Friday, 12/20/2250 – By Rebecca Green
The whole school had prepared for this moment. Or rather, as always, a poor handful of prefects who had the responsibility of planning the whole charade dumped upon them. It had, however, turned out wonderful anyways. Each prefect had given their own expertise toward making the night a success and the entirety of the atrium had been transformed.
Couches and tables had been removed, with one single long table draped with a ruby red cloth against the back wall for refreshments. The wooden floor was sprinkled with millions upon millions of tiny pieces of glitter that the school would be finding more of for months to come. Magic, of course, vibrated in every corner. On the floor, where some of the glitter came to life and floated about in a short curtain of magnificence. Against the walls dozens of silk covered lanterns slowly moved about, giving a certain mystical ambiance to the room. The students had spent hours playing with their colors, the textures each light gave off, until it was perfect.
From the ceiling hung chandeliers, powered by magical energy, baskets of flowers and, while mistletoe had been duly forbidden, the kissing flower had still snuck its way in. Banners hung as well, welcoming students to the masquerade, along with one mandatory banner that dictated there be no inappropriate conduct, and that curfew was one in the morning.
And even in the music, magic was infused with every note, reverberating each song through the room, the ceilings, and the walls and the floors. Controlled simply by a stereo in the corner that was hidden by a small collection of instruments: one violin, a viola, a bass, and a cello.
And, in one case, a piano, Rhea thought disgruntledly. She didn’t know why Rede had insisted it be brought in, but then again she didn’t see the point of most of these decorations she was being forced to supervise. Something about how it was in each teacher’s contract that they be available for supervision at least twice a year. She already ran half the detentions, but according to Rodney that didn’t count as extracurricular supervision, though Rhea didn’t know what else could possibly qualify.
It wouldn’t be too bad, but Rede’s insistence that she come at all, and then the sight of her bullying several fifth years into dangerously carrying in a piano that Rhea had relieved them of with a simple levitation spell (the only spell she could really do anymore), had her worried. Yes, the decorations were beautiful, the music wasn’t so bad, and her own niece had even brought in a vial of elixir to feed the plants to make them more vibrant too. Not that that counted for anything, Lunette had been granted the blessing of going home instead of attending this catastrophe.
Rhea shifted her weight for what felt like, and probably was, the hundredth time for the night. Her arms were crossed as she shouted up at one student who teetered dangerously on a ladder as they struggled to put up ‘one last petunia’ before the doors opened at eight. It was a seventh year, Laleh Dunn, who was being encouraged by Michael Murdoch below. “Three minutes!”
“This is why I said we should do these first!” Laleh called down, only to duck down and grab the top as it wobbled while the boy replied indignantly.
“You wanted to do-”
“Watch it!” Rhea barked at the boy, “Don’t kill Dunn!’ He slammed an elbow into the rungs of the ladder, stabilizing it, and Rhea turned away with a groan, dimly ignoring as Laleh chastised the boy.
There was a loud rattle and Rhea quickly turned toward the door where one pair of boys has quite majestically thrown the doors open right on the mark, one wearing a santa suit and the other half naked in a cupid costume. She near shrieked as she hurried toward them, waving her hands, as more flooded through.
“You two!” She reached them, grabbing Miska by the back of his attached Santa hat and Eugene by his wing to tug them off to the side. “If you can’t go and change into something more suitable-”
“It is suitable!” Eugene grinned widely as he elbowed his friend and Rhea glared at them both.
“Just cover up your thighs, for God’s sake Eugene, is that a real diaper?”
The boy flushed and Miska snickered beside him as Eugene defended himself, “It’s hard to get a fake diaper! Do you know how deep I had to go to find an adult diaper?”
“Don’t care,” Rhea raised one hand to her ear to show as the boy seemed perfectly capable of explaining. “Just go and change, or I’ll be giving both of you several detentions.” The boys continued to snicker amongst themselves, but under her stern gaze, began to filter toward a hallway where they’d already stuffed vaguely acceptable clothing, though they had every intention of salvaging as much as their costumes as possible.
She waited a beat to make sure they didn’t come straight back, but after a moment she turned toward the slowly filling atrium. Still relatively empty- half the population would insist on being fashionably late as it was considered near sin to arrive before nine, but the night had begun and Rhea resigned herself to a good four or five hours of hell until she could hustle the last of the bunch out.
