The Prince of Denmark’s March played from the live orchestra. The candles placed around the hall flickered now and then in the mood lighting. Everyone was so elegantly dressed in their suits and long dresses. There were white and black masks galore. The colored masks were far and few between, which made the women and men who had them stick out. The colored masks were expensive, so the few who did wear them were bound to be wealthy. There was food, dancing, and most importantly champagne by the tons.
She wore a light blue mask, a fitting color for a young woman her age and status. When she walked into the masquerade, she was unaccompanied, which was something unusual for her family’s nature. Normally, a family of her status would have their daughter betrothed already, but alas they were always doing things so differently. “New money, they are so strange,” many guests whispered among the crowd. All she did was smile, put her pearly-gloved hand on the marble staircase railing and come down the mansion’s steps. Her eyes caught a glimpse of an empty table and she made her way to it without hesitation. They all knew who she was, but she knew none of them.
A man walked up to the table and sat down beside her. His mask was of blood red crushed velvet. His auburn eyes looked merciful and compassionate, a strong personality, but yet, with a soft touch. He laid two glasses of champagne on the table and pushed one elegantly towards her. “I know you don’t know me, but I’ve heard much about you. Please, have a drink.” His voice was tender and young, it made her feel secure and she smiled shyly.
Her cheeks raised under her mask which covered her face to the tip of her nose. She blushed, but he surely could not see the tops of her cheeks. “Thank you,” she managed to get out in a higher pitch than her natural voice. She moved her gloved fingers along the glass stem and watched the bubbles rise to the top of the golden liquid.
The ladies watched her every move, whispering to their friends, “It’s no wonder why she’s not betrothed to anyone, no one wants a woman who is disconnected from reality. Look at poor Sebastian trying to have a conversation with her . . . It’s just because she has money now, he would never have looked at her otherwise.” She never understood if it was jealousy that made the women say these things, or if what they were saying about her was actually true, did no one want her as herself?
Sebastian looked at the birthday girl, watching her stare into her champagne glass without ever taking a sip. She could see him watching her out of the corner of her eyes. They all thought she was different and just staring into space all the time, but she wasn’t that strange, she just liked to keep mostly to herself. She finally turned to look into his eyes once more, “I’m Adela.” Her voice was timid and sweet.
“I know who you are, it is your party . . .” His voice was strong and confident. She knew at this moment he would not leave her alone the rest of the night. She gave off a more forced smile this time as she grasped the glass with her gloved fingers. She brought it to her luscious pink lips that glimmered in the candlelight. “You look lovely tonight,” Sebastian complimented her so charmingly.
As she took the glass from her lips, she coughed a little. “Thank you,” she replied. She knew it was only false flattery. She brushed her long blond hair behind her shoulder and looked the opposite way as Sebastian. Her eyes scanned the crowd, hoping to find someone to get Sebastian away from her. The only people she could recognize were her parents. They seemed to be talking to a few people while watching over the party from a corner of the room.
She stood up slowly and gracefully, and moved her chair back. “Where are you going?” Sebastian asked.
She looked at him, “I’m going to speak with my parents.”
“Oh, would you introduce me?” He jumped at the chance.
“I don’t believe I even know your name,” she replied and continued away towards her parents. Her mother wore a pale yellow mask with pearls, which matched her long pale yellow dress. Her father wore a newly tailored black suit with a midnight blue mask, which accentuated his icy eyes. Adela walked up to them and hugged each. “I thank you both for throwing such a lovely party for me, however, I shall be departing.”
“Where do you think you’ll be going? You have responsibilities here. A young lady your age must be betrothed, we’ve already put this off long enough,” her father spoke up. His voice was deep and strong. “You must find someone tonight, this was our agreement.”
“You know the one that I want is not here.” She snapped at her father, looking at his midnight blue mask and just wanting to get lost in that night sky color. Before anymore could be said on the subject, Sebastian made his way into the conversation. He stealthily came up behind Adela and moved his arm around her waist. She wanted to move away from it, but there was no where to go with him on one side and her father on the other. His long fingers grasped her side, seemingly not wanting to let go.
