We drive up in Peter’s little car, parking as unobtrusively as we can among those luxury cars that are obviously the norm here. The sheer size of each parking bay indicates that the vehicle size used in planning the parking area was at least 50% larger than Peter’s car. The parking is about half full, just the perfect timing, enough people to notice our arrival, without us seeming to be too keen, or too blasé.
But that does not matter. Here we are, at the biggest fancy-dress ball of the year. Finally both accepted into the ranks of management by the powers-that-be. The first steps in proving he and I are both serious about our careers in Florat Imp. We know how much a part of the advancement depends on these ‘informal’ events, which are used instead of the more usual psychological evaluations that other big organisations rely on.
The driveway had been impressive enough, sweeping gravel that crunched under-wheel, the perfectly trimmed low box-hedges along the edge. The carefully lit garden displayed all the years of planning and nurture that it takes to achieve that natural look inside a city.
Walking past that amazing pool with the fountain, again understated elegance. None of the vulgar coloured lights, just clear crisp plain silver/white that makes water so beautiful. I sigh, I can get used to this so easily.
The fancy dress theme is Black and White. So we have dressed up as players in the local city Winchy team, the divided shirts, the striped leggings, the diamond pattern on the caps. The long floating scarves worn by the team supporters. We are bound to make a hit as despite being black and white only, we shimmer, the multiple patterns stand out against any background.
Up the wide staircase, stone, perfectly maintained. The huge doors open and welcoming, lights that seem invisible making the whole area pleasant but not too bright. The hall, walls a deep red, very formal and beautiful. The doors closed to what is beyond.
The man and woman at the door take our coats, seeming rather rigid when we hand over our invitations.
The man returns from handing over our coats to the person who is hanging them all up. He bows and says “Please follow me”.
My heart is pounding, we are going to make our grand entrance for the first time.
He reaches for the door handles, huge doors really, as high as the ceiling, and each half as wide as a normal door.
We step through, the lighting a little brighter here than the entrance; making our Grand Entrance.
I stop – stunned!
Everyone is in black and white. But rather different from us. The men in formal suits, long black tailcoats, high cravats, sparkling white. Most with a diamonds, some with onyx studs.
The women, all in long formal dresses, all black. The shapes differing slightly. Jewellery is also all the white flash of diamonds or the glistening black of onyx.
Those closest turn to look at us. Eyebrows lift slightly. We are so wrong!