Don't you just hate it when you can't talk to someone, no matter how hard you try to get near them. That was how I felt all evening. Eliza was doing a very good job of pretending we didn't know each other and mixing with other people so I couldn't tell her what I'd learnt.
To be fair to her, I was getting some attention of my own. I didn't know many people, only a few women who had come to welcome me to court the day after I arrived, one of whom was throwing the party, but it didn't stop people from watching me. As I sat casting my eyes around the room, I could feel the eyes of others on me. I knew they couldn't possibly know my secret but it didn't stop me from feeling guilty, I just had to hope I didn't look it.
I had been sitting alone for a good few minutes trying to pick up bits of conversation or catching Eliza's eye when a shadow fell over my face.
'I can't stand to see a beautiful woman sitting alone at a party like this.' I looked up into a handsome, young face.
'I'm sure there are quite a few around if you're looking for someone to dance with.' I didn't know this man, but there was something about him that I didn't like, yet I was drawn to him. Why had he picked me?
'Such a shame that the most stunning woman in the room doesn't seem to be bothered with dancing.'
'I'm sure if you asked her very nicely then she might change her mind.' I smiled coyly, knowing exactly what game he was playing. He bowed deeply and held out his hand.
'May I have the honour of this dance my lady?' I took his hand and stood up.
'I would be delighted sir.' As he led me out onto the dance floor I caught sight of Eliza leaving it. I couldn't get out of the dance now but resolved to keep my eye on her so I could catch her as soon as I had finished.
The setting was perfect. The room was filled with candles and everything seemed to glitter under their light. I studied my partner more closely. Now I was standing closer, I could see he wasn't as young as I'd first thought, maybe twenty-five years old, but it didn't take anything away from his well defined features or how well he could dance.
'So why is it that I've never seen you before?' He smiled as we moved gracefully around the floor.
'I've only been here a few days and this has been my first official social event.'
'Ah so you're new,' he said in a strange voice, the tone of which I couldn't place. 'Are you enjoying yourself? I'm assuming you're staying at court.'
'Yes I'm staying up in the palace.'
'In the palace? You must be important.'
'No not at all,' I answered quickly, 'I'm a nobody really.' I couldn't have him thinking I was more than I was meant to be. I could only be a young girl from a reasonably wealthy family, no more, no less.
'That's strange. Only very important people are allowed to stay with their majesties.' His eyebrows were raised in a questioning manner, as if he knew there was something I wasn't telling him.
'Yes, well, my father has friends in high places. He managed to get me the chambers.'
'Well then,' his face returned to its casual smile, 'I'm sure your father is well thought of.'
I hadn't known how much i had enjoyed dancing, the only time there was an occasion for it was at the party held after the crops were gathered every autumn and that was nothing like the elegant dancing to beautiful music that I was doing now. Luckily I had a good sense of rhythm and was light on my feet so was easily led around the floor.
The music came to a stop and so did the dance. My partner bowed again, his coal black hair glistening in the candlelight and kissed the back of my hand. 'Thank you my lady. You are as graceful a dancer as you are beautiful.'
'Then I must be a terrible dancer,' I replied, slightly nervously this time. I wasn't used to such compliments and wasn't sure how to receive them. 'But you dance well sir.' I saw Eliza out of the corner of my eye talking to a stranger who had their back to me and I knew this was my moment. 'Please excuse me sir, there is someone I must speak to.' I moved to walk away but felt a hand on my wrist stopping me.
'May I dance with you again?' I nodded but didn't move, my blue eyes locked with his brown ones. 'What is your name?'
His full lips stretched into a smile. 'It's a beautiful name. He kissed my hand again and let his hand drop from my wrist and allowed me to walk away.
Forcing him out of my mind, I advanced on Eliza. 'Oh my dearest Eliza,' I exclaimed as I reached her, 'it's been so long since I saw you last. Would you mind awfully if I borrowed her for a minute?' I asked, turning to the man she was talking with. 'There is some news that I simply must tell her.' Before anyone could stop me, I swept Eliza away and towards a corner of the room.
'What was that about Alexandra? He's not stupid, he could guess that something strange was going on.' Her eyes were darting around the room, searching for people looking a little too long in our direction.
'Don't worry, he probably thought I was thinking of dresses or some other piece of senseless gossip. But there is something far more important that I must tell you.'
'That's good because I have something to tell you.'
'OK then, let's find somewhere quiet,' I suggested, steering us towards the door that led out of the ballroom and into the dark corridor.