Romance . . . . Dance . . . . Funny, ever noticed how they rhyme? They do, obviously. Have you heard of the term "swept off your feet"? You know, that's what happens when you're in love with some guy before you know what's hit you. Guess what? It also happens when you dance. Coincidence? I think not. Dancing can be the language of those deeply in love. It can also be the first time you realize you love someone. Take what happened to me for example.

We met on the dance floor as strangers. We'd never seen the other. We didn't know who the other was behind the masks. It was a masked, costume ball. He'd told me that he'd be there. He said that he'd try to guess who I was before the clock struck twelve, when all the masks would be removed, and asked if I'd do the same. I agreed, eagerly anticipating that night. He declared that if I thought I knew who he was, I was to search him out and ask him to dance the last dance before midnight with me. He would do the same. That way, when the hour struck we could remove the other's mask and see if we were right.

As I stood on the edge of the dance floor gazing at the couples for any sign that might clue me into where he was, a low male voice said in my ear, "May I have this dance?" I whirled round to find myself very close to a tall young man, dressed as Robin. His black mask hid everything but his deep, dark eyes. I couldn't see them properly because we were not in good light. I looked at his extended hand and then up at his all-concealing mask.

"Very well," I told him, keeping my voice lower than normal and smiling up at him and placing my hand in his. The height was about right, but the voice.

He bowed and raised the tip of my fingers to his lips. I blushed, glad my white glittery mask hid most of my blush. The darkness covered the rest.

As we walked out to the dance floor, the wings of my butterfly costume brushed dancers, slowing me down a bit, as I kept apologizing. Not that they noticed me. When we reached the center, he turned to face me and led me into the steps of the dance. It was the Samba (I'd practiced for weeks) and as he firmly, but gently led me through the dance, I looked at him. I studied him in the dim light and he caught me staring.

"What are you looking at Mademoiselle Butterfly?" he asked lightly, calling me by my costume.

"You, Sir Robin," I rejoined, smiling teasingly up into his face.


"Well, isn't that part of the fun of tonight? Trying to find out who your dance partner is?"

"Very true," he acknowledged. "Who do you think I am?"

"I have my suspicions, but I'll keep them to myself," I laughed, eyes dancing behind my mask. "Who do you think I am?" I asked, curious.

"A beautiful butterfly," his eyes sparkled behind his mask.

I laughed in exasperation and pulled away from him as the dance ended. He bowed; I curtseyed, my wings dipping. I turned and made my way from the dance floor, Robin following behind. I knew he was there, but I didn't turn. When I reached the edge of the dance floor, I turned and found that Robin had gotten his hand on a glass of punch and was holding it out to me.

"I know how thirsty I can get after dancing." He explained.

I raised an eyebrow and smiled, thanking him for the punch. It was good fruity stuff, fizzing all the way down your throat. Robin looked around the room as the announcer told us what the next dance was, and excused himself to do his duty by finding another girl to dance with. I nodded and let him go, once again scanning the crowded room.

As I looked around, a young man dressed in various shades of blue with streamers flowing off his sleeves and top, stopped beside me. His mask was a greenish-blue color covered with glitter of the same kind. From beneath his mask, his blue eyes sparkled at me, set off by the blue surrounding them.

"Would you dance this waltz with me?" He asked, his voice whispery.

"It would be my pleasure," I agreed, putting my pink gloved hand into his offered one.

For the second time that night, a young man led me to the dance floor. As his hand settled on my waist and we clasped hands, he looked down at me. I played with the streamers on his upper arm and looked at him questioningly.

"This is an interesting costume. What is it supposed to represent?" I asked him.

"The ocean," he gazed at me.

"That's a deep costume," I laughed.

His mouth turned up slightly in appreciation. "Call me Neptune," he suggested.

"Alright," I agreed. "Do you like oceanic topics, Neptune?" I asked.

He chuckled and nodded. "What may I call you?" He asked.

I thought, and remembered what Robin had called me. "Mademoiselle Butterfly, please."

"French?" he asked.

"Yes, it seems to fit my costume."

"You look beautiful," he said as if agreeing with something I'd said.

I laughed lightly and grinned at him, "Thank you, I try."

In truth, his complement meant a lot. I'd spent time looking for the perfect dress. This dress was a conglomeration of various shades of pink. My dark blonde hair was piled elaborately on my head and my neck was graced by a simple but beautiful necklace. My dress had a set of wings sewn on the back, and my mask was a shimmery white. I felt beautiful, but it made me feel special to have someone I didn't know at first glance tell me that I was.

"What is your favorite sea creature?" I asked, as he guided me knowingly through the steps of the waltz, my wings brushing other couples lightly.

