Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 -

Brat Tamer

by John Benson
Published: Oct 05, 2013
Words: 23,701
Category: fantasy
Orientation: M/F
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Brat Tamer

"Don't you think it's about time?" Lady Janet said. Her red gown rippled as she walked, a gauzy thing which gracefully accented her studied movements. Humanity and artifice in synchrony. Quite pretty, in a daunting sort of way. "I mean," Lady Janet said. "It was on your sixteenth birthday I distinctly told you you were old enough to fall in love, and now it's nearly two years gone. Don't you think it's high time you got on with it?"

"I heard it as permission, Mother," Caroline said. "Not a commandment." Caroline's gown was given to metallic hues and pointy edges, as prickly as Caroline herself. She could be pretty when she smiled, but a little pout was much more common. She only smiled when wreaking mischief.

"But it's so fun, my sweet," coaxed Lady Janet.

"Hmpf," said Caroline. "Men are fun to flirt with. It's fun to get their hopes up and then tell them 'no.' That's the part that's fun. Actually letting them do stuff? I'd have to lose control. You know how much I hate to lose control."

"That's rude," said Lady Janet. Her gestures were abbreviated and abrupt now, and her gown swished angrily. "The boy must always be given reason to hope. Flirting and always saying 'no' is cheating. Considerable reluctance with occasional giving in is what you're wanting. It brings out the very best in them. Their ardor. Great poetry. Feats of daring. Being courted can be so very nice if you'll only do it right. Learn from Helena, why don't you? I think she's got the hang of it."

Caroline stood stock still, all pointy and prickly like a thorn bush. "That slut," she said. Helena was beautiful, while Caroline was only pretty. Helena was voluptuous where Caroline was merely elfin. Yes, Caroline was jealous. "That slut says 'yes' to everybody. She'll trip a man and hit the floor before he does."

"I said don't be rude," snapped Lady Janet. "Would you like to be short-skirted?"

Caroline's head snapped back. She felt doubt, if not exactly fear. The threat was probably not meant in earnest, but if Caroline turned this into a battle of wills, it was a battle she would lose. And if she didn't want to lose control, then being short-skirted would be her nightmare. Total, abject helplessness.

"Your pardon, Mother," said Caroline. "I meant no disrespect to you. Only to Helena."

"Whose only fault is being a bit more friendly," said Lady Janet. She sounded less angry now, more willing to smooth things out. "You really ought to try and be less prickly, dear. Before the boys give up. You just might learn to like it."

Now Caroline must be careful. She hated to give her mother the last word, but anything incendiary might put her in a terrible pickle. But then with unaccustomed clarity she realized it was not nearly so much what she said that would get her into trouble, but how she said it. Bombast, even mere hyperbole, must be restrained.