Fiction Friendship

Mysterious Invitation Amy Green

Seven AM, the sound of the alarm invades my dreams taking the form of a banshee, shrieking into the night sky from a distant hilltop. I like it here, even with the ever persistent noise. Warm, comfortable, peaceful, everything that the real world is not. Even when I am awake, I still try to hang onto the smallest thread of sleep. Savoring the lingering feeling of the last moments remaining from that place where we travel to in our sleep, at least on a good night.  

Last night was a good night but now as I awaken, I am struck by that gnawing sensation in my stomach. Anxiety, uncertainty, who really cares if I am out in the world today? That said, I have bills to pay, Heaven forbid I become a burden to anyone.

Each day just feels like running through the cogs of a system, to which I have no real connection. As I mill around the bus stop, I stand alone as others gather in pairs chatting away. I feel invisible and have no wish change that. The bus arrives and I take a seat next to an older gentleman. I hope he doesn’t try to make small talk.

When I arrive at work, I make my way to my desk and I am met with a small envelope. I open it without much thought but, to my surprised, it contains an invitation. It reads;

My dearest friend,

Please grace us with your presence at an evening to remember.

This formal affair will be held Saturday, in the Town Hall, at Midnight.

Help us keep the mystery and don the mask that has been gifted to you.

You will find this in your top draw.

Until we meet x

My heart skips a beat, surely this must to be a mistake. Someone must have put the envelope on the wrong desk, but gingerly I opened the top draw and…

My eyes fall upon a black lace mask. I hesitate in touching the mask as though any minute someone will arrive and accuse me of stealing. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me.

My day continues unremarkably, eat lunch at my desk. Outside of a few obligatory interactions, I speak to no one. It’s Friday, end of the week. As I make the commute home, I think about the mask concealed in my unassuming, brown leather handbag. I imagine putting it on, the feel of the lace brushing my cheek. Will I even try?

In the seclusion of my room, I take the invitation and the mask out of my bag, placing it delicately on my dresser. I return to bed and give way to the bliss of sleep.

That night I dream of music, dance, and strangers moving together, embracing. The darkness is welcoming, comforting and anonymous. I stand at the edge of the room and, although still outside, an invited guest.

I awake Saturday morning, at ease. I lay in bed immersed in warmth and comfort. The dream gives way to thoughts and possibility. I make my way to the kitchen, make a cup of tea, and sit by the window pensively sipping my tea. Then, for the first time in a long time, I feel anticipation.

Exploring my closet, I looked through the garments that have not seen the light of day in over a year. I vaguely remember a life where those clothes were not so foreigner. There was a time when this apartment was a buzz of activity every weekend, and many weekdays. That seemed like a lifetime ago.

I start laying clothes out on my bed, and I suddenly miss her, just as though she had only just walked out that door. It had been two and a half years, give or take, since Toni moved abroad to take a job in LA. We had been inseparable for as long as I can remember. We went to school together, discovered makeup, fashion and boys together. And when the time came, we moved out of home together, into this very apartment. She was my best friend.

My dreams included Toni, never did I think we would be on different continents. I dreamed of being a journalist, Toni wanted to be an actor. She was always the life of the party, not me. Who am I kidding, this is not me. Maybe I’ll just go back to bed.

I lay on my bed, defeated before I even leave the house. Some new kind of record. I try to kick the assorted outfits off the end of the bed, but a black dress becomes entangled around my foot. I recognize the dress as the one I wore to Toni’s going away party. It was a great night…

What have I become, any wonder I don’t want to get out of bed. Where have I gone, and who is this shell left in my place? I need to get out, but I don’t know how to… be me, whoever that may be. So I pick up that dress and put it on, I liked who I was back then and I want them back.

It is late Saturday evening, my heart is racing. I am wearing the black dress, long and shimmering, with a suggestive split all the way to my thigh. I have dusted off my strappy silver high-heels, and my hair is flowing down past my shoulders, out of the trademark ponytail. My mask is waiting in my sparkling silver clutch.

I take a cab to the Town Hall, I sit and contemplate in the back seat. What if this is some joke, a cruel prank. I consider just going back home, but then where does it end? Live my life as a shut-in, maybe get fifteen cats to keep me company? Would that be any better that a non-existent gathering? I decide that the answer is no, by the way.

So I pay the cab driver and put on my mask. I walk, feigning confidence, to the back of the building. I notice a flicker of light from under the double doors. I open the door slowly and find myself staring into darkness, broken up with swirls of purple, blue and pink. There is a music playing, a deep base combined with rhythmic electric guitar chords.

I feel as though I am disturbing something magical, ritualistic even. I step in and close the door. I see shadows cutting through the colored lights and realize they are other guests dancing. As my eyes adjust I see the flowing dresses and the sharp suits, and each dancer is also wearing a mask.

One song gives way to another and there is a presence close to me. In my ear a voice whispers, glad you came and their hand envelopes mine, leading me to the dance floor. I give in to their lead and together we start to move. It feels amazing, I feel free. Then, a loud screech bursts from the speakers, drowning out the music.

I hold on to my dance partner’s hand but they pull away, fading in a nonsensical way. The feel of my heels give way to warmth, the split of the dress brushing against my thigh gives way to soft pajama fabric, and then I am transported to the warmth and comfort of my bed.

Quietening my alarm clock, I take in the view of my bedroom. The closet is open and that very same dress I had been wearing moments ago, hang their as before. I look on the dresser, there is no mask, no invitation, had been dreaming?

My heart is sinking, it felt so real. I want that moment to have been real. It is Saturday morning and for the first time in the longest time I don’t want to stay in bed. I want the feeling back, that me that is brave, that me that wants to connect, to dance. I don’t need an invitation or a mask, I can go where the music plays. Tonight I am going to dance again.       

May 10, 2021 10:12

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