She went to bed almost eagerly, Allura excited and trying not to laugh, the girl eager for the hours to pass. Her friend and roommate Liandra was much the same way, having shared secretive smiles with Allura all throughout dinner. It was an act that did not go unnoticed, Corrum flashing them worried looks. But neither girl approached him to share in the plan, both fearing the boy would somehow ruin their planned excursion.
When the time came to get up out of bed, it felt like Allura had only been dozing for a few minutes. She was more than a little annoyed with herself for sleeping, wondering how Liandra had managed to stay up for the appointed hour. Liandra had shrugged, and offered no real excuse, urging Allura out of her bed.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” Whispered Allura, stepping into her pale pink slippers. Liandra was already at the door, easing it open to peer out into the hall. She studied it for a second, than gestured Allura closer, giving the all clear with her actions.
Trying not to giggle, Allura hurried down the hall, her hand held firmly by Liandra’s. They darted from shadow to shadow, and soon was drawing near to the Madame’s room. It was a night where she was not entertaining guests, the woman moving about her room, music playing softly. They crept by the door, cringing at every imagined sound their slipper covered feet made.
Bu they weren’t caught, the two wearing sly smiles as they made it passed the bedrooms, and near to the middle of the mansion. Further down the corridor, Allura could see light flickering out of a partially open door, Liandra leading her towards it. It was to the sitting room they drew near, the two girls dropping to all fours, and crawling forward to press against the door.
Just as Liandra had said, the older children were inside it, laughing and talking quietly, the mood of the room jovial but subdued. Allura could barely make out what they were saying, their voices too low but it was enough to watch them. The girls and the boys mingled together, lounging about on chairs and couches, eyes twinkling with mischief.
One girl danced in the center of the room, moving to a beat she heard only in her hand. Allura studied her dance, watching as the girl began hitching up the long hem of her nightgown, flashing ankles than calves. Allura wasn’t the only one watching, the boys expressed ardent interest in the raising of the hem, the girl inching it past her knees, and higher yet. Her thighs flashed, leaving Allura to wonder if the girl would flash her underwear to the boys.
At the last second she tossed back her head and laughed, Suebella letting go of her nightgown, it’s bottom half flaring out as she spun in place. The boys seemed disappointed, Elonzo speaking up to be heard over the other’s moans. “You’re such a tease Suebella!”
“Madame Elianza says that’s a good thing!” retorted Suebella, a twinkle in her eyes. She brushed back her auburn hair, the cut of it short, lending Suebella the look of a pixie. Her personality was just as mischievous as the fae she resembled, the girl walking over to the black haired Elonzo. “The nobles like a good tease, it gets their blood pumping.”
“They’re not the only ones!” Tarak called out, his looks the typical blonde hair, blue eyed combination that was so favored among both humans and Drules. But there was something exotic about him, something that hinted that he wasn’t entirely human. Like Madame Elianza, his skin was pale, to the point he never tanned no matter how many days he spent basking in the sun’s rays.
Suebella laughed at Tarak’s words, but continued to advance on Elonzo. The seventeen year old was sitting on a recliner, watching her approach with something like anticipation in his eyes. “And what about you Elonzo?” She asked, bending forward slightly to place her hands on his knees. “Does your blood boil to watch me dance?”
“No, it does not.” He denied, but even from across the room Allura could tell he lied by the way his eyes darkened with emotion.
“Aw…” Suebella pretended to pout, rubbing her hands up higher on the youth’s legs. “Elonzo doesn’t like to be teased…” Her hands were now on his thighs, the boy spreading his legs to allow the girl to press herself against him, her hands continuing their sensual rubbing. “But..” A sly smile on Suebella’s face, the girl leaning in teasingly to whisper words just over his mouth. “You love the idea of teasing the nobles just as much as the rest of us…!”
“Suebella…” He growled out her name with a warning, his hands moving to catch at Suebella. To Allura’s disappointment, the older girl nimbly skipped out of reach, the promised kiss being denied to Elonzo.
The seventeen year old looked mad, glaring across the room at the laughing Suebella. She gave a toss of her auburn curls, the sixteen year old well aware she was the center of attention for the other eight teenagers. “Poor Elonzo…..he can dish it out, but he can’t take it!” Quiet laughter from the others, even as the black haired youth growled. “Whatever will Madame Elianza think to know her prized pupil is so…deficient in this area.”
