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What it Seems by Dalia Lance

For Dani, who usually wears a smile.

She was a very unusual woman… or else a really good drag queen.

Frank thought it might be her height, or how broad her shoulders were. Or maybe it was the fact that she always wore make-up as if she were appearing in a show in Vegas.

He could never put his finger on exactly what it was about her that had him so confused. However, there was one thing he knew more than anything else… He was infatuated with Darla.

That was the name she had given him the first night they met at the bar. She was sitting at the bar, but her stool was facing out. She was watching all of the people with fascination, whether they were playing a game of pool or darts or simply chatting with friends. There were even a few customers that seemed to be having a hard time keeping their hands off each other.

No matter what the interaction, Darla would watch and sometimes a slow smile would creep across her face. Frank found himself watching her for several minutes until she finally turned her gaze to him.

Darla looked him dead in the eyes and winked. He turned away, quickly embarrassed. He didn’t know why he felt this way, but his cheeks warmed and he took a long drink before daring to turn and steal a glance at Darla again.

When he timidly turned his head, he was surprised to see Darla was still looking his way, this time with more of a smirk than a smile.

Darla said, “I am going to start charging if you keep staring.” Her voice was deep and sultry. Not giving away anything. “You gonna buy me a drink or are you going to keep pretending you can look away?”

Darla was bold. He liked that.

He bought the next couple of rounds of drinks. Darla liked a 7 & 7; it gave nothing away. He found out that Darla was guarded about some personal details. Darla loved cats and hated dogs. Darla used to smoke but now couldn’t stand the taste and Darla let Frank talk about anything he wanted to and Darla just listened.

He came back the next week with the hopes of meeting up with Darla again. He hadn’t gotten a number.

Four weeks later, he arrived again on Friday night. Darla was there

Darla always wore a dress that revealed a little but not enough.

Frank took a deep breath; he would have to do it now or lose his nerve.

He walked up to Darla, and before anything else could be said, he blurted out, “Darla, I want to take you out for a real date.” He had said it. He took another deep breath, awaiting the reaction. Darla looked at him a little puzzled and then said, “I didn’t think I was your type Frank.”

Frank stood there next to this beautiful creature and said the only thing he could think of: “Is that a yes?”

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The Corset by Dalia Lance

This story was started and is dedicated to my friend and fellow Trifecta member. You are one of the strongest people I know, and I am lucky to have your humor, happiness, and heart in my life. I love you Rumpy.

“F*cking Really!” she yelled from across the room.

She looked out the window again at the beautiful day she should be out enjoying and was instead stuck inside what she considered to be a prison of manners with the evil overlord, which was of course, her mother.

She looked back at the two maids there to assist her in dressing in whatever contraption her mother had designed for her and wished she could kill them both with just a gaze like a Gorgon from one of her favorite stories. They would tell mother that she had used language unbecoming of a “maiden.” She narrowed her gaze, willing force into the thought of turning them to stone; when they didn’t turn and simply started to hurt to concentrate that hard, she became even more annoyed and realized she was nothing short of offended by the entire thing.

Having reached her 14th birthday apparently was quite enough to violently launch her into the realm of being “an adult” which to Elise was pure poppycock. It should have been the moment the entire world realized that she was in fact a powerful spell caster and her spells would allow her to control the entire kingdom, including her dreadful mother.

But no, instead she was to be presented as an adult to the entire court at tonight’s ball in her honor. So, she was to dress the part. Which meant that she would only be able to barely breathe as she curtsied a hundred times and told people she knew and hated, or would hate instantly when she was introduced to them, that is was a “pleasure to see them.” She did not desire, nor request this ball so she again was quite unsure how it could be “in her honor.”

Her mother had told her that she must be prepared to find a suitor; her best chances of making a good match were at this first “coming out” party. If time went on without catching the eye of a “noble gentleman,” then she would age and soon it would become a sympathy pairing. This was so she would at least have some choice in the man she would be bound to for a lifetime.

She sighed again. Bound to one other for an entire lifetime seemed again to her to be an abhorrent notion. She had only had one friend that had lasted more than a year due to her in general getting quite bored with their endless need to gossip and want to do needle point. Even horseback riding with the girls her age had been controlled and she rather felt like she could just sit there and let the handlers walk her around the arena. After all, a proper lady never brought her horse to a gallop, and a proper lady never said the word “f*cking” either, but Jacob, the stable master’s son had taught her both of these things and was her closest and dearest friend. She wished he would be at the ball tonight as he was the suitor she would choose and watch the look on her mother’s face when she announced she had made her choice.

So as she stood desperately grasping the bedpost as her Gestapo handmaid craned to get her into the corset. She could only hope that she would simply cease breathing and that she would pass out and miss the entire affair. As the last lace was tied and she tried to sigh, she began to actually believe this may be a real possibility.

Then as if whatever god watched over her thought it would be simply humorous to torture her more, her mother craned her head in the door and asked how things were going. “Well, the corset is on” was all Elise replied in a barely audible whisper. Elise regretted saying it immediately, as her mother decided to come in and “fix” her apparent inability to breathe by in fact making it feel like Elise’s ribs were being crushed with each pull of the lace as her mother “adjusted” the maid’s handiwork.

