When had this lady arrived? How had he missed her entrance? She sat in stark contrast to the colorful ball; her gown was pieced together with black cloth. A veil shrouded her face in black, masking her features. Logic spoke to him and said she must be a woman in mourning. His heart whispered otherwise.
Like witnessing a plague picking off its victims one by one, he watched as awareness of her presence crept over the dancers. Each body grew silent until the whole room was immersed in a bone-chilling hush. Gone was the music, the friendly exchange of greetings, gossip, and anecdotes. All eyes hung on the lady in the black dress.
A bold dancer stepped forth and asked, “Who might you be, my lady?”
The hair on his arms bristled as he waited in despair for her answer. Yet, she offered none. Instead, she gracefully came off her seat and stood to her full height. She was tall for a lady, the same height or taller than most of the men in the room. She sauntered toward the very spot he stood, the crowd dispersing to allow her passage.
The lady he’d been dancing with glanced at him nervously. Black skirts swaying, the lady in the black dress stopped within a few feet of them. She pointed a thin, white finger at him, and, suddenly, her clothing–including her veil–collapsed to the floor in a heap. There was no lady under the garments anymore.
The ladies shrieked, and the men gasped. Someone uttered, “Witchcraft!” His chest grew heavy. He felt as if he’d been robbed of oxygen. He clutched at his throat as his eyes bulged in their sockets. His dance partner slipped her arm around his waist as she cried out for help.
On the cold ballroom floor, as he yielded to fate, he thought about how wrong they were about death. Death was really quite alluring, and she was a lady.