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Enjoy My Short Story, Masquerade, as My Thanks for Reading Ozarks Maven

Thank you for reading Ozarks Maven! As a gesture of appreciation for reading my blog, I’m sharing one of my favorite stories with you. The following short story was published by The Crowder Quill in 2016 crowderquill.com. All Rights Reserved. While this story is set is in the fall, I think a good ghost story can be enjoyed any time of the year. Please enjoy!

Masquerade

By Margarite R. Stever

“This is my first masquerade party. I’m so glad I came,” I laughed merrily as I danced with my mystery man. “Nicole really outdid herself. The mansion looks great! I especially love the spider webs hanging from the chandeliers!”

“I am pleased to have you in attendance, as well,” the tall blond man wearing the silver wolf mask replied. “It is not often that you find a golden owl dancing with a silver wolf.”

I glanced in the antique mirror on the far wall and had to admit that I was rather pleased with the way the gold owl mask contrasted with my long black hair and ruby red lips. We made a striking pair. His height of around six feet complimented my five foot five inch frame perfectly. The thin scar running down his left cheek seemed to add an air of mystery to his wolf mask.

“I am really looking forward to the big reveal at midnight when everyone removes their masks,” I said gazing deeply into his ice blue eyes that actually twinkled at me when he spoke. “We could at least exchange names now.”

“My dear lady, we are supposed to be completely anonymous until the reveal. We don’t want to cheat,” he chided me gently.

“So, are you from around here?” I asked as he dipped me in time with the music.

“Yes, I grew up here in town. Have you lived here your whole life?”

“No, I moved to town when I was twelve. Nicole was my first friend here, and she’s been my bestie ever since,” I replied.

“So, what do you do for a living?” I asked.

“I work at the pet food plant,” he answered. “What about you?”

“I work in the accounting department at the trucking company,” I replied. “It’s not exciting, but it pays the bills.”

We twirled around the floor for a bit looking deeply into each other’s eyes before I blurted, “So, did you get that scar from working in the plant?” I felt my face heat up and knew I blushing. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to ask you that.”

“Don’t worry about it. I have no problem telling you,” he said. “I fell into a barbed wire fence when my horse threw me one day. It’s not a deep dark secret or anything.”

“Oh, well it actually makes you look quite dashing,” I said feeling my face heat with embarrassment once again.

We danced and laughed for most of the evening. Then just before midnight he leaned down to whisper in my ear, “My name is Drake Larson, and it has truly been my honor to spend this evening with you. May I have your name?”

“I’m Jenny Black,” I whispered back.

“A pleasure to be sure, Jenny,” he whispered as his lips blazed a trail from my ear across my cheek and finally closed over mine. He kissed me long and deep. It was the best single kiss of my entire life. Then he vanished. He was there one second, and then was gone the next. I was left standing alone in the middle of the dance floor surrounded by whirling couples.

I made my way through the dancers as the grandfather clock in the corner chimed midnight. Everyone stopped dancing and removed their masks laughing delightedly as they recognized each other from work, social circles, or just around town. I removed my golden owl mask and looked around frantically for my silver wolf. He was nowhere to be found.

A waiter brought around champagne flutes, and I toasted our hostess with the other guests before I headed to the cloakroom to retrieve my heavy coat. The temperature was well below freezing, and I dreaded going outside.

“Jenny, you’re leaving kind of early,” Nicole called as she rushed up to me.

“I had a lovely time, Nicole,” I said earnestly. “I’m just tired. My dance partner ran off without me, so I may as well go home to get some sleep.”

“Who was your partner this evening?”

“Drake Larson. He was in the silver wolf mask. Would you happen to know how to get in touch with him? He said he worked in your plant. I would love to talk to him some more.”

“Drake Larson? I don’t know a Drake Larson,” Nicole said. “I only invited people I know personally. He either came with someone I know or he’s a party crasher. I will ask around for you, though. I know you’ve had a dry spell lately as far as men are concerned.”

