A Not-So Cinderella Story

When I felt like I was being swept off my feet in a Cinderella story, someone had to be there to drop me, right?
Let's backtrack a little.
Cher Topman. A simple name for a complex girl like me. I'm an orphan at a little orphanage in London, but don't be fooled. Just because it's in London doesn't mean that it's extravagant.
When a rich American single woman makes the fatal decision to adopt me and take me back to America, my life is turned upside down by some people I never thought I'd meet.

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14. Living behind a mask.

"We're going to a what?" I ask.

"A masquerade," Haylee answers.

"When is it?" I ask.

"Tonight. You'll meet Justin there," she informs like it's no big deal.

"How long have you been planning this?" I ask.

"Ever since you told Justin you loved him," she smiles and I blush.

"That was like 3 weeks ago! And you didn't tell me?" I say with hands on my hips.

"Hence the meaning of surprise?" she laughs as we walk up to my closet.

"There you are! I was starting to think you'd never agree!" Chris says and throws a dress at me. 

"I haven't agreed. I'm being forced at my will. I'm not cut out for a ball! You have to be all proper and fancy, and then there's me, sitting in the corner, eating a cheeseburger and laughing like a hic," I say and Chris and Haylee laugh so hard they start tearing up.

"Anyone can go to a masquerade," Haylee says.

"And no one will know who you are! You have nothing to worry about! Now put on the dress," Chris says, drying his tears. I laugh and slip the dress on, without looking at it. I know Chris likes for me not to look until it's a finished product.

"Oh my gosh," Haylee gasps and smiles.

"No! We can't say a word until it's all finished! Hair and makeup time!" he says and puts my hair into a loose braid and works on my makeup.

"Now, the eye makeup is critical, since it's one of the only parts of your face that will be seen. But I'm pretty sure I nailed it," he smiles as he puts on my mask. 

"Last thing," Haylee says and hands me some black lace heels. I put them on, take a deep breath, and walk down the stage for them, so they can see the finished product.

"Cher," is all Haylee can choke out.

"You look stunning," Chris says, nodding at his work. I walk down the stage and look at the 360 mirror to see someone who can't be me. 

I can't even recognize myself.

The dress is a beautiful princess gown, poof and all. It's white, but has black lace creeping up it. It's strapless, but there's seductive lace trailing down my arms and neck. I feel like the black swan. 

My mask is something else. I have to touch it to make sure it's real. It covers around my eyes and is completely black lace with white accents and pearls.

"Chris," I say.

"Yes?" he smiles.

"Why aren't you number one on the best designers in the world list? Who else could do a real life Cinderella transformation?"

"Please darling. Cinderella wasn't this sexy," he laughs.

"And Haylee, your dress is so.. wow," I say in awe of her red gown with black creeping up, just like mine.  

"Come on Cinderella. We've got a ball to go to," she says and holds out her arm. I link arms with her and we walk down and into the limo waiting outside. 

Even with how many times I've been in a limo, I'll never get used to it. 

"Be ready. This entrance is critical," Haylee says as we pull up. I take a deep breath and she exits the limo like a pro, into the bright flashes. I wait ten seconds and take a deep breath.

This is it.

I walk out of the limo and into the wall of white and smile, not with teeth. Haylee instructed no teeth for this event. 

I spot Haylee through the white and walk with her inside.

I feel like I'm in a movie. 

Of course, they make us take an elevator up to the top floor so we can walk down the stairs and make an entrance, like everyone else. Haylee walks down first, with all eyes on her. Then it's my turn.

The first person I make eye contact is Justin, at the bottom of the stairs. 

And he's the only one I focus on.

I try and ignore hundreds of eyes on me and mouths gaping open. Even the guys with dates. And wives.

In what seems like eternity, I meet Justin at the bottom of the stairs. He grabs my hand all fancy like and we walk over to the dance floor and start slowly moving to the classical music.

"You look amazing," he says.

"Not really," I disagree.

"Look around. Do you see all of the girls looking at you with jealousy? And all the guys who I'm going to have to protect you from?" Justin whispers in my ear, tickling my neck with his warm breath. 

"Well you look rather cunning in your tux. That mask is insane," I whisper and smile.

"You ready to give the paparazzi a good cover story?" he says with a sexy half smile.

"I've always been," I laugh/whisper as he spins me around.

I'm so glad Haylee and Chris taught me how to dance, because Justin is an amazing dancer. 

"Is there anything to do at these things but dance?" I ask him.

"We can go talk to everyone, but I prefer being with you," he smiles and I blush.

"You know, you look adorable when you blush," he chuckles, making me blush more.

"Don't look!" I laugh and cover his eyes until my blushing fades. He spins me around and put's me in the "dip pose," him holding me up by my waist, and I'm forced to look into his hypnotizing brown eyes. I'm a sucker for brown eyes. But for a second, everyone else in the room disappears and all I can hear is the sound of our breathing in unison.

He pulls me up and twirls around so I'm facing away from him and his arms are wrapped around me. I sway lightly, hoping the people in China can't hear my heart beating.

"I'm not sure how much longer I can take this place. Wanna walk over to the park for a bit? We can come back after. The stars just look to good to miss tonight," he whispers and I nod slightly and can feel him smiling as he spins me around.

"I know a way," he whispers as he grabs my hand and slyly gets us out the back door. Once I step out, the crisp and cool air hits me and gives me the chills.

"Ugh it feels so good to be out of there!" I laugh as we run over to central park, not caring about the weird looks people are giving us.

"Come on!" Justin laughs and pulls me farther until we make it to the park. 

"Would you like to dance, my lady?" Justin laughs and holds out his hand.

"Why, I'd love to," I curtsy and grab his hand. We skip around the park and laugh like idiots. When we settle down, he's facing me and looking into my eyes again. 

Ever so slowly, he lifts my mask of my face and I lift his. He leans in and kisses me for what seems like minutes...

I break off.

"What time is it?" I ask, out of breath. 

"This is impossible," he says, shaking his head at his phone.

"What?" I ask.

"It's 11:45," he says.

"We've been gone for almost two and a half hours! We better get back, Haylee must be losing her head," I say and put my mask back on. We  run back to the ball, being slowed down by my gown, but we manage.

"Ah, there are the runaways," Haylee laughs as we get back.

"You're not mad?" I ask.

"Of course not. This is insanely boring. I can't blame you," she laughs and walks away.

"Well we just ran for nothing," I laugh.

"Justin! I've been looking for you everywhere! Go say hi to the producer's over there.... alone" one of his managers says and walks away. Justin kisses me on the cheek and walks over to the producers. Haylee walks up next to me.

"I say Winter Wedding. The colors have to be silver and red, obviously, and Chris would be delighted to design countless collections of gowns before you pick the one you want," she says and I laugh.

"Slow down. I'm 19," I laugh.

"Finnneeee," she sighs sarcastically.

"You've got him wrapped around your finger! He's a lovesick puppy and so are you. Now you need to find me a man," she laughs.

"Patience," I say and see Justin looking at me from behind a producer. He mouths "I love you" when the producers aren't noticing and I mouth, "I love you too." 

 

 

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