“Sarah, You will not fall flat on your face. Your first ball will be a total success.” I tried my best to convince myself. I sat in front of the dressing table, gazing at my reflection while Elsie fixed my hair. I had on a beautiful dress, it was a pale blue color and covered in fancy lace. The dress was very fashionable, and the silk swished with ease. It was truly a beautiful gown, a girl’s first coming out gown must be beautiful. Elsie was busy stringing star flowers in my hair. The tiny flowers looked lovely in my golden hair, even I had to admit it. There was a silver chain with a diamond pendant around my neck and silver earrings in my ears and I had just adjusted my ring and fixed my bracelet. Outwardly I looked perfect, now I just had to act accordingly. Elsie finished her work and gazed at me with great satisfaction. There were several other girls in my room, all getting dressed up for the ball as well. Among them was Priscilla Melissa Thompson. I had so not wanted to invite her to my ball, but I really didn’t have a choice. Aunt Helen would have never heard of the Thompsons not coming, so the invitation had been sent and of course they had accepted.
“Are you nervous, Sarah?” Prissy waltzed up to me and asked in a patronizing voice. Prissy was a year older than me and had had her début last year. I had not attended but knew it had been a great success. She had grown to be quite a beauty. With dark brown locks, captivating eyes, and a graceful figure, she easily turned the eyes of men. Too bad her voice was a little too shrill for my liking, if only she would tone it down just an octave or two, maybe it wouldn't bug me as much as it did. I wondered if her suitors found her voice as annoying as I did.
“I guess I'm a little nervous,” I answered her question. She looked me up and down with a critical eye.
“You do look the quite the part,” she said in a knowing tone; a tone that made my blood boil! “You’re features are sort of…well…wanting, but you’ve obviously done the best that you could do with your face and figure…”
“Prissy, if I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it,” I snapped at her. Prissy turned her nose up at me and sauntered away.
“Don’t listen to Prissy, Sarah,” Clara Grey, one of my guest, walked over to me and said in a low tone. “She’s frightfully jealous of you. You are about to become serious competition to her, and she’s afraid that you might take some of her suitors away.”
I smirked. Not a very ladylike thing to do, but I couldn’t help myself. Priscilla guarded her suitors and her popularity like a tigress and she constantly tried to stamp out any and all competition. Prissy was so vain and so in love with herself that most other girls weren't friends with her and avoided her company.
“Honestly, Sarah, you will be the belle of the ball tonight,” Jessica Earl glided over to me. “Just look at your lovely dress and your hair.” The rest of the girls crowded around me, praising my hairstyle and my clothes and everything else about me. It was a promising start!
The ball had already begun but I still hung about in my room. I wanted to go down, I wanted to see if any of the young men would admire me and ask me to dance, but that fear, that fear of being discovered, the fear of not being accepted, the fear of not being good enough, it clung to me and refused to let me go. A knock on the door told me that probably someone had come to look for me.
“Who is it?” I called
“Come in, Uncle.”
“It’s Sarah’s début and she is hiding in her room,” He said as he came in. “Where is the belle of our ball! Why aren’t you out there?”
“I don’t know Uncle, I guess I’m a little afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“Sarah, Sarah,” he walked up to me and put his hands around my shoulders, “nobody will ever guess. We’ve destroyed what little evidence there was. Don’t worry, you’re safe, no one will even suspect. To them, you will be Rose, though perhaps a bit of a blue one."
"What do you mean?" I was confused.
He chuckled and pulled out of his pocket a little blue rose bud. "Blue roses aren't natural you know, you can only get them by dying a white rose. A Blue rose is a mystery, and that is what you can be to the rest of the world, no one will ever discover what it is we have buried forever." He gently slipped the rose into my hair. Come, my Blue Rose,” he placed my arm through his, “it’s time to present you to society.”
I had many admirers right from the start. A hush had come over the room when I had walked out with my uncle; I felt every eye in the ballroom turn towards me. I tried to look calm and cool and glide effortlessly next to my uncle. The whispers around me spread like a wildfire.
“So much like her mother.”
“How ironic, Mr. Greensten leading her out, history just repeats itself.”
“Why, that’s Evelyn through and through, save the eyes.”
“I’d still guess she was Miss Evelyn Beverly’s daughter even if I didn’t know it for a fact.”
I had just reached a chair when I had my first request to dance.
“Miss Rose, you look stunning.”
It was all I could do to keep from scowling and saying something nasty. Of course it had to be Albert Thompson who would approach me. The last I remembered of him was him teasing me about something. And now he had the audacity to tell me that I looked ‘stunning’?
“Thank you, Mr. Thompson,” I said through clenched teeth.
“May I have the honor of the first dance with the young debutant?”
