Whispers eddied around her as expected as high tide or a new moon. They ranged in tone from sordidly speculative to pitying. Victoria ignored them as she walked out of the school and down the streets. The whispers faded under the sounds of pedestrians, pigeons, and cars as she walked to the mall. She removed her jacket and folded it so the school crest didn’t show. She kept changing details as she walked. She let her hair down and drew it in front of her face, tucked her locket under her shirt, unbuttoned her cuffs and rolled up her shirt sleeves to the elbow. By the time she got to the mall, she was no longer an elegant academy rose. She’d faded to just another girl out shopping instead of doing homework.
She wandered looking at this and that, occasionally stepping inside for a closer look at one bauble or another until she reached her destination. The letters declaring the name were vibrant red and jagged, music that held little resemblance to what she heard in drawing rooms pulsed through the speakers, and t-shirts with pop culture references and insults lined the walls. It was everything she wasn’t. Well, she’d see about that. She stepped in and bypassed the t-shirts and lanyards covered in cute animals.
She drifted to the back of the store where rainbow leggings and black silk corsets with red ribbons hung on racks. The colors, dark and bold, enticed her. She found a shirt and corset combo in rich purple and cream. Steampunk Victorian. She gathered it, a matching skirt, a pair of stockings, and a pair of black boots and practically fled to the dressing room.
What was she doing? With all the whispers and speculation, changing so drastically would spark seven different kinds of speculation. Not to mention what her friends would think. Victoria sank down on the excuse for a dressing room bench. She fought to take deep breaths. It was okay. No one here knew here. She didn’t have to buy it. She didn’t have to wear it if she did buy it. But to do something she wanted that wasn’t allowed. She didn’t care if it was typical or expected or overly dramatic. No one knew her better than she did, right? She took another breath and tried on the outfit.
She didn’t recognize the girl in the mirror, the proper set of her shoulders and lift of her chin didn’t look lady like on her, they looked like a challenge. It wasn’t her, but it was part of her, she could see it if she looked long enough. She took another wavering look before changing back into her uniform. But on a glance in the mirror, she didn’t see the same girl either. She looked away quickly. She seemed more real than she felt just then.
Before she could think too much more, she bought the clothes and boots and disguised the boxes. She started her walk home. She may not wear them, but they would remind her as the days went on and the whispers turned to questions or accusations or disgust that the girl in the mirror had more than one mask. She still had time to figure out which was which.