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Snippet #2823016

located in Atlas, a part of The Aegis Program, one of the many universes on RPG.




Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Ada Forrest Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Lucille Simon Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Clarence Lawless Character Portrait: Morgana Ishida
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• Lucille Simon • Raphael •

~Two Hours Before The Party~

Luci was positively beside herself. For the first few hours, all she could do was pace. But now, with her legs tired, she sat on the edge of her bed, wishing she could bite her perfectly manicured nails. She couldn’t, no, she musn’t. They were for the party. Occasionally, her eyes would dart to her bathroom door; behind it hung the dress she was to wear tonight. Xavier insisted on taking care of it since Luci was essentially working for him this evening. And after one long fitting session, she was given a dress, the likes of which she had never seen before. She couldn’t handle it! The man had designed a dress without consulting her at all, but, being who she is, Luci couldn’t say no when he insisted on handling all of it. That was just the kind of man Xavier was.

A knock at her door sent Luci flying. Well, metaphorically. She scrambled across her apartment until she reached the entrance. After a deep breath and flattening out the ruffles in the robe she had on, she opened the door. What she was greeted with was her resident titan of a friend, one arm propped on the door frame rather dramatically. “Hey pretty lady,” Leo greeted the blonde, a usual phrase that always caused Luci’s cheeks to heat up. Before Luci could scold them for teasing her at a time like this, they continued, “Heard there was some kind of an emergency. Figured you could use a hero,” The playful and obviously exaggerated deepness of their voice pulled a scoff from Luci.

“Shut up!” Luci snapped back. The usually composed and coordinated woman was clearly ruffled, and she even reached forward, grabbing Leo’s wrist to pull them into her apartment. After shutting the door behind her and ignoring the pleased laugh from Leo, Luci turned to look their friend up and down again. They were dressed to the absolute nines, with a gorgeous auburn and maroon suit. “Wow, you look… Amazing,” She tossed out that compliment, clearly dazzled by the quality of the outfit.

“Thanks babes,” Leo replied as they walked further into Luci’s apartment. It was clear they were familiar with the layout. “I better look nice. The fitting took almost six fuckin’ hours.”

Luci gawked at Leo as she followed behind them. “Six hours? What in the world…”

“I know right?!” Leo replied quickly, the excitement evident in their tone. “But hey, it totally paid off. Look!” They turned to the side before twisting their upper torso, a move that flexed the majority of the lower half of their body. “These slacks make my ass look great! Look!” They commanded again.

Whatever blush Luci had from her garish friend’s earlier comments was reinforced as she turned a deep shade of crimson. Of course, with Leo gesturing and all, she couldn’t help but glance down before swiftly looking away. “I didn’t invite you here for you to show me your butt!” Her hands clenched at her sides, a habitual action that she performed when embarrassed.

Leo just laughed and stopped their flexing to face Luci completely. “Alright alright, you can look now. So what’s this emergency all about?”

Finally, with the correct topic at hand, Luci could do her best to vent her frustrations and anxiety. But, despite the fact that it took several minutes for Leo to get there, she hadn’t figured out exactly how to explain why she was freaking out so much. She hatched a plan as fast as she could. Just as she had done moments before, Luci grabbed Leo’s wrist and pulled them to her bedroom. “Sit on the bed. Keep your eyes shut until I tell you to open them,” Luci’s orders were soft, with her nerves causing her voice to shake.

With a smirk, Leo did as they were told. “Yes ma’am, I’ll do whatever you command-”

“Leo!” She barked, and the giggle from their now blinded friend only made her more furious. Luci disappeared into her bathroom, nudging the door mostly shut behind her. From the deep-rooted anxiety, Luci had practiced putting on the complex dress several times by this point, only to grow too flustered at the thought of wearing it out and taking it off again. With it now on securely, she inched her way out of the bathroom until she was standing directly in front of Leo.

