Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Hayley looked herself over in the mirror, from the hem of her black dress at mid-thigh, past the flaring of her hips to her narrow waist, to the fuller curves of her... well, then to her face. There she met her own eyes, staring hard.
"Look at you," said she to herself, "going out like this."
"And look at you, standing there. I don't think you have it in you."
She broke eye contact, doubtful, and looked again to her dress. She was certain that one of her was right. How could she go out like this? She reached forward and tilted her floor mirror forward, revealing the reflection of her spaghetti string black heeled shoes. She had always considered her feet cute. At least she could agree with herself about that. Looking up again, the angle of the mirror now cropped her image at the neck, so she could no longer see her face in the mirror. Good.
She returned to her conversation. "Look at you, going out like this."
This time there was no reply, but she casually acknowledged that she couldn't look herself in the eye. A little more than four years in the Big Easy had gradually loosened her from her conservative upbringing, but this... this was hard. How had she come to this?
It was "the" season. Christmas had come and gone. Gifts had been given; gifts had been received. There hadn't even been any returns this year. Provide Steven a list, show Steven the things on the list at the stores in which they are for sale, remind Steven where the list is, and receive the items on the list. Quite simply done. But she wasn't as mercenary as that seemed. It had been a wonderful holiday.
New Year's, too, had been great fun. They hadn't painted the town red but spent a quiet evening at home with some friends, playing Hearts until an ageless Dick Clark acknowledged that another year had passed.
But four years of living in Louisiana had taught Hayley that the real holiday season was the two weeks prior to Fat Tuesday. She had heard of Mardi Gras growing up in North Carolina, but she had never really paid attention to it. There had a childhood friend that had gone to Mobile, AL for Mardi Gras, returning with cheap beads and moon pies. She was jealous at the time of the trinkets, but it was quickly forgotten.
That was then; this was now. After moving to Mandeville with Steven, she, like many of her neighbors, had pulled out the storage cases of gold, purple, and green knick knacks, flags, and beads, decorating her home on the inside, with a few flourishes outside. The addition of colored translucent plastic sheets in her patio lights put them one ahead of the neighbors. But that wasn't really what it was all about. Decorating was a relatively quiet acknowledgement of the traditions of the area, including the wild things that went on in the city across the bridge and a bit east.
She loved Mandeville. She did. Clean city, nice shopping centers, good schools, excellent waterfront park... But it was at this time of year that, to some measure, she felt disconnected from everybody. All the native Cajuns always seemed to have a tradition about the way they celebrated Mardi Gras. This included the parades, surely, but they disappeared to family member's homes for Cajun boils or were invited to other parties.
Therefore, it was the parades which were her participation in the festivities.
She remembered her first trip downtown to the big parades the first year they had lived here, accompanied by their neighbors, the Michells, John and Louise. The Michells had grown up in the area, mostly in Jefferson Parish. But they had wanted to try life on the other side of the lake, primarily for their kids' education. They had surprised her with the invitation to go to a parade in New Orleans. She had expected to go to one of the small ones in Mandeville or perhaps Slidell. Most people had suggested they stay away from New Orleans when they had learned she was new to the area, including their realtor. "It's so much safer out here. You just never know what might happen downtown; it's a dangerous place." But the Michells insisted that they try it, perplexed that she and Steven would even consider not going.
Well, her first experience was so wonderful that she couldn't stay away. She had attended parades as a child... Memorial Day, Labor Day... she couldn't remember which. It was mostly some floats, a few high school marching bands, uniformed veterans out for a march, and a lot of aging Rotarians dressed in silly costumes. It hadn't been worth the time. But Louise had explained how extravagant the parades here would seem in comparison, and Steven and she had a natural curiosity. And too, she had a natural inclination to say "yes" when others told her "no." Perhaps she would grow up some day...
Debauchery. She had never really understood the stupid things people do when they're inebriated. And with each parade she attended over the last several years, she came to understand that people do stupid things even when they're not drunk. They were just debauched. Was that a word?
