Chapter 4: Revelation

As a patriarchy, the gender roles in Tarsan are very strict, more so with High Society events and those that dance with the founding families. — Death Among High Society

At the prick of the pin, Galadin flinched and let out a grunt.

“Be quiet,” snapped his mother. She sat in one of the chairs along the side of the fitting area, her back straight and her hands neatly folded over her purse.

“Arms up, please,” said the tailor.

Galadin closed his eyes and obeyed. His shoulders and back hurt from the last hour of being fitted. The heavy black cloth hung over his frame like a horse blanket, dragging him down and making him claustrophobic. He wanted to rip it off and run away, or at least return to his own outfit.

The tailor worked quietly. He was almost done. “Only another few minutes, besire.”

His mother glanced up, a smile ghosting across her lips. “You look handsome, Gal.”

He opened his eyes.

“You are going to make some wife very happy after all this. Just remember that. Once you are married, then you don’t have to wear it again.”

Galadin focused his attention on the window. For the third day of the week, the afternoon was relatively quiet. He hoped to see more debutantes walking by. At least then he could pull himself out the dark thoughts that haunted his mind.

“Galadin.”

He didn’t want to answer. “I’m just waiting, Mother.”

He heard the rustle of her dress. He glanced over to see her lifting the edge of her skirt to walk over. He returned his attention to the window.

“Give us a minute?” she asked the tailor.

“Of course, Dame da Kasin.” The man bowed before heading toward the back. “Please, call me when you are ready.”

Galadin listened to the door creak shut and then latch. He fought the sick feeling in his stomach.

She stared at him with a hard look. He could hear her foot tapping through the pedestal. “What’s wrong you? I need you to be present.”

“I’m here, Mother.”

“Yes, your body is but your mind has gone on a voyage. Why?”

“I’m here. That’s what you want.”

“Look at me.” When he didn’t, she repeated herself with a stamp of her foot.

Galadin lowered his arms as he regarded his mother. “Yes?”

“What is wrong with you? You’ve been acting like I’m sending you to prison all week.” She shook her head and gestured toward the door. “No, you’ve been like this ever since you asked to go the presentation balls.”

“Yes but…” Even as a child, he had always wanted to go to the presentation balls. He loved the ritual of them, the pronouncements, the swirl of dresses, and all the events that surrounded the pomp of suitors and debutantes. But when he wrote in his secret journal, he wasn’t the suited man finding the perfect woman, he was the woman looking for a suitor.

His mother had somehow found his book despite his efforts to hide it underneath his bed. She must have skimmed over it before she decided to fulfill her version of his fantasy. Galadin first found out when she surprised him with a formal invitation, something that was just above their family’s position in society. He didn’t know how she got it, only that it must have cost his parents to get it.

She gestured for him to continue.

He sighed. “I do want to go,” he said lamely knowing it wasn’t quite the truth.

“You… is that it, you don’t want to go now? After everything we’ve done? This is the best—”

His chest felt tight but he had to speak up. “I… I know, Mother. I know what you’ve both had to do to get me here.”

“Then what is it? You’ll have a handsome suit, the best outfits. I even have a carriage service arranged. You are going to be stunning and find a beautiful wife.” Her voice had softened. “That is what you want, trust me. You are going to have a life neither that I couldn’t have, a life in High Society.”

It wasn’t what he wanted. What he wanted was to feel the dress on his skin, to be surrounded by a loving family going from one place to the other, to have his name announced to society as an eligible debutante. What he wish was that he had been born a girl, not a boy.

“No,” snapped his mother. She smacked his thigh.

Galadin paled. He didn’t realized he said that out loud. Looking down, he saw fury painted on his mother’s face. “Mother—”

She slapped him. “No son of mine will ever be that!”

It felt like she had kicked him in the testicles. He let out a sob and sat down heavily on the pedestal. “I-I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t want to be a besire.”

She stepped back, one hand on her chest and her face paling.

“I like the dresses. I want… I think they feel better than this… this… thing.” He hefted up the pieces of his suit.

“Is it just the material? I can have him change it. If you want anything, just tell me. Please?” There were tears in her eyes as she held out her hand. “Please? Just tell me.”

Sniffing, Galadin knew that she would do it. A thousand jems would mean nothing if he did what she wanted. But it still wouldn’t be what his heart wanted. He thought about his father’s words from the night before. If he wanted to be happy, he had to make the choices for his life. Heart pounding and his stomach twisting, he spoke quickly, “I don’t want to wear a suit, Mother. It doesn’t matter how it’s made, it’s the suit itself. It’s the role that I don’t want.”

He gulped and gestured to himself. “It’s this body that I don’t want. I want to have one that fits in a dress.”

“But… a dress? Why? Why would you do that to me?”

He glanced at the blue dress in the front. He worked his mouth while shaking his head. He pointed to it and then to a debutante walking in front of the glass with her mother. “That’s me. That’s what I want.”

“No.” Maran shook her head. “No! I will not allow it!”

“I—”

She snapped up her hand to block him.

He grew silent.

She turned away for a moment, sniffing. When she looked back, there were tears in her eyes. “Why? What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, I… I’ve always wanted—”

“You don’t know what you want!” She grabbed her purse. “Get dressed now, we’re leaving before you embarrass your entire family with your fantasies!”