(1937-10-09) Dressing Up
Details for Dressing Up
Summary: Ranjali visits Audrey at her home to invite her to a costume party. But as Audrey helps Ranjali put together an outfit, she senses something isn't quite right with her friend.
Date: 9 October, 1937
Location: Audrey's Apartment, Pembridge Apartments, London
Related: Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?

Audrey's Apartment, Pembridge Apartments, London

This entire apartment is decked out in bold colors, heavy use of drapery, and hardwood floors. Nearly everything is done in art deco style, from the furniture to the very modern sculptures in nearly every corner. The walls are dressed in numerous framed posters for plays and singing engagements starring Audrey Taylor.

A vestibule just inside the front door is lined with racks and storage space for outside wear and poor weather accessories. Just beyond this foyer, a spiral staircase leads to the top floor of the apartment, where a balcony looks down over the parlour before leading to two upstairs bedrooms. Down in the parlour, several comfortable chairs, a sofa, and a chaise lounge are turned to face one another in a social circle. A vaulted fireplace dominates most of one wall, the mantle laden with several awards and photographs of Audrey Taylor. Slightly out of place, sitting beside a drooping candle, is a tattered, folded, and torn photograph of a freckled young man.

Beyond the parlour, sliding glass doors lead out onto a small balcony, thick with flowers, with a lovely view of Notting Hill.

Earlier this afternoon an owl was sent to Audrey, letting her know that Ranjali was planning on stopping by her flat in the evening and requesting her address to make this possible. Ranjali herself arrives as promised, just after the traditional dinner hour has ended. She's dressed very simply, with no jewelry to accompany her simple deep violet dress, and her hair is pulled back into a rather plain chignon at the nape of her neck.

She steps up to the door with a small smile, glancing around as though the whole place is entirely enchanting, and reaches up to knock three times.

Audrey was delighted to receive the owl from her dear friend and Number One Fan. It became a cause of occasion, and several hours were spent preparing for the visit. The flat is immaculate as always (the cleaning staff is excellent), and Audrey herself is attired in a curve-hugging, shoulder-baring, low-cut midnight blue dress that looks more appropriate to a night at the Natrix than lounging around the house. Her hair is left uncurled (revealing naturally straight locks) in a do that probably took an hour to get to just the right degree of dishevelment. At the knock, she calls out, "Come in! It's unlocked!" and waits until she can hear Ranjali's footsteps in the tiled vestibule before coming down the spiral staircase in an entrance worthy of a Hollywood picture.

Ranjali steps inside as ordered, her smile growing as she gets to see the interior of Audrey's house for the first time. And then Audrey herself appears, and the smile becomes one of pure bliss. "Oh you look fabulous." She breathes, stepping toward the stairs, "And so does your flat, just wonderful. Everything should be this beautiful."

Audrey beams warmly, reaching out her hands as she approaches to embrace Ranjali. "You are far too kind. Look at you, effortlessly radiant. It takes me hours to look like this. I'm sure that you rise from bed, put a brush through your hair, and a goddess is reborn every morning." She hugs Ranjali affectionately before reaching for her hand to give her the tour.

Ranjali laughs, hugging Audrey tightly back "Hardly. You should see the circles I have some mornings… " She trails off to follow the blonde through her home, her eyes wide as though this might allow her to take in as much of the colorful place as possible. "Really, this is just amazing. My own home seems so pain now… "

Audrey tsks. "Then you should let me send my decorator over. She does amazing things. Though I'm sure you're just being modest. I'm sure your home is a palace. Here is the kitchen. Help yourself to anything you like. Over here is where I entertain. Feel free to turn on the wireless if you like. Oh, and you must experience the view from my balcony. You can see all of Notting Hill. It's just charming." Audrey is a whirlwind, proudly showing off her apartment.

"I will, thank you." Ranjali nods, slightly more solemn for a moment. The flurry of requests to turn things on and help herself to others is confusing for a moment, but thankfully she must see the view. So, looking rather relieved, she steps that way, "It sounds lovely. I've always quite liked Notting Hill."

"Isn't it divine?" Audrey gushes. "I just love living here. You'll have to visit me more often." She gives Ranjali a wink, then beckons her toward the sitting area, taking a seat on the sofa and patting the spot beside her. "Come sit. Let's talk. Oh! Would you like something to drink? I have white wine, scotch, grapefruit juice…" She is on her feet again, popping over to the kitchen.

"Yes, lets." Ranjali agrees readily. She joins Audrey on the sofa, blinking when the woman is instantly up again. "Ah, I um… whatever you like is fine? I'm not that choosy." She smiles, leaning back a little to get more comfortable.

