Christmas used to be her favourite time of the year but as time went by Leila had grown to hate the festive period. She longed for the days gone by where the whole family would gather together to celebrate and it would last for days. Christmas now was just like any other day for Leila and she hated feeling this way. This year should have passed by like all the rest, had it not been for one chance invite Leila hadn’t been expecting. On the last day of term, Leila was handed an invite by one of her classmates to the University Yule Ball. This struck Leila as odd as she had kept herself pretty much to herself throughout her time studying, choosing the company of books rather than people. The invite was handed to her by someone she had never seen before and she almost threw it away as she exited the lecture theatre. Something told her not to however and she stuffed it in her bag instead later that night she agonised over going. She had not joined in a single activity since she had started her course two years ago but had to concede also that she had never been invited before. A part of her desperately wanted to be part of something but the sadness this time of year made her feel was pushing back with equal force. Something in her told her that this year something would be different, something good will happen eventually and so Leila decided she would go.
She had never been to a ball before and she had no female guidance to draw upon as all her friends were male, and so she decided the best thing to do was to Google ballgowns for some inspiration. Leila had never seen anything like it before, her only comparison was her wedding dress from years ago but in varying different colours. The prices of them blew her away and she knew she could never afford to buy one, maybe she wouldn’t be going after all. It was then Leila decided her only option would be to adapt her wedding dress to suit the occasion. She was sure that she would be able to dye the fabric a different colour and maybe afford to get shoes and a bag to match. Leila set out about making a list of the things she needed and bought a dive for the dress. She had chosen black as this was always her default colour but when she finally took it out of the dye the colour had set to a violet hue. It was beautiful but Leila instantly hated it as she felt she would stand out badly; not fade into the background as she had hoped. Getting a bag and shoes to match prove harder than you would expect but she finally managed to acquire something suitable.
By the time the day of the ball arrived Leila was a bag of nerves. She had no idea how to do hair and makeup and so had to rely on YouTube videos to show her what to do. This only made Leila feel even sadder about her situation but she battled through her emotions; determined now that she would not let anything stand in her way. Her final gaze into her mirror made her gasp with shock as she chuckled to herself silently. “It’s amazing what you can learn on the Internet!” She muttered as she gazed at the reflection she didn’t recognise. No one would ever think she had done all of this herself, they would have to be very perceptive, she thought to herself. She was nervously full of energy as she booked her taxi for the short journey to the University and pulled on her coat just in time as the taxi pulled up and beeped his horn outside. The taxi dropped her off at the main entrance to the ballroom and she immediately felt she had made the wrong decision as she felt massively out of place. People were arriving in limos or flash cars and everyone was coming with a date on their arm. Leila was the only person there on her own. She was transfixed for a moment by the glamour of it all; the gowns were amazing in comparison to her own and she knew she would stand out badly. The cold soon pulled her from her revere and she crossed the car park to the main entrance. She was greeted with a glass of champagne by a well-dressed server and ushered off to the current room where Leila instantly began to panic; it had just donned on her that she would have to take her coat off and be seen in her ‘Cinderella’ dress. Her nerves instantly hit the roof but caught up in the crowd there was nothing she could do but wait her turn and hope no one was watching her. Her hopes were not realised however and when she finally, gingerly took her coat off she heard a perceptible gasp from behind and she cringed. She almost put her coat back on but in a moment of bravery, she handed it over, took her ticket and left the line. She walked straight over to the ladies room and locked herself into the first available stall. Leila was shaking badly and she chided herself for being so weak. She hated how these sorts of occasions affected her and she hated that she always ended up avoiding them because of it. She knew she had to pull herself together.
Leila left the stall when she was sure no one was about, as she did she caught sight of herself in the full-length mirror and she gasped in shock as she didn’t recognise herself. Her Grecian style dress hung in drapes around her breasts and the low cut back showed off all her tattoos to their fullest, even the lilac colour of her dress complimented her skin tone and Leila was shocked at the reflection. “Maybe that’s why the person in the queue had gasped,” she thought to herself as she downed the remainder of her champagne and headed out of the lavatory and off to find the bar. Leila was still shaking a little as she ordered her drink and so added a whiskey chaser to the cocktail she liked; downing the shot in one she knew the shakes would subside a little as time went by. She had been sat at the bar for about half an hour before she saw anyone she knew, it was her tutor who spoke 1st to her. She complimented her on her dress but Leila, ever the sceptic, just assumed this was pleasantries and fobbed off the compliment. She decided she hated the damn thing, mostly because of what it used to represent but partly because she hated the fact it stood out, she would rather have had black but also had to concede that black would have stood out just as much in this sea of colours. Her tutor finally left her to her drink and Leila sat in quiet contemplation brooding over her situation.
