Taking a quick glance at her reflection in the mirror, she assured herself that she couldn't have been dressed more impeccably. She turned to look at an invitation to a masquerade which she had received the week before. The emerald green ink on the yellowed parchment glistened in the candle light as she reread the invitation for the umpteenth time. However, it was not the handwritten message giving details of the venue that interested her. It was the tiny scrawl in the corner of the invitation card that caused her heart to melt every time she read the message.
The note was written by the handsome Ian Dunross whom she had met just a week earlier. She was ambling down the market place when a sudden breeze carried her kerchief away. She'd looked for it everywhere when suddenly she'd found herself staring into the eyes of a man; a man whose gaze she could get lost in, whose glance caused her heart to burst into flames. They looked at one another for a while when suddenly he laughed and said, "Oh! T'is silly of me, I must learn not to let my thoughts wander. It's not like me to lose sense and stability when confronted by such an apparition," and with that he held out her handkerchief, which she took with trembling hands." Ian Dunross m'lady," he introduced himself and with the swish of his tailcoat he had disappeared into the throng, leaving her aghast in the middle of the market. As she stepped out of her reverie, she noticed people glancing at her sideways with strange expressions. She wondered why…
Back in the dressing room, she smiled at the thought of him. Dressed in a dazzling, sequin spangled gown, she held her silver mask beside her as she made her way to the Hampton mansion. The trees rustled in the winds as her coach picked up speed. Every passing moment brought her closer to him, every passing moment made her stomach rise and fall in anticipation. The carriage gradually began to slow down until it came to a complete standstill.
"Why have we stopped?" she questioned the coachman. "We can't go no further m'lady. Road's too narrow and dark.' She could imagine the peril that might lie ahead but her determination to make it to the masquerade overpowered her fear. Carefully, she alighted from the carriage.
The cold night air seemed to hold within itself something strange and mysterious. The moon looked like a silvery orb partially hidden behind the fleecy clouds. Careful not to tear her gown, she slowed down her pace. The sound of her footsteps, mingling with the rustling of leaves echoed into the night.
Slowly and steadily, she tread the narrow winding path, her heart aching to catch a glimpse of that handsome face, who was now very much a part of her dream world. With every step she took ahead, the butterflies in her stomach fluttered with greater zeal. After a while, the path became wider and she reached a clearing. There, 200 yards away, stood the beautiful mansion, with its turrets gleaming in the moonlight.
Tinkling laughter and the clinking of wine glasses welcomed her as she reached the entrance of the ballroom. The doors were opened and a glittering wave of magnificence greeted her eyes. Men and women walked about a sparkling marble ballroom, the men in their best and women, their finest. Their costumes dazzled and gleamed under the luminous crystal chandeliers that swung ever so lightly with the orchestra that played toward her far right. But through all the gaiety there was an undertone of mystery as masked faces swirled in front of her like a sea filled with the unknown. A pang in her heart made her wonder, how would she ever find him.
Her heart beating faster, she approached the person nearest to her. He was a short stout man, who wore a deep red coat. "Pardon me, dear sir, but will you please be kind enough to tell me as to where I would find Sir Dunross?" even though the man's face was concealed behind a mask, the bewilderment in his eyes was unmistakable. "I fear there has been a misunderstanding m'lady. I doubt there is anyone by that name here." Mumbling an inaudible word of thanks, she reassured herself that he may have not known the man, but then, how could he not? It struck her as strange.
She walked to a pair of frivolous young women. On being asked about the young man, they answered. "Sir Dunross? How is it that we haven't met him as yet?" Mortified, she walked away. She asked several people, but none were even remotely familiar with the name. "Where could he be?" the question reverberated in her mind. She looked at the sea of colourful masks despair surging through her veins. The happy chatter now sounded like cacophony to her ears. She walked to an inconspicuous corner of the ballroom, her delicate hands covering her face.
And then, the soft music was drowned by the chord of the organ, bass, resounding just like the voice that suddenly spoke in her ear. "A rose for the lady whose beauty has yet not been surpassed." She looked up to find a pair of steel blue eyes gazing at her intently. Too irate to say anything, she broke into a silent sob. Ian put his arm around her and said, "would you accompany me upstairs to the terrace?" Without waiting for a reply he turned around and she found herself following him. As they walked across the dance floor, she narrated to him the conversations she had had with the short man and the others. Ian listened to her silently, looking grave. Meanwhile, she could not help but notice, that yet again, she was attracting odd glances from everyone around her…
An owl hooted somewhere in the distance. They were both standing alone on the terrace. She looked at him in anticipation. Something about his demeanour struck her as odd. Everything was silent, but for the eerie tones of organ that drifted through the cool night air.
Finally he broke the silence. "m' dear lady, when I first gazed into your eyes, I found myself plunging into a beauty so strong that hath made me lose all sense of time and peace. Feelings which I thought I was incapable of sensing surged through me all over again. Those things that I had thought lost, those things which I thought never to come back again, to feel, to smell, to hear, to touch and to love, you made me long for them, you made me crave for them…"
"Did it not occur to you why people cast curious glances at you every time we were together? It was so because I am alive only in spirit. I am a ghost, fair lady… a drifter looking for a companion with whom I would be able to sense what it would be like to live again, to love again."
He looked at her through his silvery eyes and sighed. His voice devoid of all hope he said, "You could leave me and turn away from me right now. I leave it all to you…"
An unwarranted desire began to envelop her mind. Under the moon, she stood holding his hands. She was in the company of a ghost. She was in love with someone who belonged to a completely different and unknown world. It was life itself that separated her from him, but she didn't care. She had stopped caring from the moment she'd met him in the market place, from the moment she'd set eyes upon the emerald ink. She did not know what held in store for her if she decided to be with him but the hope for a change from her tedious life shone upon her and trusting her instincts she whispered, "Yes…"
Her feet had left the ground, she was in his arms and she felt the life drain out of her. Smiling, she first looked into his eyes, and then her body which she had left far behind.