Moira and I had set about preparing for court. Servants had been interviewed, and Moira had sniffed out some possible positions for the others. We had bought fabric and ribbons, even though I had plenty of clothes, for a young maid from the country must appear to be trying to keep up with the latest fashions. Yet despite the mundane tasks I had this feeling that something had gone wrong already. Further, I felt as if there were eyes, constantly watching me. I did not know if it was paranoia from my position or if somehow I was already being followed.
Before long the 2 days had passed and I was being introduced before the King and Queen, as was the custom in this town. They opened all balls, and insisted on greeting all new arrivals to court. That daunting task done, my role was now to find as much information as I could from the ladies of court, and the gentlemen who would take an interest in me.
I was taken under the wing of a Rebecca Mays, who introduced me to the next newest member of the court, none other than Alexandra. Pretending not to know each other, we greeted each other as strangers do at court, before I was introduced to others in the small social circle Alexandra had gathered.
"How do you keep your hair so shiny Olivia?" one of the girls asked, all usual court gossip among females. It took me a moment to remember that this was the name I was going by here
"Yes do tell," added another. This came from a rather plain young girl, and I could tell she was jealous of my looks. Jealousy and backstabbing and gossiping were problems of court, but one I knew how to deal with given time. Back home I came from a rather prestigious family, and was considered to be quite easy on the eye, so had often suffered from other girls who would like to see my brought down so that they could catch the eye of men who were infatuated by me.
"My dear maid, bless her soul, prepares this special potion for it. If I knew the ingredients I would share, but alas she swears it is a recipe that is top secret and has been passed down in her family," I replied lightly, waving my hand dismissively. "But dear you must tell me, where did you get the fabric for that dress. It is simply to die for."
I was already bored of this conversation, but knew that the women of court would not be the ones to give us the information we needed. What I wanted was the officers, and I could see there were some present here tonight. Not even a war could stop the noble man from dancing and courting it seemed.
I glanced across at Alexandra to see her roll her eyes. It seemed she was also quickly bored by court prattle. However, just over her shoulder I could see one of the servants. It seemed he was staring at me. However, when I met his gaze he quickly hurried away.
I couldn't dwell on the matter before I was quickly asked to dance, by one of the officers. He was not the bragging sort it seemed, who would use their position to impress me. As we danced he introduced himself as James Newberry and inquired as to why he had never seen me before in court. I told him my story, and how I would rather not be here, and he divulged that if not for his mother's wish for him to find a wife he would not be here himself. He had duties to perform in the army, hunt for a wife or not.
After the dance, Alexandra pulled me aside.
"Have you heard from them?" she whispered urgently.
I shook my head. "I had hoped they had contacted you."
"No, no word whatsoever. They should have made contact by now. But no one has, apart from you."
"You don't think...?" I began, worried.
"I don't want to think it, but maybe. Maybe someone knows about this whole thing. Ever since I've arrived I've felt like I've been watched this whole time," Alexandra revealed.
"Me too," I got out, before we were interrupted by Rebecca Mays and her entourage. "And what are you two talking about?" she asked, her tone light and yet suspicious at the same time.
"Oh there you are Rebecca. I could not find you, and since Alexandra was also new to court I was asking her some advice. I wanted to be sure that I would not be hurting someone's feelings if I was to dance with that handsome young officer again," I giggled, fluttering my fan.
I could see something spark in Rebecca's eyes, as she glanced over the floor to where James was standing. "Why Olivia, you can dance with whoever you want my dear. If the man is not married or betrothed then who are we to stand in your way," she said tightly. "Oh look there is young Janice. We should go say hello," she suddenly added, sailing away with some of the members of her group, leaving a few with Alexandra and I.
"Looks like you made a friend," Alexandra observed, softly, before being swept away herself into a dance.
I suddenly felt eyes on my back again. Turning subtly I noticed Rebecca glaring at me from across the hall. She smiled when I looked over, but behind her I noticed again that same servant, staring at me. While Rebecca could be staring out of jealousy, there was something suspicious about the way this servant kept watching me. It only added to my worry about the others. I hoped we'd hear something from them soon, to let us know that everything was alright.