"Hannah, would you like to go to a ballroom dance?"
I looked at my mother while eating my scrambled egg, which was halfway stuffed in my mouth. She was on her smartphone, looking bored as she scrolled endlessly on her screen. Her brunette hair was tied in a messy bun. My dad sat next to her, drinking a mug of coffee while reading a book called The Goldfinch. He scratched his head and yawned, his dark blue hair unkempt. I sniffed the thick, chocolatey aroma of the coffee, licking my lips while knowing the coffee would taste unpleasantly bitter.
"Why this all of a sudden?" I asked, my voice slightly muffled by the food in my mouth. "Also, aren't ballroom dances only in fairy tales?"
My mother agressively slammed the table, putting her phone down. I cringed as she put her hand on her forehead overdramatically, pretending to faint.
"Ballroom dances are NOT only in fairy tales, Hannah!" She showed me her marriage ring, which had a beautiful, sparkling diamond on it. "I met your dad at a ballroom dance."
"That's right, honey," my dad said, kissing her. I spit out my egg, my appetite ruined.
"You met Dad at a ballroom dance?" I said, scoffing.
I sighed, finishing my spat out scrambled egg, and grabbed a oversized navy sweatshirt that said "Go Wolverines" with flashy letters from the blue couch, putting it on.
My mom stood up. “Come on, Hannah-”
I groaned. “I don’t like that kind of stuff!” I then huffed as I ran upstairs, leaving my mom at the dining table, who made a tsk sound.
I stared at my open bedroom window, bored as I laid on the ground, doing nothing. Outside was a cloudy day, the sky filled with dull, grey clouds. I then heard the faint chirps of a bird.
“Wait,” I said to myself. “Why do I hear a bird in my room?”
I then saw a small canary on my bed. My bed was unkempt and a mess. The bird, who looked at me, was the color of a lemon. With a roll of paper in its white beak, it handed me the item. It then flew out the window with no comment, leaving me confused. My eyes curiously looked over the tiny note in my palm, which was a pale blue. I then noticed there was writing on it.
I unrolled it quickly, reading the message sent to me. In graceful, smooth handwriting there was a message on it:
Dear Ms. Hannah,
You are invited to the
ballroom dance of
“Vast?” I said as I looked at the invitation, skeptical. “I’ve never heard of a country like that before.”
Whoosh! I felt a strong wind, grabbing my sweatshirt in fear of it being torn off by the strong force. My jeans were flapping in the wind. My eyes widened as I saw the object in front of me.
There was a portal, a real one! Inside, it was a bright neon green, lightning crackling inside. I felt terrified, but I also felt unusually compelled to go into the portal. I walked toward it slowly, the wind blowing harder as I got closer. As I went inside, I squeezed my eyes, exhilarated yet a bit scared.
I opened my eyes to a brilliant blue sky, the sun shining so blindingly I covered my eyes. I was lying in a lush field of grass. I felt a furry object in my palm, instantly caressing it with my fingers out of instinct. Is this a dream? I thought, closing my eyes.
"Hey! Stop!" I heard a boy's voice say.
Startled, I looked at the object in my hand, which was actually the tail of a coyote. With his dark blue eyes, he glared at me, instantly getting his tail away from me. His dark purple fur shined brilliantly in the bright sun.
"What are you doing? Seriously, humans..." The fox muttered.
I screamed. He looked at me like I was crazy, jumping back.
"Dude!" He said to me. "What is wrong with you?"
"W-why are you talking?!" I stammered.
The coyote then looked down at himself, then looked up at me. "Ah, I forgot humans get shocked when animals talk," he said to himself. "Okay, if you don't want it like this," now talking to me, glaring even more, "I'll just change into my human form."
Poof! In a cloud of smoke appeared a boy the same age as me, about thirteen years old. Wearing a white medical eyepatch on his left eye, he adjusted his the collar of his shirt, a navy sweater on top. Suddenly feeling a bit flustered, I straightened my long, auburn colored hair which was in a mess. He also felt familiar, like I had met someone like him before...
"Ahem," he said, clearing his throat. "I am here to accompany you in the kingdom of Vast."
"But who are you?" I asked.
"That does not matter right now," he replied immediately. "You will find out at the ballroom dance."
He then held his hand out.
"Let's go around Vast, shall we?"
