momebie: (Batwoman Kate/Renee kiss)
[personal profile] momebie
I sat down to write a poem about the moths that kept landing on my jacket on the walk home this evening, and an hour and a half later I have a gay fairy tale instead. I don't have any idea what to do with it, and I'd still like to write that poem, but well, this is where we are now. In a world with 3,000 more words of ladies learning about what love isn't. It's one of life's toughest lessons, after all.

Comments welcome, as always, because I seriously don't know what to do with it.


. . .

The Emperor was staring down bankruptcy. Since his wife’s passing he’d spent so much on his beautiful garments--seen and unseen--and his food and his lavish decorations, that he wasn’t going to make it through the year. And since the palace was technically public property, he couldn’t mortgage it. He’d mostly come to terms with his future, but it broke his heart that his beautiful daughter, just seventeen, was going to have to know the kind of poverty he’d always promised her mother she’d never know. But then, if her mother had been there things would have ended differently. All things being equal, if her mother had been there he’d at least have remembered how to smile.

Lass, with her light brown skin, strongly resembled her mother in a way she knew broke her father's heart. She had beautiful red curls like he did and a sprig of freckles that danced across the bridge of her nose. Angel kisses, her mother had called them, and tried to re-kiss every single one until the girl fell into a fit of giggles and struggled to get away. If she’d known it would be her mother who would go away first, she would have stayed until the kisses ran out. At least, she liked to think she would.

Lass lived quietly under the watchful eye of the palace guards. She talked with them and the maids often and knew a great deal more about her father’s finances than he thought she did, so it was no surprise at all when he announced that he had arranged for her to be married to the Tailor who had won so much of his funds over the last several years.

The Tailor was a handsome young man, not quite twice her age, who was skilled at his craft and well-liked among the people of the surrounding areas. He was, as she had been able to note first hand, polite and quite fun at parties. Always ready with a joke or a story to lighten any occasion. Lass supposed it could be worse. She knew her father was merely trying to look out for her, but she felt his ploy misguided and rash, as he always had been when it came to his wife and daughter. Still, she wasn’t in a position to argue and didn’t know what she was going to do.

The date of the wedding drew closer and her Tailor brought her many beautiful gifts. Dresses made of peacock and silk, the color of the sky at night. Parasols that protected her with strands of fine, corded wool mixed with silver. Pillows, so plump with down they strained against their jewel colored thread. Each thing more ostentatious than the last. Each thing her Tailor proclaimed was his best work, but would still never come close to her beauty. She began to feel increasingly like she was to be just another beautiful thing for him to collect in this diorama of opulence he was carefully constructing around her. And then he started showing her wedding dresses.

The Tailor put his heart and soul into each dress he sewed her. Some of them were cages. Some of them were ropes. Some of them were sand dunes, lonely and blown. He of course did not see any of these things in his creations. All of them were finely toned in reds and purples and yellows, deep like the sunrise. “They’ll make you stand out,” he said, complimenting himself on making her into a vision. “No other bride shall ever touch you.”

A deep loneliness set into her upon hearing those words. She smiled, and nodded, and then slipped back to her room to weep for what she’d be losing. Herself. This is where the maid found her the next morning, splayed across the top of her sheets, still wearing a dress of deep garnet that glittered with coral colored gems at its train and neckline.

The maid roused her, helped her out of the dress, and wiped the black streaks from her cheeks. She sympathized with the way Lass bit her lip upon seeing the imprints the undergarments the dress required had bitten into her reddened skin. “I don’t wish to impose,” she said, “but the lady doesn’t seem comfortable with being a dress up doll.”

Lass took a deep breath, trying to control a new wave of tears. “I am not, but there’s nothing I can do. If I was but a year older I could leave and find my own way, but for now I must do as the men say.”

“Oh, dear,” the maid sighed. “You must never do what men say.”

“What choice do I have?”

“I have an idea,” said the maid. “Do you trust me to share your story with a friend?”

“Yes,” said Lass. “Do whatever you feel you must, because I cannot.”

The maid nodded, finished placing bobby pins in Lass’s hair, and then left.

