Celeste’s stomach was in knots as she stood in line. Her butterflies of excitement were threatening to be eaten by beasts of anxiety. What had she been thinking, coming to this on her own? She watched as her ticket fluttered in her trembling hand. Why had no one talked her out of this? She had not told anyone, that was why. Glancing around her, Celeste took in the length of the line, how far from the doors they were, how many people were still arriving.
“Is this your first ritual, lass?” asked a tall, bald man with arms the size of tree trunks, laced with tattoos. Celeste turned to look at the man behind her, skeptical if he were speaking to her. “Yeah, you,” he chuckled.
“Dad, don’t scare her,” said a girl at his elbow who appeared to be close in age to Celeste. She smiled at Celeste. “Don’t mind him.”
Celeste attempted a small smile in return before turning back around.
The line before her seemed to have doubled in length and she felt a bit lightheaded.
She turned back to the man and his daughter behind her. Celeste offered a better smile. “It actually IS my first,” she said.
“I thought you had the look of a first timer about you,” said her father warmly.
“I’m Alyssa,” said the girl. “Where are your seats?”
“I was actually dumb and got general admission,” Celeste said hesitantly.
Alyssa beamed at her. “So are we!” she exclaimed excitedly. “Just stick with me and my dad, you’ll have a great time!”
Celeste returned Alyssa’s smile, already feeling more at ease.
As they entered the venue and walked along the concourse, Alyssa linked her arm through Celeste’s as though they had been the best of friends all their lives. Women passed in seductive nun costumes, a young boy was dressed as the Anti-Pope, and men and women alike were bedecked in the white and black face paint Celeste was expecting from the performer.
Alyssa and her father brought Celeste to a smaller gathering of people near a concession stand. One of them held a folded sign, on which Celeste could just make out Sisters of Sin on. There were a few nuns among them, white and black face paint on most of them, and one man was was imposing in full papal attire.
“Alyssa! Gerald!! You found us!!!” cried one of the nuns. “And who is this!” The woman’s gaze was intense with her one white eye, but when she smiled at Celeste, it lit up her face with warmth.
“This is Celeste!” Alyssa said eagerly, “we met in line!” Alyssa gave Celeste’s arm a little squeeze. “We told her to join us and we would look after her.”
“Right you are,” said the man in the papal robes, his hat teetering as he bobbed his head. A jovial smile split this severe white and black face paint, added: “We’ll be sure to get you some Mummy Dust!” He winked his one white eye at her.
As the small band continued to walk the concourse, admiring the merch tables and getting food and drinks, Alyssa pulled Celeste in conspiratorially. “What do you think of it all so far?” she asked.
“It’s nothing like how I imagined it would be,” Celeste said. “The people are nothing like how I expected.” She smiled, gazing around at the small group that had engulfed her into their fold. Celeste had never done well in crowds, with new people, but there was something about this merry band – and everyone else they had encountered – that made her feel at home. Like she belonged. As though these were her people.
INKTOBER 2022, PROMPT #13: KIND; this one is dedicated to the Sisters of Sin, the most welcoming and kind-hearted group of Ghost fans I have ever found in a fandom.