Interlude: Devant the Bal

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Olivier did not wish to attend the ball.

"Oh, but you must!" his mother cried. "It is the first social event since the Terror. I was nearly certain that we had been cast out of all our former social circles. This proves we are still considered nobles. Please, Olivier. For my sake, attend."

He was not convinced that this invitation was meant to be an honor. He felt certain that this was a mockery. There were days when he missed his uncle so fiercely that the sight of people walking about the streets of Paris angered him.

In the months since, he had watched his mother fold into her mourning black, grow hollow and pinched. She rarely left the house. If this bal des victimes was truly meant for all who had lost a relative to the guillotine, then why had she not been invited?

"You must come with me," Olivier had tried to tell his mother.

"No, no, surely this ball is meant for young people. Perhaps you shall find a lovely girl to take as a wife. Everyone has been so fearful that no one wishes to draw attention by having a party these past two years. See, now that the crisis is over, people will be out again. Finally, you might meet some young people your own age. And hopefully some with higher standing than the Bourreaus." His mother's face lit up. "If you find a wife, I won't be pestered with invitations from Madame Bourreau. It is so obvious she wishes you would take kindly to that bland daughter of hers."

Olivier made a face. Alphonsine was indeed bland, and dull, but he had never spoken to her. It had been so long since his mother had had any other social interaction, or any social interaction where he'd been forced to be involved, that he had forgotten how his mother judged people.

Of course, before the revolution, his mother had not been so desperate to fit in.

His mother made an appointment with a marchande de mode to have a new suit made for Olivier. "Have you heard of this Victim's Ball?" his mother had casually asked as Monsieur Bisset draped fabrics together.

The man had nearly dropped his fabrics. "Have I heard of it! I have heard of nothing else. The costumes requested for this event are quite the spectacle. Quite the spectacle! It is akin to a masquerade, where the attendees shall wear red ribbons around their necks to symbolize the guillotine. Some wish to appear as though they wear ghostly rags." Monsieur Bisset shook his head.

"And what of the men who will attend? Do they also wear ribbons?"

"Some ask for red paint to decorate their costumes, like blood," Monsieur Bisset said.

Olivier opened his mouth to state his own opinion, which was that he would prefer to continue wearing the mourning black – surely, that would not be out of place.

"My son has not been out in society since this whole business started," Madame Legrand said. "I would like for him to fit in. Could you fashion something for him similar to what others are requesting?"

That was how Olivier had arrived at the ball wearing a blood-spattered suit.

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