Audrey quickly turns with two flutes of white wine, handing one to Ranjali as she retakes her seat beside her. Draping an arm behind the other woman, she sighs happily. "So, talk to me. What brings you to my humble abode?" Humble, indeed.

Ranjali takes the glass, giggling. "Humble? That's just silly. But I came because of the party." She stits up a little, takes a sip of her wine, then explains. "Do you know of Edwarlinda Malfoy? She's often at Mungo's, either as a patient or with Mr. MacDubsithe, so I see her often. And she's invited me to a party. Do you know what a Tarts and Vicars party is?"

Audrey suddenly lights up at the mention of a party, and shows obvious recognition of the name Edwarlinda Malfoy. But all is followed by a blush and a delighted giggle. "Yes, I know what a Tarts and Vicars party is. My goodness, I never imagined you to be the type. But how sinfully delicious." She tips her wine, eyes dancing at Ranjali.

Ranjali chuckles, blushing faintly. "I suppose. I've never really been to one. But you see… I've never really been to one." Turning to regard Ausrey more directly, she adds, "I was asked to bring a guest. Would you like to come? And maybe… to help me find something to wear?"

Audrey grins broadly, "I thought you'd never ask. Of course I'd like to come!" She stands again (so much energy, this one), and beckons Ranjali to follow. "I have loads of things to wear. Come upstairs!"

Ranjali beams up at Audrey when she accepts the invitation. "Wonderful! Oh, alright!" Standing as well, she follows Audrey up the stairs, her eyes once more scanning the place eagerly for all the new colors and decorations to be found. "Just fantastic." She murmurs to herself.

Audrey guides Ranjali up the spiral staircase, taking her into the spare bedroom, which seems to serve largely as a spare closet. A half dozen racks, of the sort found in her dressing room, are crammed against the walls, each stuffed with numerous costumes and gowns. The room's actual closet is bursting with more of the same. Even the bed and chairs are currently hosting various bits of clothing spread over them. She gestures around the room. "Take anything you like."

"Goodness… " Eyes wide, Ranjali steps into the closet room and almost immediately steps to the nearest rack. Her hands go out to feel the fabrics, sliding over silks and sequins, "Oh, really? Oh that would be lovely, thank you! You're too kind to me." She gently pulls a velvety red gown free, eyeing it thoughtfully, "Have you worn all of these? Is there… any place I should look for something… suited to this party?"

Audrey gives her friend a mischievous grin. "Over here." She beckons her to one of the other racks, which seems to contain a lot more lace and a lot less fabric. She pulls off a few hangars, each draped with some variation of corset, bustier, garters, brassiere, or other bit of lingerie. "Here, hold these."

Ranjali holds out her hands and accepts what she is given, eyeing the pieces curiously. "What… how does one wear these?" She holds each item up to her head, her chest, her stomach, trying to figure out what to do with it. "What were you performing in when you wore them?"

Audrey grins, "Well, they're not all stage costumes. Some are for…you know…more intimate situations." She shrugs, and pulls a dress out that immediately speaks of a low-class medieval barwench. "Oooh, I'll bet this would look fantastic on you."

"Oh." And the blush grows. Ranjali shifts, slightly uncertain with the things in her hands. The costume is eyed curiously, and after a moment she looks back at Audrey, "Do you think so? All that… " Reaching up, she places a hand over her chest, which in the costume would be quite bare, "Goodness. I, ah, should I try it on?"

Audrey nods vehemently. "Definitely. Also, with your heritage and complexion, we should try to put together a concubine costume. You would be ravishing."

"A concubine?" Ranjali glances about, then obediently steps behind one of the racks and starts changing, "Is that much like a… what do you call it… harem girl?" her own dress is easily removed, and the loose shift of the costume quickly replaces it. She leans over, her head reappearing around the side of the rack, "Have you ever been a concubine? In a show, I mean?"

Audrey giggles, "You needn't be shy around me, Ranjali. You've seen me naked, after all. But, yes, a concubine is like a harem girl. But the closest I've ever come to playing one is a common harlot."

"Oh, alright." And so Ranjali steps out, dressed only in the shift, carrying the skirt and corset. "What was that like?" She asks, pulling the skirt on. "I've always been a little curious, women like that are so… different from what I know… " The skirt in place, she starts working on the corset. Which turns out to be quite the difficult task.

Audrey steps over to help Ranjali with the corset. She has more than enough experience with them, and is quite accustomed to helping out with backstage wardrobe changes. It's the actor's life. "Oh, it's exciting…and a bit naughty," she titters. "Not that I'd know what it's really like. I'm not that dedicated to character study."

