16 Zi'da 717
When Mae awoke that morning, she groggily remembered the social gathering set to take place in the Viden Academy that evening. The Eídisi hadn't decided if she'd go or not, still debating the matter when a knock came at the main door to the flat that she shared with five others. She was in the kitchen fixing herself breakfast or she might not have heard it. Furthermore, Salen might have taken the delivery and decided to nose at it before she passed it on to her flatmate. Thankfully, the scholar heard the conversation at the door and was able to intercede.
"I'm Maebella Arval,"
she informed the young woman who stood at the threshold bearing a large box, eyeing the parcel with a mixture of curiosity and bemusement.
"I was told to deliver this to you,"
the girl informed her simply, passing it into the Eídisi's hands.
"Who's it from?"
she asked while her flatmate tried to lean around her to catch a glimpse of what Mae had received.
She moved to one side, doing her best to block the nosy girl.
"I couldn't say, miss,"
the courier explained with a shrug and a nod of her head before she departed, leaving Mae alone with her curious flatmate.
"Someone sent you something and you don't know who?"
Salen murmured, obvious amusement in her voice. "Well, what is it then?"
"That's what I intend to find out,"
she retorted as she slipped into her room and shut the door unceremoniously in the other's face. With the barrier between her and the outside world, she carried the parcel to her bed and opened it with care, her curiosity growing with each passing trill. The box she opened seemed to have a thin layer of cloth covering its contents but a piece of paper sat on top of it, which provided some answers but also left her with questions. It was quite short and in a fine hand, and it said:
Save a dance for me,
She stared at the message for a bit or two, standing frozen in place as she tried to process the full meaning of his words. Finally, she set the note to one side and removed the protective from the box so she could see what lay beneath. There was more cloth but of a different sort. It was soft and had a crispness to it, coloured charcoal-grey. She lifted it out with a frown, eyes widening as she drew out a garment that unfolded as she stretched it out. It was a dress
with a figure hugging bodice and a loose, ruffled skirt. There was a black ribbon around the waist, tied in a loose bow, with the ends hanging far down on the material. Maebella gawked at it for it was clear that it was something that Virikai meant her to wear. She could hardly believe it. For him to have purchased such a thing for her, to have had it delivered and to have left the note that he had, he must have considerable regard for her. 'With warmth.' he'd said, a phrase that brought a blush to her face.
Before she held the garment to her body, she realised that there was more in the box, as another layer of protective cloth covered an oddly shaped object. She raised it apprehensively, wondering what else he could have bought for her. She gasped anew as she saw the shoes
that lay beneath -heeled
shoes. They were grey to match the dress and had all manner of lacy bits that the young woman of which she could make neither head nor tail. She lifted one of them up between finger and thumb like it was something dirty. He expected her to wear these... death traps?! Chances were that she'd take one step in these and fall on her face. She let the offensive shoe to drop back into the box and then set about examining the dress with greater attention. She held it to her body and started muttering oaths to Yvithia. He expected her to wear this, he wanted
her to wear this, and how could she refuse? Packing it away, she went off to quickly eat breakfast then returned to put the garment on.
The dress fell down to her knees, leaving the young woman's lower legs exposed. Worse, her shoulders and arms were left completely bare so that she actually had to remove the upper part of her undergarments in order to avoid them showing at the top of the dress. Without them, she felt rather exposed although the bodice did provide her with coverage and support. Still, it was oddly horrifying to her to wear such a thing. Adding the shoes to the ensemble only heightened the feeling. They increased her natural height by about three inches and while there were all manner of straps to keep them firmly attached to her ankles, she felt far from secure. In fact, she felt as if she was in danger of falling at any moment. Her centre of gravity was now higher than she was used to and of course, she didn't have the greatest support given the unnatural angle that her feet were at and the limited surface of the shoe that actually made contact with the ground.
This was going to take practice.
She'd spent breaks trying to balance in those sarding shoes! Breaks of tottering around the place, grasping the walls and the limited furniture for support. She'd seen women manoeuvre in such shoes before and while she'd always viewed them as ridiculous pieces of footwear, she had a newfound respect for their ability to walk in them and make it appear effortless.
The event wasn't due to start until the 19th break and so Maebella had had a great deal of time to train herself to take careful steps in the deadly shoes. It also left her with plenty of time to massage her ankles and feet afterwards as she discovered that not only were the shoes awkward to walk in, but also painful to wear. If she didn't have blisters by the end of the evening then she'd be greatly surprised. However, she was really doing her best. Virikai had bought her these things and had certainly given her an indication that he was attracted to her. In fact, the gifts might have been part of a courtship ritual although she didn't rightly know.
As an aristocrat, he would be used to a certain sort of woman and the Eídisi girl definitely didn't fit any possible description that her mind could conjure up. She was rude, socially inept, inexperienced and incredibly awkward, but for some reason, he wanted her. Perhaps, it was due to the fact that she was an enigma, as he'd put it. Regardless of the reason, Mae didn't intend to embarrass him. If this was something of a date then she didn't want to make a fool of herself or him by proximity. So even more unusually, she'd been running over every bit of etiquette that she knew so that she'd know how to approach matters tonight. She'd probably have to remember to show him proper respect, such as addressing him as 'my lord' instead of using his first name familiarly. The girl had even tried to recall what a curtsey might look like, managing a shallow one if she took the greatest care in her high heeled shoes.
By the time she finally emerged from her room, she felt a little more confident in her balancing abilities although she felt sick with nerves. Her roommates were obviously ready to set off themselves but the stared at the Eídisi when she put in an appearance, especially as the dress was in full view given that she hadn't yet donned her coat.
"Well, fek me!"
Yorin exclaimed bluntly as they all gaped at her. She smiled nervously at them, unsure how else to respond as she shrugged into her coat. There was an awkward beat or two where the young people exchanged looks before Yorin spoke up again, moving to her side.
"You're heading to the Academy, I take it. I'm heading that way myself; I'll walk with you,"
he offered with a smile, eliciting a tutting sound from Salen.
"We're all heading that way is what I think you meant to say, Yorin,"
the blonde human chimed in, exchanging a look with Jalet, their other female roommate. The next thing she knew, they were all heading out the door and she suddenly found herself with more company than she'd ever had before. The girls wanted to know about the dress and if an admirer had sent it to her, while Yorin seemed to be trying to flirt with her and the other two young men, Qalar and Heidan, wanted to make polite conversation and include her in it. By the time they reached the Academy, her head was spinning from the attention and her ankles ached from the terrible shoes. Once in the hall, they grew distracted by the various food and drink - mainly non-alcoholic - on offer, and Mae caught sight of the Talius scion, which allowed her to make her excuses and leave them.
She wasn't sure if Virikai had seen her or not, possibly absorbed by his present company, a number of whom she recognised from The White Fox Inn: medical students. The Eídisi youth clicked her way over to them, slightly self-conscious of the way the heels made her hips sway and moved to Virikai's side. She offered smiles to all who were there, taking the natural lull in conversation as the perfect opportunity to introduce herself.
"Good evening, gentleman. My lord,"
she murmured. She bowed her head, carefully placed her right foot behind her left and holding each side of the dress' skirt, she bent her knees slightly to execute a shallow curtsey. She straightened up again with all the grace she could muster, careful not to stare boldly into the aristocrat's face but instead merely glancing at him from the side of her eyes as she waited for the conversation to pick up properly again. Mae could only hope that her efforts had been pleasing.