I was almost positive that Neptune wasn't He. He'd never shown an interest in oceanic things before.

"The dolphin," Neptune said immediately. "Its grace, intelligence, beauty and swiftness appeal to me."

I nodded. That made sense.

Since Neptune didn't seem too inclined to talk, I asked him, "Do you dance often? You seem to know the waltz well enough."

"I took a couple of dancing lessons in the weeks preceding the ball." He told me.

I chuckled appreciatively. I had taken dancing lessons as well. I wasn't too proficient, but I could get along well enough. I hadn't stepped on anyone's toes yet.

When Neptune made no move to make conversation, I asked him another question.

"Are you looking for anyone tonight?"

He studied me for a moment before answering. "Yes, but I don't believe she is here yet."

I nodded, and the music ended. "Thank you for the dance," he murmured and walked away.

I moved back to the sidelines and, because there was a break, became engaged in conversation with a fairy, Cat Woman, and a princess who couldn't decide if she was Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella. Her hair was blond, she said, and because of that, and the fact that her dress was blue, she couldn't decide which one to be. She ended up deciding that she wished to be called Sleeping Cinderella, much to the amusement of all present. The fairy and I complemented each other on our wings, and discussed various ways to place them on a dress without having them droop from our shoulders. Cat Woman simply looked on, purring occasionally. I glanced away once and saw a Musketeer pass me, glance at me and wink. Unnerved, I turned back to the conversation.

A young man dressed as Zorro made his way over to our little group, followed by Mr. Incredible, Space Man Spiff, and James Bond. Zorro even had a sword to complete his costume and we all admired it, until the announcer called out that it was time to dance again. Bond, James Bond, turned to me and asked if I should like to dance this next dance with him. I bobbed a small curtsey, grinning, and said that I'd be delighted. Zorro and Cat Woman paired; Mr. Incredible and Faery got together; and Spiff and Sleeping Cinderella looked at each other before laughing and walking to the dance floor together.

Our announcer informed us that this next dance would be the Virginia Reel, a fun dance consisting of six couples. The eight of us—four couples—lined up, women on one side, men on the other. Two more couples joined us before the music started.

I looked over at James and noticed that he was bouncing on his toes—impatient for the music to start. I grinned, remembering that He was normally impatient. But Bond's hair wasn't the right color, and I was almost certain that He wouldn't go to all the trouble to dye his hair.

Zorro and Kitty started the dance, as head couple. We all danced in and around and about until the head couple galloped down between the lines, and then back up to lead the cast off, women to the right, men to the left, before stopping at the bottom of the line and creating a tunnel for the rest of the couples to duck through. James and I were next head couple and we did it all again.

By the time the dance ended, I had a pretty good idea of who a couple people were. Spiff had to be Calvin, an energetic blond boy who had a voracious reading appetite, and loved Calvin and Hobbes. It couldn't be anyone else.

Cat Woman had to be Shannon, a quiet girl with a love for cats and the occasional sushi craving. Her costume fit her to a T.

Other than that, I had no idea who anyone else was. This was a dance club, and because it was so large, I only knew about half the people at a glance on a normal day.

James tried to escort me back to the edge of the dance floor, but before he could, Zorro came over asking for the next dance. I accepted and James handed me over.

The dance was a Polka, and we danced and spun about the room, Zorro guiding me effortlessly as we talked and laughed.

I asked him where he had gotten his sword. He laughed and told me he'd gotten it on Ebay. I asked him if he ever used it. He said that he'd taken some fencing lessons once upon a time and so had his brother, so they beat on each other occasionally.

—So he has a brother and has taken fencing lessons . . . . I mused to myself. —Sounds like Robert and Clive.

"Is your brother here?" I asked, glancing around the crowded room over his shoulder. I tripped on my skirt and almost took a quick tumble. Zorro caught me, however, and hauled me upright again, tut-tutting.

I laughed, embarrassed, and quickly fell into step with him again. "I'm sorry. I lost concentration. I've learned before that if I stop concentrating on my partner, I lose step. I just forgot for the moment."

I looked up into his masked face and caught a twinkle in his eyes.

"Should we step out of the dance?" he asked, "To catch our breath, I mean. Then I can answer your question."

"Fine with me," I agreed.

He ducked his head close to my ear and whispered, "Hold on tight to my hand. Trust me."

Puzzled, I nodded and felt him grip me tightly around the waist with one hand and then spin me outwards quickly. I whooped and gripped his hand tightly, grinning like the Cheshire cat as I came to rest facing him. He was still holding my hand as he bowed and I bobbed a curtsey, trying to catch my breath.

