The Midnight Ball by BlackRonin
Rating: 79%, Read 10491 times, Posted Aug 10, 2014
Fantasm | At work, Consensual Sex, Death, Exhibitionism, Female, First Time, Foot fetish, Gothic, Horror, Male, Monster, Romance, Teen, Virginity
"It is a great advantage to have intelligence, courage, good breeding, and common sense., but even these may fail to bring you success without the blessing of a godmother."
-Charles Perrault, "Cinderella"
On the table sat a handkerchief, a book, and a knife. Zezolla picked them up one at a time, slowly comprehending what it all meant. When she turned around she had tears in her eyes. “Oh Madrina, can I really?”
The old woman sat on her three-legged stool. The basement was dark except for one candle. Somewhere in the dark there was a hissing sound, and unseen things scurried around both women’s feet, but neither minded. “It's a fool idea and I'll live to regret it, but I did promise,” said Madrina. “You know the rules, though: only until the first stroke of midnight. After that there'll be hell to pay.”
Zezolla nodded, practically jumping up and down. She picked up the knife. It was a little paring knife from right out of the drawer in the kitchen. Madrina said only idiots insisted on special tools for magic. Anything with an edge works just as well. “You remember how?” Madrina said. Zezolla nodded again. She pricked her wrist and let the blood dribble onto the book's last blank page. Then she used the knife's point like a pen, scribbling bloody words as best she could, careful not to tear the paper. When she finished she tied the handkerchief around her arm and let the blood soak into it too.
When she turned around her clothes had changed into a dazzling gown, and her hair was coiled up on her head, and delicate, glass-blue shoes sat on her dainty feet. She giggled and practiced a few steps in them. Seeing Madrina's expression she stuck out her lower lip. “Now Madrina, don't be disapproving. Please?”
The old woman sighed and patted the girl on the shoulder. “Don't mind your Madrina. It's my job to worry about you Just go and have fun. Make it worth it.”
Zezolla’s eyes gleamed. “I will.”
A car waited for her outside. In the shadows, something hissed.
Raj needed another drink. He'd just finished his last one. He was halfway back to the bar when Joseph pulled him aside. “Slow down before you embarrass yourself.”
“I'm already embarrassed,” Raj said.
He wiped his sweaty face with the sleeve of his tux. The interior of the Opera House was hot from too many bodies crammed too close together. Everywhere he looked there were gray-haired men in tuxedos, middle-aged women in spangled dresses, and young people in waiter's uniforms. The lights throbbed and the room spun and his stomach twisted. Joseph frowned. “You’re a mess.”
Raj let Joseph push him out onto the balcony. The night air felt good. He gripped the handrail and sucked in oxygen. The sound of the party became a dull drone when the door closed behind him. Joseph brushed lint and dandruff off Raj’s shoulders. “Your mother would kill us stone dead if she saw you like this. How many have you had?”
“It's not the drinks, it's the party. I get nauseous around crowds.”
“Stand up straight,” Joseph said, fixing Raj's tie. Raj tugged it back out of shape again a moment later and then regretted it. Of all his mother's PA's he disliked Joseph the least and he shouldn't go out of his way to make the man's job any harder. If Joseph's disapproving looks just didn't remind Raj so much of his mother's own...
“There, you look almost respectable,” Joseph said. “I'm going to give you five minutes out here and then you're going to come back in and do your job: smile, shake hands, and collect checks. Think about the season.”
“No one in there cares about the season.”
“I care and you care, so that's two. This will all be worth it when you see it on the stage.” Joseph patted him on the shoulder in an almost fatherly way and left. Raj drooped over the railing again. He could feel a migraine coming on. It wasn't here yet, but as soon as he went back through those doors...
More people were coming. He saw cars stretched around the block and a line of cummerbunds and sequins out the door beneath him. He took so many deep breaths that his lungs ached. Smile, shake hands, collect checks, he told himself. He went back inside. The party swallowed him.
