I

She had spent the entire day getting ready for the night to come. It was only her friends coming out party but her mother insisted. There were a few problems with the scenario that her mother had worked up in her head. The first was that this "friend", had never been someone that Elaine had called as such. She was simply the daughter of another wealthy man that her father did business with on occasion. Of course Elaine had known the girl for years and had spent as much time with her as she was requested to. The girl was sweet and week-willed, but Elaine at least felt a sort of fondness for her. Because of this she would have to spend the night trying her very best to smile and act like she truly cared whole-heartedly for this girl that was becoming a woman. The thought made her grimace as she pulled her stockings up over her left leg and then her right; she tried to balance but fell back onto her bed. If any of the servants were present she would have cursed herself, but they normally weren't needed in personal quarters unless cleaning.

The second problem with tonight was that she was by far an exponential amount times more beautiful than her "friend" and even if it was not her ball, Elaine was going to get far more attention. It wasn't exactly smart of her to say something like that so boldly but it was too obvious for her to avoid. She wasn't one to pretend that she thought she was ugly or even average when she knew she had a particular but beautiful face and fantastic curves. And this girl might not have been Elaine's true friend but she had a conscience of her own. Tonight was supposed to be about Miss Janice Ellington but a lot of people will probably forget that when Elaine enters in her gorgeous, black, off the shoulder gown, looking all the more as if she was the one coming out tonight. She looked to the dress as it hung on her bedroom door hook and made a childish face at it that involved a loose tongue and scrunched up eyes. Her mother would have a fit about possible wrinkles, which was unlikely because she (being one of the few people with Oriental blood in her veins) didn't age nearly as fast as the common Hispanic or African blooded people of the country, But that's what she deserves after giving her such a flashy dress. At least she didn't end up picking something bright colored instead. Elaine was sure that her mother would save that for her own ball. And even if she turned eighteen in two months, she wouldn't have to worry about much else for a while. The marrying age bracket ended at twenty and most didn't even court until then. she believed that there was still so much for her to learn and for her to forget.

There was a knock on her bedroom door and she almost fell again, slipping off her powder seat this time.

"Hold on a second, please!" she said as calmly as she could running to her bed to grab her robe. The someone behind the door ignored her request and entered the room anyway. "Mom, I said give me a second," she complained, swooping the robe behind her back and slipping her arms through the sleeves. Eleanor, for whom Elaine was named, rolled her eyes and waved a dismissing hand in her direction.

"I've seen you naked before, sweetheart," she said breezily, walking up to her daughter. She pulled the robe together for Elaine and tied it in a neat bow. "besides, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about." she sent a quick smile and wink to her daughter before pulling her into warm hug. Eleanor was only a few inches shorter, and had been for years now, but Elaine had gotten used to the difference long ago. She squeezed her mother tight and all of the thoughts of nasty memories and phantom pains disappeared. She preferred not to think about it in the first place.

"Speaking of being ashamed," Elaine pulled away from her mother with a disapproving look. "I remember saying something about not wanting to stand out at Janice's coming out ball. What is with this dress?" She detached herself completely then, as a second sort of acusation, and gestured toward the black silk piece hanging from the door. Eleanor put on her most innocent face and even if you weren't looking for it, you could see where Elaine got her beauty from. The same high cheekbones and pronounced jaw- The same small freckled nose. They're eyes were the same beautiful emerald color even though Elaine got her more pointed eye shape from her father.

"This was the least noticeable one I looked at," she said slowly and Elaine knew that she was piecing together truths. She took a few steps from her daughter and sat down on the bed. "And can't you call her Jan or something more natural? You've only known the girl for 10 years. Gracious its almost as if you barely know the girl.

"Mom, look me in the eye and tell me why you chose this dress." Elaine, who was having none of her distraction, leaned over and looked her mother dead in the eye, who began to physically squirm in her seat. After a certain point in Elaine's life she was never really able to refuse her anything. It's not that she really abused her mother's inability to lie to her she just really hated being stared at more than her natural beauty forced her to be. This time it wasn't exactly important to anyone but maybe Janice Ellington. Eleanor sighed and looked her daughter in the eye.

"You're prettier than her and you deserve everything in the world," her mother admitted blatantly, "Okay? And maybe I was going to introduce you to a few of your daddy's coworkers and their eligible sons." She spilled her true intentions quickly but didn't seem so disappointed in herself for spoiling the surprise. It was true that everybody that was anybody was going to be at the party tonight but Elaine hadn't even thought of the possibility of an early match being made before she even turned eighteen. The realization hit her like her brain had ran straight into a wall. She had thought that she would not have to worry about this sort of thing for at least another year.

