It’s just like you are standing there at the masquerade ball in your big gown, long gloves, and your dainty little mask. This is you. This is how you live your life. You hide behind the persona of your costume. Your mask is your life; your life as one perceive it to be. And even if it is different, you never take the time to correct reality. You simply let it be, because the way they see you is how you really wish it was.

But if you take a second to exam the situation a bit closer, you start to see the details. The little rip in gown because it doesn’t fit quite right. The mascara stain on the ring finger of the long glove. Very subtle, yet enough to know that tears were shed in hours past. You start to take in the lipstick marks on the crystal glass, realizing that she is at least a bottle deep. You see the minor tremble in her hands that tell of nervousness and fatigue. You see the hunch in her shoulders and the shifting of weight in the feet. Signs of a conversation long over run.

Then you see the mask. Perfection from a distance, but up close the light reveals little chip marks where the paint use to lie. Signs of the mask being carelessly laid down. Removed without a second thought. Perhaps just a fragile piece of plastic to someone who isn’t observing all that there is to see, but a lifetime of curiosity for  those who see just what it is. It’s a door way. An opening into who she is. Who she really is.

She notices your observations. Becoming very nervous that you are seeing right through her. She knows she’s not fooling you. She’s praying you don’t give away her secret or try to come to close. Your very touch could break her, she thinks. She feels the closing of her throat. She knows she’s had too much to drink. She hastily polishes over her glass, hoping no one notices her quickness. But of course he does. He sees it all.

She politely excuses herself from the conversation. Steadily, yet not so steadily makes her way across the room. She plasters that smile of hers on and deeply concentrates on her smooth movement. Delicate steps, as not to be noticed. Merely a fly on the wall in passing. She sees an open door and barely controls her urge to take off her shoes and bolt out of the room. But no, no. Removing the shoes would be a sign of who she really is.

So she continues to make her way to the door. Acknowledging politely her friends along the way. Daring not to utter any more words that she has to for fear of her voice quivering. Finally, just steps away from the door, she turns around to see if anyone has noticed. No, of course not. She stands there for a good 30 seconds taking it all in. She sees the lies that wrap each of them like a protective bubble. Wow. How could she have let this become her life? She quietly takes two steps back and slips out the door unseen.

Out in the darkness she feels comfortable. She looks around. No one here but her and the night, just the way she likes it. She drops the mask. Closes her eyes and breathes in deep. Damn. She loves the smell of a summer night. The way the hay feels the air. She opens her eyes and sees the lightning bugs decorating the night, the moon reflecting off the lake. A smile breaks across her face. Home. That’s where she is. She slips off her shoes and her gloves. Such an unnecessary piece of confinement. The stone feels cool under her feet, but man it feels so good.

She knows it’s time. She turns and meanders her way down the steps. Just thinks of Andrey Hepburn as she makes her decent. But he second she touches her toes to the grass it’s gone. She is herself again, minus the ridiculous dress she was forced to wear. Fuck it. She hikes up that dress and runs. She feels herself go back into her animalistic state. She feels her feet striking the grass perfectly, her legs pumping and burning in one fluid motion, her lungs filling with the summer air. Damn she feels good. Guiding with ease. She banks to the left, hitting the well hidden trail that leads her to peace. She is smiling like there is no tomorrow. She is living the moment. She is free. Herself. And she is goddamned if anything is going to ruin this moment. She begins to slow ever so slightly. She sees her spot up ahead, right on the edge of the lake. No one knows this place like she does. She could sit here for hours, within inches of someone and they would never know it.

