The week had passed slowly. Rikki didn't put the incident with her stepfamily out of her mind for one moment—it served as fuel for her anger, allowing her to do everything she needed to ensure that her plan would succeed.
Yes, Rikki would be attending the Bennett's gala. She still had her gorgeous Grecian dress, the help of her friends, and some amazing mermaid powers.
She'd been laying low the past few days, trying to convince Priscilla that she'd given up on the masquerade. She did her chores, did her homework, and didn't once try to sneak out to see her friends. That took some serious commitment, but she did it.
Finally it was the day of the party. Rikki made an obvious show of throwing her hair in a messy bun, putting on her grungiest sweatpants, and suggesting that she was going to get an early night. Miriam, Lillian, and Priscilla had all booked professional hair and make-up appointments so Rikki could hear the sound of hair dryers coming from the living room.
"Oh Rikki!" she heard a saccharine voice call from downstairs. She peeked her head out of her room.
"What?" she answered, trying and failing to sound upbeat.
"I was just wondering if you would help me tie on my mask." Miriam asked, holding out the golden laurel mask. Rikki rolled her eyes and went downstairs. "It matches my dress perfectly, don't you think?"
Truthfully, Rikki didn't think it was possible to find a worse match, but she stayed silent. Miriam wore a garish hot pink dress that was covered from head to toe in silver sparkles. The delicate gold mask was way too elegant for the outfit, and the silver and gold clashed horrendously. Rikki bit her tongue and tied the mask to Miriam's face, perhaps a bit too tightly. Perhaps.
"Did they have to make this stupid thing out of metal?" Miriam complained, trying to get the mask to fit comfortably to her face. "It's digging into my skin. You can't even see my false eyelashes!"
Rikki rolled her eyes. "You look great." She lied.
Miriam smirked and went out to the foyer, where Lilian and Priscilla were waiting in gowns and masks of their own.
"Have fun." Rikki called halfheartedly.
"Oh, we will." Lillian said. She looked better than her sister in an aquamarine dress that was short in the front and long in the back. Priscilla, meanwhile, wore a burgundy satin gown with a black and white mask. Her stepfamily left as soon as their limo arrived and Rikki sprung into action.
She ripped her hair—rather painfully—out of her bun and ran upstairs to grab the bag her dress was in. From there she ran to Cleo's, hoping that she wasn't too late.
Cleo's room was a mess of hair products, makeup, shoes, and jewelry. Rikki's three best friends were crowded around Cleo's tiny mirror. The girls weren't in their dresses yet, which meant that Rikki wasn't too far off schedule. She should have enough time to get ready, especially if her friends helped with her hair and make-up, which she was dreadful at.
Bella finished her make-up and had Rikki sit down in a chair so she could do her hair. Rikki had no idea what she had done, but twenty minutes later it looked amazing. It was in a half-up, half-down style and her curls had more structure to them than they usually did. A few braids had also been thrown in.
Emma and Cleo helped each other into their dresses and then helped Rikki and Bella. All that was left was Rikki's make-up and then they'd be ready to party! With any luck, they'd arrive about fifteen minutes after the party started. They'd be "fashionably late", as Bella liked to say.
Emma got to work on Rikki's make-up while Cleo and Bella piled on bracelets, rings, necklaces, shoes, and of course, their masks. Cleo took over Emma's job so that Emma could get accessories for herself, too. The group was excellent at multitasking.
Cleo finished blending Rikki's eyeshadow and stepped back to admire her work. "I think we're ready to go!" she announced. Bella handed Rikki a pair of shoes. Unfortunately, they were much too large. The shoes Emma had brought were also too big, and Cleo's were too small.
Bella attempted to shove some toilet paper into the shoes to fill some of the space, which Rikki would have happily worn, but Emma faced them with another difficulty: a mask. In all of their planning about Rikki getting away from her stepfamily, they'd forgotten that she no longer had a mask!
"You guys should just go without me." Rikki said. "Maybe I'll try to make a mask or something and meet up with you later."
"No way! We'll help make you one. It wouldn't be fun without you there." Cleo said good-naturedly. The girls scoured the house looking for something to DIY with—aluminum foil, construction paper, fabric, cardboard…nothing seemed to work. The party had already started by the time they finished looking through all the cupboards.
"Really, you don't have to stay." Rikki continued to protest, but her friends continued to deny her offer.
They continued their search with no luck. Until…
"Cleo!" Emma exclaimed. "I can't believe I didn't think about it before, but…do you think you could make one?"
"What do you think I've been trying to do for the past five minutes?!" Cleo gestured to the hot glue gun, gold fabric, and cardboard around her.