“Oh no, you don’t have to. That’s okay. Thanks, anyway. Well, if you want to ask around, that would be okay. Only if you want to,” I stammered feeling the blood rush to my face.

Nicole smiled and said, “I will do some digging for you. That’s what friends are for.”

I hugged Nicole and said, “Thank you again for having me. You really know how to throw an amazing party.”

“Thanks! I’m sorry that guy ran off, but I hope you had fun anyway,” Nicole said.

I smiled as I replied, “Nicole, I always have fun at your house.”

I walked slowly to my car parked up a slight hill from Nicole’s mansion. It made sense that she owned the only mansion in town since she owned the only factory in town. My drive was slow on the icy roads, and I went straight to bed once I arrived home.

I dreamed of Drake that night with his shiny blond hair, beautiful blue eyes, silver wolf mask, old fashioned speech, and scorching hot kiss. We were dancing and laughing among the spinning lights of the ballroom. I woke up the next morning feeling determined to find this enigmatic man who had so captured my attention.

I daydreamed about him all day at work, and hardly accomplished a thing. I had to find him. He was my future. I just knew it! Nicole had promised to try to track him down, and she was like Nancy Drew when it came to that stuff.

I was eating dinner in front of my TV that night when Nicole called my cell phone. I answered with a chipper, “Hello!”

“Jenny, I asked around about your mystery man. No one knew him, so I dug through our personnel files. What I found is kind of disturbing. Are you sitting down?”

“Yes,” I answered as my heart sank.

“Well, there’s no Drake Larson who works in the plant at this time. I did find a record of someone by that name, though. He worked there in the 1940’s. His parents owned the plant then. They actually were the original owners of my house, too. He was killed when he fell in one of the hoppers. He was unmarried and had no children. He’s the only Drake Larson we’ve ever employed,” Nicole finished breathlessly.

“Oh, so my guy lied to me. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised the way he disappeared. Thanks for looking into it for me. It pays to be besties with the woman who has access to all the personnel files, I guess,” I said laughing to cover my hurt feelings.

“Well, I am going to text you a picture that I found in his file. He was pretty hot!” Nicole laughed trying to lighten the mood.

She sent me the picture shortly after we hung up. My mouth dropped open when the message loaded. There on my phone was a black and white photo of the same man with whom I had spent the evening dancing. He even had the same scar running along his left cheek.

I texted Nicole one question. “Did his family have horses?”

Her response was quick. “Yes. They sold them all after Drake was thrown into a fence.”

Goosebumps ran up my arms and the back of my neck. I had a feeling deep down in my gut that I should go to Nicole’s house immediately.

I texted, “May I come over for bit?”

“Of course! I will make Margaritas,” was Nicole’s response.

Once in Nicole’s house, I was drawn to the ballroom. I walked slowly up the stairs to the room that was still festively decorated while she mixed our Margaritas. I approached the large antique mirror where I had admired Drake and I dancing together less than twenty-four hours ago. The surface was smooth and my reflection stared back at me in bewilderment. As I stared, the surface seemed to ripple like water in a lake. Curiously looking closer, I jumped back when Drake’s smiling image suddenly appeared.

“Drake?” I squeaked.

“Jenny,” Drake responded sounding far away. “I had a lovely time last evening. I hope you come back next Halloween to visit me. I can only walk in your world on that one day a year. I return to my world at midnight.”

“So, you are a ghost?” I asked in a whisper.

“Ghost, phantom, specter, whatever you wish to call me,” Drake replied. “What I truly am is lonely.”

I visited Drake in Nicole’s ballroom often during that year. The following Halloween, Drake and I danced until midnight. This time when he returned to his world, I went with him.

Thank you for reading Ozark Maven! If you’ve enjoyed my little seeds of wisdom and joy, please subscribe to Ozarks Maven, Like Ozarks Maven on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @OzarksMaven.

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