"Moooooom," She groaned falling back and dragging a hand down her face as if the thought didn't send strange chills down her spine. It's not that the idea of marriage was new to her. So why did she feel suddenly woefully unprepared?

"Oh, sweetheart don't. You'll give yourself wrinkles," Eleanor doted, standing up and grabbing her daughters face in her hands. "You are so beautiful and even more important you are kind. I'm only trying to find you a suitable match, even If you don't marry for another two years." Elaine sighed. And reached her hand up to where her mother's hand still hovered over her. She knew that all her mother wanted was the best for her but she was conflicted for obvious reasons. She could only shake her head as she pulled her mother's hands down and held them in her own. There was no helping her thoughts. Am I truly as kind as you believe? You are so much more than you think I am.

"To make it up to me I get an extra hour of practice tomorrow," she said with the largest smile she could muster. I'll do this for you. Her mother narrowed her eyes but smiled none the less.

"Well, I don't think I did anything I have to make up for," she began, dropping Elaine's hands and passing her for the door. She spun around slowly before grabbing the door handle. With a smile, "But because I love you, enjoy your extra hour of practice. I'll tell your Etiquette teacher you're taking a day off." And with that she was gone, closing the door behind her.

Elaine waited until she couldn't hear the clopping of her mother's heals down the hall before she collapsed backwards onto her bed. She let out a small squeak and a trill of ugly giggles fell out of her gut. She tried to stifle it with a hand but she was so happy. An extra hour of fencing tomorrow that didn't even have to take up her designated free time. What a day it was turning out to be.


"Tell mother to give me five minutes," Elaine poked her head out the door to the servant that was posted outside, "and that I know I'm already late, but I'm stressing the importance of that phrase from the old world. 'Fashionably late'" She sent the sweet smiley cinnamon dusted servant a quick apologetic smile, as she knew that her mother would not be taking that well, before ducking back into her large empty room and then back out into the hall.

"Maybe ask my brother to inform mother. You're new and very cute. I'd hate to see her shoot the messenger." The servant nodded her pretty brunette head with a smile like she would have told that to the very devil if Elaine had asked her nicely. Elaine smiled again and ignored the small voice in her head that told her to watch as the girl trotted off in her one inch heels and cute bowed apron back.

Her own dress was half zipped up her back and her shoes were separated and strewn around her in weird places, but she'd much rather be pulling on her leather lace-ups instead of the five inches of pure torture that she was planning to pretend weren't killing her tonight.

"Jannn" she spoke to herself as she pulled the zipper up so that the back pulled together under her shoulder blades. "Jan. Jan. JAnn," she said back and for the before sighing and looking over herself in the mirror. Without the heels she was two and wearing her mother's gowns again. "Lord that still sounds so awkward, Janjanjan" She pushed out before grimacing at herself in the mirror. Delicate slender eyes scrunched up back at her and she smiled in response. Funny faces were a sure fire way to get her to smile, but she wouldn't acknowledge it if asked. She was taught to only smile when she could use it, not whenever her brother stuck her tongue out in her direction.

"Jan, you look beautiful," came the practice words from her lips as she slipped one foot into a shoe and smiling the most ladylike smile that he could muster.

"Oh Elaine! You made it!" she continued the conversation with herself as Ms. Janice Ellington would reply (In Elaine's head Janice used plenty of exclamation points and pearly white teeth), "You look quite beautiful yourself! Something about me steeling all the eligible men before she even has a chance to come out," A laugh escaped Elaine's lips as she stood in her heels (torture devices).

"Oh Jaaannn," she continued in a now mocking tone and with a genuine cheery, ridiculous smile on her face. "You are such a dooollll," another stream of giggled escaped her as she sat at her powder table and covered up her freckles with a thick cream that her mother had personally ordered all the way from the Texas Territory. When she was done you would never had guessed that she had such a misgiving. Her mother would say it's just one more thing that makes her beautiful but Elaine would say it's just a sign that she spent too much time in the poor sector of their city as a child. She had been given skin that was easily effected by the sun and she rather disliked it.

"Elaine!" came a familiar male voice from outside her door; her brother, Alan, had gotten her message from that cute Latina girl. "Mother is going to throw a fit, beautiful." He pushed the door open and received a pillow to the face.

