The Dance of the Twelfth Moon

By Sapphirefly

Chapter One

Ferris Greyson closed the door to the conservatory behind him. It didn't make a sound as he clicked the door shut, just as he hoped. He stepped away from the glass door and into the greenery of the conservatory to hide himself.

He had not even been home for more than five hours and already his mother was at his throat. When he was a child he had never thought of her as a mercenary creature, but now as she harped at him about his single state, he found it difficult to think of her as anything else. It was not his imagination, she was constantly badgering him about how he ought to get married, and ought to get married soon! She couldn't bear the idea of only one of her sons being distinguished, and right now the distinguished one was not Ferris. So, his older brother had inherited everything from their father when he died. Ferris found he could not blame his brother for that, nor could he really consider it a misfortune on his own head that he had not inherited much of anything. He didn't particularly care for the duties of a landlord, thus he didn't envy his brother his occupation. His loss, it seemed, fell hardest on his matriarch.

Ferris's mother was pleased when Ferris decided to enter the army, and even more pleased when he was given the rank of Colonel. Yet, it was not enough to satisfy her. She would not be satisfied until he was married to an heiress. There was no other way to please her.

However, this was the one thing that would not satisfy Ferris in the least. It wasn't that he couldn't see his mother's reasons behind an advantageous marriage. It was just that he couldn't see sufficient reason to sell himself in the way his mother suggested. There was a little money left to him by his father, and his commission in the army amply paid for all of his immediate wants. The idea of a woman in his life obtained solely for whatever money she might have struck Ferris as not only ridiculous, but also inhuman.

Actually, he did not see himself getting married at all, but if he should choose to do something of the sort, it could only be for a woman he was passionately in love with. Not that Ferris thought that he could ever be passionately in love with anyone. He didn't. He had never been in love with anyone, and he was beginning to doubt his attachment to his own mother and brother. He was becoming heartless and he liked it.

At that precise moment Ferris had left the room where his mother and brother were playing cards. He had declined the invitation when they asked him to play, saying it would make for an odd game with three players instead of two or four. With his mother distracted for a moment, he took the opportunity to say that he felt as though he needed some exercise before he retired for the evening, and excused himself from the quaint sitting room before she could voice an objection.

He had also been disappointed with his older brother's lack of inclination to stand as a barrier between him and his mother when she got her figurative meat hooks into him at dinner. Ferris might have been mistaken, but he thought that John was perhaps enjoying the chance for someone else to have a piece of her tongue. John did live with her, so she got her way with him all the time. Whereas, Ferris was only visiting, so it was a rare chance for her to vent her opinions of her second son to him directly.

It was a relief to get away from them both.

From the conservatory, Ferris took himself outside. It was summertime, and not yet dark, so he simply began walking away from the house. Where he went to, he really didn't care. He was glad to be walking since he had ridden horseback most of the day to get there.

Ferris walked along, and wondered if any of the place was really dear to him anymore. The trees and shrubs he recognized, but he didn't feel the nostalgia. Was this place really his home? Had it ever been his home? Was it his refuge against all that was wrong in the world? He felt distinctly that it was not, and touched a finger to the cravat at his throat. He had arrived at the mansion with his regimentals on, but changed out of them for dinner. Suddenly, he felt his blood rising in hot rebellion against what his mother wanted him to be. What he ought to be! His uniform was not good enough for her. She would not be content with him until he was as much a gentleman as John. As if fortune had anything to do with whether or not a man was a gentleman!

He carelessly untied his cravat and disconnected it from the collar of his shirt. He hadn't been in the shire for some time. If he went into town no one would notice who he really was, and he could use a drink of ail. He put his feet to the road and decided to walk away from the village he had ridden through on his way in and go the other way instead. There wasn't much the other way, but he knew there was an inn four or five miles in the direction he chose to walk in.

Ferris arrived at the village and found the inn. He had his drink at the bar without rousing too much suspicion. He was careful not to drink much either, in case someone was to recognize him and report it to his mother. He wouldn't be able to bear her mouth if he was both wild and poor. That would be too much for any man.

After his drink, he determined he was calm enough to face his mother and paid his bill.

The street was colder than he remembered, and it seemed that the wind had come up with a chill. Ferris did up the buttons to his coat and moved to endure the weather. It would be quite late at the house by the time he arrived back home.

As Ferris walked he suddenly became most concerned about the time, and that it would probably be much past midnight by the time he got home. Whether he was famously rebellious or not, his mother would have something to say about that too, and even though he had made himself feel equal to her wrath, he didn't want to incur it if there was a possibility of avoiding it.

