Blood pounding in her ears, Ella focuses on the click-clack of her white platforms as she climbs the wooden stairs. One, two, three–each step feels like an instant and an eternity spent on lead legs. A whirlwind of smiles and encouraging, helpful hands shuffle Ella into the light.
And everything is made of light around her. The curtains drip liquid starlight, streaming from the heavens and spilling onto the wood of the stage; the mirrored ball scatters the moon-blue tinted lights across a sea of glittery gowns and black tuxedoes. Her chest burns, her eyes tremble. Her lashes–sticky with black, weighted with a fine dusting of glitter–are on Ella’s mind as she blinks back those tears in the hallway.
Throughout the night, she catches herself stretching a hand to her head, brushing the glittery, twisted wires of her tiara. Much later, after everyone has been swept off by limos or second-hand cars or parents, Ella unfastens her heels and dashes to the darkened waters of the school pool, unwilling to end the dream.