☆ The Nightingales ☆
"Ladies, propriety is of utmost regard in this household," reminded by mother upon hearing loud footsteps outside my room.
Mother has always reminded us that a lady should be graceful at all costs. Ever since when we were younger, her advices served as our guide on proper behavior and courtesy on several occasions. This includes suppressing much of your excitement for your youngest sister as she prepares to be presented to the Queen.
Outside, I can hear inaudible chatters of my sisters. A year ago, I was the same person outside this very room awaiting my mother to finish prepping my sister Hazel, the fourth of the Nightingale daughters, for the Queen's eyes as well. Now, it is I in the spotlight, which is nerve wracking at the very least.
"How are you feeling, my dearest?" asked my mother, as she pulled bunch of my hair into a braid. Her ever graceful hand movements reflected on the mirror before me.
I smiled at her, meeting her gaze on the reflection. "In all honesty, my nerves are through the roof."
She reached for the little golden tiara on my bed, and carefully placed it on my head. Slowly, she smoothed wisps of my hair on both sides of my face, allowing it to curl.
"Without a trace of doubt, I believe you'll be this season's favorite, Calypso," she said, while placing her hands on both my shoulders. Her hands felt warm, unlike mine which were cold due to fear.
I turned to face her, masking the self deprecating thoughts filling up my mind. "I shall not disappoint, Mother."
She pulled me into an embrace, quite longer than she usually does. I wonder if this was what she also did to my other sisters. "London is lucky to have the likes of you grace their grounds, dear. So are those noble bachelors you are about to tangle with your charms."
"Quit it, Mother," I blushed, which was hardly noticed for the make up I had on.
She smiled at me, tears filling up her eyes. "You're no longer a little lady now Calypso. I hope this cruel world does not break you."
"You have taught me well, Mother. I'll be fine."
"I'm sure you will be. Although, I'm uncertain I'm prepared to let my youngest daughter go."
"I'll only be getting married," I comforted her. "I will always be your little Calypso mother."
Wiping her tears, she nodded at me. "Shall we?"
Together, we walked towards the door. She intertwined her arms on mine as the outside noise grew louder. From behind the door, I can hear receding footsteps.
As I pulled the door open, a crouching Georgia, ears pushed flat on where the door used to be, welcomed me. Guiltily, she erected her stature and looked defensively at my mother. "I heard nothing."
Before my mother could speak, Stella, the eldest sister, voiced out her awe, "Callie, you look ethereal."
As if I was invisible earlier, Georgia darted her eyes at me. With owl-like eyes, she finally commented. "Calypso, you look like a descendant of Venus. You're... wow."
I giggled. "Thank you sisters! No worries, I'll try not to be prettier than both of you."
"Oh, shut it," Stella said. "It's your day. The English noblemen will be crowding our place after they laid their eyes on you."
"I bet you'll get more suitor than Danielle had," said Georgia, which made Mother softly tap her on her side.
"Let's not jinx it, Georgia," Mother said. "Also, sister rivalry has no place in our home."
"But I was just--"
Mother shushed her before she could continue to speak, which made Stella laugh.
"Lady Nightingale," shouted one of our housemaids from below. "Your carriages awaits for you."
"Just a minute," replied my mother in the calmest voice she can muster. She looked at me and I understood.
This is the beginning of my adult life.
My beddazling pink gown, embroidered with sparkling jewelries, made it a little difficult to come down the stairs. I had to hold Stella's hand to prevent me from toppling down.
Truth be told, this day was only the third time I had to use high heels, so I'm still getting used to balancing. The first one was during Danielle's wedding when my feet extremely hurt the night after. The second one was during one of the balls Hazel had to attend to during her season. I remembered it took a lot of convincing before I gave in to her requests of us wearing matching footwears, which again resulted to my feet hurting. That time, much worse. After that, I swore an oath to myself that I'd only be wearing high-heeled shoes if necessary. And today is one of those days.
Garnering the Queen's approval is the highest compliment a lady can receive during courting season. Her opinion is highly regarded by the bachelors which can cause a stampede towards the lady's hometown. Her words are like enchantments that trick the naive men into choosing their rightful wives. Most of the time, her influence works.
The rest of my sisters were fortunate enough to receive high praises from the Queen. From Stella, Danielle, Georgia, and Hazel, all of them were positively critiqued. Most especially Danielle, she was named as the incomparable of the season. The highest praise a Queen gives among the ladies who are participating in a courting season.
"Incomparable," whispered Stella as we reached the last step of the staircase. "You'll get that coveted praise."
I forced a smile at her. In my mind, I was hoping she was right. I wanted her to be right.
Unfortunately, she wasn't.
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All her life, Calypso Nightingale has always lived in the shadows of her four older sisters. She stayed in the sidelines watching as they find their love matches, all of whom during their first seasons. With her sisters' perfect records, pressure ha...