Lass’s life went on as it had been, on its seemingly unalterable trajectory, until one evening a fortnight before the wedding when one of the guards interrupted she and her father at dinner.

“There is a woman here, sir,” he said. “She claims to be able to make Ms. Lass the most beautiful dress in all of the land.”

The Emperor raised his eyebrow in disbelief, but he finished chewing his lamb and said “show her in, then.”

The woman who entered was young and plump, with cream colored skin and hair the black and blue of ravens’ wings. She was wearing a simple, green dress, and she curtsied even though no one had curtsied to the Emperor since the incident with the parade.

“Girl,” the Emperor said, “do you know what time it is? If this is the way you would like to win me over it hasn’t worked. You don’t even appear to have brought samples of your work? Do you know who my daughter is to marry? How can you claim to know more about dressing beautiful women than he?”

She was obviously nervous, but the girl stood up straight, drew her shoulders back, and spoke directly to Lass. “Sir Tailor makes beautiful clothing, it’s true. I would never dare say he does not. He would clothe your daughter in a forest fire if he thought it would challenge his skills. But I do not think that your daughter is a forest fire, sir. I think she is the sea, and I do not think she needs to glitter to prove that she’s beautiful.”

The Emperor placed his fork onto his plate and studied the woman for a moment. Then he made a gesture with his hand and one of the guards stepped forward and laid a hand on her shoulder. “You are flattering, young lady, and it has intrigued me. I may be giving my daughter’s hand away, but her body is still her own. If she would like, I will let her come and see what you have to offer.”

“Oh yes,” Lass said. “Please, Father, I would love to see.”

“Then she will see you tomorrow,” he said, and waved his fingers lightly. The guard turned the woman around and showed her out. Lass had to struggle not to follow her.

The next day, just as her father had promised, she had the maid who had caught her crying accompany her into town to the woman’s dress shop. Not a single piece of cloth in the window glittered, but even so they seemed to sing. To call out to her where she stood and draw her forward to study the draping. Once inside there was actual singing coming from the woman, who was kneeling on the floor next to an off-white gown studded with tiny black pin heads in even intervals.

“What is this then?” she asked.

The woman jumped slightly, pricking her finger on the needle she’d been holding. She turned to greet them, still on her knees sucking lightly at the wound. “This, my lady, is what I’ve been making you. I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner. I wanted to make sure I could do it before I gave you false hope.”

“I thought you said the ocean didn’t need to glitter,” Lass said, trying to appear stern, but knowing she was failing.

“I was telling the truth, my la-”

“Lass,” Lass said, cutting her off. “You may call me Lass. And you are?”

“Gloss,” she said, bowing her head slightly.

“Well, Gloss, show me what it is we’re doing here. I must say, as mysterious as my friend here has been, I was hoping for a little more than reprieve from bone cages and bright feathers.”

“Quite,” Gloss said. She stood and tucked the needle behind her ear. Then she let out a low whistle, long and steady in rhythm.

The three of them stood in silence for a few moments, and then, as if there had been an explosion in the back room, the air erupted in a flutter of wings. Hundreds of moths flew around Lass and then all settled into the dress form, each perched on one of the black pin heads. They pulsed, the dress appearing to have waves of its own, and then settled with their wings touching, tip to tip. The result was a mosaic of black, grey, and dusty brown that did not just seem to be full of life, as many of the Tailor’s dresses did, but that was.

“Extraordinary,” Lass said. She walked around it, taking care not to brush up against it. “I’m sold on the structure, but I don’t understand how this will give me more time.”

“With magic,” Gloss said. “There is a catch though, as there always is with magic.”

“What is it?”

“I would like the moths to carry you away. That is why I had to give them something to hold onto in the pins. But for this to work, your heart must be lighter than air. If it is heavy, they will not be able to lift you.”

“Seeing this has already made my heart light,” Lass said. “You have promised me freedom. I don’t see what could possibly pull me back down.”

Time though, has its ways, and as the wedding drew nearer Lass began to worry that the dress wouldn’t work. Not only that she would weigh it down, but that it might never have been meant to work. She’d seen enough happy lambs led to their slaughter throughout her life no matter how she pleaded and begged. Why should this be any different?

