Read Part One Here
I marvel at how she can make the phrase sound both so proper and so positively filthy at the same time.
Lydia, pulling on her boots, laughs before grabbing her bag and turning to go. “Night, ladies, don’t forget to lock up after.”
Hallie—Hallelujah Hannings—grins, catlike and knowing, as we watch Lydia leave. The door shuts and it’s just the two of us. Heart racing, I can’t catch my breath.
For a long moment, we just stare. She’s so beautiful. Like a 1950s pinup girl. She’s Marilyn and Bettie. She’s Hepburn and Deneuve. She’s Samantha Stevens and I Dream of Jeannie. A blond bombshell, destroying my life.
“Miss me?” She leans in to press her soft, pink-painted lips against mine.
I kiss her with lips, tongue, teeth, and heart. I kiss her with my entire soul.
She reaches up and touches my hair.
Not my hair. My wig.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
I look past her. Past her creamy skin. Past her incredibly lush curves. Past her beautiful, soulful blue eyes.
I stare—glare—at my own reflection.
Or at least at the woman staring back at me from the mirror.
“What’s wrong?” Hallie strokes my face with satiny hands and I swear I can feel the layers of makeup between us. She kisses my lips again, just a smacking touch. “You seem...different.”
“Different how?” I ask, a little afraid of the answer.
She shakes her head, her blond hair wisping around her sweetheart face. “I don’t know. Distant, somehow. Are you tired? From doing the show?”
Tired? Yeah, I feel tired. So tired sometimes. “I’m fine, baby,” I coo as I touch her shoulder, sending her a smoldering look. I let my hand tangle in her golden hair and cup the back of her head. Trying to turn Hallie’s mind, I pull her close and kiss her.
But, as my lips touch hers, it’s my mind that turns. Spins, actually, as I lose myself in her kiss. I deepen the kiss with a helpless, needy whimper.
She moans, such a sweet sound. Her hands slide over my back and down to coast over my ass. My breath hisses out when she grasps the tender flesh and smiles wickedly. She slips her fingers lower, under the small triangle of my G-string and I choke on a surprised gasp. Sighing—a half-laugh, half-moan—I feel my body begin to melt while her clever hand tickles the silken, slick skin between my legs.
“You’re so wet,” she leans in to whisper in my ear before she bites and tugs at the soft skin of my lobe, making me squirm. She slides her fingers up and down between my slick lips, pausing to play with my clit. She laughs at my eager groan, my spine bowing before I shudder with pleasure. “So wet,” she purrs with feline satisfaction. She licks the sensitive curve of my ear before sliding two fingers deep inside me.
I moan as I reach out to grip her shoulders. “Hallie.” My voice is a breathy sigh. “Hallie.”
I can feel her fingers—magic things—as they slide in and out of me with a smooth strength that rocks me. My head falls back, rolling along my shoulders as a strange stuttering sound slips from my lips. God, it feels so good. She feels so good.
My hand slips up her neck. I want—I need—to kiss her. To devour her. I pull her close and take her mouth. She tastes sweet, my favorite treat.
I squeal excitedly when she pushes me back up against the wall, all the while pulling and tugging at my clothes. Desperate for her silken, luxurious skin, I attack her clothes too.
“Rebel.” My name is a sigh as my own hand sidles up her skirt to touch...nothing. Just sweet, hot, wet flesh.
I’m taken aback enough to stop the heated kiss. “No panties?” I ask, knowing—intimately—her extensive lingerie collection.
As owner of Bits ‘n’ Pieces, my favorite new and vintage lingerie boutique, Hallie is never in want of something sexy to wear beneath her perfectly groomed and immaculately dressed appearance. Silk and satin held up by barely there straps. See-through lace that cup but never quite cover. Pretty, innocent cotton, floral and sweet.
It’s one of my favorite things about her; how it always feels like Christmas morning with her, feels like unwrapping something lovely and magical every time.
