Chapter 17: All Hands on Deck

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“Why does your father want to meet me?” My heartbeat accelerates at the unexpected revelation.

Cade turns and begins heading further into town. “I’m sorry, but that’s the one thing I really can’t tell you. Now, we only have a few hours, so let’s get going.”

I – along with Smythe and Winchell – follow. After we’ve been wandering around for at least fifteen minutes without any luck, he stops the young gunner. “Mister Winchell, can you please ask one of these fine souls where we can find a proper tailor and dressmaker?”

Winchell nods and hurries to a nearby merchant who’s arranging coconuts in a pile in her shop window. He quickly returns and points up the street. “Says there’s place not too far from here that does good work. Here, follow me.”

The three of us tread in his wake. We pass a tavern – unmistakable with its boisterous sounds and unique mixture of smells. A drunken man stumbles out, narrowly missing bumping into me.

"Looks like a fine place to return to." Cade winks at me over his shoulder.

After turning left, then right, and then another left we stop in front of a two-story, whitewashed building. Next to the wooden door, open shutters reveal a display holding two mannequins.

The one on the left is topped with a powdered wig and it’s dressed in a handsome, cocoa brown suit. The knee-high breeches match the long overcoat, and golden embroidery on the cream-colored vest gives it a splash of color. A pair of mundane, black leather shoes – with shiny, brass buckles – completes the otherwise fetching ensemble.

The figure on the right, however, is what really catches my eye. The gown is unlike any I’ve ever seen. Not even Luciana has something as fine in her everyday wardrobe. Its base color is also cream, but unlike the more reserved decorations on the male counterpart, this magnificent creation is almost fully covered with embroidered flowers and vines. The reds, purples, and greens pop amongst the sea of golden threads that harmonize the look. Ribbons in deep brown – matching the overcoat and breeches – secure the corset and decorate the frilly, elbow-length sleeves. Gold silk shoes with a fancy, curved heel peek out from underneath the hem, which is not only supported by what’s likely to be several layers of petticoats, but also wide bustles on either hip.

“This is perfect,” I mutter, looking longingly at the dress. I know I can’t get anything nearly as beautiful, but as long as I can get out of my current attire, I’ll be happy. Cade, however, doesn’t need my prompting; he’s already stepping inside the establishment.

Although the room is small, every bit of available space is used. The walls are lined with shelves and cubbies. They’re filled to the brim with textiles and drawers, as well as spools of thread and jars of buttons.  A wide table on the side holds patterns of parchment, a measuring stick, and scissors in various sizes.

Unable to contain my excitement, I rummage through rolls of exquisite fabric, caressing the soft velvets and shiny silks. The captain, meanwhile, uses Winchell to translate, telling tell the proprietors – who appear to be a married couple catering to customers of both sexes – of our need for custom-fitted attire.

“He says that will take at least two weeks,” Winchell relays the tailor’s response.

My heart sinks. I will have to face Kincade the elder in a worn, oversized shirt and trousers.

Cade sighs and rubs his chin. “What can they do in two hours?”

The seamstress says something while pointing to the window display.

“That’s just enough time to alter those,” Winchell translates again.

My eyes widen with hope.

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