I wanted to tell him ‘no’ straight to his face and get back at him for so many things, But of course I had to keep face in front of all the guests, so I smiled and extended him my hand as he led me to the dance floor. He had this admiring gaze that annoyed me to the bones. Albert, Albert Thompson, who had called me names and constantly made fun of me was suddenly a gentlemanly and courteous.
“Double-faced son of a jackal,” I thought to myself. Finally the dance finished, but but even then he didn’t seem quite eager to leave my side, but thankfully, another young gentleman, young Joseph Frerry walked up and asked or my hand. I left Albert with no regret, I didn’t want his society spoiling my ball. I decided to do all in my power to avoid him! There were so many guests, surely it wouldn’t be too difficult. I caught Prissy’s icy stair and smiled smugly at her. I didn’t mean to be smug, but the feeling of victory over your rival can make one a little wicked.
That night I never had want for partners or company, though avoiding Albert turned to out to be easier said than done. The youngster seemed intent on haunting me! I had to dance with him again and took great care after that to be very occupied to keep from having to dance with him a third time.
Another dance had come to a close and I had freed myself from my partner and headed off to find something to drink.
“You look so much like your mother,” A gentleman told me as I walked past
“Yes,” his companion chorused. “She was so popular at her coming out ball too. All the young men had eyes only for her. Quite to the jealousy of her older sister.”
I became more attentive.
“Ah, yes, the younger Miss Beverly was always the favorite among the young men.” They were talking more between themselves than to me, but I still hung around and listened. “Of course it wasn’t the elder’s fault that she was born sickly and frail. Miss Evelyn was a beauty to behold, and everyone around knew it. You would be wise to be careful, and don’t end up like she did.” He suddenly turned to me. “Too much free spirit in a young woman is not good. That was your mother’s one flaw, she was too willful.”
I thanked him for the advice and went over to where all the drinks were being served. A cluster of gentlemen were standing and discussing something, Uncle Andrew was among them.
"If you don't beat them they'll just be lazy and do nothing all day, or worse yet, they'll turn on you and start some sort of riot," Mr. Thompson was saying, "I tell my overseers to beat them hard and keep them constantly subdued, or else I'll never get anything accomplished."
If only I could give Mr. Thompson a piece of my mind, I remembered the horrible scars on Sammy's wrists and felt the anger welling up in me. Of course I knew better than to say outloud, I was a woman and had no right to meddle in the affairs of the men and their plantations.
"Mr. Greensten, if I remember correctly, you don't seem to support Mr. Thompson's views on treatment of slaves. Rumor has it that you give them a lot of leniency," Mr. Henry Earl spoke up next. "Don't you think it very dangerous to treat slaves the way you do, they could take the extra freedom to the extreme?"
"If you call the fact that I don't beat my slaves into the grave and that I give them a decent amount of food every day 'extra freedom' then no, I don't think it extreme. Surely everyone knows that healthy slaves are more profitable than a sickly ones. I have long learned if I keep the slaves healthy, happy and well fed they can work more and in the end I am the one who profit greatly. For one thing, I don't constantly have to fork out money to replace slaves that are dying out on me."
"But all that expense on food and clothing, you're wasting you money when you could be putting it to good use," Mr. Thompson argued.
"By looking after my slaves, I am ensuring that I will always have strong and efficient workers, to work in the fields. It is not a waste, it is an investment."
"I don't know, sounds dumb if you ask me, if you can work them hard, then for goodness sake, work them, drive them to their very limits. What else are they good for? Your policy is just a waste of time and money," Mr. Thompson shook his head at my uncle.
"Perhaps," Uncle Andrew smiled, "but then, I'm not the one who's swimming in debt. Or drowning in it," here he turned and cast a glance at Mr. Earl. He caught sight of my standing not far off and excused himself.
"Sarah, you have a very bad habit," he shook his finger at me.
"I'm sorry, Uncle, I couldn't help myself," I looked down a little guiltily.
"Your constant habit of eavesdropping will get you into serious trouble one day, curiosity killed a cat."
"Ah, but satisfaction brought it back." I looked at him with a naughty twinkle in my eye.
"Have it your way. Now, seeing are you are not occupied by a host of young dashing suitors, perhaps you will grant your old uncle a dance?"
“You are not old. And there is no one I would like to dance with more," I stated, looping my arm through his as we walked to the dance floor. On the way we passed by the two gentlemen who had spoken to me earlier.
"Uncle, who are they?" I motioned to them with my head, "they spoke to me."
“Old suitors of your mother,” he chuckled. “Your mother had a good many of them. "Rumor has it that just about every landowning son had his eye on the young Miss Evelyn Beverly.” He gave a sad sigh. “But we are not going to remember the past, let’s just stick to the present.”
I understood knew that tone and silenced all my questions, but made mental note to try and confront my uncle with at least some of them later.