Quickly, fingers rip the mask off her face the minute the cursed play ends. She takes a breath, then another, hoping, praying, that the removal of it separates who she is from THAT role. She wants to throw it off the stage, this mask that she and Rodrigo both agree should be destroyed, and soon. But then, Rodrigo was always one to suggest destroying masks.

The emotions threaten to overwhelm, to suffocate her. She’s still in Asavea, still a slave. She rushes off, finds a quiet room to breathe, to be alone, to check her face is her own in the mirror; it is some time before she can return to the ball. But she can’t yet separate herself, ease back into the crowd.

It’s just the subject matter, she tries convincing herself, as she twirls with Tess. It’s the stress of performing, she tries again, forgetting the steps. You are not that person anymore. She tries laughing it off, as the dance ends and she turns. Comes face to face with the source of all her vexation, the next dancer in the set. Gabriel.

She runs. There’s a remembrance of Summer heat, and determination, and a flicker of the touch of the Realm in her that persuades otherwise. You are that person. You will always BE that person. And you are right to be ANGRY. This, she believes. It is unfair. Why did nobody think it might hurt her? Why wasn’t she asked if this was okay? It might have just been a play to the rest of the troupe, but to her– it was real, and it hurt, and they made her re-live it.

The play had ended. She had taken off the mask. Stepped out of the role.

Ah, but you played yourself, didn’t you?

In the midst of anger and fear, she touches her face, wondering why her mask is failing to calm her. It is not there.


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