“Riala… are you sure you’re going to be comfortable? I mean…”
She looked at Kyriala and then smiled slightly. “I think I know what is going to happen later on tonight. I had my healing in the main House of Masks, Ky. Do you think that Narilla would let me leave without helping me with my pain there?”
Kyriala had started blushing long before Ri finished. “Oh… no…”
“I might even be able to help describe things.” Ri had come early for the party.
Ky tried to sit and take this all in calmly. After all, she was inviting her girlfriends for an overnight party. She had read through the little glove pocket book and talked to Atzana and Laisa, both. It… she hadn’t tried any of the things in the book and thought it might be easier with all the girlfriends. Less frightening. It wasn’t dangerous. After all, the Fenjitza herself had given her the book.
Mama had been thrilled for her little overnight party, when she’d suggested it. “It’s been so long since you did something young and girlish! After all this campaigning… and working. It’s what fessas do.”
The fan in the ceiling of her room was slowing now, though still strong enough to make the summer-weight curtains on her bed shift in the breeze. The mechanism was hidden in the attic above and the night servant would be re-winding it soon. The servants would not enter her bedroom suite unless summoned.
Mama was safely ensconced in her own bed, and Nuni was visiting Ili at the Marble Palace, so there was no one who could walk in on them, inadvertently. Riala and Skala had tiny, short nightgowns. Riala’s was white and ivory and Skala’s pink matched the dye in her hair. Ky waved a fan in front of her overheated face. Her nightgown was high-necked, full length, buttoned on lace gloves, though almost transparent. Her hair was braided up tight but tendrils stuck clammily to her skin. Atzana had a nightgown that daringly exposed her shoulders and arms like a boy. Laisa actually wore a boy’s shirt and soft night kilt so her arms and legs were all exposed.
“I’m so hot I could almost melt,” Skala said, she sat up on the chaise and squeezed the bulb of her atomizer to mist water over herself.
“It is amazingly warm,” Ri said, pulling her nightgown away from her body. Even with the fan ruffling the lace of the curtains, and the feather-leaves of the trees on the end of her bed, their faces and necks glistened with sweat, or the lightly scented water they’d spritzed on themselves. Laisa leaned over and sprayed Skala, making her jump and squeak.
“OOOhhh!” She sprayed back and Laisa ducked and Ky received the blast. She dropped her fan and seized her own jeweled atomizer. Ky found herself at a disadvantage, her gown soaked in moments.
She ducked behind the plants, laughing as Atzana alternated between trying to spray her and wheeling on Laisa who stood and took the soaking. “Oh, oh. It’s too hot!” Even wet her nightgown was hot.
“This isn’t enough water!” Riala giggled… “I have an idea… Shhhh. Shhhh. Come on! Shhh.”
They left their water weapons where they were and followed her out, tiptoeing down the stairs, through the dark hallway, past the door to the women’s quarters that was always unlocked and open now. “Shhh… ow… my toes! Careful… shhhh.”
They giggled and shushed themselves all the way out and Ky really started giggling when she realized Ri was leading them to the cold pool. “Wonderful idea… but Ri we don’t have our bathing costumes!”
“So? Who is going to see us? It’s dark and nobody’s awake but us!”
“Us and the night servants!”
“We won’t light any lamps so there’s nobody in the baths but us!”
“You mean… we won’t wear anything?” Atzana sounded nervous.
“Sounds good to me,” Laisa said. “My gran told me some things that made me blush and she did some things when she was a girl that I didn’t think any Sera ever would have done.” They slipped into the dark and echoing baths. “She took me out one afternoon to weed the gardens and told me that she was very wild when she was a girl, the despair of her father. She went without clothes a few times with her girlfriends...”
“Oh, then we’re all right then,” Kyriala gave an explosive giggle. “I do want to get cool.”
In the dim blue/black night they couldn’t see anything anyway and Skala slipped and fell into the shallow pool with a splash though she didn’t squeal, to her credit. “Shhhh. Oooh, that feels good,” she said as she spluttered to her feet.
The water was like a living thing in the dark, sliding up her legs and Ky shivered even as she indulged herself in the sensation. She let the water seep up over her ears and the world went even more strange as her hearing filled full. Chillness flowed up over her head and she held her nose and let herself sink all the way under, the heat fleeing in confusion. She let herself float up, the warm air filling her nose, everything else beautifully cool.