April, 2012:

FEELING LIKE A MUMMY IN AN MRI COFFIN By Victoria Giraud

MRI Machine

After my neurology doctor examined my legs and decided they worked, she deduced the problems were coming from my lower back. Time for my first MRI. No chance to anguish or research, it was scheduled the very next day. Did I want a Valium to keep calm since I would be in a fairly “cozy” space for a half hour? She thought they might have music (an iPod perhaps) available as an option. I decided bravery was my choice and maybe music.

Radiology was located in a far corner of the hospital complex and the waiting room was small. Two women and an elderly man were chatting away in an Eastern European language, I guessed, and another older woman was lying on a small couch. I discovered later she’d had six back surgeries and was still hurting.

My name was called and my technician, Monte, showed me the dressing room. Remove my bra and put on two hospital gowns: one for the front, one for the back, take off my watch and hair clip and lock up my purse. Did I have any metal in my body or metal in the pants I was wearing? I wondered what would be required if the answer had been yes.

Monte was pleasant and had a sense of humor. Turns out there was no music because patients would start moving around to the music and you must keep perfectly still for this monstrous machine to work accurately.  When I sounded disappointed, he jokingly pretended he’d entertain me: Did I like Elvis or Asian rap?

I climbed onto the sliding “bed” and settled on my back while Monte straightened the pillow under my head and added a pillow under my knees. He gave me a rubber device that fit in my right palm; if I squeezed it, he’d come to my aid, just in case I needed help—if I was too hot or too cold, for instance. He didn’t mention panic!

The platform started to move into what could best be described as a round coffin. No room to move: the rounded top was inches from my face and my arms were essentially pinned to my sides. Thankfully, I could still look down toward my feet and literally see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” When it stopped moving, I couldn’t help but feel trapped and had to work at keeping calm and still while air conditioning blew on my cheek.

He rushed out of the room but said he’d keep in touch through a speaker broadcasting into the “coffin.” Monte’s instructions, which he repeated from time to time, let me know I wasn’t entirely alone: “Keep your eyes closed. Don’t move and take deep breaths.” Why was I thinking of “Star Wars?”

At least I could move my hands a tiny bit and I managed to ignore my familiar nerve twinge in my upper calf. I listened to the noisy sounds the machine made: something that sounded like a device used to blow up a mattress in the background, and a type of motor noise that rose and fell as it did its work  making a scan of my back. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, so the noises are the pulses of radio wave energy.

It was creepy and I kept thinking of Egyptian mummies all wrapped up and lying in a coffin. The most comforting thing, besides thinking about how I would describe this experience, was to be able to see the light at my feet and know that 30 minutes wasn’t a lifetime.

What my MRI Scan might resemble.

CALIFORNIA CRITTERS By Victoria Giraud

Spring has sprung, even in California where the weather is always good. On the lake in Westlake last weekend the birds were in a mating mood and a very large Canadian goose was eager for the rolls patrons of a lakeside restaurant threw at him. In the Glendale area, a California black bear had moseyed down and after raiding a freezer, which had some tasty Costco meatballs, he decided to stay. He was so smart he knew when residents put their garbage cans out and he feasted on those days. Animal control had to sedate him and drive him 25 miles into the Angeles Forest. When they had to carry the sedated bear in a blanket to a waiting truck, the animal control officer commented that it was like carrying a water bed without the frame.

When my children were younger and I was still married, we had a condo on the beach in Ventura County. It had a view of the ocean and was a very relaxing place to be. One day I was walking alone along a fairly uninhabited beach, which led to a large power plant, a few miles south. I noticed a baby seal slowly swimming in with the tide and decided to see if I could help him change direction. I waded in, softly spoke to him and gestured toward the ocean. He seemed comfortable with me a few feet away and looked as if he understood. Just then a Volkswagen “Bug” drove to the water’s edge to watch. The seal growled at the car and when the car drove off, I went back to my traffic cop routine. This delightful sea creature didn’t act aggressive toward me, and eventually got the message. Was I missing my calling as an animal trainer? Hardly likely, but it was a memorable experience getting so close to a wild animal. When I researched the seal, I discovered it was a baby elephant seal. I liked to imagine I “rescued” him.

