As the workday came to a conclusion, Ariadne felt excitement rush in. She had to run strait over to the salon and then to her place to get ready. The occasion; her first masquerade party. Since she was little, she always wanted to go to one and tonight she was going to.
"How's the drawing going?" Arthur asked from a distance.
"They look great."
"Are you almost finished? They need to be done today."
"Just one second…" Ariadne made one last change and dropped the pencil. "I'll leave them here for you to look at. Bye, see you tomorrow." She said quickly as she left the warehouse. No one had a chance to respond. Arthur looked at Eames, then Yusuf. Duke, the new Extractor, starred at the exit.
"Well she's in a hurry for something." He said with a laugh.
"She's been a lot happier lately." Said Yusuf. "I mean, happier than usual. You think she has a date?"
"I'll rip him apart if she does." Said Eames.
"She can do whatever she wants now." Said Arthur, neatly stacking the papers off the desk and putting them in an envelope. He was cleaning up rapidly as well.
"What's your rush?" Duke asked. "You seem to be as anxious to leave as she is."
"We have to be somewhere in a few hours." He reminded them.
"It only takes ten minutes to put on a suit and mask. Well it might take longer for Arthur, having to get a facial." Said Eames.
"I don't get facials, Eames." Said Arthur. "I just gel my hair and wear cologne."
"You still have to look your best." Said Duke. "Are you sure you don't want to come Yusuf?"
"Pretty sure." Yusuf never liked parties. "You guys should have invited Ariadne."
"She said she had plans tonight, without us even asking her if she was busy." Said Eames. "Besides, our little architect in a ball gown? Can't imagine it."
The hair studio down the road was crowded with young women getting their hair and makeup done. Ariadne was in the chair for a couple of hours, getting her hair curled, her nails done and her eyebrows waxed. She never got a huge beauty treatment before. In the chair next to her was her good friend Jules.
"Excited for tonight?" she asked.
"Very." Ariadne replied.
"This is the first time you've ever had a real date." Ariadne sighed. This was true. She was almost twenty-five and never dated a real person before. One time, she saw a movie with a boy in the seventh grade but that didn't count since it was chaperoned. "Are you nervous?"
"Yeah, a little." She turned her head as the stylist curling her hair told her too. "For one, I can't even dance."
"It's not all about dancing." Said Jules. "You can talk to him, have a drink with him, walk outside with him…"
"What if I don't know what to say?"
"Just smile and say your having a good time."
"But what if he asks me to dance?"
"Then dance." Said Jules. "Just once at least."
"And another thing that's a little confusing to me… why can't we ask our dates for their names until midnight?"
"It's more mysterious that way." Said Jules with a grin. "But what I don't get is why all these women are paying extra to get their eye makeup done when their going to wear masks anyway?"
"I have no idea." Said Ariadne with a laugh. "I'm pretty sure it would melt off anyway."
"Maybe." Said Jules. A cloud of hairspray fogged around Ariadne's head. The scent made her cough.
"Sorry Mam." Said the hairdresser. "I'm almost done."
"Aw, Ari, your getting flowers in your hair! How romantic!"
Her hair do was a half up ponytail that was curled and decked out with false white roses. Jules looked like she was about to cry.
"Your so pretty!"
"Yeah, thanks." Her friend replied, still trying to get hairspray out of her lungs.
"And I can't wait for you to put on that dress and mask, your gonna be like a princess."
Ariadne only smirked at this. "If the crown fits, I might as well wear it. After all, I am a descent of Anne Boleyn." A lot of people thought the Boleyn family tree was dead, but Ariadne and her two sisters were the last ones left. A lot of people didn't know there were still Boleyn girls. Then again, if women knew of their existence, they'd guard their partners heavily. Ariadne's ancestor had quite a reputation for stealing the king away.
"Oh! You should wear that B necklace!" Jules suggested. "It would go good with your dress."
"I wasn't planning on wearing a necklace…"
"C'mon. See how all the other girls react."
"They'll think I stole my date."
"And they'll be gazing at you with envy. That's a good thing."
Ariadne laughed. "If you say so, I'll wear it."
Jules clapped her hands together. "This date party is going to be the best!"
"If you say so."