Gloss visited the palace regularly, bringing with her bolts of materials and pages of designs, enough to send the Emperor running to his rooms to hide from the women’s work. She was still there in Lass’s rooms late the night before the wedding when the Tailor knocked on the door.

“My future wife!” he called. “I’ve been sitting with your father some hours now, hoping you would come and grace us with your beauty! Will you not let me in?”

Lass held a finger to her lips gestured for Gloss to slip into the closet. Then she went to the door and opened it a crack. “Is it not bad luck, dear husband?” she said sweetly, “for you to see me so soon before we’re wed?”

“Nonsense,” the Tailor said, and he pushed the door open with so much force that Lass had to jump back to avoid it. He hung there, in the doorway, leering through glossy eyes. “You are to be mine, my luck will never be bad again.”

Lass felt suddenly self-conscious in her nightgown. She pulled it tight around herself, trying to make herself small enough to disappear from under his gaze. She had never seen him so mussed. Sloppy in his drunkenness, his shirt had come untucked from his breeches, one of his suspenders dropped about his waist, and his boots were scuffed. He stepped into the room and looked around, eyes falling on the bright red organza Gloss had left draped across the foot of the bed, the material they had been using not twenty minutes before to make fun of his pompous foolishness.

“What is this?” he asked, taking the tail of it into his fingers and rubbing it between them. “This is not at all soft enough to touch your daring skin. What have I allowed in my charity here?”

“I think it is soft enough,” Lass said, taking a step backwards toward the closet. “Besides, it’s not all that. I am not to be some mock flame.”

“Mock flame, yes, good,” the Tailor said. “You have been mocking me with your flame this entire time.” He let the fabric fall to the floor and turned on her. “For as much as I owe to your father I should think he’d like to see you well wed.”

Lass backed up until she was square against the closet door, closing it with a click behind her. The Tailor advanced, placing his hands against the frame of it over her shoulders and leaning into her. “The wedding is tomorrow,” she said.

“So we’re practically already married. Show me,” he said. “What a good wife you’ll be.” He leaned forward and placed a kiss squarely on her jaw, then another on her neck. He let one hand drop to her shoulder and it took everything within her not to squirm away from the strength of his grip.

“You’re drunk,” she said sternly.

“They always said you were smart.” He laughed and his breath ghosted over her neck in a way that made her stomach churn.

“I will not give myself to someone not sober enough to appreciate me.” She remembered Gloss standing in their dining hall, alone and small at the end of the table, and she drew her shoulders back and pulled her head high. “You may wait until tomorrow.”

The Tailor laughed again and squeezed her shoulder harder. “It is a true shame you were never to be a queen,” he said. “We shall have to settle for letting you be mine. My little queen.”

She pushed at his chest and he laughed, but he backed away and out of the room with his hands in the air. “I’ll see you tomorrow, wife.” Then he disappeared down the hallway.

Lass stood flush with the door, trying to calm the shaking in her knees and her palms and her breath. “No,” she said to the empty room. “No, I will not be touched that way by a man who can touch fabric so gently. I will not be tricked into loving someone who will never love me for who I’m going to be.”

There was a small knock on the closet door behind her. She whirled around and pulled it open, and then rushed to the hallway door and closed it shut, turning the lock. When she turned back Gloss was standing at the foot of the bed with organza in her arms, casting a pale pink sheen onto the skin of her neck and chin.

“Are you going to be okay?” she asked.

Lass sat down on the floor and dropped her head into her hands. “I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. When I’m with you I feel like this is all possible, and then I remember what my father has promised and my heart drops again. I don’t think I can make myself light enough tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make myself light again.”

Gloss knelt next to her and draped the red fabric over her shoulders like a shawl. “Then if it will help you believe in tomorrow, and if you will let me, I will stay.”

Lass nodded, too tired suddenly, to speak. She let Gloss help her to the bed and tuck her into it. Once she was settled, Gloss curled around her, laying atop the covers and cloaked in that bright, dancing red. She hugged Lass to her chest and Lass fell asleep in the middle of saying ‘Thank you.’

