|"And that was the last song! I hope you kids had a great time, and drive safely!" The principal set the microphone back onto its stand and let the dancers file out.
Una stood by the wall and hugged herself and her pink taffeta dress. Not one boy had asked her to dance. Not one. As she looked down at her mother's old prom dress and the cheap corsage that she'd bought for herself, she felt the sudden urge to cry. She held it back, for she had no one with a shoulder for her to cry on. Her best friend -- her only friend, in truth -- wasn't there. She was alone in the middle of a crowd.
She watched sadly as the happy couples of the senior class left the gym, talking amongst themselves. Perhaps they'd think her waiting for someone. After everyone had gone, she made her exit.
Driving home, the girl had trouble paying attention to the lights and signs. Una was glad that high school was nearly over. She didn't know how much more she could take of the solitary lunches and snide remarks behind her back. Popularity was a strange and fickle thing, but she would much rather have it on her side. At the moment, it seemed bent on destroying her.
Perhaps college would be better. I could move to another state, Una mused. Start over. I heard that New York is a nice place....
She pulled her father's truck into the driveway and turned off the headlights. Una opened and closed the the door as quietly as possible, not wanting to wake her parents.
She silently made her way to her room and switched on the light. At the sight of the bed, Una realized just how tired she really was. Her nightgown quickly replaced the old dress from that night, and she crawled into bed. It took over an hour, but sleep finally came....
Una opened her eyes to see a magnificent ballroom, filled to capacity with masked dancers. Not this again, she thought ruefully.
Despite her reservations, the girl took the time to examine her ironic dream. It really was stunning. The polished floors and streamers of the senior prom couldn't compare. Crystal chandeliers hung from an elborately painted ceiling. The walls were inlaid with what Una knew was pure gold. Breathtaking.
The dancers were all anonymous. Their faces were all covered with masks, from the ordinary to the strange and bizarre. Some wore elegant gowns and suits while others paraded around dressed like dragons or gargoyles. It was quite a sight.
Una was almost afraid to look down at herself. She did so anyway, half expecting to see that horrible pink poof that she'd worn to her prom night. To her delight, she donned a gown of silver and white silk. Una twirled just to feel it against her skin. She felt her face and discovered a cat mask. Her brown hair, instead of having its usual frizziness, fell about her ears in soft ringlets. Una smiled. She was beautiful.
Slowly, she descended the stairs from the entrance to the dance floor. The masked revelers paid her no mind and went right on with their reveling. Una felt her heart sink. She saw that there was plenty of wall space for her to occupy. Giving a sigh, Una started to make her way over to a corner where she could watch everyone else have fun.
A gentle voice came from behind. "May I have this dance?"
Una whirled around, the layers of her skirt flaring out and lightly brushing a dancing couple. She looked up at the man behind her. An unnaturally pale face framed by wild black hair. Flames licked at the hem of his black cloak. The mask he wore couldn't hide his deep, dark eyes. He was like nothing else she'd ever seen. And he wanted to dance with her.
Gazing up at his partially hidden face, Una allowed the man to take her hand and lead her into the wild group on the dance floor. Smiling softly, she rested her cheek against his chest. He led her around the floor, the most graceful dancer in the room. Una caught a few looks of jealousy shooting from the eyes of passing female dancers. To her surprise, Una enjoyed it. No one had ever been jealous of her before. She knew she had the perfect dancing partner.
Una followed the man's steps, which were in perfect beat with the orchestra's waltz. It was almost like dancing on her father's shoes. They weaved in and out of the ordered chaos of of the masquerade, seemingly carrying each other with each step. They relied on each other in a continuous cycle. White and black. Yin and yang. Innocence and aloofness. Moving together in harmony that was the envy of all.
As the throb of the music quickened, so did their pace. It became like a game. Which pair of masqueraders could steal the spotlight? Who could win the secret competition of rhythm and movement? With a few flawless steps and an elegant twirl, Una and her dark partner were the victors. At that moment, she loved him. She loved him beyond all else, and she didn't know why.
All else in the universe seemed to fade away in their mere presence. All that was false disappeared, leaving them, still dancing to the beat of the world. All that was light and good and truth shone down on them as they moved together through the void.
"I have to know," Una asked finally as she pressed her body against his. "What's your name?"
He only smiled down at her. "Wait."
Everything slowed, and Una wrapped her silk clad arms around the man's neck. Had he asked, she would have given herself to him. But he didn't ask. Instead, they engaged in a spotlight dance in the middle of everything and nothing. It could have been the spotlight dance, for the two put all others to such shame that they might have been the first ones to ever really do it.
As they slowed to a stop, a bell somewhere in the distance tolled midnight. It was time.
They both removed their masks and gazed upon each other's real faces.
"You wanted to know my name, Una?" the dark man asked.
"Not anymore. I already know you," she replied with a smile.
As if it had already been written on the Page of the Book long ago, they kissed, deep and pure. Like nothing else Una ever knew. Maybe it was the only thing she ever really knew. Maybe everything else was a lie. Maybe this was her real life. However it was, she didn't care.
They just kissed.
Like all good things, it ended, leaving Una feeling somehow...incomplete. Like he'd stolen something from her as their lips touched. He could have it. It was being replaced with something new and wonderful.
She looked up at his dark eyes, which shone brightly now. "Thank you."
He gave a regal bow. "No. Thank you." With that, the Dream King kissed her hair....
Una woke-up. Resentful of the consciousness invading her mind, she desperately clung to her dream. She saved it and stored it in her mind, something to call upon to make her smile.
Rubbing her eyes, she picked up her clock radio. It was a minute past midnight. Una smiled and remembered....
Suddenly, the phone rang. Una quickly picked it up and half heard Tom's lively voice greet her as she listened for her parents' groans of disturbance. She returned her attention to the receiver and her friend's jabbering. "I thought I'd catch you. Didn't have anything to do after the dance, huh?" She heard his charming laugh over the line.
"Shut-up, okay?" Una looked at her prom dress on the door and recalled herself clad in silver and silk. "Listen, I have to tell you about the most amazing dream...."
Copyright Diana Marsh, 2000 (Dream and all Sandman characters are the creations of Neil Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg and trademarks of DC Comics and Vertigo. This is a labor of love, and no money is being made off of it. Yadda, yadda, yadda...)
This is for all those wallflowers out there! (I'm one.) Flower power!
This is for all those wallflowers out there! (I'm one.) Flower power!