THE VISUALS OF the household that belonged to the Purcells belonged to something that could have been hand-plucked from a fairy tale. Three stories high, the Purcell mansion was by far the most attractive building in Manhattan. Windows covered every few inches, porches swinging around side-to-side on each floor. Six large ivory poles stood from top to bottom in the front, creating an aspiring Greek look. The mansion perched atop a luscious field of greens like Zeus’s home on Mount Olympus, the tall weeds and various coloured flowers often swaying in the wind as if bowing down to the royalties of Manhattan. The royalties of Manhattan. The Purcells had no known royal blood, but their money was profoundly known across more than just New York; their name was familiar in one way or another to various places around the world. Their money descended from the Purcells and the Vanderbilts, two of the richest names, for John Purcell and Elizabeth Vanderbilt married, therefore creating an extraordinarily large pile of money, which was handed over to Philip Purcell, the oldest son of the family. Not only did Philip Purcell become one of the richest men in the northern half of America, but his newly wedded family rose above the rest, for he married Beth Donnelly, a wealthy woman from the southern half of America, forming an even more impressive way of living.
Philip Purcell, a man just shy of the age forty-six, appeared to be the typical banker one would come across during a business call. He was tall, passing six feet, and properly filled out. His hair was a dark chocolate brown, streaked with grey hairs, with a stubby beard that was aiming for a remarkably similar look. His eyes were nearly as dark as his hair, and often appeared cold, uninterested. Narrowed more times than not, they took in everything from every possible angle. His memory was as sharp as their sharpest kitchen knife; the man could remember things from thirty years ago without any hesitation. A hard worker, he was, often aiming to please himself more than his viewers. Philip kept to himself and never bragged, never taunted, never teased. Old money, he was, with old expectations; his daughters were to remain proper women and nothing less. Beth Purcell was a woman edging away from his reflection. She was opposite to him, both in appearance and personality. Petite, she was, barely passing five foot three, with a tiny, slim body. Her hair was the perfect shade of honey, with perfect waves that lapped at her shoulders. Her eyes were a warm hazel, kind-hearted and welcoming. Her voice was soothing, flowing out like water from a waterfall, trickling over smooth stones in a nearby river. Although nearly forty-three, she looked to be in her early thirties, for stress’s consequences had drifted right past her without a second thought. She was Philip’s rock, the woman to keep him under control. Although only just a woman, she had nearly as many privileges as her husband, and used them wisely, speaking out about cases that mattered most to them. They were a powerful couple with a large handful of money, and it showed in their spendings; their beloved mansion was a perfect example.
The visuals of the Purcell mansion were no surprise to those who were familiar with the name. Hundreds of acres of land stretched out on every side of the off-white house, creating a flat, protective border from civilization. Rows and rows of big bluestems, Indiangrass, feather reeds and more danced to the soothing beat of the breeze, waving in an attempt to both welcome and rid their fellow guests. A large stone-paved road was the only granted way through, thick enough to fit two horse-drawn carriages side-by-side, for many figures passed on by. A cobblestone pathway split the road in two — a walkway only — for their eager guests to scamper into their luxurious house. Flowers of all breeds and shades blossomed around said path, potted on the solo step, hung by the steel railings. If one wasn’t intimidated by the Purcell’s successes, it could indeed be a warmly welcoming entrance. The inside was as glorious as the outside. Every wall was the perfect shade of eggshell, spotless from the marble floor to the cloudy white ceiling. Countless paintings twice the size of a person hung around the simple furniture, each proudly showing off a gleaming gold plaque with the artist’s name on it. One in particular was smaller than the rest, dead center on the left wall, with a plaque shiner than the rest. It belonged to Annalise Purcell, the middle child of the three infamous sisters. A true artist the young woman was, just as her mother was before her. Skeptical and fretting that one wrong stroke could ruin the whole artistic look to the main room, Philip Purcell had refused to let this daughter — or any of his children, really — frame their artwork. However, after many years of hard work, tweaking, and more than anything, endless pleading, Philip Purcell had reluctantly agreed to one single doing. Delightfully enough, the artwork had caught the eyes of many, and Annalise prayed she could even begin her own business. However, given the uneven jobs handed out to the men and the women of New York, the chances of such a dream happening were slim.
Perhaps that was the reason as to why Philip and Beth Purcell decided to turn their famous Winter’s Ball into something no one had ever seen before. The Purcells were well-known for their extravagant seasonal parties, a time for the luckiest of men and women to get together and share one delighted soul in many bodies, to laugh with glee and dance until their heels hurt. This year was much different. As usual, the guests attending the ball were carefully selected by the man and his wife, but it was more than just a joyful get-together. In fact, the three sisters, Esther, Annalise, and Maisie were old enough to give their hand in marriage, and Beth Purcell was determined to make that year’s party the perfect place to find their future husbands. So, she decided to throw a twist on the party. Not only would she assign her three lovely daughters their dancing partners, but everyone’s. The pairs were assigned randomly, quite literally drawn from a hat, and having her heart set on more interaction, Beth Purcell decided to expand the event, for one night would never give her beloved daughters enough time to find their true love. Being as rich as they were had some perks, for their spare mansion would do the dashingly handsome men and dainty young women some good when it came to the upcoming wedding season. It was then decided that for the next few months, every figure attending the Winter’s Ball would house themselves in that very mansion. Beth Purcell was determined to have all three daughters leave that mansion by summer with a man at their side.
If only it was that simple.
The three eldest daughters of the Purcell family were quite literally always attached at the hip, but they could not be more different. Esther, the eldest, was a pretty thing, with dark chocolate hair that practically reached her waistline. Her skin was fair, her body slim, jawline cut sharp, with high cheekbones. Her eyes were a big almond brown, warm, comforting, and motherly. She was a woman who knew what she wanted, yet took her time getting to it if it meant others would be happy. A woman who pushed others forward before herself, she often found herself dreadfully silent and lacking much enthusiasm when alone. Maisie, the youngest, was by far the most beautiful of the three, often shown by the wandering eyes of countless men. Her amber hair was trimmed shorter, only to her shoulders, though beautiful enough that even she managed to slip away from a wig. Her waist was tiny, tiny enough to get away with not wearing a corset most often, her body slim and curvy, almost portraying a perfect hourglass figure. She was confident, flirtatious, and the type to fall in love at first sight. More often than not, she found herself planning marriages even before she carried on a conversation with a man, silently pushing her first name with his last to see just how perfect it would sound. Annalise Purcell was the middle child, the one who seemingly caused the most ruckus. Shorter than her two sisters, she lacked the tiny waist her younger sister had and the sharp jawline her older one received. Her face was round, though cut clean, her body still small, yet more pear-shaped than hourglass fitted. Her hair was honey blonde, with natural waves that were often put up in a well-worked braid crown. Her emerald eyes were in competition with her other sisters’ browns, big and always sparkling with either mischief or confidence. She was the most sensitive, taking things personally almost instantly, therefore having a more difficult time letting things go. Change of any sort was a challenge for her, and commitment was even more difficult. It was she her mother worried for, for her other two daughters were strong enough to handle a man lovingly on their own.
But there was no better way to find that out than by throwing a ball filled with young men of all sorts. And that was exactly what Beth Purcell was about to do.