Ranjali gives Audrey that same blissful smile she'd given her as she came down the stairs earlier. "Thank you. I've never worn one of these." She nods, gasping a little as the corset tightens around her ribs, "Oh, but of course. Still, you are so real, I believe you so full in your roles. And have I ever mentioned how beautiful your hair is?" In fact, she's been staring at it for awhile now, as Audrey has come up so close to her.

Audrey blushes a little, but not at all demurely. "Thank you, Ranji. I hope you know I think just as much of you. You are a truly beautiful woman, and so exotic." She runs a hand through Ranjali's hair, bold as ever. "Like threads of midnight. Just gorgeous."

Ranjali sighs, shaking her head. "Oh, Audrey. You really are trying to make me fall in love with you, aren't you?" Her tone is light and mildly teasing, her eyes shining brightly. Taking her cue from the performer, she reaches up to gently stroke a lock of blonde, suddenly grinning, "And you, you're like sunlight. Maybe we should pair our costumes together, night and day as a theme."

Audrey beams at her. "Would that be so awful?" Of course she wants to be fallen in love with. Audrey Taylor is nothing if not a glutton for affection and attention.

Ranjali blinks. "To fall in love with someone who doesn't love you back? I've always thought it would be. Though I suppose I've never actually, um, tried it?" She frowns, her fingers still combing through Audrey's hair. "Generally all the stories and songs claim its horrible, so I've rather been preferring to avoid it."

Audrey's jaw hangs open for a moment, as Ranjali's words strike her. "I…I didn't think of it like that. I'm sorry, Ranji." But she continues to stroke Ranjali's hair. "I do love you. Maybe…maybe not as you might want to me to, but…" She blushes, this time more demure, shaking her head. "No, it's silly."

Ranjali just smiles. Letting go of Audrey's hair, she traces her fingertips along the blonde woman's cheek, "Its alright, I'm not bothered. But what is it? You can tell me."

Audrey shrugs abashedly. "Well…I've just…imagined what it might be like." Her hand goes to her mouth, giggling in the way one does to cover embarrassment. "You know…with a woman."

"Ah." Ranjali nods in understanding. Her blush is now quite visible, though her smile remains mild. Turning, she looks around for a mirror. "You, ah… want me to… be intimate with you?" Because no matter how relaxed and easygoing she may be feeling, her vocabulary remains the same. "Ah, there it is." Finding the mirror, she heads over to stand before it, her eyes widening as she takes in her suddenly revealed cleavage. "Oh my. That's… well." Her hands come up, pressing to the exposed skin as though she feels the need to make up for the lack of fabric there.

Audrey gasps softly at the question from Ranjali. Who would have thought that bold, touchy-feely Audrey Taylor could be made so bashful? "Ranji, I…I don't know. I suppose you've made me curious. But…I don't want to lead you on. I worry that I might break your heart. I've done it before," she warns. "With men, I mean. I'm…I'm terribly picky and self-centered, you know."

"Picky? I wouldn't call it that." Ranjali shakes her head, "And as for leading me on… " She thinks about this a moment, turning to view her profile in the mirror, "Well, my heart will do as it wills regardless of how flirtatious you are with me, I think. At this point, I doubt there's anything much that can be done, no matter how I end up feeling."

Audrey steps up behind Ranjali, giving her an approving look in the mirror. "I don't understand what you mean by that. Nothing can be done?"

"Well, if I fall for you," Ranjali explains, turning to smile at Audrey, "And I rather think I may, at this point, then I just do. Certainly you can try to be less… comfortable with me? If you like. But Audrey, you've already been so wonderful to me. And… and just look at you!" She laughs, "I think I did say, some time back, that I hadn't wanted… er, intimacy, with a woman for years until I saw you at the Natrix, did I not?"

Strange how the tables have turned. Once it was Audrey who was calm and direct, and Ranjali flushing and fumbling. Now Audrey is in new territory, and trying to find her footing. "Yes…you did. I…I love the way you look at me, Ranji. I don't want to lose that."

Ranjali nods, her soft smile amused. "I doubt you ever shall. Even now its all I can do not to stare." She sighs. "You see? Its too late. Where my feelings go from here will be decided entirely by my heart. And I've often thought it has had a mind of its own."

Audrey sighs, looking down at her fingers as they fiddle together. "I'm going to end up hurting you. I just know it. You'll fall in love with me, and I'll say or do something stupid, and you'll be heartbroken."

