Written by Nada Hemida
The sound of the waves hitting the shore engulfs me as we stop in our tracks. The scenery was amplified by the sound of music bursting through the walls of the ballroom not too far away. The smell of salty water hits me with every crashing tide. What we’re about to do dawns on me, and I’m stuck worrying about what might or might not happen after. I look over at her. The moon and stars illuminate her face in the dark night, her hair going wild with the wind of Alexandria. Despite my wrecked nerves, I smile.
“What?” she asks, raising an eyebrow as she climbs into her heels.
I shake my head, sigh – an attempt to calm down – then ask, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
A sly smile spreads on her face. “I’ve never been more sure of anything,” she assures me. She knows I’m not backing out. She knows that I’m asking merely because I’m worried about her. Among our friends, we’ve always been seen as the worrisome and careful boy, the wild and reckless girl – but I would never let my best friend do anything stupid without me. We’re fire and ice, sunshine and lightning, morning and night. We’re the complete opposite of each other, but that’s what makes us extraordinary and lethal.
We’ve always been judged. She’s seen as too brave, too bold. I’m seen as too shy, too quiet. It’s 1954, and labels haven’t been left in the past yet. But we don’t care. That, we both agree on. We’re sick of their rules, their idiocy. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why I agreed to do this.
Adrenaline pumps through me, nervousness turned into a feeling of invincibility; her courage is infectious to me. I reach my elbow out for her and she loops her arm around mine, wicked grins on our faces.
Like the prestigious, elegant, elite couple, we were supposed to be, we walk into the ballroom, giving the security guard by the door the fake names we’d preselected. We’re allowed in easily, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s because our names were on the list or because he was simply too distracted by her. It angers me, the way he looked at her. The way everyone looks at her. They look at her like she’s the world’s biggest pearl. No, she isn’t!
She’s a person whom I’ve shared everything with my whole life, a person I could spend hours of silence with and still feel comfortable, a person who would come in through my door at a late hour of the night and say “Let’s go on an adventure!” and it would be normal. She’s different from most people, I know that. Maybe it’s because she reads a lot. They say books evolve the mind and make you wiser, more understanding, and more accepting. Not that I would know. I don’t read; I don’t need to. Every time we’re together, she never forgets to tell me what book she’s reading, what she liked about it, and what stood out for her the most. My book is a person, and I marvel her day and night.
I shake the thoughts out of my head; trying to focus on my surroundings. The chandeliers hanging from the ceiling give enough light for the whole solar system. Every dress, tuxedo, and suit is worth more than I have ever spent in my life. I wonder if I’m blending in well, my suit as is my best friend’s dress were sewn by her and you can probably tell it isn’t of the same rich quality. I haven’t seen her dress yet – she has left it as surprise – but I have an idea of what it might look like.
Minute after minute passes by, and our one mission is to make eyes turn to us. She laughs loudly. She puts her arm around me. I hold her hand. I call her dear and darling. And it feels good. My emotions are doing somersaults tonight.
Not soon after, a certain melody plays and she turns to me, her smile wild with mischief. This is it. Like we practiced, I tell myself.
She gives me her back, and I take off her coat.
A collective gasp.
Good, I think, and I look down at her dress. The air is knocked out of me and I’m left breathless. She’s so beautiful. She’s so goddamn beautiful.
Black with flecks of silver, the dress is tighter and shorter than everyone else’s and backless.
She smiles at me and I wake up from my reverie. I immediately take her hand, guiding her to the dance floor. The murmurs around us grow louder –
“What is she wearing?”
“How is this allowed?”
“Someone get this woman a coat, she looks like a harlot!”
But their comments only bring us joy. And we dance, slow at first, with the music. And then the music goes wild, and we with it. We move to the rhythm like it beats in our blood, our bodies so close we could be seen as one figure. There’s only us in the room, only us in the whole wide world. We dance and we swing and we fly to the moon and stars, and I have never felt freer in my entire life. It’s never been like this when we practiced; they were always just moves. It feels like every piece of worry has left my body, and all I see is her. She is everything…everything.
I shouldn’t have denied those feelings all this time. It did me no good. I’m in love with her. I’m in love with the mischief and bravery that drives her to do everything she does. I’m in love with the sound of her voice that could put me to sleep and wake me from my worst nightmare. I’m in love…I’m in love…I’m in love.
The song ends, and so does our dance as I pull her to me. We’re out of breath, out of time. Her eyes dance as she looks up at me. “We did it,” she breathes out.
“I’m in -“
And just like that, she’s ripped away from me. Security pulls us away from each other, talking about how the real couple has arrived and how they know we’re imposters, and puts her coat over her as they rush me out of the open doors. I struggle to turn to her, and when I do, she’s smiling. She mouths, I love you, too.