This was of course not before the maid had time to whisper to her mother of her use of profanity.

“Elise, truly, why do you insist on speaking as if you were a common woman of the night?” her mother said in a voice that rose in octaves with each word. If Elise didn’t know any better, she would almost believe it pained her mother to even speak on the subject.

Elise spun around to allow the handmaids to drop the dress on to her. Her mother was now glaring at her. Elise smirked, thinking she was glad her mother was not a gorgon at this moment as she may be turned to stone.

“Truly Elise, do you intend on being the death of me?” her mother said with a flourish of her arms as if she would faint.

When Elise turned her gaze away from her disappointed mother to look at the dress that had been chosen for her she actually gagged. She could only think that she would be as honored by the guests tonight as one would honor a frosted tart. The faint yellow color was horrible and it was nothing but layers and layers of what looked as if they were supposed to be petals but ended up looking like crumpled slices of cheese.

“This dress makes you look like a budding flower,” she continued, suddenly cooing, “and tonight you will bloom into a woman.” Her mother was absolutely more excited than this event warranted. Elise was convinced that this was in fact excitement of no longer having Elise under her roof.

Her mother stepped back spreading her arms in wide gesture and then brought her hands clasped in front of her chest “You look perfect!” With not another word, her mother turned and headed out of the room briskly; obviously she didn’t want to see or hear Elise’s reaction.

With a big sigh, Elise let the maids put the finishing touches on her dress of melted cheese.
As the time of her unveiling approached, Elise began to slowly meander to the dining hall. She knew she didn’t have to rush. She was sure her mother didn’t even expect her to be on time as it was her nature to sometimes not show up at all.

As she was leaning over the railing of one of the many overly furnished landings that allowed a full view of the courtyard, she was able to see the various noble families arriving by carriage to the event. As she sighed again trying to ready her nerves for this night, she spotted movement at the opposite end of the courtyard. It was Jacob, and he was frantically waving his arms beckoning her to come. She smirked; going to the barn in this dress was the opposite of what she should be doing. So of course she turned and began to make her way through the back hallways that would allow her to slip out mostly un-noticed by anyone except the staff.

She was careful to ensure no one had followed her, and she entered the door on the side of the barn, closing it behind her. It was fairly dark inside and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. When they did, she looked around and saw Jacob’s face smiling down at her from the loft. With a motion, he again beckoned her to follow him upstairs.

“Why are you being so quiet?” She asked as she hiked her skirt up to climb the narrow staircase. As she arrived at the landing, she saw the loft was lit by several candles and a few of the finer linens had been laid out on one of the piles of hay. As her mouth opened and closed without words being able to escape, she looked over to see Jacob standing there with a look she wasn’t familiar seeing on his face.

He approached and stopped inches away from her where she could feel the warmth of his breath on her face. He stood several inches taller than her, with broad shoulders and deep brown hair he usually kept back in tie as it reached past his shoulder blades. Her heart began to race, part of her was unsure of what was happening, Jacob had been her closest companion for years, even though he was three years older than Elise. His hand reached up and fingertips traced along her face and his hand cupped just under her chin as he brought his lips to hers.

She froze. She didn’t know how to react. His lips were warm and soft and his hand which guided her lips to his was gentle yet strong. When he finally broke contact, he smiled down at her. “You look like a pile of melted cheese slices.” She laughed, the kind of deep laugh that she only shared with him.

“Jacob… I… My mother will be furious,” Elisa wasn’t sure why it was these words that tumbled out of her mouth. She didn’t care what her mother thought. She never had. At the same time, she wasn’t prepared for this situation. She knew about what was supposed to happen between a man and a woman that had chosen to be together. However, in this moment she realized that she had never thought of herself being in that situation. Elise had spent so much time enjoying her childhood that she hadn’t until this moment even thought of what this night was supposed to mean.

She closed her eyes and took as deep a breath as she could in the corset. She knew Jacob, she pictured the face she knew was staring down at her right now, his deep blue eyes, the dimple in his one cheek when he smiled, his muscular arms and chest she had seen when they went swimming in the pond at the back of the property. Jacob was handsome, and not in the proper way most of the gentleman at the party were “handsome.”There was a ruggedness that she realized she loved about her dearest friend.

She opened her eyes and looked up into his eyes, her eyes going to his lips and she stood on her tip toes to be able to reach and placed a kiss on his lips giving into kiss this time, letting every emotion that was flooding into her at that moment and into what they were sharing.

Jacob’s arms wrapped around her pulling her closer to him, her arms wrapped around his neck as she had seen in all the paintings of a couple embracing in a kiss. He surprised her and picked her up during the kiss and walking her to where the blankets lay. He placed her down in front and released stepping back. “Lis, this was the night you were supposed to be announced as a woman, and I can’t let you be presented to all those lords without you knowing that even though I am not a man of birth, and I know your parent’s would never let you be with me, I cannot image you spending this night with anyone but me.”

Without a beat passing, she cupped his face in her hands, smiled, and said, “F*ck them.”

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