Leona checked her reflection in the downstairs mirror. This was as ready as she would ever be. She had practiced diligently, her voice was primed, and in a few minutes the taxi would pick her up to take her to the Mayor’s Ball.
Her heels were a bit uncomfortable, so hopefully, she wouldn’t be standing all night. She grimaced and adjusted her stance.
“The taxi is here,” her father announced. She turned around and found herself being pulled into a big bear hug, “I am so proud of you sweetheart.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Leona gave him her brightest smile. She grabbed the invitation and put it in her clutch, waving one last goodbye before heading out.
The Mayor’s Ball was downtown at Le Theater, an old neoclassical structure that could be rented out for private events. As Leona stood on the sidewalk, just outside of it, she marveled at it’s majestic and classic exterior beauty. Men in tuxedos and women in gowns were entering the building arm in arm. Her awe transformed to a bittersweet smile and she sighed; she didn’t have a date to the ball. Though, the thought of Antoine in a suit made her swoon a bit.
She climbed the stairs to the entrance, into the foyer and was stopped from entering the ballroom by a woman in a red blouse.
“Hello, welcome to the Mayor’s Ball,” the woman smiled cheerfully and shook Leona’s hand, “I’m Millicent Conway, the Mayor’s assistant so let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks! Is there a specific place I need to report to if I am singing tonight?”
“Yeah, there’s an entrance to the backstage down the hallway, what’s your time slot?” Millicent said, looking over her clipboard.
“I actually don’t know, the invitation didn’t specify. Do you have that information?”
“Your invitation didn’t tell your time?” Millicent’s brows knotted in suspicion, “What is your name? I’ll check my list.”
“Leona Hillenburg,” she answered and a flutter of unease hit her right in the gut.
Millicent’s eyes roamed over her sheet, then she flipped the page and kept looking. It was making Leona exceedingly anxious watching as the Mayor’s assistant was still searching but unable to find her name on the list.
“It’s not here, dear.”
“I got an invitation, though, signed by the Mayor himself!” Leona unclasped her clutch and held out the envelope with the invitation still inside. Millicent took it and looked through it curiously.
“Strange, I didn’t think he personally had sent any out for this event. Please wait a moment,” the woman turned to a suited associate that Leona hadn’t even noticed, and they spoke in low tones until the associate departed.
Leona tapped her heel impatiently, wishing she could sit down already. She heard melodies drifting out of the ballroom. Someone else was singing.
Suddenly, a well-dressed man appeared in the ballroom entrance from the ballroom’s side. His dark hair was slicked to the side and his eyes roved over both of them with a look of impatient puzzlement, “What did you call me out here for Ms. Conway?”
“This young lady says she received an invitation to sing tonight but her name isn’t on my list. The invitation looks to have your signature,” the assistant explained and handed him the envelope. Oh Plumbobs, the Mayor
was standing right in front of her!
“I assure you I didn’t…” he said as he took out the paper and scanned it, his voice fading as he arched an eyebrow. He seemed to re-read it and then looked at Leona suspiciously, “Where did you get this?”
“In the mail…” Leona’s gut was twisting in all sorts of directions. He studied the paper and then flipped the envelope over to see the return address. He sighed and she heard the name ‘Evie
’ spoken in an exasperated mumble.
“I apologize young lady but it looks like you have been promised a spot that isn’t available,” the Mayor folded the invitation up and placed it back into its envelope and handed it to her.
She numbly accepted it. Everyone had been right
, and she was just too full of hope to see it.
“Again, I am terribly sorry. You are welcome to stay, dance, and enjoy the catering upstairs,” he bowed his head slightly then looked toward his assistant, “Was that all Ms. Conway?”
“Yes sir,” she replied and he took leave.
Leona peeked into the ballroom and saw a room of splendor. But what was the point of staying if she couldn’t sing? Who would she dance with? All the men here were at least her father’s age.
She gave a last look over her shoulder at the stage she should have been occupying, before exiting the way she came.
Leona nearly tripped down the stairs as she left the Ball, so entirely disheartened that her opportunity was never the real deal. She wouldn’t get to sing, and she had damaged her friendships by ambitiously going after this gig and they had even tried to warn her.
She dejectedly sat on one of the street benches nearby and buried her face in her hands.
Tears ended up coming even though she tried sniffing them back. It was just so
“Don’t cry Songbird,” a soothing baritone penetrated her self-pitying thoughts and she felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She gasped and revealed her tear-streaked face. She couldn’t believe it!
“Ant–Antoine?” she stuttered, shocked to see him there. He wasn’t dressed up like she had imagined him earlier. He looked like he was going to a rock concert.
“Let’s go,” he just said with a gentle smile, not bothering to explain himself and took her by the hand. He guided her to a stand where she wobbled a bit in her high heels. She didn’t know where he was taking her but at that moment she didn’t care because he was enough to distract her from the disastrous evening.