She walked into the ballroom in her most bewitching ball gown. An indicolite-colored traditional full-skirted gown that reached her ankles, which had a low-cut Victorian décolleté neckline paired with a set of perfect silk shoes. She loathed the duties, the obligations, and most things that came with being an Astley, but the riches weren’t one of them. Anyone could see how prosperous her family was, just by taking one look at the luxurious fabric of her ball gown; and if that wasn’t enough the dazzle of her set of pearls would surely get in your eyes. But that wasn’t what caught most suitors' eyes; no, it was her alluring smile and mesmerizing hazel eyes, she was breathtakingly stunning. But she wasn’t there to look for a suitor, she was aware that her parents would just make her another business deal like her dear sister.
In a perfectly tailored elegant coat, there he stood; a snooty, snobby, self-absorbed, obnoxious, rich arsehole... was not how you would describe him. While his family was more than affluent, that wasn’t the only affluent thing about him. With a charm that could enchant anyone, and compassion for anyone and everyone, his benevolence, along with his beautiful but always disheveled hair, heavenly sculpted face with high cheekbones and a perfect jaw, he was surely a heartthrob. No one would disagree that he was a sight for sore eyes, well, no one except for her.
Their eyes met across the ballroom, and suddenly disgust and malice filled the entire room. Hatred was not enough of a word for the amount of spite they had for each other. And the thing was, they didn’t even remember why they had taken to disliking each other, it started with a tiny squabble in their childhood followed by a series of prank wars which turned out to be very harmful, so now it was a fifteen year long feud being fought with phony grimaces and fake smiles.
To survive the night with her there, he knew he needed to be under the influence of something, so he apologetically refused the advances made by mothers to get him to dance with their daughters and made his way to the punch and clandestinely added some secret additions to his glass. Sooner than he expected, the voluptuous but vindictive lady clad in a blue gown, pearls and an unmistakable scowl arrived in front of him.
“Father asked brother to see that I have at least one dance with thee,” she stated and muttered under her breath, “Papa must be going bonkers.” He was quick to catch on to that but didn’t flatter her with a reply, instead threw his courteous ways out of the window, just raised an eyebrow and smirked. She waited impatiently tapping her feet, not saying a word with a frown, every inch of her face religiously showing her animosity.
“Pity, I don’t wish to comply.”, was how he envisioned he would answer, but he didn’t want to miss out on the chance of dancing with the most stunning girl that night and his mother had in very kind words coerced him to promise that he would have a dance with her. So, he raised himself to his full height and offered her his left hand with a forced smile, uttering the words, “May I have this dance?” placing her hand in his with prominent sardonicism. She curtsied and said, “Why, good sir, you certainly may.”
One thing neither he nor she could deny, was about how great of a dancer the other person was, or the fact that they loved being held in each other’s arms. “I fail to understand the obsession of our parents to get us together,” she whispered in his ear. “Marrying an Astley would certainly be of advantage to our company, it’s definitely a good business proposition,” he stated with a face devoid of any emotion, “Pity Emma is already betrothed.” “Pardon me, but you wouldn’t be good enough for her, you thinking about it is simply fatuous,” she scoffed.
“Not even good enough for you, eh?”, he blurted out, without even realizing what he was saying till the words were out of his mouth. She became motionless. Stunned, she looked at him unable to understand what the implications of his words were. With venom in her words she said, “You don’t want to marry me, do you?”. He blinked, tightened his arm latched around her waist, and continued the dance. “No, of course, not. I loathe you, remember?..... Do you want to marry me?”
Going along with the dance, she didn’t say a word for a few seconds,
“You are disgusting. Why would I want to?”
‘‘You are bogging,’’ he replied.
‘‘You are intolerable’’ she said.
‘‘And you are despicable’’ he said.
“Well you are detestable,’’ she said.
‘‘Your existence is preposterous,’’ he stated.
‘‘Funny, yours is ludicrous,’’ she said with spite.
‘‘I hate you!’’ he exclaimed.
‘‘I loathe you!’’ she replied, dug her heel into his shoe for a second, and walked away.
He then realized that they had made quite a scene. Then as he looked around, he found innumerable pairs of eyes on him. Being a well-spoken and courteous man, everyone was astonished at this. But he couldn’t begin to think of them as he sprinted after her. As predicted, he found her throwing stones in the air, her usual way of removing her anger.
‘‘These are my favorite pair of shoes,’’ he said. Without bothering to turn she replied, ‘‘You’re welcome, they look better now.’’ He scoffed and they descended into silence, but unlike the other silences they had had before, this was not like them, this was comfortable, it was tranquil. ‘‘I fail to understand what your problem is,’’ he said unsurely in a soft voice. This time she turned and looked him in the eye and said, ‘‘Your face is just so handsomely annoying and you are just so unbearable, I just feel like committing a murder every time I see you.’’
‘‘That was brutal,’’ he replied with a smile. ‘‘Well I was just being honest,’’ she shrugged. ‘‘You certainly should know what seeing your face makes me feel,’’ he said. She stared at him blankly. He took a step forward, ‘‘It makes me feel like torturing someone till the will to live leaves that chap’s body and he begs for death,’’ another step, “I feel like I want to bash someone’s head against a wall and make them bleed.’’ Another step, now they are right in front of each other. He could hear her paced heartbeat and she could feel his heavy breaths, yet, neither was giving up the stone-cold gaze. No one spoke for a few seconds as they took each other in.
She dared and broke the silence, ‘‘Well, I feel like peeling someone’s skin out and then cutting their tongue and then pulling their hair out, strand by strand with my bare it was-" his soft lips on hers didn’t let her complete. Without thinking twice, she pulled him closer till there was no space between them. God, he was delicious! They broke apart for air, with a hint of a smile on his face he looked at her, she burst into laughter, and he laughed with her at the crazy situation they had gotten themselves into.
‘‘So….’’ he said.
‘‘So?’’ he motioned to them both and the lack of space between them.
‘‘So…... I loathe you’,” she said with a wink and stamped on his feet yet again before walking away.
‘‘I loathe you, more,’’ he called after her as he stared in awe at her.
Author: Riya Pote
Editor: Sanya Chadha