All that they heard was the soft sound of rustling fabric and… clinking noises? The urge to open their eyes was strong, but Leo wouldn’t betray Luci’s trust like that. The blonde took one deep breath, counting the seconds as she felt her chest fill, and then let out a staid exhale. “Alright, you can open your eyes…”

Once their eyes were open, it took less than two seconds for Leo’s jaw to grow slack. If they thought their suit was nice, Luci’s dress was positively opulent. Even in the dim light of the room, the thousands of crystals that covered the dress sparkled and shined, but not in any way that was remotely blinding. It appeared as if the entire dress was made from said crystals, but with so many of them so close together, it instead looked as if she was draped in liquid sparkles. It fell all the way to the floor, where it collected only a touch at Luci’s feet, implying it was meant to be worn with heels. The dress was form fitting and solid all the way up to her chest, where it was promptly cut off entirely, leaving her sternum and the curve of her bust exposed, along with her shoulders and arms. Their piercing gaze traced every curve and inch of Luci, something that caused Luci’s blush to spread to her neck. “Oh my god…” They could finally mumble. They hadn’t even blinked yet, they were so entranced.

Luci was rooted to her spot, practically shaking due to how tense she was. She couldn’t wear something like this. “I… I don’t know what to do! I can’t wear this, I simply can’t-

“Whoa whoa whoa, what are you on about? Its well beyond fucking gorgeous!” Leo complimented with such intensity, Luci couldn’t help but purse her lips.

“I feel… I feel like a damn disco ball!” Luci groaned, both of her hands flying to her face.

“Lulu, if you’re a disco ball, you are the hottest damn disco ball I have ever seen,” Leo replied and a chuckle followed. They still hadn’t blinked. “Come on, give me a little spin!”

Luci remained still as a statue. “I…” Her voice wavered. Her heart was hammering in her chest. “I-I can’t…”

Leo’s face expressed their confusion as their eyebrows pinched together. “Why not?”

“That’s… That’s the worst part about this dress. Look..” With the conclusion of her sentence, Luci took a sheepish step forward.

The dress pooled between her legs like liquid, away from one that had just shifted, to reveal a dangerously long slit in the side of the garment that stopped only a few inches below her waist. It was clear that, with every step, almost the entirety of Luci’s legs would be exposed up to the top of her thigh. Leo’s hand flew to their mouth. “Oh. My. God.” Leo repeated themselves. “Luci… People will see your legs… I need to call the police-” The sarcasm in their tone only added to the blonde’s vexation.

“Stop teasing! I don’t know what to do!” There was a desperation in her tone; she truly had no idea how to deal with this. “I can’t wear this! I simply can’t!” Luci also repeated herself, but this time, that soft Yorkshire accent bled through which caused an uproarious laughter to explode out of Leo.

“I’m going to need you to take some deep breaths because I can’t handle you when you sound like you just stepped off the Mayflower-” Leo huffed and puffed between breaths, their intense laugh causing themselves to wheeze.

Luci’s irritation turned to rage, and she grabbed one of the pillows that sat next to the hero. “Stop laughing! You..!” She went to thwack Leo over the head with it, but they were too fast for her, and caught it in their hands. This only created another wave of laughter from them.

“Easy, I just got my hair done! Ok, ok, ok, give me a second, Christ I can’t breathe-” Leo did their best to stop, but it was quite difficult. With Luci so flustered, she was as red as a tomato, and it made for a comical sight. But after some more deep breaths, Leo composed themselves. “Ok, alright. I’m sorry Luci but I don’t understand what the problem is. The dress is gorgeous.”

How could she possibly explain this to Leo? Someone whose job it was to wear exuberant and sumptuous clothing, someone who’s worn garments that were far more revealing than hers. “I.. I can’t wear something as fancy as this. And so revealing… Everyone will be looking at me,” She fretted. As she spoke, she pressed her palms to her warm cheeks in an attempt to cool them, but not really succeeding because all of her body felt so hot.

“Luci, you’re going to be on stage. Everyone will be watching you anyway, why not look killer while doing it?” Leo offered. They leaned back on their palms, mostly so they could get a better look at the blonde. It was hard for their gaze to settle on one place; the dress’ design prompted them to keep exploring rather than sitting still.

Luci frowned. She was already nervous enough about needing to perform on stage. Live music really wasn’t her thing, but considering the fact that Xavier all but begged her to do it, she had to agree. His points were valid; with her voice, she could ensure the party goers would be calm and happy all night, and perhaps a bit more open to business dealings as well. “I.. I don’t know. I don’t think I look good and-... a-and what if my mother sees me wearing this…” Her eyes drifted away from Leo as her mind wandered. She purposefully avoided telling her mother about Xavier’s offer to give her a dress, specifically because Ruth would want to either pry or influence his design. But, at this point, she wondered if she had perhaps chosen incorrectly. If her mother had any hand in the design, the garment would be much more modest…

“Who cares what the wicked witch thinks?” Leo’s rhetorical question would remain unanswered, mostly because Leo already knew how Luci would reply. “Didn’t you say she probably wasn’t going to go anyways?”

