|Emmaline stood silently in the entryway while her Aunt Sylphia and her cousin Tiffany berated her and her evening gown.
“It is too late to change, I don’t know what you were thinking, choosing that dress. Tiffany is wearing pink, why did you pick the blue? You should have worn the green dress I had laid out for you. Don’t you ever listen to me? Your father put me in charge of your coming out and you refuse to listen to my instructions.”
She went on with the tirade as they went to the carriage and all the way to the house where the evening events were to take place.
Emmaline wished, that for once she could walk into a ball without having to follow her aunt and cousin. The display the two put on was embarrassing to both the host and hostess and Emmaline. Her Aunt had no idea that if it wasn’t for Emmaline’s father, she wouldn’t step one foot over the threshold of any of these houses, let alone receive an invitation to a party.
As soon as she could she found a quiet spot in a corner, hidden by a large palm plant.
“Once again I find you hiding in a corner. You are never going to find a husband hiding from everyone.”
The voice was familiar as she turned to look up at the handsome man leaning against the wall over her. He had managed to find her hiding at the last two parties she had attended. He never said more than a few word to acknowledge her and her hiding place.
“Sir, I don’t understand why you think this is your duty to speak to me. There are many other ladies who would die to have you sign their dance card. Why don’t you just go?”
“Because you intrigue me.”
“I don’t mean to. I just want to be left alone.”
“You still don’t recognize me, do you?” This time he bent his knees and laid his hand on her leg.
She froze, ‘What was he intending to do?’
“You see I have been visiting your father. I am studying some of his books. I saw you once in the hallway when I came to visit. We were introduced but you were on a mission to find your cat that had disappeared.”
The memory of the incident was fresh in her mind. He had made an impact on her that day. He was gentle, concerned and helpful. They had found the kitten tangled in a tapestry mewing for help.
“You knew right where the kitten was. I didn’t hear a sound but you knew.” She wasn’t sure if that was a question or inspiration.
He nodded, “Yes, I helped you.”
“You name was Wyman. Dillon Wyman. I remember.” She smiled at him and their eyes met. Emmaline felt the instant reaction. There was a shiver of something that moved through her body. It wasn’t unpleasant; in fact it warmed her whole body with the quickened beating of her heart.
He held out his hand, “I think this is our dance.” Without thinking, she placed hers inside and stood. He led her to the floor and they moved among the dancers as if they were the only ones there. When the music finished, she came to her senses and wondered if she had been under a spell of some sort. Her father was always coming up with a new one. Had this just been a test of a new spell? She frowned at her partner, but he ignored it and led her into another dance. Still feeling a bit euphoric she danced a third dance before he took her to a chair at the edge of the dance floor.
“How could you?” Sylphia’s harsh whisper could be heard by those around them. “You danced with this man three times. What were you thinking young lady? And you young man, I think you had best leave and be sure to show yourself to Emmaline’s father first thing in the morning.” She stood between Dillon and Emmaline until he bowed and left.
“Young lady, I am sending you home for the rest of the evening. Get your cloak.” Sylphia whirled and stomped away.
“My dear,” an arthritic hand closed over her arm. “I think we have heard enough from that woman. She has been the bane of every party she has attended. Her daughter has acted as no proper young lady should act.”
Emmaline turned to see the elderly woman dressed in a very old, out of style black dress. She was wearing a white cap with lace that hung over most of her face. She had no idea who this lady was, but she still had a grip on her arm. Just as she was about to pull away, the woman spoke again, this time in a low whisper.
“By tomorrow morning this incident will be forgotten by all who have been in attendance. You, your aunt and her daughter will remember this evening because it will be the last one she attends as your chaparone.”
“What are you saying? Everyone will have forgotten this evening?” Emmaline was shocked. “How can that be?”
“Ask your father. Your young man will not remember he is to see your father.”
Emmaline breathed a sigh of relief.
“Hurry home. Oh, by the way, you will need to wear this at every party from now on.” The old woman pressed a beautiful cameo into her gloved palm.
Aunt Sylphia ranted and raved all the way home but Emmaline didn’t listen. The memory of the dances she had with Dillon were far more pleasant.
The following morning Emmaline was the only occupant of the breakfastroom. A guest was annouced, the old woman from the party the previous night was escorted to the breakfast room and seated.
“May I get you a plate?” Emmaline asked.
Emmaline signaled the servant to prepare a plate from the warming trays for her guest. “I am sorry I wasn’t introduced to you last evening.”