He decided to take a shortcut through the woods.

Ferris did not feel as though he had lost his direction, but soon thought that he must have, as he found himself approaching people. Music played and a bonfire illuminated the gathering midst the flora. As he got closer, he realized that he was not mistaken about the direction. He was exactly where he thought he was, and these people were where they should not have been. It was a caravan of gypsies set up for the night.

He was planning on walking right past them, but the sound of their music made him want to take a closer look. He found himself quietly approaching.

The circle around the fire was not large. There was only one thin line of people encircling the fire. There were two caravans at one side where it seemed that most other people were gathered. The musicians were there as well as a grill where some meat, undoubtedly poached, was being cooked. Probably poached off his family's land, but at that moment, the scent was so disarming, the injustice slipped his mind.

Suddenly, he noticed a girl standing a little bit in front of him. She was swaying to the music, the folds of her dress swinging around her. Then she was stepping forward into the heat of the fire, dancing.

Ferris stared.

He had never seen anything like her before. At that moment, she seemed not like a person to him, but like the spirit of all his rebellion against an aristocratic life that he did not want to live. Soon he found himself tapping his foot to the beat of the drums and then clapping his hands with the others who watched her.

Other girls got up and danced with her too, but Ferris's eyes remained on her only, until the end of the song. Her cheeks were stained a vital red from the exercise and soon he thought from merely the life in her eyes that he had never seen a woman so beautiful in his life.

When the song ended, she threw herself on the ground close to where she had been standing before. There was a discarded shawl on the grass near her and she caught it up and tied it around her waist. Then, for some unknown reason (at least it was unknown to Ferris) she turned around and faced him. Then she put out her hand and beckoned him to crouch beside her.

"Did you like the dance?" she asked him, when he was close to her.

"Very much," he conceded, a little surprised at her cultured tone.

"I've never seen you before. What are you doing here?" she questioned, a little bewildered.

"I'm afraid I stumbled on your party without meaning to. I ought not to have intruded. I'd better skip out before someone, less benevolent than you, notices that I was not invited," he said, once again forgetting who should not be where.

"What if I asked you to stay? Your eyes are very flattering and I wouldn't mind being flattered for a little longer," she said, putting her hand into her hair, as if to draw his attention to her slim neck.

He found himself smiling. "You're audacious, aren't you? What makes you so sure it was you I found so interesting dancing out there? There are several pretty girls here."

"There may be, but it was me you were admiring. Well, you couldn't have helped it. I just attract admirers where ever I go," she said, dropping her hair, and drawing herself around to face him better.

"You are wretchedly conceited," he said shaking his head, thinking only that she was thoroughly amusing. "Not very ladylike."

"Why would I want to be ladylike? Think of all the prejudice and backstabbing they must do among their own kind to maintain their pride. I'm sorry, but you must excuse me if I think that kind of life too shallow to bother participating in it. Not to mention, painful." She pointed at her feet, covered in very unladylike slippers, that looked, very comfortable.

"I can understand what you mean," Ferris answered, thinking about how her description of a lady applied to his mother.

"And then, if you're a lady and you have money, there are only some gentlemen that you can marry. Your family would want you to marry a man with wealth as well, but perhaps you might hanker for love, and think a combined fortune with a wealthy man worthless to true love with a beggar-" her energy of voice failed her as she got further into her tirade until she was silent. "Anyway," she said at length. "I don't think I would be happy living as a lady."

"Well," he said observing her pale skin in the firelight. "You're not a gypsy, so maybe you were a lady once. Therefore, you would have the experience to complain all you want. In fact, I'd love to hear you and join in at the appropriate moments, vicariously enjoying your liberation."

She smirked, "Or maybe I could show you how much fun it can be to behave in a way that is extremely unladylike."

"Really," he said, and before he knew it she had snatched him by the cheeks and pressed her lips to his in the most inviting sort of kiss.

Then before he could return it, or even think, she had sprung to her feet and disappeared behind the musicians.

He jumped up to follow her and found himself loving the idea of playing a sort of chasing game with a girl like he did when he was a little boy, but when he rounded the corner, there was nothing but empty forest and odd leaves falling from the trees. It seemed like she had disappeared into thin air. He didn't even see where she had gone.

Author's Notes: Hi dear readers! This is an old piece of my fiction. I was editing it and thought I'd post it here for your enjoyment. I'm also promoting a new piece of my fiction, my new novel called 'Behind His Mask' by Stephanie Van Orman. It's available on Amazon in just about every country in both print and ebook. I'll update this book once a week until it's done. Enjoy!