Sunday Serial: Poppy McJay #4

It took Poppy McJay a grand total of one hour and thirty seven minutes to get ready. Even though her dress and shoes had been lying on her bed for the better part of a day, the process of primping and dolling-up took far longer than she ever expected. Her mother, of course, hovered just behind her as she selected jewellery and made final touch ups.
Then, then Poppy stared at the face in the mirror in shock. Her eyes looked like bright blue buttons, too large in her oval face, but they were offset by the bloody red of her lips, which twisted in her scowl. Poppy’s mother clapped her hands in delight, then paused as she tilted her head at her daughter. “Here.” Scooping a brush from the table, Mrs McJay flipped, twisted, turned and clipped until Poppy’s hair was a brushfire leaping into a knot behind her head and falling in a shower down her back. “Mum” Poppy breathed, and her mother smiled, fixing the sleeve of her shirt. “You look stunning, darling.” Poppy stood and hugged her mother close before they clomped down the stairs together. At the door Poppy could see the car waiting for her and smoothed the dark red of her dress across her hips. Perhaps, she thought as she pressed the mask to her face, this party wouldn’t be so terrible after all. The strange creature in the mirror agreed with her; the masquerade was definitely looking up.
Jacob Tenner was somewhere in the mess of bodies, Poppy was sure. She stood at the height of the long steps watching the crowd writhe and slither under the strobe lights and crashing music. One lime-green wonder caught her eye and she thought wryly to herself Oh, that is stunning. I am stunned. She smoothed out her dress again and popped her mask a little higher on her nose, it had the habit of slipping, much like her reading glasses. She could see the gold and scarlet tones of the dragon styling in a mirror and grinned, lighting the mask with a feral ferocity. With this image in mind, Poppy flicked her hair off her shoulders and clicked down the stairs and into the throng.
Jacob had seen the woman enter in a blaze of red from her hair to her toes. She was incredible, and he was having a little trouble taking his eyes off her for long enough to look for Poppy. He risked a caustic glance around the room before gazing back at the beauty in time to catch her ferocious grin. His heart thumped twice rapidly in his chest, and the leap made him nervous, guilty and sad all at once. Somewhere in the room Poppy was waiting for him and he was staring at other women. With a grimace he turned from the long legs striding down the stairs and pushed his way through the crowd to the bar. There he set about scanning the room from corner to corner. There were masks everywhere he looked, some plain and some lace, some with images and some without. He’d noticed the lime-green panda who was gyrating in the middle of the dance floor and grinned – that was definitely not Poppy. His own mask was a simple black sporting a simple outline of a flying dragon over his eyes. Poppy will get a kick out of this, he mused as he tugged his suit sleeves down a little. He filled out the black suit immaculately, the material taut over his broad shoulders. “Where are you, Poppy?”
Jacob was cornered between one white bird and a pink elephant when Poppy found him. At least, she was pretty sure it was Jacob, because his husky voice slid out between the character with a hint of panic she’d heard once before. That, she thought, is the panic of a cornered animal, and she took pretty on his most excellent hide.
“Excuse me” she purred and delicately elbowed the bird as she flicked past. Turning just long enough to wink at the stunned Jacob, she continued on to the bar, settling in on the last available seat.
Jacob swallowed a ball of fire in his throat just seconds after the mystery dragon winked at him. It would be wrong to go to her, except that she’d saved him from the two wild ladies who couldn’t take a hint. Straightening his tie, Jacob sauntered over to the lady, narrowly avoiding a smack in the face from a passing flamingo.
“Uh” he coughed, eyes flicking from the ankle strap to the very familiar bracelet and into the coldest eyes he’d ever seen. “Poppy!” He squeaked, blushed and attempted to cover his surprise with a cough. “Poppy. You uh. Man. You’re stunning.”
Poppy, meanwhile, was thoroughly enjoying herself. Even at the bar she had scared off two men just by looking at them. And now Jacob was beet red and stuttering out compliments. The night could possibly not ever get any better. “You look so very handsome, Jacob” she grinned, kissing his hot cheek. “The suit…suits you.” With a giggle and a wink, she pulled him close for a quick hug. Jacob didn’t want to let go. This amazing, firey dragon had him in a hold and he didn’t want it to stop. To this end his arms surrounded Poppy’s waist and he lifted her off the seat and into the crowded dance floor. He heard her soft sigh and smiled to himself. What an excellent night.

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