India looked around the dressing room and chuckled lightly to herself. Canada looked like she was about to excuse herself to pass out in the back room, and Japan clearly didn’t know how to breath beneath that corset. She took a moment to pat down her saree, the orange and yellow fabric smoothening out beneath her as she traced her hands against the fine silk. India knew she was a fierce contender for Ms. World, and she would have happily taken the crown (and the prize money) on the first day were it not for one thing standing in her way.
Not only was Brazil India’s only real competition, Brazil was proving to be everything that India was not. With her sharp eyes and long face, curved nose and high cheeks, it was clear that she was a beautiful woman, but she was so much more than that.
India had been watching Brazil closely over the past few days and was sure that the woman must have been a fantastic actress. There was no way someone could be so confident, bold and striking in the way they held themselves and somehow also have a gentle touch and a soft voice. Yet there was Brazil, standing tall and proud in her own beautiful rose gown, smiling warmly to the photographers that snapped away.
India found herself drowning in the presence of her supposed enemy and she knew she had to look away before the panic set in. Panic that she might not be able to win this fashion show. Panic that she might not be able to win Brazil over.
“India!” Brazil called out, making India snap her head back into the direction of the photographers. Brazil was smiling at her competitor and waving her over with a perfectly manicured hand. India took a steadying breath before putting on her award-winning smile and gracefully sliding beside Brazil.
“Perfect, why don’t we get a few pictures of you together for the magazine,” one of the photographers called out. India felt her heart skip in her chest as she unconsciously licked her lips, immediately scolding herself for an action she knew was improper and unladylike.
“Sure,” India simply stated, her voice unusually small. Brazil smiled at her and took a step closer, causing India to freeze. The latter could smell Brazil’s perfume now, something light and floral that seemed to embody Brazil’s very nature – beautiful to look at, gentle at first glance, and strong enough to withstand the torments of life as a fashion model.
“Here, let’s stand like this,” Brazil said, reaching out to suddenly grab India’s hand as if it were the most comfortable action in the world.
It was as though time slowed at the touch of skin upon skin. India had never been so close to Brazil before and she was acutely aware of every action the woman was taking beside her. The softness of her hands. The wistfulness of her smile. The minty air from her perfectly parted lips as she let out a light chuckle. As Brazil took India’s hand, she placed it onto her own waist, holding it there gently in case India wanted to pull away.
India stared up at Brazil, looking into her hazel eyes that seemed to brighten against her dark skin. She was sure that she could stare into those eyes forever, become lost in them and never find her way out. Somehow the thought that should have been terrifying was rather comforting. What would it be like to hold Brazil like this for a moment longer?
“India, would you look this way please?”
The photographer’s words cut through India’s fantasy like a sharp butcher knife as India snapped her head towards the cameras. She mentally cursed herself as she gave her most believable, faux smile to the photographers. Her heart was still racing away in her chest and she was sure she would end up just like Canada if she continued to stand so close to Brazil.
After a few more photos, the photographers released the girls and moved on to shoot some pictures of France who was fiddling with her red and blue ball gown.
“They can be quite frustrating, can’t they?” Brazil said with a light smile. She slowly released India’s hand which limply fell back to India’s side as the latter cleared her throat.
“Yes, the photographers are always trying to take their photos at the most inconvenient times,” India quickly said, putting her head down and brushing past Brazil to get back to her assigned chair.
This was a competition and India needed to remember that. She didn’t have time for any conflicting emotions that might get in her way of winning. Had she not spent her formative years training and practicing, sewing and needling just for a chance to get to where she was? Could she really throw all of that away now that she was here?
Decidedly not. In fact, India decided, it would be better if –
All thoughts were cut short once more as a hand rested on her shoulder. India froze in place, recognizing the soft touch as Brazil’s as all thoughts of the competition fled from her mind, replaced by the dazzling visage of her competitor.
“Are you alright, India?” Brazil asked.