He led me to the edge of the dance floor and found both of us chairs. He brought me some punch and a small plate of sweets, before sitting down and capturing my attention.

"Yes, my brother is here. He decided to dress similar to myself." He grinned. "Do you know who he is?"

I looked around the room, thinking furiously. —All in black . . . . I caught sight of someone else, dressed entirely in black.

"Is that him?" I asked.

Zorro looked over to where I pointed, and nodded in affirmation.

"What's he calling himself?" I asked.

Zorro looked at me and grinned. "The Dread Pirate Roberts."

"Princess Bride," I murmured and grinned appreciatively. Princess Bride was one of my favorite movies. I had to be talking to Clive. Only Robert would think it funny to play a character with his name.

"I believe I know who you are." I told him imperiously. "Do you know who I am?"

He looked at me through his black mask and said quietly, "I believe so, Princess."

He knew me.

Princess was his nickname for me. When we were young, Clive and Robert would come over to my house, or I to theirs, and we would dress up. I was always the princess in distress.

"Glad to hear it," I grinned. This was also a private joke between us, though I can't remember why.

I looked around the crowd at the panting partners and saw a person who could be no one else other than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Terminator outfit. It had to be Danny. His favorite line was "I'll be back." He often got teased because he looked so much like Schwarzenegger.

To my surprise, "Arnold" pushed through the crowd, sunglasses glinting, to stand before Zorro/Clive and myself.

"Will you dance the next dance with me?" he asked.

I looked up at him and grinned. "Sure, Schwarzenegger."

The next dance turned out to be the Cha-cha, a dance that one could only dance well if they were light on their feet. Well, anyone who has danced before could argue that you have to be light on your feet to dance anything, and I'll agree with that, but in this particular one, lightness of foot is needed.

Danny, if indeed that's who it was, turned out to be lighter on his feet than I thought he could possibly be with all that muscle on him. I knew that he played football. I looked up at him while we danced, my wings brushing other dancers in the flurried frenzy of the dance.

"You're light on your feet!" I told him, trying to hide my surprise.

"I take ballet," he told me, somewhat sheepishly. "I play football, so I thought it would be a good thing to be as light on my feet as possible. But no one but you knows. Don't tell?"

This had to be Danny.

I laughed and assured him I wouldn't tell. He looked slightly relieved behind his shades.

We laughed and alternated between talking about our favorite movies and watching our feet. The dance ended with neither of us tripping the other up. We bowed, panting, and took ourselves to opposite sides of the dance floor.

That was when it happened. I was standing watching the crowd again, when a young man, entirely dressed in black appeared by my side with the swirl of a cape. His Stetson was black, his cape was black; he was dressed entirely in black. His mask, a black thing covering the top half of his face was lined with silver, giving him an air of mystery. When his cape moved, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a gun, hanging in a shoulder holster.

He took off his Stetson and swept me a bow, showing a surprising lack of hair on the top of his head. His red colored mustache and goatee made up for this, though. His hazel eyes crinkled from behind his mask and he asked me in a tenor voice, "May I have this next dance?"

It was only a matter of seconds before I replied yes and was swept away by this mystery in black.

The dance was the second waltz of the evening. There would be five of them before midnight. They were placed between the more vigorous dances, allowing those who wished to dance all the dances to catch their breath.

My partner swept me on to the dance floor, firmly, but gently, taking hold of my waist and claiming my hand.

The waltz when danced well can cause the person dancing it to think they are floating. My partner danced well, and, as so often is the result, caused me to dance well also. As we floated along, he looked down at me.

"You look stunningly beautiful tonight," he told me.

I beamed under his compliment, and piercing gaze.

"Do I know you?" I asked, feeling as if I did.

"Maybe," he said mysteriously.

"What may I call you, please?" I asked.

My partner thought for a moment, leading me lightly, his cloak swirling.

"Thomas. You may call me Thomas."

"That's a curious name," I said, struck by the mysteriousness of my partner.

He flashed me a toothy smile, grinning.

"Is it your real name?" I asked, completely forgetting that if he were to ask me my name, I wouldn't tell him.

He winked at me. "That's for me to know and you to find out."

"Touché," I replied laughing lightly.

Trying to change the subject, I asked him, "I noticed the gun on your shoulder. Is it real?"

"Quite," he assured me. "Kim is very real. I thought it added flair to the costume."

"What?" I laughed, "You mean your costume isn't brilliant enough in its own dark way? And you named your gun?"

He laughed, his tenor voice trilling. "Yes, I named my gun. And thank you. I like a brilliant costume."

Slightly at a loss for words, I simply watched him. He looked back at me steadily.