“As if you’re any better.” Challenged Elonzo. Suebella quirked an eyebrow at him, the boy continuing. “You cannot stand the thought of having to endure another’s teasing, be they man or woman. None of us can.” A murmur of agreement from the gathered teenagers, Suebella being left to pout and posture in response.
“Madame Elianza is the biggest tease of all.” Announced Emmerine, a girl whose hair was still done up in an elaborate braided style. “She keeps promising to teach us what we need to know, but she never delivers.”
“She’s waiting until we get older.” Suebella sighed. “And then maybe she’ll finally part with all her secrets.”
Liandra was excited, whispering to Allura. “So even they do not get the benefit of all of Madame Elianza’s knowledge!” Allura made a shushing sound, wanting to hear more from the teenagers.
“I’m almost old enough…” boasted Elonzo. “I’ll be eighteen come next month.” A smirk then, the boy looking pleased to the advanced knowledge his age would bring.
“Oh you must simply tell us when you learn!” Suebella exclaimed, Emmerine clasping her hands together in agreement.
“Yes, you must!” The other teenagers were nodding, boys and girls looking eager, casting expectant looks at Elonzo.
“I don’t know…” He began to disappointed moans. “I’m not sure you all would be able to handle it.”
“Now whose being a tease?!” muttered Tarak, Elonzo shooting him an unrepentant look.
“I might be willing to share…” His expression turned sly, Elonzo casting a glance at Suebella. “If Suebella kisses me like she means it.”
“Naughty boy…I thought you said you were unaffected by my teasing?!”
“I lied.” Answered Elonzo, the other teenagers lending their voices to the discussion, urging the auburn haired girl to pay the youth’s price. Suebella put on an exasperated expression, walking towards Elonzo with a seductive sway of her hips. It was the kind of walk Allura sought to memorize, the girl wondering if she’d ever be that graceful, that sexy when SHE moved.
“The price I pay to satisfy a moment’s curiosity.” She reached out with her hands, fingers cupping either side of Elonzo’s face, tilting his head back. He was smirking as she did this, staring at her as the girl began to lower her face towards his. Allura felt Liandra nudging her, the girl anxious that she would somehow miss the sight. As if Allura was looking at anything else, the girl transfixed as Suebella brought out her tongue, using it’s tip to trace a wet line across Elonzo’s mouth.
“Suebella…” He groaned out her name, and his hands were suddenly there on the girl’s hips, fingers clutching at her nightgown.
“You wanted me to mean it…” She whispered huskily against his lips, an instant before she pressed her mouth down on his. Allura’s eyes went wide, watching the passionate clinch as boy and girl clutched at each other. They seemed to feast at each other’s mouth, nipping and biting lips, tongues being thrust back and forth between them, the pair dueling for supremacy.
“Wow…” Allura breathed out, spying Suebella’s fingers tangling in Elonzo’s raven locks, the girl seeming to kiss him harder as she climbed up onto his lap. His own hands were busy, sliding from her hips to cup her bottom, fingers giving her a squeeze that tore a moan from Suebella.
“I told you!” hissed Liandra, fingers digging into Allura’s arms. “A kiss that makes you red faced and breathless!”
Allura could only nod, wondering if someday she would get a chance to kiss someone like that. The pair of teenagers were still kissing, Elonzo’s hands starting to wander even further about Suebella’s body. It was then that Suebella tightened her fingers’ grip, jerking on his hair cruelly as she forced him to separate from her mouth.
“Now, now Elonzo. It was a kiss we bartered for, a kiss for knowledge.”
“I think I may require more kisses like that…” The boy said, a silly grin on his flush colored face. Suebella glared and shoved at him, the boy letting go so she could slide off his lap. “Besides, it’s good practice for the future.”
“Here, here!” Tarak applauded, casting a hopeful look at Suebella. She ignored the blonde, flouncing off to sit down next to Emmerine.
“They make a good point Suebella…” Emmerine said, her tone apologetic. “How we will ever learn to properly seduce the nobles if we don’t put in for some real practice?”