Rather than go back to the bar like he wanted he headed to the main stairwell. I'll greet the new arrivals as they come in, he thought. It'll seem gracious but I won't have to talk to anyone for very long. He parked himself underneath the banner of Kochetkova in her “Cinderella” costume and conjured the best smile he could. He probably looked like a jack-o-lantern but no one seemed to mind. He hailed most of the guests by name and exchanged a few words with each. Most stopped to make small talk about his mother's company or about the ballet (he responded to both with the same polite noises) and then moved on.
But the line was never-ending. His hand was soon damp from shaking so many others and his elbow grew sore from the pumping motion. How long had he been here? Surely it was almost time to leave? Surely Mother would show up soon and he could—
“Oh my, you look nice. Would you like to dance?”
Raj blinked. It took a second for the meaning of the question to register and another for him to figure out who said it. She was a very young woman, probably only college-age, and on the short side. Her gown was satiny and fine, and she seemed to float as she walked in little glass-blue slippers. She wore a strangely colored handkerchief tied around one arm.
“Um, hello,” Raj said, with some difficulty. “Have we met?”
“Never once. I'm Zezolla. Would you like to dance?” she said again.
“I don't really know...” People were walking by and a few looked as if they wanted to talk to him, but he ignored them. He couldn't take his eyes off the strange woman “Would you like a drink?” he found himself saying.
“That sounds fun,” she said, and without warning she slipped her tiny hand into his and pulled him to the bar. The crowd parted around them. The feeling of her delicate fingers made Raj's heart leap. Soon they were looking at each other over the rims of fizzy champagne glasses. The crowd meant they had to stand very close together. “The bubbles tickle,” Zezolla said, sounding surprised. There was a little edge to her voice that suggested that the drink went straight to her head. Her cheeks even flushed.
“I don't think I've ever seen you at one of these things before,” Raj said, wishing he could think of something more interesting to open with.
“I've never been. In fact, this is my very first party ever. I'm not usually allowed.”
Raj frowned for a second. What did that mean? She was obviously too old for strict parents. But that thought reminded him why he was here, and a dark cloud dimmed his mood. “I'm at these things constantly. My mother is on the ballet's artistic board. My stepmother, technically. That means she does a lot of fundraising, and I usually help.”
“That's very sweet,” Zezolla said. Raj wanted to say that, in fact, it was anything but sweet, that it was close to emotional blackmail and that one of these days it was going to push him right off the deep end, assuming he wasn’t in the deepest end already.
Instead he swallowed a mouthful of champagne and said, “What brings you here?”
Zezolla beamed. “I heard it was the Cinderella Ball.”
“Yes, Mr. Wheeldon's new production was a big hit for us. Figured we'd use the name to draw the crowd.” He pointed to the banners of Kochetkova in her costume. “They say it's the best new 'Cinderella' in 50 years.”
“I wish I'd seen it. Everyone here must have loved it.”
“Sure, the couple who stayed awake and sober.” Had he really just said that? But Zezolla giggled. Then she cast a dreamy look at Kochetkova.
“I adore ‘Cinderella,’” she said. “It's the most wonderful story. When I heard about this I couldn't stay away.”
“It's just another fundraiser, really.”
“Maybe for you it is, but for me…well, I've just never seen anything like this. I know it's really not right my being here but...forget that, come dance with me.”
And before Raj could wonder about anything she'd said she all but hurled him onto the dance floor. How could such a tiny woman be so strong? But then she was in his arms and, somehow, they were dancing together. Usually Raj tripped the moment he even thought about a dance step, but with Zezolla it was like something had taken him over. He was graceful and assured and, my God, were they waltzing? He'd never done a waltz in his life. But his feet somehow knew the steps, and his eyes never left hers.
