By the time Linvin had finished his last dance, he was wishing he had chosen the other sandals. The time had come for the remainder of the party to move to the roof deck. A simple bar attended by servants quenched the thirsts of the patrons. It was the part of the evening in which guests could shed their responsibilities in society and relax. There was an unwritten rule that one’s actions on the balcony were not to be held against them. In fact, the lunacy that sometimes occurred was never to be spoken of again. They ordered whatever beverage made them happy and a buffet was arranged in case it had seemed too long since dinner. Jelena was noticeably absent. She was working the door again, saying ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you so much for attending.’ Jelena also thought her son would feel more comfortable with the young ladies if his mother were not within sight. Linvin had already consumed his share of wine and decided to switch to brandy in an effort to slow his consumption. Like his uncle, it was not a favorite drink of his but the glass gave him something to do with his hands so he did not seem so anxious. Linvin took his seat and the women flocked around him, like pigeons to breadcrumbs. The young ladies sat tall in a proper pose. Coaching the girls from behind were their mothers. Linvin could not help but wonder if the supervision was for their daughter’s benefit or his. The males of the respective families were busy smoking and drinking themselves into embarrassment. It suddenly occurred to Linvin as the ladies formed a circle about him that he could think of nothing to say. The entire group waited for him to speak. In his nervousness he fell back on flattery. “You are all simply marvelous dancers,” he commented, “Your grace and poise made my clumsiness so much less noticeable. I thank you.” “Oh you danced divine,” one suitor said. A chorus of agreement followed. “I have taken dance lessons since I was five,” one interjected. “Well I have taken them since I could walk!” blurted out another. Credentials began to fly around like bids at an auction. Linvin raised his hands to silence the competition. “I was hoping to learn a little more about you ladies.
Perhaps if we just went around and you told me your names and a few things about yourselves.” It seemed to Linvin that he had come up with an orderly plan. He did not realize that it would be the last opportunity for him to speak for some time. Each young lady took full advantage of the center stage and told him the lengthy details of her life and ambitions. Some statements were intriguing, others were revealing and a few were ones he was thankful his mother did not hear. Still, the vast majority of the statements sounded exactly like the woman who had just spoken. Linvin felt himself caring less and less about what he was beginning to view as predators looking for a kill. He wondered how much time had passed. By counting the number of inebriated fathers strewn about the deck, he judged that the hour had grown late. It was a deplorable sight and rules or not, Linvin guessed many of them would receive an earful from their wives the next day, if not on the carriage ride home. He was just pondering that thought when the group became silent. The last girl had recited her biography. “I must say,” Linvin said while addressing to the group, “when I sat down here, I had no idea I was in the presence of such charming and well-mannered young ladies. Your mothers have certainly raised marvelous daughters. I hope that I may have the honor of calling on you sometime in the future.” The responses were unanimously positive. “And now, sweet ladies,” Linvin said as he stood, “It would seem that my gentlemen guests have given the cue to end the evening. Theisen! Would you be so kind as to help our guests to their carriages? I’m afraid some may be the worse for wear.” “Yes, of course, Master Linvin,” Theisen said as he herded the guests down the stairs. Before long, all the guests had departed and Linvin stood alone, leaning on the rail of the deck. Only the servants cleaning the bar remained.