"If it pains you so much to go to these...'parties' then why do your parents force you to go? They seem like...honest, good, and caring people."

A scornful laugh. "Oh, yes, they're 'honest, good, and caring people' when it comes to getting their 'precious daughter' a massive fortune! They don't care if I do not love, or even like, the men I meet. They say they're doing what's best for me, but they haven't the slightest idea of what I want and need."

"Mi'lady Gabriella, have you not tried to talk to them? Perhaps...perhaps, reason with them?"

"My pleas fall on deaf ears, Sir William! I would be no better off if they put me on a pedestal and auctioned me off like the cattle at the fairs."

A deep sigh.

The young lady, Gabriella, sat at her vanity staring into the massive mirror before her, noting the frustrated sadness that returned in her reflection. She distantly swiped a brush across her cheeks, painting them in a gentle shade of pink. Her soft locks of hair formed ringlets about her face and cascaded across her shoulders in a waterfall of golden color. A dark blue dress covered her lithe frame, exposing glimpses of suntanned skin that her mother insisted she cover up with powder.

"Young ladies were not meant to be outside for such long periods of time," she scolded Gabriella severely after she came in one day from the hot sun with bright red, peeling skin. "If the good Lord had intended it He would not have given us houses to keep out the sun!"

Behind her, and just a bit off to the side, stood an older gentleman who watched Gabriella in a thoughtful silence. He wore a tunic and pants, with the insignia of the christian cross upon his chest. His hair was a light black, mixed with some grey, that was pulled back by a strip of leather at the nape of his neck. His deep brown eyes held flecks of black, and the 'dust of starlight' as Gabriella had once said. He stood straight and tall, his hands clasped firmly behind his back, as his broad shoulders and chest rose and fell every few seconds with an intake and outake of breath.

"As their only child, father believes I should inherit his entire fortune, as well as that of a 'rich mans' son." Gabriella went on with a sigh as she applied a few quick shots of the scented perfume to her skin. "They say I'll learn to love him. Even though they don't know who he is yet!"

Sir William shifted on his boots ever so slightly. "Yet you have said that they gave you the choice of whom you would marry, so long as you found him by the end of tonight's party. No, not the pearls, the sapphire."

Gabriella brought the pearl necklace she was about to clasp around her neck away. Picking up the sapphire necklace he had indicated she held it up, lifting a questioning eyebrow, and when he nodded in afirmation she continued. "Yes but it can't happen like that! I mean, I'm not going to find the right man to spend the rest of my life with in a mere five hours."

There was a moments pause as Sir William watched Gabriella entwine a beautiful blue rose into her golden locks. It suits her, he thought silently, It brings out the blue in her eyes. Then he murmured softly as his eyes focused once more on her reflection in the mirror, "Yet do you not believe in love at first sight?"

"Love at first sight is for poetic fools," she replied a bit harshly as she slid a small diamond ring onto her slender finger, observing it briefly as it reflected a million colors.

"Is it...?"

The tone in Sir Williams voice caused her to be taken slightly off guard, and she turned very slowly in the rotating chair to face him with a softer expression. She pursed her red stained lips together as her eyes cast downward to the intricate design of the carpet. "No..." She admitted softly, a slight ache in her heart as she spoke these words. "No, I suppose not." She closed her eyes momentarily, her heart giving a painful flutter within her as she recalled the first time they had met.

All was quiet within the room as the two unspoken lovers both allowed their thoughts to drift for a moment. Memories that brought a mixture of joy, pain, love, and heartache flooded through their mind.

Finally a very soft breath was drawn in before Gabriella whispered , "I wish..." She paused, her deep blue eyes going distant a moment in the trance of thought. She remained thus poised for awhile until, shaking her head as though to say 'nevermind', she rose from her stool and turned to walk away.

"Yes," Sir William murmured in response, just loud enough for her to hear. "As do I."

Gabriella stopped short, her dress rustling softly about her heels at this movement, and remained perfectly still a long moment, not thinking or saying anything, merely letting the silence hang between them. She lowered her head, a hand rising to clasp the sapphire 'teardrop' that hung about her neck. She could feel Sir Williams eyes upon her, much as she had felt them that first day they had met. Never seeing him...only sensing his presence and knowing he was there.

