The world is filled with stupid little stories called fairy tales that are cleaned up to give false hope. They tell of true love, love at first sight, happiness, rainbows, butterflies, princesses, and princes. There is this one thing called ‘Happily Ever After’ at the end of each story. At least once in a young girl’s life she believes this nonsense. She’ll believe that one day her prince will come and it’ll be love at first sight. She’ll believe that even though things are bad in the moment, one day something amazing will happen to change it all. I even believed that at one time until the war happened and my only family, my father, was killed.
He was the one that always told me stories about princesses and happy endings. Every night he would tuck me into bed and tell me ‘Darling, you are going to be a queen one day’. I believed him and I loved him more than anyone else. Everyone else treated me like scum except for him. I was the poor kid who could never afford to wear more than one outfit a week. Even though I took a shower every day and tried to clean up the best that I could no one would even give me a chance.
My father died when I was 10. That was when the world we knew collapsed. The government fell after bringing almost everyone down into poverty. My father was one of the ones that helped bring it down and ‘died for a good cause’. I was all alone to fend for myself. Schools didn’t run for a long time; so I didn’t bother to go back once they did come back.
The United States of America no longer existed anymore. No one ruled over anyone. We didn’t even use money for anything but trade with foreign nations anymore. Within our country we traded objects like in the olden days. Most no longer used money because a lot of people felt that’s where all our problems lied in the first place. But on the downside was that even though most didn’t care for money, it still seemed to rule. Some of the rich people didn’t want to give up their life. They didn’t participate in the war. They took over what used to be California. While the rest of the country was in shambles and there was constant killing they gave lower class fighters what they wanted to keep their little corner protected.
One of my buddies was one of those fighters. He made sure that we had access to any place in California that we wanted. It was, after all, the only place you could steal the best-made clothing and weapons. Everywhere else people had already taken everything. California had been the only place that stayed what used to be considered ‘civilized’. Well only the main cities. The country was still rough.
I stared out at the sparkling lights ahead with Jonah and Frankie beside of me. Boomer was the name of the guy who used the rich to get what he wanted and needed in exchange for fighting for them. He was not far ahead of us. The only way anyone besides another rich person was allowed in the city was to be escorted by one of their fighters. As marched down the sidewalk through the city towards the stores that Boomer said we should check out that night. He told us that something special that hadn’t happened in a long time was going down tonight and that we had to be there. The only way to get in was to look like a rich. I wasn’t extremely comfortable with the idea of going into that kind of scene.
Apparently the rich people these days were feeling like they had the right to act like they were the ruler of everything. With my anger problems, if someone spoke as if they were leaders over the people outside of this city, I would lose it. We all worked our asses off to keep ourselves alive and fed. We trained ourselves to survive and be able to kill without hesitation. We were almost like animals now. We traveled in packs and stayed with our packs. No one was let into and group without extreme caution. It took forever and proving before they would be trusted. Luckily since Boomer, Jonah, Frankie, and I were young, not many people wanted to be in our circle.
It wasn’t all bad outside of the ‘civilized’ areas. Sometimes there were social gatherings similar to parties that the young people held. No one knew many older folks. They were the most cautious of everyone and trusted less people than us. It was understandable as to why they would be like that though. They felt that they weren’t strong enough to fight that much at a certain age.
“Look,” Boomer pointed towards a lighted window close by. “That’s where we are going. I can get free stuff from there for this occasion.”
Jonah and I exchanged a look. “What is this event going to be that makes it so special?” I asked curiously as we came to the door of the place he pointed to.
He turned the knob and pushed the door open before he answered me. “It’s a birthday party for a rich boy.” We stared at him. “We only have to look like them tonight. It’s an open party.” He glanced back with a smirk before walking into the building. We followed closely behind him.
Open parties were rare when it came to the rich people. They were the type that had no possible way of defending themselves on their own. If they were going to have some type of social gathering they made it an invite only thing. That way the possibility of someone who could cause trouble getting in would be slim. They hated being around people who weren’t like them.
“Close the damn door, Boomer.” An elder woman’s voice erupted from somewhere in the back of the room.
The room was filled with gowns that looked like they belonged in the Middle Ages and tuxes. My mouth hung open in surprised. Dresses of any type were something that I had never ever wanted to be around. If any emergency came up I wouldn’t be able to defend myself in a dress. These dresses would especially hold me back in that sort of happening. Boomer laughed as he caught a glimpse of my face when he came back from shutting the door.
“Could the tough and brave Dare be scared?” He slung his arm casually around my shoulder. “Listen, this is the only way that I can get us into this thing. You shouldn’t worry, nothing bad ever really happens in that part of town.”
Boomer always had a gift of knowing what was going through my head. I nodded and felt my eyes widen as an elegant elder lady waltz into few. She wore a gown similar to what hung all around the room along with blush on her cheeks and light colored lipstick on her lips. Her posture was straight and stiff as she walked towards us.
