The King and I
True to her word Heidi was on hand a short while later to help me get ready for the evenings festivities. The Residenz these days is home to various exhibitions and museums but hidden away upstairs there are enough rooms to allow several to be utilised as changing facilities for events held in the complex. I was a bit wary of changing with a load of other women but the room I was directed to was divided into smaller cubicles offering a reasonable degree of privacy.
“I am!” I complained.
My dresser was efficient in her corseting efforts and I can honestly say – I HATE THE THINGS! Corsets that is.
“Come on fraulein, we need to hurry, I have to attend the Baroness once I'm done with you.”
It wasn't that I was being difficult or something but dressing in this stuff isn't exactly a daily occurrence for me. The face painting was a bit more dramatic this time, not gaudy of course but certainly more noticeable. Heidi then efficiently got me into the rest of my underpinnings and then into the dress itself.
“Hmm, you'll do.” She allowed after fixing my hair into a softer style than previously.
“I really do appreciate this.”
“We try to please,” she noted, now go and slay ‘em!”
Well I'm not exactly sure that's what I'm going to do. All about me others were emerging in their evening finery and boy there were a few euros floating about the room.
“Gabriel, there you are my dear.”
“Erm hi Gran.”
“I've brought you some rocks to wear, here.” she led me into the rather plush ladies cloakroom.
“So, ohrring.” She removed my Gran's earrings that I'd been wearing all day and I felt a tug as she fixed the loan items in place before passing me my own.
Then she retrieved a very sparkly choker cum necklace affair.
“Are you sure I should wear this?”
“Why ever not? It suits you perfectly.”
After she had settled the rocks in place around my neck a final piece, a sort of cuff come bracelet, was slipped onto my left wrist.
“These all look very expensive.” I mentioned when I checked my appearance in the mirror.
“Family pieces, I think the collar belonged to the third Baroness, the others are newer.”
I didn't dare ask how long ago the third Baroness was around but I'm guessing a good long time.
“There, you'll do.” She grinned.
“Um thank you.” I stretched up to give her a light peck on the cheek – yeah even in 10cm heels she towered over me.
“Thank you my dear, now go enjoy yourself!”
“Wow Gabs!” Max offered when I returned to the reception room downstairs.
“I'm jealous.” Sophia told us, “Gaby you are just too cute by far.”
“Off with ya, it's all illusion.”
“I don't think so, I've seen you in your skivvies remember.”
“Well anyway you look fantastic yourself.”
“Not in your league girl, what say you Maximillian von Strechau?”
Max was still staring at me.
“Max?” I waved my hands in front of his face, “up here.”
“I think he's in lust.” Sophia suggested.
“Er sorry Gabs, I um – nice necklace.”
“There's a few euros worth on this girl if I'm not mistaken.” Sophia stated.
“So that's what Gran got from the bank on Tuesday.”
“I thought it was just costume jewellery.”
“Ut uh girl friend,” Taxis shook her head, “them's the real McCoy, I'm guessing you're wearing like a hundred thousand euros.”
“What?” I panicked.
“Calm down, Gabs.”
“How can I be calm wearing like the crown jewels?”
“I'm sure there'll be plenty more wearing at least the same amount, yours however are clearly old money not fresh from South Africa.”
“Your Gran did mention the third Baroness.”
“Wow Gaby, that means they are over five hundert years old.” Sophia gaped.
“Ladies, gentlemen, if you please.” An officious individual urged us out of the ‘waiting' room.
“See you guys later, I can see my ‘date' over there.” Sophia headed towards a sallow youth waiting by the doors.
“Madom?” Max hammed offering his arm.
Looks like my goose is cooked.
Being ‘family' we, that is the von Strechau party, were seated close to the bride, groom and their respective families. Looking around the room it was clear there was a great deal of social strata in evidence, by contrast to this afternoon this was a chance for the women to dress up and the men – well to be there. That said formal attire was de rigueur, some of the blokes going for I'm guessing real military uniforms, others in what, from watching too much RTL on Sunday nights I recognised as the Bavarian gentry look.
