Erin McElligott

 
 

Masquerade

DING DONG. I put down my flat iron and ran downstairs to open the door. My mom nearly beat me to it. But I got my hand around the handle first.

“Jesus Christ, Madeline, calm down,” she said, startled by my sudden presence.

“Sorry, Mom. Guess I’m just a little excited.”

“Yeah, a little.” She shook her head and moved to greet the guests.

I opened the door and was instantly wrapped in long, slender arms. It was my best friend Daisy and her mom. There was yapping from their small yorkie, Wilbur, who was jumping up at our feet. Daisy already had her makeup done, and she looked incredible. Dark, smoky eyes and ruby red lips. Her mom was holding up a gorgeous red and black dress covered in a plastic outer sheath. I gasped and let go of her to admire the dress. The bodice was all black, and the skirt was red, with a layer of black tulle covering it. There were also lacey black patterns all over the skirt.

“Oh my god this is amazing! Those pictures you sent didn’t do it justice!”

“I know, and to think I got it for so cheap!’ Daisy squealed and jumped up and down while clapping her hands.

Her mom rolled her eyes. “You mean, I got it for cheap, Daisy. Now come on, let’s go inside instead of standing on the porch for another half hour. Wilbur needs to calm down for a while.”

They came inside, and our moms went to the kitchen to talk. Daisy was holding Wilbur’s leash, and she unhooked it from his collar. He followed her Mom to the kitchen. We went upstairs to my room. I went back to doing my hair, and Daisy sat on my bed while we chatted. Tonight was senior prom. We had been looking forward to this since we were five years old. And to add to the fantasy even more, the theme was “The Masked Ball.” Everyone was allowed to wear masks, but only ones that covered our eyes. They couldn’t be full face masks, since the chaperones had to be able to discern who was who.

I was on the prom committee, and we had to fight hard for the theme. The mask stipulation was the agreement we had come to in the end. It was understandable. Afterall, it was just the theme of a masked ball, not like something from an actual masquerade. We weren't trying to hide who we were. Most people would be doing quite the opposite, actually. They want people to know who they are.

I finished my hair and started on my makeup. Daisy was sprawled across my bed, playing on her phone and talking to me. I had put on light piano music to try and calm myself down. My hands were shaking out of excitement and nervousness.

“Did you hear that Peter Williams is going alone?” Daisy said without looking up.

“Really? That’s a surprise. There were so many girls who wanted to go with him.”

Daisy put down her phone and narrowed her eyes at me. I shrugged.

“You know exactly why he is going alone,” she said with a smirk developing on her face.

I turned back to my mirror and applied mascara. I did know, but I didn’t want to think of it. Peter was Student Body President, and he and I worked on decorations. On Decoration Day, after everyone else had left, he and I were adding the finishing touches. I was on the top of a ladder hanging streamers. Peter was decorating the DJ booth.

I had stopped and asked him to get me more streamers. It had taken me forever to work up the courage to climb up the ladder, and I knew that if I got off, I would not be going back up. He stopped and rolled his eyes in a joking manner, but then went and grabbed more streamers. I tried to lean down and get them, but I fell. I closed my eyes and braced for impact with the ground. My heart was pumping hard. But instead I felt arms catch me. I snapped my eyes open. Peter had caught me. But just as my heart relaxed, his eyes widened. His legs gave out and we both fell. I gasped. But then Peter started laughing.

I had sat up and started laughing as well. Then he stopped and looked at me, and slowly kissed me. I kissed him back. After a while, we pulled apart, and he smiled. He leaned his forehead against mine and whispered. “Go to prom with me.”

There it was. My perfect fantasy love story, just in time for what I had been looking forward to my entire life. But it felt odd. Almost wrong. I shook my head slowly, and then stood up.

“I can’t,” I whispered over and over again.

Peter stood up and apologized. But I could barely hear him. I ran out to my car. The tears came fast. I didn’t deserve a fantasy love story. It wouldn’t be the same without Marie being around to tell. I told her everything. Losing your twin sister changes you. I could rarely do anything without feeling sad that she wasn’t able to do it with me.

“Madeline?” I heard, along with a loud snap. I looked around. I was in my room with Daisy. Dang it, I had gotten lost in that memory again. Decoration Day was only a few days ago. But I couldn’t stop thinking of how I ruined it. I always ruin the moment when I think of her. Whenever even a shred of happiness comes my way, her face pops back up into my head. It has been like this since she died last year.

We were driving home from piano practice. It was late at night, and I was at the wheel. We were singing along to the radio, and we had stopped at the stoplight. It turned green and I put my foot on the gas. But while we were mid intersection, a drunk driver failed to stop at the light. He hit the passenger side at forty miles an hour. Marie’s head hit the window after being jerked violently back and forth. I got a concussion from hitting my head on the wheel. But I ended up being okay after a few weeks in the hospital. Marie survived a few hours, and then died in the hospital. I was fine now, at least physically. But I was emotionally and mentally wrecked. We had similar injuries, but I had somehow survived. She hadn’t.