Luci released another tense sigh before continuing, “She said she wasn’t feeling very well so she might not go, but she’s used that excuse to make a fancy late entrance before…” Her voice dropped to a grumble as the sentence progressed.

Leo blinked a few times before narrowing their eyes. “She what now? I swear to the gods, rich people-” They shook their head and rolled their eyes. Before Luci could even say anything more, Leo stood. Now on their feet, they towered over Luci, and firm but gentle hands landed on her shoulders. “Lulu, you look radiant. In fact, the word doesn’t even cover how stunning you are in that dress,” Leo laid the praise on thick, and although it did embarrass Luci, it also filled her chest with warmth. “Everyone will think you are gorgeous. And you’re going to wow them with that equally gorgeous voice of yours. Everything is going to go great! I promise.” Everything about Leo was just so kind and warm, Luci couldn’t help but relax, even if it was just a little bit.

“I… I did already commit to this, I can’t back out now,” She relented with a sigh, but her mind was still wracked with anxiety. All she could think about are all the eyes, everyone staring at her. And she had no clue who was even going to attend the party! She knew Mikey and Leo would be there, but so would Bella… And Morgana’s family had influence, surely she would be there too… The thought of her current crush seeing her in this dress made her stomach fill with butterflies. “Ughhh…” She groaned and covered her eyes. Without even thinking about it, her wings extended and curled around her, as if trying to hide herself away. Then, she remembered something. The main reason why she needed Leo here, other than the emotional support of course. “Oh, there’s one more thing. Xavier also gave me some… accessories to go with the dress.” Luci walked carefully in the gown, making sure not to trip, and grabbed a medium sized box. Upon opening it, she began to place all of the objects on her bed. First, a masquerade style mask designed with the same crystals that lined her dress, a pair of matching stilettos, and then a satin pouch about the size of Leo’s fist.

“You’ll even be wearing a mask! That’ll help with the nervousness, I’m sure.” Leo continued to do their best to comfort their friend, but most of it fell on deaf ears. “Honestly, I’m surprised Xavier even offered the mask. He’s hiding your beauty!”

“Oh, stop with the compliments. I’ve had enough of you already,” Luci scolded her friend, although it was gentle. “I think it's because Xavier asked me to perform as Raphael, not as Lucille Simon. So… The mask fits, I suppose.” She was thankful that at least some of her cheeks would be covered. But the mask wouldn’t be able to do much for the lower half of her face and neck, which she was sure would turn just as crimson as her cheeks. “The mask isn’t what matters. I need your help with these.” Luci picked up the pouch, her movements as delicate as her fingers, and pulled open the draw strings. Then, she poured only a small fraction of the contents into her palm, and Leo’s eyes widened for perhaps the tenth time in the past few minutes. In her hand sat even more crystals, all a teardrop shape, with little clips on the end. “I’m assuming he wants me to put these on my wings, and I can’t do that myself...” It was clear what Luci was requesting, but her tone was just as sheepish as it always was.

Leo nodded, perhaps a bit too excitedly knowing they would be able to help, as they got to their feet. “I get what you mean! I just need to clip them to your wings, right?” They plucked one of the crystals from Luci’s hand and walked behind her. From there, they could see how the back of the dress worked, and they were utterly perplexed by the witchcraft at play keeping the garment secure. The entirety of Luci’s back was exposed, obviously due to her wings, with the covering only starting at the bottom of the small of her back.

The hesitation on Leo’s part only reinforced Luci’s embarrassment. She could feel the waves of heat in her face. “Eyes up here, Leo!”

“Sorry, sorry! You just look… Really really nice,” Leo shook their head, as if to break themselves from a haze, before returning to the task at hand. They took their free hand and pressed it to Luci’s wing, an action that made the short woman tense, but they were just searching for a nice long feather. After finding a suitable one, they clipped the crystal to the top of it, hoping that the “christmas tree” method of hanging them would work. And so far, it was going well, it looked secure. Leo even batted at it once to see if it would slip off, and it held fast. “Perfect! Alright, I know what I gotta do.”

