The Nightingale Rises

By: Cynthia Dane


“So! First, I’m going to take you to my friend who is a personal stylist. She has an office downtown and I’ve already called ahead. Since I don’t know you that well, Gale, I thought it best to get a professional opinion instead of going by intuition alone. You game?”

“Couldn’t be more game.” It sounded like torture, but Nala couldn’t be picky right now. If she had to choose, then going to a personal stylist and shopper was probably better than going by Robin’s tastes alone. I could not pull off her look. Vincent would laugh before refusing to let Nala get in his car.

They pulled into a parking garage in the middle of downtown, the driver letting out both Robin and Nala before the former took the latter by the arm. Like a couple of perfect – albeit polar opposite – besties, they walked into a nearby building and took an elevator up a few floors. When they stepped into a stylish, pristine office covered in gilded mirrors and marble tiles, Nala instantly noticed Vincent’s office building across the street. For some reason, nerves claimed her stomach.

“Georgina!” Robin exchanged kisses on the cheek with a woman emerging from a back office. Lacquered nails, tight stockings, stiletto heels, and a body full of Gucci took in Nala without a second look. “This is my friend Nigh… Gale. This is Gale.” She sent an apologetic look. We still don’t know each other’s real names. That was more than fine, but it did create a few awkward situations. Like this woman looking at Nala and clearly thinking that she didn’t look like a damn “Gale” at all.

“What can I do for you, Gale?” Georgina’s voice was buttery, reminding Nala of the fresh biscuits her mother used to pull out on rainy Sundays.

“She needs a new formal wardrobe,” Robin interrupted. “She’s got a big business dinner with the likes of Vincent Lane tomorrow.” She pulled out his credit card. “Mr. Lane will be taking care of all associated costs.”

“Ah.” Georgina snatched the card without a second thought. “This is good. Any instructions?” She still looked at Nala, but it was clear that her ear was open to Robin, the woman running this show – and running the cards coming in Georgina’s direction.

Robin produced a small, handwritten list of items she probably jotted while on the phone with Vincent. What were they saying about me? Did he really call this woman up to discuss my fashion sense? Vincent’s new business relationship with Lucian must have been really good for the girls to be going out for shopping and new hair.

“He has asked for darker colors, particularly for the formal wear. Black, blues, some deep purples and reds. He’s also made a point to ask for her hair to be cut no shorter than two inches, to account for any split ends.”

Nala picked up a clump of her hair and looked at the ends. Were they split? She had no damn idea. Most of these terms were like Greek to her.

“I can work with this.” Georgina tentatively extended her hand and fingered Nala’s hair before looking over her current clothes. I bet she can tell how cheap they are… Not ideal in the least, but hey, Nala was here to spend Vincent’s money, apparently. “Yes. I know where to start. Meet me downstairs in fifteen minutes while I arrange things here with my assistant.”

Nala had never been on a shopping spree of this caliber before, and she wasn’t sure she could ever survive another one.

Boutiques, department stores, and even private collections from Portland designers sped by in the remainder of the afternoon. Nala’s tired legs carried her from one location to the next, where Georgina and Robin discussed what colors and cuts were best for her skin and frame. They agreed that Vincent had good tastes in colors. The black, dark blues, and crimsons were the biggest hits, with a few white pieces a respectable distance behind.

They dressed her in body-hugging dresses, loose and tight bodices, and skirts that flared out above her knees. Many gowns and skirts had to be tailored to her height – a first in Nala’s short life. My mother used to hem some of my clothes, but nothing was tailored. When she thought about it, all of Vincent’s clothing must have been tailored to fit so well on his body. Why am I thinking about him? Oh, because she was spending his money? Every time that black credit card passed to a girl behind a register, Nala wondered if it was really okay.

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