And it had shocked her that first year to find that Louise and John were included. She would never forget when Louise flashed her breasts to a guy on a balcony, getting several strands of beads in the process. A process which had been repeated numerous times that night. And her husband, John, had just smiled and smiled. And so had Steven! And she had laughed too, the initial shock mellowing to amazement.
This was, after all, their neighbor! People they would see again and again. It hadn't remotely touched her life to that point that people would expose themselves to others that they knew. As she had watched other girls and women expose their breasts, there was an excitement, yes, but, after all, she didn't know them and would never see them again. As she watched, she realized that most of them were in small groups, obviously comfortable with their friends seeing them.
She hadn't bared her breasts, that first year, or even been tempted. Nor had she the second year, despite some encouragement from Steven late in the evening. She wanted to, kind of, but just when she thought she had the nerves to do it, she would back out.
It wasn't until the third year that she went without her bra, which, she remembered, was only because Steven had insisted. She knew what he wanted, at that point, because he had started asking her if she would flash people, starting some weeks before the season arrived. And she planned to, she had thought, but she never quite worked up the gumption to do it. As it turned out, thankfully, she didn't have to. Louise was showing her breasts to a crowd of guys on the street, and suddenly, Steven grabbed her shirt and held it up. It couldn't have been more than 2 seconds, but it seemed like forever. She still treasured the beads that had rained down upon them from a balcony, but she couldn't even look up there to see who had thrown them. What if she knew someone? She knew that was unlikely, but it was just difficult to make eye contact with people that had just seen you half naked.
Then there was last year. A whole year of remembering her one indecent exposure had driven her to masturbate countless times. She hadn't told Steven how excited it had made her. She had told Louise though, and it was for that reason that they had gone to all the parades on Fat Tuesday, rather than the smaller parades on a preceding weeknight. Louise had understood Hayley's emerging daring, although she was surprised that it had taken so long. As Louise had set the stage for the parades throughout the day and evening, she had frequently reminded her, "More time on the street, more opportunity!"
She didn't know exactly how comfortable Steven was, although, obviously, the first flash had been his doing. But still, she was married, and to go through with what she was planning, she thought it right to seek his "permission."
The kids had been sent off to another neighbor's house, who seemed to be babysitting for a number of kids in the neighborhood. Steven had come into the bedroom while she was dressing that morning, and had performed a "bra check," gradually caressing her back to see if there was evidence of a bra. He hadn't found one and had left encouraged, she had thought. But she had been wearing a conservative collared blouse that buttoned and tucked into her jeans. It was somewhat tight and gave evidence of her curves, but it was ridiculous to expect that she would be able to flash without seeming to undress. About 10 minutes before John and Louise picked them up, she hastily had changed into a clingy, satin purple halter-top. Louise would be wearing an identical one, but gold, as they had shopped together. Hayley had walked into the living room, watching Steven's jaw actually drop, admiring her as she approached. She had stopped several feet short of his reach, curled the hem of her top around pinky fingers, lifted, and said, "How do I look?"
It had been a good thing the Michells had shown up shortly thereafter, or they wouldn't have made the trip at all. As her hand had frequently, and, at times, rather openly confirmed, Steven had stayed hard throughout the day. And afterwards... it had been a night to remember. She also understood why Bourbon Street had a certain sour, earthy smell to it during the day.
Her initial musings about the previous year had changed though. She had searched web sites looking at pictures posted from Mardi Gras. It was an absolutely fantastic finger fuck when she first found her own picture on the web. And Steven had satisfied her more "fully" when she had shown it to him. She had known, of course, about the picture taking, as John had taken pictures of Louise the previous years, which was really just an asterisk compared with the seeming thousands of other revelers that had taken pictures as well. So, she had taken and worn a little feathered mask. That had lasted about half the day. It was too uncomfortable. Sure, someone might recognize her in the photos, but Louise had convinced her that even if someone did, it was very unlikely that they would confront her with it. After all, who admits to looking at pictures of nude women on the internet? Louise had a point.