Meanwhile, Luci had to fight to sit still. She wasn’t used to people poking around in her wings, so it was an odd feeling. It almost tickled, but mostly it just made her shiver. “Ok. I’ve got my hair mostly done, but I still need to do my make-up. Can we relocate in front of a mirror?” Luci glanced back at Leo as she asked, and an exuberant thumbs up from the taller hero was all the answer she needed. She shambled over to a vanity she had in her room, and she took care to tuck her dress under her as she sat on the stool. “Alright, attach away. We don’t have much time left.”

Luci really thought she could do it. At first, it wasn’t too bad. Leo started closer to the tips of her wings, where she was much less sensitive. But her nerves coupled with the tingling on her skin from Leo’s touch was making her hand shake. She was growing more and more frustrated by the second. They didn’t have time for this! She had to keep trying. She managed to get a layer of foundation, but now it came time to add the highlights, and she was struggling. And these were supposed to be the easy parts! How in the world would she do her eyeliner like this? “Fuck, I can’t do this!” She exclaimed suddenly, and it made Leo jump. Mostly because Luci so rarely cursed, they knew something was horribly wrong. But before they could even ask, Luci was explaining, “I-I can’t do my makeup, my hands keep shaking… Can you do it for me Leo? I know I’m asking so much of you..”

Leo walked around Luci so they could talk to her face to face. “Lulu, you’re not asking me for that much, and I would love to. Problem is… I am dreadful with makeup. You do not want me doing it. It would come out better if you did it during an earthquake.” As much as Leo possessed skill in many areas, makeup was not one of them. They had people who would do it for them for that reason.

The stress was starting to get to Luci; she was beginning to feel sick to her stomach. The tightness in her chest shifted up her throat, and a quiet sniff caught Leo’s attention. “I don't know what to do…” Her voice dropped to a whisper as she fought the urge to cry. It was all just so overwhelming.

“Oh, please don’t cry! We’ll figure this out, I swear. Let me just… Hmm… Oh! Let me make a call.” Leo dug into their pocket to pull out their phone. In seconds, they had a number dialed. They didn’t put it on speaker, but considering there were no other sounds in the room, Luci could hear the ringer going off. She wasn’t sure who her friend was calling, but she couldn’t help but grow tense as she waited. But eventually the recipient picked up. Leo’s chipper voice rang out first, “Hey cutie!”

A semi-familiar voice replied. “Hey Leo! I was just grabbing my suit from the cleaners, what’s up?”

“I need a favor. But first, I have a question.”

“Hit me!”

“Do you know how to do makeup?” Leo asked, and Luci’s brows furrowed. She realized who it was. That was Harold, Leo’s personal assistant. Why would they call him? Surely he doesn’t know how to-

“Of course I do! What kind of question is that?” Harold’s reply clearly stunned Luci, and she blinked a few times in surprise. “Do you need me to do your makeup for the party?”

“Not me. I need you to do Luci’s. She’s having trouble because she’s so nervous about performing.”

“Oh, sure! Luci… She’s Raphael right? The pretty blonde one?” Harold’s compliment made Luci blush.

“Yeah, I’ll send you the address! She’s not too far from my place,” Leo pulled the device away from their face to type in her address.

There was a pause, one that Luci assumed was Harold reading the address and punching it into a GPS. “That’s not far at all. I’ll be there in 10!”

“Thanks, you’re the best. I owe you one.”

Harold laughed. “I’ll add it to the list.”

With that, the call ended, and Leo returned their attention to Luci. “You get all that?” Leo asked, a pleased smile on their face. Luci could only nod. It was all so much, she was practically too stunned to speak. “Alright, I’m going to keep attaching these things, just sit tight and focus on keeping calm.”

The minutes that ticked by felt like hours. In that time, Luci had to come to grips with the fact that the second person to see her wear this dress would be Harold, and she worried over what his reaction would be. What if he thought it was too much and made fun of her? She chewed on her bottom lip as she watched the clock, twitching occasionally as Leo touched her wings. When her doorbell finally buzzed, Luci thought she was going to jump out of her skin. She went to stand, but Leo beat her to the door and let Harold in. He was dressed rather casually, but he held a hanger with a long cover on it. She assumed it was his suit and couldn’t help but feel bad. She was inconveniencing him, surely.

But if Harold felt inconvenienced in any way, he sure wasn’t showing it. There was a broad smile on his face, one that was so similar to the one on Leo, it was almost comical. However, the moment Harold’s eyes landed on Luci, his smile faded away and was replaced with something else: awe. “Oh my god, you look… Incredible,” He spoke in an almost hushed tone, accurately expressing his amazement.

