Chapter 10: The Dance
Magic underneath emotional control can be powerful and delicate at the same time. It is dependent on a delicate balance of keeping one’s mind framed in a certain state.—Techniques of the Crystal Spheres
After years of fantasies and days of worry, Glorias’s first presentation ball exceeded everything she had dreamed it would be. For the last hour, her dance card had been filled with one partner after the other. No one seemed to notice her late arrival, the lack of announcement, or that the first three lines on the card were faked.
She loved every moment on the floor, hand-in-hand with her partner and her dress flowing in the wide circles of the classical dances. It was easy to keep the sensation of being a woman while moving, it was everything she had dreamed about.
The last minute dance lessons still echoed in her head as she looked into the eyes of her current partner, an older man with a military badge of honor on his breast. He was easily twice Glorias’s age but seemed to be enjoying himself.
She knew that her parents had been careful about her dance card. Her father had spent hours poring over the Stonewait’s Gallery, a collection of illustrations and histories of every politically important person in the area. No doubt, the only names that her mother would allow to be written in the card were ones that Storan had made his wife memorize.
One of the twirls came up. She smiled with joy, those were her favorite parts of the dance. She could taste the fruity flavor of her lipstick. With a delicate maneuver, she lifted her hand and stepped into the twirl. Her heels threatened to twist but she bore down and stepped into it, spinning on the tips of her toes before coming down in perfect harmony with thirty other debutantes dancing. The almost simultaneous click rang out across the dance floor and the sound brought a swell of joy to hear her. She smiled until her cheeks hurt.
“You look beautiful, bedame,” said her partner. Glorias already knew he wasn’t seriously looking and there was no chance he would be asking for her hand. All he wanted was to be seen dancing with one pretty woman after the other.
The song ended with a flourish.
Her partner made the customary bow and kissed the back of Glorias’s gloved hand. Then, keeping a light grip, he tugged her gently toward the edge of the dance floor.
With a blush, Glorias curtsied and let herself be drawn to the edge of the dance floor. Tradition dictated that the debutantes be delivered back to the table before the next partner arrived. There was a bit of crowd milling around the edge of the dance area but the others quickly parted around Glorias and her dance partner with no more than a curious look.
While they made their way, Glorias glanced up at the balcony. There were three painters with easels frantically drawing and working their brushes. Two other artists were concentrating on their canvas with a haze of magic drawing colors across the page.
The idea that she would be in one of the pictures of the balls sped up her pulse. She smiled broadly and felt more like a debutante than before.
Then she caught sight of Dame Dorin, her original dance instructor. The older woman’s gaze was focused directly on her, tracking her movement. A pale shiver of fear rose up in the back of her throat then she hurried down the stairs.
Turning away, Glorias struggled as the feeling of being a woman begin to crumble. Her sense of self, the delicate balance collapsed. It tingled across her skin as the sensation of being Galadin returned like a wet cloth draped over her. Did Dorin notice him? Would she ruin his secret?
Heart pounding, Galadin slipped his hand from his partner. He focused on not letting his tension grip the fingers of her partner; if the other man turned around, he would notice that the pretty lady he was dancing wasn’t quite the same as before.
They weren’t moving quickly enough. Galadin wanted to rush forward but couldn’t, not without drawing attention to himself. He tried to get his head back into the right frame of mind, to draw the feeling of being Glorias back and restore Glorias’s face.
“There you are!” Dorin came over and pulled Galadin into a light hug. Her voice was cheerful but Galadin could tell it was slightly forced.
Galadin’s grip with his dance partner slipped apart briefly.
His partner stopped. “Oh, you are from Dame Dorin’s school?” It was a pointed question. There were a lot more than just debutantes by themselves at the ball, there were also all the seamstresses, instructors, and women involved with presenting them. The success of a debutante expanded to include not only herself but those who helped her.
Galadin gulped and glanced at Dorin.
She gave an encouraging nod.