An unanticipated result of that day had been that anytime Steven needed inspiration for a little romance, she simply pulled out pictures that either he or John had taken of her flashing her tits. What a strange day that had been! And with such mixed emotions! It was wrong to show her breasts - that was the way she was raised, and she knew deep within that was what the majority of people believed, because their behavior confirmed it. You just didn't see women flash their tits.
But then there was an excitement, too. Doing what was wrong somehow felt so right, especially down... there. Feeling a slight cool breeze on her bare nipples had opened a new world of sensation to her... men walked around without their shirts, so it was only fair. But even as she rationalized, she knew that the wrongness outvoted her desires by a solid 1%. But it was, after all, her desires, that had won the moment and, for that matter, the day.
Still, considering all of that, it had been somewhat of a surprise to find that in every picture, there was an enraptured smile. The photos also showed the gradual increase in the number of beads she had been given, to the point where she couldn't properly expose herself. Steven had taken the overflow, gladly
But then there was the wrongness again. Every picture showed her raising her shirt, even holding a breast for a man to ogle, as she looked squarely at her admirers. But not once had she looked at Steven in the pictures. It didn't change his excitement, certainly, but how strange it was to be putting on a show for others, almost to the point of neglecting her own husband.
But the beads... She had earned them. Only cents to a few dollars each, she guessed, but she took great pride in them. Her mom had admired them during her annual visit, not knowing that her little angel had fallen a step or three to obtain them.
They weren't trinkets to her though. They had been earned. There was a contract of sorts. I'll lift my blouse and show you my tits, and you'll throw me some beads. It was transactional. It was like she was a celebrity for a day, and the masses were paying for her autograph. Well, that was stretching it a bit far. But certainly she had earned them. So many of the pictures showed plenty of guys staring, fighting for position to see, and even reaching. One had even shown a faceless stranger's hand on her tit. She had assumed it was Steven at the time...
It was a catching atmosphere... the cool night air... shoulder to shoulder people... the costumes... the beads... the masks... the smell of the food... the junk vendors... the stuff thrown from the floats...
The floats. While there was a growing satisfaction in having dared to do what she had done, it was ultimately the floats that had caused her mood to gradually change. In October or so, articles started appearing in the newspaper about the secret societies that paid for, built, and manned the floats, with occasional snippets regarding past Kings and Queens, ballrooms committed for the societies, and Even fundraisers to be held.
She had turned to the internet for information about these groups. She had quickly found that her blood would never be blue enough for the local in-crowd to be asked to join one of the main societies, and that had caused a strange depression in her, and precious little was known about most. Her memories were treasured, but they began souring as she dwelled on the fact that she had participated in "their" event. Mardi Gras wasn't "hers," not that anyone would claim to own it, but it certainly would never belong to a woman from North Carolina. It made her seem a stranger in... not a strange land - strange as it was, but a known land. And that just made her mad.
Steven had noticed her turn in mood, and it was him, ironically, she thought now, that had suggested she talk to Louise about it. And she had, shortly after Thanksgiving, when she had invited Louise to lunch.
"So, you're jealous of the local high society?" asked Louise. "Listen, people pay a lot of money to join those societies. And it's basically just a party. They spend tons of money on the floats, their costumes, the ball, the parties leading up to the ball... It's very expensive. Why can't you just enjoy it as you have? After the way you finally joined in last year, we're really looking forward to another Mardi Gras with you. You're officially an exhibitionist, you know."
"I am, am I?"
"Doing it once is a dare. Doing it, well, how many times? Honey, that's the real you finding it's way out. You're official alright. John and I had decided that you didn't have it in you, but then you, well, exhibited your true nature." Louise laughed. "Look, I've been showing off down there since I was 16, but don't tell my parents if you ever meet them! But I guess I had forgotten how people might be shy about it, if I ever knew that to begin with. And now, here I am, 38 years old, with a buddy to keep me young! And with John sharing in it, it's just wonderful!"