He was light-headed, but it wasn't the champagne. In fact, he felt more sober than he had in years. Zezolla's hands felt oddly cold, so kissed them in an effort to warm them up. He couldn't be sure how long they went on like that, but by the time they stopped he felt almost giddy. People were looking at them. In fact, they were the center of attention. Rather than shrink away, Raj felt almost proud. He was aware of someone staring at him from only a few feet away; it was Joseph. The older man plucked at his sleeve.
“Sorry to interrupt, Raj, but your mother wants to speak with you.” Joseph’s eyes were glued to Zezolla, who gave him a good-natured look in return. Raj wavered for a moment, but then he took Zezolla by the hand.
“Tell her I'll be along later,” he said, and before Joseph could reply the two of them left.
Without thinking about what he was doing, blood pounding in his ears all the while, Raj took Zezolla out of the ballroom and out of the building entirely. The warm night cleared his head a bit. They were in the little bell-shaped courtyard beside the Opera House, lined with short trees. They were both out of breath and soon they were laughing, which didn't help. And then Raj surprised himself by kissing her. He braced himself for what she might do, but she appeared pleased. He leaned in for another kiss and as their lips were just about to touch—
“I really shouldn't,” she said, skirting away. Raj’s heart cracked. She must have seen the look on his face because she added, “It's not you. It's just that there are things you don't know about me.”
“I don't care.”
“I'm not a normal person. I can't go out and meet people like this every night like you can. I shouldn't even be doing it this once...”
“I told you I don't care and I meant it. I know it sounds trite to say that I've never felt this way before—”
“I know you haven't. You couldn't have. And that's really not fair to you.”
“My God, we must have been dancing for hours,” Raj said, looking at his watch. It seemed like it had all lasted for only a minute, and at the same time like it had taken all night. They were alone in the courtyard, thought it was open and anyone in the world could come along and interrupt them at any moment. But no one did.
Raj felt incredible, as if something inside of him that had been sleeping for years had finally woken up again. He felt wild and impetuous. He pulled Zezolla's tiny frame against him. “Kiss me again,” he said. He had never actually seen a woman swoon, but he was fairly certain that's what Zezolla did for a moment. Then she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him hard.
Competing thoughts jumbled up in Raj's mind: He should be inside right now, doing his duty and helping his mother work the crowd. He should certainly not be out here with a woman he'd only just met, whom he knew nothing about and had exchanged less than a hundred words with. And he sure as hell should not be thinking about doing what he was thinking about doing now, right out here where they were almost certain to be caught. But he pressed Zezolla against the trunk of one of the little trees anyway and her legs opened to him as naturally as easily as the leaves of a book. Raj felt only partially in command of himself, as if he were a marionette moved by unseen strings. He decided not to let it bother him. He liked where the puppeteer was leading.
Zezolla had a dancer's body, all smooth lines and hard muscle. Though six inches shorter she managed to shimmy her way up between him and the tree so that she could be at almost eye level when they kissed. He worried about the bark rubbing her naked shoulders, but she didn't appear to mind. If anything she encouraged him to press her harder against it, as she kept pulling him into her even though there was really not much further for him to go. She was a bit clumsy, but still entirely sure of herself. A flurry of white-hot kisses made Raj sweat.
He was very keenly aware that she had nothing on underneath the dress. Her small breasts rubbed against him through the thin fabric, tiny nipples erect. He tried to shift so that his erection did not press into her, but she wouldn't let him. In fact, she gave him a look that even Raj knew had only one possible meaning. Even so he hesitated. Was this really happening? The ramifications made his head spin. She traced his cheek with the tip of one finger and said her next words very deliberately:
“Raj: You should know that when I came here tonight it was to meet someone exactly like you.”
“It was?” Raj said, dumbfounded.
“Yes, and now I want you to do something for me that nobody else has ever done before.”
“I...don't know what to say...”
