A single knock and she was out of bed. Rushing to the bathroom she scrubbed her face at the sink and brushed her teeth, staring at the strange, naked face in the mirror. She ran a comb through her hair, watching in despair as it simply puffed out into a gigantic halo of frizz. This is it, she decided. On impulse, she spritzed on some perfume from the bottle sitting on the shelf.
He stepped back as she opened the door, eyes widening, drinking in the sight. And what a sight. Flushed cheeks untouched by paint, hair tumbling down wild and free. And those golden eyes, so clear and trusting and full of light, their expression so unlike the dark and smouldering come-hither look she gave the cameras.
She held his gaze, wondering at his peculiar expression. Was that disappointment she saw? That the real her looked just like everyone else, if not unattractive then certainly plain, the kind of woman nobody would spare a second glance if they passed her on the street?
She was bewitching him, and she didn’t know. There was magic in those eyes of hers, and they were driving him to distraction until he hardly knew if he were dreaming or not, if he were alive or dead and gone to heaven.
Wasn’t it funny, she thought, with a sudden crazy urge to laugh, that Helen of Troy, whose face had launched a thousand ships, and Anarkali, the harem dancer who captured an emperor’s heart, and Juliet, the rose by any other name…that they were all played by a mousy little thing with frizzy hair and dark circles, clinging to the last traces of her youth until she would finally succumb to the surgeon’s knife, all the while laughing at her rivals for their plastic parts.
He looked on, mesmerized, as her eyes seemed to melt into pools of liquid gold, and her upper lip trembled and she bit to hold it in place. He reached out to smooth it with his thumb, tracing its baby pink softness with his own clumsy fingers, cradling her face in his hands.
As he took her lips in a feather-light kiss, the tears she had been holding back threatened to spill out of tightly closed lids. All those love scenes, repeated so many times and with so many people she no longer cared to keep track – yet a simple kiss was turning her inside out, her soul left bare to his touch… Surely…surely, he felt it too?
It was just a dream, he now knew, but what a beautiful dream it was, beautiful and mad and cruel and cold just like her. He knew he had to let her go, back to the world from where she came, and that he would awake colder and more alone than ever. She didn’t care, and she never would. He kissed her harder.
His hands were so…warm, just like everything else about him. His smile when she caught his eye from across a crowded room, his voice as he held her arm, guiding her away from the endless crowds… She sighed and leaned in, drinking in his warmth and letting it wrap around her heart in a gentle embrace.
She would never know what she meant to him. Wrapped up as she was in the glitz and dazzle of her fantasy life, in a sparkling world where real didn’t exist. Where he was merely the painting on the canvas, and she the artist who would blot him out with a single sweep of her brush. The artist who would make him love, and laugh, and then die. And she would weep at his death, large shiny tears that would seem almost true.
People fall in love in mysterious ways…
Suddenly they were sixteen again, dancing their very first rumba, and standing somewhere in a lonely, far-away world, a different plane of existence, she thought how it came to be that her entire life was changing, had already changed, in fact, in just one single moment. How nothing else was real anymore, except this feeling inside her that was too real, too tangible to be merely a feeling, it was a thing she could touch and breathe and taste. A thing as real as her soul as it cried out for its mate.
Anymore of this enchantment and he wouldn’t be able to let go. And she would dance away into the mist again, her laughter echoing in his ears until he went mad with the torture of it. He wrenched himself away, almost blinded by the pain as his soul tore apart, a piece of it deeply and forever entwined with hers. Bleed he would, till the day he died.