Gertrude: Part One (1/4)

Gertrude: Part One (1/4)

A Story by Mel

This is a short series that serves as an origin story for a character in a seperate piece I'm working on. Gertrude: Part One is set at a great ball. The host has exciting news to share to his guests.


Gertrude: Part One

Two women stood side-by-side, critiquing themselves and each other’s reflections in a mirror that encompassed an entire wall. They looked nearly identical, save for the fact that one was a few breathes taller than the other, and was wrapped in loud yellow satin, while the other tugged at the mint-colored silk that pressed uncomfortably against her midriff. They both wore white elbow-deep gloves, powdered faces, and pounds of jewels around their necks. Both blessed with beauty, youth, and dark curls.

The one in yellow broke her own eye contact and turned to the other. She pressed a gloved finger on the top of her head, pushing some hair forward and out from it’s bounded braid.

“Your hair is so tight, it’s pulling your eyebrows up,” she said. “Makes you look surprised.”

“Regal,” The other corrected, turning back to herself in the mirror and patting her hair down. “The only thing I’m surprised about is the color of this dress. I’ve told her a million times, pastel does not match my skin tone.”

The one in yellow passed her eyes up and down the other’s dress, deciding if she agreed or not.

“At least it’s not yellow,” She said at last, looking down at her own self. “Makes me look ill.”

“We’re going to need to talk to mama about her color choices,” The one in green laughed. They finally stepped away from the mirror wall, took each other’s hand, and walked down a well-lit, high-ceiling hallway.  Candles in their lamps flickered as they floated past. Somewhere below them, music was playing. Violins. A distant burst of well-mannered laughter.

“I love parties,” said the one in green, dreamily. “I wonder what news papa will announce tonight?”

The other didn’t reply.

“Everyone is going to be there,” She continued. “The Harrises, the Hutchinson family, I think the Snyders will be, the Patricks, the Borjas, the Waggoners-”

“Is that all?” The other said dryly.

The hallway unraveled into a broad, spiral staircase coated in maroon carpet so thick that as they descended down the steps, the heels on their sparkling slippers sunk into it. They glided down, delicate fingers poised gracefully upon the rail,. The music and laughing grew louder. The stairs opened up into a towering ballroom punctuated by a giant chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. Hundreds of candles framed in glass. On the outer rim of each stage of candles, a line of actual dancing crystal figurines. Waltzing. The ballroom itself looked like the king’s own throne room. Lavish fabrics were thrown over chairs, pillars engraved in reliefs of beautiful men and women swooning over each other.  Curtains of violet were pulled aside to reveal windows that stretched from floor to ceiling. Outside, nothing but thick, impenetrable mist.

The attendants paused their conversations briefly and clapped politely as the sisters made their entrance. After a small curtsey on the landing, they allowed themselves to be swallowed up by the party. It had fractured up into groups of fine gentlemen and gentlewomen sipping ripened wine and eating tiny delicacies being catered by straight-backed servants. All were in their best garments. Expensive leather shoes, pressed trousers on the men. Dragging silks and pearls on the women. Papa must have important news to spread, indeed, the sisters said to each other.

The sisters weaved in and out of the circles of guests, engaging in greetings and  pithy conversation as they moved. The finesse of two swans in quiet waters. They never stayed too long or too short in one circle, squeezing each other’s hand or sending a swift look to indicate when one got bored and wanted to explore elsewhere.

“Let’s find Marge,” The one in yellow whispered finally after an hour to the one in green. “I’m bored and she always knows how to liven up a conversation.”

“You only want to find her so you can talk to Stewart,” said the other, to which she grinned broadly and made no effort to deny.

A voice called out to them from behind, interrupting their mischievous plans. A shrill sound, they instinctively shrank back and their eyes met in a mix of embarrassment and annoyance.

“Jo! Gertie! There you are!”

The voice came up right behind them, planted wet kisses on both their cheeks and spun them around. It belong to a grand woman in loud pinks and silver. She was an older version of the girls although a bit taller. Her dark hair framed her thin face in a cloud of shiny, girlish ringlets. She pulled them both to her, and neither attempted to resist. Her jewels pressed uncomfortably against them.