"You know what to call me," he said, "But I don't know what to call you. What may I call you, please?" He echoed my earlier plea.

"Mademoiselle Butterfly," I told him, lightly. "I normally don't go in for French things, but this time it seemed to fit my costume."

"Ah yes," he said, chuckling slightly. "French: flighty, beautiful and full of airs."

I laughed appreciatively. "If I did not think the same way, I'd be tempted to clobber you." I warned.

"Yes ma'am," He said with mock gravity.

"Not like a butterfly could hurt anyone," we both said at the same time.

We looked at each other and laughed.

As the music ended, he bowed, holding my hand high, and I curtsied.

"Thank you, that was quite enjoyable," I told him as he handed me back to the edge of the dance floor.

"The pleasure was all mine," Thomas told me before sweeping me a second bow and disappearing into the crowd with a sweep and flourish of his cloak.

I grinned happily, gave a little bounce, causing my wings to flap and set off to find a new group of people to mingle with. The musketeer passed me again, but instead of winking, he doffed his hat. I watched him as he wandered off to three other young men, also dressed as musketeers. Then, I came upon four girls engaged in animated conversation. As I stood on the edge of the circle the masked Celt beckoned me in to the small circle.

"Call me Aideen," She said. Her plaid green and brown skirt set off her long, bright red hair. Her mask was a strange green, making me think of spring and woods.

"Odette," Said a girl in a long, flowing, white, creamy dress with feathery wings. Her name was from Swan Lake, the ballet. "I'm a swan," she supplied at my odd look.

"I'm Braewyn," a girl who was dressed in a green floaty, filmy, almost-tattered skirt said. Her wildish, curly, hair hung long about her shoulders. When I looked closer, I saw bare feet poking from beneath her long skirt. Flowers, woven into a wreath, and set atop her hair made her look wild and gorgeous at the same time. Her mask was a rich brown.

I looked to the last, petite girl, dressed as a flamenco dancer.

"And you are . . . ." I asked.

She giggled shyly from behind her purple lace mask and fan and said, "Call me Adonia."

"Beautiful," I murmured.

She laughed. "Exactly."

Confused, I looked at her. "What?"

Adonia laughed again. "My name means 'Beautiful'."

I caught what she was saying and laughed, the other girls joining in.

"Nice to meet all of you," I said when the laughter had died down. "I'm Mademoiselle Butterfly."

We chatted about various things. I found out that all the girls were friends. They'd told each other who they were coming as and met up. So far they'd each danced several dances and enjoyed themselves immensely. My attention wandered when I caught sight of a young girl dressed as Arwen moving towards the group. Her ears were pointed and her hair, dyed a dark black, was not quite long enough. She pulled off the costume well though. She joined the group as if she knew them.

Once introduced, we continued chatting, until several young men trooped over to our group. Legolas led the group, followed by a tall, dumpy looking salesman with obvious fake facial hair and a large wig, a young man dressed in a hairy black costume with elaborate make-up, giving him the appearance of a dog, and Beast from Beauty and the Beast. The latter had an elaborate mask on that must have been unbearably hot.

Legolas, full of charm, asked Arwen to dance. She gracefully accepted. Legolas, uncharacteristic of an elf, tripped on his way out to the dance floor.

Beast, towering over Adonia asked her to dance with him. She giggled shyly again and placed her hand in his.

"I'm Ned," the dog said to Odette. "Will you dance with me?"

She nodded and accepted his paw.

"Sorry ladies," The salesman said from behind his mustache. "There aren't enough of us to go around. If there were three of me I'd get everyone of you to dance. As it is," He turned to Aideen, "May I have the dance after this? And," he turned to me, "May I dance with you three dances from now?" We both nodded as he turned to Braewyn and asked her to dance. She accepted and Aideen and I were left standing on the edge of the floor.

We looked at each other, laughed and then sobered.

"I'm going to get some snacks," she told me. "Care to join me?"

I agreed and we made our way to the snack table. It was all finger-foods. We filled our plates and talked about cooking. We made our way back to the dance floor where I caught sight of a huge red and black head.

Aideen must have seen the expression of astonishment on my face because she looked over to where I was looking.

"Is that who I think it is?" I asked, askance.

"If you think that's Strongbad, you're right!" She told me, equally shocked.

I looked at her and giggled. "What say we go over there and talk to him?" I suggested.

She grinned behind her mask and agreed.

We made our way over to where Strongbad was standing.

"Strongbad, right?" I asked upon getting close to him.

"Yes," He said in his gravelly voice.

"Why aren't you dancing?" Aideen asked him.

