I broke away from her, hoping that this night would provide for her. Hoping the summer air and its dusty mystery would release some hidden magic and pour it over her, allowing her to be free. Oh, yes, and me. I needed a little of that magic for me. I was to get engaged tonight, after all. I made my way towards Valentine through the crowded ballroom and our eyes met in a glorias moment. He met me beside a huge table upon which there was about a thousand glasses of champagne nestling upon a white tablecloth.
“Hello.” He said softly.
“Hello.” I replied.
“God, I’ve missed you, Theodosia.” He smiled eagerly.
“I’ve missed you too, Valentine.” I paused “But we mustn’t get too familiar here, people can’t be allowed to speculate what may have happened between us.”
“Agreed.” He nodded. “The band look like they might be about to start up, may I have the first dance?”
“Of course.” I giggled. “But in an hour, you have to be ready to propose.”
“Oh, I know. Charles wrote to me.”
“Oh good. Where is he?” I asked.
“Over there.” He gestured slightly “He’s standing beside Gabriella.”
“Oh, he’s handsome.” I giggled. Captain Charles LeBolt was a tall pale man with light brown ringlets and beautiful blackish eyes which seemed wide with anticipation. He was dressed in a red coat.
“Yes, well, he’s very excited.” Valentine smiled.
“Good.” I smiled, feeling lighter.
“And you?” he questioned.
“And me what?”
“Are you excited?”
“For their marriage?”
“No, for the other thing that’s happening tonight.” He laughed. “You didn’t forget, did you?”
“No, I didn’t. I was just too busy thinking about what it’ll be like to go back to Ceasebury tonight without Gabriella.” I shook my head.
“Oh.” He paused. “Charles is coming over.” He whispered. He was right, Charles was heading straight for us with Gabriella beaming beside him. He walked with a kind of casual confidence which befitted his office and held his head high as if perpetually looking to see if the ball of a musket was headed for him. Gabriella looked up at him as if there was something absolutely gorgeous about him. And there was. But she looked at him as if she saw something in his which lurked beneath the surface, some magnificence in his personality, perhaps. The pair drew closer.
“Good evening, Miss Ceasebury.” Charles took a deep bow and lightly kissed the back of my hand. “Marquess.” He gestured towards Valentine.
“Good evening, Captain LeBolt.” I smiled.
“Thank you,” he whispered, drawing closer to me “thank you so much for what you’re doing for us – Gabriella and I – tonight. Thank you for trusting me to be her husband, I promise I will love her and keep her forever.”
“Well, I’m sure you will be.” I smiled.
“And I know that Valentine will be an excellent husband for you.” He smiled back “I have known this man since I attempted to get him to join the Red Coats back in 1776 when I saw his shot. Miss, he had the finest shot of a man of his age I had ever seen.”
“Yeah, I still missed though.” Valentine laughed.
“But it was only so you didn’t get kicked out of boarding school.” Charles smirked.
“True, true.” Valentine smiled.
“What happened?” I asked, perplexed. Gabriella moved in closer.
“Well,” Valentine took a deep breath. “I-“ Charles cut him off.
“He got in a duel with Dorian Kingston!” Charles shouted. “It was bloody great, him and Dorian were fighting over some girl.” Charles took a hearty laugh. “So, Valentine took him to the shooting ground at dawn and on ten he switched around the shoot him and instead, shot the scout strip off his shoulder. It was the best thing I had ever seen. That’s when I asked him to join the regiment, amazing shot.”
“Yes.” Valentine looked down, almost ashamed.
“But he wouldn’t do it said something like his wanted to get married and have a family and stuff rather than sign up, such a waste.” Charles laughed again. “We’ll just have to obliterate these fucking revolutionaries without you.” He grinned at Valentine.
“Yes.” Valentine repeated.
“Do you think we will win, Charles?” Gabriella asked tentatively.
“We will, I know it. We have the weapons, we have the men, we have the will of God on our side. We can’t lose.” Charles stated decisively.
“Good.” Gabriella nodded. “I hate to think what would happen if we lost.”
“Well, you don’t have to think of such things, My Love, you have me to protect you.” Charles smiled to her. The orchestra began to play a loud, regal waltz and the ladies and gentlemen around the room moved with a kind of created dexterity as if they had been wound up by the noise from some secret copper panel between their shoulder blades which had spurred a mechanical desperate - of the most gentile nature – into action; they had to find someone to ‘have their dance’. As if by clockwork, Charles switched around to Gabriella. “May I have this dance, Miss Kingston?”
“Of course.” Gabriella blushed, placing her lily-white hand lightly atop his red coated arm. It seemed so strange to me now to hear Gabriella referred to with the family name Kingston, for, after all, Gabriella was not a Kingston, not really. I didn’t know what her family name was now. She wasn’t exactly a Ceasebury, even though she had lived in Ceasebury Manor for all these years, and she wasn’t a LeBolt, not yet anyway. I suppose, at this moment in time, Gabriella was of the family of her real father, who ever that was. No, tonight, Gabriella was nameless; and what a beautiful night- what a beautiful dress – what a beautiful promise of the future for a nameless young lady.
“And you, Theodosia?” Valentine questioned.
“And me what?”
“May I have this dance, Miss Ceasebury?” he smiled, shyly mimicking the way in which Charles had spoken to Gabriella.
“Yes, Marquess Ravenswood.” I smiled to him. Valentine took my hand in his and swept me towards the centre of the ballroom. We took our places beside Charles and Gabriella and Valentine gave a little, slow bow in accordance with the other gentlemen and I gave a gentle curtsey along with the ladies. The waltz started up slow and grew faster, we danced together, and I realised that this was the first time we had actually danced together, despite the fact that we would be engaged by the end of the evening. I was amazing by how well he danced. He seemed to have a subtle grace that no other man in the ballroom quite held, but perhaps I only noticed it because he was dancing to the left of Charles, a man to whom grace did not seem to be a known of concept.
I had never enjoyed dancing so much as I did that night with Valentine. When he came close to me a felt a subtle release as our bodies touched, almost as if we were partially admitting to the world of what we had done in his bed chamber just a few days ago. It felt so good to hide my secret – our secret – in plain sight of all of Virginia’s high society. They were my world. And I was now telling me world in some strange and seemly way what I had done which broke all the rules of that world. And they accepted it. No, they loved me for it. They exchanged happy glances to see how close I was with the Marquess.