Terrified that he was about to have his secret revealed, Galadin stared toward the ground and said, “Y-Yes. I’ve been going to her for weeks.”
Her partner gave Dame Dorin a bow. “Your instructions were impeccable, Taladame Dorin. One of the best partners I could ever have.”
“Thank you, besire,” Dorin said with a tightening of her lips. Even though Dorin was a widow, a taladame, she preferred the unadorned but unusual title of “dame” even though that was just as unusual as taladame.
“I’ll leave your charge in your hands, I have some business to attend to.” He turned to Galadin and kissed his trembling hand. “Thank you for the dance, my dear.”
Galadin’s heart rose up in a brief worry. As much as Storan was sure everyone on the card wasn’t going to make an offer, what if this one decided Galadin was the right one? Would he try to find Storan? What if he couldn’t?
Dorin took Galadin’s hand and deftly brought him to the side. “He’s not going to your father, love. A pair of his card game friends had just arrived with their daughters and he has his eyes on one of them ever since she was thirteen.”
“W-What?” Galadin’s throat felt dry. “How did you know?”
“It was clear on your face.” Dorin caught Galadin’s chin and lifted it up.
Galadin wanted to resist but couldn’t. Dorin was a difficult woman to say no to her face.
“Oh,” Galadin wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved.
Dorin turned and held his hand, looking him over carefully. She looked around for a moment and then took a few steps away from the rest of the crowd, giving them space near a column. Her lips pressed tightly together. “So, this is why you stopped coming to my lessons?”
A deep blush colored Galadin’s cheeks. He felt naked in front of Dorin. Slowly, he nodded. Inside, he was trying to remember the feel of silk but the fear prevented him from drawing the right thoughts.
“Tadame Potsur?” she asked, guessing the name of his new dance instructor, a drunk woman who could barely move but his mother trusted to keep her mouth shut.
Dorin shook her head. “Oh, she’s just… the worst. You should have come to me. I would have helped.”
Dorin shrugged. “When I can count the number of bedames and besires I’m teaching with one hand?” She sighed. “Yes, I would. It may have taken me a bit, but when I saw you with that… man, I knew there was a chance you went that way.”
She lifted Galadin’s gloved hands to her shoulder height, “Just not this way. You do make a lovely bedame but some of your movements still scream besire.” Drawing her hand down, she brought Galadin’s hand closer to mid-arm. “Here.”
“I’m sorry.” He turned away slightly then he glanced back.
Dame Dorin’s eyes grew hard for a moment and then she smiled. “I’ll tell you what. You tell everyone that I’m still your teacher, and we resume your lessons after the ball. Your form is beautiful, but you need to bring your hand more into a curve when you spin. It has to look like a ribbon flowing in the water.”
She gave a short laugh and some of the fear faded. “Besides, Potsur won’t be standing much less attending this ball. A silk lady should always attend the affairs of their charges. That goes triple for their most promising.”
Galadin’s heart almost exploded as the tingling sensation danced along his skin. “You think I’m promising?”
“I’m willing to steal Potsur’s efforts and have you claim your skill as from mine. That is putting my name at risk as much as you are putting yours.” She nodded her head and pulled Glorias close to kiss his cheek.
Stepping forward, Galadin leaned forward. At the motherly caress, he felt like a real debutante again and a rush exploded along his senses. It brought back sensation of being a woman and it felt like he was floating before settling back as a woman once again.
“I’ll see…” Dorin’s eyes widened and then she smiled broadly. “Oh my, that’s how you did it.”
Galadin, now Glorias again, smiled bashfully and nodded.
“You have turned out to be a beautiful young woman.” She stroked Glorias’s cheek gently. “I would love to see you. Tomorrow? I want to hear all about this and I’m curious how this all came about.”
“Okay,” Glorias said with a sigh of relief.
“I’ll make the arrangements with your mother. I’d ask to join your table but I suspect you’d like to keep at least a little attention away from you tonight, right?”
“Yes, Dame Dorin.”