Babysitting a bowl of punch wasn’t the most exciting of tasks. No one seemed particularly suspicious, but she was well aware that they were just waiting for the right moment. A few made their attempts, but Rhea was quick to shoo them away. The night itself went slowly enough, but there was little in the way of trouble and Rhea could happily countdown the seconds until she could kick people out and go to bed.
She didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary at first. Just students dancing and chatting, though she saw at least five separate couples break up and three more get together amidst shouting at many more to have some decency. The first thing she and the rest of the occupants in the atrium noticed was the abrupt cutoff of music, a burst of static immediately following. She glanced quickly down at her phone, noting that it was only ten thirty, there were still two and a half hours left. Rhea turned toward the stereos, preparing to take a few steps forward when her eyes were drawn by the sound of keys played into the room.
The protests of students died down as they curiously crowded onto their toes, jumping over their peers to see Aelita Rede by the stereo, sitting on the bench of the piano she’d forced them into bringing in earlier. Rhea internally groaned, knowing that whatever Aelita was doing couldn’t be good.
It was a slow song, beginning with long, drawling notes that quickly turned into beautiful scales that Rhea, unfortunately, wasn’t one to appreciate. She crossed her arms, taking a deep breath and hoping that this was all Aelita had planned.
She scanned the room, looking for anything else out of place, and she froze when she saw a figure standing at the entrance of the atrium, by the hallway, staring at her. Tall, long dark hair, and wearing a feathered black mask with a suit. He quickly looked away the moment she caught him- looking toward Aelita and the swan maiden returned the glance, smiling at him and giving him a single nod.
Then he began to sing, a slow ballad, projected over the atrium in a clear, practiced tone. Rhea stood frozen, staring at him in suspicion. He wasn’t looking at her, not yet, instead he was looking over the room as a whole, and Rhea could tell he was tense, with the whole of the students staring at him- many of them whispering excitedly amongst themselves and the glint of phones was all too apparent.
Her mind struggled to connect the pieces together in her head, of who he may be. It wasn’t a particularly difficult task, as much as it was unbelievable. To imagine Adrian with dark dyed hair and wearing a mask wasn’t hard- he was just the right height, his hair identical in all but color, and his amber eyes were a dead give away. She didn’t know he sang and she certainly would never have been able to imagine him singing in front of such a crowd before.
To her, no less. His gaze had turned back to her and Rhea uncrossed her arms, raising her chin and meeting his eyes in intrigue. Her lips, parted in surprise and curved into a smile, and she saw a hint of relief in his own features, a smoother pull of his feet as he glided over, focusing on her as he slid from verse to chorus. A song Rhea didn’t recognize, but one that sounded beautiful from his lips.
He was close and one bunch of students pushed back to give them room, giggling as they did. Rhea could only imagine Aelita sitting on that bench with a cheshire grin and a glint in her eyes as she played each note.
Adrian reached out one hand and Rhea was all too willing to take it, allowing herself to be pulled forward until one hand was interlaced with his, his other featherlight against her back. Her own hand ghosted for a moment, unsure of its purpose before reaching up to settle against his shoulder in what she thought was the correct position for dancing. He guided her along in gentle turns, slow steps in line with the rhythm.
The crowd watching oo’ed and aw’ed. Students shoved each other as they joked and Nikaia Smith had taken to gripping her boyfriend’s, Anders, arm. Bemoaning that he couldn’t be so romantic as she directed her phone in direction of the couple, eager to take video.
More students bickered on the identity of the man, though some pointed out that it could hardly be anyone other than their resident librarian. One insisted that it could be the new Eagle head, but they were quickly shot down. Blackhall had been since seen in the Eagle’s dorm, and would never have hair that long- it certainly didn’t appear to be a wig, though with magic in mind anything was possible. Calver was a much more suitable option and the students were nothing less than pleased at the performance.
The two professors danced their way across the floor, a handful of couples coming together to slow dance themselves, though they stayed out of the way of the spotlight. One girl went straight up to Aelita, leaning up against the piano and demanding answers, but Aelita deftly ignored the questions as she reached the final bars- looking up and grinning as she saw Adrian begin to lead Rhea toward the hallway, his voice fading with distance as he disappeared into a classroom, several doors away.
She played the last few notes, let them ring, and stood up. Instantly half a dozen students had buzzed around her, each one with another question and to each she gave a simple smile, the answers hidden tight behind her lips.