The Lady, the Dance and the Glass sandals
by Ratnika Singh
(Karaikal, Puduchery, India)
It was a night she would remember all her life, of this Alyssa was very sure. She had never bothered to put on as much make-up as her maid had put on her today. A casual glance in the mirror revealed that the effort had been worth it. She was clad in a gown of midnight blue silk with elaborate patterns of crystal in the bodice. The wide sweet-heart neckline adorned with pearls made her look innocent and young. She smiled slyly at the mirror, yes; they made her look like somebody she was finding increasingly difficult to be. Her red hair was piled up on her head in a stylish crown bun with just a few loose tendrils framing her face. Moreover, her glass sandals added an extra spurt of height to her already tall frame. Putting on her elegant silver masquerade mask over her black eyes, she was ready to step out to the single most important gala of her life, the annual ball of the Queen of Ether.
Alyssa left her maids waiting in the carriage and ascended the stairs of the Royal Palace. She could feel the numerous gazes turning in her direction. Her inner goddess smiled, and she straightened her spine. The feeling, that most of the people wouldn’t recognize her and that she would keep them guessing, was a thrill in itself. Soon she entered the Great Hall and had her first glimpse of the Queen Reyonna. Clad in a light pink gown with her skirt stretching long behind her, the queen was a sight to behold. Her diamond tiara glittered even amidst all the party dazzles in the room. As Alyssa turned she saw the Prince talking to a few ladies to the left of the queen. She picked a glass of champagne and patiently waited and watched. Prince Zohan had the easy charm that came with good looks and a rank above all other men at any social event. His glossy black hair fell in waves across his forehead and his green eyes glittered when light fell on them a certain way. To say he was handsome was a huge understatement, and the ladies surrounding him obviously knew this. They fawned over him and hanged on his every word. Alyssa also found the queen observing the prince between her own conversations and pass approving looks. So the ladies were mostly the queen approved candidates for a future wife of the prince status. She grinned, it was time to stir things up a little, ruffle a few feathers. Placing her champagne flute on the tray of a passing waiter, she moved forward straight towards the prince. He was just moving out of his own group and with the frustrated look on his face, it was clear that he was in search of better company. Zohan suddenly found an attractive lady in deep blue blocking his path. Alyssa curtsied, and before he could speak a word she moved away on her way again. The prince couldn’t stop staring at her retreating, wondering what that mask hid and if it was as beautiful as the rest of her.
Her hide and seeks with the prince continued for a large part of the night until Zohan could bear it no more. The need to know who she was too strong. So by 10.30 at night, he sought her out. “May I have this dance, milady?” he asked her with a bow. She smiled, curtsied prettily and gave him her hand, “Of course, Your Highness.”
“Zohan,” He interrupted with a sly smile, “You can call me by my first name, I suppose.”
Alyssa smiled in return but didn’t bother disclosing her own name. The prince’s disappointment showed on his face for a moment before he adjusted it back into a mask of pleasantness. He led her onto the dance floor and swept her for a waltz with a graceful movement of his hand. Soon they were moving around the hall to the fast beat and rhythm. Zohan was entranced with her surreal beauty and the beauty of her graceful movements. He adjusted his hold on her and pulled her closer than was usually the norm, his left palm on the small of her back. Alyssa didn’t pull back either and instead rose her eyes to his and flashed a daring smile. Zohan grinned and winked right back at her. With the fast dancing, there was no time to talk, but they talked a-plenty with their actions and body language. They stood close enough that one began where the other ended. There was just a breaths space between their faces as they gazed into each others’ eyes. It seemed nobody paid much attention and even if they did, nobody
pointed them out in particular; after all he was the prince.
Soon the song changed to a slow one and they continued moving slowly to the rhythm. “Where are you actually from?” Zohan enquired.
“I live in the southern blocks of the city, Your Highness.” She replied.
“Zohan,” he corrected her absentmindedly before continuing, “Then how have I never met you before? I’m sure I would remember a beauty like you.”
Alyssa smiled coyly, “Let some things remain a mystery Mr. Prince.”
The Prince pouted, and believe it or not, he managed to do even that in an attractive way. Alyssa shook her head and held back a laugh. His eyes danced with mischief, and she couldn’t stop the answering grin that split across her face.
“No, I’m telling you! I’m sure I would have remembered you, if not for your looks then definitely for your wit, my lady.”
She raised her eyebrows in mock disbelief, “Me, sire? How would I even stand in comparison to all the lovely ladies at court?”
He smirked. “They may look lovely, but in matters of mind they have been found to be quite lacking.” Zohan then raised her fingers to his lips and pressed a small kiss at a spot just under her wrist that sent tingles straight to her heart. “Oh, you definitely will manage Eiden.”
She raised her eyes to his, “Eiden?”
“Well, since you wouldn’t honor me with your name, I thought this would most certainly suit you. Eiden means sparkling star in my native language.”
Alyssa blinked rapidly. The way the prince was looking at her now, it made her heart stutter. It was like she was somebody precious and not many people in her life had made her feel so.
Somehow she pushed down the sudden burst of feelings and managed to utter something. “Thank you. It’s a beautiful name.” Zohan smiled back as they continued with their dance.
For a long time after that they continued dancing. For the entire time, they seemed utterly and completely lost in each other. They talked and laughed at times and at others, just continued to silently dance in each other’s arms. The other aspiring ladies soon grew frustrated in waiting for their own chance at the crown prince, so much that many swore to hate the anonymous lady like a thorn in their sides, forever.
But as midnight drew closer, Alyssa grew restless. Even the prince noticed her anxiety and asked if something was wrong.
“I need to go.” It was all she said as she left the Prince and rushed across the hall. The prince was momentarily shocked by her sudden departure before he came to his senses and rushed after her. The crowd parted to let him through. People from all over the room stared as the crown prince of Ether ran after a girl through the halls, but nobody dared move in all the confusion.
“Eiden, wait!” he screamed, still running behind her, but Alyssa didn’t stop. She ran down the central stairs without waiting to even catch her breath. As she hurried down the stairs, suddenly her glass sandals stuck on a step, and she jerked to a stop. The sudden inertia made her loose her balance, and she came close to a fall, but Zohan caught her at the last moment and tugged her back. Alyssa went flying into his arms, and he held her tightly, so close that she could hear all his labored breaths.
“Stay”, he said.
Alyssa winced as if in pain and shook her head, “I can’t.”
“At least tell me your name.” he pleaded, already preparing to find her from whichever part of the earth she would go back to. For the first time in his life, his heart had stirred for somebody, and he wasn’t letting her go this easily.
‘You won’t find me ever again, Zohan.” she whispered.
“I will.” he said, determination thick in his eyes.
She only looked at him, immense sadness swimming in her eyes.
Alyssa shifted and separated from Zohan, moving down a step. In her hands, she held a shark toothed dagger. Zohan’s eyes widened in shock as his body suddenly convulsed. A quick touch of his back produced blood, lots of it at that.
Slowly the Prince fell, his lips still parted in silent horror.
The last thing he ever saw was the face of his Eiden as she tugged her mask away, her red hair coming loose across her shoulders in the process.
She bent and pressed two fingers to her lips and then to his and said, “Alyssa is my name.”
Then Alyssa, the most feared assassin of Ether turned and walked back out of the palace, her job here done. ****