“Don't say anything,” she said, and kissed him again, obliterating all worry and hesitation. The trees were not really tall enough or dense enough to provide anything close to adequate cover, and besides, anyone on the north balcony would be able to see them perfectly well, but somehow that wasn’t important. The warm, sleek feel of Zezolla's sex as he pushed an experimental hand between her legs was more compelling than any degree of good sense (something he'd never had a particular affinity for anyway), and the speedy work that her determined fingers made of his belt left him little opportunity for second or third thoughts. Her dark eyes held him perfectly still even as she took his swollen cock in hand and guided it to her.
There had been a time when Raj was 12 and his friends pushed him into a closet with a girl he had a crush on, ostensibly as part of a party game. He'd been completely terrified, and several awkward minutes passed in appalling silence. Just when he'd been about to slink out she'd astonished him by giving him a kiss. It was only a quick peck, but it was his very first, and it emboldened him enough to give her one back, and then another one, and in the moment when she began to really kiss him back he'd felt a sense of relief and exhilaration and promise—
And that's when his mother opened the door on both of them.
But the ending (and the particularly uncomfortable conversation that followed that night...) aside, those few secret seconds from more than a decade ago had hitherto been the moments that Raj considered the most intimate of his life. Far more than those spent with the few women he'd slept with and the one whom he'd really dated in all the time since. Until now, pressed into Zezolla in the questionable refuge of a small tree whose rapidly swaying boughs were if anything more noticeable than what was going on beneath it. He should have felt ridiculous, with his pants halfway down and his body shaking, but he didn't. He felt wild and powerful.
Her arms were locked so tight around him that he imagined he'd need a pry bar to get her loose. Her tiny form was almost too tight and he was initially afraid of hurting her, but she eventually proved receptive enough. The furious pace they set was partly a matter of the necessity of not getting caught out here in the open but also of the insistent pounding urge that, he shortly realized, had taken up residence in his brain the moment she'd said hello to him but had gone unrecognized until now. He had many times heard someone talk about “needing” another person, but it wasn't until now that the immediacy of that phrase became apparent to him.
She twisted around him, twining their bodies together. He sweated in the heavy confines of his tux, most of which was still on him. The heels of his shoes dug little furrows into the ground with the force of rocking back and forth against Zezolla, driving up into her as hard as he could as the hot, rippling muscles inside of her squeezed and tightened inside the soaking wet confines of her body. It appeared she was feeling needful too. Raj pounded against her until he felt the inevitable feeling of pressure rising up from somewhere deep inside of him, the one that signaled that in a few minutes he’d release and in the meantime sent a feeling of heated anticipation scuttling up and down body. Zezolla’s fingers tightened on his back. He bit his lip to keep from calling out. And then—
He froze. A strange thought came, unbidden, to him. Zezolla stopped too, apparently recognizing that something was wrong. Raj fumbled for words. “Tell me something about you,” he said. Zezolla looked baffled. “I just realized, here we are and, well, I don't have the slightest idea who you are. It feels strange, and...just tell me something, please.”
Zezolla blinked. “I don't know what to say. I really shouldn't say anything at all...”
“One little thing. So that I can feel like you're not a stranger.” He was still holding her. She hesitated a moment more, and then:
“Well, I guess I can tell you that I live in a little house overlooking the ocean, and—”
Whatever she was about to say next was interrupted by the distant tolling of a bell. Zezolla went rigid, feeling like a trapped bird, and her face turned terribly white. “What was that?” she said. But she already knew the answer.
“Midnight,” Raj said. “I had no idea it was so late—”
“I have to go.”
She pushed him away. He stumbled and struggled to pull his pants up. She was readjusting her dress. His face burned with embarrassment. “Was it something I said?”
“No,” she said. “But I can't talk.”
“Hold on a minute. I want to see you again. I want to—”
“I have to go now!”
There was something terrible in her voice. Raj flinched. He took her by the hand. It was a gentle gesture, one meant to reassure her, but she reacted like a precisely calibrated trap whose trigger had just been sprung. Zezolla pushed him away with such force that he thought for a second his chest might cave in. Her dainty form somehow contained the power necessary to carry him off his feet and, indeed, almost send him sailing through the air. When he landed he was vaguely aware of hearing retreating footsteps. He wanted to call out to her but was too stunned. By the time he was on his feet again she was gone.
