The following nine weeks went by in a blur.
I commuted between Ignis and Atonia. In his madness to have to prepare everything perfectly, Darius had registered me for several lessons in both cities.
I had the most fun at the dance class. For these lessons, a dance teacher came to the Romanov’s estate and Darius was my dancing partner.
He has always been a very good dancer. I struggled to keep up. After some dancing sessions, I could hardly move anymore.
Luckily I had refilled my old closet in the mansion with my clothes. Therefore, I didn’t need to drive for two hours to my apartment after an exhausting day, only to change.
In general, my life had changed drastically in a short period of time.
Only a few days ago, I had had a part time job in a construction company, while studying at Atonia’s university.
At that time I thought that my days were long. But I had no idea what crazy a schedule Darius had on his mind. It made my former lifestyle seem lazy and sloppy.
However, I decided on it and the enormous program would be over in a few days anyway. Then, my education to a woman of the Aristocracy’s high society would be completed with one final test: the debutant-ball, which will take place in the ‘Estate Hotel’ in three days.
The simple thought of it, was enough to make me feel queasy. Even Niklas called me once a week to be informed about my progress.
I bet he did the same with Darius – control freak that he was. Daddy wanted to make sure, that I wouldn’t embarrass him on this special occasion.
For today there was only one appointment left in the afternoon: Amie’s and my final dress rehearsal.
I got myself a dreamlike tailor-made gown in white. My dress was an elegant, floor length mixture of elements of a tunic with an A-line ball gown. The outfit was completed by a golden waist belt and golden stilettos.
Amie had decided on wearing a floor length, dark green ball gown. The colour brought out her green eyes perfectly and emphasized her dark curls.
When we stepped out of our changing cabins and saw each other for the first time in our final outfits, we bounced up and down, excited like little girls. The dresses were a dream come true. We felt like real princesses.
The next two days went by in a flash.
Amie and I decided on having a cosy evening on our couch, the night before the big event. The past few days and weeks had taken their toll on us and by now, we both were exhausted.
Given, that we were expected early the next morning at one of the ‘Estate Hotel’ suites, to get ready for the ball, we went to bed early.
My nervousness and curiosity kept me awake for a long time.
Would I see Malachy again, tomorrow?
My alarm clock rang at 6 a.m. The monotonous beeping startled me from sleep.
Today was the big day. I was so nervous.
A few minutes later, Amie was standing in my room, being as nervous as me, if not even more so.
I had to laugh. “Don’t forget that we always, and under any circumstance, have to keep our countenance. If we start today by being this nervous already, Daddy Niklas is going to take me out of his will this evening at the latest, because I made a big scene at the ball.”
She nodded. “Okay. Shall we grab a bite before leaving?”
“No.” I answered. “We simply ask the room service of the hotel to bring us breakfast.”
Then, I started raving. “Fresh strawberries, croissants, orange juice and maybe a little champagne as well. It will help to calm our nerves. We don’t have to take care of our make-up, dress or hair, therefore the best thing we can do is to take care of our mental stability.”
I cheekily stuck my tongue out at her.
Amie laughed while replying: “Maggie, I think that staggering on the dancefloor is a no go for a lady of the high Aristocracy as well.”
That comment made me laugh out loud, as well.
“Amie, we don’t have to fool ourselves. It’s all just a façade. Who of all the attending debutants, is as innocent and pure, as the mandatory white ball gown wants to make everyone believe?”
She agreed while grinning.
Having barely arrived at our suite we were received by an armada of stylists, hairdressers and tailors. I wasn’t used to such a fuss being made about myself.
Who knows, if I would ever get used to it. I just hoped that I wouldn’t have to endure the same procedure, every time I was attending a ball.
After we took off our light cardigans and put down our bags, I greeted the whole entourage.
“Welcome everybody! I am Margarete Romanov and this is my best friend and greatest support Amelie Bodouir.”
Everyone greeted us politely. A tall, slender stylist attended to our needs, by asking if we would need something.
I told her to call room service and order breakfast, including loads of strawberries, croissants and orange juice. Water and champagne shouldn’t be missing as well and everything should be in such quantities that everyone could get some of it.
The personnel declined my offer for champagne, because they don’t drink alcohol at work, but they couldn’t resist the strawberries.
Honestly, who could do such a thing?
We were just sitting in the chairs, getting our make-up done, while dressed only in some sort of a bathrobe and with curlers in our hair, when we heard a knock on the suite’s main door.
Darius entered the room.
“Good Morning Ladies!”
He looked jaw-dropping handsome in his slim fitting, black tuxedo and his dark green bow tie, which’s colour was perfectly matching Amie’s dress.