Luci flushed and averted her gaze; she was already feeling the heat in her body that came with being the center of someone’s attention. “Th… Thanks..”

Leo thwacked Harold on the back of the head. “Now is not the time for ogling! We’re running out of time, let’s go,” They had already returned to their task by the time they finished speaking. They weren’t even halfway done yet, and they only really had an hour or so left.

“Alright, alright. So Luci, what kinda look are you going for?” He stepped closer, his eyes inspecting both her face and the wide variety of makeup sitting next to her.

“Ah… Nothing too crazy. I have some… some silver eyeshadow to go with the dress. Mostly just.. A subtle look, I suppose?” Luci has never needed to explain her makeup to someone else; she’s always done it for herself. So it was hard to not be vague.

“Ok, you got it!” But her vagueness did not dissuade Harold. He already knew what he needed to do. There was no hesitance as his fingers cupped Luci’s chin to tilt her head up further. “Just hold as still as you can.”

Luci did as she was told; it's not as if that was the first time she had been given a command like that before. It was a difficult task, but she did as best as she could. Any soft orders from Harold were compiled with immediately, things like, “close your eyes”, “tilt your head up more”, etc. Before anything else, Luci’s mother raised an obedient woman. And it's not as if she had the wherewithal right now to resist. Her mind was a whirlwind. Her heart had been racing for so long, she was already exhausted and the night hadn't even begun. At least now, she didn’t have to think too much about what was happening. Harold worked quickly, but perfection can’t be rushed. The minutes ticked by, and they were getting so close to their time limit. Finally, Harold took a step back to survey his work. “Almost done! All that’s left is your lipstick. What color were you going to go with? Red?” He asked, already reaching for the crimson red colored tube.

“Well, red seems like a lot, doesn’t it? I was thinking something a bit more subtle, a nude color-”

“I don’t know. The red would complete the look so well! Trust me on this,” His smile was just so genuine, it was hard for Luci to resist. After a short pause, she relented, giving him a nod in response. Skilled hands applied the gloss to her lips. It was a bright red, with a shine to it, and it popped in comparison to all of the silver she was wearing. “All done! And we’ve got just enough time to spare. I can drive you guys there if you want. Let me just get changed really quick.” Harold took his suit and disappeared into the nearby bathroom, leaving Luci and Leo alone.

“You really do look gorgeous, Lulu. Here, let me get your mask on.” Leo picked up the delicate, fancy accessory and fastened it to Luci’s face. Once that was done, it was clear Luci was on autopilot. She stepped into her heels and stood straight and tall instinctively. Even with the stilettos, she was several inches shorter than Leo. Leo paused. Luci could tell there was something on their mind, but she didn’t have the energy to ask them to spill. It's not like Leo would keep it to themselves anyways: being quiet wasn’t in their nature. “You should look at yourself in the mirror so you can see just how beautiful you are.”

“... No, I.. I don’t…” Luci was losing strength, and unbeknownst to the people in her apartment, she was spiraling. She was glad that Leo and Harold couldn’t hear the sound of her heart. She thought it was going to explode. While he had been doing her makeup, she didn’t even bother taking in her own appearance.

Leo pursed their lips. Without saying anything to her, they turned and marched to the other side of the room and into Luci’s walk-in closet. When they reappeared, they had a full length mirror in their hands. Before she could be embarrassed over Leo knowing about said mirror, they plopped it in front of her. “Look, Luci! If looks could kill… I would be dead on the floor right now,” Their words may have been a bit silly, but Leo said them with so much seriousness it only added to the ridiculousness.

Luci’s eyes drifted to the mirror, not lazily, more numb. But upon seeing herself, she was taken aback. With everything on her, she looked… Wow. She couldn’t help but turn, her gaze holding on the mirror. She shined and sparkled with every move, and Luci couldn’t help but feel like a little bit of a princess. However, something was bugging her. She knew what it was, but it was as if she couldn’t accept it. Luci paused, only to glance at her friend, who had such a big, soft smile on their face, she couldn’t help but feel braver, if only a little bit. There was no hesitation as she reached around the back of her head and untied the mask from her face. “I think… I think I look better without it,” She said, and for once, she didn’t look to someone else for their opinion. Now, with her blonde locks down and teased into wavy curls, her outfit was complete. She was as ready as she would ever be.