"Well, in a way, it's the sharing that's been the problem. And I don't mean the awkwardness of my friend and neighbor's husband having seen my boobs, as awkward as that sometimes seems to be."
Louise looked baffled.
"Oh, I'm over that! But Louise, haven't you ever wondered what it would be like to ride on a float, to take a peek at Mardi Gras from the inside? You've lived here a while. Have you ever been invited to join a society?"
Louise didn't answer, then broke eye contact.
"I can see it! Don't hold out on me!" said Hayley.
Louise shook her head. "No, Hayley. I've never been a member. I've... Well, John was once a part of... I guess you would call it a feeder group. A few of the societies have... well, they're not members, but they're relationships with others that do certain work to help the society get ready, like volunteers. There's a lot of charities that benefit from the Krewes, you know. So, John helped once."
Hayley sniffed a story and wasn't about to let it drop. "And? That's it? I don't think so. Continue, please..."
Louise looked uncertain.
"Louise... Come on. And? You were invited to a ball? Or, you were invited to ride a float? What?"
Louise exhaled loudly, obviously making a decision to give in. "Yes, I got to ride a float. There's this one all-male Krewe that sometimes hides a woman on the float, sort of. It's kind of like a guest of honor, and it was John's... I won't call it work. But basically he got me the ride.
"Was it fun? Did you get to go to a ball? Did you get to throw beads and cups and stuff? When did you do that?"
Louise looked guilty. "Actually, two years ago."
"Two... You never told me!"
"Well, you never asked! No really, it's supposed to be a secret."
"How about John? Did he get to ride, too?"
"No. I guess you could say I reaped the benefit of his contributions."
"That's so great! Were you invited back last year?"
"No, it was a one time opportunity."
"Is there anyway John could work me in?"
Louise looked slightly distressed, and Hayley was surprised by it, but not enough to let her off the hook. This was something she really wanted, and she let the silence linger. Louise shifted, her face the picture of a petition to escape a hangman's noose, or in this case, answering the question. Hayley stared at her, ready for a long term contest of wills.
Louise resigned the stand off, as Hayley knew she would. "Hayley, you really don't know what you're asking, you're..."
"I don't know. Naïve? Not from around here? Too good a friend? I just don't know how to explain it to you without... Well, there's a certain... Hayley, I just don't want to lose you as a friend."
Hayley considered this and made a decision. "Louise, whatever it is, I promise not to hold it against you. I'm a grown woman. I'm 36 years old, just a couple years younger than you. I can handle it. Please!"
"You're 36? Maybe there's something to numerology after all."
"Oh, never mind. You're not going to like this, but I really, truly can't tell you what the evening is about, other than riding on the float, obviously. I'll have to talk to John, and then... well, maybe you'll receive an invitation in the mail." Louise looked at the hope on Hayley's face. "Hayley, you really are naïve. I shouldn't even say this, but I'll tell you this. It's not a free ride, but I am absolutely convinced it's an evening you would enjoy. Oh, and I'll tell you that the night makes sense afterwards."
"That's it? You can't tell me anything more?"
"No. It's one of those 'I'd have to kill you if I did' things. Like I said, let me talk to John."
Hayley remembered the strangeness of Louise's parting comment. "You're really 36?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe there's something to those Tarot quacks in Jackson Square, after all."
For the next two weeks, Hayley's thoughts had bounced between Christmas and Louise. Louise had said that she had talked to John the same day, and that John had agreed to start the process. She said to watch for a piece of registered mail. It would be addressed to Steven and not to open it.
Steven's letter did finally come, but it had to be signed for by him, and it was another day before he was able to go to the post office to pick it up. She hoped it had answers. Still, Louise had told her to play dumb about it. It was part of the process, and she wasn't to even let Steven know about their whole discussion. But she hadn't said to ignore a registered letter, after all!
