Three Nights at a Ball
Jenny Wu | Art by Michelle Lang
He said, “You don’t look like you belong here,”
and he was right.
I shouldn’t be here.
I shouldn’t have come.
what had I been thinking,
as if I could just—
“You dance like an angel,” he continued.
Or so I was told I would.
I only cracked a smile, eyebrows raised,
“So I suppose you’ve seen one then?”
“I have now.”
He said the worst lines,
delivered them terribly,
but that didn’t matter,
I was too comfortable here
maybe because everything seemed right but
maybe because it felt
vaguely reminiscent of where I had come from,
a place I—
A hand waving in front of my face.
“Sorry, what did you say?”
“You haven’t told me your name yet.”
And maybe it was because of the familiarity of it all,
but I dared to use the one I had left behind
long, long ago.
It came out as almost a whisper,
“I’m Kade,” he introduced,
stepping perfectly to the beat,
but I already knew that.
Perhaps only the rest of the room saw
a boy and a girl dancing
gliding to the tempo,
sweeping across the glassy floor,
their eyes remaining fixed on the pair
as they waltzed in circles around the room.
“Who are you really though?” he asked.
It’s hard to say when you’re hidden under
more than one mask.
Never could he know
the honest answer to that question.
There were too many layers of explanations
for just three nights of a few brief hours of dancing.
So I let him believe me to be some
mysterious princess from a far away land,
though that, I suppose, is not too far from
“I think I could ask you the same thing.”
On the last day, he told me he was
the prince of this country
as if confiding in me a special secret.
He didn’t need to.
I already knew.
Those three nights may have been the only times when
our eyes met,
fingers curled around each other,
dancing until the pain in my feet felt numbed,
but that doesn’t mean
I hadn’t seen him a thousand and one times before
and I wouldn’t see him a thousand and one more times after.
And that most certainly doesn’t mean
he would recognize me,
for there’s no longer anything
memorable to my face.
I can’t tell you how often I
play back our exchanges
and unwillingly, a smile spreads on my face;
but I know I shouldn’t feel this way because
tomorrow he’s marrying
the Delyth he found by the rocks in the sand,
without a name or voice or status,
with a face I used to call my own.
And I know that, to him,
I’ll never be more than
a fading memory of nights passed.