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You are fifteen years old when you meet Dio Brando, and you feel the world freeze for a few precious seconds, and then everything is changed.

(You don't know what this means now, but you will later.)

It is the Season now, and so you're living in a smaller home in London, meant to entertain. You are dressed like a doll within, and dressed like a doll without, every scrap of lace and strand of hair and dainty wrist perfectly sewn, pinned, worn. You are shown off, like a prime cut of meat, both within your butcher's shop of a home and the slaughterhouse of social gatherings.

Dinners, parties, tea time, dances--they are all the same, blended together in half-thought words you don't spend time on and half-true thoughts that you don't recall. You dance and you laugh and you smile and none of it means a damned thing. Everything is cold and cruelty trimmed in silks and brocades and the gentle tinkling of glasses in the low light, the burning of oil filling your nose as you uselessly drift from arm to arm to arm.

A calf waiting for the slaughter. A doll waiting to be shown off.

You hate it as much as you can, half-numb as you are. Your parents are good people, who mean to do well by you and find you a husband who will leave you well enough alone but make you comfortable. A good life for you, with a future involving a good home and a good husband and good children, just as they have been so lucky to have.

You do not live in the poorhouse. You do not work in a factory. You are not used and discarded in a brothel. Things could be far, far worse for you than they are. Corsetry and gossip and an eternal eye on you are a small price to pay for the luxuries and comforts that you have, that belong to so few others. In between all that, there are small, brightly shining moments that almost catch you, almost make you pause and look and feel. They never quite reach you, but they are the closest you have ever been to escaping the hollowness of your chest.

You smile and you laugh and you dance.

You're dancing with a boy, on the cusp of being a man. He stammers and laughs and shifts about as nervously as only someone on the brink can, and you follow his eyes to a young, golden-haired girl at the edge of the crowd surrounding the dance floor. This is another of those shining moments--the warmth and the hollowness behind each of their eyes as they find each other is, you think, what people call love. It fills the air so potently that something almost seems to bloom in the barren garden of your heart--but then you are spun away, and the thin thread between them snaps, insignificant and trodden underfoot by the oncoming wave of dancers.

As the music swells and drops, neither you nor the boy holding you speak anymore--he lost in thought, and you only half-thinking once more.

He lets go, and you find yourself automatically in a curtsy as he starts to bow, the motion only half-seen from the periphery of your vision.

But then you feel a hand taking yours, and hear someone ask you for a dance.

Most people sound like they're underwater, far away and insignificant. His voice rings clear and true and real, and you can't help how you look up, eyes trailing along the arm attached to the hand holding yours. You make your way slowly up, time unbearably slow as it always is in moments like these---

And then time stops, and something inside of you catches as your eyes meet his.

You know you might not look anything like the boy and his lady love, separated as they are, but you feel like there is something here that is close in intensity, snapping and crackling and coiling low, waiting to strike.

Time starts again, and you feel something in you bloom as, in response to his request for a dance, you tell Dio Brando (not for the last time in your life)---