“There’s books…” A third girl spoke up, the others turning to glance at her. “And the Madame’s lectures.”
“Books and talking.” Elonzo made a scoffing sound. “As if they could ever make up for hands on experience! How are we to ever become galactic famous courtesans if we remain pure and virginal all the time?”
“The Madame has her rules….” Suebella began, and Elonzo snorted.
“And you’re suddenly a stickler for them?” He demanded with a shake of his head. “Madame Elianza is insane if she thinks she can keep such attractive men and women around each other with nothing happening!”
“Oh?” Mocking was her tone, Suebella throwing a cushion in Elonzo’s direction. “What men are you speaking of? I see nothing but pitiable little boys playing at being adult!” But even Suebella could not deny that Elonzo and the other boys were handsome.
Elonzo opened his mouth to retort, a heated exclamation coming out of him. The others shushed him, wary of the volume of his voice attracting attention to this secret meeting. Allura herself was pouting, thinking the kissing was at an end. She glanced at Liandra, who was intent on the scene in the room, the girl’s eyes gleaming.
“We’re learning so much tonight!” She whispered excitedly.
“Are we?” questioned Allura, and Liandra nodded.
“Liandra! Allura! What are you two doing here?” A shadow had fallen over their kneeling forms, the girls turning guiltily to find a worried looking Corum standing behind them. Liandra visibly wilted with relief, giving the boy a dismissive look.
“Corrum go back to bed.”
“Liandra how could you drag Allura into this madness?” The boy demanded, ignoring the older girl’s command.
“I didn’t have to do any dragging, Allura wanted to come!” pointed out Liandra, Allrua nodding her head in agreement.
“And what will you two do if the Madame catches you?” The boy wanted to know.
“She won’t know if you stay quiet. Now either kneel down and lower your voice, or go back to your room and sleep!” Liandra told him, her whisper a furious hiss that had it’s volume raising with every other word.
“I will not. I’ll….I’ll…” The boy had taken his eyes off of Liandra, something in the room catching his eyes. “What are they doing?”
“They’re kissing!” exclaimed Allura, turning to look as well. A new boy and girl were making out, the others watching with amusement and envy warring in their eyes.
“That’s a lot different when you two tried to kiss me this afternoon at the lake.” Corram said, and Liandra laughed.
“That’s because you’re not experienced. You’re just a little boy…those are real men in there!”
“Liandra!” Corrum forgot himself loud enough to voice her name louder, the sound reaching to the teenagers who froze. The kissing pair immediately pulled apart, the boy knocking the girl onto her ass on the floor. Guilty expressions were on all the faces of the teenagers, Elonzo rising from his seat to hurry towards the door.
“Madame Elianza, I can explain…” He began, pulling the door open all the way. Allura and Liandra, who had been pressed against the wood, fell into the room, a flinching Corrum standing behind them.
“Liandra!” Suebella called out in admonishment, but they could hear the relief in her voice. “Allura, Corrum! What are you doing up this late? And spying on us no less? For shame!”
“What are YOU doing up this late?” Demanded a bold Liandra, the girl picking herself up off the floor as though she had not just made an awkward entrance into the room. “And kissing no less!”
“You saw that?” Tarak exclaimed, and Suebella and Elonzo moaned.
“Never admit to anything Tarak!” Elonzo snapped. “It’ll make it harder to lie if you do!”
“We saw!” Liandra said, and latched onto Allura’s arm. “All three of us. You guys were kissing, and touching, and talking about things!”
“It’s things that should not concern young minds.” Emmerine said, smiling kindly at them. Her smile was wasted, Liandra glaring at her. “Really little ones, you’re getting excited over nothing. Go back to bed and forget you ever saw any of this.”
“Why should we forget?” Allura wanted to know.
“Yeah!” Liandra all but shouted, ignoring Corrum who spoke quietly.
“Maybe we should listen and go back to bed…”
“Be quiet Corrum!” Liandra snapped at him, then returned her glare to the teenagers before her. “You guys are up to something. Something that is naughty! You wouldn’t have reacted with such guilt if you weren’t.”
“You’re imagining things.” Suebella told her, and Liandra stamped her foot.
“I am not!”
