The music washed over my body as Dante held me close. I didn’t even think about the steps as we glided across the floor.
“Are you happy?” Dante asked.
“What?” I shook my head. The music had me lost in its rhythm.
“You’re smiling.” He twirled me out and then pulled me back to him.
“I always smile,” I said.
Dante smiled down at me and swung me to the side. “But you are smiling more now. Is it me or the dancing?”
I pretended to think for a moment and then laughed when I saw the look in Dante’s eyes. “Relax, Dante. It’s you, not the dancing.”
He laughed and bowed to me as the dance ended. I curtsied and then clapped with the rest of the dancers, turning slightly towards the musicians. Dante offered me his arm and I took it. We walked off the dance floor towards the punch table. Savannah and Dominique joined us and we stood sipping our drinks.
“I think it’s going just fine, Dante,” Savannah said. “At least there isn’t too much tension.”
“Don’t speak yet, sister. The evening is still young.” Dante leaned over and kissed her cheek.
“Hey, that would be my fiancée you are kissing.” Dominique shoved Dante.
Dante retaliated and Savannah and I stepped away from the two.
“Are those two still at it?” a voice asked from behind us.
We turned around and saw President Tyson standing there. We both curtsied.
“President Tyson,” Savannah began. “I’m so pleased that you could make it.”
“I’d never miss this party, Miss Savannah.” The president turned to me. “Miss Crystal, I believe you were saving me a dance?”
I nodded, unsure how to speak to this man. If I said the wrong thing it could all go pear shape for Dante and Dominique.
“This seems about as good a time as any,” President Tyson said, holding out his hand.
I glanced behind me at Dante and saw that he was still play fighting with Dominique. I bit my lip and put my hand in the president’s. As we stepped onto the dance floor I had to smile. It seemed that the whole night I had been putting my life in other people’s hands or taking steps into my future. Why couldn’t I just have fun?
The music started and I found myself laughing as the president swept me around the dance floor.
“You are very light on your feet, Miss Crystal.”
“Life taught me that and Dante taught me all the dance steps,” I replied, stepping to the side and then back to him.
“If life taught you to step lightly, I want the life you had. So many people stumble around or march up and down the halls making too much noise.” President Tyson stared into my eyes and I was unable to look away from him.
How much did the man know? If he knew where I came from the gig was up before we had even gotten started.
“You are going to fit into this world so much better than most people do,” he whispered before handing me off to Dante.
“What was that all about?” Dante asked as he swept me across the floor and out into the crisp night.
I shook my head. “I think he was trying to tell me that this was where I belonged or maybe that he liked me or maybe he was warning me. I really don’t know.”
I took a deep breath and braced myself against the railing. Lifting my head I stared into the star studded sky. The air was sharp and burned my lungs as I dragged it in.
“Crystal, are you okay?” Dante pulled me around to face him and stroked my face. “Come on, tell me what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. That’s the problem. I thought this night would be a lot harder. But so far things have been going along smoothly.” I turned back to staring at the stars. “What am I doing here, Dante?”
“You’re going to help us save the world, Crystal.” Dante moved behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “And you are going to marry me and we are going to take the world by storm.”
I laughed a little. “The whole world? Isn’t that a little much?”
I felt him shake his head against me. “Nothing is too much for you and me. Apart maybe, but not together. We can do it.”
“But what are we doing, Dante? Really, tell me what are we doing?”
Dante turned me around and held my shoulders. “We are saving ourselves from ourselves. If the world keeps going as it is, there will be nothing left. Another war will destroy us. We have to stop it.”
I shook my head. He was so full of ideas, of dreams. How could I crush them? How could I tell him that the world didn’t want saving? And how could I help him save the world when I needed so much saving myself? I wasn’t the angel girl he thought I was. I had enough secrets to drown in.
“I don’t know how I can help you, Dante. My life has changed so much in the last while. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
Dante framed my face with his hands and rested his forehead against mine. “You are Crystal, the girl with the angel hair. My girl, the only one who truly understands me.”
I shook my head. I didn’t really understand him at all. All this talk about saving the world, it didn’t really make sense. How could I save the world? One person couldn’t do it. Neither could two. It would a revival of a lot of people. But maybe that was what I was meant to start. Maybe I could show people that those on the other side weren’t all that bad. And maybe those on the other side could begin to see that the rich weren’t all that bad.
Dante touched his lips to mine and I leaned into his embrace. He pushed me up against the railing and I could feel the cold of the stone seep through my dress. His hands roamed down my arms and tightened around my waist. I wrapped my arms around his neck. This was where I belonged, here in his arms.
But as the kiss deepened my mind flipped. Suddenly the clean, crisp smell of the evening air took on a foul taste and the gentle hands at my waist became hard and pressed into my skin. His breath changed from peppermint laced to the rotten smell of bad teeth and cigarettes. The chatter of the guests turned into the maniac laughter of men who couldn’t think because they had had too much of the good stuff.
A cry wrenched itself from inside of me and I tore myself away from Dante or whoever I was seeing. I could see the confusion in his eye but I couldn’t stop to explain. I gathered my skirt in my hands and ran.
The snow didn’t slow me down even if I had to hop through two feet of it.
“Crystal!” Even Dante’s cries didn’t stop me.
I had to get away, from him, the nightmares of what I was remembering. I ran and found myself on the path to the stables. With a sob I tore down the path. My feet slid a little on the cobblestones but I managed to keep upright.
I looked around wildly. Were to go? Amour poked her head out of her stall and nickered softly. It was as good a place as any. I fumbled with the latch and managed to open the door. Pulling it closed behind me I sank to the straw. Burying my face in my hands I let the tears flow down my cheeks.
Amour nuzzled my head and blew into my ear. What was I doing? I reached up and stroked the horse’s nose and leaned my head back.
“Amour, what am I going to do?”
The mare gently lipped my hair and then went back to eating her hay.