A young woman is given away by her father to a mysterious man whose face is concealed by a mask. Can she find the real man behind it?
The boy walked through the castle merrily, his heels clicking against the stone floor. The castle was very, very old; especially to a boy nearing ten. He looked out of the windows at the white that covered the gardens and meadows. He longed to play outside as he used to, but when the snow was on the ground it was forbidden, especially when there was to be a party that day, and his clothes were so stiff that he almost forgot about the thought of childish games. He suddenly stopped his walking, and pressed his warm hands and face onto the rigid, frosty glass, to stare out, making little snuffling noises so that he could see his moist breath on the pane.
The boy was startled out of his trance by the sound of his nurse calling his name. He hurried back to his nursery, aware that although his nurse was kindly, she wasn’t afraid to punish him with a whack to the legs or hand. He ran up the stairs and to the right where his bedroom and nursery were. He saw Miss Emma standing by his bed, straightening it up. She also seemed old to the boy, but to anyone who did not look through a child’s eyes, she was barely a woman herself.
“Christopher! Your mother wants to speak with you, in her bedroom.” She said hurriedly, worry flashing across her face. She left the bed and went towards Christopher, taking his hand and leading him to see his mother. He hardly ever saw her, and when he did she never spoke to him, just smiled slightly; it was their secret smile. When they came to the grand door that was closed, Miss Emma took a deep breath, smiled encouragingly at the boy, then knocked delicately. They heard a faint voice tell them to enter, so they did. Christopher looked up at his mother who shared the same brown hair that was so dark it was almost black.
“You may leave.” She said to Miss Emma, who quickly did as she was told. As soon as the door closed, Christopher’s mother opened up her arms and beckoned for him to come to her. She wrapped her arms around him for a moment, then gently pushed him back away from her. “Christopher... you’ve grown so much! How old are you now?”
“I am ten on the 21st of December, Mother.” He told her, confused that she did not know. She nodded solemnly.
“Of course...” She said, mostly to herself. She was wearing a gown that almost shimmered in the candlelight. It was a light blue and she thought that it showed off her pale skin and dark curls perfectly. She looked from her mirror to her son. He was the most beautiful thing to her, and she could tell that he would be as tall as his father when he was older, and probably just as, if not more handsome. She sighed to herself, which caused her to start coughing. The coughs were harsh and breathless, and she felt as if she was choking. Christopher looked on, too young to worry that his mother was coughing up blood into a handkerchief. He didn’t dare speak, because he didn’t want to be dismissed from his mother’s company. When she had finished, Lydia Vondergarten looked up at her son with sad eyes, but smiled for him. “I need to get ready for later, so go upstairs and play with your nurse until the party. You may come down for a while, but not too long as children should not stay up late.”
Christopher left the room, excited that he was allowed to come down for the party. The time went by slowly as he stared out of the window, watching the snow fall. When carriages started arriving he started rushing from the door to the window, waiting to be invited downstairs. Miss Emma laughed at him, but not spitefully. The time finally came for a servant to tell them that they were allowed downstairs, and Christopher started jumping up and down, but Miss Emma told him that it was not the proper way to behave, so he stopped. She took his hand and led him downstairs to the music and the chatter. The night was a whir of lights, music and the movement of dance. Christopher turned around in wonder at it all, but soon found his mother at the back of the main room, talking to the many people that came to greet her. He stood, hidden by the table of food and watched her. She was glowing like an angel and he was mesmerised by her. Miss Emma finally found him, and pulled him towards the stairs. Just as she did this, Christopher looked back to see his mother smile their secret smile. She then started coughing like before, and fell to the ground. He thought that it was a game, so was not worried at all, and when he slept he dreamed of the lights and dancing.
The next day, Fredrick Vondergarten left his wife’s silent bedroom, tears filling his eyes. She hadn’t told him that she was sick, and now she was gone. He stood outside of the room, leaning against the unsympathetic wall. Christopher was also standing there, completely oblivious. When Fredrick looked at his son, all he could see was his lost wife, and he soon began to boil with a cruel fury.
“Boy! What are you doing? I don’t want to see your ugly face ever again, do you hear me?” He shouted at the boy. Christopher looked up at him with terrified and hurt eyes, and ran to his bedroom. He dashed around it, and found a toy-sack that he put on his head.