The Mask

By Tipper


Disclaimer: You all know I don't own the rights to any of them.

Note:  Answer to March challenge by Beth Baker – The Poem Challenge:


"Nope, it's not to write a poem, but to base a story around one. Pick a long one, short one, old one, or a new one…heck, use one of your own, which would be great. Don't include the poem in your story…this isn't about that. Do, however, post the poem (please include the author's name, book title, and the publisher) at the end, just so the readers can read your inspiration."


Description: This isn't a story; it's just a description of a possible beginning. Very short, as you can see.



And so it happens, as it often does….


The Masquerade Ball.  New OrleansFat Tuesday.  1844.


How to describe it?  Perhaps by starting in the vaulted kitchens, where the heat was making the walls melt.  Roast pigs were being stuffed, vats of caviar were sitting in the corners, strings of sausages like paperchains hung from the ceiling, cooks yelled at bakers who shouted at the waiters who nodded at the butlers as they pushed through the main doors into the parlor rooms….


Servants slipped in and out of notice between the bubbling laughter and the rapid paced music, the sliding of the bows and the beating of the hearts, the constant, overwhelming buzz of hundreds of voices talking at once.  There the hint of decadence, the hiding of truths, the masking of reality, the power of the moonlight shifting shadows to trick and deceive, the uncertainty of enemies mixing with friends.  Here the subtle glances, the blood flushed cheeks, the wild eyes of the dreamers, the dark gazes of the jealous, the haunted look of the unrequited, the thankful smiles of the found.  Here the dresses and the costumes, the masks both monstrous and fantastical, the beauty of the hairstyles and the smell of the perfumes.  There the secret meetings, the quiet agreements, the back room corruption, the shaking of the dice and the playing of the cards.  Here the constant pouring of the alcohol, the drowning of ills and inhibitions, the freedom of knowing not with whom you speak….


And knowing they do not know you.


In this world, in this place, in this time, this moment.


Only the servants saw them go….


He took her arm, and she followed willingly, down the stairs, through the courtyard, the heat of the night pressing on her bare shoulders, the wet of the humidity dampening his dark locks.  She laughed as he lifted and carried her into the small alcove, the heavy smell of roses and honeysuckle covering up the overwhelming headiness of the ocean beyond.  His lips found hers beneath her mask of ostrich feathers, devouring, searching, hoping.  She let the darkness hide her features, allowing the shadows to hide his, knowing only the color of his eyes through the golden mask he wore.


And onto the soft grass they fell, a tangled heap, a single whole.


He put his mask back on before she did, and bowed, leaving her softly and dreamily.  She leaned up against the stone wall of the garden grove, her breaths shallow and soft, lifting the sleeve of her dress back onto her shoulder. 


She never saw his face, not in the dark, not even in the moonlight. Never knew his name.  Would never have him to hold again.


But his child would always be hers.


With the same green eyes and the same burning gold mask.



The End


Inspired by:


The Mask, by William Butler Yeats


"PUT off that mask of burning gold

With emerald eyes."

"O no, my dear, you make so bold

To find if hearts be wild and wise,

And yet not cold."


"I would but find what's there to find,

Love or deceit."

"It was the mask engaged your mind,

And after set your heart to beat,

Not what's behind."


"But lest you are my enemy,

I must enquire."

"O no, my dear, let all that be;

What matter, so there is but fire

In you, in me?"