The ideal Woman of Society is slender and elegant, with a narrow waist and shapely thighs. She does not present feminine nature lasciviously nor does she have the appearance of a man. The Woman knows that her flawless skin and golden hair is precious, a gem to only be shared with the man she marries.
— Kiss of the Golden Lips (Act 1, Scene 14)
Frustrated with her lack of progress on Nirih’s dress, Lily had switched over to the other dresses. She figured if she could finish those, then it would be easier to focus on the critical one. Of course, that assumed she didn’t have the same difficulties with those.
It was early morning, about an hour after opening, and Lily was pleased that she had made progress on almost all fronts. Three of her dresses were up on the wicker forms that were adjusted using strings and straps to fit the measurements of the young ladies who would wear them. The other four were in various states of being assembled along with a stack of notes of designs, ideas, and details near each one. She needed more tables.
Nirih’s fabrics were on a small table in the corner. Lily hadn’t even gotten to sewing more than a few pieces before giving up. It was frustrating but she couldn’t let it dominate her.
She tore her eyes away from the temporarily abandoned outfit and returned to cutting out the pieces for a social event in the third week. It was a simple one, only a day’s worth of work. She was tempted to cut corners but knew that her reputation wouldn’t survive if anyone found out. Besides, anything could go at any time, judging from her own experience.
Lily stopped enough to sip on a glass of wine, it was from the bottle of Larvin 1508 that Kendrick had left in her store. She smiled, her lower lips caressing the edge of the glass. The memory of Kendrick’s buttocks in her chair had warmed her thoughts for a few days and she wasn’t ready to let that image dull by fantasizing about it too often.
Still smiling, she set the glass carefully on the edge and returned to cut along the chalked outline of the pattern. The images of Kendrick’s body mixed with flashes of Hasan’s kissing and touching, swirling together into a heated distraction as she worked on the dress.
The door creaked open. “Hello?”
Lily was ripped out of her heated daydream. With a gasp, she straightened up.
“Lily?” It was Mindil.
Guilt smacked Lily across the face. She tried to compose herself but it was hard with a flush on her cheeks and a heat boiling inside her. The dampness of her daydream slid along her senses, teasing her still even as she smoothed her dress.
It took her a moment to regain her voice. “Tadame Mindil da Kasin?”
Mindil entered the work area, the green ends of her blonde hair bouncing with each step. “Good morning. You know, you don’t need to be formal with me. No ‘tadame’ or ‘Kasin’ is needed between friends.”
She wore a white ankle-length dress trimmed in yellow flowers with a matching pattern around a V-neck collar that empathized a deep cleavage. A waist-level band of flowers drew the attention to her curves. The design was almost scandalous because it revealed her wide hips and even the swell of her belly. Like the previous visit, Mindil wasn’t wearing a corset or fabrics intended to force her shape into an hourglass.
In her mind, Lily knew that others saw Mindil as fat and uncouth, but in the moment, she couldn’t see that. Instead, all she saw was a curvy woman who held herself with a confidence that few debutantes even had a prayer of duplicating.
Mindil twirled around, the hem of her dress rising up to show that she wore no stockings. “Do I meet your approval?”
A pang of surprise and guilt surged through Lily. “I–I didn’t mean—”
Mindil winked and twirled again. “Don’t. I like it when pretty girls admire me.”
There was something the way Mindil responded that stunned Lily. She glanced down as the words echoed in her head. She hadn’t been called a “pretty girl” for many years. It would have been rude to call her that, but when Mindil said it, it sent little quivers along her skin.
After a second of wringing her hands, Lily couldn’t help but look up and give Mindil a bashful smile.
Mindil raised an eyebrow and held up a paper bag. It had an unfamiliar logo, Mikhanel’s, on it. “Hasan said you liked honey cream pastries.”
Thankful for something else to talk about, Lily grinned. “I do, one of my favorite treats as a little girl. I didn’t think Hasan knew that.”
Mindil rolled her eyes up while smile brilliantly. “I may have…” She bobbed her head. ”… pushed Has to remember so I knew what to bring. I had a favor to ask and I thought a little treat would… sweeten the deal.”
“You want something?”
Mindil ran her hand along her collar and used her finger to slide down the side. As she did, she pulled the fabric away from her pale skin. The maneuver pulled her breasts together, deepening the shadow of her cleavage.
It was slow and sensual. Lily had seen other women do it, but it had never been directed toward her.
In a different world, it almost looked like Mindil teasing her.
Lily’s cheeks burned.