Harold emerged from the bathroom, smoothing down his rather sharp but classic black suit. When he lifted his head, he spotted Luci, and for the second time, he was stunned in place. For a few seconds, they were both frozen in place, blushes painting their cheeks. “Wow…”

“Alright you two, we’ve got 20 minutes, and the party is 15 minutes away. Get your asses in gear!” Leo, yet again, whacked Harold over the head. He nodded, silently making his way to the exit. Now, mostly alone, Luci went to grab her clutch, but Leo lingered. “Hey, I wasn’t joking earlier. Everything is going to go great, I promise. You’re going to kill it,” Their words were so sincere, Luci couldn’t help but believe them, even though it was so difficult.

“I hope so.”

The drive to the party wasn’t silent. Being silent around Leo was next to impossible. So, for the most part, Leo and Harold were talking back and forth, but Luci was too distracted to participate. As soon as they stepped into the venue, Luci was whisked away by the stagehands. She barely got to say goodbye to Leo before she disappeared, but they gave her two thumbs up and another smile, and that would have to be enough. While the mic was being attached to her ear, Luci had to remind herself to keep breathing. She recited the songlist over and over again. Even though she memorized it weeks ago, she found comfort in repeating it. Without even realizing how much time had passed, she was being pushed onto the stage as someone announced her name. This was it. All these preparations, all of that anxiety, all of it would amount to right now.

And Luci killed it. She walked, no, she strutted onto that stage, one foot after the other. She ignored the heat that exploded in her face as each step caused her dress to reveal the skin of her thighs. She ignored how much of her body was screaming to run away. She ignored the fact that her nervousness had now turned to nausea. Instead, Luci walked to the center, and she smiled, perfectly warm and radiant, no matter how fake it was. Her eyes scanned the crowd, and in it she spotted some familiar faces. Leo, Harold, and Aisling stood together, with Leo waving and using their free hand to force Aisling to wave with them. Bella was there, taking pictures for the social media pages. Clarence was off to the side, dressed as some waitstaff, but her powerful eyes found him nonetheless. Mikey was somewhere high up, keeping a close eye on everything. A familiar head of red hair belonged to Ada. Other than them, there must have been almost two hundred faces, many of them Luci recognized. And yet, there was one in particular that Luci was searching for. Even after surveying everybody, she couldn’t find the short, raven-haired woman who had been occupying much of her thoughts lately. A disappointment washed over her, but she couldn’t show it. No, she was in the spotlight now, shimmering and shining as much as her dress. Now, she couldn’t be anything less than perfect.

As time passed, people went about their party-going tasks: conversing with elites, tasting the fanciest of alcohol and hors d'oeuvres, putting up fronts and closing deals. Some still lingered by the stage, just to watch Luci sing. Xavier picked the majority of the songs, some older, jazzy classics, and Luci didn’t mind. Now that it had been some time, she could feel all of the links. Her hold had long since wrapped around the majority of the guests; even those resistant to her Siren Song would feel its effects due to the extended amount of exposure. She urged everyone to be calm, open, and relaxed, and it was working.

Luci’s mind was on autopilot. “When she walks she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle, that when she passes, each one she passes goes ooh…” She sang the Frank Sintra song, a few metered steps across the stage on beat accompanying her. Luci had always loved this one. It was so sad and tender, and she adored the lyrics. “But I watch her so sadly…” And now, reciting the lyrics, she couldn’t help but relate to them in a new way. “How can I tell her I love her?” That line came out a bit too strong. Luci saw more than half of the men in the room suddenly turn to look at her. Whoops… With a wave of her wrist, they all blinked, as if they had been snapped from a sort of trance. “Yes, I would give my heart gladly. But each day when she walks to the sea, she looks straight ahead not at me..”

It was all going well enough, but Luci noticed that, one by one, all of her friends were disappearing before her very eyes. Her eyebrows knit with concern before she shook that away. She couldn’t; she was on stage. Her expression returned to the listful, pleasant one she had earlier. If there was an emergency, her comms would go off. She had to assume that everything was alright. But at that moment, Luci couldn’t help but feel utterly alone. Her friends were all gone, her mother hadn’t even shown up… And she was trapped. There were more than a hundred people in this room, and she was lonely. She was lonely and stuck, forced there by responsibility and social expectations. And still, she smiled, and sang, “Tall and tan and young and lovely. The girl from Ipanema goes walking…”