She smiles at me with a wink. “Guess you’ll just have to find out for yourself, won’t you?”
I grin, feeling more than up for the challenge. With my back still up against the wall, her fingers still buried deep beneath my panties, I reach between us to undo the buttons on her shirt. Each slip of the material reveals more of her perfect, mascarpone skin. Shoulders. Breastbone. Cleavage.
My eyes widen as I stare at the racy, red and white, seashell-shaped demi-cup lace bra lifting her luscious breasts. The tips of her pale coral aureoles peek just above the scalloped edge. My hands shake a bit as I, nervous as a preteen, reach behind her to unclasp the back.
But, her fingers slipping out from inside me, she steps back. I frown when she wags her still slick finger at me. “Not so fast, Miss Rouser.” Her laughter teases as it tinkles.
I stare at the perfect picture of glamorous innocence she presents in her pretty bra and her full, knee-length, white skirt, her blond waves falling around her face as she stands like a centerfold before me.
Reaching for the side zipper, Hallie let the teeth slide, releasing the fabric so it pools down around her perfect, patent leather pumps. Wearing white silk stockings, a white and red lace garter, and nothing else, Hallie is stunning. A vision too beautiful for words.
For a moment, I’m afraid to move, afraid that this is a dream and that any sudden movement—that even the slightest breath—might make the dream disappear.
Hallie moves to sit up on the makeup counter with her knees spread wide, her heels resting on the chairs, and grins. I stare at her pussy, shaved and wet, her juices glistening on her lips.
I lick my lips.
She giggles. “That’s the general idea, gorgeous.” With a knowing smirk, she reaches between her thighs and spreads herself open to my gaze.
She’s so pink and so soaked, I scramble to kneel before her. On a hungry groan, I lean in to taste her. She feels slick and smooth against my tongue. I inhale, her scent and taste making my head swim. I can’t get enough as I suck on her clit.
I grasp her thighs in my hands, her muscles bunching and clenching as they threaten to squeeze me vice-like while her need builds. She reaches for my hair, her fingers toying with the long brown strands.
Startled, I inhale sharply. I stumble back, my hand unconsciously touching the wig. I peek at the mirror, panic gripping me.
“Are you okay?” she asks.
I stare at the wig, still pinned perfect on my head. My makeup still pristine. “I’m fine,” I assure, my voice sounding flat even to me.
I shake my head and turn to her. Determined—to enjoy myself, to enjoy her—I push Hallie back, pressing her against the cool mirror. I rise up from the floor, her cream still sticky on my mouth, to kiss her again, sealing her hungry mouth with my own.
Straddling her leg, I ride her thigh and thrust my fingers inside her wet, clenching cunt. Her back arches, pressing her leg harder against me. We moan, a lusty chord filling the air. Furiously, we fuck—my fingers digging deep as I buck and rub against her writhing thigh.
“Fuck me.” She digs her nails into my shoulder. “Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck. Me.”
“Oh God,” I moan as we press close to each other, staring into each other’s heat-filled eyes, “I lo—” I stop, surprised by the words threatening to bubble up from my throat. I swallow before kissing her again. “I love fucking you,” I settle on. It’s not what I really want to say, but it feels safer. “I fucking love fucking you.”
Her head falls back against the glass with a crack as her entire body stiffens. She comes, the sight and feel of her tight body against mine enough to push me over the edge as well.
Together, we thrust against each other, helpless while pleasure rides us. Still shuddering, we hold each other, our arms entwined in an almost crushing embrace.
“I love,” I say softly, my voice muffled against the downy cream of her skin, “what you do to me.”
For a moment, we’re silent, just breathing slowly as we hug. “I’m falling for you too,” she whispers and strokes my back before pushing away a bit to look me in the eye. “And I’d really love to see more of you.”
“I need answers, people!” Governor Reynolds paces the room. “This story is now almost a week old and we’ve yet to say anything significant!”
