Does this seem like just a scene? Because that’s what it is.
I know that it’s Frederick beneath the guided peacock mask. And he must know it’s me because I’m wearing the wolf.
I think that might be irony. Is that irony?
Because everyone knows that’s what I already am.
I suppose if that’s true then Frederick wearing something flamboyant is irony too and I’m not sure that’s right.
It’s more of a statement on my part really. I’m representing the rest of us that can’t be represented. The people who make their way through the crowd with their silver bracelets burning into their skin, keeping them human and under control, serving drinks and h’ors doeuvres on silver platters.
At least they get to wear gloves for those and they take special care not to brush against me. Most of them do at least. One girl looked me in the eye and stumbled into my arm. The burn on my skin healed before anyone noticed. But my eyes still watered.
Despite the mask Frederick notices when he finds me.
“You’re crying,” he says and even if the peacock mask wasn’t the most obvious thing in the world I’d know him by his shoulders and his hands. The way he holds himself.
“It’s just all so beautiful,” I say, looking up at the gilded ceiling like this is all so amazing. Like I haven’t been here before.
Frederick’s mouth is set into a frown under the gold and turquoise when I look back at him. He knows I’m lying because he knows me as well as I know him now.
“Yeah,” he says. “It’s beautiful. We should dance.”
I take his hand, his thumb traces the diamonds on my wrist. His eyes meet mine. I think that what’s so good about Frederick is that even though he’s part of the problem, he hates this as much as I do.
“My prince,” I say with all the affection I can muster, which is actually quite a lot. More than I was expecting.
He laughs at me. I think maybe I should have expected that.
Frederick is lucky that he’s been trained to dance, because he’s just shit at everything else. But he’s good at the things that happen in front of people. The things that matter to his family.
He twirls me around, one hand on my back, the other clasped with mine. He keeps looking around at everyone dancing with us. And this is his problem. Frederick is really horrible at paying attention to me when there’s a room full of attractive people.
And he can’t even see their faces!
He freezes. Hand still on my back, but he lets my other hand drop and I turn to see where he’s staring. At the top of the stairs are two men I don’t know. They cut dashing figures in all black, tall and handsome. The shorter one is wearing the mask of a plague doctor, the taller one is also wearing a wolf mask. There’s a tall, thin woman behind them, wearing the same all black suit. She’s wearing a wolf mask as well, her hair pulled into a tight bun behind it.
I feel less original now. I’m the one who wears all black. I’m the one who wears wolf masks to make people uncomfortable.
Of course my wolf mask is ironic. Theirs clearly aren’t, though I can’t see their wrists. There’s no way wolves would be invited as guests. And now I’m angry about cultural appropriation.
And my black dress doesn’t look like their fancy funeral wear. My black dress has beading and crystals and class.
They look like pallbearers.
Frederick and I aren’t the only people staring at them. Most of the crowd has stopped to stare, waiting for their names to be announced. And they really do look intimidating and beautiful. If only I could see their faces.
“I think they’re Resistance,” Frederick mutters to me. “They’re infiltrating. Do you think I should tell someone? Or should we see how this plays out.”
“Let’s see how it plays out,” I say and he smiles at me.
Because, of course, I know them. Even before their fake names are announced. Jack, Adrian, and Chloe. Looking better than everyone, probably with weapons on them. At least I don’t have to be worried about cultural appropriation anymore.
I should possibly be worried about an attack, but they’re not that stupid. Are they?