by Lisa McCourt Hollar
Handing his invitation to the man at the door, Evan glanced around the Ballroom, trying to guess at the identity of his hostess. It was difficult, all the women wore masks, as did the men. Still, he felt he could safely exclude the women that were twirling around the room in the arms of their escorts.
"Excuse me sir." A woman wearing a short maids costume held out a tray and offered him a drink.
"I don't suppose you're my date," Evan said, taking a glass, while looking the woman up and down.
Blushing, she shook her head no. Holding her hand out for the invitation she asked, "May I?"
Silently, he handed her the card, allowing the disappointment to show in his face.
"Oh, you are Ivana's. She is over there."
Amused at the way the woman declared that he belonged to Ivana, he turned and looked towards the woman indicated. He couldn't make out her face through the mask, but she appeared to be holding court. The woman was surrounded by half a dozen men, all vying for her attention.
"Are they all her's as well?"
The maid laughed. "They wish. Ivana lets them hang around, but none of them have any real chance with her.
"What a shame. Perhaps I should let one of them take my place. Then I could spend the evening in your company."
A look of sheer horror passed over her face and the woman backed away from Evan. He reached out to steady her, afraid she was going to drop her tray, she was shaking so badly. Instead of being reassured, she pulled away from him, sending the cocktail glasses crashing to the floor.
"Selena, are you okay?"
Evan jumped, startled at how quickly Ivana had crossed the room. She had her arms around the maid and was trying to calm the woman down.
"I didn't do anything wrong!" Selena's voice was strained and she seemed close to tears.
"Of course you didn't. Why don't you go back to the kitchen and have Helga get you a cup of tea. Take as long as you need."
While Ivana was talking to Selena, the broken glass and spilled champagne had been cleaned up by a woman dresed similarly to the maid. When she was done, she took Selena's arm and guided her out of the ballroom. Suddenly Selena turned around. A look of desperation was in her eyes and she spoke to Ivana, her voice pleading. "He is yours madam. I promise, I wouldn't have taken him. Please believe me." Then she turned back around and left the room, quietly crying.
"I didn't mean to upset your maid," Evan said, feeling somewhat confused.
"She has always been a bit nervous. I am sure it is nothing you said."
Up close, Evan could see why the other men had been so raptured. Even with the mask, Evan could see she was beautiful. Her eyes were like blue ice and her skin was flawless.
"Shall we dance?" Ivana held her arms out, a smile playing around her red lips. Taking her into his arms, Evan swept her onto the floor.
"You dance beautifully."
Ivana's voice was thick and seductive. Evan struggled to place the accent. "I was surprised to be invited to such a swanky event. Do I know you from somewhere? I feel foolish, forgetting such a beautiful woman."
"We have never met, but I have been admiring you, shall we say from afar."
"From very afar. I would think I'd have noticed you."
"I can be very discreet."
Evan fell silent after that. Glancing around at the other couples on the floor, he noticed that all the woman had the same regal appearance as Ivana. The men held similarly enthralled faces of the men that had surrounded Ivana when he first entered. They looked dazed, almost as though they weren't aware of their surroundings. He watched as one woman licked her lips, for a moment looking feral. Evan likened the look to a lioness, hunting her prey.
"What did Selena mean when she said I was yours," Evan asked nervously. "I mean, I'm your date, but she made it sound like more than that. She would never take me from you?"
"It is nothing," Ivana said, placing a finger over his lips.
"It just seems a strange thing to say, since we have never met until now."
"Just dance," Ivana whispered in his ear. She lay her head on his shoulder and allowed him to guide her across the floor.
Thinking it was time to end the night and head home, Evan stopped dancing and let go of his date. "Thank you for the invitation, but something is wrong here. I think I should leave."
When he spoke, the room became still as all the other dancers turned to stare at him.
"I mean," he stammered, "I'm just not feeling well. You can all go back..." Evan's voice trailed off when he glanced into the mirror that lined the far wall. He hadn't noticed it before, he had been so busy staring at Selena and then Ivana. The mirror reflected the room and the dancers on the floor. The male dancers. The women that accompanied their dates, were not reflected. Neither was Ivana.
"You are going nowhere," Ivana said. She smiled, revealing sharp canines. "And Selena was quite right. I do not share my food."
Word Count 902