He called her name, but she'd vanished into thin air. He ran to the east side of the courtyard, the one that opened onto the street, and he caught a glimpse of a satin gown disappearing into a black town car that sped away with a squeal of tires. His heart felt heavy in his chest. People on the sidewalk murmured about the strange scene, but Raj wasn’t listening to them.
He spent a minute or two vainly hoping the car might reappear, and then he turned to go with an ache in his chest. A flash of color caught his eye at the last minute. It was lying there in the gutter, almost too bright and clear and vivid to be real, but when his fingers touched it he found that it was solid enough. He held it up to the light:
A single, glass-blue slipper
The car drove by itself, powered by an unseen force, but it came to a stop eight blocks from home and wouldn’t go another inch, so Zezolla got out and ran. She could not outrun the bells that had long since stopped chiming, but she tried anyway. Her dress was falling to pieces. A stubborn weariness crept into her limbs. She didn't have long now. One more block...
She stumbled, bare feet skidding on the sidewalk, and fell right at the feet of a surprised man leaving his parked car. He helped her up and was about to ask if she was all right, and then he saw her face. A surprised scream lodged in his mouth but he didn't have time to force it out before she was running again. The door was open. She fell at Madrina's feet and hugged the old woman's bare legs. She tried to cry, but she couldn't anymore. Madrina stroked her hair and made soothing noises.
“There, there,” she said. “No need for tears. Let your Madrina make it all better.”
She led the miserable girl to the basement door, beckoning for her to follow into the hissing darkness below. And Zezolla went.
Raj clutched the slipper so hard his knuckles hurt. The old woman still hadn't said anything. She sat on a three-legged stool and smoked a pipe, the air cloudy with the smell of it. The small house was too full of furniture and strange odds and ends, so that the tiny loveseat he crouched on the end of was almost the only empty space. He cleared his throat.
“And that's what happened. I know I sound crazy coming to you with this story, but...well, you must have met someone who meant something to you once.”
“What makes you think she lives here?” the old woman said. She hadn't spoken in so long that Raj was surprised to discover that her voice worked after all.
“She told me it was a house overlooking the ocean.”
“Lots of houses overlook the ocean.”
“The car she left in is on your lawn.”
The old stood, with some difficulty, and hobbled to the window. Tugging the curtain aside she pointed to the rusted heap in front of the house. “You think this girl drove away in that car?”
The decrepit pile of scrap clearly hadn't run in years. There weren't even any tires, and the axles would never move even if there were. But Raj didn't back down.
“There's a decal on the back window that I recognize. I wrote down the first three letters of the license plate, and the plate is still on it.” And it was, though the lettering was now so faded it was barely legible. “I can't explain it, but I'm sure it's the same one.”
Rather than reply, the old woman drew on her pipe again, scrutinizing him through a cloud of smoke. Sitting down again took her a long time. The tea she'd served him had gone cold, but Raj drank it anyway. It was bitter.
“Lots of houses overlook the ocean,” the woman said again. “You must have spent a long time finding this one.”
“I wonder if you really know what you've been looking for.” She opened the drawer of a nearby end table and took out a tarnished picture frame. Raj's heart leapt when she showed it to him: It was a photo of Zezolla. “My figlioccia,” the old woman explained. “My goddaughter.”
Is she all right? Can you give her a message? Do you...think she might want to speak with me?”
“She is dead.”
Raj didn't really hear the words. They passed over his ears, refusing to be heard in the hopes they'd somehow become not true. The old woman stood again, rather more easily than she had before. “There's something she would want you to see.”
She walked through the dusty kitchen to a door with a heavy padlock, which she undid with a key from around her neck. Raj followed like a sleepwalker. His mind was trying to grapple with what he’d been told without breaking it in two. Surely the old woman didn't mean really dead?
