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Orchid Lips

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Trevor had been a disappointment to Gabriel Belmont in many, many ways, but the one that Trevor felt was entirely unfair was blaming her for being born a girl.

"Another dowry to organise," grumbled her father when Trevor received her first legitimate letter of proposal at the age of twelve.

The other proposals had been from families assuming the Belmonts had two boys and three girls, and had thus been offering their daughters to Trevor for when "the honourable gentleman came of age."

"I shan't marry," said Trevor. "Then you will not have to organise such things."

"You will, whether it pleases you or not," said Gabriel, shuffling through correspondence.

There was one addressed for her. She grabbed it and turned the thick envelope over. She thought she could smell something. Yes, there. Trevor leant in to sniff the creamy paper. Rosewater and pastry, as if the writer had sprinkled their stationery with perfume.

She snapped the seal open and unfolded the letter.

"Lady Elisabeth does not sound so awful," said Trevor.

Her father snatched the letter away. Part of it tore off in Trevor's hand but Gabriel hardly seemed to notice, turning to throw it into the fire. While his back was turned, Trevor tucked the torn piece into her skirt.

"You will marry a man," Gabriel said. "Now go train with your brother and sisters."

"What would you have me train with?" asked Trevor.

"The short sword."

"But I was supposed to have the whip today," said Trevor.

Christopher was no good with the training whip, and insisted on using it in all of their sparring. Jenefer and Beatrix never complained – they much preferred a staff and sword, although they were both better at the whip than Christopher. For the sake of fairness, they were supposed to take turns.

"Short sword, whip, do as you please you stubborn girl," snapped Gabriel.

Trevor hastily retreated, aware of her father's growing mood. Something was worrying him but for the life of her Trevor could not puzzle out what it was. As the youngest, she wasn't given much information, sheltered from going out unless it was to attend church or run an errand with a servant at her side. The Belmont Estate was large enough and well stocked enough with books and scrolls to keep her amused, but she did wonder what the world beyond the village was like.

Her father promised that she would go on her first hunt when she turned thirteen. A real hunt. Not the sort that typical men indulged in. In the meantime Trevor had to train, read, learn to sew, speak, dance, and run a household. Mathematics, astronomy, cooking, hunting, basic survival, the healing arts, and so on and so forth. Everything society expected Christopher to learn as a gentleman and a hunter, Gabriel pushed his girls to work twice as hard, including the arts of the lady.

When they married, had children of their own, they were expected to teach them what it meant to be a Belmont even if by their virtue of being women they were forced to repress the fire in their blood.

Trevor didn't quite understand why she had to learn so much. It seemed silly. She was the youngest, and hardly the heir to anything. Christopher was due to be married, and Jenefer and Beatrix were tittering about their own prospects. If anyone were to carry the legacy, it would be them.

Trevor found herself in the cellar, staring at the wine rack that concealed the training rooms. Her fingers unwrapped from the scrap of paper in her pocket, and she pushed it aside to find the rooms empty. Beyond it only silence prevailed. The others must have forgotten they were supposed to be training.

Seeing as Christopher wasn't there to protest, Trevor took one of the practice whips and strapped a short sword to her waist.

There was only one problem with Christopher inheriting: he couldn't wield the Vampire Killer. It hadn't come to him over the many years of training, regardless of how hard he tried and how many hours he spent training. His strengths were with daggers and poisons, a man who preferred to end the fight before it had even begun.

It knew. Trevor didn't know how. But the whip knew that Christopher was not its wielder. She paused at its case, admiring the deep red handle, freshly oiled, the Belmont crest embossed in gold.

If Christopher could not use the Vampire Killer by the age of eighteen, the duty would fall upon Jenefer. At her eighteenth, she too would be presented with the whip. It was likely Trevor would never use it. Not while she had four siblings ahead of her.

Overcome by temptation and the icy fear that she'd never be allowed to try it, Trevor lifted the lid and touched the blessed coils.

Footsteps alerted Trevor of her siblings coming down. She dropped the lid, scurrying into the next room and pretending she had been practicing on the dummies with her sword.

"It's about time you showed up," said Trevor, faking her complaint. "I was getting bored."

Christopher took up another whip.

"Would you run me through some drills again, Trevor?" he asked.

"As long as you don't scar her face," said Eve. "She had a letter of proposal today."

Trevor gave Eve the stink-eye. Little eavesdropper. Even though Eve was older than Trevor, Trevor was already too tall and broad-shouldered to fit into Eve's secret passages and hiding places. No doubt she had used an abandoned passage to overhear the conversation with their father.

"Ever the gossip," said Trevor. "Didn't mother ever tell you gossiping is ugly?"

She tapped the handle of her whip in her palm. It was Eve's turn to give Trevor a dark look.

"Many a time mother has told you not to do something, and you do it anyway," said Eve.

"Because I am the youngest and therefore the cutest and most skilled at getting away with things you can only dream of," said Trevor.

"And let us hope your children are not nearly as frustrating as you are," said Jenefer.

She tapped the back of Trevor's legs with a quarterstaff. Trevor leapt forward out of reach.

"Go teach Christopher, you smug thing, preferably before he has to take up his inheritance," ordered Jenefer.

Ah yes, the other disappointment of the family. Trevor liked Christopher in that they were both seen as oddities within the bloodline. Her father had apparently thrown a fit of rage upon Christopher's birth, the baby's eyes the same frosted blue as Trevor's. Coming from two brown-eyed parents, despite their paternal grandmother having the exact same shade, set off Gabriel's suspicious nature. First he assumed Christopher wasn't his, and then he took up the Belmont family superstition that their blue-eyed children were destined to be a disaster.

Christopher had proven to be useless with a whip. Trevor knew that her father resented having four girls but she assumed that wasn't the only reason she was kept at a distance. Just what was her disaster that would try to destroy the family line?

***

Years later, while kissing a milkmaid in a haystack, Trevor had the revelation that her disaster was that she was not interested in men, therefore was unlikely to continue the family line.

She had to laugh even though the same thought reminded her that her family was dead, and stopped that laughter from turning to tears by lifting the milkmaid's skirts.