"If we don't find guys tonight then I don't know what we'll do."
Ariadne laughed. "I don't need a knight in shining armor."
"What you need is someone of the opposite sex to snuggle with."
"But what if your date turns out to be a real life Peter Griffin?"
"I would doubt that. Parties like this always have handsome men." Said Jules, examining her radiant red hair. When Ariadne's hair was done, she told Jules she'd meet her outside her apartment and went home. Throwing her work stuff on the couch, she looked at her hair-do in the mirror before undressing.
Opening her closet, she pulled out a dress that seemed bigger than her. It was a one-shouldered gold gown. Over the gown were metallic flowers. She looked stunning as she zipped the dress closed and looked at herself in the mirror. Continuing the process, she took a pair of dangly diamond earrings and slipped them on. The B necklace was sitting on the dresser waiting to be held. Ariadne looked down at it and picked it up.
"I suppose I can try it." Said told herself, putting the necklace on. Next was the mask. Ariadne tried to be extremely careful with it, since it was from Venice. It was gold like her dress, one side of it in a swan like shape. She tired it back as tightly as she could. Some of the glitter scratched onto her fingers.
The door buzzed. Jules was there.
The ballroom was crowded with guests. Arthur, Eames and Duke stepped in and each pulled a poker card out of a red hat.
"You have to find the girl with the matching card." Said the man holding the hat. "And remember, you can't tell your date your name until midnight."
"I don't know about this guys." Said Arthur.
"Will you relax?" Eames asked. "You're wearing a mask. No one recognizes us."
"Let's hope not." Said Duke adjusting his black mask. "Now I have to find a girl that's holding a spade ace."
"And I got a Queen of Hearts." Said Eames, bragging. "She must look like one." Arthur was left on the staircase alone. He looked out at the ballroom. The walls and ceiling were gold. In the center of the ceiling was a giant painting of two lovers. A classical orchestra was playing romantic music.
Ariadne and Jules stepped in and took two cards from a man holding out a black hat.
"Queen of Hearts." Said Jules. "I must be lucky. What did you get?"
Ariadne flipped the card over. "Eight of Clubs."
"Well let's find our men then." Said Jules who took Ariadnes arm and escorted her down the grand stairway. Arthurs head turned as the brunette in gold strode to the dance floor.
"Queen of Hearts!" Jules called out. Some people were already dancing, others wandering around and looking for their dates. The red head searched around the area before bumping into Eames. "Do you have a Queen of Hearts by any chance?"
"As a matter of fact, yes darling."
"I'll see you later sweetie!" she called out to Ariadne. Great. Now Ariadne was standing alone in a crowded room, not even sure that her date was going to show. Arthur went down the stairs and made his way toward her. When he got close, some other guy reached her first.
"You a match?" Ariadne showed him her card. "God damnit!" the man cursed. This made her back up slightly. "I didn't mean to scare you, cherie."
She began to feel uneasy now. As she was thinking about turning away, Arthur stepped in.
"Excuse me, but I believe that our cards match." He said confidently. Ariadne saw he too was holding an Eight of Clubs. "It's also very impolite to swear at a woman." The other guy frowned and turned away.
Oh shit, what a match, Ariadne thought. Her date was wearing a classic Armani tuxedo and his face covered by a gold mask.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"I'm fine." Said Ariadne. "So our cards match." Her heart was banging around in her ribcage. Breathe, she kept telling herself.
"I would introduce myself, but that would break the rules." He said. Arthur took on of her hands and kissed it. Ariadne blushed so hard that she looked away. She tried to laugh it off.
"Don't look at me while I'm blushing please." She told him.
"Why? I love it when a woman blushes." He said.
Ariadne's face grew darker as he flattered her with his charm.
"Well then, if I could tell you who I was, that would give everything away." She wasn't referring to the rules of the party, but her job that seriously needed to stay hidden.
"I'm guessing you have a first or last name that begins with a 'B'." Arthur forecasted. Ariadne curled her fingers around the dry clay B.
"Well, I am a descendent of Anne Boleyn." She told him. "Every woman in my family has one."
Arthur smiled with intense interest.
"Shall we dance Miss Boleyn?" he offered her his hand. Ariadne looked dazed, like she was daydreaming.