I nodded, holding his hand as he led me to the crowd of buildings in the distance.
Animals walking by looked at me, intrigued. I stared at them, each of the animals' color a different hue. A pink bunny hopped past me, carrying a bag of carrots, and a orange panda was gnawing on a bamboo stalk in his paws, sitting on the side of the street. The boy led me through the crowd of creatures, holding my hand tightly.
We walked into an empty cafe that was dimly lit. There were paintings of animals dressed in knight armor, shown bravely fighting a crowd of wild wolves charging at their army.
"Tom, can I have two coffees on the go?" He called out to the silence.
A rustling was heard inside and a tiny lamb, the color of snow, came out of the door behind the wooden counter.
"Coming up, Charles," the lamb called out with a surprisingly deep and manly voice.
He walked over to the right side of the counter, the whirring of a machine coming out from behind. I thought, His name is Charles? Meanwhile, we sat at a table, pushing out the wooden chairs, which made a screeching sound on the ground.
"Do you want to change your clothes?" Charles asked, eyeing my sweatshirt.
"Oh." I looked down, realizing how informal my clothes were. "Yeah, I might want to."
Two cups of coffee were set down on the table.
The sheep said, "Here are your two coffees. Enjoy!"
Before we walked out, the sheep asked Charles, "How's your brother doing?"
"Oh, I don't know," he said, his voice suddenly emotionless.
What was that? I thought, curious. I picked up my coffee, Charles picking up his, as we walked out of the cafe. Charles held my hand once again, making me quite unfocused and embarrassed. I bumped into a dark green grizzly bear, who in return glared at me for a second, then looked at Charles. His emotion of anger instantly changed into forced politeness, bowing silently to me and walking away.
"What was that?" I asked Charles.
"Oh, nothing," he said nonchalantly. "Let's go to a clothing store for you."
He opened the doors of a pastel pink colored shop, the sign above saying "Pop Bubblegum" in bubbly letters. There were mannequins posing cutely, wearing girly clothing. I touched the lace edge of the black skirt on the mannequin and gagged. Charles looked at me, weirded out.
"You don't like this kind of clothing?" He said, obviously greatly confused.
"Uh... I hate to say this," I said, my face hot with embarrassment, "but I'm a tomboy."
He scoffed, but wordlessly grabbed my hand and walked quickly into the store next door. Above the door, it said "Black Crow". I walked in, excited from the handsome white polo shirt in the window of the storefront.
Grabbing clothes from fancy, engraved wooden racks, a pile quickly formed in my arms, filled with polo shirts and jeans. Charles handed me a pair of black trousers, looking away.
"Be classier," Charles said, his face now turned to me."Seriously, the way you dress is very..." His sentence was left unfinished.
I snatched it quickly, then gave my pile of clothes to him. He groaned, sinking quickly from the sudden weight.
"Can you buy all of this?" I asked, nervous about the amount of clothing.
He nodded, handing it to the cashier, who was a masculine white cat dressed in a formal black tuxedo. On his tie was a pattern of goldfish swimming about in a blue sea.
Calculating the total, the cat instantly replied, "$267.45, please."
I gasped, aghast as this price, but Charles just merely sighed quietly as he hand the cat a shiny gold credit card. Is he rich?! I thought. The cat quickly took it, swiped it, and handed it back to him. He then skillfully folded all the clothes and put it in a huge black bag in a matter of seconds.
Charles took the bag. "Hannah, let's go to your room now."
"Right now?" I asked, surprised by this sudden command. "How can we do so if there are so many creatures walking on the streets so haphazardly?"
"Just hold my hand when I snap my finger." He said, then he grabbed my hand, put one hand over my eyes, and snapped his finger.
Taking his hand off my eyes, I gasped at the room. The walls were covered with a pattern of both gold and red roses overflowing. The rug was soft, a maroon color. I felt like my feet sank into it every time I took a step. The bed was beautiful, a translucent crimson canopy hanging over the bed. On the bed was a thick, red blanket embroidered with gold tulips. I jumped onto it immediately, feeling tired.
"Get some rest," Charles said. "The ballroom dance is tonight."
"TONIGHT?!" I shouted, then covered my mouth.
"Yes, tonight," he said. "Here are your pajamas."
He handed me a silky, pale pink nightgown that appeared from nowhere, and silent left the room, closing the door behind him. It was unusually silent. I changed into the nightgown, which felt smooth and pleasurable on my skin, then jumped into the bed, closing my eyes.
