Prologue/ When Prince asked me to dance.
There was nothing more humiliating than standing beside the refreshment table, alone and awkward, at a high school dance.
My friends all had partners, all went with dates, except for me.
The good thing about this dance was that no one knew who I was. It was a masked ball. How original, right?
I sighed for the fiftieth time that night and wandered off to the corner, feeling my embarrassment grow as two couples walked by me with a scrutinizing glance.
They were probably pitying me because I had no date, no dance partner.
My frustration grew as a slow song came on, and I found myself wishing I could go home and curl up in front of my sofa bed to watch The Simpsons.
The only reason why I came to this stupid dance is the first place was because of him.
I’ve known him since we were in kindergarten, but even after all these years I still couldn’t muster the courage to go and talk to him.
He was known as ‘Everybody’s Aden'. He was sweet, respectful, smart. You would know him, since he's your typical dream boy.
Right now, I had no idea where he was, what with all the guys in similar suits and masks walking around. Of course, if I had to guess, he was probably dancing with Elyssa.
Elyssa Keith was Aden’s female counterpart. President of the student body, most likely voted to be prom queen, and known as the sweetest girl in school. Everyone talked about them getting together, but they never did. They were close friends though, and even if they weren’t a couple, it goes without saying that they’ll be Ann Bachelor High’s future Prom King and Queen.
And I’ll be the girl in the corner, clapping for them, secretly wishing that I was the one standing beside Aden.
I ducked inside the girl’s restroom and used the exit there. It led me to the back of the school building. The area was deserted, and I found the cool air and the silence comforting. I slid my shoes off and hiked my dress skirt up before I sat down, Indian-style on the grass.
I almost took my mask off, but I kept it on when I heard footsteps approaching.
“Yeah man, I know. I just need some fresh air. I’ll be right back.”
My heart thundered in my chest when I recognized that voice.
I reached up to touch my cheeks, hoping I wasn’t turning as red as a tomato.
“Oh, hey,” he said.
I turned towards him, relieved that I had a mask on. I noticed that he wasn't wearing his. “Um, hi...”
“Mind if I sit next to you?” he asked, his lips pulling up into a heart-stopping smile.
I shook my head. “Feel free.”
“So how come you’re not in there dancing?”
I stared at him in disbelief. He was kidding, right? Who would want to dance with me? I was a nobody. “Uh, I’m not really the dancing type,” I muttered.
“You must have broken a lot of hearts, then,” he commented with a laugh.
I pursed my lips, confused. Why would he think that? “Uh, I don’t get what you mean.”
He looked taken aback. “Well, a lot of guys must have asked you to dance, right? I mean, my buddies wanted to ask you, but they were a little intimidated…”
It was my turn to laugh. “Intimidated? Why?”
Aden looked down, seemingly embarrassed. “You, uh, looked like Cinderella in that dress and they kind of felt like they’d be rejected.”
“Well, they were kind of wrong.” I chuckled in disbelief. “No one asked me to dance.”
His head snapped up. “What? But the way those guys were eyeing you… I would have thought you’d be busy dancing with everyone for the rest of the night.”
“No one was eyeing me," I said slowly, as I wondered who planted that idea in his head.
“Why not?” his eyes bored into mine, and I felt my insides turn into mush. I was talking to Aden Knightly. I had to bite my tongue to keep from squealing. I mean, I only dreamt about this moment like three hundred thousand times.
“Because…” I shrugged, not really knowing what to say. “Because no one’s ever really noticed me. Even with a mask and a dress on, I expected the same result. I’m Plain Jane. I’ve always been, and I don’t think that’s ever going to change.”
“You don’t have a very high opinion about yourself, huh?”
I managed a smile. “It’s hard to look in the mirror and feel beautiful when all your life, people would say otherwise.” “Well either they’re blind, or they just don't know how to look,” he stated simply. “I'm sure you'd be prettier without that mask on.”
“Liar,” I smiled. "But I appreciate you trying to make me feel better."
“I am not a liar,” he argued. "I'm a totally honest guy, if I do say so myself."
We looked at each other for a moment, before we burst out laughing. "Wow, that was really modest of you," I joked. “Yeah, well,” he chuckled. “I like your laugh,”
I felt my cheeks turning red. Everything that was happening seemed too good to be true. Aden Knightly was here, talking to me, laughing with me, complimenting me.
“So um, I realized that you never told me your name,” he said. “Mind if I ask?”
“Yes,” I blurted. I did mind, but I didn’t mean to say it out loud. Once I told him who I was, he would probably take back everything he said. Not out loud, maybe. Aden was too nice to do that.
He looked a bit surprised at my outburst.
“I mean, uh...” I blushed. “I’m sorry, can you just, uh, give me a nickname or something? I don’t want to spoil your image of me.”
“Why would you spoil it?” he asked, confused.
“Please,” I said. “You can call me anything you want.”
He thought about it for a moment. Then he said, “Cindy.”
I gave him a suspicious look. “You’re not calling me that because of -”
“ - Cinderella?” he grinned. “Why yes, I believe I am.”
I shook my head with a smile. “Trust me, I’m no Cinderella.”
“Oh really?” his grin widened. “You’re wearing a blue dress, you have blond hair, and from what I can tell, you have blue eyes. You look like a Cinderella to me - without the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, I hope.”
“Now all that’s left to do is to dance with Prince Charming,” he winked. “I’m no Prince, but I’d gladly pretend to be one for you.”
I blushed. “Are you…?”
“Asking you to dance?” he raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Yes. Cindy, will you dance with me?”
I laughed as he stood up and offered his hand. I took it and smiled. “Okay then, 'Prince Charming', I guess you'll have to do for now.” I teased. He looked back at me with a grin.
Aden held my hand as we walked back inside the gym.
“Everyone’s going to be so jealous,” he murmured with smile.
“Because I’m dancing with you,” he replied in a ‘duh’ voice.
I shook my head. “That’s not happening, Prince.”
He smiled. “Keep thinking that, but I swear they’re all burning with jealousy.”
“Flattering, but untrue,” I sighed.
Aden turned a blinding smile at me. “Indulge me.”
I bit my lip. “Alright. Since you were gentlemanly enough to ask me to dance…” I paused, letting the silence between us linger as he guided me to the middle of the dance floor. “Thank you.” I whispered.
I would savor this moment. Remember it for the rest of my life.
Tonight I danced with Prince.