Photo courtesy of Fine Art America
AND THEY DANCED ALL NIGHT
By Grace Augustine
The chandeliers throughout the ballroom were sparkling. Each crystal had been buffed with the finest cloth, so the light danced through its many facets. Buffet tables lined with silver chafing dishes held delectable choices including roast duck, pheasant in wine sauce, fresh steamed vegetables, and desserts as far as the eye could see. Rows of champagne glasses stood ready for the servers to fill their trays and offer to the guests.
Yes, tonight was a special night. It was Lord Ashworth’s thirtieth birthday. Rumor had it he would make an important announcement mid-way through the evening. This allowed for rampant chatter throughout the community with suspicions ranging from going to war to taking a bride. All hoped for the latter.
Guests arrived hours early to take in the décor and, of course, with hopes of spending time with Lord Ashworth himself. The wait-staff took cloaks and coats and top hats and gloves and hung them on various racks that were in the ante-room just to the left of the grand hall.
Grant Ashworth greeted his parents at the bottom of the spiral oak staircase. He caught the gleam in his mother’s eye and the smile on his father’s face. He marveled at what was accomplished by them to pull off such a soiree.
“Mother, you look stunning! You, too, Father.”
Genevieve took her son’s arm and allowed him to lead her ahead of her husband. She truly was radiant in the ecru lace and satin ballgown. Her silver hair, piled high on her head, was held in place by a sapphire comb—a family heirloom.
“Are you ready for the evening, Grant? There will be many ladies here wanting to dance with you this evening. You will oblige, yes?”
Grant shook his head and smiled. Leave it to his matchmaker of a mother to bring up the fact of the multiple ladies who would be here helping him celebrate.
“Mother, I will, of course, dance with those I so wish to dance with.”
Grant bowed to his mother and father and made his way into the grand ballroom. Before more guests arrived, he grabbed a plate and placed samples of the food on it. No telling when he would have the chance to eat if he was planning to dance the night away.
More and more people arrived, and each couple was announced as they entered the grand ballroom. Grant hurried to finish the last bite of petit four and made sure there were no crumbs clinging to the corners of his mouth. He greeted his guests with the customary nods and hand kisses.
An hour into the festivities, Grant spotted her across the room. The object of his affection. The object of his attention. He’d done his best to keep this secret, even from his parents, for the past few months.
She was a vision of pure beauty. Her light auburn hair was piled in a messy bun on the crown of her head, stray tendrils framing her face. The lavender and white satin ball gown with a ruffled bustle accentuated her small waist and the cut of the bodice revealed her smooth porcelain skin and ample cleavage. A single strand of pearls encircled her neck.
The current dance ended, and Grant made his way across the room. Passion filled his eyes and a broad smile showed off his dimples.
“May I have this dance?” He questioned as he bowed before his lovely lady.
She nodded, and they waltzed across the dance floor, not wanting the music to stop. They gazed at each other, so much unspoken between them. She curtsied when the dance ended, but Grant wasn’t letting go of her that easily.
“Excuse me. If I may have your attention, please,” Grant began. “Thank you all for coming to my birthday celebration this evening. There's plenty of food and drink, so make sure to fill your plates and glasses. Before we return to the music, I have a special announcement.”
Grant’s parents and the other couples gathered around where he was standing. He still held onto the hand of his lovely dance partner.
“Most of you know this lovely woman, and if you don’t, it’s time you do,” he stated. He knelt on one knee before her, and placed an emerald and diamond ring on her gloved finger. “Lady Annabelle Cartwright, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Tears streamed down the Lady’s cheeks. She was speechless. The only thing she could do was nod her head yes.
Grant stood up and took her in a head to toe embrace and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. That was enough to cue the chamber orchestra to play. Grant twirled Annabelle around and caught her close to him again, kissing her soft lips. The couple danced every dance, long into the early morning hours, celebrating their love.
“I’ve loved you for so long, Lady Annabelle. What a privilege to know you will be my wife.”
“I’ve loved you, too, Lord Ashworth, most of my life. I’m a lucky lady to have you as my betrothed.”