The Fate Of The Muse

By: Derrolyn Anderson

So far, so good.

When my cousin presented me with the prom dress he’d designed and sewn I was touched. He’d poured his heart and soul into making the most amazing dress imaginable, and like so many of his other creations, it was truly a work of art. Cruz saw the dance as his last chance to show everyone at school how talented he really was; he planned to go out in a blaze of glory. I suppose it was his version of closure, an opportunity to put the final period on a traumatic chapter of his life. Like me, Cruz had always considered high school to be a form of slow torture.

I hadn’t wanted to leave the house for much of anything lately, but confronted with Cruz’s big brown eyes and relentless pleading, I’d softened and agreed to go. I simply couldn’t rain on his parade. After all, he had already made the dress.

He’d also crafted beautiful gowns for our friends Megan and Shayla, and had been bugging them about going to the prom for weeks. Shameless in his use of emotional blackmail, Cruz alternately whined and bullied until he finally ground down their resistance. They ultimately rolled their eyes at each other and decided to go as his double dates. After all, they had to admit, how could they complain about getting custom dresses made for them by a soon to be famous fashion designer?

We all stood, listening to a local band butcher some popular music, watching a bunch of overdressed teenagers dancing self-consciously to the beat. I stifled a yawn and leaned against Ethan, disoriented by the bright sparkling flashes reflecting from a mirrored ball. Light swirled and twirled all around the darkened ballroom, reminding me of fractured sunbeams filtering down into the depths of the dark sea. The crowd swayed like waving seaweed, and the only thing missing was a battalion of phosphorescent glowing mermaids.

Cruz the designer had outdone himself as usual, dressing and styling “his girls” down to the tiniest detail. I smoothed my skirt and admired his exquisite craftsmanship. In my opinion, I had on the most beautiful dress there; he’d made me an ethereal ballgown that it could have come right out of a fairy tale. It had a perfectly fitted strapless bodice that sparkled with tiny crystals sprinkled onto the palest lavender chiffon. The skirt was full and long, whispering when I moved with the rustling of crisp taffeta, a dozen or so layers of tulle netting contributing to the skirt’s lavish volume. It made me feel like a princess, but I drew the line at the tiara Cruz wanted, opting instead for a loose Gibson Girl style up-do that suited the romantic dress.

I enjoyed watching Cruz bask in all the attention we were attracting. It was exactly the sort of vindication he had imagined, and he reveled in it. He stood there holding court, Megan and Shayla on his arms, answering questions from the popular girls who wanted to know where our trio of unusually gorgeous dresses came from. I had to smile, knowing that one day they’d all be bragging to their friends about how they’d gone to school with him.

If anyone remembered that just a few short months ago Cruz and Megan were pariahs, with Shayla acting as their main tormenter, it didn’t show. Former mean-girl Shayla hung on Cruz’s every word, laughing with exaggerated gestures at his constant stream of witticisms. His kindness to her had changed her life, and she’d become his biggest fan. She proudly told anyone who would listen how talented he was, and that he was going to be a famous designer one day.

Megan had morphed into a sultry looking club singer, sporting a Marilyn Monroe inspired halter dress that suited her voluptuous figure. Cruz had broken all the rules by dressing a redhead in red, and the effect was stunning. She had even straightened her normally curly hair for the occasion, wearing it pinned back sleekly, exposing the pretty face she used to go to great lengths to hide.

She looked far older and more sophisticated than your typical high school senior, and she also looked irritated. Megan never did like suffering fools, and she was itching for the whole night to be over.

Shayla smiled happily and stood up straight, towering over almost everyone like a goddess among mortals. Cruz had outfitted her lean and lanky figure in a classic white column dress accented with hand-braided gold trim. Her makeup was flawless, her long blonde hair worn down and loose, and I could see many of the other girl’s dates sneaking a few furtive glances over at her. She looked every inch the sophisticated supermodel she would soon become.

Cruz caught my eye, standing in the middle of a crowd, surrounded, and yet somehow still alone. He watched the dancing couples with a wistful expression on his face, and it suddenly occurred to me that despite having all his friends around him, he was lonely. I wished that he had someone special in his life– someone that meant as much to him as Ethan meant to me.

“Look how much you changed Shayla and Megan,” Ethan whispered in my ear. I looked reproachfully at him, wishing he wouldn’t bring up my so-called muse powers.

“Cruz is the one who dressed them up,” I said defensively.

“Look how much you changed Cruz,” he countered, smiling wryly at my protestations.

I had started looking for any possible way to avoid taking credit for anything that my friends achieved. I hated the thought that their success was due in any part to me. The idea that I had somehow nudged them along made me uncomfortable, and I was having difficulty grappling with the ramifications.