Getting ready for a boy is one of the loveliest things about being a lass that ever could be…. But Annabell wasn’t getting ready for a boy. Or a gentleman caller. Or a daytime wooing for that matter. But Theodore put Annabell in such a state that she couldn’t help distilling the instincts that came with such desires– to be wanted by this boy-now-man, with his strong arms and excellent aim. She couldn’t help but want to put herself together, and she took a moment in her tizzy to think about what she could do, –what she WOULD do–, when she and Teddy took a moment to paint the town red, white and Mason.
“He is here to work, Annabell. He’s a worker… he works for us. He works for us?” she whimpered to herself. “Don’t try too hard. Don’t overexert yourself in affairs that have nothing to do with today. Or any other day, for that matter…. Maybe I’m not to his liking? Maybe he ‘likens to lasses’ of the flaxen hair variety!”
Annabell inspected her reflection a moment. She pulled several strands of hair into the light. Just as she had expected. She did have some natural wheat-colored highlights woven into the dark mane (which she had always disdained in her youth, but had grown to love over the years… including the many compliments that came along with being a rare brunette in a corn field).
Now if, IF, Teddy had been arriving to entertain her fancies and tempt the Tunis of her heart… IF he had… Annabell drifted for what seemed like hours (though, really only a few seconds) into the fairytale thoughts of what getting ready for that moment would look like:
Her customary… routine, one might say… would be ceremonial in tone, this preparation for Theodore…. (If Theodore were a gentleman caller, which in that instance he most certainly was not.) It would begin with a long, slow bath of milk and honey, soaking up the conditioning and cooling elements just long enough– but not too long, so as to not appear tethered as a prune. After this porcelain dance, which would bring some of her stillest moments (pondering the usual ponderings of a girl who was all of eighteen –and a half–, and being courted), she would then slowly rise and reach for a blanket of just-hung towels (of the highest quality cotton available), and continue the reverie: Where would he take her; whom would they see; at what points during their timely juncture would she play coy, feign interest, or flirt with the flightiest of lilting feminine wiles?
Then, upon coming out of her dream-like state, some lavender sauce would be in order to spruce up the underarms and under carriage. (This was a secret that Annabell had learned one day by getting stuck on the underside of her mother’s day bed; she was supposed to have been focusing on her studies, but had instead decided that she would get more of life’s important ‘importants’ by playing dress-up in her mother’s well-traveled, society-gal trunk.) Next on the agenda would be a bit of olive oil (with a splash of lemon juice) at the scalp, to keep the light hitting all the right reflections of the flaxen streaks, which she desperately held onto amidst the blackbird, topsy-turvy tendrils. And last but not least, in the tending to the garden, some talcum powder to keep the glow aglow– and not a tinge more.
When Annabell paraded herself through the lane of her down-to-an-art-like getting-ready process, she would begin to feel the slight fluttering of the ladybug wings winnowing in her belly at the thought of the faint brush of two hands, a longing look that could potentially lead to the fingering of a cheek… (“Oh, Theodore, pray tell, did I have something that landed upon this-here cheek of mine?” Then she would try to remove it –unsuccessfully–, forcing Theodore to touch her again and again…) Or the end-all to end all… a goodnight kiss that would take the rubber right out of her knees, and remove that tourniquet which surely had been holding up her balance by a thread (only to be slipped out as though the slot were meant to be un-slipped).
The carefully-picked-from-the-night-before ensemble would lay effortlessly on the edge of the bed, jarring her into the reality that she indeed would have experiences outside of her head that evening. And then, when finished the task of presentation, she would look in the mirror from across the room and nod in agreement with the reflection that was Annabell.
Yes. The act of getting-ready-to-be-fawned-over, for being the slight-of-girl she was known to be, was just as important (if not more!) for a positive result of what an afternoon or evening could be, as the event itself. As frilly and silly as Annabell had struggled with being during the awkward adolescence-into-womanhood transition to which she had succumbed, she had made it her personal plight and a vendetta against every unruly moment leading up to this new-found freedom and power of being a woman in-demand– and she had vowed to be perfect at it. Her routine was sacred. Timed to the second. And truly her way of remaining in control of the day’s occurrences. She even thought about writing a book or an article about it, on the process of getting ready for the one you may (or may not) love… or, in a shorter pass at the title, “How to be Admired.” A practice and perfection that she insisted upon and demanded of herself to keep the upper hand in all of her relations.
A practice… that she had not one iota of a second to fulfill right now.
