Gaby Book 16 ~ Sweet Sixteen ~ Chapter *1* Stitched Up

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*Chapter 1*
Stitched Up


I awoke with a start, not sure quite why, the bed cave was warm and cosy after all, maybe it was a noise outside somewhere. I snuggled back down, it was only when some of the cave moved on its own that I remembered the sleeping arrangements. Oh well, we’re all girls here, aren’t we?

Sophia squirmed closer, yeah talk about weird, there was nothing, er sexual, about it, it really was all about comfort and warmth. it’s a drafty old castle in the middle of winter and the bed warmer had gone AWOL so like what are two girls supposed to do? Okay, my host was a bit more enthusiastic than me but it was either squidge up or freeze and I don’t like the cold.

Of course, when I was a boy, well you know what I mean, I did sometimes dream about sharing a bed with someone. The question of course was, with whom? The dreams were always quite ambiguous, some cuddling, possibly kissing but I never found out who was sharing my pallet, not even if they were male or female.

When I returned to consciousness again it was with a hand, not mine, cupping one of the girls and an urgent need to empty my bladder.
“Where you going?” my bedmate mumbled in enquiry as I peeled her paddy off of my chest.
“Bathroom,” I advised.
“What time is it?”
“Dunno, six maybe?”
“Don’t be long, liebchen.”
Liebchen? What is that girl on?

I didn’t get back to the comfort of the bed clothes, a knock on the door turned out to be the senior Thun & Taxis daughter announcing frühstuck. It wasn’t six but closer to seven so not quite the middle of the night and mention of food is always a motivator right? My bed-mate was up and with it much quicker than me of course, must be something to do with boarding school.

“Good night, girls?” the Duchess enquired when we arrived in the already busy dining room.
“The blanket wasn’t on so we had to cuddle up,” Sophia told her mother, “it was quite cosy.”
“Er yes, I mean I slept like a log, thanks.”
I’m no good at reading people but the Duchess’ expression suggested there was something I was missing.

Breakfast was, if you can imagine it, a cross between a family affair and a mid star hotel. A bit fancier than most people do at home but a more homely feel than a hotel dining room, we all shared the same table and the food was on said table. It’s always tempting to go overboard when presented with such a smorgasbord of options – I started with a boiled egg.

“So what are you girls going to do today?” Duke Ludwig asked.
“I thought I’d take Willie out,” Sara supplied, “I’ve not ridden him in ages.”
Ah, a horse.
“There’s plenty of mounts if anyone else wants to ride?” the Duke offered.
Not for me but I was surprised when my sister and Mand both volunteered for horse riding.
“What about you two?” Marianne enquired.
“I thought I’d show Gab around the Burg,” Sophia suggested.
“That alright, Gaby?” her father queried.
What can you say? It’s not like there was much alternative unless I want to bounce around on a horse.
“Er sure.”

The morning gathering of Clan Bond and our hosts broke up about eight thirty, the adults setting off for their own tour of Harburg, the equine brigade to go get horsed up with jodhpurs and so on leaving me and Soph to our own explorations.

“The visitors, they only see a small part really,” my guide advised.
“Right,” I allowed.
Look, I’ve been dragged around enough castles and stuff by pater over the years, I’m not particularly interested but I can make the right noises. To be fair, Harburg is a lot more than the usual ruins, it’s pretty much complete as it was in the Mittelalter, a sort of family home with visitors – you can imagine it being peopled with knights and serfs and so on quite easily. It was hardly a surprise when my guide told me about some of the period dramas filmed here.

It was more of a surprise to find the place was open to visitors today, we met one of the tours whilst Sophia was tracing her lineage for me in the chapel.

“A bit like your Brautjungferkleid eh?” Sophia observed.
We’d moved around the inner wall, past what is currently a restaurant to the ‘treasury’, a solid lump of building accessed by a bridge from the wall walkway. The displays inside ran to several armoured trunks bound with steel and huge locks to the costumes we were currently looking at.
“A lot fancier,” I noted, “must’ve cost a fortune with all that embroidery.”
“Maybe, I think maybe the ladies did a lot themselves, can’t do it myself, far too fiddly.”
“Not done any since junior school, we all had to do a sampler thing,” I allowed.
“This is the dress in the painting, see?”
We’d moved to a comparatively tiny dress next to an easel with a large oil painting on.
“The fifth Duchess, Theresia Amalia of Speyer.”
“She’s tiny.”
“I think she was twelve for the painting.”
“And she was the duchess?”
“It was different then.” Sophia shrugged.
“So how come you’ve still got these dresses and stuff?”
“You don’t get to be rich by being wasteful, we’ve got tons of this sort of stuff in the attics.”
“I bet museums would kill for it,” I noted.
“There is some in the Staatsmuseum in Stuttgart and the Textilmuseum in Ingolstadt has more,” she stated matter of factly.

