Chapter 6: Ladies' Fashions

Tarsan favors the golden locks as a sign of purity. The longer, brighter, and more brilliant, the more desirable. However, poorly manipulated strands can easily bring revile and scandal to even the most exalted of debutantes. — Tears of the Rejected Beauty (Act 1, Scene 5)

Their carriage came to a rattling stop in front of a relatively nondescript storefront with a crowded display area filled with feathered hats, a milliner’s. Galadin leaned against the side and peered at the darkened store wondering why they had stopped.

Outside, rain splattered loudly across the carriage, drumming across the wooden roof until it rolled down the glass in crystalline rivulets and splashing to the cobblestones. Below, garbage floated past in a stately procession.

He glanced around the other windows, half afraid they had headed the docks to throw him on a boat as an embarrassment. The rest of the surrounding buildings were clothiers, milliners, and shoemakers. It didn’t look or smell like the docks. He leaned back with a soft sigh of relief.

“Are you sure about this?”

Galadin jump at his mother’s sudden question. He looked to see her sitting primly on her bench. Her straight back revealed her discomfort. She didn’t want to be there.

He turned to her. He knew she wanted him to agree to go back, to pretend to be a man for her sake. It didn’t feel like an option anymore, he finally had a chance and his heart ached for the chance.

She glanced at him, her eyes red-rimmed.

“Please?” he finally said.

Maran sighed. “If you do this, you can’t go back. You can only come to a presentation once, as a woman or yourself. If you come to your senses, you’ll have to leave forever.”

“Leave?”

“Town,” she said sharply. “You will have to leave. We have to leave.”

Tears began to burn his eyes. He desperately wanted to do it but he could also feel doubt rising. What if he had made a mistake? Would he ruin everything? He sniffed and wiped his eyes.

“This is the final chance to—”

Someone knocked on the door.

Both of them jumped.

Outside, a man with a bowler stood outside. He peered inside. “Maran and Galadin von Kasins?” He had a low, rumbling voice. Despite wearing a black suit that fit his broad shoulders perfectly, he had the appearance of a sailor with a deep tan and weathered lines on his face. His appearance reminded Galadin of Benard, though the new man was much older than Benard.

Maran sighed and shot a glare at Galadin before she unlatched the door. “Last chance, don’t do this.”

The other man opened the door with a bow. “Good evening, I am Kendrick bo Martin hio Kasin. I was sent out to escort you to the lovely Lily bo Martin.”

Galadin was surprised, it was rare for someone to leave the Kasin family to join another family and yet still remain within the city. The “bo” indicated that there was something about Kendrick and Lily that made them desirable to both families.

The rattle of ran suddenly stopped. Galadin looked around the carriage in surprise. It continued to rain everywhere including the top of the carriage, only the area around Kendrick was still.

Galadin’s mother sighed dramatically. “Come on.”

She allowed Kendrick to help her out.

When it was his turn, Galadin hesitated. It was tradition to have a man help a woman out of carriages. He held out his hand and then pulled it back, unsure of how to ask.

Kendrick smiled and kept his hand held out.

Galadin held his breath. When Kendrick winked, he hesitatingly placed his fingertips along the broad palm and let himself be drawn out. The little action brought a thrill coursing through the younger man’s veins. It felt good, it felt right.

Kendrick lead both of Galadin and his mother down the block to the only store that still had lights on. The front was filled with elegant dresses with matching hats and shoes. They were arrayed in a rainbow of colors, the graduation from yellow to purple was almost perfect.

Lily bo Martin hio Kasin’s

An Emporium of Fabrics and Colors

Comprehensive Coordinator of Ladies’ Fashions

There wasn’t a single suit on display. Galadin stared in shock, his mouth opening slowly as he stared at beautiful dresses. He could feel a sob of joy rising up in his throat.

“Get inside before anyone sees you,” muttered his mother.

Galadin ducked his head and went inside.

Two women greeted him. One was slender with blonde hair so brilliant it looked white and an elegant dress that made Galadin instantly jealous. He could have sworn he was looking at one of the many pictures that hung on the ball walls. She was almost exactly what Galadin fantasized about becoming.

The second woman was fat and just as beautiful. Her dress threatened to burst out of her top, the deep valley of her cleavage no doubt drawing the attention of any man nearby. Her wide hips swayed with her steps as she came up to Galadin and his mother. “Welcome to Lily’s. I’m Mindil da Kasin ho Pavin.”

Maran pulled a face and jerked her attention to the side. “Lily?”

Lily, the slender blonde, inclined her head and smiled. “A pleasure to meet you, Maran da Kasin de Kamer.”

“Thank you for staying up past your normal hours. If it wasn’t a delicate matter, I wouldn’t have asked. I do ask that you exercise discretion in dealing with my son.”

Lily glanced at Galadin who flinched. “You mean your daughter?”

“Yes, he decided he wanted to go as a debutante,” his mother said with a sound of disgust.

Galadin flushed and considered running away.

The smile on Lily’s lips didn’t move. She gestured to the back room. “Why don’t we get you measured. Mindil? Please get the dame a bottle of the Kaber '32? I heard that she enjoys that vintage.”

Maran looked surprised. A bit of the frown on her lips faded as she let Mindil lead her to the comfortable-looking chairs in the front. She shot one last look at Galadin before sinking down.

Lily gestured for Galadin. “And what would you like to be called?”

“G-Galadin” he answered automatically and then realized she had asked a different question than he expected. “I… the invitation was for Glorias. My father… helped me pick it.”

She didn’t seem to hesitate, not even a twitch in her smile. “Oh, that’s a lovely name. Are you planning on going as a girl or a boy dressed as a girl? There are subtle differences in how I cut your dress.”

He stopped in shock, stunned by a second question in a row that came easily off her lips. She didn’t seem bothered by Galadin’s desires at all.

“I want to be a girl.”

“That won’t be a problem, Beautiful. Since this is new, do you want me to walk you through everything on my side? Your mother has commissioned me to do all of your outfits for the balls.”

“Please?”

Lily lifted her hand to Galadin’s short hair. She stroked her fingertip along his hairline and then down to ear. “Let’s start with this. Do you want longer hair?I have a stylist friend who can lengthen them and I’ll color it to match. It will high the difference and no one will ever know.”

Galadin smiled, tears in his eyes. “May I be a blonde? A pretty one.” He blushed. “I always wanted to be one.”

She reached up and stroked his hair again. A warmth rippled along Galadin’s scalp. He didn’t know what to do, so he remained still until she gestured to one of many full-length mirrors surrounding the back room.

He peered at himself. When he saw a brilliantly gold hair on top of his head, a stark contrast to the dark brown, he let out a choking gasp. It wasn’t Galadin in the mirror anymore, it was Glorias. “It’s beautiful.”

Lily smiled before pulling out a long length of tape. “I promise you, by the time you show up at that ball, you are going to steal the show.”