“Tonight will be all about you.” Elizabeth was brushing through the long, dark mass of Mira’s hair.
“You mean, not you?” Mira grinned up in the mirror’s reflection.
Elizabeth lightly tapped the brush against Mira’s head. “I get to wear the crown every day. I can survive one night.” She went back to brushing.
“I’ve missed you Mira.”
Mira looked up at the girl standing behind her in the mirror. “Me too.”
Elizabeth put down the brush and sat on the bed beside the vanity table.
“You didn’t say much about training in your letters. You didn’t say much about anything except me and my problems and my interests.”
“Which still provided material for 8 years’ worth of letters.” Mira smiled before turning in the chair to face Elizabeth. “I know I didn’t say much. Mason was right to think that I hadn’t changed. From the letters, I hadn’t.”
“Well I wouldn’t say that. Your letters did show you changing. Mason wouldn’t see it because, well, he’s a man. They don’t understand. But I remember a time when you couldn’t stand dancing with people you didn’t know. That ball you wrote about? I knew immediately how much you’d grown.”
“And that’s why you gave me a new dress and are throwing a ball for me?” Mira gestured towards the silky forest-green dress lying on the corner chair.
“You will look stunning. Just wait and see.”
Mira should have realized she was in over her head when she saw two servants standing at the doors of the ballroom waiting to let her in. Despite the squeeze of the hand that she received from Elizabeth, she was still holding her breath. A bgreath it seems she’d been holding ever since she left her room.
“Don’t worry, the’ll be lining up to ask you to dance.” Elizabeth leaned over to whisper.
Such words brought a flood of memories to the surface.
“Don’t worry, they’ll be lining up to ask you to dance.” A15-year-old Anna squeezed the hand of a 13-year-old Marie.
“This dress doesn’t fit me.” Marie began tugging away at the white dress that wasn’t even hers. Anna had lent it solely for the annual Bluebarrow Spring Dance.
“You look lovely.” Anna smiled as they walked into the main room of the town hall.
The wall became Marie’s closest friend. Anna had been swept up 5 footsteps into the hall by some redhead that Marie didn’t know. The wall didn’t mind the company and Marie was far enough out of the way not to draw any attention to herself.
“Marie, sweetie, you can’t stay back here. Enjoy the dance.” Anna found her three dances in.
“I feel weird. I’m awful at dancing. I’ll step on some boy’s toes and then where will I be?”
“Out on the dance floor where you’re supposed to be.” Anna nudged her forward. “Come, there’s two very nice looking boys over there.” She linked arms with Marie, leading her forward. “the one on the right is named Stephen Larsen. He’s 16 years old and going to be a blacksmith. The one on the left—”
“You know him?”
“Not officially,” Anna grinned. “The one on the left , well, I’m not sure who he is. But I think he might be fun for you.”
“I’m not going to ask him to dance, am I?!” A horrified Marie halted.
“No, no of course not. He’ll ask you.” Anna glided confidently forward, a clunky Marie close behind.
“How are they supposed to ask us to dance if we have no one to introduce us?”
If there was one bit, one drop of social customs that Marie understood it was that one. If only for the fact that it allowed her to stay in the shadows.
“Girls, girls!” Mrs. Nedermeyer appeared out of nowhere.
“Right on cue.” Anna whispered out of the corner of her mouth.
“Girls, I would like to introduce you to Masters Stephen Larsen of Bluebarrow and Mason Griffen of nearby Greenhenge. This is Misses Anna Thane and Marie Faris, both of Bluebarrow.” The boys bowed, the girls curtseyed and Mrs. Nedermeyer floated away to join the other matrons, her duty of matchmaking complete.
“Would you care to dance, Miss Anna?” Stephen piped up.
Marie noticed that the other boy, Mason, appeared upset by how quickly Stephen asked for a chance with Anna. “Well maybe I can slip away then” she thought.
Mason cleared his throat. “Uh would you care to dance, Miss…umm” he blushed and Marie frowned.
“Marie.” Forgetting names already?
A half-smile appeared and he held out his hand to her. After receiving a pointed glare from Anna, Marie took the offered hand.
As he led her out on the dance floor, they ended up near Anna and Stephen. Marie willed her bodyto relax while at the same time trying to remember the steps to the dance. At one point she dared to look up from her feet and saw that Mason wasn’t looking at his feet either. He wasn’t even looking at her. Following his gaze, she realized he was looking at Anna and Stepehn.
Anger and hurt washed over Marie. This boy had clearly wanted to dance with Anna and while she could imagine forgiving him for forgetting her name, he didn’t even have the decency to pay attention to…
Marie slammed her foot down on Mason’s. The unexpected yelp on his part actually stopped the couples around them which started a ripple effect in the hall.
The anger cleared and Marie felt the many, many pairs of eyes staring at her. It was only when her eyes met Anna’s disappointed ones that she fully understood how wrong she’d acted. Her gaze marks from Anna to Mason, she backed up and ran from the room.
Reminding herself that she was no longer 13 and that she could dance competently, Mira stepped into the ballroom and froze.
It was like a fairy land. Delicate candles reflected off the floor-to-ceiling mirrors and lit up the jewels that seemed to be on every person in the room. The music quieted and a path was cleared for the Queen and her guest. Heads bowed as the women passed and upon reaching the throne, Queen Elizabeth turned and nodded to the orchestra. The music started once more and dancing resumed.
“I have a special surprise for you, Marie.” Elizabeth held out a hand as a man approached the throne.
Mira squealed and ran to her brother’s open arms. The spectacle caused minor ripples but they were silenced as those closest to the siblings heard the phrase “mother and father” and put two and two together, sending the message through the ranks.
“It’s so good to see you!” Mira grinned. “What are you doing here in Blackspring?”
“Her Majesty wrote me especially to come to this event. A way to make you feel at home.”
The first sounds of a quick waltz had begun and Ed held out his hand. “May I have this dance, milady?”
Mira giggled and curtseyed. “Why yes milord, you may.” They fell into step with the other dancers, though one by one, the other couples fell aside to watch the two dancing. Murmurs of their skill and talent were heard scattered throughout the hall. Elizabeth and Stephen sat on their thrones, enjoying the performance.
Mason, however, stood off to the side. Watching the girl in green, all he could think of was the little girl in white.