"Well, what's the important letter?" she had asked oh-so casually as Steven arrived home. It was disappointing to have considered all sorts of strategies to find out about the letter only to have her excitement cut to the simplest of forms.
Steven had also answered casually, damn him. "Oh, that. It's just an invitation to an informational meeting from a guy I know. I think it's one of those multi-level marketing or business things."
Yeah, right. "Oh. Like Amway? Is that all? What a waste of time. I can't imagine someone sending that by registered mail." I'm not letting you off that easy, hubby.
"Well, he had told me about it, and he's a good friend. So I'll at least sit through the one session. I've always been a bit curious about these things."
Not as much as me! "When is it?"
It was two nights later, and Steven returned late, offering nothing to her in the way of information. She had searched for the original letter in the house to no gain, not to mention the trash, his car, his briefcase, his suit pockets... She also searched for any of this "multi- level" marketing crap that, in theory, he would have returned with, and she wasn't surprised not to find that either. Damn.
Then the quiet period had come. It hadn't been until mid-January when her head started spinning.
He had arrived at the door, knocking several times, with even, firm taps. Through her peep hole she was a liveried courier, and a glance through the window indicated a limousine. In all likelihood, this either had to be her invitation, or else Ed McMahon was waiting outside also with a $1 million check. And she hadn't entered that sweepstakes, but it felt the same. She opened the door.
"Good afternoon, ma'am. I presume you are Hayley Anders Fleming?"
The use of her middle name was unexpected. "Yes, I am."
"Very good." He placed an envelope in her hand, then held her wrist firmly as he said, "For your sincerest consideration, I offer you this invitation."
What do you say to that? "Thank you," she said, with more eagerness than had intended.
"And for our sincerest appreciation of your beauty, I offer you this rose." It was a beautiful red rose in a black vase marked with a golden "36" on it's side.
"Good day, ma'am." He bowed slightly, turned and left. She remained at the door, somewhat stunned as he began to pull away. How did he know her middle name? Who was "us?" And had they seen her before to know that she was... well, attractive, she thought. And then there was that 36... Then she ran inside, setting the vase down quickly and roughly tearing the envelope open. She didn't know much about stationary, but she knew the paper was expensive.
Dearest Mrs. Fleming,
You have been nominated and accepted by the OBO as a candidate for our society's charitable evening, to be held Thursday, February 19th, 2004. Mardi Gras in our City has become known for its licentious behavior, a behavior in which we, the men of OBO, freely participate.
Of you, Mrs. Fleming, much will be required, and much will be offered. The evening will begin by your honoring the Krewe of Chaos as a guest aboard one of their floats. This is, however, only the beginning of the evening, and the only aspect of which you may know in advance.
This opportunity will only be offered once. This invitation may incite certain questions. We ask that you trust the judgment of your nominator, who will not be revealed to you, that you will find this to be not only a rewarding and exciting evening, but one that fulfills some, or perhaps all, of your deepest desires.
To accept our invitation, you must present this invitation to Mr. Chin, at 400 Toulouse Street, promptly at 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, January 21, 2004.
She had spent days reading over the invitation, and had shown it to Louise in the hope of her letting out some details or at least some hints. Aside from an initial admission of feeling a great sense of guilt, Louise had finally brightened, although she offered no help at all in coming up with acronyms for OBO or explaining the meaning of "36." Order of Better Orgasms? Oreos Bring Orgasms? It was pointless speculating, but the orgasms came naturally enough as she considered what this was about.
And, therefore, she had dutifully presented herself to Mr. Chin. This Mr. Chin had her strip to just her panties and had carefully measured her in every way she thought possible. Although quite the professional, he had seemingly touched her in every possible place before dismissing her abruptly with the words "You get package delivered. Here." Thank you, Mr. Chin.
