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Father's footsteps

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Kitty didn't cry when she cut her hair to go on the stage, and she didn't cry when she took her stays off the first time to bind up her breasts, either. Hiding them away was easier than lacing up tight.

The trousers were a lovely experience, like knickers but better, as no one expected her to put on skirts over them. When she tried them on, she wanted to redesign her whole routine, do all of the kicks and twirls that a chorus girl would without baring a thing. Unfortunately, those moves didn't suit her songs at all; no nice young lad would go on the stage with his toes about his ears.

She was less fond of the waistcoats at first. They were nearly as bad as the petticoats and skirts, just on her upper half, over the bindings, the shirt, and all the rest.

The cravats, now, those were a pain and no mistake, though once she'd learned to tie them properly, she lent a hand to a few of her gentlemen callers, and they were glad of her quick fingers, though they usually gave her an odd look at first before they touched her short hair and remembered that she had to know such things in her trade.

Kitty wore less paint on stage than she did on the street some evenings, enough to carry her expressions over the lights and nothing more. Enough that she wouldn't fool anyone into thinking she was a boy, besides, though she didn't try that too hard. The swaggering and the trousers only went so far to hide her hips, and when she put a leer into her expression, the manager called her to his office after and said, "Don't go seducing the girls, now, or you'll get more than them."

She frowned at him and tried to work out what that would entail. The only answer she could think of was nothing new, and nothing unique to the nights when she went on stage. "I can deal with the rude old gentlemen on my own," she promised him.

"Maybe you can, but there's no reason you should have to." He patted her shoulder and she felt the warmth of his hand through her tailcoat and her shirt.

Kitty smiled at him and said, "I'd best be off," and he didn't fire her for ducking out on him. A charming man, that one, or an honest one, at least.

When she dropped or soiled a part of her costume beyond bearing, she went into shops looking for the right scarf or the right gloves. When she first came to Whitstable, she found that somehow she'd missed two shirts in packing up. The tailor gave her an odd look when she went to be measured and sent in his daughter instead. "Are these really for you?" the girl asked, giving Kitty a wide-eyed look as she wrapped the measuring tape round her bound bosom.

"They're for the stage," Kitty told her. "Nothing too awful about that, is there?"

The girl laughed. "I wouldn't know. I've never seen a girl dressed up as a boy, not like that."

"Everyone should, at least once." Kitty smiled at her. "Give them my name at the door and they'll let you in half-price, Miss--"

"Miss Pinker," the girl said.

"I'll see you tomorrow night, then, shall I?"

Miss Pinker blushed. "If I can get away. The shirts should be ready by noon tomorrow, whether or not I can go. Thank you, Miss Butler."

"No, thank you for your help."