32. The fall of the Ice Queen

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I stepped forward and placed my hand on her back. Her blue corset was tightly laced and it was so low it left half of her back uncovered. She shivered at my touch, but then collected herself immediately. After she put her hand on my shoulder, we started moving to the music's rhythm. It was Song for Zula by Phosphorescent.


    "Nice dress," I said. 

    She looked at me wide eyed and for a second she froze. ''Thank you,'' she whispered and smiled nervously.

    Gaia Monforte never smiled. And she was never nervous. It was as though I had an imposter in front of me. Gaia never wore skirts, she never sat like a lady and her hair was always a mess. And now there she was, looking and dancing like a queen, her tomboyish vibe replaced by elegance and class. 

    "No one thought you'd come tonight," I said.

    "How come?"

    "Well, it's St. Valentine and you didn't invite Diego."

    She rolled her eyes. "Please don't mention him."

    "Why? Did you break up?"

    "We were never together in the first place."

    I nodded my head. I knew people weren't staring anymore and went back to their own business, but I could feel someone's rigid gaze upon me. It was Diego. I saw him standing all alone leaned against the wall. He was holding a glass of champagne, his eyes shooting knives at me. 

    "Look," I said. "I don't wanna play your games, Gaia. If this isn't you trying to make him jealous, then what is this all about?"

    At first she frowned, surprised by my straightforwardness, but then her features softened. "Is it really so hard to believe that I just wanna dance with you?"


    For a second I looked away and caught Noemi's shadow as she disappeared down the stairs. It looked like she was on the phone and it looked like she was worried. I thought of following her, because if she was worried I was worried too. It was an automatic instinct. But then I remembered that my feet were moving in the opposite direction and my hands were locked with someone else's. When I looked at Gaia again, everything she was moments ago seemed to crumble. Her flirtatious smile got swallowed by confusion, her convinced words became no more than silence. She forgot what she was talking about. She forgot that we were supposed to be dancing. She just stopped and trembled, like a Cinderella who just realized it was past midnight. Her hand slipped out of mine and as she turned around, she ran to the balcony with her gown following her steps like an ocean wave. 

    Confused, I chased after her, genuinely preoccupied about her state. As I stepped out, I felt the light night breeze caressing my skin. She was facing the moon, her shoulders quivering. Sad and beautiful, like a Venice winter paysage.  

    ''Gaia, what happened? Are you okay?"

    She didn't reply. With her back facing me, she put her hand on her face. "Please, Pit," she whispered. "Please just leave me alone."

    "I don't understand..."

    As I took a step closer, her lungs emptied themselves of oxygen and filled with biting wind. She clutched the railing with all her energy, as though without it she wouldn't be able to stand on her feet. 

    "I can't do this," she said. "I'm sorry, I just... I'm so tired of it."

    I was puzzled, she knew that, I needed an explanation. I was confused, but also very anxious about what was going on with Noemi downstairs. "Can you stop being so fucking mysterious all the time? Just tell me what's going on. Why are you acting like this?"

    She sighed heavily and then she finally turned around. With lost, darting eyes she looked at me and it was as though her apathy and nonchalance had never existed.

    "I don't even know why I'm here," she said. "I hate these parties, I hate the people in this school. And sometimes I hate waking up in the morning because I don't care, I don't care about any of this. But you Pit, you force me to be here, to be present. To pay attention to all your mannerisms and gestures and why you smile and why you don't. And I tried so hard to fight it, because I don't want to be in love."

    "I tried ignoring you, I tried hating you, or making you hate me. But it doesn't work. None of it does. I see you and everything you are just tears me apart. And I know I'm not supposed to feel this way because you're happy now and now you really are but... when you stand this close to me, I – I can't... with your ruffled hair and goofy smiles and all the things you are. I can't stop loving you."

    She said it all at once. A single breath, a single heartbeat. One little moment and everything had changed. Her chest hungry for air, her eyes lost in mine. Delirium. Euphoria. Or just confusion? I didn't know what to say, so I just listened. I listened and I listened, but her words were like thunder and I didn't know how to process them. So I just stared. I stared at her. Under this moonlight, with her big blue dress and her hair looking like a rose. 

    Gaia Monforte. Gaia Monforte didn't love me. She didn't love anyone. 

    My silence drove her crazy. I knew it did because her eyebrows furrowed and her eyes had no idea what to do. And maybe in that moment she thought that actions were more meaningful than words. Because instead of saying something else, instead of wasting her breath on words, she just kissed me. She kissed me, her frosty hands on my cheeks, her burning lips on mine. But as soon as I felt her bittersweet taste, I pulled away.

    She was confused, but not as much as I was. I turned my head and looked down. An entire group of people was standing below the balcony. They all had their heads up and their mouths wide open. They were looking at us. Among the crowd I spotted Diego. He was holding a broken glass, his hand bleeding. He looked at me like he was ready to break me in pieces the way he did with his glass of champagne. But that didn't matter. What mattered was her. I remembered the worried look on her face when she left the ballroom, I remembered the idea of chasing after her. What if she saw this? What if she saw us dancing and misunderstood? I had to go. God, I had to find her. I stepped inside. Now I was the one breathing heavily, while Gaia silently stared at me. 

    ''What are you doing?'' I yelled. ''You've already broken my heart all over again. What else do you want from me, Gaia?''

    She shook her head, biting her lips. But she didn't say anything. She just looked at me with those big teary eyes, unable to make a sound. I hated her silence. I hated how vulnerable she looked. Maybe my words were too harsh, and maybe hers were true. Maybe she did love me, and I was now breaking her heart. And a heart made of ice was the most fragile one. Maybe this meant a lot to her, maybe this meant everything. Because she never even showed a smile, a tear, a glimpse of rage. And now all the emotions poured out of her. She trusted me, she showed me everything she was. But it was too late now. And maybe it had always been.  

    ''I don't know what this means and what you're doing, but... I'm tired too.''

    My voice was soft this time, and although there was so much more to say, I had to go. Before I turned around, I saw a movement in her eyes. Her gaze became rigid, her eyes darkened. It was like a burning flame turned into ice, slowly and then all of a sudden. I wasn't sure if it was the epitome of heartbreak or the epitome of hate. Maybe it was both. I didn't care to find out. All I cared about now was Noemi.


    A million hearts might have been shattered tonight, but hers had to remain unbroken.

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