"What is it like to be in love?" I find myself wondering as I look at my reflection in the mirror in front of me.
I wish I knew what love was.
Not the parental or sibling kind, like I even know what that’s like... pretty sure the only thing I love is being alone. Just me and the sea. Hearing the waves crashing against the rocks… or feeling the wind blow and rage around me…
No. I’m talking about the romantic kind. You know the one where girls get all giggly and start acting like idiots? I once wondered what could possible turn perfectly normal, perhaps even social, people into… well a mess, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t anymore. Why bother?
I think I loved my sisters once, even my brother. Not sure really. Can’t really recall a moment when I felt something other than annoyance, frustration or anger concerning them. Sometimes it feels like all at the same time, one for each of my three siblings. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t know. Call it puberty or just finding out that people don’t really like them for them, not really, I know the reason they became like they are now. Like almost everything in my life, myself included, they have been influenced by two people: my beloved parents. That’s a story for another time, though.
As I said, I’m told that to be in love, is another emotion entirely. Something very rare that only happens on very special occasions.
“Mary, pay attention!”
I started, and looked at the woman in front of me, trying to have me fit a gown.
She motioned for my arms. “Put your arms through, dear. Honestly, with all that day-dreaming of yours no one’s going to notice you!”
Yeah… so? I grudgingly obliged and let her put the gown on and dress me up.
Honestly, I preferred putting my clothes on myself, but mother insisted. Tonight was a big deal, or so she kept telling me, and we’d all have to be presentable and on our best behavior…
Who am I kidding? Who the hell cares about a shitty gala…?
Oh right, them…. How could I forget?
There was a gala in Capri every fortnight, but twice a year, like tonight, there would be a big one. Hundreds of people. All dressed up, acting to be happy. All trying to get along and be as charming as can be. Trying to suck up to people. Those in power, or with wealth. My family had both, so wherever we went, we were bound to be trailed by a pack of bumbling hopefuls. Several of the families of renown were always trying to attempt matchmaking between theirs and mine. And according to my parents, the time had come for my sisters and me to be matched as well…
Xavier, my older brother – to the horror of every girl in town – had just gotten betrothed to someone a couple weeks ago. This meant that there wasn’t much time to waste for the rest of us. Or so my mother keeps telling me. Come on, how young was she when she married? Thirty-five?! Oh well, as long as she is able to control us and live her life through us I’m sure it’s all good, right?
The previous gala had been a disaster. I remember feeling oddly happy for a while, just talking to an attendant, when Fleur had come by and proceeded to scold me for not having a date yet. The fact that she was basically pressing herself against some guy she’d just wrapped around her finger, making him squirm like a frightened worm, didn’t stop her. On top of that, Sophie, my younger sister, had found a way to get access to more wine than she was usually allowed and was swaying to and fro, making a scene and drooling all over the place. She had managed to stumble her way to safety – my arms – only to puke all over me and my dress. I can still remember the faces of all those people. My mother’s eyes, piercing me, blaming me for all of it, as if any of it was of my doing!
As I was saying, I was not looking forward to tonight…
“Do you think Reginald will be there?” Sophie asked, biting her lip and twirling her hair.
We just entered our carriage and were about to take off for the gala.
“Of course. He is the mayor’s son after all…” Fleur replied, annoyed.
“Oh! I so hope I don’t make a fool out of myself like last time…”
“You’re not the only one who wouldn’t wish that. Please keep that in mind, little sister.” Fleur fixed her steely gaze on Sophie. “Stop that twitching.”
“I’m not twitching!” Sophie flustered out.
“I’m sure mother would agree,” Fleur sneered.
At the sound of a whip the cart started to roll. It had starting to rain, the skies a whitish gray, with drops pelting the ground, a softer version of the clatter of hooves. Laying my head against the door, I closed my eyes and continued to ignore my sisters, praying the rain would become so bad that we’d be forced to turn back.
I stirred when the buggy jerked to a stop. Apparently I had dozed off during the trip. I squinted my eyes and looked next to me to see Sophie regarding me with a slight grin.
“Wake up, sleepy, we’re here!” she said and got out of the buggy. Quickly smoothing her dress, she hurried off.
It’s a good thing I had woken when I did, for I could see my mother a dozen or so yards ahead. She already looks disappointed… God.
“Miss?" the driver asked, holding the door open. I thought of telling him to close the door and drive me home, but knew better.
"Yes," I stepped out of the buggy and looked around.
A huge structure loomed over me, a grand estate of red, dark-brown and marble. Allegedly it had been built more than a century ago, by some noble who wanted to show off for a wealthy countess, twice as young as he was. He succeeded, and the building that came out of his attempts spread envy amongst a lot of the aristocracy and nobles of Capri. I’d always thought the mansion I live in was unnecessarily huge and grand. The building in front of me made our residence simply look like a small decrepit shed.
Behind me, poplar trees lined a road several hundred yards long. It wrapped around a large fountain near a center court. Numerous carriages, filled with people, were coming their way towards me.
“Mary! Come here!” the voice of my mother rang out.
I sigh. I don’t like crowds. Grudgingly I walked over to my mother, who was all but tapping her foot.
Several guests just ahead of us were being greeted by doormen, who bowed as the former entered inside.
“Your dress…” my mother exclaimed as she looked me up and down.
I feigned to be shocked and quickly smoothed it.
“Honestly, do I have to do everything myself?” my mother says as she tends to my hair.
As if making adjustments would help. Who cares about a couple of loose hairs?
“There, that will have to do… Honestly, darling, what will people think? Your father has put a lot of money in this. Please don’t ruin it for him.”
“Yes, mother,” I reply sweetly, inwardly livid. My mother grabs my arm as we follow the line of people inside.