Aaron, the governor’s right hand man, says, not even looking up from his hand-held device, “Longrin, where are we on a press statement?”
Keith sits up straight and shuffles his notes. “We’ve got the first pass back and are working on the rework now. We should have it to you by tomorrow morning.”
“Make it this afternoon;” Aaron says, still texting away, “we’ve wasted enough time on this. Carrington, where are we on the priest?”
I cough and straighten too. “We’ve called Anointed Assumption and have respectfully requested that Father Nicholas be asked to step down from his post, but they say that the church officials are still discussing the situation. I’ve been assured that the minute they come to a decision, we’ll be the first to know.” After a beat of silence, I hurriedly continue, “And they wish to convey how very honored they are to be Governor Reynolds’s place of worship and how much they deeply appreciate his donorship and generosity.”
The governor harrumphes. “Tell them that if they want to keep appreciating that donorship and generosity, they’d better damn well get rid of that perverted priest.”
“Let the church officials know,” Arron amends, “that we would appreciate expediency in this resolution and that Governor Reynolds and his family would like them to know that they’ve always appreciated Anointed Assumption’s excellent record of devotional adherence to the morals and goodness their faith has always stood for.”
“Of course.” I take notes, knowing how much Aaron's a stickler for precise syntax.
“And see if you can get a hold of that priest,” Aaron suggests. “See if you can’t talk him into stepping down on his own.”
I pause. I don’t personally know Father Nicholas—we don’t exactly run in the same circles, not even as members of Donovan's. But the idea of trying to shame-drive him out of his position and home makes my heart sink.
I bite my lip and wonder what would happen if anyone found out about me—about the act. About Hallie.
I look at Keith and worry my lip.
He smiles and winks. I smile weakly back.
“Are you okay?” he mouths at me.
I nod as the rest of the staff pushes back from the table to leave. I move to leave myself, knowing I’ve got phone calls to make. I sigh and head to my cubicle.
After leaving Aaron’s message on Anointed Assumption’s machine, I call up Father Nicholas and, after looking out at the open office space and the tens of campaign workers milling about, arrange a meeting in town.
“I want to thank you, father,” I say as I sit down at the cafe table, “for agreeing to see me.”
“Oh, please, Ms. Carrington,” the mousy, blond man says as he seats himself again, “call me Nicholas.” He gives a sad, sardonic shrug. “After all, soon I may be just plain, old Nicholas; I may as well get used to it now.”
I wince. “What will you do if you have to leave the church?” I find myself wondering aloud before I can stop myself.
He shrugs. “I don’t really know.” He sips his coffee thoughtfully. “I’ve had several members of Donovan’s offer me help or jobs, if that should happen. They’ve all been so kind, but being a priest is my calling. It’s what I was born to do. I don’t know what I’ll do if they ask me to leave.”
I bite my lip again.
He shakes his head resignedly. “So why did you want to meet today?”
I clear my throat and think. I choke on the rehearsed words I’d been practicing all the way to the cafe as they die, dry in my throat. I sigh. “I—” I start, “I need to ask you a question, fa—I mean, Nicholas.”
He gives me a strange look. “A question?” Crossing his arms over his chest, he asks, “Are you a reporter? Ms. Carrington, I’ve given quite a few interviews, I’m afraid there’s really not much of a story left.”
“No,” I say as I shake my head, “I’m not a reporter; I’m—” I pause before leaning in close to him. “I’m a member too.”
His eyes widen and he nods his head knowingly. “What’s your question?”
I look at him—really, look. Taking in his watery blue eyes, I notice that while they look tired and dry there’s a peace and tranquility there I envy. His shoulders, though slim and a bit on the weak side, are firmly held and sure. Everything about him speaks of a confidence and freedom I can recognize but can’t relate to.
“Your question, Ms. Carrington?”
“Are you happy?” I ask, looking out the cafe window at Bits ‘n’ Pieces, Hallie’s shop across the street. “I mean, now that you’ve told?”