Mindil’s smile grew wider as the fabric stretched. Then, just before the buttons holding the front of the outfit together started to strain, she stopped. “These flowers? Do you think you could color my hair to match?”
Stunned again, Lily stared with her mouth slack.
Softening her smile, Mindil let the fabric slip from her fingers and it draped back over her breast. “Please? Everyone who saw my hair loved it.”
“Oh yes, I had a gaggle of socialites trailing after me for most of the last few days. Not to mention quite a few besires making eyes when they didn’t think Hasan was looking. I liked the attention but I’m also so tired of being judged on how gold or yellow my hair is. I like your colors.”
Before Lily could respond, Mindil nodded to the front room and held up the pastries. “Come on, I bet you haven’t taken a break all morning.”
Wordlessly, Lily followed after Mindil as the other woman led the way. Her eyes glanced down at Mindil’s curved ass and then tore her gaze back up with a flush of embarrassment. Her mind bounced between the sudden revelations: Mindil’s apparent teasing and the possibility of using her dyeing ability to color hair.
Lost in thought, she didn’t realize she was already sitting on a couch next to Mindil until she was handed a plate with a pastry. It was a honey cream, with the yellowed filling slowly oozing out of the narrow layers of crisps.
She thanked Mindil and took a few bites. “Oh, this is good.”
“Mikhanel’s is amazing. She’s only open for a few hours a day and there is always a wait. She hates dealing with staff, so I asked Hasan to get in line for me.” Mindil took a few bites and set it down.
“And he did?”
“Yes?” Mindil said with a smile. “He almost jumped at the opportunity.”
Lily’s eyes widened and then she quickly looked down before a blush can come back. The fantasies that played in the back of her head focused on Hasan: the way he kissed her, the feel of his lips against her neck, and his hardness pressed against her body. She let out a deep breath and took another bite.
“He likes you, you know.”
Lily froze, ice washing over her. The fork in her hand shook slightly as she looked up.
Mindil smiled back. “That isn’t so bad, I think I’ll like you too.”
“W-Why?” She felt naked under Mindil’s gaze, as if she could see the fantasies that Lily had about her husband.
Waving her own fork, Mindil gestured to the store around her. “This. Society dealt you a poor hand, all stones. You could have just given up after the… fire.” Mindil made a face. “Has has always been possessive, hasn’t he?”
Lily didn’t know how to respond.
Mindil didn’t need one. Her smile came back. “Well, we’re about the same age. You and I were at the same time for our first year. Everyone was circling around you while pretending not to pay attention to you.”
Sadness began to seep into Lily’s thoughts. She ducked her head and used the fork to carve off another bite but didn’t eat it. Her family made a point of mentioning how desirable she was until the fire.
“No one wanted me. For two years, I went to all the parties, got all the dresses, and said the right things.” Mindil’s tone grew softer and sadder. She sniffed for a moment and then took a bite before continuing. “They were already calling me a kudame before I was twenty-two.”
“Hasan. That man throws his heart into everything he does. After your fire, his relatives tried to marry him off but bad luck goes both ways. It wasn’t until…”
Mindil’s eyes unfocused for a second. “We met in this shitty little bar after a party. We were the only pretty folks there. Has was gearing up for a fight and I wanted to kick someone in the balls.”
Lily gasped. “You fought?”
Mindil looked up and grinned. “Right in the middle the bar, we had an all-out screaming fighting. It almost came to blows but… then he kissed me. Right there, no hint. One moment, we were brandishing tableware at each other, the next we were getting arrested for indecency right from the table.”
Mouth agape, Lily stared in shock.
Mindil rolled her eyes and grinned. “I didn’t have all his clothes off. We were a scandal for a few days. It was fun, I’ve never been to a jail before.”
“Oh, no. They would never hold a Society woman. I just got a discrete lecture on behaving inappropriately, that dress you saw me in the other day, and someone sent for my father. Once things calmed down and we were both sober, Has came around with the bride price and offer letter. My father agreed right away and we were married. After that, it wasn’t a scandal anymore, it was… what did my father say… a poor choice in wooing.” Mindil rolled her eyes.
The story brought Lily back to the moment when she stood in front of her parent’s manor, watching the hundred foot flames burn away priceless paintings, decorations, and her future.
In the silence that followed, Mindil finished off her pastry. After wiping her hands, she picked up the bag with the rest of the pastries and set it away from her.
Lily forced the memories way. “I never knew any of that.”
“That was when you were apprenticing with Tadame Penir ne Golid. I couldn’t imagine you were paying attention to anything else at the time.” Mindil gestured to the dresses. “I like your dresses more though, they aren’t as stuffy as Penir’s.”
