An Evening in St.James

February 27, 2010

Spiral Staircase
Picture by Martin Haesemeyer

She could not remember what she had been thinking, months previously. Why had she bought the ticket for the formal dinner at the prestigious club? What should she–socially awkward little girl–do in such a place? She must have had some reason–but for the moment it was lost to her.

Pacing throughout her little house, she was pulling her hair, wondering what she should do. Too much had been invested already for the horn of defeat to be blown. She had no option but to attend, as she had intended, all those weeks ago.

A dress was waiting for her in the depths of her closet, a dress bought for that very purpose. It would be a pity to disappoint it, that grey, formal little thing that suited her so well. So she put it on.

She tamed her eccentric, long hair and twirled it in two braids to form a compact bun, the weight held in place with what seemed a thousand pins. A white flower of silk was planted next to the secured wheat hair, and she allowed pearls to flow around her neck and droop off the lobes of her ears.

Indeed, she was beautiful, especially with both sooted and powdered eyes. Still, her lower lip trembled with fear. Biting it–knowing fear is best conquered when challenged–she draped a beige and pink coat over her shoulders. She looked a bit like her grandmother had done when her age. She liked it, always having found her grandmother in possession of an aura of self-assured elegance.

The sun was setting when she stepped outside, the clouds having been whisked to form strawberry meringue upon the powder-blue sky. The heels of her shoes tip-tapped the ground as she walked, feeling heads turn as she passed.

Two hours later she stood outside the elegant, albeit majestically menacing door. Her name on the guest list would grant her entry; this evening she belonged inside. Yet, her heart raced in her chest. She was frightened, pacing the street up and down, and back and forth, attempting to calm her terrified nerves.

She had done this to herself to learn what was painful not to know. Social ineptness knew only one cure: staring fear in the eye.

So, she entered. Her name granted her entry, acknowledged with a bow. Her coat was hung among others, and she entered the room.

She was taller than everyone, towering above them like a giant lost. What was worse, however, were the evening gowns that swept across the floor. Her heart sank in her chest as she looked down on her own, much less conspicuous as she had feared a gown would be overdress.

A few familiar faces welcomed her, and introduced yet more. For a moment things were going fine with conversation and introductions–until she ran out of words. She blushed, feeling insignificant yet again, disappearing into a corner from which she was pulled so the charade could start anew.

Entering the dining room she found people were missing from her table. It worried her. But it was the last of her concerns.

But things changed when the person next to her turned out to be the friend of a childhood friend, and so, with something in common, they spoke for most of the meal.

The dinner itself was enjoyable. Despite the price it was not up to the standards she knew from home, but far better than anything she would have served her solitary self–had she decided not to go.

A salad for appetiser, chicken with mushrooms for the main course, and panna cotta for pudding. She had never had the latter before but she enjoyed it. Over the course of that evening, she had grown ignorant of the intimidating nature of novelty. She did not like the coffee however, despite telling herself having a cup would be sophisticated. She found some things cannot be forced; which she knew, but desired to change.

She ended up talking with people for two more hours, being proud of herself during the course of the conversations, reproaching herself when swirling across the room, not daring to approach anyone. A kind person took her under their wing, helping her along. She was most grateful, finding she was straining herself to do what came so easily to others.

It was delightful to talk, and for once, she felt that she had something in common with her partners of conversation. What was more, she felt that she belonged.

As the evening–for her part–neared its end, she was given the card of someone who desired to see her again. She accepted it, not because she intended to, but because it was a token of acceptance she would treasure.

She bade them farewell, and was escorted down the stairs by the arm of a young gentleman. She was even kissed adieu on the cheek, blushing after she had disappeared into the darkness before the clock had struck midnight.

Although she was Cinderella, with a last train to catch, she had failed to forget her shoe. That was for another evening–when, she did not know. This, had only been the beginning.

As the tip-tapped home anew, amidst the silence and darkness that reigned during the young hours of the country night, the moon was translucent upon veiled skies. She smiled at its awe: she had actually enjoyed the evening she had not been certain she even wished to attend.

Having partially conquered her fears, she had proven she could do more than she had believed. She had grown stronger the evening–that evening in St. James.

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4 Responses to “An Evening in St.James”


  1. This is beautifully written. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it in the end. I think you’ll find that even people who look outwardly very confident often have some nerves at big events… people who met you there may well be surprised if they read this.


  2. Your writing is very good. Your photos are too.

  3. rosaria Says:

    I’ve come from Rachel’s and am delighted to meet you!

  4. rosaria Says:

    You don’t have a followers’ gadget?


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