The door opened onto a flight of stairs, descending into darkness. The old woman looked at him over her shoulder. “This is where it happened. The daughter of her father's second wife pushed Zezolla down these steps. She'd always been a jealous little tart. I warned her that her stepsisters would be the death of her someday. I never realized how right I was.”
She laughed. Raj opened his mouth to chastise her for joking but his words came out in a slur. He realized he was wavering drunkenly and grabbed the edge of a dirty countertop. The old woman sprang and caught him as he fell. Her bony arms were stronger than they looked.
“Madrina's special tea has gone right to your head, poor thing. Let Madrina take care of you.”
“What are you going to do?” Raj said, or at least tried to say. The woman clucked her tongue in a motherly way.
“What you asked: take you to your lady love.”
As Raj slid into unconsciousness the slipper fell from his hand. Frightening dreams tumbled through his drug-fogged brain. He came to with a throbbing headache and a curious ache in his back. He couldn't move. His wrists and ankles were tied behind him, binding him to an upright post. The room was pitch black, but the damp smell and cool air told him it was the basement. All around him was a hissing sound, like air escaping a balloon.
“You're awake,” said the old woman. In the flare of one lit match he saw her face. Her features took on a noxious cast in the orange flame. “You can't talk, so don't try.”
Raj perceived something moving around the old woman's feet. The floor roiled like the surface of an unquiet sea. Then the match light reflected off of a pair of beady eyes and he realized what it really was: hundreds of snakes, slithering and crawling over each other, carpeting the room. Someone had taken Raj's shoes and he felt their smooth, cold hides squirming across his bare toes. Then the match went out and left them in hissing darkness.
“What I told you upstairs is true: My Zezolla is dead. What I didn't tell you is when it happened: fourteen years ago. Ah, but it seems like only yesterday. Do you believe me? See for yourself.”
Another match flared, and Raj perceived a horror: Only three feet away, lashed to the trunk of a tree that somehow grew from the earthen floor, was Zezolla. Or at least, what might have once been Zezolla: a mummified corpse in the tattered remains of a satin gown, papery flesh stretched tight against her skull. She was missing a shoe, revealing the bony remains of a foot.
“Being her Madrina, I do what I can for her. I can make her walk and talk again. I can even make her laugh and love. But it doesn't last. Real magic never lasts. I should never have let her go out on her own, but she begged me so and, ah, I have always loved to spoil her. How could I know what trouble she would make for you? Look here.”
The woman held an open book up to his face. Scribbled across the page were clumsy words in a dried smear. They said:
ZEZOLLA WILL GO TO THE BALL AND MEET A PRINCE AND FALL IN LOVE. THEY WILL DANCE ALL NIGHT AND HE WILL LOVE HER MORE THAN ANY MAN EVER LOVED.
Someone had tried to write more, but there was no room. The old woman sighed. “That's storybook magic: You write it and it happens. You're not exactly a prince, of course, but magic likes names. My poor, sweet little fool. I was afraid she'd have her heart broken.”
The woman put the book away and smiled like a perfect goblin. The mass of snakes became agitated, coiling into knots around Raj's feet. Beads of sweat ran hard down his face. “But now that you're here she will never be alone again. And you can both be happy ever after. Isn't that right, my figlioccia?”
The old woman kissed the corpse’s cheek. And then Raj saw the withered body start to twitch and heard the creak of desiccated limbs. He saw the ropes that secured her slacken and, in the last fraction of an instant before the match went out, he saw the lids rise over her milky eyes, and even detected a stirring recognition in that dead gaze.
By the time the room went dark again Raj finally had the strength to scream. But there was no one to hear him.
Rating: 79%, Read 10491 times, Posted Aug 10, 2014
Fantasm | At work, Consensual Sex, Death, Exhibitionism, Female, First Time, Foot fetish, Gothic, Horror, Male, Monster, Romance, Teen, Virginity
Login to join the discussion