Author: Witch Fu
Sighing heavily, Willow leaned back against her chamber door. The night had been long and tiresome, quite like she had been holding her breath the entire evening.
As she pulled the top-most button of her overcoat loose, she thought it all through. The last three nights had been the same, replete of all actual intelligence. She hadn't been given the opportunity to read, all her spare time taken up with practice, exceedingly more etiquette, and meeting dukes, earls, and heirs; all shameless flatterers.
Draping her coat over the back of her room chair, her eyes distant with thought, she picked up the small dagger on her powder table to remove her stalkings. She presumed that one, maybe two of the many guests invited would share in her interests, but all that they seemed to worry about was their wig, their dress, the latest in Paris and wine. Boring would have been tolerable. This, this was grating. Like so much sand in the throat. She had imagined social life to be exciting and challenging, but so far the only challenge that she had confronted was the one inside of herself, forcing her not to scream at their witlessness.
How they could be so vapid was increasingly trying on her thoughts. She knew that she, herself, was playing a role but at least she was managing to invest an interest in other things.
She assumed that speaking to men about the bow and arrow would not be out of context, but she was shocked to find that they blanched at the mention of them. They, too, were weak at the idea of all violence, save that of their discipline to the people of their lands. In that respect, they could go on for hours of the unspeakable wrongs they preformed on those under their influence.
Willow had a suspicion that something wasn't right. She had been told that peasants were useless save what their labor could bring in. That they were stupid, save those that were taught enough to rise to the ranks of tutors or housedom. That they were uncouth, though their habits seemed comely as compared to the ogres at her table. They had no resource, but were essential in battle. It simply did not add up. After all, what were the houses Royal but peasants who had risen to this state through lands and riches?
It was something that Willow had only begun to suspect, and therefore needed much time and deliberation. That was something that she was certainly not given in these, her time of social aptitude.
Having discarded all of her dinner clothing, she slipped into the gown she had been provided. Even that was in style, her father wore one of the same, with carefully stitched lace made from the most expensive silk cloth. Her bed had been warmed for her with fire-heated blankets beneath her sheets, promptly removed before her arrival. Her latest book, ever at attention on her bedside table, lay quietly beneath the soft glow of a near-by candle.
Seating herself comfortably, Willow snuggled beneath her many-layers of blankets and sheets, sighing at the warmth she found there. As she reached over to take her book up from the table and pull the candle closer, something caught her eye just beyond. A flicker of light, that Willow was surprised she could see, had bobbed just outside of her window.
Sitting up without moving her eyes from where she had last seen the flicker, she rose and made her way to the stone-carved window sill. She could see nothing distinct beyond the imperfect glass, but teasing the pane open slowly, she peered out in the semi-darkness that a full moon provides.
She saw almost immediately after a quick scan what the happenings had been. A lady, escorted by a broad-shouldered workman, thick with muscle, was being guided to a dwelling in the barn set for all stable-hands. Evidently, some of the ladies did have different interests. She didn't recognize this one now, but she wouldn't forget her when the ball came. It would be difficult to keep the red from her cheeks if she did recognize her. She couldn't keep it back now, alone, surrounded by strangers and those who's job it was to scrutinize her every movement could only compound the blood-rush.
Folding her arms cross-ways on the sill and laying her chin gently down to rest on them, Willow looked over the unusually clear and bright night. The village lay peacefully quiet and serene under the gaze of its prince and moon.
How was the ball to be? This was the most important test that she had been faced with, talking, drinking, and dancing. She did enjoy dancing, but with a woman? Admittedly, her teacher had been Wesley, and that was the closest to a woman as you could get without being scandalous, but these would be real women, with real flirting eyes, and real... Well, other real things. The heat was making itself quite comfortable on her face. Would she be graceful enough? Too graceful? There was no table to select your company, to exclude you from the possibility of being approached.
Fortunately, she did not have the obligation to choose whom she danced with. A card had been filled for her already, and on the night of the ball she would be given it.
But a thought struck her, hard. Why did she turn red at the thought of being near a woman? "Near another woman." She remarked, correcting her self portrayal as that of a man. Sometimes, she believed the lie herself. She was not permitted any of the labors, idioms, dress, manner, speech or customs of a woman, so who is to say she was one? Physically, yes, she was every bit a woman as they come, but what was that when she was never going to have a chance to acknowledge that in intercourse. Another rush of blood to her cheeks. She knew that if she desired it strongly, she could arrange a clandestine meeting with a quieted young man, not unlike the one she had seen secreting the lady to his bed only moments ago. Extra-marital affairs were more than accepted, they were expected.
Willow sat up, and made her way toward her bed once more. She would need as much rest as she could manage this night. Read to relax and then sleep. As she crawled into the warmth of her covers, lifted the book to her front and settled in, she still could not shake the question.
Why feel embarrassed? The young man that she was told she was to be, would not blush at the presence of a lady, would scoff at the feat of dancing with one, and would, by this age, have had plenty of experience with how to handle one in bed. In fact, one blush would send her tutors into an uproar. It was highly unbecoming for a young man to display ignorance in the way of flesh. Indeed, the very point of his existence would eventually depend on his ability to know enough of it to produce an heir. But that aspect was not required of her, and as such, she had never been tutored in the way of it.
Giles had been instructed to do that, the king having no conception that he was well aware of Willow's secret. If she was taught exactly like a young prince, no one would have any questions as to 'his' authenticity. They had discussed it, Willow and Giles, and decided against the unnecessary embarrassment. Both blushing and mumbling uncomfortably, the general idea was conveyed to her how things were done, in case she were put into a situation where she should be asked about that. She didn't initially understand how that would come up, but Giles explained that men spoke differently in private than was generally deemed acceptable in the presence of ladies.
