Nearest the stage sit the Bellini Boys, sipping pink cocktails and fluttering dark lashes.
Each of them male but to look at them is to lust for female beauty seldom seen since the rise of the Citadel. In a world without women the price of a woman’s touch is whatever a Bellini Boy whispers.
Too rich for your blood, then instead find a heifer in their drag sat behind a tall Pina Colada. We’re just as shaved and plucked and primped as any Bellini Boy only there’s no escaping the line of the jaw, or the line of the dress.
Does it matter in the dark?
Doing my best to hide in the shadow but yet another hopeful face presents itself.
Tells me he can get me a new Library book. Whatever subject I want.
He means he can steal a book. A stolen book means no fines to pay the Citadael, least for them does the stealing. It means knowledge, an escape from this life of Pina Coladas and a pillow in the grass every night.
He says I have nice eyes. Girl’s eyes.
His own twinkle inside a tanned face from a life outdoor but not burnt red to farmer’s glow.
But he’s not the Brewhead I’m looking for.
The one I want spits on Ladyboys even as he craves them. The Brewhead I seek drinks in the shadows, and he follows me as I cross the rubble strip and reach the grass with its pockets of sand home to squirming couples. I let him close, then take a turn for the worse, into this place of alleys and tunnels choked with the wild grass to almost above my head. Into this place of no exits.
He is a silhouette that creeps closer.
I tell him, wait, and slowly turn, gathering up the coarse strands of horse hair wig from the back of my neck. It’s a single catch holds the dress. Nothing underneath but real curves.
He doesn’t know what to do when I take his knife hand and press it to my belly, this strip of ice against naked skin.
I ask him, want to be a real man?
His knife finds the grass as he scrabbles at the catch of his belt.
I had this plan, my own knife to his neck, ask him did he slit the throat of a Bellini boy when he was done?
Was it you killed my brother?
What rises instead is my rage, and the rapier. Does he see the point of his devil as it pricks for his right eye?
I am a girl, and escape to the Citadel is mine for a smile, the bride price of my freedom a new home for my father, one without holes in the roof or Brewheads kicking the door.
But not today. Not till I find the man gave my brother his own escape. Not till I give it back to him.