Raccoons are plentiful in the California hills. For a few years, I lived in an area that bordered the Santa Monica Mountains. A pair of raccoons (apparently, it’s normal behavior to pair off) decided to explore the dumpster across from my apartment building one night. The next morning one was stuck inside it while the other one ran around the top perimeter of the dumpster, as if it could figure out a way to help its friend or mate. When I told the manager, he brought a chair from the pool area and placed it in the empty dumpster. It didn’t take long for the enterprising raccoon to climb out and join his friend.

The charming and resourceful Raccoon

My most poignant critter encounter was a couple of blocks from where I’m now living. My building borders the concrete flood control channel (a fenced-in tributary of the mostly dry Los Angeles River) and, except for some bushes and a few trees, there’s mostly empty land on both sides. My landlady likes to joke that we have a river view, which the flood channel becomes once it rains. I was taking a break from a walk and sitting on a small wall surrounding a home garden. I heard a whimpering sound and turned around to see a lone raccoon with an injured paw approaching me as if I could help him. My first thought was of the fictional children’s book character who took care of animals, Dr. Doolittle, but what could I do for this wild animal? He got within a few inches of me before he turned around and hobbled off into a fenced-in garage area and disappeared. I felt privileged that this creature felt comfortable enough to approach me and I silently wished him well.

THERAPY BY MEMOIR By Victoria Giraud

Setbacks Create Comebacks

 

 

One of my favorite genres in the book world is the Memoir. We all experience the contrasts of heartbreak and joy. Memoirs help us feel connected and hopeful—we aren’t alone in our pain and pain can be overcome.

I’ve had the privilege of editing, rewriting and even co-writing 15 memoirs, at last count. Each one was an emotional, meaningful journey for the author and for me. William McCloud, author of Setbacks Create Comebacks, proclaims: “It matters not what happens to you; it only matters how you react to what happens to you.”

The books I discuss here were all edited by me and are currently available on Amazon. William McCloud’s book, Setbacks Create Comebacks has a fairly recent new cover.

Bill’s mother Fannie, who was dark-skinned, gave birth to five children by four different fathers. When Bill was born, Fannie told the nurse he was too white to be her child and to take him back! In a sense he was “taken back” because his tough, no-nonsense grandmother raised him and his other siblings. She could be mean: she believed in whipping, but she made him a proud survivor. Every time life knocked him down, Bill stood up and managed to laugh about his misadventures with his grandmother, his mother and his siblings; it was great fun to edit. In 1985 Bill won an Emmy for his work as a cameraman on The Benson Show, starring Robert Guillaume. It had been a long journey from a small Ohio town to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry.

I had a wonderful experience co-writing Wendy Wong’s memoir, When the Phoenix Rises. To help me with the project, she sent me a variety of photos, newspaper articles and other mementoes from her home in Honolulu. I had a privileged view of her life growing up in poverty in Hong Kong and her struggles to make something of herself. Although her family was a loving one, they didn’t think females really needed much of an education, and when she did get a college degree, they assumed she would teach and then marry. She surprised them all with her skills in the real estate business, a talent nurtured by a very affluent Hawaiian businessman/developer known as the Hawaiian Rockefeller, who had been her lover. Wealth, success and marriage, however, don’t ensure a carefree life. Wendy has weathered various financial depressions in Hong Kong and Hawaii, and she’s endured the heartbreak of a mentally challenged daughter. Her son, however, is a graduate of Yale, is training to be a doctor, and is newly engaged to be married.

When the Phoenix Rises

 

 

 

 

 

A Survivor’s Closet by Debra Luptak and Andy Walks With Me by Ralph Heidler and his co-author wife, Twila Lopez, were both horrific memoirs of childhood abuse. It was amazing to me how these individuals survived their physical and emotional torment. Humans manage to live through some incredible challenges. My own childhood heartbreaks seemed so minor in comparison.

Ralph’s father was a psychotic tyrant, who fancied himself a preacher when he was truly an avenging devil. During the frequent beatings he suffered from his father, Ralph would have an out-of-body experience. His consciousness traveled to a garden where “Andy” walked with him. His child’s mind had given new meaning to the old hymn “I Walk in the Garden Alone.” He interpreted the line “and he walks with me and he talks with me”  to mean: “Andy walks with me.” Andy (Jesus) gave him moments of peace and joy. However, when Ralph’s mother would appear to doctor the wounds from his father’s beatings, Ralph would awaken in pain, back in his bruised and bloody body.