"How many times have I told you to wait until I say it's okay to come in?" she rolled her eyes, in a most un-lady like fashion. "Wrinkles" her mother would remind her, as she did for most facial activities. "I could be changing." Her brother scoffed and took a seat at the nice arm chair by her door.

"I gave you a good warning I'd say," He mimicked her eye-roll and smiled across to her as she painted her lips a deep dark red that highlighted her cupid's bow.

"Well, did you at least tell mom that I'd be late? That you'd be late?" she asked, lining her eyes lightly enough to bring out the green of her iris'.

"I assumed that she would have figured that out a few minutes ago, dear sister," He jeered in all honestly. Elaine sighed heavily. "Hey!" he said quickly with a flash of what looked like mock annoyance, "Wrinklesss-"he said in a tone that mimicked his mother's speech too well. The siblings looked at each other with widened eyes—both of them in the attempt to keep a straight face—before both hunching over in giggles. Sometimes Elaine wondered if Alan was truly her twin instead of just her brother, because of the way they clicked, but it was obvious in the strangest moments and ways that he was older and wiser than her. This was not one of those moments.

"Come on, we really do need to get downstairs," she said smiling and standing from her small powder stool. He followed suit and went to open the door for her.

"You really do look beautiful, Laney." Alan gave her one of his sincerest smiles before gesturing for her to exit the room first. She rolled her eyes slightly and was thankful for the makeup on her cheeks that surely hid the pink along with the freckles of her cheeks.

"Flatterer," her smile was quick but sweet and innocent as she dropped her compact into her bag. It was a true smile that not many people had ever seen before. It was heart-warming to anyone that deserved it.

"You're late." Her mother said as a fact not as a judgement. She probably had gotten to the front door not a minute before they had but no one seemed to mind. She wore a similarly black dress with more matronly black sleeves and a deep and wide V-neck. A slit rode up to just above her knee and a deep brown long haired fur adorned her shoulders. It was real, a hand-me-down from her great-grandmother who's own great grandmother had lived through the end of the prior capital.

"I asked Alan to tell you that I would be," Elaine smiled across to her mother with pride at the beauty she found there.

"A great bit of good that did you when he was with you anyway," Eleanor smiled under her pale pink lips and golden-brown shaded eyes. "You look beautiful." She leaned over, now the same height as her daughter because of her taller heels, and gave her an air kiss on the cheek.

"Nothing in comparison to the beautiful rose I see before me," Alan spoke in a grand sweeping gesture, sending his mother into a trill of soft ladylike laughter that you would never guessed came from a lower-born woman. She kissed Alan's cheek as well and turned toward the door.

"Flatterer," she laughed as Elaine had done just minutes earlier, "Now let's go, I convinced your father to let us take the car tonight." The whole party perked up at the mention of the luxury. What a stir they would make being one of the very few or possible the only family to arrive in a car of all things.

"The car? Really mother?" Elaine cheered, quickening to Eleanor's side and linking her arm with her own.

"Oh yes! Really really, mother?" Alan mocked her jumping to Eleanor's open side and taking her other arm.

"Oh be quiet. I know you're just as excited," Elaine smiled despite her brother poking fun. Leather seats, cool air, and an actual engine! All thoughts of not wanting to upstage Janice Ellington blew straight out of her mind and were quickly replaced with comfortable empty streets and the look on people's faces as they exited their car. The large glass windowed walls of the Ellington's ballroom would prove a great showcase for her comfort.

"Yes of course I'm excited!" Alan threw back, almost dragging her mother faster out the doors that the servants held out for them. "Let's move faster so we can get there faster. Can I drive mom? I've been practicing on the old Junker in the garage. I think I can do it with a working model too." Eleanor laughed and nodded exaggeratedly.

"Oh yes, please wreck our family's most prized possession just because you've practiced on a stationary set of wheels," her voice dripped with sarcasm but Alan wasn't deterred. He smiled anyway and let go of his hold on his mother before running to check the car out up close. It was what people used to call a luxury car, and that hadn't changed since the almost extinction of cars or the gas that ran them. It was large, angular, and sleek black. The silver accents were shined and the wheels all matched. It was 98% intact, but the only thing it was missing was some of the door parts in the front side passenger seat. No one used or would ever notice its deficiency. It was all but perfect.

"Please have a wonderful night, Madame, Miss, Sir," The head servant in front of her addressed them all individually with small bows each. "We will take care of the manor while you are away." She then addressed the driver, "James, please take care of the car well while you are away. You represent all of us." She bowed again to the family and waited for everyone to board and for the car to rumble to life before she turned and directed the servants behind her to move forward to their last chores for the day.