Chapter 5: Jealous Suitors
Fred eyed his new clothes in the mirror. The door to the room creaked open. Fred spun around to see who it was.
"Fredrick, glad to see you. I'm sorry to say your parent haven't arrived yet,"
exclaimed King William. Fred nodded in reply. William continued, "Why don't you come down and meet the others who are visiting."
"Of course, sir" Fred said as he followed the king down the staircase.
As he entered the ballroom, eh was amazed by its grandeur, but a beautiful girl in the corner quickly caught his attention. Someone patted his back. He turned to find William, again. Nodding toward the girl he said, "That's my daughter Clarisse." With a wink, he walked away leaving Fred standing there.
When he turned back again, there was a boy coming toward him. "Hi, I'm Ralon," the newcomer said.
Automatically, Fred replied "And I'm Fredrick. Pleased to meet you." After a moments' pause he continued, "But you may call me Fred." Fred was still staring at the girl in the corner. Ralon followed his gaze. "Ahhh," he said. "Come on, I'll introduce you," he continued, grinning.
"Clarisse, I'd like you to meet Fredrick. Fredrick, this is Clarisse" Rolan said.
Claire and Fred sighed simultaneously as they said, "I told you not to call me that." Claire giggled as Fred turned red.
"I know," Ralon replied, "but I thought because it was an introduction and all…" Claire and Fred just looked at him. "Anyway, Claire, would you care to dance?"
"I'd be delighted. Fred would you please excuse me," Claire said. As Ralon led her onto the dance floor, Fred grumbled, "Yes, of course" through gritted teeth.
Fred watched as Ralon twirled Claire around the room. He sighed as they swirled gracefully past, Claire's feet barely touching the ground.
Fred turned away, walked over to the refreshment table, and piled a plate up with food. A few minutes later, Ralon showed up beside him, breathing heavily.
"Whew! That's quite a quick paced dance. Don't you hate when parents do that?"
Fred turned and stared blankly at him. "Do what?"
"Make you dance with the host's daughter. Or daughters. The faster dances aren't so bad, but during the slow ones you always have to make polite small talk the whole time and all they want to talk about is the latest court gossip. It is so awful," he replied.
"Make you dance with the host's daughter?" Fred was still several thoughts behind.
Ralon looked up from filling his plate. "Yes, of course. My father is right over there," he said as he pointed at King Lois. "He was gesturing and giving me a look. I thought it would be best to avoid trouble."
Fred looked at him. "You mean you just danced with Claire because of your father?"
"Well, yes. Come on, I saw you looking at her. I wouldn't have asked her if it wasn't for my father," Ralon assured him. He looked up. "This is a good song. Maybe you should go ask Clarie to dance," he continued as he winked at Fred.
"Oh, well, um…I suppose so. Wish me luck." Fred said nervously.
"You don't need it. Just be yourself and relax. Don't be stiff, otherwise you might scare her off. And remember, don't babble." Ralon clapped him on the shoulder and gave him an encouraging smile. "You will do fine."
Fred scanned the room and located Claire, surrounded by a group of young men. He walked over and bowed, but not before feeling his face turn red. "Good evening, Claire. Would you care to dance?" he asked.
Suddenly, the surrounding men started clamoring for attention.
"Wait your turn…"
"I was here first…"
"She's dancing with me next…"
"Boys, boys." The group qieted. "What would you all say if I refused?" The group seemed dumbfounded by this, as if they had thought it impossible to be refused. Claired looked amused. The boys all started talking at once.
"I'd beg you…"
"And bribe you…"
"What about you Fred? It seems everyone has answered except you." Claire looked at Fred and the group of young men followed her gaze, sizing up the compention.
Fred pondered it for a moment. "Well, I guess I would have to respect your decision, so I would go sit on the other side of the ballroom, watching forlornly as you dance with everyone else," he finished.
Claire giggled at his answer. "I'd love to dance, Fred." Fred perked up immediately and offered her his arm. She laid her hand gently on his elbow and they glided onto the ballroom floor, leaving the group of young men to jealously watch them.