A note from joygirl007

Switching to a Thursday/Sunday schedule from here, folks! 

The dressing room is a mirrored walk-in closet with a skylight to let in the sun. A clever device attached to the ceiling by a network of cranks and gears angles the light down to the walls to create the perfect blend of light and shadow to flatter the model and assist the dressmaker in taking her measurements. Princess Cici escorts me to a padded stool at the center of the room and holds my hands out to my sides in a warm and sisterly gesture while her ladies strip me bare of the afternoon frock I was loaned only an hour ago.

Off come the layers of crinoline and lace. Undone come the stays of the corset. And down, down, down comes my chemise when Princess Cici shoves her hands under the cotton and slides it off my shoulder.

I am stark naked! For a horrifying moment, I am sure that Princess Jade has confused her siblings--hadn’t she called Yuri a rapist? Surely she meant Citrine! The princess is totally indifferent to my discomfort. She steps back from me while the dressmakers place satin measuring tapes under my armpits, beneath my breasts, and across my hips. When a sing-song voice calls out from the front of the shop, she calls back to it: “Entree!”

A well-dressed Dame rustles into the dressing closet wearing a vivid orange gown made of taffeta. The princess smiles at her and kisses the air on either side of her cheeks. Almost immediately, a new voice drifts back to where we stand. I’m desperate to snatch the first garment given to me as a second and third Dame intrudes on my embarrassment.

The princess and her new friends smile and chatter as if it’s entirely normal for a nude woman to stand before the ladies of the king’s court. They sing-song to one another like frilled exotic birds with a shrill note of insincerity underneath the bright tones.

“Hiiii. What’s this one?” a Dame about my own age inquires. She touches the hem of Princess Cici’s dress, pulling at the outer fold to reveal a pink petticoat. The shade of it looks familiar.

“What is that? It’s like a giant… vajuju,” laughs an elder Dame. She unconsciously fingers the ceramic badge on her shoulder--Queen Opal: also known as Queen Number Five, Citrine’s mother.

“Don’t you like it?” Cici flips the folds at the hem a little wider, creating an unmistakable shape and color. It’s not unlike my trick with my hair at the theater, where I wrote it with a split V shape at the back.

I wonder who she means to attract with a gown like that. All fashion in Amber City means something. Why else would the masquerade be the most popular kind of party?

The first dress is brought, and I start to feel that bold little thrill of the plan taking shape. It’s a tight-fitted column of silver velvet, no doubt designed with a statuesque body beneath it. On me, it hugs every curve of my waist and thighs. A cowl of lace sewn onto the collar creates a plunging neckline, and a matching applique is brought from the display case to attach at the back.

In the mirror, I see again that other Amelia--the one who would have let Prince Yuri take off her dress. The effect of the air on my breasts and the sensation of velvet cupping my buttocks thrills me. No one in all of Amber City has a dress like this. It’s scandalous and yet so appropriate because of its color and prominent association with the wedding. I am too lewd to be a bride and too expensively dressed to be a whore.

I am something else: I am dangerous.

“Now this will do the trick, Cici,” says one of the Dames. She circles me like a lion, her eyes reflecting the light from the mirrors that illuminate the pearly curves of the velvet. “He won’t be able to contain himself. It’ll be nothing like La Diva, where he can explain it away as hysteria….”

“Oh, do shut up, Cheristell,” says the princess. She greets the next Dame, who comes into the room. “Dulcibella, my gracious slut, how are you?”

“Oh, Kelias is driving me mad, absolutely mad--you bitches have no idea. I need a drink, please…” says Dame Dulcibella--the same who sat with Prince Yuri at the theater.

Impeccably dressed and possessed of a studied languor, she looks down at her hands to strip off her gloves. Suddenly a silver tray circulates the room on the arm of a dressmaker’s apprentice. The ladies each accept glasses of champagne and little cakes from a tray.

When they have had their little snack and exchanged barbed pleasantries, Cheristell clears her throat. “So, Dulci… I don’t know what all you’ve heard or haven’t heard… About the situation at La Diva’s trial…”

“Oh, that Adam could not keep my name out of his mouth? I heard he told Garwin that I was a ‘fucking bitch,’ and a liar,” the Dame says.

