The first thing Neville did after work was visit the high street in downtown Honoré. He didn't have anything half decent in his wardrobe, save for a few elbow-worn blazers and some checked shirts. Certainly, nothing nice enough for any kind of ball, masquerade or not. Neville stood on the fitting platform of Ben's Tailors, as Ben gradually took measurements and wrote them down in a small book. As Neville minded his own business, his phone rang in his pocket.
"Hi JP," he said, answering the call.
"What are you wearing?" JP asked, apropos of nothing.
Neville laughed awkwardly. "What, right now?"
"No – to the ball," scoffed JP.
"Oh," grinned Neville. "I'm just getting fitted for a suit at Ben's. He's going to do me a little black-tie number I think."
"I don't really speak much French. I just said noir and posed like James Bond," replied Neville, as JP broke into an outburst of giggles. "Stop it, JP. This is not funny."
"It is funny, Sir," JP laughed. "Okay, okay," he said, clearing his throat. "Okay – whew – I'm done. I promise," he said, before descending into hysterics again.
"You're not helping!" scolded Neville. Then, he heard a beeping sound in his ear and checked the screen. "Hold on, Marlon is on the other line," Neville told him.
"I'll wait," JP said, breathless.
Neville looked at the screen again and accepted Marlon's incoming call. "Marlon, how's it going?" he asked.
"What are you wearing?" asked Marlon.
Neville threw his hands up in frustration. "Don't you start," he scoffed. "I'm getting fitted for a suit for the ball if you must know."
"I know," laughed Marlon. "I just drove past Ben's. You look ridiculous!"
Neville's face fell, unimpressed. "Marlon, these are my normal clothes," he said, dryly.
"Oh. Sorry, Sir," Marlon winced. "Ben sorting you out with a suit?"
"I hope so."
"Hoping to pick up some ladies!?" Marlon laughed.
"Marlon, did you phone because you actually wanted something, or are you just phoning to tease and ridicule me?" Marlon said nothing for a moment whilst Neville caught up. "Of course, you're calling to tease and ridicule me. What a stupid question. Bye Marlon!"
"Bye, Sir!" Marlon called before Neville hung up and returned to JP's call.
"Hi, I'm back."
"So, what do you think Florence is going to wear?" asked Neville.
"Why do you care?" asked JP.
"Well, I don't. I was just wondering," replied Neville, feeling his cheeks flush. "Is Mayor Bordey often throwing balls on the island?"
"Never. And if she does, we never get invited," replied JP. "Especially if The Commissioner is going. No, he must really like you, Chief."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Neville laughed bitterly. "I can't be sure he's not going to put me behind the bar when I arrive and make me work the whole night."
"Well, I think he likes you," said JP.
"I didn't ask, JP, what are you wearing to the ball?" Neville asked.
"Oh, I'm just going to recycle my wedding suit," said JP.
"You can't do that JP!" laughed Neville, as he hopped down from the fitting stand.
"Because it's your wedding suit! What if you get it dirty?"
"Thankfully, you weren't there on the wedding night. Trust me, it's already dirty," laughed JP.
"Ugh!" Neville gagged, hanging up the phone as quickly as he could.
The rest of the week dragged by. All the team could talk about was the masquerade ball and who was going to be there. Eventually, Thursday night rolled around, and Neville got into the pre-booked taxi that had pulled up outside the Shack and gave the driver JP's address. His shirt was a perfect fit, in fact, it was the best suit he had ever worn in his life. He felt better about the amount he'd spent on it and the generous tip he'd given Ben for all his hard work in such a short space of time too.
As the sun went down, Neville felt giddy. This was the first time he'd been out in ages, probably since the Christmas party last year in Manchester, when things were getting a little samey and the drama was getting boring. He always went out with the same people who had the same arguments every week about the same topics, and then they'd all end up in the same kebab shop at the same time before going home and feeling horrible the next day. What was the point in it all? Neville had started to wonder. But going out with his newest co-workers like this was something they'd never done before. It was fresh and exciting.
Besides, the way that the cases had been going, he needed a break, they all did. Just a night where they could let loose and have fun. Famous last words, Neville thought.
The taxi pulled up outside JP's place and honked. A few seconds later, JP emerged from the front door and ran down to the curb, dressed in what Neville assumed was his old wedding suit. He climbed in the back seat next to Neville.
"Looking good, JP," smiled Neville, waving to Rosey who stood at the door to see her husband off.
"Thanks, Sir. You too," he replied.
"Is that the famous wedding suit?" Neville asked.
"The very same," JP replied. "Don't worry, I washed it," JP laughed, as Neville screwed up his face. Neville then gave the driver Marlon's address and off they went through the back streets of Honoré.
In Neville's pocket, his phone began to ring. He delved into his pocket to retrieve it and saw it was Florence calling him. His stomach sank. Was this her calling to cancel? Maybe she wasn't well? Neville answered the call.
"Florence, you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine. I'm just calling to say don't pick me up."
Florence sighed. "I'm not ready yet. I still have to do my hair."
"We can wait, surely it won't take that long?"
"It's fine. I'll meet you there," she said.
"You are coming, aren't you?" he asked, needing to know but not wanting to sound too clingy.
"With this make-up? Yes, I'm coming," she tittered. "It's taken me about twenty minutes to get just one of my lashes on." They said their goodbyes and hung up the phone.
"Florence is still doing her hair. She said she would meet us at the golf club," said Neville.
"I'm not surprised," JP rolled his eyes.
The taxi slowed down to a stop outside Marlon's place and the driver honked the horn. They waited for Marlon to show, then the driver honked the horn again.
"Where is he?" JP asked, kissing his teeth.
Neville wound down the window to call out just as Marlon emerged, letting the door close with a thud behind him. "Marlon, come on. We're on a meter here," he said, realising just how Mancunian he still sounded.
"Chill, Sir. Come on now," Marlon scoffed. "I wanted to make sure I look good, you know."
"I thought you could look good in anything," Neville teased. JP snorted as Marlon climbed into the front seat.
"Florence?" Marlon questioned.
"Meeting us there," replied Neville.
The taxi took them all the way up to the Saint Marie golf course where Catherine was greeting people as they arrived. Neville couldn't believe the effort that Catherine had gone to, as they all stepped through a delicate awning of green vines covered in flowers, to greet her.
"Neville – where is Florence?" she asked, as she hugged him.
"She's on her way. Just doing finishing touches, I think," said Neville. "Catherine, this all looks amazing," he said, looking up and marvelling at the lights that had been erected especially.
Catherine just shrugged. "No expense spared for Selwyn," she winked.
The boys walked through the glass doors, into the entrance hall where their invitations were taken and they were granted entry through a big, grand, pair of double doors. As they stepped through, the fairy lights flickered, and at the sight of everyone else, Neville put on his mask.
As he did so, he felt a sneeze coming and caught it in his hand.
JP and Marlon looked over at him. "Are you alright, Sir?" JP asked.
"Are you going to start scratching?" asked Marlon, putting on his mask.
"It's probably just the flowers," replied Neville, fixing his mask to his face. "Don't worry, I brought my antihistamines."
"Where is Florence?" JP asked, checking his phone for messages, as the three of them walked awkwardly into the middle of the room.
"Look," drawled Marlon. "The Commissioner is looking fly!" he said, pointing to where Selwyn was in deep conversation with a few distinguished guests.
"He does look fly, you're right Marlon," Neville agreed.
"Oh, she texted me, she's coming now," said JP, locking his phone and putting it back in his pocket, pulling on his mask.
Neville turned to the door, his heart thudding in his chest. Slowly, the doors to the venue opened.