Arthur answered each of Reggie’s questions, but there was no end in sight to Reggie’s line of questioning. Viv, on the other hand and in the other wing, hadn’t gotten the chance to say a full sentence in days. Coramund barely let her get a word in. Coramund went on and on and on about everything under the sun. Which servants were useful (there weren’t many on her list), what color was the best for the fondant on the cake (deep purple, Coramund’s favourite), and exactly which things about Viv and Reggie’s wedding weren’t as grand as hers was. She had resumed her usual chatter the moment that Viv had woken up. Now, at three-thirty, she was still chattering on.
“I think you need a tighter corset, dear,” said Coramund in her sickly sweet voice, the one she reserved especially for Viv. She paced around Viv like a hungry lioness. Every so often, she’d reach out with a perfectly manicured hand to straighten a patch of lace or to readjust one of the skirts many flounces. The whole ordeal made Viv extremely uncomfortable. She couldn’t shake the feeling that Coramund was preparing her the same way a chef would prepare a dish. Viv, for one, didn’t want to be eaten. Coramund placed her hands on Viv’s shoulders. She smiled at their reflection in the mirror before them, as though she were the one who was getting married rather than Viv. “I had a very slim waist last time I wore this dress. I hadn’t had my children yet, so my hips were much smaller. The only way this dress will look right is if the wearer has a thin waist.”
Viv forced a smile. She’d been forcing all of her smiles for the past few weeks. Every afternoon since she’d been forced to spend time with Coramund, she’d stood in her fitting room in front of that mirror, wearing a dress that had started out three sizes too big for her as her future mother-in-law poked and prodded her. The dress wasn’t bad looking, not by a long shot. It was just too much, in Viv’s opinion. The skirt seemed to weigh a hundred pounds. It was pure white and billowed out a foot past Viv’s feet, thanks to the seemingly hundreds of layers of tulle and silk. A layer of gossamer enveloped the entire skirt, covered in dozens of golden embroidered feathers at all different angles. The bodice was made of silk with the same embroidered gossamer over it. Gold beads were scattered all around the skirt and bodice as well. The sleeves wrapped around her upper arms, leaving her shoulders and collarbones bare. Lace protruded from the top and bottom of the sleeves, wrapping around the neckline (that exposed just slightly too much bosom) and the hem as well. That Viv would have to wear it for several hours made the tulle brushing against her ankles even scratchier.
“Are you sure?” asked Viv, her hands reflexively going to her abdomen. The small amount of pudge she’d accumulated at puberty was completely invisible, crushed by the corset she currently wore. It was uncomfortable. Any tighter, and it’d be nearly impossible to breathe. “I think it’s well past tight enough.”
“Oh, nonsense, you can go tighter,” said Coramund. She turned to the young seamstress by the door. “A tighter corset next time. I can hear her speak without gasping.” She turned back to Viv, smoothing down her hair with her sickly sweet smile. “You can go tighter until your face turns blue.”
Viv nodded, but as soon as Coramund looked away to discuss which type of corset was best with the seamstress, she sighed quietly and hunched over. She looked up, meeting her own eyes in the mirror and shook her head. If she had to put up with this for the rest of her life, she had best jump off a cliff soon. End her suffering before it gets the chance to start. She shook her head slightly. No. She’d endure this. She had to. How else could she ensure the protection of all those Underlandian subjects? Remembering why she was there gave her the strength to stand up straight, ready for Coramund’s next onslaught of unsettling blabber.