"I don't dance so well but I can try." She told him. His touch sent a jolt of electricity to her heart. It began to dance faster when he led her to the floor and placed her hand on his shoulder. Ariadne almost bounced when his hand joined her waist.
"Your shaking like a leaf. Try to relax." He suggested. She tried to, but he was so handsome she wanted to melt. Am I dreaming? She asked herself. She wished she brought her bishop. This had to be a fantasy. Everything looked like the story of Cinderella.
"Sorry. I've just never danced with a man while touching him."
"It's nerve wrecking." Said Arthur. "I remember my first waltz." He took her free hand and looped his fingers between hers. Arthur then began to lead the dance. Ariadne tried her hardest to understand the movements. "As I step back with my right foot, you step forward with your left."
"So what happened?"
"I was thirteen and attending a school for gentlemen. One day, we met up with the girls in the school across the street to learn how to waltz. My partner was very attractive so I got nervous." Arthur told her about the memory like the narrator from a fairy tale movie. "We were dancing and trying out different movements, like 'under the bridge'…" he spun her around gently and watched her curls twirl. "And the spin…" Arthur led her through a traditional waltz spin like a professional. Ariadne ended up leaning against him. "I was very nervous when I couldn't calm myself down. So when we started practicing dips…" There were fireworks in Ariadne's stomach as he tilted her with his arm. Her hand nearly slipped from his shoulder. "I ended up getting sick and running to the bathroom." Arthur pulled her back up.
Ariadne laughed. "If that happens to me soon, don't laugh at me."
"That wouldn't be very gentlemen like, now would it? My parents raised me with manners." He continued to softly guide her through the dance.
"Seems like you've had years of practice."
"Actually, I was a theater student. I've been acting on community and school stages at a young age."
"What plays were you in?" she asked curiously.
"Well since I went to a Catholic school, all the plays we did were old. Our directors didn't like the modern musicals. They would call Avenue Q a 'disgrace to theater'."
"But that show was funny."
"Well…" Of course he didn't agree with her on that but he let it slide. "I was in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes, Guys and Dolls and Oklahoma."
"I have never heard of the first two."
"I'm not done; along with a musical each year, we had a play. The plays were You Can't Take It With You, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and Clue."
"Clue? I'd see that. Didn't know it was a play though."
"The authorities at the schools were arguing that the play was too violent. But all the death scenes were fake. I played Mr. Body, so I died first. They just turn off the lights, I get on the ground, there's a few sound effects and the lights go on and I look dead."
"So are you still doing plays?"
Arthur shook his head. "I gave that all up." He sighed. The song ended. "Would you like a drink?"
"Yes." Ariadne followed him to the table where glasses of French champagne lined up. He picked up both glasses and escorted her outside.
"I thought a walk outside would be nice." He said as Ariadne took a sip. From where they stood, she could see Notre Dame. They sat down on the edge of a massive fountain.
"This is a beautiful hotel, don't you think?"
"It is." Said Arthur. "So I told you a little about me. Now it's your turn."
Ariadne chuckled. "Well, I went to high school in Canada where I was born. I lived in a small town called Parry Sound. It was very small but it had everything; it may have been freezing in the winter, but in the summer, the lake is good enough to swim in. I lived with my parents and younger twin sisters. As a teenager, I played roller derby."
"Really?" he looked surprised. "You don't look like one of those women."
"The thing about derby is that they accept girls of all body types. In fact, the bigger girls make good blockers and the skinny girls like me make good jammers. The jammer is the one who scores."
"And how long did you play?"
"Since I was eight, and then I had to stop after high school to go to school. I didn't have time to join the league here. During that time, I had some family trouble and ended up moving. Since then, I lived with my grandparents in Los Angeles. They own a vineyard so my sisters and I had an endless supply of grapes to eat."
"What brings you to Paris?"
"School." She said. "My best friend and I both agreed that the best teachers in our majors were here."
"What are you majoring in?"
Ariadne was silent for a moment. "Fashion." She lied. "And my friend is a culinary arts major."
"No wonder you picked such a gorgeous dress."
"Thank you." She blushed again. "Has anyone ever told you that you look like a model?" He looked at what he was wearing and shook his head. "You would make a great model." Arthur laughed.
