Sophia Bradley

Une Danse dans les Étoiles

Ladies—those of fortune, with either marriage or ancestry to provide—flapped, and spun, and flew in delicate strokes of blush pink and hydrangea between glove-laden hands. They went cyclically about the room; they tapped their toes, pitched their arms, tossed little threads of curls across their cheeks: all studied as performance and merriment crowned, regally, by a dress of size puffed to three times the width of their knees. Gentlemen tipped their chins in polite confidence, and bade their madames and mademoiselles begin with the strike of a finger above her head, which would center a whirl in which he could gaze at his lady with a most becoming view. Golden tiers made platforms for the ascension and descension between floors—the lower for dancing, the upper for socialization—and silly were guests as they dressed them with their clicking, black shoes and skirts of drapery, meeting each other between stations in uproars of champagne. “Pardonnez-moi,” and “Merci, monsieur” chirped along the railings as the people passed. Where gatherings formed in intentional clans, on the floor above, lights shone with the imitation of sunshine. Savory anecdotes were presented to them—viandes miniatures au vin and quiches Lorraines—by butlers who, the guests marveled, did not look, nor pry, as would be tempting to endeavor, which was a premier wonder to the people, due to the belief that their own presence, for the evening, was of celebratory beauty. Ancestral order was kept between shoulders, and locked into conversations between Allard-Toussaints: married by the bewitching Amélie Allard and the damnably handsome Raphaël Toussaint. A spread of other families mirrored this selectivity; Bonnet-Lyons, Granger-LaRues, Auclair-Renauds, Aguillard-Archambeaus, Dufort-Verniers, and Baudelaire-Cadieuxs bound themselves together in bunches, like bouquets, and were kept, each, as one organism.

Music was played, and it filled the golden dome, bouncing off of carvings of lions and silhouettes, and chandeliers that wept in crystal streams. Hum, hum, hum, it sang in lovely, scattered keys, catching to the passion of Frédéric Chopin. It melted into wine, and into glossed lips and gorged eyes, pouring its thrill into the main area: the ballroom stage. Paintings hung there, between flaxen columns set politely to the side; many depicted scenes of waterlilies and luncheons; some dripped with color, and some sat solemnly, with figures wrought by a craving for love. Similarly, both in color and romance, Amélie danced within the stretch of ladies, ticking round the perimeter of the floor and making observational circles around gentlemen, who, in a smaller circle enclosed by the skirts, swept, too, in speculation, each matched with the woman whom they most adored. Amélie warped herself into pendulum swings as she marked her husband with the extension of her arm, and he with his, accompanied by a fascinated regard. The two reaches, Amélie’s and Raphaël’s, stuck together at the center of their distance, as did the bounce of the rest, and repeated in a perpetual teasing. Music, laughter, and gossip phoned through the two spinning wheels, separated by sex, until they all spilled, like the sea, into one another. Pairings burst together in smiling whimsy; they spun, and clung, and made little shifts across the clearing of romance dusted with gold.

“Ma petite Amélie! Comme elle est belle! Comme c’est beau pour elle d’être à moi!” said Raphaël to his wife, who had her hands at his neck. “Ah, mon homme et ma vie,” she breathed. “Tu gardes l’amour dans mon âme.”

Sophia Bradley was born and raised in Massachusetts with a passion for literature from a young age. College bound for the autumn season, she has been versed in creative writing already as a high school student. This would be her first publication as an emerging writer.