The Masquerade

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Note: This story was inspired by Khachaturian’s Masquerade Waltz, so in an attempt to try something new, I’ve set it this piece to music. Though the music isn’t entirely period correct to New York’s Gilded Age where our story takes place, I hope you’ll enjoy it all the same. -AG

Suggested Playlist:

Jazz Suite No. 2: VI. Waltz — Dmitri Shostakovich (1938)

Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring), Op. 410: Waltz — Johann Strauss II (1882)

Masquerade (Suite): I. Waltz — Aram Khachaturian (1941)

“The Lady Alexandra Greene!” announced the powdered attendant. I suppressed a groan beneath a taught, eyeless smile. It was 1908 already, and we were still acting like it was Louis’s court, and in New York City no less. Even for a masquerade, the powdered wig felt over the top.

Fuck, I hate these society do’s. It was an unladylike thought, but honesty was generally thought unladylike these days. I chastised myself. I could have chosen to stay at home and enjoy a quiet night in my study, but here I am.

Boredom is the best explanation, although in fairness a masquerade wasn’t such a tragic expense of time. The costumes, the color, the freedom to be a little less gentile, a little more reckless. And I do love to dance, so a night upon the ballroom floor should be no great ordeal, even if it means the usual pawing by drunken and cavalier men.

My coat was taken and I passed into the ballroom. I was no stranger to eliciting such reactions, but the hum as I entered still satisfied. Silver and blue velvet-trimmed satin clung close to my skin and a deep cowled collar revealed far more of my back and bust than was strictly fashionable. That might deter some of the older gentlemen, though it did tend to encourage the younger and brasher.

But I wished to dance, and I required partners with energy and endurance. Of course, life would be so much more straightforward if only I could find satisfaction among men off the dance floor too, but alas, that has never been my preference.

As expected, I didn’t have to wait long before a tall handsome young man offered his hand. I took it and we were off. John, he said his name was; I just smiled blankly. Men liked that.

The next was Edward, followed by another John. And so on for the first hour. I wore each out before passing on to the next. We danced to the Strausses and Rimsky-Korsakov, Chopin and Liszt, the ever-ubiquitous Tchaikovsky, music with beauty you did not parse detachedly, but could feel in your heart, in your bones.

Another hour passed with more Strauss and Dvorák, more Johns and Edwards. And while I delighted in the music and my own body, I grew more bored with each successive partner.

And just when I thought I could not take another, the crowds parted, and there she was. I would recognize that profile anywhere, that long neck, those lush curves; Lillian Grey, my roommate once in that little monastic French boarding school. Little Lillian Grey, awkward but pretty, of noble birth but questionable parentage and always reminded of it, sitting next to me on our hard, rough-linen beds, practicing our Latin, and then later once the matron had made her final rounds for the evening….I jolted myself; that was a decade ago and I was too old for nostalgic wistfulness.

Age had refined her beauty in the years since we were abruptly parted, though she still maintained that aristocratic bearing that she had used to defend herself from the world. Tonight she was radiant in a sleeveless emerald-green gown embroidered in black, cut low in the back, revealing the creamy olive hue of her skin that gave her so much trouble and those crisp shoulder blades that always gave me so much delight. She turned lightly on delicate feet, and though her face was obscured by a black filigree mask, it couldn’t hide the fine tapered jaw and petite chin that set off her piles of curling black hair.

Our eyes met from across the room, hers a perfect match for her emerald gown, locked onto my own slate grey blues. The corners of her full red lips curled upwards, suffusing my body with a carnal heat. Apparently, she saw through the silver of my mask and the years of separation, too.

She was surrounded by a circle of admirers and hangers-on, who while smiling and toadying to her face would likely whisper their feral accusations when they retreated to their various, vicious cliques. Well, this would shake those pretentious fools. I abandoned the latest John without a word and made an unwavering line for her, parting dancers and toadies alike.

“Miss Grey, may I have this dance?” I asked. She met my gaze and smiled, a subtle blush rising over her cheeks, as the wizened-haired woman she had been chatting with gasped and choked.

“It would be my pleasure,” she responded, “but only on one condition. I must be allowed to lead the first dance!”

