Chapter 43: The Event
Around the budding youth of the virginal flower, the gardeners circle around as the flower’s beauty reflects their own efforts.—Magolan dea Kasin, Child, Offer Your Hand
Lily sipped on a glass of wine as she strolled through one of the many gardens of her former home, Manor Rose. Everywhere she looked, she felt a pang of sadness about leaving her form her. With her one hand, she traced along the delicately-shaped stone roses that marked the balconies before pausing to look at the giant statue of roses installed in the largest of the pools.
Her glass trembled as she took a deep breath. The pressure of her corset dug into her ribs and sides, reminding her that after tonight, she was officially no longer a bedame. She would be a kudame for the rest of her days, slowly shuffled off to the edges of High Society to serve those who followed.
“Care for refreshments, kudame?” It was a serving boy, one that Lily remembered holding as a baby. He didn’t seem to recognize her despite the years going to the same parties.
“No, thank you.”
“Yes, thank you,” said Mindil as she swept up. With one casual hand, she snatched up two pieces and popped one into her mouth. She wore a beautiful flowered dress that emphasized her large breasts and large hips. It has been expertly adjusted so there was no strain on the stitching or buttons but it followed every curve of her body. The color, thanks to Lily, was perfectly matched to the rest of the party.
Mindil grinned and ate the other piece. “Oh, your mother’s cooks were…” She stopped. “The cooks here are talented.”
Feeling slightly ill, Lily could only nod.
“I’m sorry, Flower. I didn’t mean to remind you.”
“No, I should be used to it by now.”
Lily shrugged. She looked at the people around her. In the side garden, there were mostly younger members of High Society, in their twenties and thirties. She spotted a few debutantes in the center of circles of attention. The young girls had spent much of their lives training for nights like this and she could see it their forced grace and polite jokes.
She remembered when she was the same place. Being surrounded by attentive besires was exhilarating. Every time they laughed, her heart would beat faster in hope one of them would offer their hand. Even ten years later, she remembered the desperate longing she felt to make them smile one last time. She also remembered the thousand rules of etiquette that haunted her thoughts, not to mention weeks of posture and grace training.
And then came Hasan. He was handsome and attentive, more so than anyone else. There was no question he would submit a bid to Lily’s father for her hand, but there was always a thrill when multiple suitors made an offer. In many ways, a bidding war was a woman’s peak in High Society; Sarlin had almost a dozen men vying for her hand. Wealth and comfort followed her mother’s life ever since.
At least until the fire.
With a sigh, she looked across the pool covered in golden roses to an empty spot on the far side. Before the fire, there was a gazebo there, surrounded by tall hedges and a perfect spot for the whispered conversations for a debutante wanting a few minutes to breath.
“You look upset,” said Mindil. “What are you thinking about?”
Lily chuckled. “Hasan.”
“Well, girl, you can’t have him.”
Lily looked over. Mindil was grinning.
“At least to yourself. We come as a pair and he isn’t allowed to have a second wife. So, if you want to ride his cock—”
“—then you better be willing to let me eat you out too.”
Blushing, Lily stared in shock. When Mindil grinned back, she giggled. “I can live with that.”
They shared a laugh until Hasan came up. He wore a pitch-black suit with a yellow tie and matching undershirt.
“Good evening, vis Kasins. How are the two most beautiful woman in all of Tarsan?”
Mindil kissed him, an appropriately chaste public kiss of a husband and wife. Their marriage bracelets clinking as he caught her hand and held it up. When they broke, Mindil looked into his eyes for a moment and Lily could feel the affection between them.
Hasan broke the embrace and addressed Lily. “And Dame dea Kasin?” The missing “ku” or “be” was poignant but appreciated.
Society said that he couldn’t kiss her in public but she wanted to kiss him just like Mindil. She ducked her head demurely and held out her hand. Her breath quickened as he brought it up to his lips and kissed the back of it, his eyes locked on hers with the same intense look of desire that warmed her so many years ago.
His lips lingered on her skin for a moment. Then he straightened. Another second passed before he let her hand slip from his grip.
They chatted for a while, pretending that they weren’t all fucking only bells ago in her bedroom. It was a ruse, one that Lily found herself easily settling into. She smiled as she imagined it continuing, pretending to be distant but enjoying the passions in the privacy of their rooms.
In the middle, Hasan interjected with a sudden question. “Lily, do you think Kendrick will be here?”
She had the same hopes, a girlish fantasy of Kendrick putting a bid for her hand in the same place which placed her on a path of becoming a kudame. She worried her lip for a second before remembering it wasn’t womanly. She sighed and finally said, “I don’t know.”
Mindil held up a small dish of quiche. She had taken a few bites out of it. “Has, you need to get the recipe for this, it is delicious.”
Hasan nodded but didn’t look down. Instead, his eyes scanned across the crowds. Lily saw him ball his hand into a fist for a moment before relaxing it.
