Anne Conroy sat on the dark stairs, just below Billy Fields, her elbow on his knee. She could hear his breathing, sense his impatience, smell his sweat, feel his rough hand on her bare shoulder. Because of her pocket hoops, they both would not fit on the same narrow back step, much to Billy's disgust.
Less than an hour before her sister had married James Josephus Dulany, generally known as Jamie, nephew of Daniel Dulany the Younger, one of the richest and loudest Loyalists on the western shore of the new-born state of Maryland. The Very Reverend Thomas John Clagett, the closest thing Maryland had to a bishop, presided oleaginously and blessed the young couple in the name of King George III and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Now the happy pair, and almost all their well-dressed guests as well as the oversized cleric and his fawning deacon, had left and the house servants were restoring order.
"He's a sly, fat, stupid prig," Anne said, draining what little was left in her punch cup and licking her lips and wiping her nose on the back. "I've never even heard him laugh or seen him smile except when he simpers at my poor sister. What's going to become of her with that bottlehead?" She sighed loudly, a recent affectation acquired at the theater on West Street.
"Ah, she'll be all right, m'dear. They've got more field hands n' sovereigns than we've potatoes n'pennies." Billy tangled his fingers in Anne's carefully arranged curls and stretched them out like coiled springs.
"Don't do that," she hissed, smacking at his wrist, tossing her head and disarranging her huge mop of dark red hair even more despite the best efforts of two large combs. She wiggled her slim shoulders and held her empty cup up toward Billy's pug nose. "You could get me some more," she said sweetly. "Before they cart it off and drink it themselves."
"For a small fee, m'darlin'." He bent and kissed her pouting mouth again as she blinked up at him. "Don' understand why y'have t'wear stays," he complained as his right hand snaked around her and found whalebone and what felt like canvas. "Y'surely don't need 'em, or those spankin' great hip things y'have on neither." He nuzzled her throat until she pushed him away.
"It's the style, y'numbscull, and therefore I must." She smacked at his groping hand again. "My stepmother would be scandalized if I didn't, you froward grig, and my sister would likely never speak to me again." She sighed loudly, slumping. "Do you know, Billy," she squirmed around to face him, nearly dislodging her tight-fitting gown. "she even wore her corset every day when we came back from England with that ship load of indentured people, every single day, cinched up tight." She pushed his hand away gently, reluctantly, excited to be alone with a young man, a very rare occasion, and aware that they both were slightly tipsy.
"Did she really now?" said Billy, licking Anne's ear and then kissing her again when she turned toward him, eyes wide open, young breasts nearly bared.
"Go on dolt, get me some punch, you mettlesome rascal." She twisted away, laughing and wiping her nibbled lips with her fingers. "You can tell me all about your trip to Baltimore Town. If y'lived in this house, you'd never hear about that dratted Congress or anything. I didn't even know they were up there. How can I be a loyal subject if I don't know what the enemy's up to? Answer me that."
"Aye! Some Tory y'are, sitting here mousin' with a Maryland volunteer."
"Oh Billy, you didn't." She squirmed around to face him, pulling her bodice even lower on her freckled chest and making her stays dig into her ribs.
"Didn' I now? It's seventeen I am, same as you, miss high an' mighty pris. I'd a'been in last year if my father hadn't died so sudden like."
"And what did your mother say?"
"M'sisters'll look after her. I'm the oldest male now. It's m'duty, girl, and Smallwood's men was up there recruitin', so signed I did, with a flourish, too. Report January second for training." Billy gave her his best smile, feeling quite proud as well as eager for more loving.
"That's just a few days, the second. My goodness," said Anne, her punch cup still raised and her brow furrowed.
"Guess you'll be gone to the Shore."
"Um, I suppose. We don't have many friends left here." She nodded, pondering.
"Y'have me, m'love," Billy said, catching her mouth open and taking advantage of the opportunity, his groping hands firmly on her bare shoulders. Her cup bounced when it hit the floor. Neither of them noticed.
While Billy Fields, despite being thoroughly aroused, was off to refill their punch cups, Anne Conroy lifted her satin petticoat, untied her panniers, wiggled them down and tossed them up into the darkness of the servants' stairs. So when Billy returned with two dripping cups, they were able to sit side by side, hug each other and enjoy the feel of kissing and nuzzling at the same level. Chill drafts descended the back stairs, but they did not notice.
"You know," Anne said, pulling back and catching her breath after the boy mouthed her throat and kissed her clavicle, "you're plumb crazy to go off and join that beaten army. Howe's won every fight, hasn't he?"
"Him and them hired Germans. Tain't fair is it, fat Farmer George rentin' Hessians t' fight his own people?" Billy nibbled at her ear while he tried to get a tiny hook unclasped in the back of her fancy dress.
"What's 'fair' got to do with it, you fool?" Anne squirmed away and removed Billy's other hand from her thigh. "You're goin' off to join an impossible fight, 'gainst the best army and navy in the whole wide world." She sniffed and lifted her chin. "Didn't think you were that dumb, even for a boglander."
"Don' plan to do it all by meself. Can't you get shed of these stays too?" Her bulging breasts made him eager to own her flesh, to devour her.
"No, 'course not silly, we've got to go to the chivaree and toss our stockings at them. It's expected; people would notice if Meg's sister isn't right there in the front row, cinched up tight." She yanked her bodice a bit higher, wiggling from side to side and exciting the boy still more. She had been laced down to almost an 18-inch waist for this new dress and very special occasion.
"All right," said Billy, putting aside his empty punch cup and coming after the girl with both calloused hands.
Anne kissed him again and then pushed him away. She was almost exactly his size and just about as strong. "What's going to happen when you lose, you fool? They'll hang the rebels. That's what Daddy says."
"Oh they might, m'love, least the leaders. Them Hessians has been killing prisoners up in New York. Burned most of the city down, the scum."
"They didn't either," Anne insisted, lifting her firm chin and putting on her most determined face, stretching his thin neck and narrowing her eyes. "I don't know why I fool with you. Washington's vandals fired the town. You know that; everybody knows that. It was in the Gazette. They couldn't hold it so they burnt it."
"Tain't true, m'cailin," Billy said. "Come on, let's not fight." He pulled her back toward him, one hand buried in her disordered curls and the other inside the back of her dress.
"No, I've kissed you enough for tonight. We're going to stop. I shouldn't be out here with a chub like you, nohow." She shoved him away with both hands on his chest and yanked up her dress. "There's loyal men I could kiss, y'know?"
She started with a grin, counting them on her fingers, but he grabbed both her hands, suddenly serious. "So, will y'write to me then?" Billy tried to look forlorn.
"I didn't even know you could read," Anne said with a laugh.
"Arrah, m'girl, pay for that you will." They wrestled and kissed some more, both pretending it was just play, their feet tapping happily on the stairs, the world forgotten.