I barked an unladylike laugh as the old maid grasped her pearls and huffed away. “I might be amenable to that,” I answered, “though you may find it a high price that I shall kaynarca escort extract for it,” I added with a wink. She took my hand and pulled me to the center of the floor, through a haze of murmurs and sidelong glances. A generation ago, no one would have given a second glance to two ladies dancing together, but now the whole reading world knew the words invert and lesbian, and something had been irretrievably lost. Mrs. Astor certainly would not approve, but our titles and money would keep her and her minions silent, at least for a little while.

We fell into a pleasing rhythm quickly and without effort. She led naturally, a change from our youth when she had been so content to follow me without question. I wondered if she now lead in other aspects of her life, too.

Her soft voice broke my reverie, “What are you thinking about, Alexandra?”

“You, Miss Grey.”

“If you call me Miss Grey again, I shall become very cross with you,” she playfully scolded.

“Lillian, since my eyes first had the privilege of your divine form tonight, I have thought of nothing else. At the moment though, I was wondering if you lead in all things these days.”

“I have found a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the flexibility to lead or follow, as the situation dictates.” At her words, I quickly moved my hand to her waist. She took my cue and switched effortlessly to follow me.

“This is more to my liking,” I said with a smile as another waltz fell upon us. The rhythm started slow but gained steam. A few moments more and the tempo became swift, forcing the less robust couples to retreat from the floor. We only smiled and lifted our skirts a touch higher. The music was a current, swift and tumbling. We turned and turned again, our feet light, the rhythm driving us, our energy rambunctious. It had been too long since we had held each other on a dance floor. We spun and slid effortlessly over the floor as the music crescendoed. We beamed at each other, our forms united in movement. It was only when I lifted her in a spin as the music crashed over us that I remembered that we were not in fact alone. The unified gasp of a hundred onlookers broke our perfect hypnosis.

Lillian spoke first as the tempo eased from its crest. “Everyone is staring at us. They must be absolutely scandalized!”

“No, my dear,” I responded, giving her another flamboyant twirl. “The word you’re looking for is ‘titillated.’ Now, if you were to shout ‘Votes for Women!,’ you would surely see scandalized. The truth is that they’re enjoying this as much as we are. Watch.” I gave her a gallant — and slightly provocative — dip, eliciting a robust round of applause the the gallery nearest and more than a little tittering from the corners.

We both broke into unrestrained and boisterous laughter. I cannot say for certain what those around us thought, but for that moment, it was the furthest thing from my mind. And as the music finally slowed and faded, I took Lillian by the hand and led her from the floor.

We fell into our seats still struggling for breath, even as our laughter slowly died down. “I have not danced nor laughed so freely in years, my dear,” Miss Grey gasped. “Not since my — our — youth. Oh, you could make me absolutely howl then. I’ve never found anyone who could match you for it since. Plus, you’ve positively ruined me for dancing.” Her eyes darkened suggestively. “Just as you ruined me for men in that little chapel at school. I might never forgive you for that.”

“I’d have never forgiven myself if I hadn’t,” I responded. “Anyway, I was ruined for men when my governess changed her torn stocking before me when I was 12. It was only fair I pass on the wisdom of a life free of the rougher sex.” Her hand rested on the table, and I placed mine over hers, my silver satin gloves sliding frictionless over hers of soft black velvet. I felt the heat rise from my belly until it colored my pale cheeks. “Come with me, love. I need a drink.” We both stood, and as we walked across the ballroom, I offered her my elbow, which she took, a telling grin playing across her lips.

From the main ballroom, we took our champagne down a back hall. It was dimmer there, the lights lower, and the walls were lined with little niches as one would see in the chapel of a grand cathedral. Chapels, I thought to myself.

“How well do you remember the chapel at school?” I asked, no small amount of suggestion implied.

“Every detail. It was the place where my whole world was shattered. I remember those years with you fondly, even if the ending was bitter. But that chapel, oh yes, the white marble altar that separated the apse from the knave. We’d lay down behind it, and look up at that high domed roof. And then one day you kissed me, and it felt like that whole ceiling was crashing down upon me.”

I took her glass and set it on a table along the wall before pulling her into the alcove. I turned her towards me and backed her against the panelled wall. “Lillian, I have tasted those lips küçükyalı escort in my dreams ever since. I cannot wait any longer to taste them again.”

