The evening sky was painted vivid colors of crimson, yellow, purple and azure. The sun was just passing over the horizon completely. I was anxious, alright, I was downright scared. What had I agreed to? What was it that made me want to be on the “list” for eight and a half months?
As I walked down the crowded avenue, I wondered if anyone could tell what I was about to do. The clothing certainly seemed inconspicuous enough. My long opera cape wrapped around me. I looked like any woman going to meet her friends for an evening at a performance. But underneath, I knew it was different. Never before had I dared to wear such an outfit as I was now. The costume, for lack of a better description, was sent to me, along with a formal engraved invitation. It stated that I was to be the next Honored Flower of the Tulip Society. I laughed; it certainly wasn’t at all what it presented itself to be to the casual observer.
My ‘costume’ consisted of a dark red silk corset with matching g-string. Garters were attached and a pair of red silk stockings was included. There was also a hose garter with seven white ribbons tied onto it. I was curious about this item, but pulled it up my leg after I finished dressing in the other garments. Over this, I slipped the red, sheer silk gown. It fell about me softly and fit perfectly. I closed the seven frog closures on it down the side of the gown and looked in the mirror. I was entranced by the woman looking back at me.
I was amazed that everything fit so perfectly. I had never revealed my clothing size when someone had asked if I would be interested in becoming a member of the Society. It was not an issue I would have thought important. I was wrong. I touched up my make-up and ran a brush through my hair one last time before shrugging on the beautiful red velvet silk-lined cape. I had never owned, much less worn, something this luxurious. I was fashion-wise and had several nice evening gowns and cocktail dresses, my business demanded that of me, but this was entirely a pleasurable ensemble made to make me feel the sensuous and seductive side of my womanhood.
As I walked, my stiletto heels clicking on the sidewalk, I noticed several men surreptitiously glancing at me. One man looked at me and leaned over to the woman beside him, speaking into her ear. She looked at me, looked down to my feet and back up. Looking back to him she shook her head as if to say ‘I would never wear those kinds of shoes’. He glanced at me again with a wistful look in his eyes. I took the invitation from my evening bag, perused it once more to reassure myself I had the correct address in my mind. The address was only three blocks from my brownstone, again I thought, how can I live in a neighborhood for four years and not know what is really happening in it?
Crossing the final street, I turned and walked to the building with the address from my invitation. It was a brownstone similar to mine, with three stories and an interior staircase that was an open access to the residents in the building.
I buzzed the outer door and a woman’s voice answered. I recited my name and she buzzed me in. Entering the building, I looked around the foyer. It was more luxurious than mine, for sure. The chandelier sparkled beautifully, lighting everything around me in soft crystalline hues. Raising my eyes a bit more, I saw a woman coming down the deep mahogany staircase. She was dressed in a black pantsuit with a red satin sash tied around her narrow waist. A simple strand of diamonds with seven pearls graced her neck. She was the loveliest woman I had ever seen. As she reached the bottom step, she greeted me warmly. Taking my hand, she told me it was wonderful that I had accepted the invitation to join the Society. She asked me to come with her up to the second storey. Turning, she went back up as I followed her.
Reaching the second storey landing, I let my eyes take in the scene around me. There were beautiful paintings and pictures hung on the mahogany-paneled walls. Many were of women holding gorgeous bouquets of tulips. I noticed that some wore gowns that would have been popular a hundred years ago, and others were more modernly attired, but all were wearing red.