“Yes, you are. Now go back to bed.” Suebella ordered, the girl looking as though she had come to the end of her patience. Allura and Corrum backed up a step, intimidated by the sixteen year old and her infamous temper. But Liandra was no slouch when it came to expressing her own annoyances, the girl nodding.
“All right. We’ll go to bed.” A sly smile then, Liandra grinning her victory. “But we’ll be sure to stop by Madame Elianza’s apartment, and let her know all about this
after hours party.”
“It’s not a party!” Emmerine protested, and Suebella hissed out a command.
“Don’t you dare!”
“What’s to stop us?” Liandra wanted to know, and Suebella growled.
“Liandra you brat!”
“You will get into as much trouble as we, for being up after curfew.” Tarak pointed out, earning a groan from Elonzo.
“Sorry Elonzo…” Tarak apologized, realizing he had in effect revealed that their actions were in fact something bad.
“We may get in trouble, but not as much as you nine.” Liandra insisted. “Because I intend to tell Madame Elianza EVERYTHING.”
“Everything?’ The third girl spoke up, looking worried. “Even the kisses?”
“Especially the kisses!” nodded Liandra.
“Let’s not be so hasty.” Elonzo said. “Perhaps something can be worked out…”
“Like what?” Liandra asked suspiciously.
“Like…” He looked at the other teenagers, the gather boys and girls giving him helpless shrugs. “Like you can stay and hang out with us tonight…”
“And the nights that follow?”
“We’ll see.” Elonzo said, quick to make no definite promises.
“And you’ll answer all our questions?” Liandra asked, and Elonzo sighed.
“You drive a hard bargain. But yes…we will TRY to answer your questions.”
“Yay!” cheered Liandra, giving Allura’s arm a squeeze. “Come on Corrum, come in and shut the door.” She was already dragging Allura deeper into the room, choosing the seat that had been vacated by Elonzo. The two girls snuggled into the large recliner, Corrum reluctantly coming to sit at the floor before the chair.
“What do you want to know?” Elonzo asked, the others returning to claim the various seating spread throughout the room.
“Why is kissing such a big deal?” Corrum asked.
“What is a courtesan?” Allura added her own question to the mix.
“What does the Madame teach you?!” came Liandra’s imaptient voice. “It has to do with kissing, doesn’t it?”
“Er….some of it, yes…” Elonzo admitted, and Liandra let out a delighted squeal.
“I knew it!”
“But it’s more than just kissing.” Suebella added. “We are taking classes, learning anatomy and the pleasure points of the body, the art of massages. It’s a whole lot of studying on top of our regular school work.”
“There’s also flirting…” added Emmerine. “We’re learning the sport of engaging our partner’s interest through talk and subtle movements of the body. It’s all about enticing the nobles, making them want us.”
“Why?” Allura asked, knowing no one had ever explained to her just what the purpose to all these lessons were.
A shared glance went through the room, the teenagers suddenly even more uncomfortable. “It has to do with that word you mentioned.” Suebella said at last. “Courtesan…”
“Suebella…” Elonzo’s voice held a warning to it, the girl shooting him an annoyed look.
“You said we’d answer their questions! Besides….they’ll find out eventually…what does it matter if it’s a few years earlier than the Madame intended?” She asked him. He still hesitated, and Liandra frowned at them.
“If you won’t answer, we’ll go straight to Madame Elianza and ask her, ourselves!”
“She’ll wonder where they learned such a word.” Emmerine pointed out, and Elonzo sighed.
“Fine!” he threw up his hands in defeat. “Answer their questions, see if I care.”
“A courtesan?” Allura reminded them, when the teenagers had fallen silent after Elonzo’s outburst.
“It’s a…” Another exchanging of glances, Subelle hesitating. “It’s a special job for special men and women.”
“Beautiful people.” Added Emmerine, Subelle nodding.
“Beauty is very important in a courtesan’s job.”
“And just what is a courtesan’s job?” Allura asked.
“A courtesan is to…to be a special playmate to the nobles. A mistress if you will.” Sueblel explained, causing the children’s nose to wrinkle in confusion.
“A mistress?” Allura did not know this word, and Suebella sighed.
“A mistress is like a wife….but without the ties of matrimony. She or he dotes on the client, and the client rewards them with expensive tokens of their affection. You get gifts…”
“Like toys?” Corrum interrupted and Suebella shook her head no.