“Miss Annabell! Miss Annabell!” Nessie was at the door, and Annabell was jarred out of her hours (but truly only seconds) of daydreaming.
“Junior asked Mr. Theodore to take him outside for a game of catch, so he won’t be where you think he’ll be, ‘cordin to the schedule.”
“Oh Nessie. Thank you. Thank you!” Annabell was grateful.
“Little woman, you best not spend too much more time thinking about yo’self, or you’re going to miss an opportunity.”
“Scram, Nessie. I’m not thinking about myself, I’m just… I’m just…. oh, just go! And keep me posted of any other changes.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Nessie looked on knowingly. Ah, to be young again…
“Nothing to wear!” Annabell hissed to herself. “Nothing to wear!”
Had she gained weight since the previous day? Everything seemed to tug and pull. Nothing felt effortless. Nothing bellowed, “Fall in love with me, but I’ll keep playing ‘hard to get’ all summer.” Nothing called from her closet, “Maybe now he’ll never be able to see another gal for all eternity.” It was a conundrum of the highest order! Maybe she should feign illness? But then she’d be quarantined, and her mother would never let her attend the fabulous dinner which she was promised her first seat at…
Annabell was in a way. A way that she had never been before.
“That’s a might fine arm you have there, Teddy. Can I play along?” lilted Annabell from the back porch french doors.
A soft pink dress –almost ivory in tone– that cascaded in all the right places, had been found at the bottom of the closet. (It had been procured on a daring trip to Key West which her mother had been on before she was born.) That recurring breeze, which had become almost a faithful friend, seemed to have hit its mark perfectly– effortlessly blowing the side of her hair, which she had strategically placed slightly in her face so as to seem undone and ‘un-expecting’ of this gentleman worker. Teddy turned at exactly the right moment (thank you very much), and she could see him react without reacting. Annabell knew all her frantic hard work to pull off the moment, to have the moment, was not in vain– and she was even grateful for her years of practice to perfect it, to be able to throw it all away, and still achieve the same desired effect.
“Hells bells, Annie,” Junior cried out, not pleased that his new-found playmate and potential baseball coach was becoming distracted by the likes of a woman (his sister no less)!
“You’d like to try?” Teddy asked.
“She throws like a girl,” Junior bellowed.
“Is that all you got, Junior?” Annie retorted.
“If she threw like a man, we could go on the road,” Teddy evenly replied. “Wanna try anyway?”
“If it doesn’t interrupt your concentration,” she replied.
“I’ve become adept at doing two things at once in my old age, Miss Mason,” Teddy chimed.
“I thought you looked a bit rusty, maybe I could show you a thing or two,” Annabell flirtatiously fawned.
“One is just fine, Miss Mason,” Teddy retorted back. Was this a game of catch or a play on words? Annabell bristled with excitement to wait and see.
“Oh Teddy, would you stop with the ‘Miss Mason’ business? It’s me. Don’t you remember? Me!” She sashayed over to Junior to retrieve his ball and mitt.
“Annie, it’s mine. I wanna play!” Junior whined.
With a smile plastered on her face, Annabell lashed out under her breath, “Hush up, y’hear? Just let me see what he’s made of…”
“No fair,” Junior pressed.
“I’ll give you the secret stash of black licorice if you leave us be for a warm second.”
“You promise?” Junior doubtfully replied.
“Cross my heart and spit in a pepper mill.”
Junior squinted over Teddy’s way. Then he scampered off around the corner, looking for more of the mischief which he seemed to always find.
“I remember some version of you… might need to be re-introduced to this one, though,” Teddy smiled.
“Well, I think a little game of catch is just the way,” Annabell coolly coo’d.
“Wasn’t yesterday excitin’ enough? Wouldn’t wanna push our luck,” said Teddy.
“Who needs luck, Theodore, when you have sheer, unadulterated…” as she wound up the ball in her right hand… “Fire!”
And she blasted the ball in a straight line right to Teddy’s heart. He caught it with the whip of a wrist. Then took his hand out of the mitt and shook it.
“That there’s some heat,” Teddy smiled.
“Thought I’d remind you,” Annabell grinned. “Remember that summer where we tried to burn fireflies with the matchstick?” She giggled. “Might-near burned down the entire county!”
“My backside remembers vividly,” Teddy grimaced.
“I could hear you hollerin’ all the way across the lake! Wasn’t sure it was a boy or a warthog.”
“Don’t you worry…” Teddy replied. “You’ll get yours.”