Ugly Duckling Debutante(8)

By: Rachel Van Dyken




A dress with stockings, a chemise, and a beautiful ribbon lay there.



“Madame happened to have a few dresses she could spare until she finishes with yours. Your first ball is tonight. I need to assess your behavior and how much work must be done. You may as well know, I plan to ask a distant cousin of mine to undertake your training for presentation to the ton. He is the best, after all. I just hope he’s willing to take you on.”



Sara swallowed a sob. Of course he wouldn’t be willing. She was ugly, and who would willingly spend time with her?



“Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself, gel. You are not that ugly.” The pause in her voice sounded almost tender for a moment, but Aunt Tilda quickly recovered. “Listen—this distant cousin is, well, he used to be somewhat of a rake, but now he is reformed and sworn a life of celibacy. It’s like pulling teeth even to get him to speak to a woman, let alone teach her how to dance.”



“To dance?” Sara squeaked.



“How else are we to find you a suitable husband?” Her aunt snorted. “Obviously, they won’t be falling at your beautiful feet because of your face—surely you know the truth by now. But if I teach you grace and poise, and put you in a somewhat compromising situation, well …you’ll be perfect.”



Her aunt smiled wickedly, revealing teeth like a predator. “Get dressed!” She commanded as she excused herself from Sara’s chambers.



Sara didn’t like the sound of a ‘compromising situation’ and feared she would not escape the season without a black mark on her reputation. Perhaps she would even be ruined—not that her mother would care, as long as she married well.



Turning to the task at hand, she put on the beautiful clothes and looked in the mirror once again. What was so ugly about her? What made people despise her so? Her own family couldn’t look at her; her sisters mocked her behind her back; and her own father thought her worthless. Nothing could be done about that now. Resolutely, she put on a brave face and walked gracefully out of her room and down the stairs to take tea and explore the house. After all, this was supposed to be an adventure—that mindset would be the only way she could live through what she had to do tonight. Attend her very first ball.





***





The cool spring breeze stung Sara’s nose as the footman helped her out of the carriage. The mansion in front of her was like nothing she had seen before. Laughing couples entered through the main doors toward the bewitching music inside.



The people of the ton were going to eat her alive.



“Wipe that outrageous look off your face! You have a mask!” Lady Fenton elbowed her hard in the ribs then handed her a black domino. Sara donned the mask and followed her aunt into the hall.



“Whom may I announce?” the man at the door asked.



Lady Fenton leaned in and whispered something to the man. With a quick glance at Sara then back at Lady Fenton, he gave a curt nod and announced them.



“Lady Fenton and her niece Lady Sai Ames.”



The unexpected announcement of the position coupled with the surprising new name caused Sara to inhale sharply. Her aunt, sensing Sara’s tension, tilted her head toward Sara and whispered. “It makes you seem more foreign. Trust me on this. And you are every inch the lady. You have only to act like one, and they will believe it. You never know, perhaps you have some distant aristocratic blood of which you are unaware.”



Sara doubted that, but she followed her aunt pressing on through the crowd. The people around her seemed only mildly curious. For that she was thankful.





***





Nicholas felt like getting absolutely foxed. Three women had tried to seduce him in the past hour. Three!

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