"I can't dance with this blasted head on. It's too large and wobbly and I can't see what I need to, to dance." He complained, imitating Strongbad's accent. "Also, I can't grip with these boxing gloves."

"Then why wear it?" I asked.

"It's a masked ball," he said. "I couldn't think of anything else that might already be used. Besides, I don't much care for dancing."

"So you're perfectly content with being a wall flower?" I asked him.

He started to nod, but remembered that he was top-heavy and said, "Yes."

The current dance ended and the salesman found us and claimed Aideen's hand for the next dance. I offered to take her plate and throw it away for her, so she handed it over and I said goodbye to Strongbad before meandering over to the garbage.

I turned from trashing both plates to find a Naval Officer standing close beside me, watching me. I jumped, startled and my hand went to my heart.

"My word," I managed a strangled gasp.

"I'm sorry. I should have made some noise or something to let you know I was here."

I'd gotten over my fright and looked at him closely. His red crew cut was covered by a military cap. He had a strong chin and twinkling hazel eyes.

"Would you dance with me?" He asked. "They haven't started yet." He supplied, inclining his head towards the dance floor.

I agreed and hand in hand we made our way to the dance floor.

This dance was basically the same as the Virginia Reel, only when the head couple reeled the set, just the girl reeled down the guys side while the gentle man stood in the middle and twirled her. On the way back up the set, the girl was the one who waited in the middle while the guy reeled up the set. Then if we weren't dead at the end of that, the announcer said, we could reel the set like we did in the Virginia Reel.

"What do I call you?" I asked, curious. "Are you really in the military?"

"Sergeant Saint," he flashed me a mischievous grin.

I raised an eyebrow. "'Saint,' eh?" I asked, doubting that he was saintly at all.

He chuckled. "Yes, 'Saint'. What do I call you?"

"Mademoiselle Butterfly," I answered, between steps.

We began the reel and were too caught up with the steps to talk. I flew down the line of young men (and one woman). Three of the young men took particular delight in swinging me off my feet when I twirled with them. I made sure to beam broadly at them. Saint was one of the three young men.

When the dance ended, I could tell that the musicians were as worn out as the dancers. Some of them wiped sweat off their foreheads and instruments. Saint bowed me back to the edge of the dance floor and turned to leave as the salesman came to find me. He saw Saint and hailed him.


I looked again. There was some semblance. I grinned.

"Did you just dance with the beauty here?" the salesman asked, pointing to me.

Saint nodded and grinned. "She dances quite well. She's like a butterfly, floating on air."

I blushed. Like a butterfly—right.

The salesman turned to me. "May I see if my brother is right?" He asked me, holding out his hand.

I nodded and placed my hand in his.

"Do you know how to foxtrot?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied. "I learned some time ago."

"Good," he replied. "Because this next one's a foxtrot."

I grinned. The foxtrot was one of my favorite dances.

As the salesman backed me around the room to the music we talked.

"You obviously know Saint," I told him, smiling up at him through my mask.

"He's my brother," the salesman told me.

"I gathered that much." I told him, chuckling. "So, what may I call you?" I asked, changing the subject.

"Erm . . . Smith!" He said, coming up with a pseudonym.

"John Smith?" I asked.

"I guess."

"So what do you sell?"

"What do you want?"

"I don't know . . ."

"Then I'm afraid I can't sell you anything," he said looking mournfully at me.

I laughed, delighted. "So, you sell wishes?" I asked.

"Oh, no," he hurried to answer while maneuvering me in a box-step, "not wishes. More like anything you really need. A wish, most of the time, is something you don't really need, and as a result it might not be good for you. But, come to think of it, if I sell things you really need, I might have to simply give it to you because you might be too poor to buy it from me."

"Like if what I needed most was money and I didn't have any to buy food and clothing and such?" I asked, intrigued at this philosophical side coming from "Smith."

"Something like that," Smith chuckled. "You Foxtrot very well," he told me, changing the subject.

"Thank you! I've practiced and I enjoy playing follow-the-leader if you catch my meaning."

"I do," Smith grinned. "What else do you like to do?" He asked.

"I like to sing," I told him, and accidentally knocked knees with him through my skirt.

"What do you sing?"


"Bass, here," he proclaimed. "But I meant, what style do you sing?"

"Oh, anything really," I said, feeling the texture of his suit jacket beneath my fingers.

Several beats passed before we spoke again.

"What are you doing here? I mean, are you looking for someone?" He asked.

"Actually, yes!" I said surprised that he'd figured it out so quickly. "I'm looking for a friend of mine. He's looking for me too. We didn't tell the other what we were coming as."

