tonight did turn out to be the perfect night after all.