She started applying her makeup, pressing the fine powder onto her flawless skin, scraping the dregs from the pallet. Her lady’s maid began pulling at her hair in all directions, rushing her along.
“He’ll be waiting on you, ma’am,” she said, grabbing Clara’s dress. “The tailor has been working on your dress all night: he thinks it’s his best yet.”
Clara took the dress and felt the silk slip through her fingers. Her lady’s maid helped her slip into her petticoat before helping her into the dress.
She looked at herself in her mirror, and the crack made the green shimmer and her look beautiful.
The ballroom was larger and grander than anything she’d seen before. It was lit by rows and rows of chandeliers, and was full of crowds of people drinking and dancing to the sounds of the orchestra. The gowns, the jewels, the crystals dripping from the chandeliers, even the floor beneath her feet appeared to sparkle.
He was mingling with royalty from far-off countries. But when he saw her, they seemed to disappear. Everyone else around him was like a blur; he was the only thing to make sense.
His hair had fallen into his face, hiding his emerald eyes. Her favourite colour. His blood-red suit stood out among the black and white. The crown on his head shimmered like the chandeliers.
She watched him from the other side of the ballroom. He looked naturally like a Prince.
She was wearing a green dress that night. No, she was wearing a red dress. The one her mother said makes the boys in the village stop to get a second look. The one that transformed her into a different person.
Clara knew her biggest challenge of the night would be not to make a fool of herself, but a part of her knew that wouldn’t happen. She felt a new confidence in herself; she guessed the thought of him being finally near her again calmed her nerves, but obviously that was all in her head. What if he didn’t even remember her? That was a possibility. As much as her mother said ‘she’s a catch’, somehow she had not been able to believe that. Yet.
The nerves were biting at her stomach as she stood waiting. Every possible outcome of the night was darting around her head. Why would he remember her? He was a prince, for crying out loud. She’s made a mistake. This whole night was a mistake. She should just have stayed and watched the village performance, at least they’d have a-
That voice. She turned around and there he was. He’d pushed his hair out of his eyes, allowing the emerald to be seen. His crown sat slightly slanted on his head. And his suit matched her dress. It was meant to be.
He took her hand in his and bowed. She giggled and wrapped her arms around him.
“I missed you,” she mumbled.
“I missed you too, my love,” he smiled.
“Shall we dance?
They fell in step, letting the rhythm control their movements. All the scenery and people around dissolved. It was him and her, alone.
His emerald eyes glistened, and a smile spread across his face.
Uncontrollable feelings surged through Clara’s body. As if she was dreaming, her body was acting on its own, no chains to hold her back from this pure paradise.
“I was waiting on you,” he said, spinning her around.
“My carriage took longer than expected.”
“Well, you’re here now” The most perfect smile spread across his face. She couldn’t help herself, and soon her face mirrored his.
They danced, they laughed, it was perfect. She’d never be able to describe this feeling to anyone. The feeling of love and being free.
Before she knew it, they were sitting by a fire, drinks in hand, laughing about an old family portrait.
“I wasn’t ready,” he said rolling his eyes.
“I don’t think it’s awful,” she lied.
Clara placed her head on his shoulder. She wished they could stay like this forever.
“What time will your mother be wanting you home?” he mumbled.
“She wanted me home before ten,” she said, looking up at the clock, “but I think I’ve missed that.”
“Well, one more dance shouldn’t hurt.”
They made their way back to the ballroom, just in time for the final dance. He took Clara’s hands in his and swept her across the floor. When the music began slowing down, he cupped her face in his hands.
His hand felt cold on her cheek. When she met his gaze, his eyes were no longer emerald but blue, like her own. The guests around them started shrinking. His hand no longer looked like his, but smaller and more petite, like her own. A shiver ran down her spine as the chandeliers began cracking, splintering into the rotten wood of her floor. The gowns, the jewels were just attached to her dolls, sitting as they always were in their dollhouse. Playing make believe. The floor beneath her only sparkled with the glass from her mirror. Clara felt tugging at her hair, her little sister was pulling at it in all directions, rushing her along.
“Mum’s waiting. The production is about to start,” she complained. “And she said you’ve to get your mirror fixed.”