The Phantom

I sat silent and invisible in the noisy, disturbing crowd. Smoke from dry ice filled the air. It suffocated me. The whole hall was dim; two chandeliers and a few neon lights shone to give a supposed romantic ambiance. Everyone else was talking. I sipped my punch. It gave a tickle in my throat. I watched as people passed by me now and then.

I heard the host speak a few words over the microphone. I didn't hear it well, but I knew it was about the dance. Soon everybody else started clapping. I just stared as they moved to clear the center of the ballroom.

A sweet, slow song started to play. I closed my eyes to drown my consciousness with it. I felt the emotion of the song touch my heart. If only someone would ask me to dance.

I opened my eyes to see the whole crowd looking at me, and a beautiful angel standing in front of me.

No, it wasn't an angel. It was Jake, the most handsome person I met in my life.

Although it was a masquerade party, I was sure it was him. Who else would be capable of attracting so much attention? Who else would be the most charming guy of the night? Who else would sweep me off my feet?

I felt paralyzed. I was firmly holding my glass. I was caught in his gaze. He reached out his hand to me and asked in the most caressing voice I ever heard, "Shall we dance?"

My mind was blank. I couldn't believe it was happening. I thought it was a dream until he asked me again, "Shall we?"

Overwhelmed and with a surprisingly dry throat, I spoke in a small, shy voice, "Yes." I let go of my glass and tried to stand up with my shaking knees. I felt my hands go cold. And when I finally touched his hand, I was overpowered by my bliss.

My head was on the clouds the whole time. He led me to the center of the ballroom, and we started dancing.

I didn't know what to do. I was never good at dancing. Too bad the spotlight was even on us. I felt embarrassed and belittled.

He perceived my awkward silence. "You okay?" he inquired.

"What? Oh. Yes. I'm okay."

"You sure?"

"Yeah." I faked a smile.

Another silence fell on the both of us. The slow song started to become upbeat. Everyone in the dance floor distanced from us.

"Are you having fun?" he asked out of the blue.

"Well, yeah."

"You're lying," he negated and then smirked.

"I'm not used to attending parties."

"That seems pretty obvious." He then chuckled. I felt my cheeks heat up. "What do you mean?"

But he didn't answer my question. Instead he asked, "Do you want to get out of here?"

I didn't understand what he meant so I answered, "You mean leave this party?"

"Shh," he hushed me. "Are you ready?"

He even bothered to ask when he suddenly pulled me through the crowd and in no time we were running. I heard his manager call for him. When the man realized Jake had no intention of stopping, he called for the guards. I felt afraid. "Wait!" I told Jake. But he just glimpsed at me and with a smile he assured me, "It's okay. They won't have us."

I felt like a runaway bride.

We had left the building. I tried to look back and saw that the guards were too far from us. He led me to the seashore. We run through the shoreline. It was quiet, with the waves kissing our feet and the salty air rushing through our faces. The night sky was peppered with stars. It felt like the movies.

He then let go off my hand but he still kept running. As he did, he raised both his hands and gave a shout of satisfaction; of freedom. It amazed me. It felt like fun so I did the same. I wouldn't forget how high my spirit was lifted that moment.

We finally got tired so we sat on the sand. We were both panting. I turned to him and to my surprise I realized he was watching me. He laughed. I giggled then asked, "What?"

"Now are you having fun?" he inquired mockingly.

"What do you think?" I played with words.

He turned his gaze towards the ocean. It made me do the same. The waters were dark. There were no boats out that night. He suddenly fell silent.

I didn't know what to ask or say; how I'd start another conversation. I felt a certain aura in him during that time. He seemed to be enjoying that simple act of gazing at the sea.

"You like the sea?" I blurted.

"You could say that," he answered. "Have you ever experienced a time you wished you had been something else?"

"I experience that the whole time," I truthfully spoke, "but ever since I always wished to be a doll."

"Why?"

"So I won't need to have feelings."

I noticed him turn to me, but he also looked back at the ocean. "I want to be the sea."

"Why?"

"I don't know," he paused to smile. "I guess I always felt carefree looking at the sea."

We listened at the waves crashing to the shore and the seagulls quacking from a nearby port. I knew then I didn't want it to end. However, suddenly, I felt scared. I was bothered. "Can I ask a question?" I shyly inquired.

"Sure," he confidently replied.

"Why me?"

"What do you mean?"

I was lost with words. "I meant, why did you choose to dance with me?"

He looked straight at me and threw back a question, "Why not you?"

"I…" I fell silent. I had no clue how to answer his question.

"Well," he spoke to cover up my silence, "I have two reasons. First, I knew you needed company. Second, honestly, you are the most beautiful girl tonight."

I wanted to cry but I stopped my tears. If only he knew how happy I felt with his words. "Thank you," was all I could say.

"Thank you too," he spoke. "Thank God you're different."

"What?"

"You're different. You understand me."

It made me smile. "Different isn't good all the time," I told him.

"That's okay. I like it."

I blushed.

We detected lights flashing in the distance. It was the guards looking for us. We immediately stood up. "Care for another run?" he proposed. I dusted the sand off my dress. "You didn't have to ask," I told him.

He felt challenged. "Let's see who could run the fastest then." He waited for me to take off my sandals and to pull up the skirt of my dress before we ran. He sure was fast but I was right behind him. "Not bad!" he teased me. I giggled. We heard the guards shouting and commanding us to stop.

We reached the ports. Storehouses were all lined up. "Here" he directed me towards a narrow alleyway. We stopped and kept silent as the guards passed by without noticing us in the shadows.

I gave out a sigh of relief when we realized they were gone. I turned to him. He came to me closer. I had my back on the wall.

"W-Wait!" I uttered.

"What?" he asked.

"W-What are you doing?" I stuttered.

He chuckled. "Don't worry. I'm a gentleman," he swore. To my astonishment he reached out his hands to my face. As he slowly pulled my mask off, he spoke, "I know you know me. Now can I know the person behind this mask?"

My mask was almost off when it felt like a reflex for me to stop him. "You can't," I told him.

"Why? Don't worry. I'm sure you're even more beautiful without that mask."

"That's not it," I tried to explain. "This is not what I wanted. I was waiting for someone who was meant to look for me."

"I found you," he reasoned out, but I shook my head. "I guess I require more effort," I told him. He fell silent and put back my mask. I didn't expect his reaction to be that way. I thought I offended him. "I'm sorry," I apologized.

He smiled. It wasn't his typical ; it was a sincere one. It made him look even more angelic. "I think I understand," he spoke softly. "But now that I found you, I wouldn't let you go. Just wait. I'll find you."

"I'll just be here," I assured him. I took his left hand with my right and pressed it in my cheek. He came even closer and hugged me, our foreheads met. I closed my eyes.

I was sipping my hot chocolate in the bus when the local morning news featured him. They were filming him leaving in the airport. The local reporter asked a quick question about his unexpected actions during the gala night. He just smiled then looked straight at the camera and said, "I apologize to all my fans. However I promise I will be back here really soon."

I couldn't help but smile.

Note: I was inspired by the song Secrets by One Republic. I was listening to the song the whole time I was writing this.