Chapter 7: The Dance

There are countless presentation balls throughout what is known as the Social Season. The early ones are a show while the later ones are were decisions are made, alliances forged, and enemies earned. — The Dance of Grace

After years of fantasies, Galadin’s first presentation ball exceeded everything he had hoped for. For the last hour, his dance card had been filled with one partner after the other. He enjoyed every moment on the floor where is long green dress swirled and flowed along with the others. He could picture what it looked like from the balcony where two artists rapidly painted scenes to memorialize the event for the dozens of debutantes that attended.

It was also where the impact of the event struck and his sense of self started to blur. Was he a teenage boy in a dress? Or was he really a she wearing the outfit she always wanted? She felt dizzy with the shifting sensations that seemed to bounce from one moment to another. However, there wasn’t any time to consider her self during the dances or after.

In the brief respite between each number brought a number of other men willing to chat. Somehow, he found a way of speaking without revealing his true nature. It was sad that he couldn’t admit he was male but just the rush of wearing a dress and having everyone treat him as a woman brought joy to his heart.

His mother had finally related and helped with his story of being a country middle-born, in town for the presentation. There were hundred of the debutantes coming in from the rural areas, it would be easy to not only fake his past but also mask the minor mistakes he made.

Of course, after the balls would be a different story. They had conveniently left Glorias’s name off the registry at the ball. That made it difficult for anyone to formally request his hand in marriage, not that anyone would.

Later, there would be some uncomfortable questions asked. He knew that he might be moving to the country house in earnest but for the time being, he was enjoying the luxury of being the woman he dreamed of becoming for so long.

He knew that his mother had selected the partner as ones who weren’t likely to continue their affections: rakes, men who only wanted to touch but not keep beautiful women, and those who already expressed an interest in someone else. It was part of their ploy and one that Galadin couldn’t thank her enough for finally accepting it.

Every time one of the partners would kiss the back of her hand or the sweet words brought an intense rush of excitement. She couldn’t stop smiling every time her heels danced across the floor.

“Thank you, Bedame, for the lovely dance,” said the older gentleman looking for a second spouse.

Glorias curtsied. “My humble thanks for your company, Sire.”

He escorted Glorias to the edges of the dance where Maran sat with a circle of friends. He bowed deeply to Galadin’s mother. “I bring your daughter safe to your side,” he intoned the ritualistic words before slipping away. From what he said while dancing, he already had his name on two more cards before the evening ended.

Galadin gave his mother a nervous smile. It froze on his face when he saw a strange look on her face, an expression he had never seen before.

“Glorias!” It was the seamstress with three others. Lily wore a brilliant dress that looked like a thousand feathers, each one the proscribed green of the dance yet somehow made each panel appear to be a different color. Her ability to color anything had stunned both Galadin and his mother.

On one side, Kendrick walked next to her with her fingertips resting on his elbow. On the other, a man she didn’t recognize held Mindil’s hand. The second man looked slender compared to his wife but it was obvious they were in sync by the way their feet stepped in harmony.

Lily pulled Galadin into a hug that wouldn’t risk marring either of their makeup. “You look beautiful, my dear.”

“Thank you,” Galadin whispered back.

“How does it feel?”

“Like everything I ever wanted.”

A sob startled her. He looked over to see tears on his mother’s face. She was smiling as she held a piece of silk to her lips. “Mother?”

“You are so beautiful,” she said through the tears. Behind her, a few of her friends nodded with tears in their own eyes.

The world spun around Galadin as he looked at his mother. “Really?”

“Y-Yes!” She staggered up out of her chair. Stepping around the table, she grabbed Galadin. “My baby.”

Galadin let out a gasp and then hugged her mother back. She could feel her crying, the soft sobs shaking her body as they held each other tightly. “Thank you. Thank you so very much.”

His mother kissed her sweetly. “You are so beautiful.”

Lily and her friends excused themselves and left mother and… daughter behind. After a few minutes, the two broke their embrace and sat down at the table.

Glorias glanced at her dance card. There were two more lines for the final two dances but both were empty. The rush, the point of being someone else faded. He was disappointed but at the same time happy that the three other lines had been filled in. For someone who had presented himself as a woman only a few weeks ago, the fact that three found him appealing brought a smile.

“Do you want to stay?”

Galadin nodded with a sad smile. “Yes, even if I don’t dance. I just want to enjoy this evening. I don’t want it to ever end.”

