The theme of Homecoming was Masquerade. Roman had been going on and on about how romantic and mysterious and sexy it was going to be, as though they weren’t still going to be the same sweaty, awkward teenagers in the same sweaty, cold gym hall, wearing clothes they’d spent too much money on and masks that didn’t remotely hide who anyone was.
Virgil had his doubts about it, okay? “I can’t believe you convinced me to go to this...” He grumbled as he finished buttoning up his blue suit jacket. His formal shoes were a little uncomfortable but he had to admit the mask was pretty fun, covering almost all of his face apart from the bottom left quarter in a Phantom of the Opera style that he’d made himself.
In all fairness the the mask thing had been a stroke of genius. They had a pretty good year group for getting on board with gimmicks- growing up on too many Hollywood teen movies would do that- so instead of all giving up and barely trying it seemed the mystery of who would be wearing what mask had lured them all in. Virgil didn’t even know what Roman would be wearing yet, although he would find out soon enough when it came time to leave.
“You are so excited, don’t try and deny it!” Roman snorted, finishing his makeup at his vanity. So apparently his would reveal a bit more than Virgil’s, it seemed. “Besides, this is your chance to dance with whoever you want to and no one will know. Isn’t that cool?!”
Ugh. “Sure, cool...” Virgil sighed. He only really wanted to dance with one person, and he wasn’t sure they were even going. Logan had a thing about frivolity, and school dances were just peak frivolous, really. He didn’t need to wonder who Roman was hoping to dance with; he’d been listening to his friend catalogue everything about Devon, Logan’s Valedictorian rival, in order to be sure he’d recognise him even with a mask, for almost a month. It would be creepy if he didn’t have insider knowledge (kept carefully from Roman) that Devon was not opposed to this attention whatsoever. Still a bit creepy though, but Roman fancied himself in love, so he was past caring.
The gym didn’t look half bad when they arrived an hour later. It was strung with big draping cloth that brought the height of the ceiling down and transformed the space into something a lot more magical than they’d expected. Roman nearly squealed at the sight, his eyes glinting in excitement through his own Venetian style mask which- as Virgil had guessed- had a little extra space around the eyes for him to show his makeup off.
The photobooth queue was rammed, so they slipped past and over to the drinks bar to get some soda punch, for that tooth-rotting sugar high that was so sorely needed for nights like this. Some blessed student had apparently argued for snacks and food to be served too, because there were hot dogs and various other party foods on the table next to the drinks. Virgil had two; Roman’s ‘Get Ready Schedule’ hadn’t included dinner.
Even the music was good, a fun mix of old classical music and well mixed tunes. No DJ in sight, so probably Spotify coming through there, and really, Virgil thought, the planning committee deserved an award for this one.
“I can’t see him yet, do you think he’s here? Should I go look? Maybe we should dance...” Roman muttered, craning his head this way and that to look for Devon.
“Dance to this? I wouldn’t know how to dance to this if my life depended on it,” Virgil replied, downing the second hot dog and speaking as he chewed. Carefully! He wasn’t an animal. Roman still wrinkled his nose at the display and held his hands out, pulling his friend onto the dancefloor. Oh right- he’d done some kind of old fashioned musical over summer break and probably did know what he was doing.
“So you just glide and then step and step and- no, ow, but close I guess-”
The time flew by as the two friends larked about to the music. Roman tried his best but Virgil was hard to teach, and the sugar was already kicking in and making them both giggle when someone stopped next to them to cut in. Roman’s eyes went wide when he heard the voice.
“May I steal your teacher away, my friend?” Devon asked, the gold silk of his mask shining under the lights. It only covered the top half of his face and his perfectly white teeth glinted as he smiled and Roman nearly flat out fainted as he was pulled away.
They did make a great duo, Virgil thought to himself. He sat at a nearby table, contenting himself with people watching. Devon was the right height to complement Roman’s equally long legs, gliding them in a simple but graceful waltz around and even attempting a spin at one stage that ended with them pressed a lot closer than before. Virgil knew he’d be hearing all about what they looked like they were enthusiastically discussing for the next week at least.
“Is this seat taken?” He jumped, not expecting the interruption near his ear. “My apologies, I did not realise I would startle you.”
Logan. He had come. Virgil gulped and shook his head. “No, no that’s fine. Um, it’s not taken, feel free. I’m just watching uh, the people. Not like, in a creepy way? I just- my friend is dancing with his crush and I wanted to get out of the way and it’s just the two of us-”
“I understand,” Logan nodded. His mask looked to be one of those old Guy Fawkes masks with the mouth cut out, a simple enough effort but pretty striking among the throng of glitter and sequins and bright colours. “So, Phantom, what do you think then?”
“Huh? Oh, me. Phantom. Um, I think it’s pretty cool actually. It looks pretty great for the school gym, you know? Give the committee a raise, I might actually come to the next one too.”
“Absolutely. I’m only here because my friend P- my friend is on that committee. He was very dedicated to making the ah, ‘aesthetic’? Is that the right word?” At Virgil’s nod Logan continued. “But I do find myself charmed by it. Maybe I’ll come back.”
“You should!” Virgil blurted, like the lovesick moron he was. “I mean, then I won’t have to be the kid watching everyone by myself again, you know?”
Logan’s head tilted as he looked closely at him, and Virgil squirmed under the attention, wondering if his identity was being figured out. “Would you like to dance, Phantom?” Wasn’t the next words he’d expected from his neighbour.
Somehow Virgil nodded mutely, taking the proffered hand and standing up with Logan to perform a sort of box-step sway at the edge of the dancers while the music played. At some stage the music changed to the more familiar chart hits, but they just kept on swaying, deep in a discussion about NASA while across the room Roman and Devon were engrossed in the music, making up their own routines and shouting along to the songs they recognised with everyone else.
Roman was going to be insufferable after how well the night had turned out, but Virgil couldn’t bring himself to care, not with this payoff.