Glamorous ball gowns and glistening chandeliers, gossiping girls and gracious gentlemen. It was a typical dinner party in the world of Abigail Whitebridge. This one was of particular importance to her, only because it was being held in her father's name, which meant all eyes would invariably fall upon her as she entered beside him, and the thought of being anything less than the talk of the crowd horrified her. All afternoon, she had slaved in front of her vanity, curling her platinum hair with an iron, applying just the right amount of makeup, debating which earrings would dangle from her lobes.
Now, she stood just outside the hallway, in her floor length formal gown, with its endless cascade of mauve ruffles and its creamy lace bodice, her feet in delicate heels, gloves pulled up to her elbows, poised for their entrance. If only her father was ready…She tapped her foot impatiently and took another quick peek into the grand hall. Nearly all the other guests had arrived.
"Your father should be here in just a moment, Miss Whitebridge." Abby turned around to see the intern her father had taken under his wing about a year ago, standing in his suit behind her. Hollis was tall and trim and his short brown hair was clipped and combed; he was handsome enough to be a politician, that was for sure. Reminding herself that he worked for her father, she offered him a feeble smile, before he darted into the grand hall, no doubt going to take his place at the long table, to the right of the head, where her father would be sitting. Speak of the devil.
"I'm sorry I kept you waiting, bug," he greeted, as he joined her behind the door.
"It's no matter," she replied. Any annoyance she had with her father melted quickly when she turned to face him; it was truly impossible to keep a quarrel with someone who looked at her like she was his whole world. "Your tie's crooked, though." Standing on her tiptoes, she reached up and adjusted the smooth, black silk around his collar. "There we go."
"Where would I be without you?"
"In some kind of fashion limbo, no doubt," she joked. "Anyway, we'd best get going."
"You're right," her father agreed, and just then, his stomach rumbled. "See, even my stomach agrees." And with that, they were off.
The buzz of conversation that warmed the room instantly dissipated the moment the two of them stepped inside, instead replaced with a vivid round of applause, and of course, a few hushed whispers behind cupped hands. Abby allowed herself to grin, knowing that other girls were eyeing her enviously, wishing that their dresses were as elegant as hers, their fathers as kind. When they finally settled into their seats, Abby to her father's left, across from Hollis, the applause dimmed, and Matthias Thiabeult, one of her father's colleagues, rose to toast him. As he rambled, she found herself utterly disinterested; a glance at Hollis revealed that he was feeling the same way, a dazed expression settled upon his face, his eyes glazing over.
At last, the speech ended, and the food was brought in, much to Abby's delight. She was nothing short of starving, and as the solemn servants silently set out their food, she waited impatiently. Across from her, Hollis caught her eye, tossing her a playful grin when he saw the pure glee upon her face. She had been starving all day, and the moment a roll was placed on her plate, she began to eat.
When most of the other people at the table stopped eating, Abby told herself to do the same. She dabbed the corners of her mouth delicately with her cloth napkin and waited, as people began to file away from the table and to the wide open dance floor. At the far end of the room, a stringed quartet played dense melodies which some of the people swayed to. She glanced at her father, who was across the room chatting with a few other politicians in suits, and then at Hollis, who met her gaze.
"Miss Whitebridge," he started, from across the table, and Abby nodded, encouraging him to go on. "Would you like to dance?"
"You can call me Abby, you know," she corrected, and then she allowed a grin to slip onto her lips. "But yes, I would love to dance." Dropping her napkin onto the table, she stood up; he joined her on her side of the table, gently taking her tiny hand into his own and leading her to the dance floor. Properly, he rested one of his hands on her waist, so she lifted hers to his shoulder. When the opening chord of the song struck, the two of them began to move their feet to the waltz.
"Abby." Hearing him say her name for the first time was strange. It sounded awkward and clumsy upon his tongue. "I know you don't pay much attention to what your father does, and I don't blame you, but surely even you have heard it by now."
"Heard what?" she asked, feeling her brow furrow. In her world of silk and satin, gems and jewels, fashion and flirting, she managed to block out most of the dull, boring politics her father was involved in.
"The resistance," he replied, dropping his voice. "There's been so much chatter about the winds of change blowing through the country, starting in the Seat." The Seat was the head of the nation, where all the politicians worked, where the majority of the country's industry was located, and where Abby and her father resided.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she told him, in earnest, and she wondered why he thought she would. Surely everyone knew by now that Abby was utterly disinterested in the inner workings of their nation; she made a point of excusing herself to her room every time her father began to ramble on about them.
"All right, then. Never mind." He nodded curtly, and with that, an easy silence fell between the two of them, as they both focused on making sure their feet moved to the right place at the right time. She could not help but stare into his wide eyes, as grey as an overcast sky, or the salty ocean on a stormy day. Kind and honest, for some reason, they brought a flush to her cheeks. Hollis was truly handsome, and she wondered, as he stared back into her own green eyes, if he thought she was beautiful, in the radiant glow of the chandelier, with her hair loose and curled against her thin shoulders.
The music began to fade away, and their footsteps slowed, and she was ever so tempted to find out. A soft smile rested upon his lips, and though she knew it was silly, she could not help but feel like she was the one who put it there. She inched her face closer to his, leaning in and praying that maybe, he would lean in, too, but before he had a chance to do anything, the two of them were interrupted.
"Abby," her father boomed, and she instantly jerked away from Hollis, her already blushing cheeks suddenly blooming crimson.
"Uh, yes?" she stammered, dropping her hand from his shoulder.
"I do hate to interrupt, but it's time that we get going."
Her brow pulling together in confusion, she nodded, but not before asking, "So soon?"
"Yes," her father replied hesitantly. "I was going to wait to tell you, but I might as well say it now. We need to leave soon because you need to pack. Tomorrow, you'll be departing for the Cove for the summer."
It's been a while since I posted something serious here, and I'm very excited. This story has been brewing in my head for nearly a year now, so it's about time that I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, rather) and muscled it out. Short chapter I know, but the rest should be longer. Title is taken from the song Knotty Pine by Dirty Projectors & David Byrne. Great stuff.
As an aside, this is set in my imagined version of the future; I'm fairly certain the questions you might have will be answered as the story progresses.
Thanks for reading. Reviews are love.