His mother pushed a glass of wine over to him.

He smiled to himself and then carefully dabbed the tears from his eyes. “This is everything I hoped for.”

“Do you want to keep going?”

“Can I? R-Really?”

“Aren’t you already thinking of yourself as a debutante?”

Galadin hesitated. As much as he loved wearing the dress, he still struggled with being a male or a female. Whenever he concentrated, he thought of himself as Galadin, not Glorias. It was the shifting fantasies, when she was being wooed or dancing where Glorias felt like a woman, not a man. He sighed, his head and heart both ached. It felt like walking out into the sunlight for the first time.

“You can, if you want. I’ll help. Your father will too, he always does.”

“Really?”

She nodded with fresh tears glistening in her eyes. “Yes, I promise.” She chuckled. “I knew this day was coming for years. It just… took me a while to realize that I shouldn’t stop it. Your father was right, just don’t tell him that.”

Galadin started to say something but someone’s presence interrupted him. “Excuse me.”

It was Benard. The Navy officer was dressed in a sharp black suit. He stood next to both of them.

Galadin’s heart beat faster as she looked at the broad-shouldered man who stood with one hand held out. He had cleaned up since Glorias had last seen him.

“I wasn’t aware that you had a beautiful daughter coming to this affair, Maran da Kasin ho Kamer.” He bowed deeply. “I would be honored if I may have her hand for this dance.”

Glorias whimpered, her face growing flushed as she stared up. She desperately wanted to say yes, the memory of their touching during dance lessons still bright in his thoughts. The easy way Benard spoke and moved, the firmness that they held hands while dancing, it was another thing she hoped to finally have.

“Glorias?” asked her mother.

Galadin didn’t know if Benard knew that Galadin and Glorias were the same. He almost said no, but he couldn’t pull his thoughts from the smell of his cologne and the electric touch between them. “I… yes,” he whispered.

Benard bowed again and held out his hand. The song was about to start.

When he took Galadin’s hand, heated sparks coursed through Galadin’s body. He felt exposed and bared, every part of his nerves burning with anticipation.

Benard guided him to the floor, turned around, and then slipped his hand around Galadin’s waist. It was firm and strong.

With weak knees, Glorias turned into the first position, her hand in a position to be led.

“What do you think about these dances? They are simple enough.”

Glorias laughed nervously. “I haven’t had enough lesson—”

With a start, she clamped her mouth shut. He didn’t want to reveal that she already knew Benard as a different person. Her heart pounded in her chest as the music swelled up.

“I know what you mean. I feel like I should have been practicing far more with some of these ladies. They were very formal and tense. Not my type of partner.” He winked and drew Glorias around.

Glorias’s stomach clenched. He knew exactly what Benard wanted. It couldn’t be found on the dance floor. However, she also knew that she may be what Benard could eventually want.

The music brought them in a circle. Glorias’s dress swirled out in perfect harmony with the other dancers. She felt like she was in one of the paintings that she admired for years. It brought tears with the feeling of being complete.

Too soon, the music slowed and came to a stop. When a ripple of applause filled the room, the dancers began to drift back to their tables.

Glorias didn’t want to leave. She looked into Benard’s eyes, wondering if there could ever be anything between the two of them. New fantasies rushed through her mind, setting her skin on fire and quickening her heart. She wanted to be Glorias completely in that moment, to imagine a world where she never had to go back.

“I don’t want to leave,” Benard said quietly.

“Do we have to?”

“No,” her partner said. “You never have to leave.”

Glorias’s heart skipped another beat.

The musicians started up a quieter dance for the intermission between the formal ones. Normally it just filled in the silence but this time, Glorias wanted to keep dancing.

Benard ran his fingertips starting from Glorias’s elbow to her wrist. “Now, do you remember the Fox step from Dame Dorin’s class? You were very good at it but I seem to recall you were in the lead at the time.”

Glorias shivered with fright and excitement.

Benard gently turned Glorias’s wrist until it was Benard taking the lead.

Glorias’s breath locked in her throat. She trembled as she looked up into Benard’s warm eyes.

“May I lead this dance?”

With a happy smile blurred by happy tears, Glorias nodded. “Yes.”

“Good, because I couldn’t wait to ask for a chance to dance with you tonight. I would be honored to fill your dance card for the rest of the evening, Bedame Glorias kia Kasin.”