“No you weren’t. I am Dillon’s grandmother, Cecelia Ducksmythe.”
“It’s nice to meet you. Why are you here?” She was interrupted by a commotion in the hall.
“Why would anyone come to call at this ungodly hour of the morning?” Sylphia voice carried into the dinning room. Emmaline was mortified, but Cecelia rested her hands on her cane and waited for the woman to enter.
Aunt Sylphia’s demeanor changed the minute she saw who the guest was. She came forward and gave the older woman a short curtsy and went to a chair at the head of the table. “Prepare me a plate.” She ordered the staff.
“I assume you are here on your grandson’s behalf?” Sylphia asked bluntly.
“No, I am here on your niece’s behalf and that of all the parties you have sent responses to for this season.” Cecelia faced Sylphia and continued. “Your behavior or lack there of, has caused concern to the members of the Ton. Since we cannot and would not want Emmaline to suffer from your actions and since you are bound and determined to attend every ball and party, I had to step in.”
“What? What do you think you are going to do to stop me? I have been accepted to these parties and there is nothing you can do to stop me and Adle from going.” There was almost a sneer in her voice.
Cecelia, held up the cane to reveal an quartz head on the end. The light from the windows reflected on the stone and shown directly into Sylphia’s eyes. She tried to lift her arm to cover them but couldn’t move it.
“What are you doing?” she cried out fearfully.
Emmaline was still. She knew what was going to happen. Her father was a great wizard, and had cast many a spell in her presence.
The words that followed were in a foreign language. The light reflected off the stone, covered Sylphia then shot to the cameo that Emmaline was wearing. When the flash disappeared, everything returned to normal.
Sylphia took a long time to compose herself. The servant set the plate before her and quickly ducked back into the kitchen.
“I don’t know what you were trying to do, but it didn’t work. I am just as I was. If you were trying to scare me, rest assured that nothing scares me since I moved into this house. There is strange goings on here. I keep my door locked at all times.” She lifted the food on her fork to her mouth.
“Ah, but just wait until this evening. You will be present but not as you are.” Cecelia stood and Emmaline helped her to the door. Wrapped in her cloak she turned to Emmaline. “You will wear this cameo to every ball. The moment you arrive, your aunt will be changed and will only see the party from her place inside the cameo. She will hear nothing and speak nothing. When you return home she will be returned to her body. I don’t think you will have any more trouble with her again.”
“What about Adle?” Emmaline was just curious.
“Without her mother’s influence, she is quite nice. There will be another woman who will attend to both of you in lieu of your aunt. Now good day.”
Emmaline watched Cecelia helped into her carriage and waved as the carriage disappeared into the morning traffic.
“What does that old woman think she is going to do?” Sylphia was muttering when Emmaline returned to the dinning room. “Just wait. When that young man arrives today to see your father, we will see what she has to say then.” She threw the napkin on the floor and gave the table a shove with her hip to knock the stemware over, spilling the contents on the tablecloth.
Dillon did not visit her father which had Aunt Shylphia in a state all afternoon. When the three women stepped into the carriage and it began to move toward the destination for the evening, Sylphia pointed her finger at Emmaline.
“Now, young lady, you will not dance with that young man if he asks you to. If he wants to dance, defer to Adle. She is more his type than you. She will know how to handle him.”
“But mother, I don’t want to dance with Dillon. I want to dance with Edward. He is fun and makes me laugh.”
“He is the fourth son. What kind of title will he have? Will he be able to take care of you and have a house in the best part of town? I don’t think so. Dillon has a title and money to boot.”
They arrived at the party and were in the waiting line to reach the front of the house. When the carriage door was finally opened, there was a flash of light and when it was gone, so was Aunt Sylphia.
“Where did my mother go? She was right here.” Adle was curious but not worried.
“Let’s just have fun tonight.” Emmaline took Adle’s hand and they entered the house with all its festive decorations.
Emmaline removed her cloak and stood in front of a mirror. Sure enough Aunt Sylphia’s face was on the cameo. Her eyes were not looking outward but off to the side. She wondered if the woman was aware of what was going on.
When she saw Cecelia, Emmaline made her way to the old woman’s side.
"I see you are wearing your cameo.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Here is that rascal grandson of mine. Take this young woman to the buffet and have a nice evening.”
“Grandmother, I have not seen Emmaline’s aunt this evening.” There was a twinkle in his eye.
“Oh she is here my boy.” She winked at Emmaline and a chuckle was heard as Dillon took Emmaline’s arm to the buffet.