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ma charmante épouse

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‘I don’t like to leave you on your own darling, with the others away.’

Anne’s voice preceded her as she strode quickly through the doorway, cane and hat in hand.

‘Are you sure you won’t come along?’

She made her way over to the window, where her wife’s desk was placed carefully to receive what she called ‘the correct light’. Ann’s watercolours were set out neatly to her left, and the brushes lined up like soldiers at her right hand.

‘It’s perfectly alright, and no thank-you. I’ve got my painting to be getting on with. I must admit it holds my attention rather more than the finer points of coal mining’

Ann smirked and bit down on her bottom lip. She kept her eyes to her work and swept the brush lightly over the sheet of thick paper.

Anne scoffed and let her hand smooth across her wife’s shoulders.

‘Well, what absolute cheek. It really is lucky you’re so pretty’.

She looked over Ann’s shoulder, at the charming pair of wrens that were forming on the page.

‘That’s very good’ she said as she leaned down. Her lips grazed lightly at Ann’s ear.

‘You’re very good’.

Ann’s smile widened, and she couldn’t suppress a small hum of delight. She twisted in her chair and looked up into Anne’s face.

‘What time will you be back?’ She had a plan forming in her mind, but she would need some time to prepare.

‘I’ll be no more than an hour or two at the very most. Quick jaunt into Halifax, set these fellows straight and I’ll be back before you have a chance to miss me’. Anne pulled her gloves out of her pocket with a smirk.

Ann tilted her cheek towards her to be kissed goodbye. Instead, Anne gently caressed her jaw, and tilted her chin up. She pressed a lingering kiss to her wife’s lips.

‘I won’t be long’.

Ann waited until heard the front door swing shut with its solid thud. After carefully covering her paints and rinsing her brushes, she made for the kitchen and stood in the doorframe. Cordingley looked up.

‘Miss Walker, ma’am. Did you need something?’

‘No’ she shook her head. ‘thank-you Elizabeth. I’m going upstairs to rest and I don’t wish to be disturbed’

‘Very well ma’am’

With privacy secured, Ann made for the stairs and her slippered feet sprang lightly up to their bedroom.

She had been waiting for an opportunity to surprise her wife for some time. While living at Shibden made her immeasurably happy, the presence of Anne’s family did limit some romantic opportunities. Now with the family happily trundled off to the Blackpool seaside to take the summer air, she intended to make the most of her rare chance.

Ann closed the door quietly behind her and approached the bed. She flipped the heavy bedcovers out of the way to locate her travelling trunk stowed below, reached for the handle, and gave a tug with all her might to pull it out into the room.

The last time she had used it had been their honeymoon, and while everything else from their travels had been unpacked and stowed about the house, she knew a parcel carefully wrapped in pale pink tissue paper remained. The heavy lid opened with a creak of disuse.

She placed the parcel on the bed and peeled back the paper. The contents were a special commission from an atelier in Paris. The ensemble was comprised of the palest blush-pink boned corset, and a light set of petticoats that were almost indecent. All made from the finest Parisian silks, both were far too impractical for any sort of daily wear. The corset was finished along the bust in a charming tangle of delicate embroidered roses. The bands that would usually be purposed as straps were made to drape prettily down onto her arms, leaving her shoulders bare.

Ann hadn’t had an opportunity to have worn it even once, and she stroked her fingers over the fine silk with anticipation. Her wife, not usually fond of surprises, would hopefully find it as charming as she anticipated.

She looked down at her current clothing with determination and set herself to undressing.

Ann had managed to unbutton her day dress without much fuss, then set to unlacing herself from her familiar stays. Her arms were straining with effort by the time she had freed herself. She exhaled a deep breath in a gust, pausing for a moment, leaning heavily against the bedpost. Once she had collected herself, Ann reached for the delicate garments.

She stepped into the light petticoats and closed the small pearl buttons at her waist. For a moment she thought to not trouble herself with stockings, but then considered much Anne liked peeling them slowly down her legs, and reached for her finest pair.

Settling the corset over top, she set to lacing herself in. The ribbons were challenging without assistance. But it wouldn’t do for Eugenie, or heaven forbid, Mrs. Cordingley, to see her in such a state of deshabille. She was more than grateful that Anne, in all likelihood, would be the one to remove it, if for no other reason that her poor arms.