Which led to the question, if she had been exposed to one or multiple sexual situations with women would she feel burning at her cheeks at this moment? Would she have liked it? This brought forth more of the questions that she had oft found herself pondering. She was neither gentleman nor lady, so where did that leave her on love?
Xander had once asked if it was difficult for Willow not to fall in love with any of her tutors or friends. Understandably, it was a hard question for him to ask, as he had just proposed their physical union. And had been denied.
Xander's father had never been very proud of him, never shown him any type of affection, or comfort, and that tore him up sometimes. He really did love his father, looked up to him for more reasons than his great height, respected his power and ability, but the man did not feel the need to make his son feel welcome.
The relationship that she and Xander shared had become essential to their sanity. On the day of this particular query, they had known each other for many months, and only recently did she tell him her secret. He had been shocked but, more over, embarrassed. His confession of love for William, had fallen on Willow's ears. They discussed and comforted each other for the remainder of the practice time, and they found solace in the other as one of the few who knew their secrets. Their friendship became very strong, they relied on each other often for support or just a comforting shoulder.
Giles was a superb mentor, but Willow found that she needed someone her own age, someone experiencing new things along with her. Since the initial telling, she and Xander discussed what she and Giles were oft times too embarrassed to. They spoke of what they desired of life, and who they desired. The later was mainly Xander's rambling, he knew what he wanted, preferably a Lord Tall, Thick and Kind. But for Willow, that designation was more difficult to make.
Setting the book aside, her thoughts too pervasive to think of reading, Willow blew out her bedside light.
Attraction she knew, from personal study, was relative. It was something that you felt because you were told to, taught, and accustomed with. It could be linked to a moment of happiness as a child or a point of terrific trauma, if that person shared the look of someone for whom you felt indebted or strongly attracted to. Something that most people used as a shallow and pointless tool to feel assuaged. She could be attracted to a flower, but she wouldn't sleep with the flower, or ask for its petal in marriage. Lustful attraction could be attributed to many things from power, to kindness demonstrated by dress, or demeanor.
At any rate, attraction was something that she was not permitted to feel. Even if she found someone for whom she felt something more than a passing interest, what could she do about it? No one could know about her situation. She could not convince anyone of her unknowledgable, never-practiced femininity, and the facade of maledom only went clothes-deep.
She was without sex, and could therefore engage in none. No one could love her, if they didn't know everything about her.
"No," she told Xander, both picking absently at the grass surrounding them. "It isn't difficult in the least."
The past day's events had gone by without little time to stop and breathe. It had taken all of her strength just to get to this point, and now that she was here, in bed, she could not rest. Tara huffed a sigh of light frustration. Her Madame would murder her if she had puffy eyes for tomorrow's ball.
Tara tried to feel some excitement for the event, but never succeeded. All was the same, was it not? Whether or not she attended, whether or not all went well, whether or not she went in the finest silk and satin laced dress in all Paris or a course burlap shift, she would still be wed to whomever her father desired. No one would turn down the offer of the strongest and most powerful force in the cultured world.
France was what she had over-heard a peasant refer to as, "poli'ically, a bit so tasty, you 'ad t' lick your fingers an' ever'thin' else its tooched for a couple o' days after you ate it." She chuckled to herself at the enthusiasm and accuracy with which the man had spoken. Fashionably, no one out-did the French, politically, no one had more power. The layout of the land and its fertility beat out any competitor for most strategical. Wealth was a successor to such conditions, completing the 'tasty bit'.
Yawning, though no where near ready to sleep, Tara sat up and went to her window. Maybe the fresh air would calm her, bidding her goodnight. Opening the window wide, she examined the land below her. The expanse of the village was lit quite efficiently by the light of the moon, hanging quietly in the sky.
She hadn't realize that she had been staring before movement snapped her to attention. Where the castle bent in a horseshoe, there was another window open and a figure demurely gazing down on the village just as she had been. The small light behind the person drew a silhouette, seeming to accentuate the interest in their actions, but also something else.
Loneliness? Could she see that from this far distance? Maybe it went deeper than just seeing it. She hadn't a clue as to the identity of the person she was now transfixed with. The length of hair that danced gently with the breeze denoted a male, but to Tara's senses, that did not fit. She sensed a woman's thoughts and dreams across the distance of the square. She wasn't sure how, but she felt that the person that her gaze now rested on was too gentle, too thoughtful, and much to kind to be a male in the courts of these times. In fact, to this day, from all of her midnight peaks out of her window, she had never seen a man at one. Especially not one that she was so...
"Drawn to?" She asked herself with a slight frown. She did not know where the feeling came from, but she felt a sadness clench at her heart at the sight of the figure. "So alone..." she barely whispered.
Just then, the figure straightened and turned, presumably, to go to bed. With a candle directly beyond the window, Tara could have sworn she saw through the night-shift a...
"From more than one hundred feet's distance?" She scoffed at herself and the errant thought. "And that hair? No one would show themselves a woman in a royal castle with hair of that length."
Losing interest in fresh air, Tara moved from her own sill, and closed the window securely. Hopefully her bed would still be warm, although she doubted that her trip to the window would ease her curious mind into sleeping. Blowing out her candle, snuggling into her bed, and swimming in blankets, she closed her eyes.
"Of course he didn't have breasts."