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Why'd You Bring That?

Chapter Text

M
After Anne disappeared to dress and prepare
For this Lady Stuart's ball, I took to my own chamber,
Thinking of what she would wear and how she would
Fail her hostess utterly, trying to be more a man.
She loves that black satin pelise, with the practically
Regimental black hat, and her boots and gaiters.
How I loathe the boots and gaiters, always have.
They, all of it really, the whole painting, are why
People always snicker and ask if she's a man, and,
My least favorite, if her cock stands. It's like she
Never hears, doesn't understand, refuses to change.

E
"Madame," I say in French, "Your Thomas? I don't like him."
"Nonsense," says she, "What's not to like?" "He hates me,
Won't speak to me more than he has to." We're not attaching her
Amusing little croquettes, two above each ear. (I rerolled them
Myself last night after she gave them to me and retired to bed.)
But this afternoon, she wants a different look. This dress
Truly makes her look more like a lady. Her shoulders are fine.
I offer her two pairs of earrings and she chooses. I put those
Earrings in and she says I haven't been trying hard enough.
But I have. She stands and asks, "What do you think?" But then
Madame Lawton hurries in without knocking, and stands mute.

M
I think I have never seen her naked shoulders except in bed,
And never these fifteen or more years. They are exquisite, yes,
But I always thought them mine. How dare she expose
Her exquisite bits to the general public? How is it that,
No matter how I complained or begged, she always dressed
In a masculine style, even with the corset and all
The petticoats? Yet, suddenly, for this Lady Stuart person,
She chose, CHOSE, to wear an off-shoulder gown? How?
Her shoulders are luscious; how can I possibly share them?
She looks at herself in the mirror, sees me staring at her
Reflection, aghast. Strangely hesitant, she asks, "Will I do?
Lady Stuart prefers ladies to wear low-cut gowns at dinner..."
So I looked worried. Envious maybe. She never did that for--

A
It's strange to think of going out in public like this, and I cannot
Read M's gaze. She looks horrified, angry, something I cannot
Name. She stutters when I ask if I will do, and I suppose
That I am flubbing it again, this femininity business, but
Lady Stuart's preferences are well known, and it would be
Social death to flaunt them. So here I am, exposed, chilly.
Still, we're not alive if we're not trying to better ourselves
And there's no guarantee that we'll be comfortable as we do.