Moonlight Blossom

Moonlight BlossomIron Writer Challenge #98
(tied for first place)

January 19. 2015
Elements: A Tiger Lily, Botticelli (the game), Long Hair, Steampunk Goggles

Based on a character from my Trans-Continental series.

Moonlight Blossom

E. Chris Garrison

Ira fled his parents’ home in the middle of the night wearing his sister’s riding habit and his mother’s makeup. Having served a tour of duty in the Dixie Army, he slipped past the fort’s patrols and out onto the road. No looking back. It was now or never.

Lights of the fort left behind, Ira tripped over stones in the rutted road. From atop his wig, he covered his eyes with philostogen-infused night goggles, which illustrated the night in vivid, unnatural colors. The road wound ahead through the mountains to the border.

Ira’s thoughts whirled and worried. If I make it by morning, I’ll slip past the guardpost and on into a new life! If I’m caught, the Colonel’ll have his pansy actor son flogged to within an inch of his life. Again.

The click of his boot heels on paving stones quickened.

A steam-powered coach chugged up from behind him on the road. He leaped, but dazzling magnesium headlights caught his skirts before he rolled into the bushes.

The spoked wagon-wheels ground to a halt to the tune of squealing brakes. The coachman leapt down, conferred with someone inside, then took a few steps toward Ira’s hiding place.

“Y’all come out now, ma’am. Your pretty dress’s gon’ be full of brambles. This midnight road’s no place for a lady!”

An accomplished stage actor, Ira was no stranger to voice disguise. In a feminine tone, he said, “I’m comfortable here, please move along!”

“Ha, you’re quite the tigerlily ain’t ya? Bold as brass! We’ve got a full head of steam; the boss and I can help your journey. Come on out?”

Ira shivered as his walking sweat dried in the cool night air. “Thank you, kind gentlemen, but as you said, the roads at night are dangerous, why should I trust you?”

“Why, trust comes from shared secrets. Supposin’ I guess your name, will you accompany us?”

Ira let out a laugh, mindful of its pitch. “A guessing game? Botticelli under the stars?”

The coachman’s guffaw echoed in the night. “No time for such a long game, the boss has to be moving; we’ve got our own secrets.”

Ira shifted his crouch and peered into the dark at the stranger. “One guess and then on your way? I accept.”

“I’ll wager you’re Ira Stillwell, ain’t ya, young lady?”

Ira’s heart leaped into his throat. He could not utter a sound.

“It’s okay, don’t run! Here’s our secret: I’m with Chisolm’s Carnival Caravan, and the ‘boss’ is someone else who aims to escape the United States of Dixie. We’re bound for New England in the morning. You can come with us, if you dare.”

“B-but how did you know?”

“Easy peasy! I’ve seen you up on stage! Also, you left your long blonde hair in the roadway. Shall I fetch it for you?”

Ira stood and stepped into the road. “Yes, please. And from here on, it’s Ida, if you please.”

The coachman grinned and held the door for her.

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