The Shadow 29
The week before the royal celebration passed quickly, despite Simon’s constant presence. Marissa found herself being monopolized by his outings. She had never been a society girl, but Simon forced her and sometimes Sarah into the center of the social circles on the Isle. They attended dinner parties and dances, garden socials and games. Her holiday took on a busy schedule that she never would have tolerated in London.
Finally the night before the Queen’s celebration she begged for a quiet evening at home and Simon acquiesced. Marissa spent the evening going over plans with Sarah. The next day she told Simon they would be spending the day preparing for the celebration and he left them to themselves with the promise that he would arrive at 6:45 sharp to escort them to Osborne House.
Marissa spent the day with Sarah putting together their clothes for the evening as well as reviewing the social proprieties expected of them at court. Sarah shook her head in dismay at what she would be expected to remember, but Marissa told her to stay nearby and she would help her.
That evening they dressed carefully, Marissa put the invisible suit on underneath her dress. Sarah helped her with her hair and then carefully inserted the dagger so it hid among the curls. When they were finished they examined their figures in the mirror.
Sarah looked completely different with her blond hair curled and pinned up and an elegant dress accentuating her figure. Marissa finished off the look with some of her own jewels. She examined her mother with critical eye, straightening and tucking until Sarah looked perfect.
“These should have been yours,” Marissa said quietly, as she adjusted the emerald necklace.
“I never wanted them. I only wanted Jonathan,” Sarah murmured, touching the jewels. She turned to Marissa and touched her cheek. “You really are like him in so many ways. He was a true gentleman.”
“I wish I could have known him,” Marissa sighed.
She patted her hair one last time and they headed downstairs. True to his word, Simon arrived at 6:45. He exclaimed over their beauty and grace and Marissa had to check herself from rolling her eyes or making a snide comment. Simon handed them into the carriage and they drove off toward the royal house.
The lights of Osborne House sparkled cheerfully through the trees and the collection of carriages and servants at the main entrance promised a delightful but long evening. Marissa and Sarah were whisked inside to greet the royal family and give their felicitations to Queen Victoria. With a smile, Marissa noticed several middle aged gentlemen eyeing Sarah as they entered the grand ballroom.
She introduced her as Catherine Lawrence and let the men lead her onto the dance floor. Shortly she found herself in Simon’s eager grasp dancing along side her mother. She danced several with Simon and other young men attending and decided she would enjoy the evening thoroughly despite what would come later on.
She kept a careful eye on the large clock in the corner and shortly after ten started planning her escape. Around ten-thirty Victoria retired from the gathering and Marissa knew she would have to make her move soon. Feigning a bout of weariness she pleaded with her dance partner to let her rest a few and then carefully made her way to a secluded room.
In her earlier excursion she had searched out the best place for her to remove her clothing so she could become invisible. The room was ideal, since it was accessible by guests, but ill suited for anything but a secret rendezvous. She quickly removed the skirt and bustle and tucked them beneath a couch, followed by the bodice and corset, leaving only the invisible suit. She then removed her jewelry and tucked them into the folds of the hidden dress and focused on the Shadow persona.
No sooner had she done so than a pair of youthful giggles sounded outside the room and a young couple entered.
“Are you sure no one will find us?” the young girl asked nervously.
“We are quite alone, my dear,” the young man answered.
Annoyance washed over Marissa and she walked over to where the couple had started kissing. With a firm tap on his shoulder she hissed, “I can see you,” then left the room.
“Who was that?” the girl asked fearfully.
“I don’t know,” the boy replied, nervously.
“Well I’m not staying here any longer,” the girl humphed.
Marissa smiled and continued into the passageway that led to the Queen’s room. It didn’t take her long to find the long hallway and silently slip past the guards. She knew right where she wanted to wait and she hoped she wouldn’t have to wait long. She sat down in the shadows of a tall vase filled with peacock feathers and scanned the passage.
About ten minutes later she heard a quiet groan from the guards and saw them slide to the ground. She hoped they weren’t dead, but knowing the ruthlessness of the man she was certain they were. She continued to scan the shadows, waiting in silence.
Finally, in the dim light Marissa could see the blurry movement near the wall as it moved toward her. The invisible man really was here and Queen Victoria was just a few rooms away. She knew she couldn’t let him get any closer, but she was no match for a man’s strength. Knowing she had to stop him somehow she reached into the knot of her hair and pulled out the slender dagger Sarah had given her.