Savoi smiled knowingly at Farouk.
“Maaz is right. Lily has endured nearly all our memories. She witnessed the bad and the ugly. We owe it to her, as fellow squad mates, to regard hers.”
Yoshida took in a deep sigh, then finally turned his attention towards Shevchenko. It occurred to him that whilst he was amid pleading his case to Savoi, Shevchenko’s memory was still in motion… yet she was not.
“How long has she been standing there in the same spot?” he asked.
“For at least nine different dance songs,” Farouk answered.
Yoshida stepped closer to Shevchenko to examine her disposition. With a tilt of his head, he said, “Tulle certainly seems to be her go-to ballroom attire. Didn’t she wear something similar at the induction ball?”
Savoi rashly interjected.
“There’s nothing wrong with tulle. My mum said it was all the rage for debutantes.”
“Yeah, if you were born thirty years ago,” Yoshida cynically replied.
Savoi instantly jabbed him in the side.
“Hush, now. Her dress is perfectly fine and looks nothing like the one she wore at the induction ball. I think the color was maroon,” she said.
“Burgundy,” Roudan cavalierly interrupted.
The rest of the team noticed he appeared smitten, as he stood next to Shevchenko. They were not unfamiliar with that notion, but this time Roudan did not bother to hide his feelings. He had often morphed into a love-struck kitten in her presence, but her cold shoulder snapped him back into the fearless leader he truly was. His gaze was interrupted by a few uncontrollable giggles from Yoshida. Savoi darted a chilling glance that caused both men to regain composure.
Farouk had no choice but to diffuse the tension among them.
“I feel sorry for Lily. Did she really attend these events just to stand in one place all evening?”
Yoshida walked around the room to escape Savoi’s intense glare.
“Certainly not. These preposterous coming-out parties were invented as marriage proposal ceremonies. Vapid men and women attend to be swooped off their feet, or in no uncertain terms, to form valuable financial alliances among each other. The biggest problem is that it may seem like there are a lot of attendees, but the circle is extremely small. Most of everyone here is not-so-distant blood relatives. The practices of the elites are frowned upon throughout the kingdom,” he answered.
Moments later, the conductor of the orchestra turned to address the address. He was a short, bald man, who appeared to have excess skin drooping through his ill-fitting tuxedo. The microphone stand was far taller than him, and it took several orchestra members to put down their instruments and help pull the stand to his mouth level. After several minutes of awful sound feed through the mic, he could speak.
“Honored guest; the Shevchenko family warmly thanks you for attending the season’s final cotillion. We hope this evening was profitable for many of you. Thank you, once again, and good night.”
As the attendees cleared the room, all the chandelier and candelabra lights were switched off to a natural light. The guest appeared to have a sickly, pale-green complexion. Apparently, the former lights were infused with an altering ultraviolet beam to conceal the effects of a population who had blocked off the sunlight for over twenty years.
Once the room had emptied, all that remained were cadet Shevchenko and five others who resembled her enough to conclude that they were her family. The male was attractive and could have been in his late fifties, but his complexion and slumped posture made him seem older. The woman who stood beside him wore enough to make-up to doctor her otherwise sickly appearance. She donned a blonde wig, which had shifted to reveal patchy grey strands of hair. Two other blonde women in matching topaz gowns stood beside them, and they both appeared to keep somewhat of a youthful glow. The elder woman appeared ancient. Though she wore a majestic magenta ballgown with jewels fit for a queen, she did not bother to play along with the hiding her condition. She had patches of silver hair beneath a golden tiara.
“Come hither, Lilya,” her father called sternly to her.
With a loud gulp, Shevchenko finally relieved her position, which is the same spot she stood in for the duration of the ball.
“I take it this evening did not manifest the results we’d all hoped for?” her father asked.
Shevchenko did not respond, but teared up when the other girls giggled loudly. Her father sighed without an ounce of empathy towards her.
“Speak up, daughter!” her mother demanded.
“No need to shout, mother. It’s obvious that our tragically inclined sister did not meet her match,” one of the young women interjected as she fidgeted with a large diamond wedding ring.
“She didn’t even dance all night,” the other blurted with a smirk.
“This is unacceptable! I am Viscount Leopold Shevchenko. My family has been a part of the elite for centuries. We are members of the high-aristocrat society, mainly through our abilities to gain successful marital alliances with other nobles. Your mother, Titania, and I worked tirelessly to ensure your older sisters followed traditions down to the letter. Their marriages have kept a steady stream of revenue for our fortune. It’s time that you followed suit,” her father said.
The elder woman hobbled over to Shevchenko and pinched her on the arm.
“A candle which burns slow causes everything to linger. You mustn’t sit idly while your family clings on for dear life to our livelihood,” she said sharply before she fell into a brief coughing fit.
Shevchenko squealed but withheld her tears.
Her father wasted no time in continuing his tirade.
~The Waring Robins~