Our three words from Aimee at http://www.aimeelaine.com/ are light, Jane and statue. This is 'LaBelle Dame sans Merci' by Sir Frank Dicksee, It's our inspiration. We think the knight is statuesque. We learned a lot about each other during this process, not all of it pleasant. Turns out, we're both control freaks incapable of compromise, so in order to survive this exercise with our friendship intact one wrote and the other edited.
Connaught Square, Westminster, England 1818
There was the unending clash of well-wishers, dance-card signers and a multitude of both their relations in attendance. He was to announce his engagement to Gene tonight, but then he was taken away by a shaken Harry. His little brother was always getting himself into trouble so David did not question or yield when he approached and said, “A word, your grace.”
He had simply followed him from the ballroom to the privacy of a salon that opened onto the garden. He wasn’t sure what he was looking at when first Harry pointed to the two people held in impassioned embraces on the bench just beyond the marble statue outside the salon door. Then they broke apart and his Gene righted her gown, kissed Lord Raynham and hurried from the garden.
“How long have you known?” David asked his brother without bothering to turn around.
“Would you believe I came here with Hache’s Countess for a little dalliance of my own when I saw them?”
“Thank you, Harry. Now be a dear and go fetch me Lord Raynham.”
“Now, Albion,” Harry said fretfully, “Do you think that wise?”
“Of course it’s not wise you halfwit, but I’m to announce my intent to marry that woman at dinner and I should like to know what the devil it is I’m getting myself involved with.”
“Right away,” Harry said with a sympathetic glance before leaving in pursuit of the unsuspecting lover.
Raynham's explanation was most romantic . They were in love, but her father would not accept the offer of a lowly baron when a wealthy duke was in his grasp.
When he returned, it was to find Gene surrounded by a gaggle of admirers jousting for attention.She was being lead out to the first set before he realized he hadn’t signed her dance card. In fact, he hadn't signed anyone’s dance card and as a result had to dance his first three sets at his mother’s instance with some poor dears who would simply rather not.
First up, were the Stanwell sisters, Elizabeth and Jane. Relatively pretty dark-haired, bright-eyed young women with a strong antisocial streak.
David’s third dance partner, Miss Lilith Spencer, would also be his dinner companion. She was one of his cousin’s sisters-in-law and a friend of David's. She had smiled at him compassionately as he signed Jane’s card and allowed him to sign hers amidst a flurry of self-deprecating banter.
‘All is rotten in England when handsome Albion must dine with one such as me' and the like.
At dinner, David sat across from his Gene at the massive dinner table, he between Lilith and Baroness Malden. Gene was flanked by her dinner partner Sir Timothy Scott and the overly attentive Lord Humphrey Gifford.
Both of whom, in spite of his proximity and hate-filled glares, maintained their positions as charming windbags.
His dinner companions were every bit as amiable and charismatic as hers. The only difference was that they went greatly unheard while he tried to make sense of the little comedy of errors that was his life.
Well, that was until Lilith decided to save him from himself with an astute remark, “You do the lady a great disservice with your open surveillance of her conduct.”
“I beg your pardon,” David said, his face turning for the first time to look at the woman next to him.
“You’re right to censure,” she whispered in an apologetic hush. “Though impertinent, my statement was not intended as interference or said to injure. My aim was to aid, but I see now that I have overstepped my bounds. I will say no more. In fact, I beg your forgiveness.”
“You misunderstood. I was not scolding, I was inattentive and did not hear all you said,” David offered in earnest.
“In that case, I’ll thank my lucky stars for the reprieve and mind my own affairs.”
“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” David said with his most beguiling smile.
“Would you not prefer we discuss Lord Howe’s glorious décor,” Lilith offered.
“Very well, don’t tell me,” said an undeterred David “But by making that decision you have put me in a precarious position of pestering you until you relent.”
“Did you know that the mural that lines the wall of the ballroom is a celebration of Richard Lion-Heart’s victory over the Muslim Prince Saladin?”
“Well, that at least is in-keeping with our host’s sense of humour,” David said with a barely discreet point to the mural over his Gene’s head. It was a bleak depiction of the temptation of Eve. “Never has an apple looked so enticing.”
“Or a woman so weak,” Lilith added with something like melancholy. “Religious text amidst opulence and righteous judgement.”
“The very definition of the church in England.”
“That’s precisely it,” Lilith acknowledged in a sort of enlightened accord, “The entire house is designed to resemble St Peters’. Only here there is no hope for redemption.”
“You know, I think you might very well be right,” David said in kind, “When I entered the ballroom just now I go the distinct impression I was rehearsing for the abyss.”
“And you foresee an afterlife spent in damnation?”
“I’ve never willingly contributed to the suffering of another so I remain optimistic,” David answered truthfully, “And what of your soul, Miss Spencer?”
“I’m as poor Eve there with her apple I’m afraid,” she said again with that hint of melancholy. “Now, my grace, you must engage Baroness Malden.”
“Nonsense,” David said before turning to looking at her in earnest. Her copper locks shining as a jewel under the light of the chandelier. She was perfection made approachable due to her compassionate amber eyes. She was smiling at him, her coral lips plush and alluring.
Then suddenly, he was clearer than he’d ever been.
He returned her smile with his new resolve the same instant their host raised his glass in honour of the good health of all signalling the approach of the moment when David would have to raise his glass and announce his engagement. Then he did it.
David leaned over with calm certainty and said, “Marry me, Lilith.”
Written by Simone and edited by Claire.
Our three words for http://www.benjaminsolah.com/blog/ are Wayne, waiting and watch.