Chapter 8: Magic in the Makeup

It takes years to look casually beautiful.

—Dornit Kesser-Gamp

Galadin sat on his side of the carriage with his back straight and his hands resting on his lap. He had his eyes closed as he sang softly, trying to get his voice to “slide” into the higher register. He had done it a few times that day, but it was harder without the voice instructor right there. The sensation of doing and hearing it correctly was fleeting.

“… and then the ship came sailing, sailing along the shore…”

His voice cracked and he frowned.

“You almost have it,” his mother said.

He opened his eyes. She was watching him closely and an uncomfortable look on her face. He had noticed it a few times lately, starting with the night she taught him how to apply makeup. They had been doing it every night since, with him getting more comfortable every time with every compliment.

Galadin smiled to himself. He found himself craving the compliments, not only because his mother had turned a corner that night but she started using “she” and “my daughter” to describe Galadin. It almost made him feel like a real girl—

“There!” snapped Maran. “Right now, what were you thinking?”

Galadin gasped. “W-What?”

“That moment? Just now, can you remember?”

A blush burned in his cheeks and his skin was tingling. “I-I was thinking about how you told the instructor ‘my daughter’ needed lessons.”

Maran’s frowned deepened.

“W-Was I doing something wrong?”

His mother inhaled sharply and let it out. The frown faded. “No,” she said with a rare smile. “Apparently your father does know what he is doing. He’s just clumsy at doing it, and it’s painful.”

Galadin worried his lower lip for a moment. “You’ve two been making strange comments lately. I don’t—”

His mother silenced him by tapping the cushioned seat next to her. “Come here,” she said before digging into her purse.

Confused, Galadin obeyed.

She pulled out a hand mirror and set it down on Galadin’s lap. “Hold that and look at your face.”

He did, looking at the face. It was still the masculine features he had grown to hate, but it didn’t quite look as jarring as before. The long hair felt right on his scalp and bound into a tail over his shoulder. His makeup was much better, he only saw a few flaws, but it did a lot to mask the man beneath.

“How did your father say to do this…” whispered his mother to herself. Then she cleared her throat. “Close your eyes.”

Galadin obeyed.

“Now, think of a picture, a woman that you want to be. I don’t know, a painting or illustration.”

"A Dance Among the Swans and Roses?"

Maran chuckled. “Of course, I forgot how much you loved that painting. You met Suar de Pun when you were babe, you know. It was when she was a brilliant star of society right before…”

She cleared her throat. “You were only two, but I remember her saying you were a beautiful baby.”

Galadin smiled.

“I guess, I’ve somehow missed that you were so unhappy these years. I figured it was just being seventeen, but this last few weeks, since I… we… you finally told us, I’ve seen such a happiness in you that I didn’t think was possible.”

His smile grew wider. He still had his eyes closed. The flush was filling him down, a tingling sensation that coursed from his toes to his fingertips. He felt like he was vibrating as he sat there.

Maran took a deep breath. “I always wanted a daughter. I know I shouldn’t, a boy was best for this world, but the idea of seeing her grow up into a beautiful woman was one of those dreams of mine. Now, I think I’m finally getting that.”

Galadin could feel tears of joys brimming in his eyes. He smiled broadly. “I hope so.”

“Open your eyes then.”

He did. In the mirror, he saw someone different looking back. It was his face but wasn’t at the same time. The rough lines had been smoothed over and the shape looked subtly different. It wasn’t anything that he could easily identify but somehow, he looked like a young woman in the mirror.

Galadin opened his lips in shock.

“When you…” his mother started. “When you feel like a lady, you start to look like one. Deep down inside, when you lose yourself, it changes. I’ve been able to see you change from thinking of yourself as a woman versus a man.” Her voice had cracked. “I missed it at first but your father is, as you know, 'always paying attention.’”

He grinned at her mimicked voice.

“But as we’ve been going from lesson to lesson, I’ve been seeing it happening more often. Your face changes. Not physically, you are still the… child I raised but it looks different. Appearance, makeup maybe?”

He looked up to see tears in her eyes.

She cupped his chin and smiled at him as one bead ran down her cheeks. “You look so happy in those moments that I’m ashamed that I somehow missed it. But over these last few days, I couldn’t help but see it. Your joy and love are tied into who you want… no, who you are, not what you were.”

“I-I don’t understand.”

“You’ve been feeling flushed, right? And your skin crawls and you feel like your body doesn’t quite fit with your thoughts.”

Galadin could only nod.

“That’s was you manifesting a talent. That was it breaking out of its shell to reveal your powers.”

His breath caught in his throat. He opened his mouth a few times before the words came out. “I… I can change my appearance? I can look like a woman? A real woman?”

Maran nodded. “You can, I’ve seen it. When you speak as one, dress as one, and see yourself as a daughter and not a son, you look like a woman. When you smile, you are my daughter.”

Galadin let out a sob of happiness. He hugged his mother tightly. “T-Thank you!”

“No, thank you. It took me too long to see with my eyes again not my heart. I’m glad I did because apparently I had missed something important to you. Now that I see it again, I couldn’t be happier for you.”