Ranjali steps toward Audrey and reaches up to touch her cheek gently. "Oh, no. No you've only been honest with me. And who knows? Perhaps some lovely woman will come along and sweep me off my feet. Maybe I'll even steal Miss Cooper from… " She trails off, a mild frown appearing.

Audrey shares the frown, though likely for different reasons. Lose her adoring Ranjali to another woman? But she does manage to lift her head above her own self-pity long enough to realize that Ranjali seems distressed. "What is it, Ranji?"

"I'm not… no, its nothing." Ranjali's frown lasts only a moment longer, and then she's smiling that blissful smile again and shaking her head. "I've never stolen a woman from someone before. Do you think I should try it?"

Audrey blinks. "What? Goodness, no. Oh, trust me, Ranji…don't be 'the other woman.' I've been there. It's nothing but heartache." Her hands go to Ranjali's arms in a pleading, supportive gesture.

Ranjali nods, instantly accepting and generally looking pleased with the answer. "Alright then. Though do you think maybe I could wear something… a little less tight to the party?" She looks down, blinking at the sight of her cleavage, "Oh, wow. But, um, its a little difficult to breathe in this… "

Audrey moves to help loosen the corset. "Yes…it is. You have to get used to it. Maybe we should try to put together that harem girl costume? Though…it will be even more revealing than this one," she warns as she lets out the lacing.

"Truly? Well, perhaps if its not so tight it will be alright…" As soon as the corset is loosened Ranjali heaves a large sigh of relief. Taking a few more long breaths to stretch out her muscles, she shimmies back out of the skirt and offers it to Audrey. "Though I suppose that I am used to baring my stomach a little, with the sarees my Naani sends?"

Audrey nods, taking a moment to look Ranjali over. Is there a stirring in her eyes? That sense of attraction Ranjali feels for her? It's difficult to tell, amidst the uncertainty there. "Well…yes, this will definitely be looser. I'm not certain that I have everything we need here, but I'll check the wardrobe department at the theatre. I'm certain I can find pieces there."

Ranjali tits her head, curious, as Audrey looks at her. The curiosity fades, though, and is soon replaces by another smile. "Alright." She agrees, "And I can bring some things as well, some of my fabrics from India. Some of them are quite sheer. Will that help?"

Audrey nods, "Definitely." She catches the curious look, and its quick disappearance, bringing a slight frown to her face. "Ranji, are you alright? Have I offended you with my silliness?"

Ranjali blinks. "No, why? Everything's fine." Confused, she frowns down at the shift, as though it has the answers. But of course it doesn't. "You, ah, well you were sort of staring, and it made me curious that's all? I'm not bothered or anything, though. Why would I be?"

Audrey shrugs uncertainly. "You just seem…I don't know. I suppose you've become too used to me." She sighs and sits on the edge of the bed. "I liked it when you would get flustered around me. I'm horrible, I know."

"Hm? Oh, I'm sorry." Ranjali's frown stays, shifting slightly into something more thoughtful. "I can try to be flustered, if you like?" She asks this hopefully, looking back up at Audrey "I'm not entirely certain how to blush on cue, but I suppose I could try?"

Audrey frowns in confusion. "You see? This is what I mean. You're acting strangely, and I know I must have said or done something to upset you. I told you, I'm selfish, and sometimes I say things that I don't mean." Her brow knits pleadingly, "Please, just tell me? So I can fix it?"

Ranjali just shakes her head, mild frown still in place, "Really, Audrey. You've done nothing wrong. You've allowed me to use your beautiful costumes and agreed to go to the party with me. And you let me see your gorgeous flat." She gestures around, her eyes lighting up once more as she takes in the colors, "Plus you told me you like my hair, and coming from someone whose hair is always perfect that is indeed quite the compliment. What more could I ask for?"

Worship me like you usually do? Stutter and blush and gasp at the sight of me? Audrey says none of this, but her mind is full of such thoughts. Her most ardent fan has become complacent, and This Will Not Do. She stands up, face full of pinched determination. She slips the straps of her dress from her shoulders, and with a few buttons freed, she shimmies out of her dress, letting it drop to the floor, leaving her in just a shift as well. Her hands go to her hips, and she arches an eyebrow, watching Ranjali's reaction.

Ranjali stares. She stares quite a lot, actually. And her blush, which she could not summon consciously, blooms once more on her cheeks. Her eyes widen, and she allows herself to look down at Audrey's barely-concealed form. When she looks back up again, her eyes are wide, and there's a question in them, as well as the interest she mentioned in relation to their first meeting. But her responce, for all this, is only a simple question. "Audrey?"