“But we’ll be seen!” she protested.

“Perhaps, but do you care? I do not. Some will gossip and slander without any cause, so I see no difference whether the deed is done or not.” I might have pressed my case further, but she pulled my body towards hers and pressed her full lips to mine.

The sensation was dazzling, and my whole body smouldered. My hand slid up her smooth back, over her long pristine neck, and twined within her soft curls. My fingers closed around her pinned locks as my tongue prised her lips apart. Time had made her softer yet bolder, more generous, and more daring.

Her hands gripped my waist, and my stays creaked as she drew our bellies together. I could feel her heat through the layers of her gown, and my body responded in kind. Our tongues danced no less fiercely than our bodies had minutes before. If others passed and gaped at our cleaving bodies, we did not know it.

The entire world beyond that shadowed alcove was lost to us as we reacquainted ourselves with bodies grown fuller with time and womanhood. I could taste the champagne on her tongue as I imagined she could taste it upon mine. The scent of lilies — always, and without irony, her favorite scent — filled my nostrils. My hand that was not lost in her hair descended down over her narrow waist to her full hip and around to the generous curve beyond, cupping it, easing her leg up and away, allowing me to slide my thigh between hers.

Her head fell back, breaking our kiss with a gasp and a sigh, allowing me to press my lips down her petite jaw to her soft, smooth neck. I trailed kisses over the crease between muscle and throat, over the thin little ribbon from which a single pearl hung, until I reached that glorious hollow at the base of her neck. My hand gathered her skirt inch by inch until I found the hem, and beneath it, her silk-clad leg. I rounded her thigh with my gloved hand until I found what I sought. Cool satin found hot wet flesh, and she sighed, low and long. I traced her bare collarbone with my lips, my fingers doing the same to her warm sex below.

“Take me home, Alex. Now.” She needed not ask again. I released her skirts, allowing them to drape between us. I lifted my hand to my face and held my soaked fingers beneath my nose, savoring her long-missed scent before running the ruined satin over my lips.

“You still taste delightful. Time has not dulled your flavor in the least,” I purred.

Her eyes flashed darkly as she took my gloved fingers in hers and placed them in her mouth. “Mmm…it has always tasted better from your fingers. Now, let’s get our coats. I wish to taste you as well.” We traced the outline of each other’s lips, wiping away smears of carmine in the dim light. It would do to get us to the door.

We called both carriages. I ascended into mine while Lilian slipped in one side of hers and out the other to join me, giggling at our simple little subterfuge. Once in the door, she wasted no time, moving her skirts deftly within the small space to sit upon my lap, pressing her lips to mine, seeking my tongue with hers.

I desperately groped at her waist to pull her closer still, but when the angles of our bodies and necks became too much a burden, I threw her to the opposite bench, rattling the carriage, and fell to my knees before her. I splayed her legs and placed myself between them, taking her neck once more into my mouth, kissing with all the longing my lips could employ.

My hands again slithered amongst the curls of her hair; I kissed and nipped downwards until I could bury my face amongst her generous bosom. She gripped the back of my head and held me there, my breath cut short. I bit and sucked at her breasts, leaving little purple welts and pale lip color upon them.

My hands were travelling over her curves and down her thighs as the carriage came to a sudden halt. The trip had been entirely too short, but no matter, our journey was only beginning. We righted ourselves just enough as the coachman opened the door, allowing us to tumble from it, giggling and shushing each other. We hurried through the door held by the footman and clumsily ran up the stairs, discarding our masks, myself leading Lillian by the hand as fast as heels and skirts allowed. Then we were through my chamber door, and shut it fast behind us. And there we stood, hearts pounding, hands entwined, only a sliver of space between us, simply gazing into each other’s expectant eyes.

Once the realization had set in that here we were finally and at long last in private, the dizzying, desperate pace of our fumblings at the ball and in the carriage gave way. We now had as much time as we wished to savor each other; unsaid understanding passing between us that we would make the most of it.

Slowly, I drew Lillian to me, our skirts rustling as our thighs and bellies met, then our lips. Softly sancaktepe escort this time, just a grazing touch. Then another, almost chaste if not for the promise implicit. We lifted our joined hands away from us, an echo of our dances earlier, pulling us even nearer until our outstretched hands collapsed onto each other’s bodies. Hers rose to my face, cupping my jaw, while mine slid around her back to cup the full curve of her bottom.

