Standing in a pool of moody backstage lighting, Charise Granger drew her t-shirt slowly over her head, revealing a shining white satin bra, the kind with detachable straps and tiny lace trimmings around the cups. She paused a moment to shake out her strawberry blond hair and moisten her full, crimson lips, stealing a glance at the mirror. A tall, delicately built young woman with alabaster flesh and liquid blue eyes looked back.
Hanging her t-shirt over a nearby chair, Charise began to unbuckle the belt of her stone wash jeans, listening to the restless murmur of the Friday night crowd. The Palais Royale was perhaps the most popular adult venue in the Red Zone; the main bar would be swarming with nightlife by ten. In less than fifteen minutes, the lingerie parade would begin, and Charise would be sent out along the catwalk wearing little more than a whisper and a promise.
Charise had been working at the Palais for just over two months now, and still felt a little nervous before every show. Barely eighteen, she had little experience modeling outside a couple of down-home mannequin parades and amateur reviews (and certainly not in her bra and panties; such activities had been confined largely to her bedroom). By contrast, the Palais was a place of satin radiance and neon ecstasy. Stepping onstage in her impossibly tall stilettos, she felt a wonderful shiver of embarrassment fill her trim, firm tummy. She was young, she was beautiful, and the questionable nature of the 'entertainment' made her delirious with excitement.
There was, of course, another reason for her mounting anxiety.
Adjusting a wayward bra-strap, she began unbuttoning her jeans, progressively revealing the lacy tops of her high-cut white briefs. In a matter of minutes, every inch of those skin-tight lycra panties would be visible to every person in the bar. She could feel a subtle flush rising to her cheeks, tinting her flesh with a warm, carnation glow.
What am I doing here? she thought, working the levis slowly over her hips, enjoying the gently sinuous movement of denim down her thighs.
Peeling her jeans down to the floor, she stepped lightly out of them, brushing her hair back from her face. Her snowy white panties shimmered with a satiny radiance as she walked barefoot across to the clothing rack. Gleaming like quicksilver, they seemed to have been airbrushed onto her body, filming her hips like a second skin.
Her fingers played with the elegant French lace trim encircling the waistband; touching that sheer strip of floral gossamer made her ache with longing. She wanted to be out on stage as soon as possible, her long, slender legs absolutely bare, her lingerie on display to half the town.
What am I doing here? Charise asked herself again, running her hands down the length of her torso. How could she explain this sultry, breathless desire to place her underpants on full inspection for a room full of faceless strangers? She might have spent years wading through the mountain of literature devoted to her unique psychology (indeed, she'd started already), but her reasons were deceptively simple in the final analysis:
Parading her underthings made her feel pretty.
Voguing across the catwalk in her scanties was an experience both thrilling and sensual; her state of dishabille always made her feel gloriously feminine. Having recently turned eighteen, she loved wearing pretty lingerie, and the opportunity to reveal her flimsies beyond her bedroom rarely presented itself under normal circumstances. The panty shows appealed to her sense of fun; like all teenaged girls, Charise enjoyed testing the limits.
Charise was young, pretty, and she enjoyed parading around in her bra and panties. It was as simple as that. True, the money was good, but it wasn't her primary motivation for working at the Palais; Charise would have been perfectly willing to do it for free. She wasn't even particularly concerned about the style of lingerie she wore, just so long as it made her feel and leggy and lovely and unforgivably naughty.
In short, wearing lingerie made her feel like a girl.
She'd been amazingly lucky.
Few would have described it as luck, but it had been luck nonetheless, a type of luck relevant only to Charise herself, fortune of a magnitude that only she could truly appreciate. How many of her kind were born with a face which spanned the gulf between the male and the female so perfectly? A body so completely androgynous, poised at the very cusp of human gender, needing only the barest hormonal nudge towards the feminine?