India’s stomach did a flip as she watched Brazil’s face contort from one of happiness to one of concern, eyebrows pinched together and eyes widened slightly, lips pressed together in a beautifully straight line. The sensation in India’s stomach was foreign to her, something that was all consuming yet also uncomfortable, a sense of nervousness and excitement.
“I’m fine,” she managed to breathe out. Her eyes were lost in Brazil’s once more and she knew that it would take a while before she would find her way out.
India watched in amazement as Brazil’s face shifted once more into a different, more seductive look, muscles relaxing around her eyes as her lips picked up into a gentle smile. Brazil’s hand was still resting on India’s arm and was now drawing small circles into the naked skin there.
“It’s okay, I understand how you feel,” Brazil said with a knowing look. Almost immediately, India’s body went rigid with fear. Her eyes widened slightly, but she quickly calmed her face, years of training making it easy to put on a façade of calm.
“Is that so?” India simply replied. All attempts at hiding her shaky voice were in vain as Brazil traced her fingers down India’s arm slowly and with intention.
“Of course,” Brazil said with a slow nod. “I know how intense these events can be, but if you’d like to...” she trailed off, glancing around the room. Nobody was in their vicinity save for Tanzania who was completely absorbed in the mirror in front of her. Brazil cleared her throat before dipping down to whisper into India’s ear. “If you want to come with me, I have a room here at the hotel,” she proposed.
India caught her breath as her heart took off in her chest beating so loudly that she could barely hear anything save for the thumping. It had never occurred to her that Brazil would be having the same frustrations as she was and she found herself wondering if this was too good to be true.
“What about the gala?” India heard herself whisper, unaware that she had said anything at all. She was having an out of body experience now and it was as though someone was speaking through her like a puppet. As Brazil smiled sweetly down at her, India felt herself melt under Brazil’s eyes.
Nobody had ever looked at her in that way before.
“Don’t worry, we won’t be long. We’ll be back in time for the gala, I promise,” Brazil said, her hand trailing down now to meet India’s. Brazil glanced down at their interlocked hands before giving India’s a small, reassuring squeeze. “We both want to,” she simply stated.
India could hardly breathe as a million thoughts raced through her head. Who she wanted to be. Who she should be. Who she was. None of it seemed to matter though as she stared up at Brazil. All India truly wanted was to be with her.
“Alright,” India agreed, breathlessly as she nodded. Brazil broke into a wide grin and laughed lightly in excitement before quieting herself once more. India found herself smiling back, cheeks hurting from how wide her lips were stretching
“Wonderful, okay, go walk towards the back door and I’ll follow behind you in a moment. That way people won’t suspect anything. We can meet by the elevators and go up together,” Brazil instructed, pulling out her purse and shuffling through it. She brought out a hotel key card and glanced excitedly at India.
“Okay, that sounds like a plan,” India said with a heavy breath, smile now permanently sitting on her face. Her heart was still racing, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand before passing out from the excitement, but she marched on anyways.
India slowly walked across the room with feigned purpose, waving to Sweden as she made her way towards the back door, only turning for a moment to shoot Brazil a thumbs up. Once Brazil gave her a nod, India was out the door with a dreamy grin and heading to the elevators, anticipation bubbling up inside of her at the prospect of revealing her true feelings for Brazil.
As soon as India was out of the room, Brazil’s smile immediately fell.
Where her sweet, excited lips had once been, a sinister, devilish sneer took its place. Brazil was always surprising herself with her ability to put on the right façade. Some people were simply too easy to manipulate. India was her biggest competitor after all and there was only one thing to do when winning wasn’t assured – take out the competition.
There could only be one winner and Brazil decided that it would be herself, no matter what the cost might be. After all, if India truly wanted to win, she wouldn’t let silly things like presumed love get in the way. She glanced into a nearby mirror and quickly took a breath replacing her sneer with an innocent, happy-go-lucky smile.
She would certainly give India an evening to remember...not that India would remember much of anything after tonight.