I woke up, rubbing my eyes. The sky outside was now covered with stars and a dark, dark blue, compared to the vivid blue sky before I slept. Two women in maid outfits hauled me up from bed.
"Hey! HEY!" I screamed, unsettled from this sudden movement.
The maids paid no attention to my cries and shouts, stripping me of my nightgown (which I was mortified while they were doing this), putting a very tight corset on me, fitting my bare feet into black flats, and finally, the dress.
I gasped as they pushed me gently in front of the mirror. The dress fitted me perfectly, the long, red dress touching the ground. I felt the velvety fabric of it.
"One last thing, miss."
They brought out a brush. Pulling on the tangles in my hair, they brushed it swiftly and roughly until my long hair was smooth and neat. It cascaded down my back smoothly. A maid then took out a single red rose from her pocket and put it behind my ear.
The maids smiled. "We will lead you to the ballroom," they said. "Follow us."
I stared at the ballroom in front of me, breathless. Women in extravagant dresses and men in classy tuxedos danced gracefully, the music slow and patient. The ceiling was adorned with murals of a starry night sky, the room lit by multiple chandelier. My hands nervously rubbed on the skirt of my dress as I walked forward, hopeful to find a partner.
I walked forward, my flats making a clicking sound on the ground. As guests danced, they looked at me briefly, whispering. I couldn't really tell if they were looking at me in astonishment or disgust. Everything then went silent. All the women and men stared at the door entering to the ballroom, so I turned around to see what they were looking at too.
"The Queen, Lorraine, and his son will now enter the ballroom!" An announcer said, his voice booming throughout the room.
There was a magnificent woman, her white hair tied into a neat bun, walking gracefully. She held the skirt of her puffy sky blue gown. Looking around with a elegant aura, everyone bowed to her politely. I bowed with them. A boy then followed her, coming out into the light. As I saw him, I staggered back in shock.
Charles?! I thought, alarmed.
He was looking at his nails, his medical eyepatch replaced by a black one, a simple, blue rose depicted in it. He was dressed in a fine, black tuxedo, with a tie the same as his eyepatch, except the roses covered every empty spot on the tie.
"Today, the prince, Charles, will become engaged to the human, Hannah!" The announcer said, all eyes turning to me.
Blushing, I tried to hide in the crowd, but his eyes met with mine. The lights were turned off, the spotlight on me. I awkwardly smiled, unintentionally putting my hands on a woman's shoulders as I uselessly tried to hide, the woman scowling briefly at me. He walked over as my palms were becoming sticky and sweaty, my heart going aflutter as he walked toward me.
I realized his face was filled with anxiety too, his hands shaking as he walked up to me.
"Uh..." His voice wavered. "Hannah, can you dance with me?"
"S-sure," I said, stuttering.
He took my hand, and behind him I could see Queen Lorraine smiling with approval as we started dancing to the slow, romantic music.
I held Charles's hand as we stepped out of the portal in my room. He looked dumbfounded at my room, with clothes unkempt, thrown on the ground in random places. The polka dotted pink wallpaper was starting to peel off the edges, and half of my teal blanket was on the ground. The invitation was still on the ground, the sky outside cloudy.
It seemed like I had never went to the ballroom dance. But Charles told me last night while we were dancing.
"Hannah, the time you spent in Vast doesn't make any difference in your dimension. A day was worth a second in your world."
I was deep in thought, astonished that my time in Vast didn't even take a minute in my house. I snapped back to my attention when Charles put the bag of clothes on the ground. I instantly grabbed his hand. He looked at me, startled.
"Let's go meet my parents," I said.
"Hey, are you sure we can meet your parents with these types of clothes on?" Charles asked.
We both had our clothing on from the ballroom dance yesterday. I grinned.
"It will leave a better impression on them," I said.
We walked out of my room, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. My mother and dad were still at the kitchen table, my seat empty. They were talking in hushed tones until they saw me walk in.
My dad put down his coffee, startled.
"What is this, Hannah?" My mom asked, even though I could tell she already knew, trying her best to hold in her smile.
"Mom, dad, this is my fiancée," I announced to them.
Charles's eyes were wide and frightened.
"Brother...?" Charles mumbled, looking at my father in shock.