Lily watched him. She could tell that he was focusing again, a razor-like intensity to his actions. “Hasan?”
“Sorry,” he said slowly turning back. “I was looking for someone.”
“Who? Him?” asked Mindil and then gestured to a familiar man in a black suit approaching them.
It was Relik. The older man seemed at ease in the crowds despite not being a Kasin. “Ah, via Kasins, I bid you a good evening.”
Lily smiled and held out her hand. He took it and gave a brief, chaste kiss before doing the same for Mindil.
“I have to say, this is quite an expressive affair.”
“Mother always had a talent for these events.” Lily glanced at Hasan and then to the empty spot where the gazebo was. An unsettling feeling gnawed at her gut before she returned her attention to the older man. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
Relik chuckled. “Because I’m a Martin? Normally, yes, but it isn’t unprecedented. I’ve enjoyed the company of many Kasins over the years in our own family presentations. The opportunities to establish agreements between families has always been a tradition, though it can be expensive to marry outside of extended families.”
Like only had hints of the marriages between families, she had lived her entire life in Soldir tca Kasin, her birthplace.
Hasan stepped closer. “Why were you here?”
Relik looked at him and then to Lily. “I was providing collateral in an important financial transaction.”
“Collateral….” her voice trailed off. As far as she knew, there was only one thing the older man wanted: Kendrick working for him. He had provided money to Lily’s lover to for her hand but then Kendrick had ruined it in a drunken rage. She frowned for a second and then looked at him quizzically.
Relik tilted his head and nodded slightly with a faint smile.
Lily pressed her hand to her lips to mute her gasp. Her heart beat faster as she stared at him.
Hasan looked back and forth before a scowl crossed his face.
“Flower?” asked Mindil. “What is he talking about it?”
Lily sniffed at the sudden tears in her eyes. “I-I think Kendrick is going to make an offer.”
Mindil gasp and hugged her. “Oh, Flower, that’s wonderful.”
Relik bowed. “If you’ll forgive—”
“Lily!” called Djulian. The older woman was beaming as she rushed over.
Lily didn’t have a chance to even stiffen before she was pulled into a tight hug.
“She has offers! Multiple! Five of them in the first hour!” She was sobbing as she embraced Lily. “Thank you! Thank you so very much.”
Unsure of what to do, Lily hugged Djulian back.
Djulian broke the embrace after a few moments. She wiped the tears from her eyes before saying, “I’m so sorry for being a weed. I didn’t know, but your dress was so beautiful and… and… five offers!”
She stepped back, still wiping her face. “My baby is getting married!”
Lily stared at her until long after Djulian was gone.
“Well, you’ll be charging a hundred times more for your services after this,” Mindil said with a giggle.
Relik bowed. “It sounds like I am no longer needed. Please, having a good evening, vis Kasins. I wish you the best of luck in the coming years.”
For the second time, Lily watched someone leaving. She felt elated and surprised, as if all the puzzle pieces had settled into place. She smiled, struggling with the urge to cry herself.
Lily jerked, as if ice poured into her. She looked around but Hasan wasn’t near. “Maybe he’s getting you more food.”
“Maybe,” Mindil said with a wary tone. She didn’t sound convinced either. She turned and leaned against the balcony, her large rear sticking out.
Lily worried her bottom lip for a moment. “I’ll wait too. I’m sure he’s just getting something.”
Both of them stood quietly. The tension grew in Lily’s gut. It gnawed at the elation of having Nirih’s success and the hope that Kendrick would make an offer for her hand. She didn’t have to be a kudame, she could become a married woman. Of course, that meant she would cease to be High Society of Relik had his way, but the idea of spending the rest of her life with Kendrick brought a smile to her lips.
Time slowed down, each passing minute feeling like an hour.
Mindil finally stood up. “He better be getting food.”
She glanced at Lily. “You don’t think he refused to let Kendrick go, do you?”
“The last I saw, he was listening to us talk to Relik.”
A glare furrowed Mindil’s brow. “That shit-headed, piss-guzzling excuse for a sloppy asshole. If he is trying to start some duel again, I swear on the Couple, I will….”
Her voice trailed off as a ripple of noise raced along the crowds.
As one, Mindil and Lily looked at each other.
Lily started forward, but had to hike up her dress to rush toward the center of the noise. She could hear Mindil following after, their heels tapping loudly on the ground as they entered the main hall.
When she saw Hasan and Kendrick on the main stairs leading up to the floor, her heart skipped a beat. Kendrick had two swords in his hands, brandished the sheathed weapons at Kendrick who was coming down the stairs. Behind Kendrick was Sarlin and Lily’s father, Gainik. Both of the Lily’s parents looked both shocked and annoyed as they watched the two younger men speaking.
"… damned by the Couples if I let you ruin her life!” Hasan announced.
Kendrick slowly put his arms behind his back, hooking his thumbs together. The air around him wavered slightly and wisps of mist began to crawl up the stairs.
