Chapter 10: La Valse

72 8 8

Despite his claims, Olivier spun her out onto the dance floor smoothly and easily. It helped that she did not wear a heavy gown with enormous panniers as she recalled her mother wearing. The heeled shoes were her only real obstacle, as the dancing immediately reminded her of how much they hurt.

The music segued into a waltz, one of Lucie's favorite dances. She had often led Annette about the living room sans musique, which had been good fun. The dance, led by a handsome young man, was quite a different kind of fun. Most dances were open position, only one hand joined. The waltz had a closed position, which meant her face nearly touched Olivier's, his hand about her waist.

Quite intimate, more intimate than Lucie had ever been with a man, especially given that she wore far fewer layers than she was accustomed to.

Perhaps the champagne had something to do with how dizzy she felt as they whirled around and around, the music seeming to pick up pace.

The jewels on the necks and in the hair of other ladies swirling alongside them refracted the light, through glittering shadows. The room felt gold, gilded, like they danced inside an ornament. A capsule that had somehow survived the Revolution and the Reign of Terror intact, some artifact imported from Versailles.

Lucie laughed when Olivier missed a step and crushed her toe; she laughed when they rammed into another couple. They, too, laughed, as they had clearly consumed more than one glass of champagne. Olivier gripped her tightly and chuckled into her hair, and spun her faster and faster and faster, until she no longer laughed. Instead she felt her stomach heave and all she wished was to sit and remove her shoes and perhaps vomit up the champagne she had drunk earlier.

Would the song never end? She tried to glimpse the musicians, to gather some sense of whether they were slowing down or ready for a break, but they appeared to madly saw at their instruments. Only a glimpse and she was spinning away, seeing bright red mouths laughing and bright red ribbons fluttering like waterfalls of blood.

All of it reminded her that something here was not right – that someone had been killed, and lay dead upstairs, and all these imbeciles could do was dance and drink and ignore all that had gone on.

"I feel ill," she managed to say, as the music seemed to get even louder.

Olivier did what any gentleman would do: whisk her off the dance floor and deposit her onto a chair. "Are you feeling light-headed? Nauseous? Shall I fetch you some water? I'll fetch you some water."

In a blink Olivier was gone, vanished into the braying throngs. Her attempts to take a deep breath caused a sharp pain in her abdomen, which she could not understand – her courses had ended only a week earlier. Then she remembered the stiletto. She straightened up, and that seemed to help.

"Do you mind if I sit here a moment?" came a shrill voice. Lucie recognized it at once. How did one forget a voice like that?

Jeanne-Baptiste Montpelier, who called herself the new trendsetter immediately after Marie Antoinette's beheading. Jeanne-Baptiste, who had never personally known the queen, who had ridiculed the queen's style. Lady Gossip. She was older than most of the crowd, being well into her thirties. Her marriage to Lord Montpelier had been arranged by her mother, one of Marie Antoinette's sycophants, largely because he had a fortune and her family had a good name but no money, since her father had gambled it all away.

Her husband had died only a few years after the wedding, and she had inherited it all. Instead of marrying again, Jeanne-Baptiste attended parties and strung along young men who believe they might find a fortune with her. One such fool attended to her now, offering her a lace-trimmed handkerchief for her to sop at the sweat dripping down her face and cutting through her face powder.

The Victim's BallRead this story for FREE!