The next morning the women were up earlier than the rest of the palace, needing as much time as possible to ready themselves. When finally Gloss and the maid helped Lass into the dress there were tears hanging in the corners of Lass’s eyes. She looked down on the guests in their bright clothing in the bright garden and thought about how every one of them had no doubt purchased their finery from the groom. Her life would be luxurious if nothing else, if she went through with it. It was all her father wanted for her, all she’d never known.

Gloss placed a hand gently onto her waist, taking care not to roll any of the beads that had been hand sewn into place over the last two weeks. Heavy heart or no, the moths would still need something to cling to.

“I have nothing to give you,” Lass said. “Take the jewelry at least. It’s not mine to give, but I won’t need it in my new life. Some of it was mothers and I can’t bear for it to go into auction house hands.”

“I will collect it, but only to give back to you.”

“You truly do believe in this magic.”

“I believe in you,” Gloss said.

Lass reached across her bodice and caught Gloss’s hand, pulling it away. She turned to look at the woman she’d spent two weeks getting to know when all she’d thought she’d been doing was unburdening herself. Gloss leaned forward and kissed Lass on the bridge of her nose.

It was so gentle in comparison to the Tailor’s rough attentions, so full of a love like she remembered her mother had made the same gesture with. It was what she’d been missing for the better part of seven years. Before Lass’s brain had caught up with her body she was kissing Gloss full on the mouth.

The sound of the groom’s march drifted up from the garden. “Go,” Gloss said, pulling away. “Go, I’ll slip away before they take you. You and I and your mother’s jewelry will be long gone before anyone recovers from their shock.”

“Be careful,” Lass said. She rushed out of the room and down the steps. Her heart was soaring.

All eyes turned to look at her as she appeared at the back of the room. There was a murmur through the crowd as they caught sight of the plain, beige dress speckled with black. From the head of the aisle the Tailor stared in confusion. Underneath the music Lass heard a low, familiar pitch. She lifted her arms and the storm of moths flew in from all directions, lighting on her like mist over a lake. The guests erupted into cheers.

Lass walked down the aisle, but she hardly felt the carpet beneath her feet. Instead of an omen of certainty, the Tailor now seemed to be merely a fork in the path, one that she was not going to take. The ceremony went off without a hitch, until the priest asked her if she would take the Tailor to be hers. She pulled her hands from where they had been loosely gripped in his and folded them in front of her.

“No,” she said.

Silence. The moths ruffled their wings, sending a wave of movement crashing around the dress.

“Miss,” the priest said.

“I’m sorry,” the Tailor asked.

“I’m not,” Lass said. And with that the moths began flapping their wings, pulling the skirt away from her body and her body into the air. They carried her towards the mountains to the east. She watched the faces of the crowd for as long as she could. At the last moment, she thought she saw her father smile.

Date: 2014-12-04 10:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seratonation.livejournal.com
This could totally stand on its own dude. If you're going to do something with the other queer fairy tale poems maybe this can go with them?

It's really good, well thought out, well rounded, and it sounds just like a fairy tale should. I loved it <33

Date: 2014-12-04 02:08 pm (UTC)
ext_289215: (Angel Sanctuary setsuna torn)
From: [identity profile] momebie.livejournal.com
I was gonna make a chapbook of the poems. I don't think I could add this if I tried to put that in the running for the contest, but when it inevitably doesn't win I can do whatever I like with them!

Thank you for reading it. <3

Date: 2014-12-04 01:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flo-nelja.livejournal.com
Ooooooh, I love this! Thanks for writing it!

Date: 2014-12-04 02:05 pm (UTC)
ext_289215: (Architects Derek/Amelia Run)
From: [identity profile] momebie.livejournal.com
Thank you for reading it!

Date: 2014-12-04 01:37 pm (UTC)
theemdash: (SBP Padfoot)
From: [personal profile] theemdash
Oh, this is much longer than I thought it would be. Someone needs to read this after her finals.

Date: 2014-12-04 02:04 pm (UTC)
ext_289215: (A:TLA Zuko Bzuh)
From: [identity profile] momebie.livejournal.com
Yes, that's why it says it's 3,000 words on the tin. :p But do come back after finals! I mean, it won't change your life or anything, but it might be fun.

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