"Not with arts and crafts, with magic!" she replied. Everyone turned to face her. "You could use water to mold a mask and then Bella could harden it with her power!"
Cleo beamed. "That's a great idea!"
"And anything is better than this." Bella said, holding up her aluminum foil attempt at a mask.
Rikki grabbed a glass of water and Cleo carefully pulled out enough water for a mask, drop by drop. She used her left hand to hold the water in the air and her right to shape it into a recognizable shape: two holes for the eyes, a curve for the nose, and a delicate feathering effect on the edges. She added a few finishing touches, compared it to Rikki's face shape, and motioned to Bella. "Ready."
Bella twisted her hand and the water solidified; the moment it did Cleo lost control of it and it fell. Thankfully, Rikki had been expecting that and she caught it just before it hit the floor.
Emma cheered and the girls gathered around to look. It truly was a masterpiece; the hardened water looked like clouded glass and felt almost rubbery. Rikki placed it on her face and the mask molded to fit her features exactly. Bella used her power to harden it even further, taking away the rubber effect and replacing it with a glasslike one.
Unlike Rikki's old gold mask, this one wasn't uncomfortable at all. It fit her perfectly and although it wasn't tight, she also didn't think it would be in danger of falling. Rikki hugged her friends tightly and thanked them over and over again.
Emma pulled away and arched an eyebrow. "Now for the shoes."
It took Cleo and Bella about five minutes to make a pair of water heels (they argued about the length of the heel) that also fit Rikki's feet like a glove. They were surprisingly durable. Rikki thought she could run a mile…you know, if she did that sort of thing. They were certainly up to a night of dancing!
The girls piled in Emma's car and drove a few kilos to the Bennett mansion. Rikki had never been inside of it before, but it looked beautiful, especially so tonight. The place was lit up with fairy lights and every guest was wearing a suit or a gown. The party was designed to be half indoor and half outdoor, with a dance floor outside near the water fountain and food served inside.
Emma parked the car and Rikki stepped out. In her gorgeous dress, with her features hidden behind a one-of-a-kind mask, she felt invincible. Even if she ran into Miriam, Priscilla, or Lillian, she doubted they would recognize her!
"This is going to be so much fun." Bella squealed. "Which one do you think is Will?" she whispered, looking at all the masked men standing on or around the dance floor.
"They're wearing masks, they haven't shape shifted!" Cleo laughed and pointed. Standing near the edge of the dance floor were two blonde boys, one with close cropped hair and the other with shaggier hair. Will and Lewis. A tall brunette guy with a black mask joined Lewis and Will, holding a few drinks. Ash.
Rikki's friends approached their dates. She loved seeing their jaws drop. Her friends looked stunning tonight.
"I'm going to get something to eat." Rikki said after they'd chatted for a while. She left the group and ventured inside, looking at all the beautiful furniture, architecture, and people. Several random people stopped her to compliment her, which was nice.
You'd think that the masks didn't conceal identities very well, considering most of them only covered the eye area, but Rikki didn't recognize a single person. She knew that most of the school had been invited. She wondered if anyone recognized her behind the crystalline mask that she wore.
The food table was fairly disappointing; Rikki wanted something filling, not the teeny-tiny servings of expensive cheese and crackers that were laid out. Nearby, she spotted a desert table. Perfect.
She grabbed a brownie and was just about to take a bite when she heard a familiar whiny voice coming from the next room.
"Ugh, just take it off! This stupid thing is digging into my skin—oww, Tiffany, be careful!" Miriam complained. Rikki caught a glimpse of her awful pink dress before she opened the nearest door and hid inside.
"Um, someone's in here—oh." She heard a voice from behind. Turning around, Rikki could see that she'd hid in a bathroom…an occupied bathroom. Her cheeks flushed, but thankfully the boy who'd spoken wasn't in any state of undress. Even his mask was on, his face hidden behind a full black and white mask. His suit looked impeccable and Rikki could see that he had brown hair and slightly tanned skin. "You can have the bathroom, I'll go hide somewhere else."
"You're hiding?" Rikki asked. "Why?"
"There's this girl I've been avoiding. I broke things off with her a while ago but she's been hovering around me all night." The boy moved to go past Rikki and to the door. "But it's okay, she's probably gone now. I'm sure you want privacy."
"I actually came in here to hide, too." Rikki said. This was strange; she didn't usually open up to people she'd just met. "I'm technically not supposed to be here."
