Willow stood before the dirty mirror, and fitted the leather piece firmly against herself, adjusting it ever so skillfully, so that it hung against her lower extremities with exact precision. She'd fashioned it herself with scrap pieces of leather she'd saved away, and sewn together by hand. She had stuffed it with sawdust shavings until it was exactly the right size and shape, and hung just perfectly beneath her canvas pants. She was anything if not exact in her design, after all it was important that she get such a thing as exact as possible. It wasn't the real thing--not like real men had, but for her it was as close as she would ever get to it.
She was eighteen now, and, in general, was mostly dissatisfied with herself. Her breasts had grown a bit, but for the most part were small enough to pass as long as she kept them bound--which she did most of the time. Her body had retained that slender curve-less form, for which she was grateful, yet, she didn't feel quite right inside her own body. There was something missing, something even the contraption laying smoothly against her thigh couldn't fill.
Willow brushed her red bangs from her forehead and scrutinized her features. Her eyes were a deep green-- they reminded her of the ocean she'd seen once as a very small child the time that she and Ra had migrated up the coastline. She still remembered that clouded green water as she'd seen it through the gaps in the wooden dock.
She'd laid on her stomach that day and had peered down as far as she could into that water. A fish had risen to the top to look at her, only to disappear the next minute under the water's salty surface. She never would forget that hue of green. She saw it every day when she looked in her very own mirror.
Willow's ocean green eyes traveled the length of her face to her bowed lips-- Cupid's lips, Ra had called them once, teasing her. However, she didn't think Cupid would have lips like hers-- they were too thin, and curled at the corners, and sometimes she worried that they were too expressive. In truth, the only part of herself that she liked wholly was the long main of red hair she kept tucked under her cap. It was still the only part of her femininity she didn‘t want to carve away.
She wasn't a stupid girl, she had weighed the pros of keeping it against the consequences if she were to be found out--which she begrudgingly admitted outweighed the pros. Still, she couldn't bring herself to cut it. So it grew untamed, and, when, on rare occasions, uncapped, hung bone straight down her back, with only the barest hint of a curl at the very tips.
Willow ran her fingers up under the cloth material of her cap, brushing what she could of her bangs up underneath it. She wasn't unattractive, but she wasn't who she wanted to be either, which weighed heavily on her mind, most days-- but especially on the days when Tara MacLean was around.
Tara MacLean was a maddening creature, and Willow found that she had to literally bite her tongue each time the woman was around to keep from saying so to her face. And if there was anyone on the face of the green earth that made Willow feel like less of a man, it was she.
It was the way Tara naturally was-- with her shy glances and the unbelievably corporeal way she had of getting into Willow's physical space that was a constant reminder to Willow of her own inadequacy.
If Willow had been born a real man then she would feel qualified to talk with Tara, to court Tara, to gather Tara into her arms and thoroughly kiss those maddening pink lips. But she was not a man, and that blazing thirst of attraction that had been growing steadily inside of her for the last year or so would have to smolder unquenched.
Even if she knew in her heart that Tara would be willing, would she be so willing if she suspected Willow's true gender? That was a question Willow didn't know the answer to, and most likely never would, for the fact still remained that women didn't go around kissing other women. It just wasn't done.
Tara didn't know the truth about her true identity-- and that was the way Willow wanted it. That was the way it needed to be. In a few more years her indentured servitude would be completed and she'd be able to leave of her own volition. It would be better for her if she didn't let herself become too attached to anything or anyone. She'd made that mistake, once, with Ra, and was still hurting because of it. She wouldn't let that happen again.
Willow lived her present life with one goal in mind; to complete her duties without complication. When she turned twenty-one she would leave the estate and never look back.
Tara sat at the top of the stairs, listening to the pounding of wood as each heavy piece hit the back of the wood-room wall. Will was down there, at the back of the kitchen, or possibly Mr. Rory. Tara leaned forward as if she could pick out exactly who was throwing the wood that day by listening alone.
Her father had gone out. Her mother was in her room, drooling into her cup of tea and staring out the window at the expansive western grounds-- at least that's where Tara had left her when she'd first heard the kitchen door open and the pounding begin.
Will. She'd seen Will only a few days ago and the two of them had had a falling out-- as they often did. Sometimes Tara felt like Will didn't like her at all, like he couldn't even stand the sight of her.
Tara ran her hands down the front of her dress-clad body. She was a pretty, she thought, and in the last two years she had filled out nicely; her breasts had become full and rounded at the top when she wore certain dresses; Her hips had filled out some too and now whenever she sauntered across the grounds there was a certain swaying motion they made that drove most of the men in the worker's forest crazy. She had felt them watching her on many occasions, and she'd even felt Will watching her from time to time, though she knew that he would never admit it if confronted. Still, it made her wonder how he really felt about her... or more so, she wondered how she really felt about him.
Tara found Will extremely interesting, and there was something about him that made her want to be close to him and stand next to him, inhaling his wildflower scent and salty skin. She was infatuated, but she would never admit it. Will was someone who seemed so untouchable, and even though they'd forged somewhat of a wary friendship--if even it could be called that-- with each other, there were still secret parts of him that Tara knew he would never share with her. Secret parts that, perhaps, he would share with no one.
Tara felt a tap on her shoulder.
"Happy birthday, sissy"
She turned around to see her little brother, Donna. In his hand he held out a bouquet of flowers that she recognized had come from the gardens. They were roses-- from the same rose bushes their mother had planted when she had still been well enough to glide around the gardens without the foggy look in her eyes.
Her brother had an innocent look on his twelve-year-old face that made Tara feel as if he was up to something boyishly wicked--like the time he‘d put a frog in her bed, or the time he‘d locked her outside wearing nothing but her dressing gown-- Still, she couldn't resist his smile so she took the flowers and ruffled his tousled hair. "Thank you, kind sir."
The sound of chucking wood stopped.
Donna bowed at the waist and started off down the stairs toward the kitchen, but Tara called him back. "Donna, sit with Mama for a little while, will you?"
"Where are you going?"
"For a walk."
"If father catches--"
Tara held her hand loosely over her little brother's mouth. "Don't say it," she said simply and then let go. Her brother made no further comment, and instead went into their mother's room and left her alone there on the landing with the sound of silence.
She caught up to Will just as he had finished packing up his tools and was headed back down the slope toward the worker's camp. He watched her approach with a look that was akin to annoyance.
But she couldn't help it, there was just something about him that drew her in. So instead of allowing herself to feel hurt that he didn't particularly seem to want her along that day, she smiled and dismissed his glare, telling herself it was only sun in his eyes that caused him to look at her so. "I thought I heard you in the wood room today," Tara said. She was out of breath from her jog to catch him.
"You did?" Willow's brow raised. "And what made you think it was me, and not Rory?" She was mildly irritated because she hadn't made it safely away from the main house, as she'd previously thought. The last thing she needed was Lady Tara trekking along behind her the rest of the day, after-all, she had enough on her mind already without the added distraction of warding off her own sinful thoughts for the remainder of time that Tara was along.
"I could tell by the rhythm," Tara said lightly. "See, Rory has this steady, quality-like tone to his chucking, whereas you sound as if you're tossing boulders into a barrel at fifty paces." Tara knew that she was pushing Will's buttons, but she relished the stricken look on his face. He had, after-all, glared at her, hadn't he? He deserved it.
Willow stalked off, annoyed that she'd stepped right into that one. She supposed she'd deserved it, though, she had been a bear to Tara lately, and the blonde heiress did have a point, she was consistently inadequate at chucking wood. When Tara was out of sight Willow smiled.