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Anna lifted her gaze from the ceiling to look at the elderly maid. She was holding a gown so brilliant that she felt her jaw open in surprise.

“Oh, it is very beautiful,” she squealed in delight as she leaped to her feet and grabbed a hold of the dress. “But, what am I to get ready for?”

“For the ball, sweet Anna,” the elderly maid said in a happy tone. “If you attend the ball wearing this dress, people will think you are no less than a real princess.”

Anna looked at Madam Mary and genuinely smiled at the woman. She had grown to be like a second mother to Anna during her days in this castle. She clung to every word Madam Mary said and trusted her like family.

“Go on child, put on the dress,” the maid urged her before grabbing the door handle. “I will go fetch Marcus to see if he could find a mask for you.”

“A mask?” Anna asked, curiously.

“Had I forgotten to mention it is going to be a masquerade ball?” she smiled cheekily and went to look for the young servant.

Anna looked at the dress in her hands once more. The whole gown was in a crimson color. The material of it was pure silk, though, which made it shine under the moonlight coming from the window. She carefully put the dress on and looked at the girl in the mirror. She did not look like herself. She did not look like Annabelle.

Madam Mary came back a couple of minutes later with the scrawny servant Marcus behind her. The expression on their faces said it all.

“M-Miss Anna,” Marcus gaped at her while stuttering, “Y-you l-look like-”

“Like a princess.” Madam Mary stated, proudly. The young maid did a curtsy.

“You ought to get ready for the ball,” the elderly maid had said. “My dear, have you thought of a princess name to say to the courtier?”

“Well,” Anna said, thinking. “My full name is Annabelle.”

“Perfect for a princess. And for your last name?”

“H-how about Grey?” Marcus, the servant, spoke up. “A-Annabelle G-Grey?”

The scrawny servant was all set on the mission of persuading the courtier to think a really important princess had yet to come.

“Have you heard of the princess Annabelle Grey, sir Vincent?” Marcus’ stutter was long gone now that he was not in the presence of the beautiful Annabelle. He eyed the gruffly looking courtier beside him. His mustache was hanging low on his lips, making him look even more menacing. “Darn, I have missed her, have I not? I heard she was a real beauty.”

Vincent, the courtier, looked annoyed by the servant’s presence. Marcus got the impression that the courtier thought himself of a higher class than Marcus. “Mr. Marcus,” the courtier eyed the servant with a glare. “If you do not leave my side in a matter of sec-”

He did not finish his sentence as both the courtier and the servant’s gaze fell upon the beautiful princess coming up the stairs of the castle. Vincent was already going down to help the lone princess, a gesture he was rarely seen doing. He found it rather strange that she was arriving alone but did not dare question it. He did not think he was worthy of asking her such intimate questions.

“What might be your name, princess?” the courtier asked and Anna saw the servant Marcus give her a smile before fading away into the candlelit hallways.

She held an upright posture, just like a real princess would and replied shortly, “Princess Annabelle Grey, sir.”

The courtier bowed and reached out his hand, “After me, Princess Annabelle.”

Annabelle found it strange but exciting that the courtier did not seem to recognize her nor think of her as less of a princess. It was probably because of the golden mask she was wearing. That detail seemed to accentuate the gown even more. She looked most definitely enchanting.

As the courtier led Annabelle to the Grand Hall where the ball was, Annabelle’s stomach was bubbling with nerves.

Did she make a right choice coming here tonight? Would someone recognize her and banish her from the castle forever? And most importantly, would this be the faithful night where she would finally meet the gentleman of her dreams?

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