Our kiss deepened, tongues exploring, sliding over one another, tasting, our hearts once again surging in tempo. The kiss crested and our lips broke, arousal blooming across our skin from breast to cheek, our hearts pounding and breath ragged. I took Lillian’s hand once more and led her through my sitting room and into my bedroom, the gauze-draped four-poster looming with promise. I lifted her hand to my mouth and kissed each finger, slowly, deliberately; my lips parting just enough for her fingertips to settle on my tongue before my teeth gently closed and pulled the wet tips of her gloves from her fingers. Once all were loose, I unbuttoned the wrist and slowly slid the soft velvet over her skin, watching the little hairs rise on her forearms with each inch exposed. How delightful were her responses, her taught goose-pimpled skin, her shaky breaths and tiny gasps.

Her arms finally bare, I allowed my fingers to graze over them, take in their full length and smooth, silky surface. She shuddered when my touch crossed her wrists and passed the final few inches of her long, delicate fingers.

“My turn,” she said. She spoke softly, her voice barely a breathy murmur. In the quiet of my bed chamber, those words held a strange and startling power. Though she spoke in a whisper, the words ripped through me like lightning. She touched my wrists, nimbly unhooking the buttons without once breaking her eyes from mine, and once undone, she simply pulled by the middle finger, each glove releasing as if by divine fiat.

My heart pounded as she lifted the silver satin to her face, passing the limp fingers beneath her nose. “I love this smell, the arousal of a woman. I’m going to enjoy greatly the scent of you upon my own fingers.”

Warmth pooled at my center at her words, the racing of my imagination matched only by that of my heart. But I would take my time, delay that sweet satisfaction and revel in the delightful pain of longing.

I slipped a single slender finger beneath the black ribbon around her neck. Her understanding was instant. I stepped backwards and she followed, her feet once again in perfect harmony with mine. I needed no force, no words; she complied without question. She would allow me to lead after all.

We stopped inches from my bed, the sheer drapes tickling our skin. My hands slid over her shoulders and under her arms, which she lifted gracefully out to her sides. She was no doubt accustomed to being undressed by another, but her maid likely never saw Lillian’s chest heaving and blushing when she touched her mistress.

I took my time, following her curves with my hands gently down her silk-clad legs to remove her shoes, and then up her soft sides. I unhooked her gown and drew it off before teasing her with the satin ribbons of her stays as I unlaced them.

When she was in nothing but her Parisian knickers, stockings, and chemise, I stood back to admire her incredible figure. He body was stately, lush. She stood still, her chin raised, her arms still out, once again a dancer holding her position, elegant, ready. It was only when I kissed her again that she moved, and then only to embrace me in response.

Our lips and tongues melded together once again, and I felt her fingers work the hooks of my gown. She teased it from my body and slid around to my back, her legs pressed against mine as she unlaced and removed my stays. She worked quietly and deftly as she undressed me, removing my undergarments and stockings without another word.

When she had removed the last of my clothing, she wrapped her arms around me from behind and pressed herself into my back, kissing up my spine to my neck. Her hands wandered over my belly before splitting, one rising to cup my breast, the other sliding down over my navel to rest amongst the dark hairs at the cleft of my thighs. Only inches lower she would find a pool at her fingers.

I turned in her arms to face her, my bare breasts and taught nipples grazing across the fabric of her chemise. My hand found her breastbone and I softly pressed her backwards until she fell with a sigh through the gauze onto the waiting counterpane. With her on her back, I could slide the soft silk of her stockings down her long olive legs, kissing every inch in sensual delight.

Her bare legs fell apart when I released them, revealing a dark, wet stain on her silk knickers where her thighs met. I traced my hands up her legs and climbed between them. I lifted the hem of her chemise to lay small kisses on her exposed belly, her skin going taught immediately, a low moan escaping her parted lips.

I lifted the chemise up over her breasts and took each nipple into my mouth in turn. Her moan echoed above me as her hips pressed upwards, her sweet slickness sliding over my belly. Heat flashed upwards from my center, so close to hers, and was almost too much to endure.

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