Noun of Noun and Adjective – Chapter One

The Pursuit of Happiness

“Your father has cancelled his letter of credit, your highness.”

Princess Zoey Artemisia Raven Bella Luna Calypso Judlenn[1]sat in a comfy chair in the wardrobe department of Mirrorvision Tower in the city-state of New Merika, and wept into her bubble tea.

She was not the type of delicate princess to weep daintily and without fuss, nor the type for whom a single tear would roll down her cheek and leave a glistening slug trail that shimmered iridescently in the light. For Zoey weeping, as with everything else, was an affair that demanded all her energy and focus and much of the attention of those around her. Her sobs were loud and disturbing, broken only by unintelligible half-said words and distraught hiccoughs. Her shoulders shook so hard the tea almost sloshed out of her cup, whilst her white-gripped fingers pressed tightly against the World’s Best Designer legend, and her face was smeared with an ocean of tears, as if the dams of her eyes had burst and flooded her face.

Across from her, Kawakubo Nan Madol, known as Kakawa, sat in her wheelchair and waited out the heartbreak she had brought on with that statement. The epitome of calm, she was the still eye at the centre of the chaotic tornado of fashion and magic that was the Wardrobe Department. She was the designer the cup Zoey drank from belonged to, and in her domain she was more than any king or queen, ruling over the tailors and hairdressers and costumers and make-it-up-artists as a benevolent, yet shouty, god of fashion and beauty. She was fat, short, in her late 40s, and of East Asian ethnicity.[2] She carried some of her weight in her hips and stomach, but most of it seemed to be in her breasts, which were considerably larger than she was happy with and gave her back pain most days. She was generally too sore to care much about how she looked, and dressed according to what felt the most comfortable, but as the premier fashion designer in the world, with an entire team of expert clothing designers and tailors to do her bidding, what felt comfortable also looked good. Today she wore a purple silk top with blue flowers embroidered on it, and matching trousers without the floral embroidery.

Zoey, by comparison to Kakawa, was a mess and not just from the tears. The tallest woman in whatever room she was in, she even towered over some of the men, especially the short ones, and had inherited her father’s warrior physique, broad shouldered, and with a thin waist. Zoey had the slender athleticism of someone who’d grown from childhood practising sword work every day. As to her complexion, her pale skin, in the few places it could be seen, was not much darker than a destroying angel. She wore old, over-sized clothes, the baggy ill-fitting outfit largely obscuring her body, and almost always kept her face mostly hidden in the shadows of her hood. There was often little more to discern than the tip of a freckle-dotted nose, the hint of unsmiling lips, the merest glint of watery blue eyes, and a few curls that poked out, which might have been called red but only by people who’d never come across the colour orange before.

Now, however, the hood was drawn back, and her ginger hair was cropped too short to hide her face. Her orange-brown eyebrows looked like caterpillars that had reached the end of the book, her blue eyes were the colour of seas and just as wet, her freckle-smeared skin mixed red and blotchy patches with others that held the pallor of the undead.

Gradually, Zoey’s tears began to stop, until they’d diminished enough she could manage to speak without choking, and she stammered through an apology to Kakawa. “I apologise; I did not expect my father to cancel it so quickly.”

Kakawa’s eyes narrowed. “But you did expect him to cancel it?”

Zoey hesitated before telling the truth. “Yes, but I never intended to not pay you. This is not a scam, I swear. I didn’t think he would have enough time to cancel it before I had paid.”

“He doesn’t like all this,” Kakawa said, waving a hand to indicate Zoey.

Zoey laughed bitterly. “He likes this just fine. It is the idea of the makeover he doesn’t like.”

Kakawa nodded. “If only there was some way you could get a makeover for free, the way every princess who gets signed onto a Mirrorvision show does.”

Zoey shook her head. “If only, but they would never sign me on a show.”

“Not with that attitude,” Kakawa admitted. “Or those looks. I can give you a makeover. It might not be exactly what you were looking for, but it will be what the men upstairs want. It will also be temporary. It will last for three days.”

“And after?”

