First Page: The Sweet Science
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Lillian stared at her waist-length mass of hair in the mirror and picked up the scissors. She hesitated a moment, since this was against God and the Bible and every sermon she had ever heard on modesty and deportment of Godly women. She cut anyway. The first lock of the hated raven-black hair that fell on her dressing table was a revelation and her scissors flew. She couldn’t cut it all, of course, not for a single night’s entertainment. But she could shorten it, since women weren’t allowed at the fights.
She cut it to just below her shoulders. For a moment, she turned her head, feeling the unaccustomed lightness. The pile of glossy black on her table, she swept into the wastepaper basket. She’d burn it before the maid could find it.
The shorter hair braided easily. With two braids, she looked like a pale Cheyenne woman. That was part of the plan. Lillian took out a pot of greasepaint and applied a thin layer to her hands and face and neck, anywhere that would be seen.
The Cheyenne woman in the mirror was no longer so pale. But she wouldn’t be a woman for long, either. Lillian stripped to utter nakedness, shivering with her own wicked thoughts. She could not recall having been completely naked in her life. No man had taken her to wife, nor would she have married if any had asked. She liked her independence and the freedom that came with her parents’ legacy.
She took a belt and fastened it around her generous bosom, tightening it until the breasts lost their defined shape. She added a pillow just beneath them to make her look barrel-chested rather than buxom, and pulled on the shirt she’d bought from a trader.
The heavy cotton smelled strongly of horse and leather and sweat, but it fit her small stature. She wrapped her head in the usual scarf the men wore, and pulled on loose trousers and moccasins. She felt quite naked, even with the clothing. She put on the low-crowned felt hat to cover her gray eyes.
A Cheyenne youth stood looking back at her from the mirror and all of Lillian Shaw lay on the floor, a pile of clothing and hair. She put away the dress, chemise and corset, then hurried to burn the hair before she could be caught.
She stopped. Flossie would worry. Lillian scribbled a note to her maid and left it propped on her pillow. “Dear Flossie. I’ve gone out and about in disguise. It’s a bit of a lark, and I shall be home before morning, so do not fret yourself. Lil.”
She secured a moneybelt around her waist and headed out to the fights. Her hand trembled on the latch of her bedroom door, from excitement and fear both. She knew this could ruin her forever in her hometown.
No women were allowed at the illegal boxing matches. It was unseemly and dangerous. She’d paid her driver well to listen to the men’s gossip and let her know when one was. He was adamant in his initial refusal, but she claimed she only wanted to make a couple of wagers, through him, so he relented. He would be horrified if he knew she was going to one, even in disguise.