She keeps her heavy-lidded eyes down, but I can feel the mood in the room change. The ladies are quick to adjust their shoulders, their hips to angle away from Dame Dulcibella--as if they can deflect her anger before she’s even expressed it.

“Well--we have a peace offering,” says Princess Citrine. She points to me. “Was this the woman in the box with you at the theater?”

Dulcibella gazes at me. Her pillowy lips draw close to her powdered nose in a pout. “I don’t really know. They all look alike to me. He has a type, you know--and she looks near enough to it… Have you spoken to Mary?”

“No, Mary hates conflict,” Princess Citrine says.

Cheristell laughed, “I pity her, then. She’s married to an army captain! I heard Yuri knifed one in the street only yesterday….”

“It was a duel,” I say.

They each look at me, wide-eyed and interested. Princess Citrine observes me from over the rim of her champagne flute. I’ve drawn a dangerous weapon among this group of women: gossip.

“I was detained at the camp for questioning, and Prince Yuri, he… Well, I do not want to say ‘rescued,’ but I can say carried me away,” I offer.

I have to sound just right at this moment. Not too fragile, or they will believe that I am nothing more than a victim. Not too flirtatious, or I will be a threat to their social hierarchy--Cheristell seems to be the raunchiest among them, and she will not like having her position challenged.

The gambit pays off. Dame Dulcibella looks me over again more carefully. I keep completely still. The dressmaker is pinning up the bottom of the gown and tickling my ankles with her measuring tape.

“Yes--yes, this was the girl in the theater box with Yuri,” says Dulci. Some of the affected boredom leaves her voice. “My God, he’s still after her?”

She steps close to me and takes my hand. “Listen, my dear… I don’t judge you. You do what you have to do, certainly! But I want you to know that if Yuri gets you pregnant, you can’t expect more than forty silver per annum. That’s less than half what the royal mistresses make for the same job. Trade up, darling, up!”

“Dulci,” Princess Citrine interrupts. “That dress is not for her benefit; it’s for ours. And it only works if it can attract the right sort of attention in an amount that we can manage….”

“Pardon me, mesdames,” one of the dressmaker’s assistants says. “There is a note for Her Highness from the coiffeurs’s-he asks that you please move your appointment ahead of the manicurist’s, and he will be delighted to receive you just next door.”

“Oh, are you having your nails done…?” Dame Dulcibella asks. She lets the question hang in the air like bait.

Cheristell lunges for it: “Oh, ah, did you want to come? We can ask Fernard to make room for you at the table….”

“Oh, no, no, no,” says Dulcibella. “I could not intrude.”

“Oh, but you must,” says Princess Citrine in the obligatory reply.

A masterful maneuver, I think to myself. Now they will go round again, and Dulcibella will have to be invited--and Princess Citrine can later say that Dulcibella forced her way into the meeting. It was all carefully arranged. These women are entwined with the army and its dispute with the king and Captain Balse. I can smell their machinations in the air as they rustle and giggle on their way out of the room.

I am left behind with the dressmaker, who helps me out of the slinky velvet sheath. Her assistant brings me my borrowed afternoon dress and leaves me to the task of wriggling back into it while she goes to reset the shop for more visitors.

I close the closet door for a bit of privacy and begin to pull the dress on when I feel a stir in the air. A shadow passes over the skylight. I glance up.

A man stares down at me. With the lens twisted back toward him, I get a clear look at his face just before he flinches. I recognize the beard and nose. It’s the man in the dark coat who procured me for Prince Yuri’s box—that same who warned the king that La Diva would be at Duncan Townsheild’s masquerade.

I scream.


About the author


  • Duchess de Angst un Taxis

Bio: Blowing off steam between layoffs.

If you like my writing style and are interested in my "paid" stuff, check out my epic fantasy Witch King's Oath, available now for preorder on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Smashwords and more:

Log in to comment
Log In

Log in to comment
Log In