“Better than toys. You get houses, money, servants. Jewels.”
“Is Madame Elianza a courtesan?” Allura asked, thinking that the woman had a lot of all the things Suebella has just listed.
“She’s mainly retired now, though she does still entertain on occasion.” Suebella told them.
“She likes to keep in touch with her contacts, keeps her new business lucrative.” Another big word Allura did not understand, the girl flashing Emmerline a puzzled look.
“So what is her job then?”
“To raise us.” Tarak answered, gesturing at the mixed group of children. “She’s developing a product you see. One she will sell to the highest bidder.”
“Sell?!” Allura was alarmed, barely able to keep from screaming. “You mean like slaves?!”
“No no no!” Several of the teenagers quickly interjected, waving their hands at Allura in a panicked matter.
“We’re free.” Suebella said, trying to reassure them. “But the Madame owns our contracts. She will sell them to suitable buyers, and we will have to pay off our debt to her for the first five years of any money we make on our contracts.”
“It costs a small fortune to raise even just one child, let alone a dozen or more.” Emmerine explained to the children. “There’s food, housing, clothing and educational costs. The Madame would quickly run out of money if she didn’t’ have us earn it back for her.”
“Yeah earn it back for her on OUR backs.” Muttered one of the boys, the other teenagers torn between laughing and shushing him.
Allura frowned again, not understanding what being on one’s back had to do with anything.
“Are we to kiss the nobles?” Liandra wanted to know, and squealed when several heads nodded yes. “Eeew! Yucky! I don’t think I could kiss a stranger!”
“You’ll learn.” Elonzo said. “The Madame will teach you how to toss inhibitions aside for your job. It will become as easy as breathing, you won’t even have to think about it to do it.”
“Is that why you guys were kissing?” Corrum asked. “Because you were trying to get used to it?” Another exchanging of glances, the teenagers shrugging, leaving Elonzo to answer.
“Partly. But also….we want to do it of our choosing. To kiss who we want, when we want. Once our contracts our sold, we won’t have the right to choose our own partners. Not until we earn enough money to be free of our contracts and retire.”
“So…” Liandra began slowly, trying to make sure she understood. “The kissing you were doing, it wasn’t anything bad?”
“Not exactly.” Hedged Tarak, and Elonzo sighed.
“Madame Elianza forbids us from engaging with each other in such behavior. She wants us to be pure and chaste, right up until our first buyer.”
“What does chaste mean?” Allura wanted to know, and she could have sworn Elonzo blushed.
“It uh…it means no se—”
“No kissing!” interrupted Emmerline, shooting him a warning look. “The Madame doesn’t want us kissing, or practicing what we learn on each other. Not without her there to supervise.”
“Why not?” Allura asked.
“She doesn’t want us to form loving attachments to one another.” Emmerline said, making the children frown.
“But we’re a family!” Corrum exclaimed. “We all love one another…”
“And that love is fine.” Emmerline answered. “It’s a different love, the kind of love mommies and daddies have for one another that is forbidden.”
“Why” Allura and Liandra asked at the same time.
“Love would only complicate things in a courtesan’s line of work.” Suebella explained. “It would make our jobs difficult, we wouldn’t be able to see to our clients if we were pining away for the kiss of another.”
“Hmm….” Allura frowned. “So we can’t ever fall in love?”
“Not until we retire.”
“What about with our clients?” To that the teenagers began laughing, several shaking their heads no.
“It would only bring disaster.” Replied Suebella. “A client won’t ever be able to return that love, not in any way that can count. He or she won’t be able to look past status, and the shame associated with elevating a courtesan beyond his or her social class. I mean no noble would ever consider marrying one of us!”
“So we have to kiss and play with the nobles, and never love or be loved in return?” Allura asked, her tone sad. She grew even sadder at Suebella’s nod, Allura trying not to cry at the thought of the loveless future that awaited her. Liandra and Corrum continued to ask questions, but Allura just sat there, barely taking in the words around her. She hoped and prayed that the other children were wrong, that a courtesan could find love, no matter the station of their partner. If she had only known how much trouble such hopes were, she might have begun preparations to turn her heart into ice.