The woman who stared back was dressed in a scandalously well-tailored silk gown of eye-popping blues and greens which swirled lovingly around every curve.
“I-I couldn’t possibly…”
“Lady Afonsine has a beautiful wardrobe. And you would do well not to offend her by refusing to exhibit it.”
‘Scandalous’ did not begin to describe the amount of skin she was showing! Her bared arms and back did nothing to increase the modesty of the outfit.
Her brow puckered as she tried to find an appropriate comparison. The style of the outfit was alike to none she’d ever seen before; certainly not in the last decade. And the colour was… something else.
“I look like… like a gypsy.”
“Why, it’s almost as if you belong in such attire. As if the exotic colours were in your blood. Your very soul. I wonder where the Countess derived such inspiration.”
Estelle heard the maid’s voice at the back of her mind, but was so transfixed upon her own reflection that she barely noticed the impatience lacing it.
She reached around to her back to undo the stays, suddenly rather frantic.
“I couldn’t possibly appear in front of all those people dressed this way, they’ll—”
“Estellise! You must not insult the Countess in such a way.”
“Oh, no! No, please don’t misunderstand— I-It’s beautiful, really, it’s just… It’s only that… that I just… I…”
“I’m a governess. I’m a governess, and governesses do not wear… this. I’m nothing more than mutton dressed as lamb.”
The maid’s mouth tilted, cheekily.
“Tonight, they’re all mutton.”
Relief, anxiety and confusion coursed through her all at once. She’d had no idea.
“But… I don’t have a mask.”
“When I heard Lady Afonsine had given a guests’ employee leave to attend the ball, I made sure to… ah, let us say, misplace one of the masks the Countess had commissioned.”
“… know I put it in here somewhere… aha!”
“Tonight,” she murmured, “you are not a governess…”
And the governess gasped in complete and utter marvel.
An understanding shared only by the unprivileged.
And Estelle knew that she meant for them both.
It was as if she had come alive.
“… just don’t forget to watch out for wolves.”
A/N: What’s this? I’ve written a chapter in less than a month’s time? Egads! Next chapter might take a bit longer
because I’m so clever I decided on a masquerade and must trawl the internet for masks and outfits, etc.