Not many, she'd come to realize since she'd left home twenty-eight months before. Her transition had been crystal smooth, the drift of a feather through some flawlessly blue sky. She'd begun her metamorphosis shortly after her twelth birthday, back when She had been a He.
A boy with tiny wrists and huge misty eyes and a voice like fine autumn rain. Missing his cue and entering the stage too late for puberty, he was constantly mistaken for a girl, a delicate, ivory tomboy attempting to hide her femininity behind short hair and Nike runners and those ungainly black duffle coats so popular a few years ago.
She'd known, even then. In a way, she'd always known; her earliest childhood memories involved aprons and lace and bright yellow ribbons; the innocent, dawning fantasies of a transgendered child. The knowledge had been abstract and hazy, like the blurring lens of a unfocused camera, but the understanding had been there all along. Over the years, it had grown into a certainty, a conviction profound enough to bring about the reconstruction her body, her identity and ultimately, her entire being.
All set in motion by a single sentence, uttered at the age of five:
I'm really a girl.
Backstage traffic was relatively heavy Friday nights; waiters, barhands and security staff passed through the changing area in an endless stream. Make up, dressing tables and clothing racks had been provided for the girls, but their employers saw no need for privacy. Girls who modeled their underpants for a living had no use for dressing rooms, as far as the management was concerned.
Charise glanced self-consciously around the changing area. Beautiful young girls were disrobing all around her, slipping out of blouses, stepping out of skirts and frocks. Not a single one over the age of nineteen, they walked about in their prettiest underwear carefully oblivious of the activity around them.
She often wondered about genetic girls; did they feel that indescribable silken thrill that preceded clipping a suspender belt around a tiny waist? Did they enjoy the same moist, gasping fantasies she experienced whenever she slipped a wisp of black denier along her thigh? Charise believed there was nothing more sensual than stepping into a pair of Doir stockings, feeling the silk whisper along her cool, marble-smooth skin.
She hung her jeans over a hanger on the clothing rack, then wandered back to her table to check her costume (such as it was) for the evening. The show was about to begin; all around the changing area, the other girls were adding last minute touches to their make-up; fourteen achingly pretty young women stripped to their knickers, bending over their mirrors and displaying their lush, ripe bottoms to the world.
Charise joined them, pausing to step into her glistening black stilettos. Heels were absolutely essential to the job. No girl was permitted to set foot on stage without them. High heels gave her legs that sexy, tapering appearance the patrons admired so much. She turned her back to one of the full-length mirrors, appraising her curvaceous figure, eyes narrowed self-critically.
She stood with her hands on hips, looking back over her shoulder, shifting her weight from foot to foot. The stilettos were the only outerwear she would retain during the performance; ironic that they could add so much to her innate feminine sensuality.
The parade catered to a diverse range of tastes; in the first ten minutes of the performance, the audience would be treated to expensive Italian corsetry, high-class Victoria's Secrets, outrageously frilly petite culottes a la Francais; even good old-fashioned Playtex cross-your-hearts. And that was just the warm up.
Charise's personal favourite was the girl-next-door sequence of the program, with its adorable selection of full-briefs, control panties and plain, pretty lycra: the comfortable, sensible underthings that women wore in their everyday lives. She loved walking onstage flashing her underwires and cottontails; the very same undies she might have worn while shopping out at Chamberlain Plaza or buying a cheese burger at McDonalds. She couldn't explain it; maybe she just felt more accessible striding the catwalk in her nylon hipsters.
Clicking back to her table, Charise gave her face a final check, tinting her cheeks with a soft carnation glow. She'd need a dab of powder before she stepped out into the spotlights. Just enough to take the edge off her breathless, rosy blush. Like most of the girls here, Charise favoured the 'natural' look. Not that she needed too much sugar-frosting at the best of times; her complexion was as close to perfection as her innate biology (and her daily oestrogen supplement) could provide...
The conclusion to this story may be found in Cynosure: Collected Fiction, exclusive to Doppler Press.
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