Makes you feel quite insignificant really – I guess you can probably trace my family back a couple of hundred years, we don’t have anyone famous or old money or anything. But Sophia, well her family can be traced for like eight hundred years, she even knows their names, they’ve been part of the ruling classes most of that time and even own this castle. Yeah, small bier indeed.

“You interested in this stuff?” Soph asked.
“A bit I suppose.”
“Come on then, we’ll go to the attics.”

We were back in the ‘living’ tower, the attic might be in the roof space but a tiny crawl space it’s not!
“This is bigger than my house,” I proposed.
“And full of more junk I think.”
At some point the space had clearly been tidied up, stuff sorted and catalogued, it was hardly the dusty cobwebbed hole you generally associate with attics. No there was shelving with neatly stacked boxes and stuff, when I say stuff everything from ancient children’s toys to suits of armour. One man’s junk is another’s treasure, that couldn’t be more true than here.

“They change the displays from time to time, Mama works with the Trust on this stuff. Come on, the Kleid are over the other side.”
I followed her between the shelves to a clearly separate area, home to the Harburg clothing collection. Soph was soon opening boxes and pulling frocks from the rails to show me.
“Should we be doing this?”
“Me and Sara used to be up here all the time dressing up, it’s our stuff.”
“I guess.”
“I know, you can try on one of Theresia Amalia’s dresses,” she enthused.
“No really.”
“Oh go on, Gab, I’m too big but I reckon you’d fit.”
“I am nearly sixteen.”
“And you think Theresia stayed at twelve? Come on, I know just the dress.”

The dress turned out to be quite a fancy affair, a tight bodice over a full skirt with panniers making it much wider than it was front to back.
“Come on, Gab, lose the jeans.”
“I’m not sure about this.”
“It’s fine, come on.”
Well okay, it might be sort of fun I suppose, I wonder if the von Strechau’s have an Attic?

Soph was really into it, from somewhere she pulled out appropriate underpinnings, whilst I lost my BH I did keep my pants under the actual real bloomers I found myself wearing with the corsetry. Silk stockings and shoes, a bit small but not too uncomfortable and I was ready for the underskirts.

“How does it do up?”
“Lacing,” my tormentor managed from behind the dress.

It was soon dropped in place and my dresser started the job of closing the rear opening – I guess she has to lace the whole length, I didn’t see any strings when she pulled it out. There was a bit of tugging but after a few minutes she seemed satisfied.

“Hmm, something with your hair.”
“Oh come on, Gab, we’ve got this far.”
I lost my usual ponytail and surprisingly quickly Sophia was pinning my now braided tresses up into a quite ornate arrangement.

“There, done!”
“Do I get to see this?”
“I’ll get some pictures on my Handy, shitza, it’s downstairs.”
“Use mine, it’s in my jeans.”

The photographic efforts weren’t great to be honest, the light was a bit harsh but you got the general idea.
“Tell you what, we’ll go outside and get some better pics, I can borrow dad’s digital camera.”
“I dunno.”
“Oh come on, Gabs, live a little.”
“I’m not sure,” it’s one thing to put this stuff on up here, quite another to go outside and stuff.
“We’ll do this then we need to go down to meet the parents in the village for lunch, pretty please?”
“Go on then,” I sighed much against my best thoughts on the matter.

I’ve worn full skirted dresses before, they are a pain especially on steps but this time it was the unmoving width that was the main issue. I was now wider than the doorways on the upper floors as I found out when we returned to ‘our’ room – apparently I needed some slap as well as the hair. Lower down the building both stairs and doors were much wider – maybe made to accommodate such voluminous female attire.
Soph decided that the formal garden would be the ideal backdrop, I did convince her to let me change footwear, a pair of Deichmann sandals are not exactly right but who’s gonna see my feet? Most importantly I’m not damaging the museum piece shoes or my feet. The sun was out but it was still a bit chilly, I could’ve done with my fleece, which, of course, was still in the attic.

Of course, we were soon spotted by several paying guests so the quick, secret dressing up session took on a new aspect. I mean I could hardly run off and Sophia was quite keen to wax lyrical to all and sundry about the provenance of my clothing – sometimes I can’t work her out at all. Not that I know her that well really.

“Are we done?”
The last grockle had departed and I was shivering, my exposed bosom covered in goose-bumps.
“Yeah, we really should get a move on.”

Maddy Bell 09.04.16

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