She looked the part she’d chosen to play in the masquerade. The black silk gown she’d selected was exquisite. It fit every curve, drew attention to every surface. Her shoes, more like sandals with straps that wrapped around her ankles and calves. Her nails were all polished black as night. She wore black lace gloves that reached to her elbows. Her black hair cascaded down her bare back, the gown held in place by a black ribbon that laced from the small of her back up to the base of her shoulders. She’d topped it off with a black mask. The pale black eye shadow she’d so carefully placed was just another detail in the work of art she was.
I’d expected nothing less.
She was the same every day. Perfectly made up. Perfectly dressed. With perfect behavior. Like an actress playing a role made just for her. Putting on a show for all to see. With no depth, no life beyond the screen. What does an actress do when she’s not acting? Who does she become when she’s not in character?
I knew the answer, though I dared not share it with anyone, save her.
It was a joy to watch the way she played the part. Turning men into helpless boys, unable to take their eyes off her. Nodding their heads, and racing to fetch her another drink when she indicated she wanted one. Too tongue-tied to ask her to dance.
The way they turned to love-struck puppies was no surprise.
Other women avoided her. The spoke of the hussy in black in hushed tones in their little gatherings. Green jealousy, and red hatred filling their eyes. Visible through their masks. Smiling when their paths crossed hers. “You look stunning tonight, dear. Really. You make it look so easy.”
I stood, in the shadows. Speaking to no one. Watching her perform. Watching the corresponding performances from those around her. Wondering how they would behave, if they knew her as I did. If they knew the truth of who she was.
Would they understand how hurt, how broken, how wounded she was? Would the see the way her heart bled? Would they see the scars within her soul? Would they see she had forgotten so very long ago who she really was? No longer knowing what she felt, what she believed, or who she was. Just an actress, playing a part, and nothing more?
Would they see the little girl, hiding from the world she didn’t understand? Always hidden behind a mask.
As I watched her perform that night, I found myself wondering, as I have wondered so many times before. If I could ever help her find herself. If she would ever see herself as I did. If she would let me walk beside while she searched for who she was. Or if she’d remain as she was now.
Lost. In the masquerade.