Chapter 5- The Envy of Them All

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The waiting lounge was a flurry of activity.

Society's unwed young ladies giggled and gossiped, exchanging compliments and adding finishing touches to their gowns. They were all excited for the costume ball, one of the highlights of the social season.

Eliza shone in silver, which glittered all the way down to the floor. A pair of feathered wings came attached to her back, matched by the halo fashioned atop her head. She felt like an angel, simply because that was what she was dressed as.

Bea was dressed in dark and rich reds in honour of Constanzia of Alberque, the famous opera singer- matched with her olive skin, she looked striking. Alice looked sweet in her green fairy gown.

Hannah was visiting an ill friend, so she wasn't present.

The doors swung open and Countess Cecilia entered, two ladies' maids following behind her. Everyone in the room was immediately drawn to her and her costume, a green and blue peacock. Everything about it was illustrious, so beautifully designed and worn. The colours swirled as though they were on a palette, matching with the peacock patterns on the skirt and feathers. Her porcelain skin contrasted perfectly with the darker colours. She'd be the belle of the ball, no doubt.

"Why does she have to come with an entourage?" Lady Scarlett, dressed as a Phoenix, grumbled, "Darn, she looks really good though."

Nobody could disagree. As the Countess went to take a seat, she shot Eliza a glare so cold that she thought she'd turn into an ice sculpture.

"Ignore her, she's just mean," Bea encouraged.

"I don't want to have enemies. All I want is to get along with everyone, having someone dislike me so much is just horrid. I just feel as though I'm causing trouble, I don't wish to rock the boat, I know the prince is going to choose one of the three."

"Don't worry Eliza, it's just her and her wicked ways," Scarlett chuckled.

"Mother wants me to befriend her," Lady Louisa was impersonating a sea goddess.

"Ugh, why?" Scarlett looked disgusted.

"She says I must befriend the likely future Queen, that it would be good for our family and for my future prospects. Mother thinks I may even marry one of Cecilia's brothers, that would be a catch. I think I shall stick with Alice."

Eliza was pleased that Alice seemed to be coming out of her shell and befriending the other girls. Alice looked pleased as punch, going a soft pink at the compliment.

"Ladies, if you will please queue, we shall be entering now."

Eliza found her place, squeezed between Alice and Bea, waiting anxiously as the ladies began to be announced to their music. Was her corset tighter or was it just her?

She gave Alice an encouraging smile, watching her friend nearly descend the staircase. If the prince had to pick anyone, she hoped that it was Alice- she would be a decent choice.

"Lady Elizabeth Greystone."

Head held high and eyes straight ahead, Eliza glided down the stairs. Every part of her finishing school training was in place, as they'd been taught how to not fall down stairs in heels and fancy costumes.

She allowed herself a glance down. Her parents were smiling, but that wasn't what caught her attention. The prince was looking straight at her, his eyes not leaving her silver form. Eliza wanted to tear herself away from his gaze but she couldn't. Instead of returning his smile, she continued her poker face as she arrived in her place.

The list went on until... "Countess Cecilia Browning."

When the Countess arrived, there were gasps and awe at the sight of her. These became more prominent as she lifted the feathers high to be a background for her expensive headpiece.

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