Christopher sits facing a lady in a dark blue gown which matches their midnight hair swept up, half falling over a shoulder. The dress has a bosom which flares out, exposing a deceptive bit of flesh which isn’t actually a breast, tapers in at the waist, pooling at the wearer’s feet. For this lady isn’t actually a woman, yet they exude an androgynous elegance which draws upon a certain proud feminine mystique from the way the lady tilts their head, drawing attention to a high cheekbone and a lustrous dark eye, drawing it away with a movement of a slender hand.
Christopher: Claude? (He blinks for a moment.) You look so different with this change of attire.
Claude: And yet you recognized me, sir. My compliments.
Christopher: You look as if you’re dressed for a ball.
Claude: Another astute observation, sir. This may not be my usual choice of garments, but it makes for a welcome change. Especially upon a special occassion.
Christopher: Such as a ball. I’m guessing this is the ball Cinders is attending and the Lady Ariella will not speak about.
Claude: Indeed. Not that I’m at liberty to discuss what I’m doing at the ball either, sir. I’ll simply say I’m there to make a few dreams come true.
Christopher: This seems to be a popular activity at this ball. Just whose dreams are you realizing?
Claude: I’m not at liberty to discuss that either, sir. I’ll simply admit to being motivated by divided loyalties in my activities.
Christopher: How so?
Claude: My parents would have forced me to choose to marry a count or a countess, to live as their wife or husband, playing the part of a woman or a man. The elder Lady Ariella accepted me as myself, offering me sanctuary from my family. I swore undying loyalty and servitude to her, certain that loyalty would never waver.
Christopher: Only it has, hasn’t it?
Claude: I am equally loyal to the young Lady Ariella, my mistress’s daughter. As excellent a queen and a wife as she would make, I am unconvinced that the life her mother has picked out for her will bring her happiness.
Christopher: This is a change of heart since we last spoke.
Claude: I’ve been watching the younger Lady Ariella for most of my life, sir. I’ve also observed the elder Lady Ariella. The latter saved her family chateaux from ruin when she married its former master, but I’m not sure if this deed gave her any joy. The way she treated the cinders girl, the master’s daughter was unfair. She shouldn’t have taken her lack of happiness out on the girl, even if that girl was once a lady living in an estate not rightfully hers. My late lady’s anger and ambitions were excessive, making her less than she could have been.
Christopher: You’re actually speaking out against your late mistress. I am surprised.
Claude: I am ashamed to speak ill of my late mistress, sir, deeply ashamed, but I’m also deeply troubled by how much frustration achieving her goals brought her. She wished for her daughter to marry the prince, whom is a man of particular charms. Those charms do not appeal to her daughter at all. I’d hoped they might grow upon her once she got to know him, but I’m no longer sure.
Christopher: And now?
Claude: This ball is a chance to see what the prince is truly made of. To see what my Lady Ariella and even the cinder girl are made of when put to the test.
Claude: Oh, I shan’t say, sir. I wouldn’t wish to spoil anything.
Christopher: You’re a tease, you know that, Claude?
Claude: (bowing their head) Thank you, sir.