"Here" had referred to another note, which simply thanked her for accepting, and indicated that she was to set aside 4:30 p.m. through the night on Feb. 21st. She had imagined a Ball that started at midnight. Maybe.
In the coming weeks, she had fretted over what excuses she might offer Steven for her evening... would it be the whole night?... away, but several days ahead he indicated he would be working out of town. That was a relief, sort of. Although she didn't anticipate betraying their vows, holding a secret wasn't healthy to a marriage. As the first note had said, she had to trust her sponsor, whom, of course, she knew was John. She tried to imagine receiving the invitation without knowing who the sponsor was or any other clues. Had Louise known when she had done this? The thought was both erotic and terrifying. She was happy to be able deal with just the erotic... , although, there were plenty of questions that, if answered certain ways, could be terrifying. Trust your sponsor. Trust your sponsor...
The 21st finally finished creeping up on her. She was beginning to have serious doubts. Was someone going to call her? Pick her up? If she was supposed to be downtown for a parade, it was going to take time to cross Lake Ponchartrain and fight rush hour, especially with the mobs in town, to get to the French Quarter.
The promised package never showed until 1:00 p.m., and what was that? Two hours ago? It was delivered by a commercial courier this time. Her "package" included one hanging garment in a box and a smaller cube shaped box. Both boxes were black and were adorned with "36" on them. The smaller box had contained the shoes now on her feet, hosiery, and garters.
As she held each aloft, she was thankful that she had thought to tell the kids to go to a neighbor's house after school. Claire seemed to manage a co-op of sorts to baby-sit for the majority of the neighborhood whenever the parades were scheduled.
For as little as she received, though, there were plenty of surprises. She was surprised that the shoes fit so well for being so new. She would have liked to have known a brand for future purchases, but there was none, other than a small indentation indicating the crafter's mark, she believed. Which meant that this was custom.
The hose and garters also fit perfectly, with no adjustment needed. She would have guessed some strap adjustments would be necessary, but not in this case. The box had also contained a note, indicating that the delivered clothes were to be her only attire for the evening. Her first cursory look had revealed that she had a little trimming to do with her "winter growth." Having reassembled, the black garter straps provocatively framed her freshly trimmed mound, now sporting the clean lines of a narrow triangle. She shuddered to think that she might be flashing someone "that," but on the other hand, the provisions made it seem likely that she would be asked. And she would, she knew, because the moment would be too strong for the 51% now saying "This is wrong." But if she were asked, and said yes, she would have been mortified if she hadn't trimmed.
That she wasn't to wear a bra wasn't a surprise. She did like surprises, though, and it was for that reason that she hadn't opened the garment box until that moment. But when she had opened the garment bag, her dress hadn't surprised her. It shocked her. It shocked her still. And it was at her dress that she continued to gaze upon now.
It, like the rest of her wardrobe, was black. Black was good for slimming the appearance, but she didn't particularly need slimming and that wasn't the point. The dress clung tightly to her skin, but that wasn't a surprise either. It seemed to cling to the very places in which Mr. Chin had placed his hand, which was all over. Such a tight fitting dress wasn't what she would have chosen, perhaps, but...
It had been confusing to put on, with the left arm opening impossibly wide. It was so wide that she had thought that surely she had somehow missed both a head and an arm opening. But there it was. The dress clung to her thighs mere inches below her crotch, roundly fastening to her hips before diving in to her waist. It clung for a short distance to her abdomen, before turning with a direct line for her right shoulder, slightly flattening her breast yet managing to capture her natural curves, with not a single wrinkle.
The problem was her bare left tit.
As she looked now, her right nipple was fully erect, obvious under the tight fabric. And she imaged that, if viewed doubtfully by a casual observer, then one had only to glance at the other more directly observable nipple for conformation that, yes, the protrusions are at the same elevation and are, indeed, a matched pair. She was getting silly now.