I heard another snap. I jumped. I had done it again. I got lost in thought too often nowadays. Daisy had a sympathetic look on her face.

“Sorry for teasing you. I know it’s still hard. But you need to forgive yourself. It wasn’t your fault.”

I turned away from her and put on a deep and dark red lipstick. I was finally done with my makeup, and I sat and looked at myself in the mirror.

“Yeah, but I should’ve seen the car and noticed that he wasn’t going to stop…” I trailed off and muttered to myself. Daisy kneeled behind me and hugged me. I stopped looking in the mirror and sighed deeply.

“It wasn’t your fault. I’m sure that Marie would not want you to keep beating yourself up over this.”

She was right. Marie would have freaked on me if she knew that I had run away from Peter. She was always encouraging me to get myself out there. I smiled and put my hand on Daisy’s.

“Yeah. I just wish she could be here today, to experience this.”

Daisy stood up and took my hand. I stood up, and she put her hands on her hips. Suddenly, a faint clicking noise started up. It was just her pocket watch. It went off every hour, and she didn’t know how to turn it off. I always teased her about it, but it was her grandmother’s, so it held a special place in her heart. She was wearing it as a necklace tonight.

“I do too, Madeleine. She may not be here, but I’m going to make sure that you have the best night possible. One that she would be proud of. You and I are going to have fun tonight.”

I smiled and hugged her. She was an amazing friend. She had helped me through so much when Marie died. If it weren't for her, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. She had been close with Marie too, so she knew what it was like. But Daisy was stronger than me.

We put on our dresses and shoes and went outside to take pictures. I had a flowy black dress and tall heels. Daisy had gone for flats, which meant that for once, we were a similar height. We took pictures for a long time. Wilbur was yapping at our feet for most of the pictures, and Daisy’s mom had to keep grabbing him so he wouldn’t be in the pictures.

We finished with the pictures and started to leave. Daisy was acting happy for the pictures, but I could tell that she was sad about Marie, as well. We had been the three best friends, together almost all the time. But they had hung out without me sometimes. I had been somewhat jealous, but I knew it was ridiculous. Daisy and I had our little things we did together when Marie was still around. So why shouldn’t they? I had never found out what they did, however. But it never really concerned me anymore.

Daisy didn’t have a car, and my car had been totaled in the accident. So my mom lent me her keys. I had told myself that I was going to drive tonight. But when I started walking to the car, I started shaking.

“I can’t,” I whispered.

My mom came over and put her hand on my shoulder. She smiled at me and rubbed my back. Then she pulled me in for a hug.

“You don’t have to drive if you don’t want to. I’m sure Daisy will be fine driving,” she said.

I almost started crying, but then I remembered my makeup. “I know, but I was hoping to finally be okay with driving. But I guess that will have to wait for another day,” I said.

My mom continued to rub my back, and I looked over to Daisy, who was talking to her mom. Wilbur was jumping up at their feet. I waved to her and raised the keys in the air. She hugged her mom and ran over.

“Need me to drive?” She said.

I nodded, and she said, “Alright.”

We both said our final goodbyes to our moms, and then got in the car. Daisy put it in reverse, and I started waving to our moms. They both waved back. Daisy’s mom had Wilbur and waved his paw in the air to us. I laughed. When we were in the street, Daisy honked twice and we left.

While we were driving, Daisy and I were talking, the radio blasting. The night was already fun. But then we came up to the stoplight. The same one the crash had been at. Daisy was singing along to the radio, but I stopped and looked out the window. I knew I was supposed to be having fun, but I thought of what tonight have been like with Marie. Daisy’s watch went off, and she paused singing for a moment to turn it off.

The night was foggy, and it was hard to see. But I saw a dark figure at the crosswalk. It was the only person around. It was in a long black cloak, and I couldn’t tell if it whether it was more masculine or feminine. It slowly turned to look at me. It had a horrible skull mask on, and I couldn’t see any features. I watched it, feeling fear in the pit of my stomach.

But then the light turned green, and we drove off. I watched the figure until I couldn’t see it anymore. And it watched me back. I sat back and thought about the figure. Daisy hadn’t noticed it. Had I imagined it? That intersection was a terrible place for me. I tried to not go there unless I had to. It made me nervous. But I don’t think I’d ever imagined something like that before.

“Madeleine, sing along with me! It’s our favorite song!” Daisy yelled, startling me.

So I started singing along. I forgot about the figure for now. But I kept it in the back of my mind. It had to be a hallucination. Right?

We got to the dance, and it was incredible. I had already seen all the decorations, but they looked even more fantastic now that it was actually prom time. Every table was a different color theme and had a large feathered centerpiece that matched the color.

Everyone had masks on. Some were homemade, and some were old Halloween store masks, which kept reminding me of the masked figure. But I could still tell who everyone was at the dance. The masks may have covered their eyes, but I could still see enough of their faces to tell who it was. I think that was what scared me about the masked figure. I had no idea who it was.

Daisy and I danced for a little bit, but we sat for a while. Daisy went to the restroom about halfway through. She took a while, so I went to check on her. She was crying on small couch in the powder room connected to the restroom.

