Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted here at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! I include roundups from participating bloggers in my post every week.
At first I thought I had guessed wrong about my mother.
"A dress," she said, when I told her the requirement for me to work at the new Parmer Arms. "But you can't wear a dress. That would look silly. That would be indecent. Boys wear trousers."
I sat up straight enough so that my growing breasts made a definite shape against my tattered white shirt. "Girls wear skirts."
She looked at me as if she hadn't noticed my changing figure before, and her eyes slowly filled with tears. "You're not," she whispered. "You're not supposed to be."
"I don't know what I'm supposed to be," I said tiredly. "But this is what I am."
As it turned out, she neither granted permission for me to take the job nor told me outright that I could not. She merely ignored my request, ignored anything that had to do with my new identity. She did not help me cut and sew the three simple gowns I made for myself, following an extremely simple pattern. She did not ask about the work or comment on the money that I handed over at the end of every week. She pretended, as she had pretended my entire life, that I was someone else.
But I rather liked the new Kellen, who was, in many subtle ways, different from the old one. This Kellen was not quite so fierce, so independent, so wary. She smiled much more often--though that might have been to hide her shyness. She was not used to being stripped of disguises, unfamiliar with the casual appraisal a man might turn on a woman of any age on display, vulnerable, pulled out of hiding, a breath or two away from being starkly naked.
But she rather liked it.
I worked at the Parmer Arms four days a week--three evenings after school and one full day when school was not in session. At first, I walked through town, from my house to Sarah's, wearing my old boy's clothes and carrying my dress over my arm; I changed once I arrived. Sarah quickly decided it would make more sense for her to store all of my "restaurant clothes" at the Arms and made herself responsible for keeping them cleaned and mended. She also added two somewhat fancier garments to my small wardrobe, obviously having a seamstress tailor them after the template of the ones I had made myself. These dresses--one a dark navy and one a charcoal gray--were my favorite two things I owned.
Sarah also spent some time teaching me how to style my hair, though both of us tended to wear braids and buns to keep our hair out of the way while we were working. Still, she showed me how to soften my face with a few loose curls, and she trimmed my long, completely neglected locks so they fell with more grace around my cheeks. At times I didn't recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. And I was glad to see a stranger peering back at me from the glass that hung over the front desk at the Parmer Arms.
Most of the people who passed through the restaurant did not recognize me, either. True, the majority were strangers merely stopping briefly for food or a change of horses, but the restaurant had become a popular place for townspeople who wanted to treat themselves to a special night out. The first two months I worked there, I waited on at least a dozen people whom I had known all my life, and not one of them knew who I was.
But there was one person who was not fooled by my new looks or my modulated personality, and that was Gryffin. Or perhaps I put that wrong. He did not seem to notice what I was wearing or how I had arranged my hair, if I was dressed like the most disreputable street urchin or a quietly stylish young lady. Whether I saw him at school, whether I dropped by his uncle's house, or whether I unexpectedly encountered him on the street, he always greeted my with a smile and my name. I did not bewilder or surprise him. He did not think I was trying to be something I was not, as my mother did; he did not think I was trying to break a chrysalis and become something I was meant to be, as Besty and Sarah surely believed. He just thought I was Kellen.
I found this the most comforting thing that had ever happened to me. At times, when I lay awake at night, confused myself about what role I should take and what direction I should try to follow, all that kept me from slipping into tears was knowing that I was not completely lost if Gryffin knew how to find me.
Twisted Kingdom Review