"I won't say a word, I promise." The boy said. She couldn't see anything behind the mask, but she thought he was smiling. His voice sounded very familiar…maybe a boy from school? "Your mask looks really cool by the way."
"Thanks, my friends made it for me." Rikki replied, then wondered if she shouldn't have said that. Normal people couldn't exactly solidify water.
"It looks like glass." He added. "I have no idea where mine is from—my stepmom got it for me. I can barely breathe in this thing. Maybe she picked it that way on purpose." He laughed, but Rikki got the sense that he was being serious.
"My stepmom is the one who didn't want me to go tonight. She's awful, whenever my dad isn't around she treats me like dirt." Rikki admitted.
"Mine does, too. Or at best she treats me like a burden."
"I know what you mean." She said quietly. They were silent for a moment and Rikki realized that she still didn't know the masked boy's name.
"Are you going to eat that?" he interrupted her thoughts and motioned to her brownie. "I haven't had anything all day."
"I suppose we can share." Rikki laughed and handed him a piece of it. Their fingers brushed and she felt it like a bolt of electricity. She smiled without even meaning to.
The boy lifted his mask slightly to eat and Rikki couldn't help trying to get a glimpse of his face. She didn't see much, but he seemed to have slightly tanned skin and a nice smile. She could see his warm brown eyes through the mask, of course, and his brown hair. Again, she was struck by a sense of familiarity, but she figured that if he went to her school she would know him from somewhere. Perhaps they had a class together.
Rikki talked to him for a little while longer—they did go to school together, they both had English first period with Mr. Graham. After all that they had talked about Rikki felt strange asking him his name, so she didn't.
After cracking up at a joke Rikki made about a guy from their school named Nate, the boy looked at her almost with astonishment. "How have I never noticed you before?"
Rikki blushed but it was hidden behind her mask. "Are you sure you haven't? I do have a hidden identity, you know." She tapped on the crystal.
His fingers drifted towards the bottom of his mask, like he was going to pull it off. Rikki kind of wanted to do it herself for some reason, she couldn't explain the feeling. His hand dropped when there was a knock on the door.
"Zane! Zane, I know you're in there! We have guests who want to use the bathroom!" a woman shouted, pounding on the door.
Rikki's eyes widened as she glanced over at the boy she'd spent nearly an hour talking to. He'd been Zane Bennett, the rich, self-absorbed bad boy, all along?
"Sorry about this." Zane whispered to her. "Just a minute!" he called back to the woman. He turned back to Rikki. Now that she knew who he was, it seemed ridiculous that she hadn't guessed before. Zane was in her English class, he was always making a fool of himself. His dad had recently gotten remarried, too, which explained the stepmother incident. And the girl he was hiding from…that must be Miriam.
"I think I should go out first. It might look kind of bad if we, um, you know, go out together. People always assume things about me. I can leave first and then you can follow in a few minutes." Zane said.
"Okay." Rikki had no idea what to say. There were a lot of confusing and conflicting thoughts in her head.
Zane stepped out and gave her one last look before he shut the door. Rikki met his gaze, but didn't want to. Zane Bennett was her mystery man, the kind stranger who made her laugh?
A few minutes later there was a knock on the bathroom door. Rikki got to her feet, the crystal shoes making distinctive noises against the tile floor, and let the person in. "I was just finishing." She murmured on her way out.
Almost immediately she spotted a tall boy in a black and white mask dancing with a shorter girl in an awful pink dress and a beautiful—but uncomfortable—golden laurel mask. Miriam had latched her claws into Zane after all. Feeling a little disappointed, Rikki turned away and went to find her friends. The song ended just as she spotted Bella's green gown.
"Hey!" her friends greeted her. "Where have you been all night? The party is almost over."
"We were thinking we should leave soon. You have to get home and get changed before Priscilla does." Emma added, ever the logical thinker.
"The party ends at midnight." Cleo said. "So we still have about an hour."
Rikki stayed with her friends for a few minutes. She found herself something to drink until a slow song came on. Will, Ash and Lewis pulled her friends away to dance and Rikki hovered near the wall. Will, ever the gentleman, offered her a dance next but Rikki protested. This was a special night for Will and Bella; she didn't want to intrude. A little voice in the back of her mind whispered that she didn't want her masked man—she didn't refer to him by name—to see her dancing with another guy.
Another slow song came on and Rikki sighed. It looked like the party was dying down. Most of the attendants were either slow dancing, too drunk to do anything, or were finding their way home. Rikki grabbed a glass of fruit punch and waited for her friends, who continued to dance for several more songs.
She was just about to find a clock to check the time when she felt a tap on her shoulder.