Andy Walks with Me

In later years, although grown and married with children, his extreme childhood caused Ralph to one day disassociate from his past and disappear from his home in Pennsylvania. During the next 20 years, totally unaware of his former life, he married twice more. Ralph was living in Hawaii when his children found him, and he discovered the missing horror of his past.

He happily connected with his children, and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Johnstown got to know Ralph and started using his book in a psychology class.

 

Debra Luptak’s strength of spirit and determination kept her alive despite the murderous attempts of her profoundly mentally ill mother, who claimed her daughter was part of the devil. She was tied up, placed in a straitjacket, burned with cigarettes, hidden in a dark closet and fed sedatives, all before the age of five. There was no magic rescue or instant healing: A Survivor’s Closet tells the gruesome years-long tale of Debra’s survival. When she was an adult, it took years of therapy, hospitals, family and friends to come to peace and self-love.  The mother of grown sons, Debra’s used her book and her talent as a speaker to help others deal with traumatic childhoods.

 

PERIL OR PLEASURE — Melaynie’s Masquerade Excerpt by Victoria Giraud

The following is an excerpt from my historical adventure/romance  Melaynie’s Masquerade.  To purchase as an Ebook or as a softcover, go to Amazon:

http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

*****

Diego had seen Melaynie leave by herself that morning, her cheeks rosy, a distant but peaceful look in her eyes. He was pleased his young friend was taking some time to be by herself; she had worked as hard as the men in building the fort. His contented thoughts were jarred a short time later when he saw Jerome saunter out the stockade gate, a lascivious look upon his scarred face.

The merry little stream washed over Melaynie’s dappled sunlit body, caressing her erect nipples, flowing through her legs, cleansing the sounds from her ears. It was so soothing she failed to hear the snap of wood or the rough sigh.

Jerome stood on the stream bank, his good eye riveted by the sight of tiny breasts floating on the water, glistening in the flashes of sunshine. The curly blond pubic hair clearly hid no male genitalia. It was a surprise he would never have imagined. The boy had always seemed just a bit too feminine, but no matter. He’d just as soon stick his cock in one hole as another. It would provide excitement of a sort he hadn’t bargained for, and this time she didn’t have her knife on her. Perhaps he could frighten her into giving it up to him whenever he wanted, especially if he threatened to divulge her secret. His mouth hung open as if he were contemplating a meal to be devoured, as he quickly slid out of his breeches.

The sucking sounds of a foot in mud and the splash of a body entering water finally alerted Melaynie. She righted herself and let go of the branch, but it was too late. Jerome was in the water and reaching for her breasts.

“So, this is what ye’ve been hiding from me, Christopher,” Jerome sneered as he grabbed her, twisting her nipples. His breath was foul and his jagged teeth looked rotten.

She grimaced in outraged anger as she tried to hit him, but he laughed at her efforts. Although the water was not deep, the soft, slippery stream bottom kept her off balance. He pinned her arms as his wet open mouth clamped down on a nipple. She opened her mouth and lowered her head to bite at his thinning dirty hair, and when she had some in her mouth, pulled back as strongly as she could. Her feet found a solid place, and she drew her knee up and slammed it into him quickly. He stumbled backwards to protect his genitals, and the knee caught him on the chin.

“Ye want a fight, do ye?” he laughed derisively rubbing his hairy chin, his walleye askew while the other glared in lust. He had not lost his balance and lunged at her again, this time firmly catching her pubis with his long-fingered hand.

She shuddered with revulsion and twisted her body around and out of his grasp, throwing him off-balance. Neither of them heard the first ominous sounds of something heavy sliding into the water from the opposite bank.

Crocodile - an Eating Machine

DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS By Victoria Giraud

 

USNS General Maurice Rose

The anniversary of the Titanic sinking 100 years ago today brought back my own memories of large ships, most of them much less glorious than the elegant Titanic. I’ve crossed the Atlantic three times and  toured the Mediterranean as well, all on a US military ship.

I don’t remember my first two trips at all since I was only four on the first crossing headed to Germany after World War II, and seven when we returned. The 1958 summer Mediterranean Cruise, however, was so much fun I wrote several blogs on it about a year ago.

On a Thursday at 2 p.m. in June 1958, about 160 passengers boarded the US Navy ship, General Maurice Rose, docked in the Tripoli, Libya harbor: eventual destination New York. My mother, my sister Tupper and I were sharing Cabin 0116 on the port side of the boat deck, which were quite nice quarters. We were to have the third seating for meals at Table 18 in the dining hall aboard ship.

