She was dazed. Had she imagined the whole thing? An Unlikely Arrangement. Chapter 3 – 6

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Chapter 3 – 6.

She eased herself down on the white velveteen bench and closed her eyes. In the deep, emotional exhaustion of her mind, voices penetrated the foggy slumber. No matter how hard she tried, her eyes wouldn’t open, and she slipped deeper into the black hole of exhaustion. In the misty regions of her mind, she thought she heard voices.

“Sarah, do you think the waist is right? There is a slight pucker. I cannot have a pucker in my party dress. Snooty Sylvia Arnold would have a snide remark or two, to be sure.”

“Miss Williams, if you would stand still for one minute I can make the adjustment. All this wigglin’ will just not do!”

Sarah? When did she get back from the market? Priscilla Williams? We have a guest? Priscilla is Mother’s name. Ruth struggled to make sense of the voices.

“Oh, pooh, Sarah, you’re an old fuddy duddy. Do you think rose is the right color for me? Maybe it’s too soft. The boys might not notice me. I should wear red. What do you think?”

“I already told you, you’re not listenin’. Now be still.”

“But, red is my color. You know it looks dramatic against my gorgeous black hair.”

“We don’t have time to fit another dress, Missy. The ball is tomorrow night. And ya know your mother doesn’t want you to wear the loud color. It’s not becomin’ for a young debutante. Too garish. Besides, I need to finish this tonight. We have the ribbons to choose for your hair and the jewels to compliment the dress. What shoes will you wear? There are a million details yet to go over. Drat, I have run out of thread. Don’t move while I run up to my room and fetch another spool.”

Ruth managed to open one eye, just a slit. The crack between the door and the frame showed light from the guest room, and shadows danced in front of her, sparking her imagination and a scene in her mind.

The flamboyant young lady preened in front of the full length mirror, turned her head this way and the other. Black hair bounced across her shoulders. She pulled up the hem of the dress and giggled when she revealed a slim, white ankle. An exaggerated curtsey followed. “Why thank you, Master Richard. I would love to dance the waltz with you.” She pulled her shiny hair atop her head and examined the effect.

She is a vain one, for sure.

Sarah returned and continued to pull and sew to get the right fit.

Miss Williams pouted in the mirror, posing.

“Breakfast’s ready soon, missy. You must eat and get some rest so the dark circles don’t settle under your eyes.”

“I’m too excited to sleep. I wonder if the handsome Richard Charmain will grace the party tomorrow night. I would love to dance with him.”

The beautiful Miss Williams let the dress fall to the floor and Sarah gathered it into her arms, headed for the closet. Ruthie gasped at the old-fashioned undergarments the woman wore—bloomers and a corset. Oh, it must be a costume party, that’s it. A beautiful lady wouldn’t wear those outdated things on a normal day.

Hidden behind the vanity she felt safe from discovery and thought she heard the hanger squeak across the bar. The door closed, moments passed, and the voices ceased. She struggled to her feet and shook her head in an effort to clear the drugged feeling.

        Did I imagine the whole thing?

        Dizzy, she held on to the vanity to steady herself, but her hand slipped, and she grabbed the corner. The edge of a half-open drawer stabbed her finger. She looked down. A red satin ribbon dangled lazily over the side. Unable to resist the temptation, she pulled the drawer open.

“Letters?” One by one, she thumbed through the envelopes. They all had the same name written in a fine female script, Captain Alexander Adams.

      “Who is Captain Adams?” She glanced around the small coatroom as if someone would come out of the dark recesses and catch her. Finally, she opened the top one. Dated almost twenty years ago, it read…

     “My Dear Captain, I remain distraught. I am to marry Robert Squire. My soul is wounded, my spirit destroyed. I thought you might call upon me and make your love known. I wait to hear from you and make an honest woman of me. My thoughts are only of you.

Always yours, Priscilla Squire

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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