“You must be Boomer’s friends, hm?” She analyzed us.
We just nodded.
“Gathering with our kind is important for you young people from the outside.” She clasped her hands together. “I’m glad Boomer convinced you to go to this party. You best be on good behavior or I will turn you all in faster than you can blink.”
I had never felt intimidated as much as I did as she stared at me with her cold blue eyes. There was nothing kind about her expression. It was almost as if she were being forced to even converse with us.
“You.” She pointed at me.
“Step up here.” She gestured for me to come towards her.
Boomer shoved me forward.
“Good.” Her gaze traveled all over my body. “Something light pink would do for you.”
“What?” The thought of wearing something in that shade made me cringe.
“Just listen to me; I know what I am talking about.” She grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the comfort of my pack.
“What about black or green?”
She looked at me with disgust as she flipped through some dresses. “I’ve been serving your kind for a long time now. I’ve been trying to help you stay connected with civilization. I know what I’m doing here. Green would suit that other girl back there, but not you.”
“What about white?” I ignored the first part of her comment.
The woman paused for a moment then looked at me thoughtfully. “Wait here.” She disappeared.
Cautiously I turned my head to see if my pack was visible. They gave me a supportive smile and thumbs up. When she came back she held a gray dress bag in her hand. She pulled my blonde medium length, slightly wavy hair out of its ponytail and combed it with her fingers quickly.
“Go back there and put this on. No complaining, just do it.” She ordered.
I crept towards to back of the room where I came to dressing rooms. I entered the first stall and shut the door behind me. It was an incredibly small space to get dressed in. The walls were a light tan color and there was a body length mirror on the back one. What am I doing here?
I unzipped the dress bag and pulled out a beautiful white dress. It wasn’t the same as the others in the shop beyond the dressing room door. It was shorter but it still resembled a ball gown with its poofy white bottom. I actually didn’t mind having to wear it; even though there was a little bit of pink from a ribbon that tied around the waist area of it. The door of the stall next to me suddenly shut and then came the sound of shuffling. The lady had already matched someone else with clothing; I was being way too slow.
Quickly, I tugged off my top layer of clothing and slipped on the dress. After zipping it up and attempting to tie the bow I gathered my top and pants from the floor. My eyes didn’t dare wonder to the mirror to see how ridiculous I made the dress look. I didn’t even look down at myself more than I needed to. This was the first time I’d ever worn a dress in my entire life. It made me feel awkward.
“Are you okay in there?” Jonah’s voice came from the other side the door.
“You can open it…” I murmured reluctantly; knowing that I’d not be able to open it myself.
He pulled the door opened and as his eyes landed on me his mouth dropped. “Wow, you clean up really nice, Dare.”
Boomer came up behind him and gave me a strange look. “Is that you, Dare?”
I placed one hand on my hip and raised my eyebrow at them. “Yeah?”
“You are so beautiful.” Frankie chimed.
I looked over at her. Of course she would think that I was beautiful. We were like sisters and she always complimented me even when I definitely didn’t deserve it. Frankie was the most beautiful girl around with her strawberry blonde hair and sparkling leafy green eyes. Her skin was like a porcelain doll that I had seen once long ago in a store. Everyone I had ever met was in awe of her effortless beauty. She could make anything look amazing. The dress she was wearing was a long green gown that somehow matched her eyes.
Jonah and Boomer completely forgot about me the moment they saw her. It wasn’t as if I wanted their attention anyways since they were like my brothers, but it still felt nice to have someone look at me as if I were even a little attractive. The elderly woman showed up again and didn’t even look in my friend’s direction. Her small crinkled eyes stayed latched onto me as if they had been glued stuck.
“Come here, Dear.” I did as she asked. She spun me around and untied my bow then retied it. “Better. You look delightful.” Her voice almost sounded affectionate but I knew better.
“Thanks…” I murmured and looked down at my dirty black low-top converses.
“As for those…” She noticed them too.
“Please, no.” I looked up at her in fear. My shoes were the only things that kept me from completely feeling like a different person entirely.
She heaved a sigh. “Come with me,” Her hand wrapped around my wrist and tugged me along.
We ended up in a room full of boxes. She instructed me to wait near the entrance while she scurried to a section and came back with one of the brown boxes. She handed it to me with a small smile. On the box in black ink was the word ‘Converse’. For the first time since I had met this lady I wanted to hug her. This was my first pair of new shoes in a long time.
“I guess I can let you keep the same type of shoes as long as they are clean.” She said gently. “You seem overwhelmed. It’s amazing of how innocent you arm.” She patted my bare shoulder. “You are beautiful, you know? The only reason they prefer your friend is because she is weak and fragile.”
I looked at her in confusion.
“Hurry up and put those on. I’m going to make sure those buffoons don’t mess up their tuxes. The party isn’t going to be for a few hours, yet.”