"James is here, Aurélie. Allons," my mother said. I took one final look at myself in the mirror and sighed. I caught my mother's eye in the reflection. She smiled. "Vous semblez beaux."
"Merci, mama," I said, taking her arm as we left the room. I was wearing a silver gown I had purchased years earlier, but which I had never felt it appropriate to wear. The gown was too beautiful for any occasion I could think of. But that evening it felt perfect. Marie had looked as though she couldn't quite believe I had asked for it, and had happily bustled about as she prepared it, humming loudly as she did so. The gown was made from watery, silver satin, which rippled like waves. There was a small train that floated behind me, and it was plain except for the white, silver and black beading on the bodice and sleeves, which reached my elbows. I had been hard pressed to find shoes that went with them, but one day my mother had returned from a solo-shopping trip with a box. Inside there was a pair of slippers that she had asked to be specially made, taking the gown with her to ensure that they matched exactly. 'Aurélie,' she had said, 'a dress like that needs a worthy companion. Just like a woman'.
As we descended the stairs I met James' eyes. He was standing at the door with a look of eager anticipation on his face.
"You have returned," I said, "So I must assume you have good news."
"I have," he replied. I smiled and clapped my hands.
"Quelles nouvelles?" my mother asked. He smiled and took one of our hands in each of his.
"Allegra Benjamin and I are engaged to be married." This announcement was followed by several minutes of congratulations and questions about his conversation with her. He gave little away, but as we watched my mother entering the carriage I turned to him. He smiled. "I shall tell all tomorrow, Aurélie, I promise." I began to enter the carriage too but his grip on my arm stopped me. I turned back to him. "And you, Aurélie. I hope we shall have some good news from you this evening."
"C'est pour moi pour savoir," I smiled enigmatically. He rolled his eyes and we piled into the carriage as my sister began to complain we would miss the performance if we did not make haste. The journey to the theatre was excruciatingly slow, as we tried to manoeuvre away from the rest of the evening's traffic, but James was the only one to notice my nervousness, as his hand fell calmly onto my fidgeting ones.
As we climbed out of the carriage I pulled my cape about me tightly, trying to keep the sudden chill out, and took James' arm as we approached the theatre. We were shown immediately to the box James had asked for, and took our seats quietly, watched, no doubt, by the other members of the audience. They fell silent as the lights were dimmed and the curtain went up, but I could not concentrate on the music or the words being spoken. My mind was a muddle of anticipation and fear. It seemed to long to bear but just as my patience began to wear too thin the interval began. Sabine exclaimed she needed some refreshment, with which my mother agreed heartily, and we followed the rest of the ton to find some. My eyes darted here and there as we filed through the crowd, greeting all those I knew, but only really watching for one.
"Sometimes it is best not to look, and the thing you are looking for shall come to you," James whispered, taking my hand. I smiled as saw he was leading me to Miss Benjamin. She greeted me warmly as I began to apologise, and said there was no need. James' agony was apology enough, it seemed.
"Then Beremead shall finally have a mistress," I smiled.
"It had Genevieve!" James replied.
"She cares as little for it as you," I said.
"I shall be sure to take goo care of it," Allegra assured me.
"It is beautiful estate, Miss Benjamin," I promised, "Despite James' aversion to it."
"I have no aversion-" he began.
"I'm sure that shall change," she said. I chuckled. "I made him promise we would be spending the majority of our time there."
"However did you manage that?" I asked, hoping shock was evident in my expression.
"C'est l'amour d'un imbécile," James sighed regretfully, glancing away momentarily. And then, quite suddenly, he exclaimed: "Andrew!"
I couldn't help but turn around and suddenly felt very strange as Lord Clyne's eyes met mine. He greeted James, his eyes rarely leaving mine, and was happily introduced to Miss Benjamin, before turning completely to me. James, quite sensibly, took the opportunity to move away from us slightly, offering Miss Benjamin his arm, and saying the must find my mother. I looked at Lord Clyne nervously.
"Are you enjoying it?" he asked. I smiled.
"Very much," I replied. I saw his eyes flicker over my form and couldn't help but blush.
"You look very beautiful this evening."
He glanced away. "Is your mother here. I should say hello."
"You have not asked me," I said. His head snapped back to look at me.
"That is our way now, is it not? We greet one another and then there is an awkward silence, before you ask whether I have considered your proposal any further."
I saw him swallow nervously, fighting back a smile, just in case. "And have you?" he asked, watching his hands.
"I have, Andrew."
"And what have you-" he started, stopping suddenly and meeting my eyes as my words dawned on him. "What have you decided?" he said, smiling now. It was his smile that made me jump into his arms and kiss him. This action attracted the attention of everyone around us, including my mother, but I did not care. After a moment of apprehension I felt his arms wrap around my waist.
"Oui, je me marierai avec vous," I whispered to him. I heard him chuckle before he pulled away so he might look at me.