It was only when a familiar face sat down beside her that she finally stopped staring into a glass and looked up. The face belonged to the guy who had handed her the invite in the first place and she was a bit taken aback by the fact he was sat here now. As she stared at him he beamed back a broad smile and asked her if she would like another drink. Leila wasn’t used to people talking to her by choice and she was momentarily stunned by this guy sitting in front of her. Eventually, she just nodded and said thank you in a meek voice. “I’m Jason,” he said after a few seconds of silence. “Do you come here often?” He chuckled to himself. Leila rolled her eyes and thought “here we go, another Joker!” She ordered another shot from the barman and downed it in one as she tried to steady her nerves. “Maybe Jason isn’t that bad, I shouldn’t judge so quickly.” She thought as she picked a purse drink and sipped it slowly, turning to face Jason. “Hi there,” he said, awaiting a reply from Leila. “Hi” she replied shakily. “Why did you invite me?” Leila enquired. Jason explained how he had invited everyone in the class, it was his job as class president. She really had kept her head in the sand at university, Jason’s reply upset Leila slightly. She had been imagining all week the reason this hot guy had asked her to the ball; her brain concocting all kinds of fairy stories where she could be swept off her feet by a handsome prince. The reality of it just being his job’s done a little as she hadn’t even thought about it in that way. She decided to just chat to him anyway seeing as he had made an effort and bought her a drink. Leila was determined to try and shake the funk she was feeling and have some fun. Jason and Leila chatted for a while before he suggested they should go outside for a cigarette. Leila didn’t smoke and so didn’t really want to go but he was insistent and she thought it only polite to appease him; it was only five minutes outside in the cold after all. Jason led Leila back through the hall and out past the coat room not stopping to put on coats. “Only five minutes,” she thought “I’ll be fine.” The doormen gave them both a stamp so they could get back in and he ushered them out.
Outside the air was bitter and she really didn’t want to be out here at all. Jason led her over to a car in the car park and suggested they sit in his car while he smirked as he had heated seats, this was better than freezing to death and so Leila accepted. As soon they were inside the car Jason immediately started putting his hands on her and Leila froze in panic. She hadn’t been expecting anything like this tonight and she didn’t know what to do when Jason leaned over and tried to kiss her. This snapped her into a response and she slapped him hard. She didn’t even know this guy and she couldn’t fathom what he thought he was going to achieve attacking her like this, but she was having none of it and slapped him hard again, harder than before. This only served to egg him on and his hand fumbled around for the bottom of address edge, his aim was obviously to assault her. Leila started to fight back just as the doormen from earlier appeared beside the car and open Jasons door. He dragged him out with an almighty thud and walked round to Leila’s side and opened her door too. “Ma’am, are you okay?” He enquired as Leila burst into tears. He held out his hand to help Leila from the car, taking his coat off as he did and placing it around Leila’s shoulders. He escorted her back to the hall and into a side office where he left her momentarily. He returned a few minutes later with a mug of tea and Leila couldn’t help but think how sweet this young man was and how brave he had been in dealing with Jason, a man almost 6 feet of pure muscle when this guy would be lucky to be 5 foot eight and a half Jason’s weight. He introduced himself as Nick and Leila, still shaking from the spat with Jason, gingerly shook his hand. “Do you want me to call the police?” He asked and Leila shook her head, the last thing she wanted right now is any more attention. “Thanks but no, I just want to go home if I’m honest but my taxi isn’t booked for hours yet and I’ll be lucky if I can get one at this time on a Friday night.” Leila looked pale and lost, this night had not turned out to be anything like she had hoped it would be and her previous sadness now washed over her in waves. She wished she had never come out.
“Do you want a lift home?” Asked Nick, “I promise I won’t lay a finger on you, Scout’s honour!” Nick chuckled as he did the Scout salute and Leila couldn’t help but feel at ease with him immediately. She was desperate to get out of here now and so his lift was very much appreciated. “Yes please” she replied and Nick jumped into action, leaving the room once more. He returned with his coat on and Leila’s over his arm, he held it out like a true gent and helped her into it. It suddenly dawned on Leila that Nick was at work and he couldn’t leave his post. “What about your job?” Leila asked him and he explained how his boss had given him permission to drive home as long as he was quick. Leila couldn’t help feeling guilty for being at the centre of so much fuss and all she wanted now was the comfort and safety of home. Nick led her out to the car park and over to the most dilapidated looking campervan she had ever seen. She stopped and stared at it for a moment in our of its age and beauty. Nick thinking that Leila was in trepidation of entering suddenly skipped over to the passenger door and opened it for her. “Don’t worry she’s safe, I promise! She isn’t much but she is my home and I love her!” Nick sounded like he was trying to defend the van and Leila giggled. “No, I love it, I’ve wanted one for years, she’s beautiful!” Nick couldn’t contain his joy at someone else like in his van and beamed the broadest grin as he held out his hand to help in. Leila couldn’t wait and took his hand eagerly gathering up her dress in order to gain. Once the pair were both inside and belted in Leila turned to Nick and held out her hand in the handshake to gesture. “Thank you so much for all of your help tonight, you are a true gent and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you stopping Jason.” Said Leila. “It’s okay, honestly it’s been my pleasure.” Replied naked he turned the key in the ignition had his baby chuntered into life.
They talked and talked the whole fifteen-minute drive from the University to Leila’s house, on the way each gaining a little insight into why they were both there at the ball in the first place. Nick explained how he was supposed to be in on another job but it was cancelled so this was a last-minute posting. Leila couldn’t help but think that it was fate that had put him there to protect her but she would never have dared vocalise such things. When they pulled up outside a house Leila had a pang of sorrow that she would never see Nick again, but let it sit in the back of her mind. She thanked Nick again for the lift and hopped down from the van, slowly walking to her door in the Hopi would follow. “I have to stop having these little fantasies!” She thought as she pulled out her keys and locked her door. She turned around and waved to Nick as he trundled off down the street. “Oh well!” She thought. “Tonight’s not really been what I expected at all.” Leila open the door and went inside, trying to ignore the night’s events. Whilst getting ready for bed Leila heard a strange noise coming from downstairs, she was frightened momentarily until the noise stopped. Gingerly she crept onto the landing in order to look down the stairs. There, on the doormat was a single rose with a note attached, it read… “If you ever need saving again, call me. Nick.” With his number underneath made.
“Maybe tonight hasn’t been so bad after all!”