There had been one other item on the hangar, and she put that on now, a short black shawl to cover her shoulders and her breast. It seemed a barely practical accessory to what was almost a Spandex toga. A single button and loop connected the halves. The left nipple remained more prominent than the right, as it had only half the fabric thickness covering it. Yet, this wasn't as obvious, due to an embroidered "OBO" in gold threads, set on the shawl upon her left breast. What? No "36?"
She raised the shawl. Boob. She lowered it. No boob. A dress with one boob exposed. Something clicked. Aha... One Breast Out. OBO. There, that was it. She was tempted to call Louise and tell her the gag was over. But really, it wasn't. She had no idea what to expect.
She returned to the bathroom, checking her hair, checking her light makeup, checking her teeth, checking anything but her eyes. She didn't want to go there. Her mind was made up; she was going. She had shown her breast before; she would do it again. No big deal. Really. No big deal.
She argued with herself about not being brave enough to argue with herself regarding the wisdom of the whole enterprise. This wasn't terrifying, she knew. It was more of a nervous excitement. And looking at herself in the mirror, again, she felt dressed beautifully, and if she could only look herself in the eye, she knew that she would see beauty there as well. Thank you, Mr. Courier and the 36. How curious it was that with a simple flip of her shawl, she felt beautifully... pagan? Her thoughts were finally interrupted by a knock at the front door. It was 4:30. And there was a limo waiting.
The ride was wonderful, but lonely. The driver wouldn't talk, although she caught him steal glances in his rear view mirror several times. She had been mindful to cross her legs when she sat, but she couldn't remember if she had maintained her poise as she had entered the limo. Maybe she had unintentionally invited his glances now. She had never worn so short a dress or a skirt.
Her immodest attire had certainly changed her ability to concentrate. She tried to think of what the parade would be like, she couldn't think about it for more than five seconds before she started dwelling on her dress, and how it might play a part in the evening. She decided on a more deliberate and controllable course by helping herself to a glass of white wine. It soothed her nerves. A bit, anyway.
As they began their drive across the bridge, she saw the bright flame of a refinery west of Kenner venting gas, a veritable beacon. It was rare to see that, due to environmental requirements. With her shawl off, she, too, would draw attention, and she already felt a tinge of heat between her legs. If there was a similarity to her and the refinery, she only hoped her fine wouldn't be as severe.
As they continued, she speculated where she might be delivered. Her guesses of law offices, a hotel, an accountant firm, a street corner with the other women participating, and surely there would be other women, were all completely wrong. She was dropped off at a fading, beat up metal building with gunshot holes in the wall just east of the Quarter. Faded paint indicated it had once been a cotton warehouse. Royal Street. How ironic. She was receiving the royal treatment, certainly. But in whose kingdom?
She exited the limo rather gracefully, she thought, for being so focused on keeping thighs pressed together. She was ushered indoors, where she found other women waiting in a moderately sized room, surprisingly well appointed. There were only 10 of them, gathered in an unnatural silence. She would have guessed that there would have been 36...
Then it dawned on her. All the women appeared to be about the same age. And two years ago, Louise would have been...
"A question. Does everyone here happen to be 36 years old?"
This was quickly confirmed. How... unusual! No one had an explanation for it. But at least it started conversation. No one seemed to know anything other than what she knew, and all had the same fears and excitement that she did, it seemed. They shared several trays of hor's doerves, talking lightly, about... nothing really. And they waited.
The building did turn out to be a warehouse, after all, one used by the Krewe to apparently build and stage their floats. She was escorted to a float colorfully decorated like a jester. And although she didn't dwell on it, she had half expected for them to ask for her shawl before climbing aboard. That didn't happen, but as she surveyed the steps to the float and the assortment of goods that she would have to climb over, it would be impossible for her to maintain her modesty. Strangely, her spirits lifted. She knew maintaining her modesty was not what this evening was to be about. And as the several men grew to a small group as she approached the steps, there was more than a twinge of excitement as she climbed, making neither an obvious show of her sex nor awkwardly trying to keep her thighs closed. She finally settled in a centrally located seat, with some vocal admiration from the assembled gallery.