Lily ducked her head at the compliment.
Mindil set down the plate. The gold-edged porcelain rattled slightly. “I think I’ve interrupted you enough, I didn’t mean to interrupt you for so long.”
“No, it’s okay.” Lily set down her own plate.
“Nonsense. I won’t be a burden. What time tomorrow would you like me to visit?”
Lily froze. “Tomorrow?”
Mindil favored her another another smile. “Yes, I know this place that has a wonderful cream sauce they pour over a cake. It goes well with blush wines. Do you think that would work as a mid-morning distraction?”
“I—” Lily couldn’t come up with words. It seemed to happen a lot with Mindil.
The other woman winked. “I’ll come about two hours after opening bell. If you are busy, I’ll just come back later.”
Mindil reached over and held out her hand.
Lily took it and then gasped as Mindil tugged her closer until their legs were touching. There was a ripple of sensation as her body warmed at their closeness.
“As I said, I like you.”
Breathing faster, Lily realized she was scandalously close to Mindil. She pressed her lips together and tried to focus directly into Mindil’s gaze. It was hard, she wanted to reach out and touch her.
“Before I leave, do you think…” Mindil grinned, looked up and to the side before bobbing her head. “Maybe give me a little color?”
“Oh! Yes.” Lily slipped her hand from Mindil’s. Her fingertips were cool in the air but not for long. Reaching up, she brought both hands around Mindil’s neck and ran her fingers through the blonde strands. She didn’t realize how intimate the gesture until Mindil closed her eyes and a soft moan escaped her lips.
Lily’s own heart beat faster and a wash of warmth flooded her. She concentrated through the closeness and used her magic to color the tips of Mindil’s hair to match the flowers. The flat color didn’t look right until Lily started to color individual strands to match all the colors of the dress pattern.
Mindil breathed deeply, her lips pressed lightly together and her body rising and falling with each breath.
The world seemed to slip away as Lily finished coloring Mindil’s hair. She pulled back slowly, not wanting to interrupt Mindil’s pleasure. Her fingertips trailed along Mindil’s smooth neck and then along the ridge of her shoulders.
Little trembles coursed along Mindil’s body. She smiled sweetly. “Lips?”
Lily exhaled and brought her one hand up. Her body was growing hotter with every movement, a flaring heat not unlike the one that she enjoyed during her fantasies. The intimacy was overwhelming but seductive, she wanted more of it.
Her fingertips ghosted across Mindil’s lips. She could feel the wax base of the lipstick against the sensitive ends.
Mindil let out another breath, it sounded like a short moan.
Magic dancing along her senses, Lily drew her fingertip along the soft ridge of Mindil’s lips, pushing down only enough to feel it caressing against her senses.
Too soon, she finished the coloring. She hesitated, holding her fingertip along the corner of Mindil’s mouth as the warm breath blew across her knuckles. She didn’t know what to do but she knew she didn’t want to let go.
Slowly, Mindil opened her eyes and looked at Lily. The gaze was smoldering, liquid puddles of topaz staring into her.
Panting, Lily reluctantly pulled her finger away. “I’m done,” she whispered.
Mindil took a deep breath. “Thank you,” she said in a low voice.
Then she lifted her hand from Lily’s thigh. Lily didn’t remember when Mindil had touched her, but she was distinctly aware of it missing. Excited and uncomfortable, Lily pushed herself away and stood up.
Mindil did the same.
“I-I should probably get back to work.”
Mindil nodded. “Thank you again.” Her smile came back, erasing the more sensual lines of her face with the familiar joy that she normally wore. She gestured to the plates. “Do you want me to clean up?”
“No, I can clean later. I need to go back to work.”
“Tomorrow?” A simple question.
Lily’s immediate answer was a surge of moisture and heat between her legs. Her nipples were hard and aching, her clitoris pulsating with the memory of her intimacy. She nodded even as she fought the urge to lean forward the touch Mindil’s lips again.
Mindil took her leave after composing herself in the mirror.
Lily returned back to her working area, her thoughts now complicated by the touch of Mindil’s lips. She stopped and stared at the dress, her wits lost as images of Hasan, Kendrick, and now Mindil raced across her mind.
Relief came when the door opened again. It was Falim de Kasin na Maifir and her daughter.
Thankful that she had most of Dinsanas’s dress made, Lily gathered it up and brought it to the front sections. She only hoped that the two women wouldn’t noticed that her thighs were slick with her inappropriate thoughts.