Mrs. Vandervelt’s palatial mansion and floodlit garden as always, perfect for a masked fancy dress ball. To see couples strolling through the tropical gardens, or perched on the low wall of vast circular fountain, a sight to behold yet heart-wrenching. On the terrace below her, women in glorious gowns chatting and laughing with male escorts, all beneath string of balconies overlooking the grounds. She too standing on one of many balconies accessed from the ballroom: the last place she wished to be, and no escape.
Masked balls were normally such fun, but tonight’s almost surreal, and she felt akin to female extra on a historical movie shoot. She turned about, the ballroom again before her, the glass doors flung wide; light from glittering chandeliers bouncing off jewels worn by guests. A few notable males easily identified, as much by stature, mannerism and voice, but most of the guests totally unknown entities.
She preferred absolute anonymity, despite tonight’s ball held in her honour and dearest friends beside her. Why had she let Ursula Vandervelt persuade her this was for the best, that she must come out of her shell and let go of the past? She had come out, but her mask decorated with the tiniest of shells and sequins and pearl dropper, reflected where her heart lay and why tears cascaded forth every night when alone. Sudden aware the balcony a tad overcrowded, and people exiting the dance floor en masse in search of fresh air, she felt trapped, claustrophobically so.
‘Come on Tara, dance with me.’
Giorgio's vice-like grip on her elbow ushered her forward, but as she struggled against oncoming human tide a distinctive aroma caused her heart to lurch. It had to be pure imagination. But there it was again, that oh so familar tangy essence. Rick could not be there, and despite frantic search this way and that for a glimpse of the one face she would give anything to see: nothing . . . but sea of masks.
How cruel . . . How cruel that someone else should be wearing his favourite brand of after-shave: tonight of all nights.
Quick add-on: I won't be able to comment until Sunday! A wedding calls . . .
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