It’s a unique and insular world aboard ship. Getting one’s “sea legs” is vital to digestion when there are  storms. We had a tumultuous one off the coast of Italy about halfway into our trip, but I managed to stay upright and comfortable with all systems go. Our cabin (narrow bunk beds and a private toilet) on boat deck was not subject to as much rocking and rolling as all the lower decks.  There were three seatings for meals in the formal dining room. The meal alert was done by a seaman who walked the ship’s corridors with a small xylophone, using his mallet to hit three or four notes.   We had the third seating and joined three American teachers traveling home.

Military personnel and military dependents would be embarking and debarking as we sailed from Tripoli to Athens, Istanbul, Izmir, Naples, Livorno and Gibralter before crossing the Atlantic Ocean and docking at Brooklyn Navy Yard a couple of weeks later.

I still remember the distinct smells aboard ship: a pungent combination of oil, metal and seawater. There’s also the mysterious aroma, to me, of adventure: new vistas, new people, new places. I imagine many of the passengers on the Titanic felt the same way. I doubt if any of them imagined what would eventually happen to them.

Since I was sentimental about our military ship, I found some information about her on the Internet. The General Maurice Rose operated out of New York in the Atlantic and Mediterranean from 1950 to 1965. Steaming primarily between New York and Bremerhaven, Germany, she completed more than 150 round-trip voyages. In addition, the Rose was deployed to the Mediterranean 17 times. Between January and March 1957, the Rose made three trips to Europe to transport Hungarian refugees back to the United States. For the first eight months of 1966, she made eight round-trips to Europe and back. She sailed again from New York  for troop-lift duty to South Vietnam. The ship returned to New York in late January 1967 for overhaul and was placed in Ready Reserve status at the James River Reserve Fleet, Virginia. Alas, the General Rose was scrapped in Texas during the year 2000.

I haven’t taken advantage of the many cruise ship opportunities in Southern California, but I’ve often visited the magnificent Queen Mary, now permanently anchored in Long Beach. Built in 1936 and retired in  1967 (ironically, the same year as the Rose), she had a history of transporting everyone from movie stars to soldiers in World War II. Now she’s a hotel with restaurants and a museum.

A few years ago, I attended the Queen Mary’s exhibit of Titanic artifacts. What could be more appropriate than to display these poignant items on a proud old ship. I especially remember the porcelain cups and dishes from the first class dining room. The Queen Mary, at the length of 1,000 feet with 12 decks, gives a good idea of what the Titanic might have been like. It was 882 feet long and had 8 decks.

 

Queen Mary in Long Beach

Ships continue to entice and inspire me: I wrote an historical adventure novel concerning Sir Francis Drake and his Caribbean adventures–Melaynie’s Masquerade, which is available on Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud.

MAMA JAKE’S PEOPLE by Victoria Giraud

Mama Jake & Daddy Ed with Inez and Louise

 

My grandmother, whom we called Mama Jake, was born in Anson County, North Carolina as Bertha Jackson Seago in 1882. She came from a family of 7 girls and 4 boys, and after she married my grandfather, Edwin P. Motley (in typical Southern fashion, we called him Daddy Ed) in 1903, she gave birth to 8 children, most of them born in Danville, Virginia (my hometown as well). There are still a lot of cousins around, and I recently discovered, thanks to my blog, there were cousins on the Seago side of the family I had never heard of!

History has always intrigued me, and when it relates to family, it’s even more interesting. Some years ago my cousin Nancy sent me a list of Mama Jake’s family and the reasons for death for a few of them. For instance, sister Mary had cancer of the heart (which I’ve never heard of), brother Henry died from poisoned liquor, brother Albert had an accidental fall, and brother John died from being shot. John’s death is quite a story and it appeared in the Danville, Virginia newspaper.

Eric Seago Flashood, a cousin, sent me a link to an ancestor site that told the story of the shooting of Deputy Sheriff John Seago, my grandmother’s brother and Eric’s great-grandfather. There are plenty of sayings about alcohol: “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker” in a poem by Ogden Nash is my favorite. It’s been called Demon Rum and to the point: “Liquor kills.” Alcohol was responsible for the death of two of the Seagos, probably both as a result of Prohibition. When I watched the recent PBS series on Prohibition, I had no idea my Great Uncle worked for  law enforcement during that violent era.

