His invitation to the St Patricks Day Ball had been a surprise. It was Edward’s third attempt at trying to find someone who would get him an invitation and finally his friend Jeremy had come up trumps. The Ball was being held in the home of Lord Patrick O’Connor and was always held on St Patrick’s Day to raise funds for the homeless. This year it was on a Sunday and so he had all day to get ready in Formal Dress, another first. Jeremy picked him up in the taxi and as they arrived at the grand entrance to the Stately Home of the host, Edward’s nerves began to bite. The reality of mixing with the well to do made his palms sweat despite Jeremy assuring him that everyone was “normal”.
It turned out the Jeremy was right. The huge Salon was packed with people of all ages in Formal Dress, but they were all having a great time. No sense of the upper class aloofness that he had been expecting. He mainly stayed with a small group of people about his own age and they toured the house and grounds ending up back in the Grand Salon where the music had now turned to something with a dance beat. Jeremy pulled him aside and said there was someone he wanted him to meet and he introduced Edward to Lady Flora Pois. “It’s French for Pea” she said “but don’t make any jokes, I’m Patrick’s niece I have to live with it and I have probably heard them all. Please Just call me Flora , uncle doesn’t like it shortened more than that”. They both smiled and started a conversation that eventually turned to their likes of musical theatre. As it turned out, neither of them had seen Phantom of the Opera, despite it having been playing in the West End for most of their lives. “I think uncle can get some tickets for that, at quite short notice, why don’t we go together, say two weeks on Monday”? He was stunned. She had just invited him on a date and they had only met an hour ago. It was an opportunity not to be missed and although he could feel the eyes of the rest of the group staring at him, he hardly hesitated to accept.
‘Two weeks on Monday’ seemed like ages but then, here it was. Edward had dug out his best clothes, even resorting to buying a new pair of shoes to make sure he looked his best. The musical was on in Her Majesty’s Theatre, very fitting he thought. They had agreed to meet in Brown’s for Afternoon Tea. It was expensive but he felt it was the right thing to do and it was only a ten minute walk to the theatre, past Trafalgar Square. Brown’s had been gradually filling up during the afternoon and Edward was beginning to think it might become difficult to recognise Flora in ordinary clothes rather than her beautiful formal dress. He resisted the temptation to have a drink to steady his nerves and concentrated instead on how the conversation might go. Although she was friendly and easy going at the party, she had been in the company of her friends and he was an outsider. Now, the playing field was even, except that Edward’s choice of one of the finest restaurants he had been in may not have been the best idea he had ever had.
They’d agreed to meet at five o’clock and it was just approaching five past when, there she was, entering as though she owned the place.
As she walked over and sat down, she put on the table, an envelope with her name in gold letters at the top. ‘Lady Flora Pois’. Below was a plain white sticker which she began to remove. “My name is Flora” she said “but its O’Connor not Pois, that would be silly; Patrick is my dad”. She lifted the sticker on the envelope to reveal the anagram “April Fools Day”.
“Daddy has provided tickets for us though. They say ‘start with a joke and end with a song’. Let’s eat; I‘m really looking forward to tonight“.