The Corset, flash fiction by Melanie Barrow at
Dominika Roseclay

The Corset

The Corset

written by: Melanie Barrow



Gathering up the long silk laces to bind my poor mistress, I paused, wishing I could offer some words of comfort. She didn’t resist as I deftly threaded the top, pulling hard. She was beaten. Her soft curls listless across her drooping shoulders.
Yet I know how she railed against tight lacing and the damage it did to women’s ribcages, to say nothing of the restrictions it placed on her. ‘Men’s way of controlling women,’ she’d rage.
Ouch, the whalebone caught the side of my finger. I sucked it hard, wouldn’t do to bleed on her wedding corset.
She hated injustice did my mistress, standing up to her bully of a father when he opposed the ten hour factory reform act. I’d never admired a woman more as when she stormed into that men’s citadel to state the case for those children and women forced to work twelve hours in dangerous conditions in her father’s factory.
A quick yank and the first crosses are tightened. I’ll miss her. I’m not allowed to go with her, yet I’ve been her maid since she was a child. His way of punishing her for trying to run away to Gretna Green with Edward, the young factory sub-inspector. Her father told her she should be grateful Mr Harman still agreed to marry her for the sake of their businesses.
Bottom half now.
I’ll be all right, I’ve got money saved. Frances, bless her, saw fit to give me some of her late mother’s jewellery to sell so I can open a boarding house by the sea. It’s her I worry about, married off to that old mill owner. No-one has a nice word to say about him and my mistress is too outspoken and intelligent to escape unscathed.
Oh, a bit of a wrench needed there – those newfangled metal reinforcements have a lot to answer for now laces can be pulled even tighter without the fabric ripping. Such lovely fabric too, cream sateen – no expense spared for this wedding, even though her father’s normally such a skinflint.
‘Sorry milady, I’ve got to pull them that tight or the gown won’t fit.’ I always call her milady even though she’s not a lady as such, though in my eyes a greater lady than many a highborn.
Three more grommets to go. I wonder who will untie them for her? Not her husband with his mottled shaky hands – urgh I can’t bear the idea of those hands touching her young innocent body. I suppose it’ll be that snooty Violet, who if rumours be told, has been more than just a maid to Mr Harman.
One more. What a shame mistress Frances couldn’t have married her Edward. They’re so suited with their passion for reform. I even hear he’s been trying to set up a factory school in Oldham since her father managed to get him sacked on some trumped up charge.
There, it’s done. She’s fettered. She’s trapped.

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