Slowly she lifted her head and realized she was standing before her large mirror. Her hand that clutched the sapphire so tightly began to tremble as she realized that the mirror did not catch Sir Williams reflection from where he stood just behind her. Her eyelashes lowered to her cheeks in order to hold back a single tear that tried to escape. It was so true... No matter what viewpoint you looked upon it, she and Sir William could never be together in this lifetime.

"Please, mi'lady... Do not cry."

Gabriella shook her head quickly in denial of the accusation, opening her eyes as she turned to him, purposefully avoiding the mirror's reflection. She was only a bit startled to see he had moved closer to her, as always making absolutely no sound whatsoever. He looked down upon her glassy eyes with his deep orbs that seemed to reach on through eternity, and though she may have tried, she could not bring her own eyes to tear away from their flawless beauty.

"Sir William, I-."

"Shhh." He stopped her quickly, raising a finger to his lips. "Please, do not say anything...that you might later regret."

The young woman again pursed her lips tightly and gave a nod of her head. Yes... To profess her love for her guardian and friend was to only cause the both of them more pain when they were forced apart. Yet, could such love as this go unspoken? Would she not die if she did not hear him speak her own name with love instead of his guarded politeness? And yet, at this moment, death seemed like such a welcoming thing! Oh, but to die and be welcomed into a loving embrace...

As though reading her thoughts, Sir William hesitated a moment shifting on his booted feet once more...then slowly, ever so slowly, brought his head down to drop a gentle kiss on her forehead. Yet where the sensation of flesh meeting flesh should have been felt, all Gabriella felt was a mockingly cold chill.

As he stood once more to his full height, she looked upward at him with an inevitable pain in her eyes. Her hand slowly rose from where it had been holding tightly to the necklace's precious jewel and lifted upward to touch his cheek, so clearly pronounced by his strong jaw. His eyes closed quickly so that she would not read their hurt caused by the fact that she should mock him so...and he turned away his head before she came into contact.

Gabriella in turn lowered her hand slowly as it began to tremble once more. She wanted to touch him and feel his warm skin beneath her fingertips. She wanted him to embrace her, and kiss her hair, and assure her that everything was going to be alright! She wanted to know beyond the slightest doubt that he loved her and would never leave her side. Yet, it was all impossible. He was indeed a gentleman, yet it was not that that stopped him. No, it was the accursed fact that-.

"Gabriella!" Her mothers high pitched voice called through the door. "Gabriella, are you ready yet? You've been in there for an hour!"

"Yes, mother, I am coming!" She turned back to Sir William and realized that he had forced his eyes to look into hers. They stayed there, sharing the pain of love, until finally she was able to murmur softly, "Is this it, Sir William? Will I ever see you again?"

He gave her a very slow nod and cleared his tightening throat. "Yes, Lady Gabriella. In your dreams, I shall always look after you."

A single tear traced a path across her smooth cheek and she nodded, accepting his answer though he could have done no more damage had he thrust a dagger through her heart. She turned on her heel and moved with her lithe grace toward the door, once again her hand moving to clutch the pendent tightly enough that it caused a mark into her palm. She stopped at the door,slender digits encircling the brass doorknob...

...then she turned back quickly, blurting out in a sudden surge of emotions. "William, I-." But there was no one there. He had disappeared as he always did, without any noise, and without any warning. Gabriella took in a breath that turned to a very soft sob as she whispered, "I love you..." Then she swept from the room quickly.

Sir William watched from beside the window as his love swept out. He had not allowed her to see him in those last few seconds for he might have never been able to let her go. Her words caused him to place his hand over his heart at the pain it caused. He stood there a few minues, merely listening as she left down the hallway...and into the welcoming arms of the party-goers below.

"I love you, my Gabriella." He whispered softly, a bit choked by his sudden onslaught of tears. Then, leaving only a broken cry of pain in the air, he vanished. He knew he could never love her as she was meant to be loved.

For after all, who could ever love a ghost such as he?