As Camilla lighted into the carriage on the night of the March ball, Al’bert had to take note of the impeccable cut and make of her gown. It truly was remarkable, in that it suited and framed her form down to the very last painstakingly wrought detail, and the color was possibly the most beautiful color he’d ever seen for his sister’s complexion.
“Camilla, you look absolutely stunning,” he told her honestly. She smiled openly at him in reply, pleased with herself and the gown fashioned by Master Bellafringe at the same time. Mostly, though, she was pleased with herself as she plopped down amicably beside her brother, becoming a lovely puff of damask and lace.
It was with this general feeling of goodwill and happiness she and Al’bert rode towards the palace. It was how it nearly always was with Al’bert; growing up on the Fromage estate and being isolated made them remarkably close, and it was safe to say that Al’bert was the only person Camilla truly loved, and vice versa.
Love for the Fromages was quite differently defined than for nearly anyone else in the world. They were both happily involved in their diversions, as it was a queerly natural occupation for their blood, but though they were embroiled with others, there was no one they ever truly cared about. Not even their parents, mostly, for the Duchesse was cold and the Duc was distant. However, they reserved that part of their heart which grows attachment and dependence for each other, and this is how they blithely continued their affairs all the while nourishing a solid foundation.
“How’s Senna?” she asked after a while, watching the retreating snow on the mountains out of the carriage-side as they descended to Schloeffelonia proper.
“Mmn…” he said, “She’s well. A bit oblivious. Very innocent.”
“I guess she doesn’t know about you and her mother?”
“Not an inkling, I don’t think,” said Al’bert. Madame Hednes had been the first to teach him a great deal of what he knew about love and womankind, and Al’bert, although forever grateful, had eventually moved on. It had been years at least since then, and Senna was a pleasant girl who was just the right level of unobservant to take to a ball, where there would be countless throes of subtleties batted about.
Apparently Madame Hednes was also blessed with the gift of discretion. Al’bert felt a moment of fondness before his sister broke his train of thought.
“Ah, here we are,” she said, pointing out they’d come to the Hednes holdings.
Upon arriving at the door, Al’bert was ushered inside by an old butler with an air of family about him.
“Al’bert, le Comte du Fromage for Miss Senna,” called the butler, and Al’bert paid special attention to his posture for a moment. In strode Master and Madame Hednes, arm in arm, and she hardly looked at Al’bert at all, which caused him to wonder with a vaguely injured ego.
He didn’t have long to nurse his poor id, however, for shortly afterwards Miss Senna descended the curving staircase like a true debutante. She was wearing pale pink, and reminded him strongly of the petals of an apricot blossom.
“She is to be home by eleven o’ clock,” said Master Hednes.
“Yes, Master Hednes,” said Al’bert, bowing to him.
“And not a moment later,” said Madame Hednes with a very firm, disconcerting degree of insistence.
Al’bert smoothed his countenance and smiled agreeably.
Senna sat across from Camilla in the carriage, and they talked of their gowns, hair, and whatever else adornments could be nattered about. Al’bert had chosen instinctively to sit beside his sister and he found himself comparing their beauty. Senna was pale and fresh, and altogether very spring-like. Camilla was dark and beautiful, although her skin was as fair as Senna’s, and she always seemed somewhat mysterious. It seemed right to Al’bert that she should be going to the ball with the future king of Schloeffelonia, although he wondered if the reason Fangline had hung onto Camilla for things like this was only for convenience, as she was the sister of his best friend. Fangline had never shown any interest in any other women, and barely any in Camilla.
Al’bert knew within himself that if Camilla, with all of her feminine power, could only barely register with Fangline, that there was absolutely no hope for anyone else.
He was broken from his reverie to notice Senna looking somewhat disappointed that he hadn’t sat beside her, so he rectified that immediately to her satisfaction. She took his arm with a warm look and nestled close beside him, while Camilla gave him a secret smile that smacked of mockery.
In silence, gazing out of windows, they passed the rest of the time towards the palace.