Lily gaped for a moment and a sick feeling gathered in her gut. Hasan had did the the same thing ten years ago, nothing had changed.
No, something had changed.
Setting her jaw, she stormed forward. “Hasan da Kasin ne Pilnok!” she yelled over the whispering crowds.
Hasan jumped and looked around until he saw her. His eyes widened. “Lily—”
Above him, Kendrick looked surprised also.
“No!” Lily screamed. “Not this time!” She reached the stairs and stomped up them, cracking a heel in the process. Stumbling forward, she grabbed for his swords but missed. Her hand caught his elbow.
“Lily,” Hasan started in a quieter voice, “I just—”
She used her other hand and grabbed the swords. Yanking them out of his slack grip, she pulled them free. They were heavier than she expected but the anger gave her enough strength to throw the weapons down the stairs.
Tears burned in her eyes as she glared at him. “Not this time. Not with everything else going on.”
“No, I—” This time, his mouth kept working but there was only silence coming from his voice. She could feel the vibrations of him speaking through her hand but not from her ears.
A pressure draped over her, muffling the world around her as she felt an urge to look away. It was Mindil’s power prying her away.
Lily reached back and slapped Hasan hard, her open palm cracking against his cheek and shattering the silence around him.
Mindil gasped as she came up the stairs.
Lily sniffed as she looked at her lady lover. “We need to finish this, right here.”
Mindil looked like she was going to say something, but then nodded. Closing her eyes for a moment, she twisted her face in concentration.
Ripples of power rolled over her and Lily felt the urge to look away from Hasan fade away. Peeking up, she saw that most of the rest of the audience was also looking away including her mother and father.
Kendrick stood there, tense as he took deep breaths.
Lily gasped and turned back to Hasan. “What are you doing?”
“I won’t let you marry him.”
“I… I…” There were tears in his eyes. “I love you.”
“I know that. I’ve known that for a long time.”
“I don’t want to lose you, Lily. Not after all this.”
Frowning, Lily glanced at Mindil who shrugged sheepishly.
“I’m sorry, Lily, we never really got a chance to talk about what we decided.”
Hasan looked back and forth. “Decided?”
Lily took a deep breath before she relaxed her grip on his elbow. She looked him in the face before responding. “Hasan, you aren’t going to lose me. I love you, Mindil, and Kendrick. All of you are wonderful, bright people who have brought me joy.”
“If you are married….”
“What? I’m going to stop fucking you?”
Hasan let out a whimper.
Lily smiled and wiped the tears. “Don’t be a fool. You are on my list, right? Just like I’m on yours?”
“Then, what’s wrong with us keep on doing this?”
In the silence pooled around them, Hasan took a shuddering breath. “We can?”
Lily kissed him right where she slapped him. “As long as you stop being a weed. It doesn’t have to be public, but that doesn’t mean the occasional night together is inappropriate for two couples, don’t you think?”
Hasan shook. He looked at Kendrick who shrugged.
“All that matters is Lily is happy, Has,” Kendrick finally said.
With a frown, Hasan looked at his wife. Then he did a double take. “Mindil?”
Lily turned. When she saw a trickle of blood running from Mindil’s nose, she gasped. “Min!?”
Mindil wiped it. “S-Sorry. There are a lot of gossip magics trying to break me. You might need to hurry.” She smiled and wiped it again. “I’ve never shielded a fight in the middle of a party like this.”
Lily’s heart was beating faster. She turned back to Hasan. “If you can still have me, will you back down?”
Lily turned to Mindil. “And you are okay with the four of us?”
With her heart growing. “Husband-to-be?”
“Anything you wish?”
“Even fucking Hasan’s ass for being a weed?”
Hasan inhaled sharply.
Kendrick’s smile grew and she saw a bulge growing underneath his jeans. “Only if he wants it.”
Lily finally turned back to Hasan. She stroked her palms along the sides of his suit coat. “Hasan? Are you okay with this? All four of us. No more cheating, no more sneaking around.”
Hasan looked back and forth between the three of them.
“You’ll stay married and still get to enjoy all four of us. But it won’t be me and you or Mindil and you. It is all four of us. Together sometimes, pairing off sometimes. But you have share. You are going to have times with your lovely wife and my husband-to-be. There will be times when it is you and me and him. All of us, together.”
Hasan took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”
“Do you agree?”
A tear rolled down his cheek. “Yes!”
Lily pulled him into a tight hug. She held him as she felt his body trembling underneath. Then movement caught her attention.
Looking up, she saw Relik bowing to her as he stepped back and walked away. Her mouth opened in surprised as he appeared to be completely unaffected by Mindil’s magic.
It only took a moment. She pulled back. “No, you men need to resolve this publicly. I know you have rules that I don’t understand but I also know that he cannot leave your threat. I don’t care how, but Kendrick needs to win my hand. He’s still High Society for tonight.”
She glanced at Kendrick for confirmation.
“Good. Now lose for my husband-to-be.”