Emerald Green 10

“You look great,” he said.  “No one can recognize you,” he said.  Her brother’s constant encouragements didn’t sound any better played over in her head than they had the first time around.  She felt like some kind of fluffy, brightly-colored flightless bird.  She felt like easy prey.

Full length mirrors flanked the entrance hall in the museum, probably so the ladies could make one last check of their outfits before they officially entered the party.  The only thing it accomplished for Dido was ratcheting up her anxiety.

She was in a dress, a situation she tried to avoid whenever possible.  But this wasn’t just a dress.  Maybe gown was the right word?  A few strands of fabric at her shoulders became a midnight black and deep purple waterfall of skirts and petticoats as it went down her body.  Her ankles were barely visible under the hem and her feet were uncomfortable in high heeled shoes.

In contrast to her legs, her arms were almost completely bare.  That was Hannibal’s one concession to her.  He’d let her leave the fake jeweled bracelets and bangles at home.  Dido thought they looked ridiculous, and she knew they’d be too noisy.  Her face was covered with a wide mask of black velvet with flowery accents, but she wasn’t used to having her mouth bare.  She missed her ratty scarf.

Sweat coated her palms as she waited in line.  There were three couples in front of her.  Now only two.  Looking into the party, everyone seemed to be paired off.  She knew there had to be some men who’d come alone, but the prospect of being the only woman without an escort terrified her.

It wasn’t something she would normally bat an eye at.  She spent almost every waking moment either alone or in her own bubble at the factory.  But she didn’t like to stand out.  Especially when she was planning on robbing a place.

She was worrying about the invitation that Hannibal had forged for her—he’d spent hours and left a small pyramid of crumpled rejects before he’d got it perfect— when someone appeared at her elbow.

Maybe it was because his disguise was obviously cheap compared to the rest of the guests, or maybe it was his bright blue eyes, but Dido recognized him immediately.  It was Officer Scipio.

Terror shorted out her brain.  For a very, very long moment, she thought he’d somehow figured out who she was and tracked her down.  That he’d chosen to arrest her at the most embarrassingly dramatic time.  Her legs twitched under her long, flowing skirts, ready to run.

Then she saw she wasn’t the only one who was nervous.  Scipio shifted from foot to foot.  His invitation was almost crumpled he was gripping it so hard.  Sweat leaked from the sides of his cheap, black mask.  Hannibal had pulled a lot of strings to get his sister an expensive looking outfit on the cheap.  Officer Scipio’s costume looked exactly like what it’d cost.

Now that it was obvious Scipio didn’t recognize her, Dido realized the watchman’s presence actually made her feel better.  It was nice to know there was at least one person here who wasn’t insanely rich.  And of course his getup made her feel a heck of a lot better about her own disguise.

“Some party.”  Dido was surprised when Scipio spoke to her.  She almost pretended to look down her nose at him and turn away, but on a whim she turned and spoke.

“Oh yes.  I enjoy a little of the unknown.  Sometimes more than a little.”

Dido made her voice husky and seductive.  Partly so Scipio wouldn’t recognize it and partly to make him uncomfortable.  She succeeded on both counts.

“Ah, that’s nice.”  She could see Scipio mentally kicking himself for sounding stupid.

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