Masquerade Secrets

By: Janelle Daniels

“Thank you, Bitsy.”

“My pleasure, my lady. I will return soon to help you dress.” With a nod, Bitsy curtsied and left.

The dress had been placed on her bed, folded in a shimmery paper that obscured the fabric from view.

Seconds ticked by as Aubrey stared at the bundled package. Her nerves seemed to stretch, fray, and end on a sizzle that she felt all the way to her toes.

Why did she hesitate to open it? The dress had rarely entered her mind over the last month, but she couldn’t seem to stop her reaction to it now. Madam Devereaux had said she would add magic to the gown, enough that men would be eating out of the palm of her hand. Of course that was nonsense, but there was something in the air, something that seemed alive and ready to pounce.

That was what had her pausing, had her contemplating the folded material.

Would it be a light silk, or a dark? Would it have ruffles and lace, perhaps even a few small gems sewn into it?

The possibilities were endless.

Reaching out, the fabric felt cold yet still soft and pliant. The silver threads in the protective layer of fabric shimmered in the soft candlelight.

With a deep breath, Aubrey untied the ribbon, hearing the satiny edges of the material whistle as they loosened.

The silver sparkle fell away, almost in deference to the gold that shone through beneath. The silk was beautiful and unlike any she had ever seen.

In reverence, Aubrey reached out to run her fingers over the shimmering fabric. Unlike the silver, the dress was warm, snapping to life at contact. Jerking her hand away, Aubrey laughed slightly. The shock the material had delivered to her finger was just a coincidence.

A quiet knock sounded at her door before Bitsy walked in again. “Are you ready to dress?”

Aubrey nodded, unsure if she could speak. What had come over her? It was just a dress. Just a silly dress she would wear to a masquerade. There wasn’t magic in it, there wasn’t anything special about it. Except that the material was exquisite. The gold silk had a swirling pattern in a darker gold, almost as if a fairy had cast the design with her wand.

Clucking her tongue, Aubrey scolded herself. It wouldn’t do her any good to think that the gown was anything more than a costume.

“This is beautiful, Lady Aubrey. I’ve never seen a gown to compare!” Bitsy said in awe as she lifted the gown over Aubrey’s head.

“I agree. The material is unique. I haven’t seen anything more beautiful.”

After the last lace had been tied, Bitsy stepped back to view her work. “It looks like it could be made with magic.”

“What?” Aubrey asked, slightly alarmed. Had she unknowingly said something in front of Bitsy?

“It looks like it could have been made with magic. I wager that gentlemen won’t be able to take their eyes off you tonight. Have a look,” Bitsy said, gesturing toward the mirror.

Looking at her reflection, Aubrey could believe the dress held magic. While she doubted it before, she was more open to the idea now. She barely recognized herself. The material gleamed in different hues of gold, all swirling into a floral pattern. The skirt was layered in petals of fabric, creating an almost fairy-like appearance. She looked lush, full, the dress emphasizing her feminine attributes instead of concealing them.

She looked like a pagan goddess. Her hair was more golden; her eyes glimmered like the rarest of emeralds. Every part of herself was enhanced, perfected.

At any other ball she would feel self-conscious, like she was showing too much of herself. But tonight was different. Tonight she wasn’t Lady Aubrey. Tonight she was a stranger. She could be anyone, be anything.

The thought excited her. For a few years she had stayed in the corner, not wanting to draw too much attention to herself. Tonight would be different.

“Aubrey, you look fantastic!” Charlotte said, entering the room with excitement. “Madame Devereaux certainly outdid herself with that creation.” A sly grin curved her lips. “I have no doubt her prediction will come to pass this evening. The men stand no chance.”

A small laugh escaped Aubrey’s lips before she sobered a bit. “Thank you,” she said breathlessly. Something was in the air tonight. She could feel it. She just didn’t know what it was.

“Mother asked me to fetch you. She is waiting in the carriage.”

Aubrey nodded, reaching toward the table for her jeweled mask, its gold ribbons trailing behind it.

Following Charlotte, Aubrey climbed into the carriage. The night was bright, clearly lit by a full moon. She wasn’t superstitious, but she could believe that magic would happen on a night like this.

Her mother and sister chatted quietly, but Aubrey didn’t hear them. It was as if a spell had been cast over her. The closer they came to their destination, the more firmly the enchantment was placed.

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