I sat down next to her and rubbed her back. “Daisy, what's wrong? We were having so much fun,” I said.

She sniffled. “I miss her too Madeleine. I wish she was here with us.”

I hugged her, and she cried on my shoulder. I knew she was sad about Marie. So was I. But this was the first time I'd ever seen her show it so extremely. I almost started crying too. But I was going to help her. She helped me earlier, and I was going to do the same for her.

“Daisy, like you said to me earlier. You miss her. That's okay. I wish she could be here too. But she's not, and she wouldn't want us to be in the bathroom the whole time. She would want us to be out there, dancing the night away. We both need to follow our own advice and make this night the night we dreamed of.”

She looked up at me with tears still in her eyes. She smiled and started wiping her tears away. Then she shook her head.

“Okay. Yeah. I’m not following my own advice. Can you help me freshen up my makeup?”

I nodded. I left to go get my purse from our table. I saw Peter on the way. He waved to me, but I pretended like I didn't see him. I knew I was not following my own advice, but I didn't care about him right now. I just wanted Daisy to be happy.

I brought my purse to Daisy, and I helped her freshen up. She wiped off the mascara that had run and put some more on. She applied more lipstick, and we were done.

We went back out and danced the night away. It felt like something had clicked, and we had finally let go of our sadness over Marie. We would have stayed there all night, but they cleared the dance floor to announce the queen.

Peter came out, holding a plastic, but still beautiful crown. He made eye contact with me, and I smiled. Maybe I should talk to him. Daisy was better now, and so was I. I was starting to realize that maybe I do deserve happiness. Marie would want that. So I decided I would talk to him later.

Peter grabbed the microphone and began reading off names. Daisy was giggling, but then stopped when she heard her name. She hesitated, but I laughed.

“Go up there Daisy, you’re in the top seven!” I said and pushed her lightly. She stood up and went to the dance floor.

All of the seven girls stood in a line. Daisy was the last one on the right. I put my head in my hand and admired all the beautiful dresses. It was one of my favorite things about dances. The first girl had a beautiful blue dress that had sparkly sequins on the bodice. The next was royal purple with gold accents. Then there was an emerald green dress with lace patterns down the skirt. Then there an orange dress that I would have hated to wear, but the girl wearing it looked amazing. The fifth girl’s dress was white and frilly. The girl next to Daisy had a violet dress on with a matching shawl. Daisy was last, with her amazing red and black dress. All the girls removed their masks and waited patiently.

“And now, we will crown the queen,” Peter announced and started to walk along the line of girls. Suddenly, a faint clicking noise could be heard. Daisy quickly fumbled for necklace and shut off the watch. Peter laughed a little.

It suddenly felt very cold. I looked around and saw the dark figure from before. It was strolling to the dance floor.

Fear raced through me. It felt like ice in my veins. Other people were looking at it. They saw the figure too. It wasn’t just a hallucination. It was real.

It came out onto the dance floor and stood at the edge. The court stared at him, and Peter stopped mid step.

“Hey, it’s not Halloween time, man!” some random person shouted, and everyone laughed nervously.

Who was this person? No one seemed to know who it was. It was a surprise that someone hadn’t kicked them out. They were breaking the mask rule. I looked around. All the chaperones were gone. They had all been here before. But they were gone now.

The figure started to stride quickly to Peter. It snatched the crown and started walking down the line of girls. Blue to purple, purple to green. No one said anything. Green to orange, orange to white. People started whispering and looking around. White to purple, purple to red and black. The figure stopped and turned to Daisy. Peter unfroze from where he had been standing. He started to walk to the figure.

“Hey, that’s my job. I don’t know who you think you are but…” He stopped mid-sentence.

The figure slowly turned to look at him. Peter froze. He didn’t move a muscle. The figure walked over to him and placed a gloved hand on his forehead. Peter fell over. There was a loud collective gasp from everyone.

Then each girl began to fall over, one by one. Daisy still stood. The figure came over and placed the crown on her head. Her eyes shone with fear. People were starting to stand and shout. But all the chaperones were gone. No one knew what to do. The figure leaned forward and whispered something in Daisy’s ear. Then she fell over.

That’s when the chaos started. Everyone ran to the doors. But I ran to the figure. I was finally having fun. So was Daisy. And this figure, this thing, ruined it. I was scared, but my anger was surpassing it. This figure was going to pay for ruining my night.

The figure was running away, but I tackled it. It struggled back. I could tell that whoever it was, they were strong. But I was still able to pin it down. I ripped the mask off. But when I saw what was under it, I froze.

It was Marie. She looked exactly the same as she had a year ago. She smiled up at me. But it wasn’t the same. She looked sinister.

Marie took the time while I was in shock to hit me on the head. She pushed me off her and stood. I struggled to get to my feet. Once I did, I barely utter a word.

“Marie? H…how?”

She smiled that sinister smile again. So many emotions were running through me that I could barely react. She came up close to me and whispered in my ear.

“This is only the beginning.”

I didn’t have any time to react before she placed a hand on my forehead. I fell over, and my vision faded to nothing.