“Hurry up, Casey, you’ll make us late,” my sister, Emilia shouts up the stairs.
“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I shout back.
“If you’re not ready in five minutes, I’m leaving without you!” She replies stormily.
I groan, knowing very well she wouldn’t. I’m the older sibling, and she doesn’t know the way to the palace. I do.
I look at myself in the mirror. I have an unbuttoned dress shirt on and some dress pants. The invitation called for an over-the-top outfit. I need to make this over the top.
I pull on a blue blazer, and enchant my hat to make it full of feathers. I grab a plain black mask and make it iridescent by using a simple spell. I want this outfit to be inspired by the magical birds that fly by my window at night. They’re black when you first look at them, but then you see that they all slowly turn different color when they hit the light. They can manipulate their feathers to make themselves look bigger. As I remember this, I cast a manipulation spell so that I can do the same with my feathered hat.
I look down at my blazer and simply cast a spell that will make it full of holographic, thin, feathers. They look like glass. I decide to take a cape from my closet and make it of the same material from my mask.
I take some of the makeup from my white vanity, and draw patterns on my check and neck. I add a thick cat-style eyeliner to my eyelids, and add a silver eyeshadow.
I once again turn to my mirror, and nod to myself. I’ve done it. I check my watch. And in only two minutes.
I pull on my black dress shoes, and walk downstairs, where my sister is tapping her foot impatiently.
“I’m here sis,” I say, ruffling her perfect hair.
“Hey! I just did that!” She exclaims, touching her ruined hairstyle mournfully.
As we walk to the carriage, I see her hair go back into place. I remember teaching her that charm. Very simple, but very useful.
I remember that day the invite arrived. It was a sunny day, and I had just come inside from a trip to the bakers. As I walked our small house, I heard the clattering of horses hooves on the road. I turned around after setting my bag on the table. A man in very fancy clothes walked up and handed me an envelope. He walked away before I could ask what it was for.
I remember my hands trembling, assuming the worst. I thought it might be that one of my family was arrested… or worse. When I opened the fine envelope, I saw that it was indeed a royal address, I knew that because of the expensive paper and royal seal.
I read the contents, and saw that it was an invite, and ran to my sister. We were both very excited, and sent a letter to our parents, who were away on a trip. They wouldn’t be back in time to come with us, but they were still very excited for us.
The letter said that a carriage would be at our house in time fro us to get on and ride to the palace. As promised, the carriage, with matching white horses, was waiting on our driveway for us. As we board the small transport, I take a look at my sister’s outfit for tonight.
She’s wearing an upper shin-length dress, with patterned stockings reaching her thigh. She has on small purple heels to match her dress, which is also a deep purple. It has a subtle pattern of flowers. She has on a simple muted blue mask without a pattern. On her head, she wears a small tiara-looking headpiece. It is decorated with silver flowers.
On the short ride, I think about who might be there. I imagine myself finding someone there. Someone who I manage to catch the eye of from across the room. Someone who I talk with for the whole night. Someone who I find out that I love. Someone that I spend the rest of my life with.
I know that that won’t happen, but why not think about it. I sigh as the carriage pulls through the gates of the palace.
The white noises of horses hooves on paved roads slowly stops. The driver beckons for us to get out of the carriage, and we do.
Emilia gets out first, her outfit shining in the soft glow of lanterns dotting the steps.
I look around, seeing all that I can see. I jump at the chance to see people dressed in fine silk and jewels. They all look beautiful. As I walk inside the huge front doors, I notice one person in particular.
He has on a tattered black cloak. Under that, he has on a black dress shirt with a barely noticeable shine on it. I’ve seen that fabric before. It is the fabric that performers wear before their performance.
Just as I notice all that, he slips inside the doors as well, leaving me behind. I speed up my walking pace, trying to follow this person. I want to talk to them, I want to meet them. I don’t know why I want to meet them so much, but I know I do. It’s like a string is connecting us, and if I get too far away from them, the string will break.
As I think about all this, I realize that I’ve lost them. I stand on my tiptoes, trying to see this person in black. I continue walking, going so fast that it’s almost at a jogging pace.
Suddenly, a stray foot comes into my path and trips me. I seem to fall in slow motion. My head rocks back, turning to the high ceiling. There’s a grand chandelier here. Full of candles and sparkling gems.
Life zips back into full speed, where I let out a startled yelp, as I hit the floor… except I don’t. I don’t hit the floor because I’m being held up by someone. They caught me, and as I look at them, I notice a shiny black dress shirt. It’s the person!
I don’t know how he’s managed to catch me, but he did manage it. He holds be by the waist, allowing me to set my feet back on the ground.
As I stand up, he whispers in my ear, “Do you know how to dance?” I nod, wondering what he has in mind. He whispers again, his deep voice echoing in my mind, “Then dance. Make it seem as if this was planned.”
Not wanting to disappoint this mysterious figure, we start waltzing. He takes my hand, becoming the masculine role in this dance. I comfortably slip into the more feminine role. With his hand around my waist, we dance.