“You both look so beautiful,” she cooed, letting them go and gazing at them in admiration.

“Yes, well, we’ve got a few critiques on your color choices, Mama,” the one in green said. “But it can wait until later,” she added hastily when the woman shot her a dark look.

“Your father will be here any moment,” said Mama, looking out over the crowd to catch a glimpse of him. “I need both you at my side for when he makes his announcement.”

“Can we get a hint of what that’s going to be?” the one in yellow asked, hiking up her skirts and positioning herself next to her mother. The other followed suit.

Mama tsked at her daughter, and they stood in silence, shoulder to shoulder, waiting.

A short time later, a hush fell over the party, and a man standing on the first step of the staircase raised a hand over the crowd to draw its attention to him. Had he just arrived, or had he been here the whole time? He was a stately man, tall with a well-kept silver moustache and stiff gray trousers. An emerald ring on his pinky finger winked in the light.

“There he is!” Mama whispered loudly, as if the sisters couldn’t see it for themselves.

He cleared his throat and welcomed his guests to his manor.

“I was told there was a possibility of lightning tonight,” he began. “I’m sure glad that was not the case.”

Scattered laughter.

“After Mother’s passing, my family and I have had time to reflect on our values and our mission as a unit. I’d like to think that her spirit has helped guide us through the year.” Mama and the sisters placed rehearsed hands over their hearts. “And what a year it has been. A year of growth, certainly, and of discovery. As many of you know, we have just recently acquired trade agreements with the Mountain Shershils. For the first time in history, we have direct trading with the people Below.”

The ballroom erupted in applause. The sisters exchanged excited looks.

“The ships are loaded with woods, metals, cottons spices, seeds and satins in a quantity we have never seen before. At our last meeting in spring, the King appointed me as the Minister of Trade and Foreign Relations, which I humbly accepted.” He broke eyes from the ballroom to look up at the ceiling, high and domed.

“Thank you Mother,” he mouthed.

“And I beside me the whole time, my beautiful wife, Clara, and our two daughters, Gertrude and Joanne.”

The mother and daughters squeezed each other’s hands. The father looked pridefully across the ballroom at them.

“And now our family is about to grow even more. I am more than pleased to announce the engagement of my eldest daughter, Gertrude, to Bernard Wallhauser, son of Arthur Wallhauser, advisor to the King and my oldest, closest ally.”

Mama squeezed her daughters to her. The sisters beamed at each other, although only one wasn’t faking it. The sister in mint kissed her sibling’s hand and her mother’s forehead and broke from them to meet her father on the step. She flowed to him smiling in her gloved hands, giddy. The attendants reached out to touch her, to offer her congratulations as she passed them.

Arriving at her father’s step, she now could see that another gentleman had come to meet them both as well. A younger, more handsome version of the King’s closest advisor stood before her. His hair, thick like chocolate matched his eyes. He was tall and wearing black trousers with mint-accented buttons. Gertie’s face, already warmed with delight, blushed deeper still as she gazed upon the face of her betrothed.

They stood staring and smiling stupidly at each other before her father leaned down to kiss his daughter’s cheek.

“Gertie,” he whispered excitedly to her. “This is Bernard. Do you remember Bernard?”

Gertie laughed without responding. Bernard’s smile grew impossibly larger.

“He came with Arthur to Gran’s funeral last year,” he continued as Gertie and Bernard kissed each other’s hands sheepishly. “He’s also a regular at the Snyders’ functions, aren’t you Bernard?”

Bernard was only half listening as he was fixating on the woman before him.

“Uh. Yes? Oh, yes, that’s right,” he said. His voice was lower than Gertie had expected. “They throw beautiful parties.”

“Very beautiful,” Gertie breathed.

© 2017 Mel

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Added on November 8, 2017
Last Updated on November 8, 2017
Tags: fantasy, story, sisters



Mammoth Hot Springs, WY

Wa$$up Wa$$up! call me Mel. If I read too much, then I start getting a big head and thinking that that must mean I can write too. Plz put me in my place and slash apart everything I write. Construct.. more..

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A Story by Mel