Sheriff John Seago was a brave officer of the law in Brunswick County, Virginia, who had already saved a man from a lynching in 1921. In June, 1924, he and two other officers raided a moonshine operation located at a private home near Brodnax, Virginia. As the police officers went into the home to arrest the bootlegger, they heard a car drive up. Sheriff Seago went out on the porch to warn the men in the car not to interfere, but they ignored the warning, drove around to the back of the house and came in the back door.  The lights were doused and gunfire erupted in a shootout. My Great Uncle Seago was hit in the stomach. When a local drug store could do nothing for the serious wound, the officers drove all the way to a hospital in Richmond. Despite an operation, Sheriff Seago had lost too much blood and died shortly after, leaving behind a wife and three children.

My grandmother went to her brother’s funeral in Lawrenceville, which is a little east of Danville. When she returned, the local paper, The Danville Bee, interviewed her for a story on her brother’s death. In the story, as was protocol in those days, women were called by their married name, so she was referred to as Mrs. E.P. Motley. According to the article, the men in the car, who had taken part in the shootout, were arrested, but the bootlegger was still at large.

I wish I had been more inquisitive when I was younger and my grandmother was still alive. It’s ironic that so many of us think of the questions we want to ask after our relatives have passed away. I’m sure there are several of my relatives that didn’t even know Mama Jake came from such a large family! Thanks to the Internet, we can fill in some of the blanks.

John Seago, US soldier during Spanish-American War

 

APRIL IS A BLESSING

Of all the months in the calendar, April has the most beautiful name. It’s fun to say; it seems like a song. When I looked it up, I discovered the word was a short form of the Greek word for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, also known as Venus. No wonder I love the name!

Who can argue with the beginning of marvelous Spring, at least in the Northern Hemisphere? Chaucer sang its praises in the prologue to his famous Canterbury Tales. I still remember the first four lines from my William and Mary college English course—we read Chaucer in 14th century Middle English and the first lines went like this:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote

The droughte of Marche hath perced to the roote,

And bathed evry veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour…

Essentially, Chaucer is describing how April rains relieve March drought and soak the roots of plants to produce April flowers. I enjoyed the rhythms of the words and the challenge of deciphering what they meant. These words were already beginning to take on a more modern form and are recognizable.

As an English major, I also had a course in what was in the 1960s deemed Modern English Literature. Poet T.S. Eliot, an American who became an English citizen in the early 20th century and died in 1965, was considered a modernist and known for his famous  complex poem The Waste Land.

Eliot apparently wasn’t enthusiastic about April. Written in 1922, The Waste Land is a poem of disillusion and despair and is especially known for the lines:

April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land.

The month of April has been a good one for me. I was married twice in April to the same man! Since Hans was stationed with the US Army in Mannheim, Germany (my dad had been his commander), we got married there in 1965. German law required a civil ceremony, which was accomplished in Mannheim-Kafertal on April 7. A few days later on April 10, we had a church wedding in Frankfurt, where my parents were stationed.

Seven years and a baby daughter (Heidi) later, my son Hansi was born in Los Angeles. It was April 11, 1972. This year Hansi turns 40 and he is also getting married—a great source of celebration! Even though I am divorced, I can truly say April is a month of love.

As a reminder that life has its ups and downs – April 15 is usually tax filing day. And this year April 15 marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Oh well, nothing’s totally blissful!

 

Me & Baby Hansi -- His Christening

 

JOHN LITHGOW TIMES THREE by Victoria Giraud

 

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which has a large auditorium for special screenings of TV movies, etc., is in North Hollywood, not far from me in the San Fernando Valley

In the 1990s I had an artist friend, Katherine, who was a member and was often invited to special screenings. The auditorium was filled with comfortable plush seats and was the ideal setting to introduce new TV movies and hold other important affairs. The director, producers and stars would be invited to these affairs as well as members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Afterwards, at an outside patio, there were hors d’oeuvres and drinks for all the guests.

There was a certain cachet in attending these events; it was probably assumed each guest was part of the entertainment industry or had family or friends in it.

I met a very friendly David Hyde Pierce at one event and I was delighted because I was a definite fan. He treated me as if I were a personal friend, and  he introduced me to a blond woman writer from the “Frasier” show whose name I don’t remember. A few months later I watched her accept an Emmy award as a primary writer for that show.