The crowd around us makes a ring, encasing us in a pen, but this pen feels more free than the woods outside my home. The two of us dance, and as soon as we get into a comfortable rhythm, I allow myself to look at him.
Underneath a messy mop of dark hair, his electric green eyes sparkle. He has a soft jawline, and underneath his shirt, I see that his body is well muscled. His hands are bigger than mine, and he’s taller than me as well. He seems the same age as me, though.
“I think we’ve started a trend,” his voice says softly in my ear. I look around, and see many people joining our pen of people and dancing. I let a soft chuckle escape my lips. I see his mouth open in a slight smile.
As soon as he notices that the attention is no longer solely on us, he pulls me aside to one of the bars dotting the walls of the great room. We sit on old leather stools at one of the less crowded bars. He orders us both drinks. I don’t know what he ordered, but somehow I manage to trust him. I don’t know what convinced me to trust this man that I just met, but he has a good feeling about him.
“So,” he starts, turning to me, “What’s your name?”
“Oh,” I say, laughing a bit, “My name’s Casey.”
“Alright, Casey. Nice to meet you. I’m Jace.” He replies, smiling.
Jace. I think I know that name from somewhere. I know I do, but I don’t know from where.
“Casey!” Jace says, startling me out of my thoughts, “Hey! Can you hear me? You were spacing off.”
“Oh. Yeah, sorry. That happens.” I say, embarrassed.
“I was asking you where you got that outfit. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“Oh. I found some of it in my closet, and enhanced some of the pieces,” I say, gesturing to my hat and using thee spell to curl some of the feathers inward.
“Ah. Enhanced.” He says, “Sorcerer?”
“How’d you guess?” I say, faking surprise, “And you? I would think you’re a fighter or something.”
“Not even close,” he responds, “Guess again!”
“Nope! Want a hint?”
“Please,” I say, folding my hands in a joke begging gesture.
He turns around, and after reaching for something behind his back. After a while of fidgeting with whatever the object is, I start to hear music. I look around for the royal band to see if they’ve changed songs, but they haven’t. They’re still playing very royal and professional songs, while this new sound definitely isn’t perfect. Strangely, though, it not being perfect like the perfectly tuned royal band, the wrong notes make this song even more beautiful. Jace turns around, with a small instrument I recognize as a smaller version of a mandolin in his hands.
The song he plays for me begins with a small repeating riff, then expends upon it, making it more and more beautiful. I listen as it grows, and it seems to give me strength and hope. I already have all that, but it seems to give me even more. It feels like this song is lifting me off the stool and into space. I close my eyes, enchanted by the song.
When it finally comes to an end. I have one tear in my eye. I don’t know why it’s there, because I’m not sad, but this song just makes me wistful. It ends on a scale, but doesn’t end with the last note. I used to take a few music lessons when I was younger, so I know that that unsatisfying note isn’t right. I give him a death stare as he’s re-strapping the instrument over his shoulder. He pulls it back off and plays the last note. I nod.
“That was amazing,” I say.
“I’m glad you think so,” Jace replies.
We continue talking, and I realize that I like him. He’s an amazing person, and as he talks about his past, it begins to seem that I’ve known this man my whole life. He’s very kind. He has two sisters, both older than him. He’s the only musician in his family of wizards. He doesn’t like the water or swimming.
When it’s my turn to talk, I can’t say much. I just talk about my sister, and my parents.
“Casey. I know there’s more to your life than just that. Tell me about yourself,” Jace says after a few moments of awkward silence.
“I don’t know what else to say,” I respond.
“Sure,” he says, a small grin coming to his face. Through his teeth, he begins to hum a tune.
This new song is much different than the one he played on the mandolin. It reminds me of my childhood. Of good memories I thought I’d forgotten. It makes me comfortable. It feels like a fine fur blanket is being draped over you as your drinking hot chocolate and watching the fire die on a snowy night. I sigh and rest my head in my hands.
While still humming this, he asks again: “Sure you don’t have anything to say about yourself?”
“I love swimming more than anything in this world. Winter is my favorite season. Purple is my favorite color. Willow trees are my favorite plant. I hate peanuts more than anything,” I say, sighing and then continuing, “I’ve never had my first kiss. I’m a sucker for anything pretty. I can’t handle the smell of wet fur. I love music, even though I can’t play any instrument well. I’ve never had a crush on anyone until tonight.” I say, finishing that last sentence with a pointed look at him. It wasn’t until this monologue that I realized that the song he was humming was a truth spell.
Embarrassed, I bury my face in my hands. I think that I must have ruined my chances with him.
“Casey,” he says, cupping me chin in his hands and turning my face toward his. “I can only relate with one of those statements. I’ve never had a crush either.”
He begins to lean in toward me. I return the gesture. As our lips touch, I begin to hear a new song in my head. One full of hope. One with high trills and a steady bass line. A love song.