“Mister Benigno, a pleasure to finally meet you in person, I’m Sebastian Domenico.” He gave off his charming smile. His thin lips curving around his perfect pearly white teeth. His blood red mask looking even more brilliant when compared next to her father’s night sky mask. Her father immediately stuck out his hand, something he rarely did when meeting people. Sebastian must have definitely been wealthy if her father was acting in such a manner.
“It’s good to finally meet you as well. A relative of the Domenico’s is always a welcome surprise, especially to an event like this.” Her father’s voice had let up a bit; he seemed more timid than before.
“Well, the beauty of your daughter has left me quite beside myself.” He matched eyes with Adela. She looked directly into his auburn eyes and felt trapped. She didn’t like him, something about him made her squirm in her skin. His eyes weren’t looking at her like they were before when they had been so merciful and compassionate. Now they looked at her as if she was an object to be obtained, perhaps she had made him angry by walking away so quickly. He did seem like the type of guy who would always get what he wanted.
“I’m glad to hear that,” her father replied. “She gets most of her beauty from her mother, I’m sure. Please meet my wife, Elise.” The quiet woman raised her arm with her white gloved hand. Her pearls were exquisite against her tan and freckled skin. Adela had gotten all of her looks from her mother, except for her eyes and her hair.
Sebastian grasped Elise’s fingertips and bowed his head a little. “It’s a pleasure.”
“The pleasure is mine,” Elise replied. Her voice was soft but confident. She spoke slow but gracefully. “I’m glad you have taken interest in our daughter. She could use someone like you in her life; someone like her father.” Her mother was rubbing shoulders.
“Yes, well, we both know what we want,” Sebastian said, his eyes glancing to Adela once more. “Now, if you may excuse me, I’d like to have this dance with your daughter . . . if she would allow me to?” His eyes glanced to her. She felt the pressure from her parents and the firm grasp of Sebastian’s hand on her side.
“Yes. . . of course.” She felt forced into it all. She wanted to question her parents. Who was this man they were sucking up to? She had never heard the name, but she had to admit she was always in her own little world. Her parents let her go do whatever she wanted, she was never into her parents business. She was led away, wondering who this stranger behind the mask really was.
As they reached the dance floor, he whispered into her ear, “Don’t run off so quickly next time, I won’t be so nice . . .” His charming smile now seemed so dangerous and sly. His grasp was tight around her as they moved along the dance floor gracefully. She remembered learning how to dance with her father when she was younger. She was so happy then, and she let off a smile. Sebastian saw this and whispered once more in her ear, leaning in close, “You see, I’m not so bad of a guy.”
Her memory seemed to be eaten away by a black mist at the sound of his voice. She was brought back to reality with a bitter taste in her mouth. She wanted to scream at him, she wanted to do anything to get away from this man’s grasp. She wanted to tell everyone she already loved someone and would give that up for nobody. She wanted to go against her parents, leave all this money behind, and live homeless with her love because she knew she would be happy with him. Instead, all she did was smile and nod her head politely. No one would ever call her a good girl, because no one could see the restraint she put on herself.
She had to admit, he didn’t dance poorly. She wished she could see him without his mask; see him for who he really was. Her hair swayed from side to side as they danced. Her eyes glimmered and they looked hollowly up into his. She could feel her heart fall as he tipped her down with his arm. He moved gracefully and sweet, with the manners of a true gentleman. He would have been a good partner perhaps, but she was in love with someone else, even if her parents didn’t want her to be.
The song finally ended and she tried to swiftly get away once more, back to her parents, but he grasped her hand and held it tight. “I’m not letting you get away from me this time. Come for a walk with me. . .” He pulled her towards the balcony with steps down to the garden in the backyard. The other women jealously watched them leave out the large glass doors, they suspected the worst.
The night sky was brightened by the full moon. She could see the beautiful rose bushes sway in the warm gentle breeze that wafted the hypnotic jasmine smell their way. This was finally a quiet place where she could ask what she had longed for. “Who are you?”
