When Tiffany heard the guard say her name, it sounded faint, wispy, like the sound of a breeze rustling the curtains on a fine spring day. She grunted into her arm, bare but for a thin sleeve, crafted from the same stiff nylon as her matching grey pants. She assumed she was dreaming—no one had called her by her civilian name in...months? Or was it years? She sighed and turned her head, the burlap sack that served as her pillow chafing against her cheek.
“Tiffany.” The voice was louder this time, and its crisp firmness pulled her finally from sleep and impelled her to sit up on her cot. The chain around her ankle clanged against its steel frame.
She looked around. The room was dimly lit, the windows having all been blacked out by magazine cutouts—old interviews with her father, mostly, peppered with the occasional court filing—but even so, she could tell that it was still daylight. A motorcycle roared in the distance. She had long suspected she was being held in a city, and often heard the chaos of urban life whirring around her while she dozed. At night, on the order of a doctor, she was marched around a small, dismal courtyard. She supposed the walks were to stave off bed sores, but they only served as painful reminders of her previous life, before the election. Before her father had become president. When she was still free.
But that was months ago, and now, as the guard peered down at her from beneath his mask, she suddenly grew frightened. What did he want? The evening news—the only program she was allowed to watch—reported that her mother, Marla, had been carefully parleying her release. But Marla was a famously poor negotiator, known for her propensity for “bad deals,” as her father would say. Tiffany had little faith she would emerge from the bunker before her father’s term was up. Her only hope, like so many Americans, was that he be impeached.
“Here, put this on,” the guard said, thrusting something thin and white in Tiffany’s direction. In the darkness of the grubby little room, the sheath dress seemed to glow. She touched her unmanicured hands to its lace paneling, and knew at once what it was. “Taoray Wang,” she breathed.
“No talking!” the guard snapped, releasing the dress. “You have five minutes.” He unlocked her ankle chain and left the room.
Alone with the dress, Tiffany fought back tears. She knew, from the inauguration, that she would have to remain composed if she hoped to leave the room again. Smile for the cameras. Nod politely at the interviewers. Carefully conceal the welts formed by the chain’s rusted edges, which callused her once lavishly moisturized skin.
A pounding on the door interrupted her reverie, and when the guard came in, she was ready. He slipped a hood over her head and led her to a waiting car.
“Remember,” he growled into her ear as he bundled her into the back seat. “You’re so excited to be at New York Fashion Week. You love and admire Tao’s work. Anything else, and...” she felt his finger slide across her throat.
And with that, the door slammed shut.