Black & Blood Dress
Matty woke up in her own room.
Guarf may have said their living arrangement was conditional, but his actions belied this sentiment. In this room, he had the mattress stuffed weekly with fresh straw, the windows washed, and the dressing tables and wardrobes free of minutiae. And though his territorial mess marked the rest of the house, this room—this room was a fresh as a daisy in a lion’s den.
None of this happened by magic, except for the magic of money. Guarf was thoroughly thrifty. He pried open his vault and spent a few silver coins to a goblin girl who lived down the way to discreetly keep Matty’s room orderly. Mat knew the dwarf created this room to be her sanctuary, but also knew it would embarrass him if she revealed his kind secret.
The morning rained green and grey, draining the fuscous winter. The air vibrated in the contrasting lenticular patterns of leaves, droplets, leaves, stir, bend, droplets, showers, wisp, leaves, arch, droplets, twist, leaves. She had nowhere in particular she needed to be, but it was time to go. It always felt time to go. She heard Guarf snoring in his room, the cool muted morning made for perfect sleeping weather. His vigil over the house, hearth, and her, and maneuvering her gangly frame to her room, was taxing. He was a good friend, but he was no nursemaid. She slept in her clothes. She peeled them off, and lay back down, pulling covers over her, unmotivated to pack bags, but not going back to sleep either.
If she didn’t step hoof-to-floor soon, the will to go would dissipate, and then, she would be snared by a nesting memory, entwining her thoughts.
She stretched the wrong-way over the mattress: like an irritating pea, a lump bubbled up from underneath. She reached in and pulled out a black dress. She had shoved it in there months ago, after one of their few encounters. She wished she had burned it. What a stupid idea that was, how humiliating it was now. She was such a fool. As if wearing a dress could keep him near, as if she was enough.
The crimson-iron black of the silk dress, cast in vats of boiling, angry Northern blood, came in a scarlet-satin lined box, with stitches of heartbreak and cut on a bias of lust. The silhouette revealed more than it protected. Who was it that said the space between the notes made the music? The siren dress sang its song to a succumbing audience. His reaction was worth a few pints of Vkyruls’ blood.
The tone of the day was revelations: her priest demonstrated his ability to hold her in leaps of faith. The dress box gave the prize it promised. And jovial crowds flexed and sported in sunny courtyards. She found a place, right outside the Keep’s courtyard, a ledge, where she could sit undisturbed, watching the far sails swirl on the maelstroms, and the comings and goings of the human kingdoms, small and large. To end the day, he showed her uninhabited pockets, hidden right in front of everyone’s eyes, down alleyways and behind shops. She showed him the dress – “Wait, please, one moment – let me change…”
But for all the day’s illusionary control by the inhabitants of this world, she felt the gods shuffling Fate’s cards. Heard the snap of the deal. Flicking the two of hearts in a cup.
Time was up. The cathedral bells rang. The boat would be departing soon. She leaned in, but like a misfire, missed the moment for a kiss. He was so strong that moment: he held her, and then let her go. He meant what he said. He could not control the gods, but he could control himself.
(Writer's Note: Not inspired by a dress, but a pair of 501 Levi red-tab jeans and a pair of boots.)