The question came so surprisingly to Sebastian; he dropped her hand and took a step backwards. “You really don’t know me? You don’t the Domenico name?” He thought everyone had known of him or his family.
“I’m sorry, the name may be familiar to my parents, but I don’t bother with their business. They let me do what I want, but they want me to get betrothed, thus this party.” She bit her lower lip and lowered her head to see his black shoes against the stone patio. “I have to tell you,” she started to say before he interrupted.
“I think I get it. There has been pressure on me by my parents as well. Though, I have never found someone as worthy of my love as you on this night.” He brushed her cheek and pushed her chin up. “I’m from an old wealthy family. They are powerful and they are good people to be friends with. Your parents are wise for acting the way they do towards me, but you. . . You strike me because you don’t know and yet, you are still polite. . . A true lady.” He moved in to kiss her sweet glimmering lips but she turned her head to the side, and he caught her cheek.
“I’m sorry, Sebastian. I love someone else. . .” Her parents would kill her if they heard her speak of such to a potential prospect that was “good for her.”
“I don’t see any other guy after you tonight . . . Where is he?” He knew what he wanted and was determined to get it by any means.
“My parents don’t like him and has refused marriage to him.”
“Perhaps they are only trying to look out for your best interests,” he suggested.
“Well, perhaps . . . But what if I don’t want anything they have to give me? What if all I want is love and happiness?”
“This is why I must have you! You believe in such things when I’ve only learned all people are only after my money, please humor me for tonight.” He moved his arm once more around her waist as he started to walk down the steps to the garden. His arm guided her as he walked her through the garden. “You deserve someone who could give you everything you’d ever want,” he grinned as he tore a white rose from one of the rose bushes and handed it to her. “Would you really want to abandon all of this if you didn’t have to?”
“If it was for my love, yes, I would do anything.” She stared into the middle of the rose. The petals swirled together and sucked her in.
“You see, couldn’t you learn to love me like you do this other man?” He took her gloved hand in his, entwining their fingers together.
To her, she never thought someone could be so determined, even the man whom she was in love with, wasn’t as persistent. He had given up on her once her parents had said no. He would see her now and then, but always kept his head low, and the time she had offered to run away with him, he denied her. He had told her there was someone else better suited to her and that he wanted the best for her, but wasn’t that what love was, wishing the other person happiness no matter what? She sighed, perhaps she didn’t really know what she wanted like she had thought. “I don’t know, Sebastian. Though, I do know, you definitely know what you want, and you definitely know how to convince someone.” She looked up at the night sky; it was almost the same color as her father’s mask, reminding her of what he wanted for her. He would love to be told of an engagement as soon as possible. On top of that, the way they treated Sebastian, they would probably faint of happiness and disbelief if it were to be him. “I honestly cannot promise my love for you will grow . . .”
“I know you can’t promise me anything right now, but please consider being by my side.” He was laying it on thick. He knew how to put a girl under pressure and his timing was perfect. She didn’t respond and looked into his eyes. He grabbed her, “I know this is hard for you, but we all give up some things for the benefit of our families and the future of ourselves.” He was older and seemed a bit wiser, and he was right, it would make her family happy.
He led her up the stairs and back to the party. He smiled at her and grasped her side tightly once more. She grimaced at the harsh touch but walked to her parents, and feeling a bit forced said, “Sebastian has convinced me that he will be good for me, not only now, but in the future.”
Her parents took their masks off and looked at the two surprised. “We never would have thought, with that other thing always on your mind.” Adela looked down, almost embarrassed. She looked up and took off her mask, she never would have thought she could have admitted liking someone else if only a little, either.
Sebastian grinned and stripped his mask as well. “The pleasure will be all mine, I just hope to keep your daughter in good company from this moment on.” His face was defined and handsome. It was the first time Adela had seen his face, and she knew it wouldn’t be the last. He always got what he wanted, and at the moment, she was just one more of his successes. She felt sick to her stomach, but this was for the good of her family. She held her head up high and cursed her beauty and her parents quietly under her breath. To be a lady was not always easy, she could only hope to find love in this man at some point in the future. For the good of the family.