The preview screening of “My Brother’s Keeper” TV movie was a memorable event for me. Katherine couldn’t come at the last minute but I decided I’d still go. I randomly selected a seat in the middle of the theater. Right before the movie started, I noticed that actor John Lithgow, whose photo is above, was sitting one seat over from me and the seat between us was empty. To Lithgow’s left was actress Ellen Burstyn, whose work I had admired in many films over the years.

The movie that night was based on a true story of twins, Tom and Bob Bradley, and concerned a medical battle with a drug company after one twin discovered he was HIV positive. Lithgow played both twins and Ellen Burstyn, made up to look older, played their mother.

The story was intriguing and poignant, but I was even more riveted because I could actually see Lithgow’s reaction to his acting as he watched himself play two roles. It was like seeing him in triplicate! And I had always admired his versatility as an actor.

When it was over, Lithgow appeared onstage to give a little more information on the true story of the movie and to thank the audience for coming. Since Ellen Burstyn was only two seats over, I decided I would introduce myself to her.  I told her I was an admirer and had especially enjoyed a movie she had done called “Resurrection,” back in 1980. She smiled while I gushed but I was surprised at her shyness, even in the company of those in the entertainment industry.

When I see Lithgow interviewed about one of his many children’s books, I think about my “close encounter.”

Ellen Burstyn

 

Erotic Melaynie in the Caribbean by Victoria Giraud

Sex makes the world go round… Songs, books, movies, art, advertising, the media. There was a recent bidding war on the erotic e-book, Fifty Shades of Grey. Women can’t seem to get enough of it. I haven’t read it yet, but I want to remind my blog readers in search of some erotica and romance that I’ve published Melaynie’s Masquerade as an e-book on Amazon  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

Read my sample teaser below and see if it entices you to read more by ordering my book. It’s also in softcover.

 

With Drake’s humorous admonition to be careful with their guest, Melaynie carried a lantern to show Bernardino to his private tent at evening’s end. In the light of a bright moon, whose rays poured through the wide opening of the small quarters, Bernardino found and immediately sat down on the portable cot. Tired from the day’s excitement and mellowed to the point of sleepiness by the wine, he languidly watched as the young captain’s boy placed the lantern on an empty cask, thinking as he watched of his young sister.  Why was he thinking of his sister; was it the way this young boy moved, or simply the beauty of youth?  He leaned back and began to remove his doublet, welcoming the cooler night air on his skin.  Remembering the music and the caress of the night breeze, he felt relaxed and sensual.

Melaynie’s body and face were profiled in the moonlight.  What a lovely young boy, Bernardino reflected  as he studied the fine facial features and golden hair. He lazily watched the lantern’s flickering light, his feelings of arousal fanned by its glow. How agreeable it would have been to have a woman to love, an appropriate climax to a congenial evening.  Framed by the moonlight, the boy continued to stand, leaning toward the lantern, like a moth to the flame, his eyes mesmerized by the flame.

From his angle lounging on the cot, Bernardino noticed the boy’s cream-colored shirt had flared outward as he stood there. The material was diaphanous enough that the lantern’s light revealed his naked chest. Bernardino smiled at the pretty picture it made, and then narrowed his eyes, looking again closely, as he sat up slowly, uncertain that what he saw was true.  The lantern had highlighted a pair of delicate breasts, whose outline was clear enough through the linen shirt.

This was no boy; he saw the evidence. The breasts were small, but they were present. Had no one else in this English company noticed?  Men could be dense; he had seen how she had been treated as her costume defined her.  A turmoil of feelings assaulted him at this revelation, the excitement of the mystery of her only heightening his stimulated senses. He struggled to compose himself, to dampen his growing ardor, to quiet his racing mind. Had he been intrigued because some instinct told him of her true gender?  Whatever the mystical reasons, she must not guess he had seen her secret.

Searching his mind for clues, he quickly surmised her subterfuge had been well hidden until now and that she was probably older than he had supposed. What had caused this young woman to carry off this masquerade; was she possessed by some unusual traits, a woman who felt herself truly a man? Or was it simply an adventure she sought, a desire to break from the traditional female role in her society?  Did she feel he was a threat; was that why she had spilled the wine earlier? These turbulent thoughts raced through his mind in mere seconds.

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