Of course we weren't the only people in the room, my um 'guardians' seemed to know the mixed group of family and friends in residence, introducing me to various people that live in a world so far removed from mine that I doubt they've ever shopped in Aldi.
"Oh er sorry Frau Strechau, just admiring the paintings."
"Ah Max's great great great grandfather. So anyway, if you follow Marcus here he'll take you to your room, I think they've put you in with Sophia."
Oh sugar! I'd never even thought about where I'd be sleeping other than in the family 'mansion' and sharing...bugger, bugger, bugger!
Marcus, well I assume it was he, was waiting patiently by the door so I made my excuses and nervously headed over.
"If you'd follow me please."
He turned on his heel and I dutifully trotted along behind. Away from the reception rooms the place was a lot calmer and my guide led me to a staircase which took us up two levels to a corridor on a less grand scale off of which numerous doors led off, a bit like a fancy hotel I guess.
We stopped at a door and after a polite knock on the door I was ushered into a room, which was about the most normal I'd seen since arriving here.
"Miss Sophia has the main bedroom and you will use the day room."
It turned out that the suite consisted of a large bedroom, the smaller day room, a sitting room and a generous shared bathroom. I followed Marcus through to my room where I was amazed to find my cases unpacked and clothes neatly hung, even my toiletries were unpacked.
"Dinner will be at seven thirty, informal attire."
"My pleasure Fraulein."
For the first time today I was on my own, hundreds of miles from home in a private suite in a ‘royal' palace. After a quick poke around my room, the customary bed bouncing and examining my navel I decided that a shower would be a good idea.
The shower was a nice power version, not dissimilar to the one in our utility room, I was soon stood under the needle spray letting the water ease the kinks out of my back and shoulders from the long drive – luxury indeed. Reluctantly I turned off the faucet after a good soak and stepped out of the cubicle, wrapping a towel around me as I went. I found myself humming some pop song and wasn't paying much attention when I left the wet room to return to my room.
“You must be Gabrielle.”
“Yaaargghhhh!” I just about jumped out of my skin, dropped my bundle of worn clothing and nearly lost my towel too!
The owner of the voice let out a giggle, “sorry.”
“Sophia Taxis.” she held out her hand to shake.
So this is my room mate, she seems nice enough . I mused as we both assessed each other, about my age I guess, she stands a good twenty centimetres taller than me with shoulder length light brown hair and slightly less meat on her bones than I like to see.
“Er Gaby Bond.”
“Well Er Gaby Bond its nice to meet you, these weddings can be such a bore can't they?” she noted stooping to help me pick up my dropped garments.
“I er guess.” In truth I've never been to a wedding before so this is a first for me.
“You should get dressed,” she opined, “dinner is only an hour away.”
“Oh um right, yes dress.” I bumbled, “what should I wear?”
“It's quite informal tonight so a cocktail dress will do.”
“Er right.” My heart sank, I guess I can miss dinner, my idea of informal is a bit at odds with this lot's. I must have shown my dismay as Sophia quickly went on.
“You don't have anything do you?”
“Not exactly.” I admitted.
“Let's take a look at what we've got to work with.” She ushered me into my room.
“I er didn't realise I'd need anything for tonight.”
“Wow, nice dress, mine's one of my sister's cast offs.” She lamented fingering my very expensive ball gown.
“I'm sure it's very nice.”
“Oh mein gott, sorry Gaby I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”
“Lets see what we've got for tonight.”
The choice was pretty meagre, I'd thought I could recycle some bits so a denim skirt, khaki shorts and a jumper dress with assorted camisoles and t shirts were all that decorated the wardrobe other than the suit and gown.
“Hmm, you certainly travel light.” Sophia observed.
“Er I guess.”
“Tell you what, get your frillies on and I think I've got something that will fit you, come through when you're ready.”
“Thanks.” I offered to her departing back.
Why do I end up in these situations, at least my underwear won't show me up.
By the time I'd put on a pair of hold-ups, some lacy knickers and the matching bra, Sophia had changed from the jeans and blouse into a thigh skimming number that Mum wouldn't have let me out of the house in – not that I'd want to!
“Ooh sexy! Pity we have to cover them up eh?”
“I normally wear plain stuff.” I supplied.
“Me too, but a girl needs to indulge herself now and then. So let's see.”
The wardrobe in the master bedroom was a much grander affair than the walk in closet in the day room and held about as much as mine at home – in total.
Being a little on the short side a lot of Sophia stuff was just too long to look right, knee length on her was mid calf on me – not a good look.