The girls in the room struggled to concentrate on their work.
“Hey Bro!” I waved shyly at him from my chair. “What are you doing here? We are half-naked!”
He grinned in amusement. “I thought I would sneak a little peak at Amie. If anything but dancing with her is forbidden for today, I can still take a look on the delicacies I’m missing out on.”
Amie’s face turned red like a tomato.
“Darius! You can’t be serious!”
I just wanted to start my moral lecture, when he burst out laughing and playfully waved it off.
“It’s so funny, seeing your horrified expression. But my little naughty streak is not the reason why I am here.”
I could have sworn to have heard a little suppressed moaning from one of the stylists in the background.
“I wanted to inform you, that daddy did just arrive. Adrian will join us later, together with Rebecca. She is Soraya’s replacement. You are probably aware, that she can’t attend such events, due to her being human... If you ask me, I find that completely absurd.”
Amie’s stylist almost smeared the eyeliner while applying, because she had more eyes for Darius than for the task at hand.
“Thanks for the warning, Bro!”
I turned towards the ladies, whose task was to make me and Amie look stunningly beautiful: “How long will it take us, to be ready?”
The tailor replied: “Approximately another three hours.”
“Good lord!” I rolled my eyes...
Darius burst out laughing again. “Get used to it, dear sister. You really don’t want to know how long it takes to get you ready in another hundred years....”
Amie couldn’t help laughing.
“Okay, I’ll give up. We will see each other in about three hours. Till then, please keep Niklas away from me. And should you not have heard any life sign from me, after the three hours have passed, you should come here again and check whether I have hung myself with my extensions from the chandelier.”
Darius was still laughing when he left the suite.
“See you soon, Ladies!”
When he closed the door behind him, some of the ladies couldn’t contain a plain moan.
That’s how it was with Darius. There seemed to be an endless supply of women, who fell for him, but not a single one of them was able to fascinate him longer.
Less than three and a half hours later we were finally finished.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror and saw artwork, that had nothing to do with me.
I felt like I was dressed up as a doll with too much make-up, but in fact, I liked what I saw. I imagined all this styling and dressing up as some kind of armour, to defend me and give me self-confidence.
Considering Amie’s stories about the other debutants and explicitly mentioning their insidiousness, I could use a protective shield.
There was another knock on the door. I assumed it was Darius again, but according to Amie’s reaction this was not the case.
A deep, cold voice cut across the room like a whip.
“Margarete! I have to say that the effort was worth it. You are a feast for the eyes.”
Daddy was here...
“Hello father! I think that I will get a high bid on the marriage auction later.”
Amie gasped for air in horror and Darius, who entered the room directly after Niklas, burst into laughter. To my utter surprise, Niklas joined Darius in his amusement.
Shortly thereafter, however, he became serious again.
“That’s not a proper way to greet your father. Today I will let this go. I am in an excellent mood.”
He showed me a big, black case, which he opened rights in front of my eyes. All women who were present in the room put their hands over their mouths in astonishment and looked awestruck at the case’s contents.
Inside, were filigree worked, heart shaped diamond earrings and a matching necklace with a big diamond heart pendant.
The heart was the symbol of our royal house, the ‘House of Warriors’.
I had to admit, that the jewellery was really pretty. “Thanks, father! The jewellery is very beautiful.”
“It should be! These diamonds are worth several millions. They belong to the female head of Clan Romanov. But I am not finished, yet. There are still other pieces that I have had custom-made for you and today’s special event. They should be delivered here any minute. Their fabrication took longer than expected, because they are special and unique pieces, that not every goldsmith can create.”
While speaking about this special jewellery, a strange smirk showed on his face – downright malicious. His facial expression let a cold shiver run down my spine.
I replied: “Again, thank you. Would there be a possibility for me to withdraw myself, in order to sort out my thoughts and calm my nerves?”
Niklas, who was deeply lost in his thoughts, smiled at me again.
I was just asking all people, who were present at the suite to leave, when he interrupted me.
“That is not necessary, my dear. Why don’t you go for a walk in the garden on the rooftop? There, you can calm your nerves in perfect seclusion.”
The ‘Estate Hotel’ was famous far beyond Atonia’s borders for its enormously large greenhouse, which harboured a Japanese garden. During special events, like the debutant-ball, this part of the hotel was closed off to the public.
But this was no problem for me, as the daughter of the hotel owner.
Still, I wondered about Niklas’ unusual niceness, which was totally out of character. While at the same time I was grateful to have a father, who genuinely seemed to care for my needs and feelings, for once.