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Dress for the Ball

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When Karlie came in, bare-faced and wet hair wrapped in a towel, Taylor was still lying in bed, head under at least three pillows and the duvet dragged on top for good measure. "Lazybones," Karlie chided, and poked the bare arch of Taylor's foot where it was exposed. "Up, Joseph and Karla will be here in twenty minutes, and you need at least half of that for coffee, up, up, I will tickle you, don't think I won't."

"Mmmf," Taylor said, and stomped off to the bathroom, clutching the duvet around herself.

Downstairs, after coffee and cat-vomit cleanup, vegan banana-chia pudding offered and accepted, green smoothies sipped, there were two racks of options standing on opposite sides of the room, shoe boxes stacked next to the couch. "No crop tops," Joseph declared, with a theatrical sweep of his hand. His hair was spiked up and dyed electric blue at the tips. "No princess gowns, no cutouts."

"Okay," Taylor said.

"You are going to be a flower. You are a peony, petals bruised and drooping and yet still fresh-scented," he continued, snatching a dress off the rack and holding it up. "Look at this, blush pink, very now, dark dark purple lipstick, a bright pink note at the center of the lower lip, layers and layers of spider-silk thin chiffon, French wire edges on each layer so there's structure, slicked-back hair — yes!"

"No!" Taylor yelped. "I am not a bruised flower, what are you thinking, oh my god."

Across the room, Karla rolled her eyes. Karlie shook her head, and sat down on the couch, twirling her thumb ring. Amateurs. "Last year was sexy," Karla said, voice pitched low, "and it was great. Brandon knocked it out of the park, don't get me wrong. But we need to thread the needle this year — you've only worked with Kawakubo once, so we can't use that image or you'll be one-note, and we can't reject it entirely or you'll seem freaked by anything that's not pretty-pretty." She held out pages torn from a back issue of V magazine, a shoot that Karlie had done, oh, five years ago, red and black leather, heavy eyeliner, insectine poses, and then crumpled them up. Her other hand was holding a printout of some fanart, compiling all of the gowns Karlie had worn in years past. They were all floor-length, silk and satin, elegant and always emphasizing her height.

Karlie nodded. Seen all together, there was a sameness to the dresses, something sleek and glamorous but maybe not couture. Not editorial. "So yes, floral, but more vegetal than floral," Karla continued, "dark green Alaïa column with slashes in the fabric where paler green comes through, spike bracelets on both wrists, but not metal spike, think thorns not spikes. And the pièce de résistance —" she thumbed her phone to life, and scrolled to a picture of a Venus fly-trap plant snapping closed over a woman's head.

"Oh my god," Karlie said faintly. "That is crazy. Wait, you can get me an Alaïa?"

Karla grinned. "You're kind of a big deal, Karlie my love. I have already gotten in touch with the hat guy, he's in Israel, you're going to eat this carpet alive like Sarah Jessica Parker had a baby with Cindy Crawford." She held up a pair of coral-red sandals with wickedly-high heels. "Chartreuse lipstick. C'mon, Kloss, trust the vision. You're a supermodel, let's go to town. Let's have a party."

"You need a vacation," Karlie said, still shaking her head, but she was smiling. "All right, let's go, I can sell whatever nutty plant costume you can put me in at the Met."

"It's not a costume," Karla was protesting, when Taylor shrieked, "I AM NOT WEARING A TENT DRESS, I AM NOT PREGNANT."

"IT'S THEMATIC," Joseph shrieked back.

Taylor sat down on the floor and both the cats promptly sprawled out on her lap. "Just — just stop, okay?" she said. "I don't want to be a character this year, I just don't want to be not-me, I'm done with that." She looked up and she wasn't crying, but there was a rim of pink around her eyes. Karlie knelt down next to her, and Taylor sniffed hard. "What's Karla got you doing?" she asked.

Karlie petted her hair. "You're not going to believe it," she said, and Karla dropped her phone in the hand she held out blindly. Taylor started to giggle, and then she looked at Karlie's face, and laughed harder. Sometimes it was hard to make the connection between the tall blonde woman who shared her bed and used cookies to motivate herself to answer emails, and the panther-woman who stalked down runways and wore stilettos as though she'd been born in them, Swarovski crystals glued along her cheekbones and disappearing into her hairline.

"Anything I wear is going to be less of a worst-dressed than that," she said, and Karlie grinned. "Even this stupid TENT DRESS, he wants to stack lampshades on me, it's awful."

"I can hear you, bitch," Joseph said.

"Good," Taylor said. "Because you're totally fired."

Taylor fired Joseph at least twice per Met Gala, and usually three times for the Grammys. For some reason, they only clicked for videos, but maybe that was because for videos, both of them had to work with the soothing influence of a director, instead of just butting heads. He scoffed. "Fine, I'm fired, come look at this one if you're going to be picky. Kloss, are you wearing a metallic?"

Karlie shook her head and held out the phone she was still clutching.

"Good, okay, you do you and your bespoke couture bullshit and I'll point and laugh, white-on-white embroidery, I'm not budging on the slick hair, work with me here, Tay-Tay."

"Don't call me Tay-Tay," Taylor said, but she sounded calmer. Karlie squeezed her hand one last time, and went to discuss scheduling for fittings with Karla. It was going to be a long six weeks until the gala. Maybe this year they would arrive at the Mark Hotel with the same number of plates as they had now.