“What happens next depends on what you accomplish between now and then. Get yourself a part on a Mirrorshow and I’ll give you the potion to make the changes permanent before they have time to wear off. Fail, and you revert back to this.”

“That is strong motivation. I am not sure I would survive reverting back.”

Kakawa shook her head, dismissing that idea. “Reverting back wouldn’t kill you.”

“No, that would not be what killed me, though it would be the cause of my death.” Zoey glanced around the room, taking her time to reply as she considered the terms of the arrangement. The entire wall to her right was covered by mirrors from about waist height, and just below the mirrors were desks. Chairs sat before each desk, two of which were occupied by blue haired older ladies. A pair of immaculately groomed men were wielding scissors around the ladies’ heads, seemingly doing more chatting than cutting. The wall to the left had rows of clothing racks extending from it, all filled with outfits, and material to make outfits, and below the racks were piles of shoeboxes. Between hairdressers and racks sat a double row of tables where tailors worked on clothes, altering them to fit the needs of various Mirror stars. Other people bustled about here and there, doing essential aesthetic work that ensured the Mirror stars were always the best dressed and best-looking people in any room. She returned her attention to Kakawa, who was in no doubt as to what the answer would be. In truth, Zoey was so desperate for this makeover she’d have taken any deal, and this one was more than fair. “Agreed.”

Kakawa considered her quietly for a moment, no trace of what she was thinking in her expression. “Do you know what this process involves?”

“I know there is a potion,” Zoey answered vaguely, because she really didn’t have a clue.

“There’s several potions, but the main one is the Human Readjustment Transformation potion. It will reshape your body, giving the changes you want. Now, the physical changes are fast, but the internal changes; mental and hormonal, are slower. It’s going to affect you emotionally for several weeks.”

“In what ways?” Zoey asked.

“Your emotions will be out of whack. You might get overly angry at the slightest provocation or end up in tears without understanding why. Also, physically, the makeover is going to hurt. I can give you a potion to manage the pain.”

Zoey considered this as she sipped her tea. She found it to be bitter, and sat it on Kakawa’s desk before meeting the designer’s eyes.

“Still want to go ahead?” Kakawa asked.

Zoey nodded. “Yes,” she added, in case that hadn’t been clear.

“One princess makeover coming up. What you’re wearing… are all your clothes like that?”

“I did not have much opportunity to pack before I left home, but yes, my clothes are all like this. Why are you helping me?”

Kakawa set her coffee on the desk, beside Zoey’s unwanted tea. “I like defying kings, and I know what disapproving parents can be like,” she glanced across the room at a woman almost as tall as Zoey, whose flat-topped raven hair made her seem taller. Her unblemished skin, the colour the Crayola crayon company have named #8A3324,[3] with its cool jewel undertones, was the darkest complexion Zoey had ever seen. She had a face that looked as if she loved life, with the permanent remnants of many laughter lines etched around her dark eyes and wide mouth. She smiled and waved as she caught Kakawa looking. “Right,” Kakawa said, suddenly all business. She raised her voice. “Makeover time, people. We’re going full princess. I need Make It Up, Hair, Wardrobe,” she glanced at Zoey’s hands. “Oh, gods. Nails; definitely a manicure, and probably a pedicure too. And before all that, SPFX and anaesthesia.”

Two women came over. A study in opposites, the first was the tall Black woman who’d just waved at the designer. The second woman was small and plump, her skin the colour most make up companies like to call Nude, as if only white people can ever be naked. She carried a black medical handbag.

The first woman smiled as she approached them. “Hey, baby,” she said, before bending down and kissing Kakawa passionately. [4]

Zoey glanced at the ground, then at the tailors, the hairdressers, the ceiling, before her flitting eyes finally settled on the unwavering gaze of the second woman. To her consternation, she hadn’t blushed. Blushing was something princesses were supposed to do, and whilst she could act the princess part, she couldn’t consciously control the flow of blood into her cheeks. She didn’t even feel embarrassed by the kissing – the weird feeling in her stomach was surely excitement at the coming makeover. Embarrassment wasn’t something she’d ever felt, though she could certainly make herself look anxious when she thought it was required. Like now, for instance.

