Note: This is for Catsdon'tcry, who requested "Deryn's thoughts at a spring dance in Glasgow before she meets Alek and her thoughts on love and daft village girls."
(And yes! – I got to use one of my reoccurring OCs! This is probably only exciting to me. :D )
"You'll wear a dress, and you'll dance with a lad, and you'll smile while you're about it."
Easy for her ma to order; more difficult for Deryn to actually carry out.
She's wearing the dress, no mistake, and everything that comes with it: ribbons, lace, boned corset, starched and scratchy knickers. She's danced with a lad – three, in fact. The smile… ah, now, there's the tricky bit. She smiled for the lads while she was dancing, but it hasn't stuck.
Deryn finds a chair along the edge of the room and sits. She's supposed to cross her legs at the ankles and keep her spine straight, chin up, chest out, elbows in. Like a lady.
She plants her feet wide apart and slumps forward, propping her elbows on her knees and resting her chin in her hands.
Daft. This is all daft.
Not the dance itself, mind. She likes dancing well enough, and she doesn't mind the music (it's loud, rather than good), and it is nice to escape the round of chores Ma has for her at home.
There's plenty of food at dances, too. Always brilliant.
No, it's the company that she finds daft. She watches the other girls, the ones that don't mind lace and ribbons and boots that pinch your feet. They don't notice her at all. Too busy twisting up their hands in their skirts and giggling at lads with plooks on their faces, who step on their toes when they dance, who'd rather huddle in a far corner with their mates and blether on about rugby.
And why? So that one day, if they ever manage to get the boys away from rugby, the girls can twist their hands in their skirts and giggle about weddings. Until then, they seem content to dream about love.
Deryn rolls her eyes. Pure dead rubbish. You'll never find her mooning over a boy, of that she's certain. That sort of thing is only suitable for girls who haven't anything better to do than flutter and sigh.
Deryn has something better to do. Too right she does. She has a proper plan instead of a starry-eyed dream. Aye, it's a squick mad, maybe, but it's a plan just the same. And as soon as Jaspert comes home on leave, she'll -
Someone taps her shoulder. She starts and turns, nearly cracking her skull against that of Jamie Duncan, one of Jaspert's friends.
"Blisters!" she says, jerking back.
Jamie puts a hand on her shoulder and his mouth next to her ear. "Your ma says," he confides in an amused voice, barely audible under the music, "to sit like a lady."
Deryn snorts. Twitches her shoulder out of his grip... and, reluctantly, crosses her legs at the ankles and sits straighter. If Ma said that, it means she's watching; and if she's watching, it means she'll be over next, with a less friendly reminder. "Aye, is that right?"
"Aye," Jamie says cheerfully. He hooks a nearby chair with his ankle and draws it closer to Deryn's, then sits himself in it. "I suppose she doesn't see the sad, sorry truth."
She lifts an eyebrow.
"You won't ever be a lady," Jamie says, straight-faced. He reaches out and gives her plait a quick tug behind her back. "In fact, you may not be a lass at all."
He's winding her up, she knows that, but it makes her heart clatter against her ribs anyway. A bit too close to what she means to do when Jaspert visits next month. Still, she tells herself that if Jamie Duncan thinks she's hardly a girl, and him knowing her since she was in nappies…
Maybe this won't be the disaster Jaspert and her ma expect.
Jamie's watching her. Smirking.
"What am I, then?" she says with the glare he expects, crossing her arms over her chest to hide the mad, hopeful feeling bubbling there. For a moment she can almost feel the sun against her face. Smell the hydrogen spilling into the air.
Jamie only laughs. It's a jolly sound that you can't help smile at, even if you're dead annoyed with him. "Had a word from Jaspert lately?" he asks.
"Aye," she says. Carefully. Her heart thumps in her chest again. "He's got a bit of leave coming soon."
"Brilliant. I've bloody missed that sod," he says, clapping his knees. He stands and extends a hand towards her with a mock bow. "Celebrate the good news with a dance, Miss Sharp?"
Deryn regards the outstretched hand warily. "Did Ma ask you…?"
"What d'you think?" Jamie says, rolling his eyes. Then he winks. "You're to be swept off your feet."
She sighs. Ma never stops pushing. As though she'll throw over all her plans for a lad at a dance! So close to the sky again, only to be trapped on the ground by hopes of a wedding band, a house, and bairns – no thank you.
Besides: any boy worth fluttering over would be right beside her, urging her on.
"Aye, all right," Deryn says, but doesn't take Jamie's hand. Instead she stands up on her own and walks, ahead of him, to join the dancing.