Even if you haven't been to a wedding I think most people have an idea of the form - food, speeches, dancing. Tonight was to be no different, my thankful stomach was ready for some food but after about three mouthfuls I couldn't manage anymore – grrr, flippin' corset! I sipped at a glass of wine whilst watching Max tuck into the delights to be found on the rather impressive buffet.
“You not eating Gab? I thought you were hungry?”
“Watching my figure,” I lied, “that hotdog did for me.”
“More for those who want it.” He suggested, oblivious to my sarcasm.
The speeches, well lets face it the jokes might be funny if you were in on them and they weren't being told by mirthless Germans. They were thankfully brief and as is traditional the happy couple led off in the first dance. It didn't take long before other couples started to head for the dance floor and with all the big frocks it soon resembled an edition of ‘Come Dancing'!
“You two dancing?” Max's dad asked.
“Erm.” Max offered.
“Come on lad, don't keep Gaby to yourself, show her off eh?”
“Do I have to, you know I dance like a bull in a china shop.”
“I'm sure Gaby doesn't want to sit here all night do you?”
“Um I'm fine, really.”
“Max.” his Gran intoned.
It was hardly the school disco, the music could best be described as slightly folksy orchestral – no chance for too much physicality, more foxtrots and waltzes! I sort of followed what other couples were doing and despite his protestations Max did at least know the steps. I don't generally dance in stilts so that was a bit novel and after just a couple of tunes my feet were starting to ache – joy.
At some point I found myself partnering von Strechau senior rather than Max, a much more accomplished dancer but only the first of several different partners. I spotted Sophia twirling around and my countrywoman Kate struggling about as much as me with the formal dancing.
“May I?” a voice in English asked my partner.
“Kate told me to rescue you.” The tall chap advised.
“William, Wills to my friends.”
“Gaby.” I allowed as we waited for the music to start.
“From Nottingham no less.”
“Worksop.” I corrected.
“Father spends a bit of time up that way, Chatsworth, you know it?”
“Only been to the park.” I admitted.
The music started up.
“Ah a polka, you up for it?” Wills asked.
I really should know this chap, I'm sure I've seen his picture somewhere.
Despite our height difference, I'm guessing he's about one metre ninety to my, well shortness even wearing these flipping heels, it was fun dancing with him. We swung around the room with the other couples and I have to admit that I was starting to see some attraction to this stuff as opposed to just shaking your thang to a heavy drumbeat. The number came to an end and I found myself as out of breath as if I'd just finished a race.
“Another?” my partner asked.
“Shouldn't you get back to Kate?”
“Don't worry, she's not the jealous type, come on live a little, that's what my lil bro always tells me.”
“You have a brother?”
“Hal, he's a right party animal especially if Bea is out.”
Hal, Bea, William – um…
The music resumed, a much slower waltz and Will led off.
“Not so hectic eh?”
“Er no, I mean yes, Your Highness.”
“Hey what's with the sudden formality Gab?”
“I um only just worked out who you are, Your Majesty.”
“That's my Gran, I'm only a prince who'd like you to call him Will.”
“Um okay Sir.”
“Will, or I'll make you dance with me the rest of the night!”
“Sorry er Will, it's just that I'm like um not exactly the same as everyone else here, I'm just ordinary not some Dukess or whatever.”
“Indeed, you Gabrielle Bond are something quite different, no airs or graces, my father would like you.”
“That's my Pop, he'd be charmed by you.”
“So if you are so ‘ordinary' how come you're here at the big wedding of the year? You're staying in Augsburg aren't you?”
We twirled about, even my sore feet forgotten.
“I'm here with my er friend, his family are related to the Saxe Coburgs.”
Now Prince William is pressing me on my relationship with Max.
“Friend.” I confirmed.
“Well by the way he's watching us over there I'd say he thinks it's a bit more than that, what's his name?”
“Maximillian von Strechau.”
The music ran to a stop and Will led me to our table where Max hurriedly stood.
“Here she is Max, back safe and sound.”
“Er thanks Sir, your Highness.”“Maybe we'll meet again Gaby Bond, I'd best rescue Kate from all those Frau's, auf wiedersehn Gaby, Max.”
to be continued....
Maddy Bell 24.05.11 © 2011