His moustache caused consternation, but it was integral to the act. She was entrusted to wax his moustaches before each performance; stand close to him with her own downy upper lip trembling with unspent lust as her nimble fingers twisted and twisted.
Miriam was selected from the periphery of Max Hardinger’s Wonder Girls – a little stouter, a little more wide-eyed than her pretty peers who kicked and twirled, she nonetheless caught Rhydian Hart’s attention almost immediately. It would be ten years more before she caught his heart.
Though they lived in close quarters; and only a painted screen separated their naked bodies in the cramped dressing rooms they shared; lustfulness seemed far from Rhydian’s desires.
Still, she quickly learnt the necessities of her role as his assistant – to fool the eyes of the audience, and make his act more wondrous, and he would clasp her hands after they had exited the stage, his eyes alight with excitement, but nothing more.
Her sole intimacy remained stroking the dark hair of his upper lip, warming the wax between her fingers until it was malleable. The scent of clove and sandalwood would linger on her skin until she bathed; but before the oils had truly vanished, she would trace her fingertips around her lips, circling over and over. With the light waning and her touch just so, she could imagine Rhydian was kissing her. Sometimes she circled the fingers lower, just above her right breast, and could almost feel the weight of his mouth there.
This she desired more than anything.
Once he asked her why she had no sweetheart, and she could not say “I am in love with you”, only swallow and look out of the cab window into the bleak city night, aware of the pressure of his thigh against hers, miserable.
Winter bled into summer bled into winter again, and Miriam grew older, and heavier. Rhydian too, twelve years her senior, grew a little greyer, a little softer. Where his moustaches were once sable, now they were peppered with flashes of white, and the skin beneath was lined, a perfect map if you caught him in mirth or anger. The act had flourished into popularity. Their names were known – ‘Rhydian Hart and the Enchanting Beatrice’ – and gossip persisted that they were secretly married.
“If only.” sighed Miriam.
They were easier with one another now, so much so that liberties were taken. At one shabby theatre, the dressing room was small and cramped, with no screen to spare their blushes, and all other rooms filled with jugglers and dancers.
“No matter.” Shrugged Rhydian after a silence. “I shall close my eyes to spare my swee-Miriam’s blushes” and Miriam caught the words and looked at him queerly as he closed the door to the manager’s retreating back.
“I shall keep my eyes closed, Miriam. I want nothing more than to spare your blushes. Maintain your innocence.”
She smiled, nonplussed.
“My innocence? I think he departed long ago.” but when he kept his back to her, she began to unbutton her frock, which was fitted perfectly over her stays, watching the back of Rhydian’s head as she did so. His neck showed pale between his thinning hair and twilight-coloured suit. She imagined the exhalation of breath if she were to press her warm, wanting mouth to that skin, and swallowed, her fingers catching on the fastenings.
When it came to her stays, to her surprise, these came loose with ease, leaving her in only her chemise, boots and stockings. Her chemise must be removed – the cotton would bunch beneath her corset and bloomers – but beneath it, she was fleshy and bare, her nipples stiff points and her mound hidden only by a cuff of hair. And she was ashamed that the thought of her nakedness presented to an unknowing Rhydian made her heart beat faster and her cunt throb.
Her fingers shook as she drew the garment over her head, her body stretched backwards, presented fully in her womanly voluptuousness. She stumbled a little on the uneven floorboards, and yelped as she removed this final covering.
With her ears blocked, she could not hear him ask her if she were quite well; with her vision obscured, she did not see him turn at her silence, and catch her display.
She turned her body and folded the item neatly, placing it on top of her dress and stays, then turned back to cast her glance upon her beloved’s shadow and instead caught his blushing cheek, open mouth, and his eye, which glinted with a darkness she had never seen.
They gazed at one another in silence, until Rhydian remembered himself and tore his eyes away, immediately apologetic.
“My…. Miriam…. I am sorry. I am…. I shall….” He stuttered and stammered, moving awkwardly to the door and leaving her alone with a final anguished “I am sorry. So sorry.”
Miriam stared into the empty space before her. She felt incandescent, but not with anger, with delight. With power.
With barely a second thought, she stepped to the door, and followed him out into the draughty corridors of the theatre.