"I see," he grinned down at me. "Are you sure you should be telling me all this? I might be him, you know."

I laughed up into his face, "You're not. You're a tiny bit taller than he is, and there is no way he'd think of coming as a salesman. That much I know."

"Drat," was Smith's only comment.

I laughed again.

The music ended, and Smith bowed, leading me to the edge of the floor.

"That was most enjoyable," I told him. "Thank you."

"Oh no, thank you," he told me and moved off smiling.

I glanced at the clock. It showed 11:00. One hour left. The third waltz was next and the fourth waltz would be at 11:30. The last waltz—the last dance of the night—would be at midnight. That's when I'd dance with Him.

A young man dressed as a pirate, gaudy jewelry and everything, appeared at my elbow and inquired if he might have the waltz with me. Amused, I agreed and placed my gloved hand carefully into his seemingly dirty hand.

"Oh, don't worry," he told me, seeing my trepidation. "It's not dirt, just makeup. My sister insisted."

Delighted, I laughed and squeezed his hand to reassure him that I didn't mind. "Just makeup, eh?" I asked. "And your sister insisted? What kind of fellow would let his sister dirty him up with makeup? Isn't makeup worse than dirt for you guys?"

His ears turned pink. "Well, it's not worse than dirt, per say, but it is shunned."

"What shall I call you?" I asked, changing the subject.

"Well, everyone has been calling me Jack," he said casually.

"I see," I replied, as he twirled me in a small circle before bringing me back to the circle of his arms.

"Your wings, although lovely, do make it extremely hard to spin you. Did you sew them on or are they real?"

I laughed again. "Of course they aren't real! They are pretty aren't they?"

"I just said that, darlin'," Jack said imitating the real Cap'n Jack's drawl.

I giggled.

"Do you drink rum, Jack?" I asked him curiously.

He looked at me with shifty eyes. "Well, don't tell the mother, lass, but yes I've actually tasted it before . . . 'hide the rum' you know?"

"Oooh . . . I see," I said, pretending like this was the biggest secret in the world.

All too soon, the waltz ended and I was escorted to the edge of the dance floor.

I'd had enough dancing for a little bit I decided. I was feeling hot and my feet were starting to ache. I still had 45 minutes.

Making my way to the refreshment table, I gathered a small plate of food and more importantly a cup of cold water. With this small snack I made my way outside to the cool night air. I had to think. As I paced the small garden outside, I found a bench and sat, resting my feet. —What would he come as? I wondered. I mentally kicked myself. I shouldn't be wondering who he was. He had enough ability to come completely changed so I wouldn't recognize him. No, he wanted me to find him by his personality—just like I wanted him to find me by mine. I was fairly certain that I hadn't already danced with him. Mentally, I set about making a list of what I knew of his character.

He was kind, he could laugh at anything silly and yet sympathize too, he understood a joke, he liked babies, he often became the life of the party without meaning too. I thought about some crowds that I had seen gathered earlier. I wondered.

To bring myself back to the present, I forced myself to go on thinking. He had hundreds of wonderful qualities that I could name. —What are some of his not so nice qualities? He was stubborn, he could get angry when irked, he was jealous for those he loved, he sometimes didn't know his own strength, and he could be lazy at times (—lazy enough to refrain from dying his hair, my mind whispered).

A crunch of gravel under someone's heel brought me back to reality. I glanced up slightly startled. I saw, in the darker part of the garden, two musketeers conversing and coming around the plants towards me was a young man dressed in a jester's costume. His head was down, watching where his slippered feet trod.

Since he obviously hadn't seen me, I cleared my throat, hoping to alert him to my presence without scaring the living daylights out of him. Unfortunately, he jumped, scattering gravel.

"My word," he said, his voice shrill with excitement. "I had no idea anyone was out here. How you gave me a fright. Are you cooling off as well?"

I nodded. "My feet were starting to hurt. Even in comfortable dancing shoes," I pulled the hem of my dress back to reveal tan dancing shoes, "your feet can hurt."

"I see," he said and nodded nervously.

Seeing that he wasn't very inclined to talk, I made a move to go inside. "Well, looks like that dance ended. I'm going to go back inside."

Jester nodded again and moved out of my way.

I made my way back inside, scanning the crowd. If He was really smart, he'd wear a costume just like his character. Maybe. I wasn't to sure though. —You'll know when the time comes, my mind reassured me. I had to know.

A young man swept up to me, dressed as Batman. His face, obscured by his mask, was strong, his grin winsome.

"Will you dance with me?" he asked, cape clouding about him.

I smiled, placing my hand in his outstretched one. "With pleasure."