With the laces tied as soundly as she could manage, she looked at herself in the bedroom mirror. Her head tilted to one side, a critical eye evaluating the full effect. Ann firmly believed that a year ago she may have very well fainted at the sight of herself in such undergarments. Life with Miss Lister could certainly provide one with an education.

She let her hair down around her and pulled it over one shoulder into a simple braid. Ann loosened the curls slightly around her face, softening them. She felt a nervous twist of excitement. Now to wait. She settled against the pillows of their bed and reached for her book.

Ann had heard the clock strike another hour before the increasing rumble of a carriage pulled her focus away from her volume of French poems, gifted from her wife. She felt the hot twist of nerves that was nearly enough to have her resolve slipping. She shook herself out of her doubt. Have some courage Ann, it’s hardly anything she hasn’t seen previously. And you could hardly redress in time on your own now.

A cursory glance out the bedroom window confirmed it was indeed the Lister carriage advancing on the estate. Ann noted the speed at which the carriage was moving was not one that was entirely safe. She sighed, nothing to be done about that today. She settled herself on the bed again, knees tucked up beside herself, hands in her lap, slender fingers spinning her ring in apprehension.

After what felt like an age she heard the front door open and a jumble of voices. Then her wife’s heavy steps ascending the stairs, with a swiftness that told her she was taking them two at a time. Ann’s pulse quickened, she took a deep breath.

Lord - what was she doing?

Ann saw the door handle turn. The edge of the flowing greatcoat swung into to the room and her wife followed in a usual display of efficiency.

‘Ann, are you well? Cordingley said-‘ She halted abruptly. ‘Good lord’.

Anne stopped short in the doorway and took a quick breath in. Her eyes locked upon her wife, sitting squarely in the middle of their bed, in finery she had never seen before.

She quickly shut the door behind her.

‘What, may I ask, is this?’

‘Do... do you like it?’ Ann looked up to her wife’s face, fingers twisting the hem of her petticoats where they pooled around her bent knees.

Anne tossed her hat lightly onto a chair, eyes never leaving Ann’s squirming form on their bed.
Ann panicked, what if it wasn’t... in her nervousness she filled the silence.

‘I had it arranged while I was in Paris. While we were in Paris, rather. To surprise you. But it took longer to make than I expected, and the parcel only arrived after we were home…’ Ann rambled. ‘and I wanted to... surprise you’ her outburst ended on a puff of breath.

Anne was struck into silence, her demure wife, sitting so prettily in silk and ribbons solely for her, in the middle of the afternoon. Her breasts were near to spilling over her corset, her rapid breaths only enhancing the effect. Good lord indeed. Her increasingly indecent thoughts were interrupted by Ann’s worried voice.

‘It’s too much isn’t it? I-I, I don’t want you to think I’m some sort of...’ her hands fluttered in front of her ‘wanton harl-’

‘Good heavens no! Ann.’ she stepped forward to the edge of the bed and pulled her wife’s hand into her own. The other caressing her cheek gently, tipping her chin up to look into her eyes.

‘You look...’ Anne exhaled deeply. ‘Divine. A vision. You’ve caught me quite by surprise, you well know it’s not often I’m struck speechless’

She pulled back slightly, Ann’s hand still held tightly in her own, to take in the full effect.

‘Aren’t I lucky hmm?’ She tucked a loose curl gently behind Ann’s ear. Her eyes trailing down over her figure, ‘to have such a wife as you’

Her fingers traced slowly down a line of the corseted bodice, and up again to trail over Ann’s bare shoulder. A hum of pleasure escaping as she caressed her.

Ann’s cheeks were blushed scarlet, and Anne watched the skin of her chest bloom a rosy pink. She was clutching Anne’s hand and looking down shyly. She knew how to bring her wife out of her worries.

‘Now’ She clapped her hands together. ‘I simply must insist I take a closer look!’

Anne flung her coat off and tossed it across the chair. She climbed upon the bed swiftly, boots and all, her knees bracketing Ann’s hips, a wide smile on her face.

Ann fell back on the bed in giggles, the effect was charming.

‘Now my dear Miss Walker, won’t you tell me exactly what you had in mind when you chose this delectable ensemble?’