Inhaling deeply, he sits back in his chair. “Am I happy?” he asks. “That’s your question?”
He sighs. “Well, my life’s in upheaval. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep my job, my home. I’ve already lost many of my friends, my congregation, and even my brothers at the church aren’t talking to me right now.”
I sigh and rest my head in my hand. I think about what it would be like if my coworkers knew. If my friends or family found out. If Keith found out. Where would I go? What would I do?
“But,” he says with a deep breath, “it was bound to come out sooner or later. And, this way, it was my decision. I’ve been living the lie for so long, I’ve forgotten what it feels like to not look over my shoulder—to not fear and worry and fret all the time. It’s...”
“Freeing,” I supply as I spot Hallie through her display window. She’s laughing with her employee as they wrestle the display outfit off one of her mannequins. I smile sadly and watch them struggle.
“Yes.” Nicholas nods as he sips his coffee. “That is indeed right; the truth sets you free.” He set down his cup before leveling me with a knowing gaze. “Now, why don’t you tell me the real reason you called me today?”
I watch detachedly—almost disembodied—as a familiar hand applies makeup on my face.
Rebel Rouser. Dressed tonight as Donovan’s darling devushka. A two-faced, tricky spy, as dangerous as she is beautiful. A near mythic creation of foundation and powder. Built with blush and colored shadows. A shade in a wig and flashy costumes.
I stare at the pretty, painted smile that reminds me of a clown. A tear slides down my cheek. I watch it fall as the paint smears in a long track down my face, ruining the mask of makeup. All except that smile.
My smile—painted and poised—is perfect.
“Rebel,” Elin says quietly as she touches my shoulder, “are you okay?”
I grab a tissue from the counter and mop up my mess with a sniffle. “Of course,” I say. “I just— I—” I turn to her and flash my smile. “I’m fine.”
“You sure?” my stage manager asks, her eyes worried. “You don’t look fine.”
I’m breaking inside. Cracking up. The two halves of my life pulling me apart. I stare in the mirror and touch up the line my tears had left. “I’m fine, Elin.”
I pause when I feel her hand grip mine. In the mirror, I see it—our hands intertwined, hers so small but strong surrounding mine. I look up at her.
She smiles at me before squeezing my hand. “Good luck;” she says quietly, “knock ‘em dead.”
As she turns to leave, I whisper, feeling more tears threaten the repairs I’d just made, “Thank you.”
I make my way backstage, feeling nostalgic as I remember my very first Burle-Q dance—just a chorus part, a novice with a bad wig and no bit. I remember the first time I performed as Rebel—the silly name feeling ridiculous, an odd but strangely exciting fit. Like stepping into a fantasy. And each time I stepped in, the more real the fantasy felt.
But she isn’t real. Rebel Rouser is a dream. A lie I let myself believe.
From the wings, I stare out at the stage while the act before mine finishes, feeling nervous and sad.
It hits me, as I hear the audience laugh at the slapstick before thundering into applause, that this will be Rebel’s last performance. This is the last time I’ll wear the wig and the makeup. The last time I’ll put on the costumes and perform the routines.
I can’t live with the lie anymore. I can’t split my life. I have to choose between the sides. And learn to live with the choice. I could be Cady. With a steady job and a storybook life. And with Keith.
I can do that.
The lights dim as I walk slowly onto the stage—the other performers swiftly clearing the space. Each step feels like farewell. I stand in the dark for a long time, the wait heavy and seems to last forever.
The music starts, almost drowned out by the applause that starts as the lights rise. My heart flutters hard. The first strains of “Chimera” begin to play, the slow sensuous sound swaying.
Don’t look now; you’ll never see.
The spotlight blinds and I blink back tears.
Outside your eyes, forever free.
I move; my hips and thighs, my shoulders and breasts, move as I shimmy and quiver. I do high kicks and let my black trench coat slip off my shoulder. I turn my back, my stance wide.