She plops down on the ground. Feels the hot summer night embrace her. As she slips her feet into the warm water, she feels sweat roll off her forehead. She smiles to herself. Fuck it. No one knows she’s here. She can feel the excitement building. She strips off that god awful dress, slips off her bra and panties carefully. She actually likes those. Little reminders of what she wish she was going to get at the end of the night. She wades into the water, feeling it touch every inch of her skin. Sweet jesus, this is freedom at its finest. She dips her fingers carefully across the surface of the water. Giggles a bit out loud. She submerges herself in the lake, pushes herself away from the shore. She surfaces, wiping her eyes. Opening them to see the lightning bugs and the moon. Damn. She did good tonight. She faked it like the best of them. She grins to herself. Gives herself a mental pat on the back. Man, she could live for moments like these everyday of her life. She had won. She was free was a bird. No one knew the real her. No one saw into her soul.

Then a thought flickered into her mind. She was almost perfect tonight. Only one minor flaw lied with that gentlemen who did see beyond her mask. Shit. Oh well, he didn’t seem to care too much, right? I mean he never said anything about it. Damn ballsless men. Standard. Why did she keep thinking that Mr. Right was going to come? Clearly, she was too fucked up to actually belong with anyone. Too smart for her own good. She knew she was different, and it never worked in her favor.

She was lying there in the water with her thoughts. You could see that she was raw. God, she was so beautiful. He silently watched her, smiled a bit to himself. Wrestling with his own thoughts. She made him weak at the knees without even trying. He wanted so bad just to touch her. Hold her. What was he waiting for? She made his heart jump into his throat. Fuck. What was this? She scared him into thinking wild things. Things he had never envisioned before. Thoughts that he would not dare tell a soul. He reflected over how brave she was tonight. She stood there in that room, perfect as can be, but she was just itching on the inside to escape. That’s the moment she noticed him in the ballroom. He knew she saw him. That stupid fucking expression on his face. Just like ice, she turned and walked away. How was he ever going to get her?

He followed her out into the night. He watching her transform, just like she always does. My god, is thoughts where racing. What did she want from him? All or nothing? He watched her glide across the water. Each movement made with ease and relaxation. For three whole years he had watched her just be. Smiling, nodding, breathing life into the things she touched, rejecting any shallow soul that had crossed her path. Goddamn it all to hell! What was he really waiting on? Really, what? The world to come to an end? Fuck it, he thought. He stood up, slipped off his clothes and silently waded into the water. Fuck it. He was going for it. For her. Damn. This was going to be one of the best nights of his life or the absolute worse.

She hadn’t noticed him yet. He was only a mere 2 feet from her. How could she not hear his heart beating like a drum? He wasn’t going to stop. He had to go for it. He reached out, just inches from her skin, nervous as hell, breathed in deep, and connected. His hand danced over her shoulder. She never even flinched. Good signs. Good signs. He moved closer wrapping his arms around her. She hadn’t moved a muscle. Not one word uttered. This was…strange.

Finally, she breathed in. She sucked in his scent. God it was intoxicating. She felt his arms engulf her. She opened her eyes, and fell into the moment. Damn. This felt so good. Just to be held. Her heart picked up pace. It jumped into her throat. Fuck. No. No. She felt the panic coming on. Fuck. What was wrong with her? She needed it to stop. Just go away. Just be in the moment. God damn it!

He tightened his grip on her. She felt his lips brush her ear. “Stop.” That’s all it took. A command. Stop. And she did. She relaxed into him. She let her lips quiver, her body shake, and her tears fall like rain. She lived in that moment, and he lived with her. He let her feel without judgment. He let her be herself. She let him see a side of her that no one else does. She was lost in the bliss, and she just didn’t fucking care anymore. This was her. She didn’t need that damn mask. She needed to be free, and she need to rid herself of her ghosts. She needed to breathe. He gave her this. He breathed life into her. He let her lean on him. He was her rock. She always knew it, but it was always so much easier just to ignore it until now. Now he knew what she was and he didn’t care. He just stood there with her, wrapped in the moment, in a lake on a hot summer night, watching the fireflies dance the night away. He knew it was just past midnight.  He leaned in close, taking in her scent.  She smiled like she never had in fifteen years. She let him see her soul. She was the light that lit up that whole valley, and he was damned if he’d ever let that slip away.


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