“I know!” she suddenly enthused diving back in.
The resulting find was a maxi dress, floor length on Sophia and dragging the ground on me.
“You have some heels, I saw in your cupboard, I think this will do.”
“Gabrielle that poor boy, he doesn't stand a chance, Sophia, I'm guessing you had a hand in this?” Gran exclaimed.
“The poor love didn't know to bring something for tonight.”
“That stupid grandson of mine.”
I stood a little stiffly, not particularly happy about wearing the stupidly high stilts that I need for the ball gown – I guess a bit of practice in them won't go amiss.
“Ladies, dinner is served.” A young bloke wearing some kind of waiter's uniform announced to the gathered throng.
It might not be formal but everyone was clearly dressed for dinner and as we moved towards the door couples formed up.
“Hi Sophi, wow Gabs you look…” Max enthused.
“No beautiful, doesn't she Soph?”
“If I do say so myself.” She grinned.
Taking my lead from the adults around us I slipped my arm into Max's, Sophia taking the other so that the three of us made our way into the oh my god…… dining room.
“Whoa!” I muttered.
“At least they didn't get out Ludwig's stuff,” Max mentioned, “that is just so over the top.”
And this isn't? I'm guessing the table was set for about a hundred guests with huge floral displays and ornate gold and silver table pieces. This is informal? The three of us were directed to seats towards the middle of the table, the elder Strechaus and Countess Schillingsfürst were already seated and a couple I took to be Sophia's parents arrived as we were in turn put to table.
“Mama, Papa, this is Gabrielle Bond, Gaby these are my parents, the Duke and Duchess of Thun & Taxis.”
Erm I'm not quite sure what that makes Sophia but I am like so far out of my social depth here.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Fraulein Bond.” The Duchess offered.
“Er thank you your Grace.” I hoped that was right.
The returned smile seemed to indicate I hadn't made a big faux pas.
The room suddenly fell silent and everyone seated stood again as the Saxe Coburgs entered and made their way to the table, a tall chap who I guess is Marg's dad was having an animated conversation with a twenty something young chap who's companion looked as out of place as I was feeling.
“Who's that?” I whispered to Max.
“Dunno, one of the rels I guess if they're sitting up there.”
Max's eyes were clearly not on my face and I was already regretting allowing Sophia to steamroller me into wearing this frock that exposes far more than I'm comfortable with.
The meal was, if not lavish, epic. Starter, soup, fish, main, dessert, cheese and coffee to finish, all of which took a couple of hours to serve and eat. Not that I managed to eat too much, taking my cue from the other ‘ladies' I did little more than taste most of what landed in front of me, Max on the other hand managed to clear his own and bits of mine.
After the food, I didn't mention the wine did I, I found myself ushered back into the reception room sans males – which position I wasn't about to complain about. I've seen this sort of thing on the telly but I never expected to be included in such a soiree, especially not on this side of the fence.
I managed to get a glass of lemonade which I nursed whilst watching the various members of the German aristocracy, chatting and exchanging gossip in the somewhat rarefied environment of Schloss Rotturm. The bride to be was moving around the room, spending time with each group but never lingering long, the nervous young woman close behind.
“What you doing?” Sophia asked.
“People watching. Stupid question but is everyone here related to the Coburgs?”
“Most, one or two are politico, I guess even you and that English girl are sort of as your boyfriends are family.”
“English?” I queried.
“The nervous one with Marguerite, in the red.”
“So Mama says.”
“Hi girls, you okay?”
“Great thanks Marg, I didn't think there'd be any other girls my age here.”
“Plenty of kinder of course,” The Princess noted, “but at least not tonight.” She changed to clear English for her guest, “Oh where are my manners, ladies, this is Kate, Wilhelm's girlfriend, Kate the tall one is Lady Sophia of Thun & Taxis, the cutey is Gabrielle Bond, young Strechau's intended.”
“How do you do,” Kate smiled offering a hand to shake, “I'm sorry my German doesn't run to very much.”
“Nice to meet you.” Sophia's English was heavily accented.
I shook the offered hand, “You soon pick it up,” I offered, “I'm originally from Nottinghamshire.”
“Really,” her eyes lit up, “maybe I can collar you to translate when Wills isn't about.”
“Sure.” I agreed.
“Well it looks like my mother wants us.” Marg interrupted before Kate could start a conversation.
“Bye for now.” Kate smiled weakly.
“I didn't know you were English?” Sophia exclaimed.
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 20.05.11 © 2011