Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Embarrassment (01/12/12)
By Marlene Bonney
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“From the moment I saw her, Esmerelda intrigued me. She stood in front of the mercantile counter, her frilly, elaborately smocked dress pressed tightly against the rough-hewn wood that held up the space containing the lined jars of tempting penny candies. She stood on tiptoes, her high-topped spotless white shoes peeking out from beneath the soft blue ruffle bordering her skirt, the laces perfectly crisscrossed between the pearly buttons. She placed a shiny dime on the counter, smiling prettily up at Mr. Abrams as she made her selections. Golden ringlets artfully framed her lovely face while they twirled around her bonnet’s ribbons . . .”
“I was surprised to eventually find out that the girl shyly staring at me so intensely from behind the shop’s curtain was my own age. She looked rather frail as she stood there, her thin, little hands clasped nervously at her aproned waist. Her eyes arrested me immediately, so large and blue—like the heather blooming brightly in my mother’s flower garden. She was barefoot, her legs and arms baked brown as walnuts from the Colorado sun, and her russet-colored hair hung long and straight, runaway wisps occasionally obscuring her eyes whenever a breeze wafted in from the back window . . .”
In short, they were a curiosity each to the other. And, had not the following circumstances intervened, they might have remained strangers.
“Pa, s’cuse me, but have you seen Mattie? I can’t find her.”
“Now, daughter, you know better than to interrupt when we have a customer, especially such a pretty one as this,” offering Esmerelda a sly wink.
Dottie smarted under the flippant rebuke and would have retreated had not the matter seemed so urgent, “She hasn’t touched her food for two days, and I’m worried about her!”
“Gal, I said I’m busy!” reaching over and giving her hair a hard yank, “can’t you see this one has a purse full of money”, he hissed so loudly that everyone in the store heard him.
Dottie’s face turned a blotchy scarlet that somehow complimented her hair, embarrassed that her father would be so ill-mannered.
At that precise moment, the bell over the mercantile door tinkled and a tall, well-dressed man entered.
“ESMERELDA! We have been looking all over this God-forsaken town for you! WHAT are you doing in this dingy hole-in-the-wall? Come on, now, our coach is waiting. Your mother purchased you the best food on the hotel menu,” wrinkling his nose at the dusty counter.
His daughter, shame-faced at her father’s rudeness, could not help stealing a glance at Dottie as they quickly exited the store.”
“Mattie!” as a flash of brown streaked past Esmerelda and her father.
“REALLY! Watch where you’re going, little guttersnipe!”
“Papa, how COULD you? She’s my friend!”
Dottie, in the meantime, had tripped over a rough board sticking up on the wooden-slated sidewalk, and lay sprawled at their feet.
“Oh, what a precious little kitty!” outraged Mattie having clawed her way out of her mistress’s grip, leaving her baby to fend for itself.
“There’s another over there. I couldn’t carry them all at once,” Dottie tearfully explained.
Mr. Abrams had come to see what the ruckus was all about, and chuckled, “Oh, Dottie girl, if you don’t beat all! No wonder your cat wasn’t eating. She was too busy setting up her nursery.”
The fathers hovered over the two kneeling little girls and newborn kittens, forgetting their prejudices momentarily.
“What will you name them, Dottie?” Esmerelda’s wistful tone softened her father’s heart as he remembered their firm rule against any house pets.
“Now, Dottie, don’t you get too attached, gal; you can keep only one. We’ll have to give away the other.”
“Here, Esmerelda. I’d be proud if you would take one. That way, you can name him yourself.
Her eyes tearing over, she said, “I’m not allowed.”
“Now just a minute, Sweet Pea. I have to return here next month for another client. If the kitten’s weaned by then, and if I can talk your mother into it, I suppose . . .”
Esmerelda accompanied her father a few weeks later to play with Dottie and the kittens while he conducted his business. She named her new kitten “Butter” and Dottie named his brother, “Scotch.”
Although the girls’ fathers never became bosom buddies, they never again embarrassed their cherished daughters, who, to this day, maintain a loving friendship.
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