The song was a mixer, so I danced with Batman about two percent of the time. The rest of the time I circled with other young men. We moved so quickly that I only had time to smile at the different young men and exchange a word or two.

"That's a lovely dress you're wearing."

"Thank you! I didn't know Superman wore a mask."

"Are you a fairy or a butterfly?"

"Either, but you may call me Mademoiselle Butterfly."

"You dance frightfully well, have you taken lessons?"

"Actually yes. I love your English accent. Is it real?"


"That's a swashbuckling outfit. How do you see with the patch over your mask?"

"I don't!"

"Hello, Jester."

"Mademoiselle Butterfly."

"Do you like to be swung?"

"I love a guy who will swing me!"

"You are the young man who winked at me!"

"I am."

The music died, and I was left standing with a young man in camouflage with a rifle hanging off his left side, and deer antlers hanging off his right.

He grinned at me and pronounced in a deep southern accent, "How're yew?"

"Just fine, thankee," I said, pronouncing my slight southern accent.

"Ya wanna dance?" He asked, his grin becoming cheeky.

I laughed. "What is this next one?"

"I think it's swing," He told me holding out his hands to me.

"I'm game," I told him gaily and placed my hands in his.

The music started and we quickly fell into step.

"Did you kill the deer whose antlers are hangin' on your belt?" I asked, curious.

He looked down at his belt. "What those? Naw, they're a friends. He killed the deer and had 'em hangin' on 'is wall. He let me borrow 'em."

"So, you've never killed a deer?" I asked, ducking under his arm in a spin.

"Oh, I never said I hadn't!"

"Then you have!"

"I never said that either!"

Now thoroughly confused, I raised my eyebrow. "What? So you mean you haven't?"

"Jest funnin' with you. I have killed deer before. I just never thought that holdin' onto their antlers was necessary."

I laughed. "I see now."

He spun me again, dipping me, holding for a moment, grinning all the while, and then set me back upright.

Resuming the regular steps, he looked at me. "You dance well. But I say, those wings are just a slight nuisance. I hafta place my hands lower on yer back then normal, can't direct you the way I want too."

"I've been told that before," I told him, my eyes twinkling. "I'm beginning to think that I should have gotten smaller wings. The reason I didn't was because these larger wings just seem—well, more appropriate."

He nodded, "I suppose that makes some sort 'o sense."

The song ended and he walked with me over to the table of refreshments.

"Thankee for thet dance—" he paused as if waiting for a name.

"Mademoiselle Butterfly," I supplied.

He gawked at me. "You use thet entire thin'? Thet's to long. Do y'mind if I call y'sunshine?"

Delighted, I laughed again, "Of course. I don't mind at all. What can I call you?"

"You can call me anythin' except late fer dinner."

"Alright," I giggled. "How 'bout Larry?" I asked.

"Thet's fine with me." He grinned at me again.

I'm sure he was going to ask me something else, or say something, but at that moment a figure appeared behind me and laid a silent hand on my shoulder. Larry saw him and shut his mouth.

I turned to see Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera staring down at me.

"Dance with me," he said, and coming from him it wasn't a question, it was a command. I could not refuse, so I looked apologizingly at Larry who nodded and grinned.

I looked back up at Phantom in his white mask and placed my gloved hand in his. It was time for the fourth waltz of the evening. As he led me out to the dance floor, Phantom glanced at me and then back at the crowd.

He turned and pulled me to him, supporting me on his arms, giving indication that he was a superb dancer. He looked down at me, and inclined his head as the music started.

"How long have you danced?" He asked, glancing over my shoulder.

"About a year," I said quietly, studying his face. What surprised me was that he looked so very much like the real Phantom from the story. His dark hair was long and tied back with a black silk ribbon. His outfit was authentic as well.

As I studied his face, I realized how much it too looked like Phantom's face. The only difference was that his eyes were brown instead of green. Despite the color difference, they were still just as piercing. The half of his face that wasn't covered by mask was strong and fair. For half a moment I quailed at the thought that I might actually be dancing with the real Phantom. Then I shook my head at my silly thought and turned my attention back to the dance.

"If you've been dancing for a year, you must know the silver waltz." Phantom told me.

I inclined my head in acknowledgment.

With that we moved into the harder, more complicated steps of the silver waltz. For some reason, Phantom didn't seem all that interested in me. He kept glancing over my shoulder, looking at the other dancers and the people lining the edge of the room.

"Are you looking for someone?" I asked, trying to be polite to this enigma.

He glanced at me again. "Actually, yes. She's supposed to be here, but I don't think I've found her yet."

I desperately wanted to make him laugh. I would even take a smile, so I looked up at him. "Maybe she's right under your nose?"