The second woman’s neutral expression was foreboding and unapproachable, but it changed delightfully as she smiled at Zoey. “Don’t worry,” she said, reassuringly. “They’re married. I’m Glynda from Make It Up, and that’s Latifah, from SPFX, and she’d tell you that herself if she,” she raised her voice, “wasn’t engaging in gross PDA’s when we’re meant to be working.”

Latifah broke off the kiss and smiled at Glynda. “Some people are jealous.”

“Are they?” Glynda replied, looking shocked. “Who?”

Latifah sighed and turned to Zoey. “You’re sure you want this?”

“With all my heart and soul.”

Glynda looked Zoey up and down, measuring the princess with her eyes, then opened the black medical bag she was holding. She reached inside, and Zoey heard the clinking of glass as Glynda pulled out a small, corked bottle with green liquid inside it, considered Zoey once more and, clucking her tongue against her teeth, put it back. Next out was a bright blue one, which she uncorked and handed over to Zoey. “Drink up,” she said. “It’s the anaesthesia.”

Zoey drank the potion, and almost at once she felt a tingle spread throughout her body. Her thoughts seemed to grow hazy as she slouched in the chair. Her head lolled; it seemed like her neck couldn’t support the weight of it. She waved a floppy hand she couldn’t feel in front of her face. “What’s hap’ning, m’body?” she slurred.

“You’re going numb. Don’t worry about it. The next part is very painful, so Glynda is making sure you can’t feel any pain,” Latifah told her.

Glynda reached into her bag again. She brought out an empty potion bottle, and a green potion in a clear glass bottle. She poured a third of the green potion into the empty one, topped it with a bright pink potion until the bottle was filled with what looked like thick chocolate milkshake. Glynda corked the bottle and gave it a shake. When she finished, a deep purple cloud formed in the centre, then spread out, lightening as it did, until she held a bottle of lilac potion in her hand.

Glynda opened the potion bottle and held it up to Zoey’s mouth, tilting it to pour the potion in. It was sweet upon her tongue, and then the cloying scent of acrid spices filled her nostrils – there was garlic, and fennel, and she could taste flax seeds, and strawberries and cream. There was a burst of peach flavour, and the salty tang of peanuts followed it, and all were carried on a fruity swirl that went down like red wine, and all her favourite foods, all the nicest things she’d ever eaten, filled her mouth with a taste that was so amazing she wondered if she could ever enjoy food again.

Zoey swallowed as best she could, but some dribbled out her numb lips and ran down her chin.

[1] Knight of the Royal Order of the Garter and Bra; Knight of the Chivalric Order of the Sunset at Noon; Knight of the Dragoncrab; Second Sovereign Lord of the Third Most Ancient and Second Most Noble Order of the Penny Whistle; LGB, TQIA, ETC, AKA, PPS, IDK; first of her name, and heir to the island throne of Judlenn.
[2]  It should be pointed out here Asia does not exist in Trunkworld, and that Kakawa had not crossed to that world from our own, so wasn’t in fact East Asian. She was, however, of a Trunkworld ethnicity that would have been East Asian if she had been on Earth, and so here is referred to as East Asian.
[3] Or 138/051/036 which most people would call brown but is properly called burnt umber.
[4] The publisher’s legal department has cleared this content - a character can be BOTH gay AND a POC, provided they only have a minor role in the story. However, if you are suddenly experiencing numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body, or find speech or speaking confusing, have newly developed vision problems in one or both eyes, have suddenly become dizzy, or had difficulty walking, loss of balance, or problems with coordination, or if you have a severe headache with no known cause, you may be having a stroke, possibly brought on by exposure to the intersectionality overload reading about a gay black woman kissing a gay disabled Asian woman has caused. Diversity in fiction is known to be one of the leading causes of strokes in white heterosexual cisgender people, which is why they campaign so strongly against more representation of minorities. If you are experiencing one or more of the 5 warning signs of a stroke, it is recommended you inform your doctor ASAP. You might consider informing your lawyer, but what use is a lawyer when you’re having a stroke, honestly?

Read Chapter Two Here


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