Michaela had known better than to look. Right away one particular dress caught her eye, a frothy pink confection that looked like it should be worn by a fairy tale princess.
She sighed with longing. The color and cut would suit her perfectly. It figured that such a dress would be here to tempt her on the very day she had resolved not to purchase a single article of clothing. Damn it to hell.
A voice purred in her ear. “You should buy it.”
Michaela jumped and whirled around. Feyom stood there, looking down on her from her superior six-feet-plus height. The woman smiled at her, but the expression was not pleasant. It looked like a predatory leer.
Eyeing the other woman warily, Michaela answered, “It’s lovely, but I have more than enough clothes. My clan has been very generous.”
“Those three have always been that way with the less fortunate.” Feyom chortled as Michaela’s face fell. “I am only joking, like that Imdiko performer over there. He is funny, isn’t he? He called me too grand for the Empire and crawled after me like a pet begging for a treat.”
“How nice for you,” Michaela managed to say. Feyom did look stunning in a long purple gown that matched her eyes. She wore it easily though it looked quite expensive and more suited to attend a ball than shopping.
Feyom looked from Michaela to the pink dress in the vid and back to Michaela again. “Seriously, that dress is perfect for you. It would help disguise how broad your shoulders are. You’d look more feminine, if that’s what you’re going for. Not so much like a boy trying on his mother’s clothes.”
It didn’t matter that Michaela knew Feyom deliberately baited her. Her insecurities reared up anyway. She struggled not to hunch her wide shoulders and give the Kalquorian woman the nasty little victory she strove for.
Her only real defense lay in doing the opposite of what Feyom expected. Michaela answered in a voice deeper than usual. “It’s not just the female side of me that delights my clan, Matara Feyom. They enjoy everything I have to offer, very much.”
Feyom smirked. “Maybe for now. I do worry about how they’ll feel should you have difficulties producing children for them, however. The novelty of your amazing body will wear off sooner or later, and then what?” She tittered. “You’d better be able to be more woman than your appearance would suggest. If I were you, I’d distract Korkla, Govi, and Raxstad from their wishes for fatherhood for as long as you possibly can.”
Michaela couldn’t come up with a reply, and Feyom didn’t wait around to give her the opportunity to do so. With a hateful smirk still curling her lips, the Kalquorian sauntered away.
Michaela watched as her tormentor floated through the market square, heading towards the outer square and tunnel. She noted the appreciative glances of the men charting Feyom’s passage, the obvious admiration in their eyes for the Kalquorian who oozed womanhood.
Too late, her arguments against Feyom’s assessment of Michaela’s ability to bear children arose. She came close to making a spectacle of herself, wanting to scream after the departing woman that she had been confirmed fertile back on Plasius by Israla’s own physician. Michaela had all the requisite female part, she had the eggs, and she had been getting her period since the age of 12. There was no medical reason why she couldn’t give her clan all the children they desired.
She dammed the too-late words rising in her throat, twisting away from Feyom’s departing back and the cascade of heads turning as she walked by. Michaela again faced the pretty pink dress. It was like many of her other clothes, displaying the trappings of femininity. It was exactly the kind of outfit that she hid behind so often, helping her to assume the mask of the girl that lived inside her.
A woman on the inside, but not outside.