“Top o’ the mornin’ to you.” The bed jiggled bringing Ellie out of a numbness of sleep. “Didn’t you hear Mister Cock-o-the-Walk this mornin’?” She recognized Molly’s voice. It rang with heartiness and good cheer and it annoyed Ellie beyond measure.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Ellie shaded her eyes with her hand as sunlight streamed in through the lace curtains. “What time is it?” she asked.
“Seven o’clock. I thought you might be wanting a bit of time to get ready and to have some rhubarb pie, fresh baked this mornin’. The milking is done. The chickens are fed. The sow is nursing her squealers. The garden is watered. Aldon has the Ford ready to go and Mr. Solano will be waiting in the front seat in one hour. The missus doesn’t go to church. She’s a heathern and still in bed as far as I can tell.” Molly turned around and left the room forgetting to close the door behind her.
“Okay,” Ellie sank back into the pillow to think. We’re going to church. Signor Solano goes, but the signora stays home. Aldon is driving. I’ don’t want any breakfast; maybe I’ll snooze for one more minute.
“Come on, let’s get going,” Molly was back. She pulled off the covers and when she opened her eyes, she realized that Aldon had not removed any of her clothes. He was a gentleman, indeed.
“No rest for the wicked,” Ellie said, hearing her grandmother admonishing her to rise and get to work. Sitting up and looking around the room, she spotted her trunk. She knew Aldon had brought it upstairs and figured he had taken off her shoes, straightened her on the bed, and covered her. How thoughtful. Maybe he’d turn out to be a good man to know.
The trunk sat on its end, so all she had to do was open it as if it were a giant book. It had hangers and drawers and would have been worthy of a trip on the Queen Mary. Grandmother had tried to send her off in high style, but she hadn’t filled the trunk because she didn’t want to seem ostentatious. Even so, it took her a minute to decide what to wear.
The traveling suit would be dressier and warmer, but she had slept in it for several nights and it wasn’t what Grandmother would call, “fresh,” anymore. The blue jersey would have to do, even though she wasn’t fond of the long waists on dresses these days. She’d be glad when the styles changed again and she could buy a completely new wardrobe. On the other hand, now that she insisted on becoming independent, she wondered whether she’d make enough money for clothes. I wish Grandmother would stop my allowance as I asked, thought Ellie. Her deposits in the bank here don’t speak well of her confidence in me.
She hurried down the hall to the bathroom, sponge bathed and rushed back to slip into silk knickers and a crepe de chine envelope. She hoped no one would notice she was corsetless. The corsetiere at the store had fitted her before the war, but ambulance drivers needed to be able to move freely in their work so she had left those particular garments at home. She gloried in being able to get in and out of automobiles and bend over when necessary, but most of all, she had developed a fondness for breathing. People still gossiped about girls who were free in their dress and behavior, calling them flappers, Modern Millies, or vamps. Ellie realized she must be careful not to fall into that category. She ran a brush through her hair but the air was so dry and full of electricity that it rose like a halo around her head. Grabbing her blue cloche hat she pulled it down to hide her hair. Thank Heaven it was proper for a lady to wear a hat anywhere she went.
“What can I do to help,” she asked Molly in the kitchen.
“Sit down and eat.” Molly placed a piece of pie and a cup of cold milk on the table before her as she complied. Ordinarily I would consider the red juice against the white plate artful, but now it reminds me of gallons of blood pouring from hundreds of screaming bodies during the war.
“I saw Aldon carry your violin case up last night,” Molly said. “Or is that where you keep your eyebrows?”
“What?” It was too early for riddles. “No, my violin.” Ellie brought out her salesgirl smile, and then realized Molly was referring to her thin eyebrows. She knew they weren’t as thin as they could be, but she also knew that older women often disliked the new ways as much as younger people disdained the old ones.
“If God wanted us to have thin eyebrows, he would have drawn them on like I hear the floosies do.”
“Yes, ma’am. I can let them grow if you want,” said Ellie. She was on her way to independence. She was determined not to risk offending anyone and giving them an excuse to fire her.
“Eat your breakfast.” Molly frowned. “We need to get going.”
Ellie took up the fork and tasted the pie. It was so tart it made her ears ring. She grabbed the milk and gulped it down.
“I put six cups of sugar in that pie, my girl,” Molly said. “Eat it up, now. We’ve waited a long winter for this rhubarb. Have you had your spring tonic yet?
“No, ma’am, but I’m sorry I can’t eat it.” Ellie stammered. “I’m just not hungry.” Ellie crossed her fingers hoping not to suffer repercussions for lying.
“You liked the milk though?”
“Yes, it was good.” Ellie nodded and kept on nodding until she realized she must resemble a bobblehead doll.
“That there milk is from our own Brunhilda,” Molly said with a smile. “It’s got a lot of cream in it.”
“I can tell!” Ellie confirmed.
“Aldon will teach you how to milk her. Everybody ought to know how to milk a cow. Well, now, if you’re not going to eat the pie, scrape it into the bucket under the sink, and we’ll give it to the pig, she’s eating for thirteen. I gotta admit, even with all that sugar, it’s still a mite tart.” She walked out laughing to herself and Ellie knew everything was all right for the time being.