The ultimate goal of the debutante ball is the offer, where a besire finds the father of the debutante and negotiates a deal for the hand in marriage.
— The Hidden Businesses of High Society
The only name she had heard for the last two weeks was Glorias. It no longer felt like a bandage or a mask that fit poorly, but something integral to her life. Somewhere along the way, she stopped thinking herself as a “he” and settled firmly into viewing herself as Glorias, a visiting niece of Maran’s from the countryside.
Manifesting her talent was the turning point. After that, it was easier for her entire family to call her Glorias and use the correct pronoun. Her mother still struggled though, but it had been weeks since “he” had slipped from her tongue.
Glorias smiled and took a deep breath, or at least as deep as she could. The bones in the dress dug comfortingly into her waist, pulling it into a narrower waist. The excellently-made outfit gave her the appearance of a bust and flared hips. It also made it difficult to slouch but she was getting used to the restrictions.
Looking down, she admired the cream and green dress. It had been masterfully crafted to focus on the parts Lily had identified as the most feminine while hiding the parts that magical makeup, rushed lessons, and clothing couldn’t change. She had done a beautiful job.
Glorias wrung her fingers together for a moment. When her long fingernails clicked together, she remembered the carefully painted tips with little flower designs on them. Delicately, she unfolded her fingers and carefully spread her hands on the fabric that covered her thighs.
Next to her, her mother reached out and warmly clasp her fingers. “Nervous?”
“Yes. My stomach is fluttering, my chest is tight, and I feel like everything is going to explode without warning.” Glorias turned and gripped her mother’s hand tightly. “And I think I have to pee.”
Maran laughed and pulled Glorias into a hug. “That’s about right. Every girl feels like this when she first goes to one of these balls. I remember my mother holding my hand as I was sobbing in the carriage, though that ball wasn’t nearly as fancy as this.” She sighed. “Not being groomed for High Society made things easier, I guess, but the potential for greatness is less.”
Glorias ducked her head and smiled briefly. “I feel a little foolish now.”
“No, no,” whispered her mother. “Don’t feel that. You have done so much, and I want tonight to be as wonderful as can be.”
“I just wish…” Glorias sighed. “I wished we weren’t sneaking into the side entrance.”
Maran pulled her into a hug. “I know. And your father wanted to be here, but the most important part is that you are here, and you are going to have a wonderful time.”
“Don’t cry, you won’t…” Her mother ended with a soft laughter. “You shouldn’t cry though, even if you can fix your face with just a laugh.”
Glorias reached over and stroked her mother’s face. “Same for you.”
Maran pressed her cheek against Glorias’s hand. “I promise, I’m not going to cry. At least not where you can’t touch me up.”
They found out that Glorias could use her powers for anyone, and her mother had the same nearly flawless makeup on her though it wasn’t subject to the shifting emotions; once on, it remained in place until smeared or removed.
The carriage came to a stop. The narrow window by the driver slid open. “We’re at the north entrance, Tadame Kasin.”
Glorias caught her breath.
“Are there a lot of people around?”
“No, the event is currently in the middle of a dance set. Only a few servants are walking around but I think they are about to head inside. If you wait a few moments, you will be able to get out.” Somehow, Glorias’s mother had found a carriage driver that was willing to sneak them in; Glorias didn’t want to think about how much it cost in terms of price or dignity.
Glorias took a deep breath to stop the nervous giggle rising up.
“We’ll be fine, Glorias.”
“I know Mother, I’m just—”
“Okay, Von Kasins,” interrupted the driver. “This is your best chance.”
In a hurry, Glorias and Maran got out of the carriage. It took them a few frantic moments to straighten their dresses with the fear that someone would come walking into sight. By the time they finished getting everything back in order, Glorias had a few strands of hair that escaped her hairdo and her mother had a mar on her cheek.
With a soft smile, Maran reached up and fixed Glorias’s hair.
Glorias used her hand to fix her mother’s makeup.
They shared a giggle and a secret smile.
Glorias nodded. Slipping her hand into the crook of her mother’s arm, they headed toward the din inside the estate’s great hall with all the dignity they could muster.
“I wish your father was able to come. It would have made this official. If things were different…?”
Glorias knew what her mother was referring too. They had to sneak in because they couldn’t afford the rest of the events. This was a debutante ball where a young lady like herself danced and flirted. If a suitor found her desirable, he would seek out the debutante’s father and make an offer of jems, property, or even businesses. It was the exchange, the moment where she would be engaged. Without her father there, the offer couldn’t be made. Of course, it would also be a faux pas not to have him present, but the latter was less embarrassing than the having an offer that could not be honored.
Of course, having a potential suitor find out that Glorias was really a guy underneath the dress would be far more devastating to everyone.
“No, no, no,” whispered Maran. “Daughter thoughts. You’re my beautiful daughter, remember?”
Glorias realized that she was losing her appearance. Fighting back a tear of sadness, she took a deep breath and concentrated on the feel of fabric on her skin, the swirl of her dress, and the caress of silk.
“There you go. Just a little more, my beautiful daughter.” Maran smiled. “There, you’re beautiful.”