Alexandra had arrived promptly for our meeting. She had the letter with her, containing all that we had learnt so far. As I read the letter, I pondered on the thought that so far we had had it easy. Things were going a little too well.
I tried to take my mind off that thought before I cursed myself or our little Masquerade. As I kept reading my eyes had focused on the mention of Alexandra's mystery gentleman. She had given him her name but knew nothing of him. I hoped it was a mistake she would soon rectify. We needed to know about our sources of information, even if everything we told them was to be lies.
After a very brief discussion on our plans, and wondering about the other girls, Alexandra left my residence to head back to her quarters in the castle , leaving the letter with me to send by pigeon. I sighed, and summoned Moira to me.
"Have you overheard anything of import among the servants?" I asked her, as she set about serving tea.
"These servants gossip, it is true. I could tell you which young ladies have their eyes on which young men, and which have been up to scandalous behavior, but of what we want to find out, there has been nothing," she told me blatantly.
"Very well," I replied. "Perhaps one of the officers has a manservant who will know something."
A gleam seemed to enter Moira's eyes. "Perhaps a manservant might. After all, men do confide much in their servants and a manservant might wish to show he was held in high regard by his master in order to impress a humble maidservant such as I."
I grinned at Moira. "Try not to do anything scandalous or anything that would get you in trouble dear Moira," I warned.
"Me, get in trouble?" Moira asked, mock indignation in her voice. "Relax Eliza. There is little to worry about. A maidservant's dalliances do not create the stir a young ladies might. And when have I ever gotten into trouble with such dalliances?"
Moira had a point there. Not many cared what the servants got up to. They were allowed to live their free times as they saw fit. But still I counselled my maid to be careful, before handing her the letter Alexandra had penned. "Would you ensure this is taken care of as soon as possible.
Moira had nodded and disappeared, a grin still on her face, leaving me to my thoughts. And slightly troubled thoughts they were. I was still worrying whether one James Newberry had heard my real name, and whether he would make any connections if he did. If only Eliza wasn't such an Iberan name. Further, if only it were not such a rare, more traditional name. There were few who carried the name these days, most ladies quite some age older than myself, all from families who claimed a connection to that once powerful and final Iberan Queen. My grandmother was said to be her youngest daughter, which made her a daughter of little import but it was still a powerful connection, more powerful than some.
I hoped that if James did hear the name he thought little of it. For my sake, he needed to dismiss it as a mistake of hearing, or a foolish nickname.It would really be too easy to trace my identity through that name, a thought that gnawed away at me.
As if my thoughts had summoned his presence, Moira soon appeared in my rooms, telling me that a James Newberry had come to call on me, and was waiting in the receiving room off the foyer.
I quickly hurried downstairs, my heart thumping nervously in my chest. I greeted James with a curtsey, as manners dictated, trying not to let my nervousness show in my words. As he began telling me he had something to ask me, I felt butterflies settle in my stomach and my heart began to beat faster than possible. I placed a hand on his shoulder, as much to calm myself as reassure him.
"What is it dear James?" I asked.
His question floored me, despite the comical tone he used to ask it. "Is there any chance you are from Ibera?"
Shocked, I took a step back, my hands at my side. "Why would you ask such a question?" I asked him, in what I had hoped would be a steady voice. Yet even I could hear the shakiness.
"Forgive my for prying," James began. "But Alexandra called you Eliza. At first I thought little of it, but on further questioning I found it that it is a traditional Iberan name, and an old one at that. It seemed unlikely that it could be a nickname or a middle name, and so it piked my curiosity."
"As it would," I replied, stalling as I searched my mind for an answer to give him. I had hoped to tell that it was a nickname but in the current time of turmoil it would be a cruel nickname, and one a new friend, as Alexandra appeared to be, would not call her friend. Nor would such a new friend know it was a middle name, and as it was a rare name I would need to think up a good reason for it to be a middle name.
It seemed that I could either tell James the truth, and hope that it would not result in both mine and Alexandra's deaths, or I could construct some elaborate lie in which Alexandra and I were childhood friends and that my mother or some relation of mine was Iberan hence the nickname from a friend. Not many would admit to an Iberan relation and so it would make sense for it to be a secret.
However, should James later find out the truth, not only would I have lied, but I would also still have implicated Alexandra in the lie I had told. My lie might only make James more eager to research my history, and with a little digging he would eventually learn that Olivia St James did not exist. It seemed both options led to trouble.
It seemed that the safest option would be to tell the truth and hope that this feeling inside me that was telling me James was trustworthy could be believed. It would be better to trust him now, than to alienate him with a discoverable lie it seemed.
I glanced at my feet, avoiding James' eyes. He seemed to be getting restless, as if he could sense I was stalling. It was time to put my life on the line. I only hoped that in doing so I was not putting myself, Moira, and Alexandra, among others in the hangman's noose.
Bringing my eyes up to meet James' intense gaze, I phrased my answer in terms of a question. "If I told you that I was in fact Eliza from Ibera what would you do?"