He really looked at me then and gave me a ghost of a charming smile. "Maybe."

I grinned at him. "I'm looking for someone as well. You'll find her."

"Thank you, I probably will."

The rest of the dance, smooth and gliding as it was, was spent in silence and "concentration" on the steps.

When the music ended, Phantom escorted me back to the dance floor and bowed before simply walking away. I stared after him, wondering what was going through his head.

As I turned away, I saw a girl, dressed similar to Larry—all in camouflage. The only difference was hers was in shades of grey and Larry's had been shades of green.

Out of curiosity, I walked up to her and asked, "Are you a hunter, too?"

She looked at me surprised. "Who, me?"

"Yes, there's nobody else around is there?"

"Oh, right. No, I'm not a hunter."

"Then what are you? A military person?"

She looked away, but not before I caught a twinkle in her eye. "Oh, Nobody."

"Nobody?" I asked. "But you must be somebody."

"I am somebody. I'm Nobody! Miss Nobody!" she said, and I suspect she was laughing at me.

"Oooh . . ." I said, realizing my mistake. I grinned. "So Nobody can be somebody at the same time?"

This time she really did laugh. "Yes, I guess."

"Have you found Mr. Nobody?" I asked curiously.

"No, not yet."

"Well, maybe you will! The announcer said that this next dance was for couples. You know, like if Beauty is here and Beast is here, they get to dance together. And if Christine from Phantom of the Opera is here, she gets to dance with Phantom."

"Maybe. If you'll excuse me."

I watched her go and laughed silently. What a clever costume.

A young man with wings attached to his back came over to me, looking questioningly at me. "Would you dance with me?"


Falling into the fast, fun steps of the quickstep, I looked at him. "I didn't realize guys liked wings on their backs as well."

"I don't think many guys do. I enjoy them though. I've always wanted to be able to fly for real."

"Me too, but my problem, I think, is that I'm ever so slightly afraid of heights."

He laughed at me. "Yes, that would be a real problem wouldn't it?"

"Mother!" he mimicked my voice, "I'm too scared to fly! What if my wings won't hold me? What if I get caught on a branch? It's too high!"

I laughed at the absurdity of it all. "Yes, that does sound rather silly. 'What if my wings don't hold me.'" I laughed again. "And how does one get caught on a branch?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "But those sounded like some valid 'reasons' why someone wouldn't want to fly."

"That they do. I suppose one could get caught on a branch just the way I sometimes get caught on the cupboard knobs. Not steering clear of them soon enough, or wearing hole-y clothing."

He grinned down at me. "Your wings do look almost as if they were big enough to carry you. It's to bad humans were born without wings."

"Yes, quite."

As the music ended, he grinned, thanked me and he too walked away.

I found a seat on the edge of the room and looked around. There were all sorts of people. Elves, fairies, superstars, superheroes, animals, cartoon characters, movie characters and so many more. I think I even saw a person dressed as an Ent from Tolkien's famous trilogy. —It must have taken ages to apply all that make-up, I thought.

Glancing at the clock I saw it was about ten till midnight. The last waltz, a Viennese waltz, was due any minute. The announcer was telling us to quickly find the partner whose mask we were going to remove at midnight.

It was then that I realized who he was. I'd known all along. My mind had just been so distracted. I looked through the crowd until I found him. Of course. It couldn't be anyone else. I laughed at myself.

I saw him making his way towards me, and moved to him as well. When we got close enough to speak, we both said at the same time, "May I have this dance?"

We laughed at each other and hand in hand made our way on to the dance floor. He gathered me in his arms, holding me gently. I felt a love for his character and qualities rising in me, threatening to choke me. I knew it was him.

Our hands knew each other as well, because we'd danced together before. We'd practiced the Viennese waltz for weeks before the ball. He grinned knowingly at me.

We floated on air through out the waltz, not talking, just gazing at each other. When it ended, the clock struck midnight.

Carefully, I placed my fingers upon the edge of his mask.

"May I?" I asked.

"Of course," came his whisper.

I gently pulled the mask up and grinned up into his face. Damon grinned down at me.

"Now that you know who I am, it's my turn. May I?" He echoed me, tracing his finger along my cheek.

I drew a deep breath and nodded. He knew me anyway.

As he pulled my mask up, he grinned.

"I knew it," he crowed triumphantly. "It couldn't be anyone but you. So beautiful. You know you are the prettiest girl here tonight?"

I blushed, no mask to conceal me now. Damon saw the blush and grinned again. He looked at me and opened his arms to pull me close. I received the embrace and buried my face in his chest. He hugged me tight as the clock tolled the last stroke of midnight.