There was silence in the seconds it took for Madame Cygne to sip her tea and then she spoke. "Lady Roslyn, I am here to create for you a dress that will commemorate your eighteenth birthday."

"Yes Madame, my mother warned, uh, told me that you were coming. I assumed you were coming to craft a gown for your talent precedes you." Roslyn said the last part in such a calm eloquent manner that her mother could not help but smile approvingly at her daughter. All those years of etiquette lessons (more than the usual amount of girls her age, unfortunately) had certainly been worth it.

"Roslyn, as everyone knows, the color of a woman's dress is what is most important," said the Madame, in a controlled distinct voice. Roslyn opened her mouth to speak but stopped. The Madame wasn't finished.

I get it, Roslyn thought to herself. Speak then rest, speak then rest. At this rate, the dress will be finished just in time for my twentieth birthday.

"I believe that the suitable color for you would be a deep, luxurious red. It will accentuate the brown in your eyes." Silence ensued, except for the soft tea sipping sounds made by the Madame, of course. "Roslyn, will you please stand?" Roslyn stood up slowly, from the too plush settee and almost painfully placed herself in the most statuesque of positions she could muster.

"Yes, Hmmm." More silence, more tea sipping. "Well, I will definitely have to accentuate the bust and hips. She certainly is small in stature isn't she? Very well, I will have your dress ready two days after the seventh day of the week."

With that, she stood gracefully; Roslyn and her mother curtsied (Roslyn being extremely proud of herself for the display of yet another textbook curtsy) and escorted the Madame to the castle foyer.

"It was a pleasure meeting with you Madame Cygne. Please come again when you are not so busy," said Roslyn pleased in her attempt at friendliness.

The Madame turned to her slowly and deliberately answered her through what Roslyn thought to look like the most awkward smile she had ever seen.

"If that were the case Lady Roslyn, this would be our first and only meeting." She turned to Roslyn, and smiled at her showing just the right amount of shiny teeth, and walked through the door. Roslyn and her mother stood at the door waiving until the woman was no longer in sight.

As she smiled and waved, Roslyn spoke through clenched teeth "I hate deep luxurious red! Wouldn't midnight black better suit me?"

"Yes, dear, black would be most flattering wouldn't it?" Her mother snapped back sarcastically.

"Well it's better than deep, luxurious red!" She said in a stellar impersonation of Madame Cygne. "And why does she have to speak in riddles? 'I will have your dress ready two days after the seventh day of the week.' Why can't she just say Tuesday?"

"You would be smart to listen to Madame. More importantly, I really do believe that she is fond of you." Her mother said trying to calm her.

"Really? You think she is fond of me?"

"The Madame does not smile at everyone you know." Her mother retorted.

"She did not smile at me? Did she? That was a smile?"Her face contorted into mock impression of the Madame.

"It's only one dress, my dear, to be worn on only one occasion. Just give a little-this time?" said her mother as she carried a deep knowing smile.

"I suppose," she replied, following her mother through the Great Hall. Her thoughts overwhelmed her. "Mother, may I ask you a question?"

"What ails you my dear?" She said lovingly

"Why is it so necessary for me to have this party? I have no friends to invite, except Gavriel and Melagro and well unless horses can mingle, I really don't know if there would be enough people to make a ball! I have never been to a gathering that did not include our castle inhabitants and I have never required a dress-maker. I just don't understand. Who are you inviting?" she said inquisitively.

"My darling, this ball, in your honor, is a tradition that has been in existence for over two-hundred years. This is a very special time in your-" At that moment she was interrupted by shouting and excitement coming from beyond the castle dining room followed by a loud crash.

"What is going on?" Her mother exclaimed as she scurried toward the location of the sudden commotion.

"Why, if this is such a special time in my life, hasn't anyone ever told me about it" she said speaking to herself aloud as she walked through one of the castle's many corridors. "So I'm celebrating my eighteenth birthday-BIG DEAL!" She rounded the corner swiftly and Bam! She hit him right square in the chest staggering backward. She would have fallen to if he hadn't caught her round the waist.

"Are you alright?" The young man exclaimed steadying her. "You really shouldn't run around corners like that you could get hurt."

"Thanks Gav," she said as a tinge of annoyance enveloped her words. "Yes, next time I round a corner with such haste I could likely injure myself and end my life right then!"

Half smiling the tall young man replied, "No need for sarcasm and please save your dramatic performance for the ball. What has you so upset anyway?"

She stared up at him.

Is it possible? Had he grown another inch since yesterday! I mean really. We were neck and neck last summer and now. Well now he stands head and shoulders above me.

She took in his presence. His shaggy brown hair wasn't hanging over his left eye as usual but it was pulled back with a leather tie allowing all of his face to be clearly seen. Every sharp curve of his face shone brightly and his eyes, there were little brown flecks amidst the green that sparkled magnificently against extensive lashes that seemed to go on forever. Sure she had seen them hundreds and thousands of times but she had never really looked at them. Those eyes, wow. My, when did he become so...handsome?

At that thought her eyes widened and she realized she had been staring.

"Oh it's just this wretched ball 'is all." She replied softly forgetting that she was upset and somewhat annoyed.

"What, you mean you're not excited to get to wear a too heavy gown and hide under too much make-up and walk in shoes that are too high and much too tight?" He said obviously trying to hold back a smile.

"Now who's being sarcastic?" She replied "Where were you headed anyway?" She asked cocking her head to the side.

"Well I was looking for you and I thought I'd just follow the shouting and low and behold-it was you!"

She smirked shaking her head, "I KNOW you think I'm nuts and daggers but really the whole idea of this ball is just confusing and irritating what with the dress and the curtseying and hey, care to guess what color I'll be wearing?" She said as they began walking toward the stables.

"Not really, I think I'd like to be surprised," He said looking down on the top of her head. She seemed so small to him today. He watched her as she walked purposefully in front of him.

She never could just take her time could she? He thought, as he noticed how her thick black hair poured down her back like sweet molasses gently kissing her hips. His heart turned suddenly in his chest. What on earth was that? He quickly brushed off the feeling and followed her into the stables.

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