It was a different kind of exhibition, the "accidental" type. Intentionally accidental, perhaps. But she knew that she would try something similar again, with Steven around. Steven! At that thought, she mentally sobered, feeling more than a twinge of guilt for carrying on without him there, and without him knowing, even, what she was up to.
The men filled in around her, and the floats began to move. There was ample beer, but more importantly to her, there were boxes of beads, plastic cups, doubloons, and candy placed about her, and she was encouraged to throw the items as she wished. She was surprised to find a pretty good quantity of stuffed animals, even. She was also provided with a feathered mask that she was to wear which matched those to be worn by the Krewe. Fortunately, it proved to be comfortable.
There was much to remember about the parade. She had great fun tossing items and waving. She tried to target children and those kindred spirits that bared their breasts for the men around her on the float. She had been tempted several times to lift her shawl, but that seemed like cheating her evening in some sense. Her time would come... and there was always Fat Tuesday around the corner when she could flash more conventionally to her heart's desire. And her desires were strong.
After the parade and enough time for traffic to clear the backstreets of the Quarter, they were guided to the limousines and driven a short distance where they turned into an very narrow gated alley. This led to a courtyard that otherwise wouldn't be visible in the street. The area was well lighted, with a central fountain and ample plants hanging from the upstairs walkways that surrounded the courtyard. The building appeared to be an old hotel, possibly converted into several apartments or condominiums.
They were led to one of the upstairs rooms, where they were again treated to a light snack. The room was equipped with mirrors, brushes, combs and an assortment of makeup. It was both an obvious and welcome opportunity to clean up a bit, before... whatever. Everyone was talking about their trip on the floats as they groomed. After about half an hour, the conversation was interrupted as the gentleman who had originally handed her the invitation entered the room.
"Good evening, ladies. Our party has assembled. We will be calling you individually. Mrs. Connor, would you please accompany me at this time? A brunette who had been pacing walked to the door, where she accepted the gentlemen's arm. The door was closed, and she was gone. And the room became quiet for a time.
Just as conversation would return, the gentlemen would return. Mrs. Daniels. Mrs. LeCroix. Mrs. Shaner. Ms. Williams. Mrs. Lombardier. And so it went. Hayley wasn't sure if it was her imagination, as there were no clocks in the room, but it seemed like the intervals were getting longer and longer. Mrs. Gottschall. Mrs. Landon.
There were three of them now. A lady she now knew as Addison looked like she might pass out. She kept repeating, "oh my God!" again and again. The gentleman returned, and Mrs. Fauber, as she turned out to be, was led away.
"Any final ideas before one of us is called away?" Stephanie asked.
"Not really. A bunch of 36 year old women, all pretty. All with great figures. All wearing a dress that leaves one breast out."
"Oh! Is that what that means?"
"That's my guess..."
Then Lynn was called away, and she was alone. Figures. Last.
She sang the ending of a children's song to herself. "There were two in the bed and the little one said, roll over, roll over. So they all rolled over and one fell out, and the little one said, Good Night!"
Well, she hoped it would be, and she certainly had one breast that fell out.
The door, finally, opened.
They walked a short distance down the 2nd floor balcony to another room. This room appeared to be lived in, but temporarily converted to a photography studio. The gentleman waited outside. The photographer seated her on a stool and angled the lights slightly. Curtains were behind her, one embroidered with a large "36" and the other with "OBO." The photographer stepped behind her, straightening her back and directing her jaw at a certain angle. He then, professionally, she remarked, removed her shawl. She colored slightly, a breast visible to this stranger in a rather more intimate setting than the public streets. There found a sense of irony in that, and he seemed to appreciate her expression as again assessed her posture and placed her mask on her face. He then darted behind the camera.