Ariadne felt a discomfort in her ankle and stood up. She lifted her skirt off the ground to scratch it. Arthur looked down to see a familiar pair of footwear.
"Interesting fashion statement there."
"What are you talking about?" she asked. Obviously, she knew what he meant; she just didn't want to say anything.
"Your wearing converse shoes with your gown."
"Well, high heels really hurt my feet." She said, telling another story. "Plus, my gown reaches the floor. No one would see my feet so I didn't bother with getting heels."
"You're a fashion major yet you can't wear heels?"
"That's right." She said innocently. The clock on the hotel wall read eleven-fifty. In ten minutes, she would find out who her date was. Gazing around the Parisian environment, she pointed at Notre Dame. "Isn't it gorgeous?" she asked, changing the topic. "I want to get married in there someday."
"It is beautiful." He put his arm around her waist. "But not a beautiful as the woman standing next to me."
"You must be somewhat French if your that romantic." She told him, taking in more champagne. Arthur put his glass down on the edge of the fountain.
"I wouldn't call myself a hopeless romantic. In fact, I've been so busy with my job that I never have time to date."
"Well you need to relax sometimes. Too much working can make you very zombie-like."
"That's what my boss tells me." Arthur laughed.
"So, what do you do for a living anyway?"
Arthur cleared his throat. "I'm a dentist."
"Really? That was my last guess."
"My parents wanted me to be a lawyer or a priest. But I always loved anatomy and cleaning teeth is fun. The clients are the toughest part."
"Not that many people like to have that paste on their tongue." Ariadne pointed out.
"Do you have a job after school?"
"Uh… yes, I work at an art gallery. I also paint and sculpt."
"What do you like to paint?"
"Mostly buildings." She said. "The churches mainly. My boss is very strict about getting the paintings done in one day. He always calls and says 'How's the painting going' and 'Are you almost finished? You have to finish'."
Arthur looked over at her, his eyebrows cocked. Didn't he ask his architect those questions at work?
"He's a nice guy." She added. "But I don't think I'm good enough to work for him."
"Why would you think that?"
"Well… I like him and everything, but he's been working there far longer than I have and I came in as a last minute replacement. He's far more experienced than me and sometimes I think he expects me to make the painting look like a photo, you know? Really hard."
"Well I take it he's a lot older and expects painters of your generation to be like the painters in his day."
"He is not old." Ariadne laughed sipping more champagne. "He's twenty-eight, single, dresses nice, is obsessed with work and-" she stopped when she noticed Arthurs full appearance.
He didn't look older than twenty-five, the only woman on his arm was her, he enjoyed talking about his job (was that his job?) and his hair was smoothed down. Ariadne blinked and jumped back as the clock chimed midnight.
"Excuse me, I said too much."
"Ariadne?" he pulled the mask from her eyes.
"I'm sorry." She told him. Arthur removed his mask and put it down on the edge of the fountain. "I thought you were someone else."
"So did I until you described me." He said.
"I shouldn't have said anything before but at least it's just you and you already know about the dream sharing but I'm so embarrassed because I offended you and-"
"Offended me? Not at all."
"Well, I'm sorry your date wasn't with the Cinderella." She turned around to walk away.
"Ariadne." Arthur put his hand on her shoulder. "I am with the Cinderella." A rare smile grew on his face. "Even when he glass slippers are Converse sneakers."
She responded by giggling gently, which relieved him.
"I had fun." She said. "But I know how it is with the job and dating your co-worker."
Arthur brought her into his arms and ran a hand over hair stone-like hair. "I'm a Point Man. I'll make it work. Ariadne closed her eyes and prepared herself for their second kiss. The glass in her hand tipped over and the rest of the champagne hit the grass.
Ariadne placed her arms around his neck. This was definitely a lot better than the hotel kiss. It was more passionate than a passion fruit, hotter than a blue flame and more romantic than a musical. One hand was cupped over her ear, it's thumb stroking her temple. The other was on her waist bringing her closer.
This time, Cinderella didn't run away. She stayed after twelve and never got in trouble. The carriage and fairy godmother could wait. This princess was taking her time.
"I'd say it's be worth a shot."