Audrey narrows her eyes in an effort to read Ranjali. The blush is undeniable, but the question throws her. "Well?" She spreads her hands in query. "I knew it. You've gotten over me. You don't want me anymore." Her hand goes to her forehead, as if tending a sudden headache.

"What?" Ranjali actually looks more than mildly confused now. "Audrey, I don't understand. Of course I… " The blush deepens, "Of course I want you. How could I not? I already told you I'm in some real danger of falling for you, didn't I?" Her head tilts, "I could have sworn I did. Perhaps I only imagined it… ?"

Audrey finds a silk robe hanging on one of the racks, and pulls it around herself. "Yes…you told me that. But how do you go from being flustered when you're not sure, to being cool and calm when you think you are?" She sighs, dropping her gaze. "I'm sorry. You see? I'm selfish and…I can be such a silly girl sometimes. You talked about trying to woo Genevieve, and all I could think about was that it would mean you're over me, and that you wouldn't look at me the same way anymore. I'm toying with your heart, and that's not fair." She lifts her eyes again, full of apology. "I'm sorry. Please forgive me."

Ranjali smiles again easily. "Of course, though there's really nothing to fogrive. And remember, you told me not to pursue Miss Cooper. So everything's fine." She walks up to Audrey and takes her hands, stepping in close and leaning in to press a kiss to her cheek. "I still adore you. I've no doubt I always shall."

Audrey tries to smile at the kiss, but she is clearly disquieted. Something is wrong, and she's sure it's her fault. "So, you're going to give up on Genevieve, just because I said so? Do you like her?"

Ranjali takes a moment to think about this. "Hmm. I do rather admire her boldness. Its like yours. Just… different." She grins. "And she's quite attractive. In a way, she reminds me a little of Thora. But you did say not to be the other woman, didn't you? I can do that. Not be the other woman." Her grin becomes a smile of simple happiness, "And then I can fall for you and she can stay with… that other person, and everything is just fine. Isn't that how you want it?"

Audrey furrows her brow, her expression going from confusion to deep concern. "Ranjali…you're worrying me." What is going on with her? "Have you been drinking? Had any potions, lately?" Not that the Squib woman knows a thing about potions, but something is clearly amiss.

"Drinking?" Ranjali thinks, "Well, I did take tea with Miss Malfoy yesterday? And she had me put whiskey in my tea? But alcohol wears off faster than that, and it was only one cup." She informs Audrey of this earnestly, as though informing her of something she doesn't likely already know. "And, no, I don't tend to take potions unless I can avoid them. They mess with my ability to work."

Audrey puts her hands on Ranjali's arms, her voice stern. "Ranji, you're a healer. Surely you can tell when something is wrong. I can tell. You're behaving like…well, quite honestly like you're on the refer." What would Audrey know about that? Never mind. "I want you to be examined at St. Mungo's."

"The refer?" Ranjali asks curiously. But she nods, "Well, certainly, if you want. I'll be going back tomorrow. Will that suffice?" She tilts her head, regarding Audrey curiously. "Really, though. Everything's just fine. I /am/ sorry to make you upset. I wish I could do something more to help."

Audrey sighs, and starts clearing clothing off of the bed. "You are staying here tonight," she insists. "I'll go with you to the hospital in the morning."

"Here? If you insist… " Again, Ranjali accept despite her confused frown. She moves to help Audrey clear the bed, watching her as she does so, "Shall I be sleeping in this room? You wouldn't prefer I sleep with, ah… well, you know as you said earlier?"

Audrey's breath catches, and she blushes fiercely. "I…um…well, yes, I'm curious, I suppose. But…no. I won't accept that until I know you're alright. Right now you're…just too agreeable." It's the refer! "You should sleep in here. Get your rest. Promise me you won't go anywhere without me?"

"Of course." Ranjali smiles. "It will be nice to sleep somewhere different. Do you have something I can sleep in? Or shall I just sleep in this?" She pulls gently at the shift, "I really am alright though. Truly."

Audrey turns to take Ranjali's hands. "You are not alright. Look, I know we haven't really known each other all that long. But…I feel like I know you, and this isn't you." She takes a deep breath, and gestures around the room. "You can wear anything you like. Whatever you're comfortable in." She squeezes Ranjali's hands, her face painted with worry. "Good night, Ranji." She leans in to place a kiss on her cheek.

Ranjali tilts her head to accept the kiss, looking mildly worried herself. "Don't worry." She murmurs, "Everything will be fine." She squeezes Audrey's hands as well, smiles reassuringly, then lets go and starts wandering through the costumes, looking for something to wear for the night. "Good night, Audrey. Sleep well."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License