This is the ninth of an 11-part short story based on the characters of author Susan K. Marlow’s Circle C Adventures and is posted on her blog https://circlecadventures.blogspot.com/

Part 9.

I’m so excited…and nervous.

Next Saturday evening, Ellie let Mrs. Stewart help her dress for the engagement party.  She had planned on not going, but Chad had convinced her otherwise.

“Take a break for one evening.”  He’d told her.  “I’ll teach you how to dance, and you’ll have fun.”

So, here she was as jittery as a wild horse over her first real ball.

Mrs. Stewart wasn’t helping her nerves, either.

“There’ll be lots of well-to-do folks there, so behave yourself.  And mind you don’t let anyone kiss you during a waltz.”

Ellie turned around from where she was trying to find the small buttons at the back of her dress.  “Mrs. Stewart, surely no one will be so improper.”

Mrs. Stewart fussed over her hair.  “You never can tell, dear.  Now tilt your head so that I can pin this curl where it’s supposed to be.”

Ellie obeyed and Mrs. Stewart finally announced that she was ready to go.  She gave Ellie’s hair a final pat.  “You look lovely, Ellie.  That pale pink is perfect.”

Ellie gave Mrs. Stewart a grateful hug.  “Thank you.”

A knock at the front door made Ellie jump.

“Calm down.  I’m sure it’s just some young man wanting to have the first dance.”

Ellie was short of breath, and it wasn’t just because of the corset she wore for the occasion.

Mrs. Stewart went down to the door and opened it. “Good evening, Mr. Carter.”

Chad took off his hat.  “Is Miss Coulter ready to go?”

Mrs. Stewart gave him an appraising look and then nodded. “She’s on her way down.”

Ellie navigated the stairs carefully.  When she landed safely at the bottom, she looked up.  The admiration on Chad’s face made her smile and flush with a spice of pleasure.

Ellie kissed Mrs. Stewart’s wrinkled cheek, and then followed Chad across the street to the surrey.  He helped her in and climbed in after her.  A few minutes later they were pushing their way through crowds of people to congratulate the happy couple that stood beaming in the parlor of the Arlington Hotel.

Ellie gave Kitty a hug and shook hands with her fiancé, Seth. “Congratulations, Kitty, Seth.”

Chad shook hands and then piloted Ellie to the edge of the dance floor.  Ellie watched the whirling couples apprehensively.

Chad nudged her.  “Relax.”  He whispered. “It looks harder than it is. You’ll do fine.”

Ellie caught a glimpse of Andi twirling by on the arm of a young dandy.  She looked miserable.

“Chad, does Andi always look that upset when she’s dancing?”

Chad followed her gaze and groaned.  “No, but she does when she’s dancing with Johnny Wilson.”

“Can you cut in?”  Ellie asked as the couple went past again and Andi gave Chad a pleading look.

Chad hesitated.  Ellie stepped back from the dance floor.  “Go on, I’ll hide.”

Chad shot her a teasing grin and tapped Johnny’s shoulder as he came into range.  The fuming young man released Andi reluctantly, but Andi nearly flung herself into Chad’s arms as they spun back into the dance.

Ellie wove her way through talking people back to the parlor. She found an inconspicuous seat and eased into it.  She took the moment to calm herself down and catch her breath.  Blasted corsets.  She thought.

“Are you ready for your first lesson?”  Chad had appeared beside her.

“I am.  How is Andi?” Ellie asked.  She rose and Chad took her arm.

“She’s in good hands.  I left her dancing with Mitch.”

They were back on the dance floor.  Chad put his left hand at her waist and held her hand in his right.

“Now, put your hand on my shoulder, and keep time with the music.  Step back, now forward, now do a quarter turn and start at the beginning again.  Good.”

Ellie was astonished at how quickly the steps became part of the music.  When she lost time, Chad and the music swung her back into step.  It felt like she was flying, and Ellie enjoyed every minute of it.

“Ellie, there’s something I’d like to talk to you about. Can you come to the ranch tomorrow after church?”  Chad asked during a waltz.

Ellie looked up curiously.  “I’d love to.  Why?”

He stepped back and Ellie spun, then they moved together again and continued the conversation.

“Magic is spoiling for a ride, and I don’t get the chance to do much pleasure riding, so I thought that you might like to come and take a ride with me.”

Ellie smiled gratefully.  “Thank you, I can’t wait.”