"I've been looking for you all night." It was Zane. "You disappeared after…"
"Yeah, my friends were looking for me." Rikki said.
"And you didn't find them?" Zane gestured around at the empty corner Rikki had been standing in.
"No, I found them, but they're all dancing."
Zane grinned at her, flipped his mask down so it covered his face again, and grabbed her hand. "Well then, let's join them."
Rikki couldn't help but laugh as Zane twirled her around the dance floor. She felt surprisingly graceful. Maybe it was the shoes, maybe it was Zane. Either way, she was having a great time. She barely noticed when Cleo approached her a few songs later.
"We have to go! It's almost midnight!" she pulled Rikki out of Zane's arms so quickly that she stumbled out of one of her shoes. "I just saw Miriam getting into the limo!"
"Wait, don't go!" Zane called after her.
Rikki grabbed Cleo's hand and they ran together for Emma's car. "See you in English!" she yelled back to Zane. She and Cleo had already piled into the backseat when she realized that Zane still didn't know who she was. He wouldn't know who to look for—their English class was massive.
As Emma drove away Rikki glanced back at the Bennett mansion to see Zane standing just outside the gate, holding Rikki's missing crystal shoe.
The rest of the night was a blur. In the car, Bella and Cleo helped her get changed, take off her makeup, and mess up her hair while Emma drove like a madwoman to Rikki's house. She parked the car and Rikki dove out, motioning to her friends to drive away immediately.
Rikki ran inside and went to her room, trying to make it look like she'd been there all night. She hid her dress, mask, and shoe under the bed, popped in a movie, and put her hair in a bun. A few minutes passed and Rikki's heart stopped racing. She'd gotten away with it!
Her stepfamily arrived home. Rikki heard Miriam's heels stomping up the stairs and they continued all the way to Rikki's room. She barged in without knocking and then scrutinized Rikki's appearance. She held her breath but Miriam didn't seem to notice anything suspicious.
"You can have this awful thing back." Miriam tossed her the golden mask. She could see indentations on Miriam's face from across the room, even in the dim lighting.
"Maybe you shouldn't have taken it in the first place." Rikki muttered, but Miriam didn't hear. She left and no one else in the family came up to check on her. Rikki went to sleep and dreamt that she was dancing under the sea.
The next day things went back to normal. Rikki did chores for the rest of the weekend, but her mind was a tangle of emotions. She had no idea what she was going to say to Zane on Monday. If she approached him, would he recognize her? Would he be embarrassed to have spent the party with her? Would Miriam find out that she was there?
She decided that Zane never needed to know that she was the masked girl that he'd danced with. He'd probably forgotten all about her, anyway. She was happy to have seen a different side to him, though, rather than the egocentric person he presented himself as in public.
Rikki tried not to think of him or the masquerade in general on Monday but she had to admit she was putting a little extra effort into her appearance that morning. She left her curls down and put on a little bit of the makeup Emma had lent her. English was her second class of the day and she was simultaneously excited and scared for it.
She took her regular seat next to Bella and waited for class to start. She was early for once and it didn't do her any good; she had a tendency to bite her nails when she was nervous, and they were chewed to the quick by the time Zane entered the room. They made eye contact for a split second before Rikki dropped her gaze.
Zane's seat was on the other end of the room but he slowly walked up the aisle to her seat. He pulled something out of his bag and Rikki looked up at him.
"I think this belongs to you." He said softly, holding out the glass shoe.
"How did you know?"
"I narrowed it down quickly." Zane shrugged. "No one else has such pretty eyes…or blonde hair."
Rikki took the shoe and put it in her bag. Zane went back to his seat as the English professor came in, but they continued to glance at each other throughout the class.
"What was that about?" Bella asked as soon as the bell rang. "Why did he have your shoe from the party? Did something happen with you two?"
Rikki smiled. "Maybe…"
Some nights were too magical for words.
I'm so sorry I haven't uploaded in ages, I've been really busy with work, my blog and my friends and now school is starting up again so I really won't be able to upload often. This may be the last one shot but I really wanted to finish it as it was so highly requested. The good thing about this series is I can pick it up whenever I want and anyone who wants to read it can jump into it at any chapter! :)
Anyway, big thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter! I haven't even started the next one shot so I wouldn't expect an update any time soon, but I have a lot of ideas so whenever I get free time I'd like to continue writing. In the meantime you can follow me on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, my username is CaribaDaily (It's a Cariba Heine fanpage) and I promise I'm much more active on there.
The next one shot will be either from Cleo, Lewis, or Charlotte's POV so comment which character you'd like to see a story about!