You think you see what’s there beneath.
I wink cheekily at my audience before letting it drop, hearing the crowd whoop. I bend low at the waist, the taut string of my filmy, flimsy, black thong pulled tight between my cheeks as they cheer.
But there’re layers still, thick and deep.
I hug my leg a moment, reveling in the stretch’s pull, before standing straight again. I bite the fingertips of my black tea gloves, pulling them off to toss them uncaring at the foot of the stage. I see excited hands reach for the scant, discarded cloth; touching them, taking them, leaving green, crumpled bills in their place.
Upright again, I push my shoulders back as the lights reveal the tight black shelf-bra and matching black shorts, the material barely hiding the peach-colored tips of my hard-tipped breasts.
Mirrors are liars; my eyes have no soul.
I reach for the clasp of the bra, when I see her.
Trust nothing you see; only what you know.
In the front row, she’s watching me contemplatively, as if she sees something that makes me pause.
I stop. My hands fall to my sides. For a moment, I just stare into Hallie’s beautiful, blue eyes.
Intellectually, I knew. If I say goodbye to Rebel and the Burle-Q girls—if I choose the steady storybook life—I'll be giving up Hallie as well.
My heart clenches at the thought.
But what choice do I have? Cady is real—tangible and undeniable. Safe and stable. Rebel, as exciting and fulfilling as she is, is a dream. Ephemeral and too hard to keep. She can only exist within the walls of this club and every second spent here puts my life as Cady at risk.
Leaving Rebel behind makes sense. It’s my only choice.
How do you say goodbye to Hallelujah?
The music plays for a few bars before the crowd realizes that something is wrong. Before the crowd’s cheers stumble into awkward and questioning twitters. I watch Hallie’s smooth, sweet brow crinkle in confusion.
My window’s locked; you’ll never see.
I close my eyes, my heart fluttering almost painfully in my chest. I gasp for breath and my hands fist. Distantly, I feel my long manicured nails dig into my palms painfully.
The cage that blocks, also keeps me.
“I’m sorry,” I mouth at Hallie before I reach behind my head and pull at the pins in my hair. I can't be Rebel. Not even for Hallie. Rebel is evanescent. Fleeting. The harder I try to hold on to her, the more my world will crumble like sand, dragging everyone around me down with it. I give Hallie a sorry sigh. “I love you.”
It keeps me safe, keeps me strong.
I can't be Rebel, but I want one moment, before the dream ends, before life coalesces into Cady, with Hallie. One moment where she sees me.
Whoever that even is.
Over the music, I feel as if I can hear each tiny, falling pin as it tings against the stage.
So here I stay, right or wrong.
Shoving my fingers underneath the wig’s cap, I take a deep, steadying breath before pulling the cloud of dark curls off.
The song ends, its last strains dying out. I shake my head—my short, blond bob flying out wildly. I stand straight and stare out at the confused crowd.
But all I see is the glaring gleam of the stage lights as I stare at Hallie’s tears.
I see her blink while her eyes adjust to the new me—the true me. Cold shock fades into suspicion. I wonder if, without the wig, she recognizes me from the campaign coverage. My heart aches at the sheen of betrayal in her blue eyes. She shuts her eyes and turns away.
My heart breaks at the realization of what I've done. To myself. To her. The dream is lost. And I don’t know where that leaves us.
Please don't leave me.
Still staring at Hallie—my Hallelujah—I hold my breath and mouth, “Forgive me.” Please.
Nicholas was right. The truth does set you free.
But, as my own eyes that never leave hers tear under the harsh lights, I know freedom always comes at a cost.
Standing in the spotlight, suddenly I know. I can't be Rebel. But, even if I tried, I can’t be Cady anymore either.
I need to be me. Whoever that is. And, as Hallie's unsure gaze meets mine again, I know I want to figure that out with her. No more secrets. No more masks.
If she’ll have me.
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