September words: Haberdasher bowler key
Fifty Shades of Gray Flannel
By PM Smith
AKA Phyllis Smith Patterson
“Oh Drat!” I murmur. “If I ever meet the man, and yes I know it is a man, that invented buttons on shoes, I will hang him up by his…” My thoughts are interrupted by the tinkling of the bell above the door of the Haberdasher Shop. I straighten, and shake the stiffly starched cotton of my dress down and pull my foot with the unbuttoned shoe under the dense floor length fabric.
The face that greets me is none other than Mrs. Erkland. She floats in on a cloud of pungent perfume. Her attendant struggles to keep up and dashes about in an attempt to maintain the illusion of attending the matron. I am obscured from their view by bolts of gray flannel, the new rage for the fall season, more than fifty shades is what my boss has been told.
“Girl!” Is all that she says and I look at her blankly for a moment and then realize that she is summoning me. I am “Girl.” I try not to frown as I tell myself she is within her rights as I am but the store clerk.
I must slide the shoe that has not been buttoned along the floor to keep from losing it so it appears that I have some kind of physical defect. Of course, this is common among the lower classes and I am of the lower classes.
“Yes, Mum.” I murmur in the hope that I exhibit sufficient placation and supplication. The owner of the shop has spent hours attempting to train me in proper etiquette toward my ‘betters’. Unfortunately, I don’t actually believe that I have betters so the task is made ever more difficult.
I drift into my favorite fantasy as the old biddy picks at the various items for sale.
In a daydream haze, the bell tinkles a second time and Mr. Antolli steps across the threshold doffing his bowler in greeting. He is Italian, gallant and charming. My heart races and I feel my face flush as I murmur. “Oh, My!”
Mr. Antolli’s smile is radiant and I gaze at his perfect features as he. “I am here to have my measurements taken for the new season’s wardrobe. Will you be doing the honors, Molly?” I gasp at his boldness but then his strong arms embrace me in such urgency that my breath hitches. His eyes bore into mine as he murmurs. “My lovely Molly. How long I have hungered to touch the glossy locks of your hair and the creamy softness of your skin. I can wait no longer to be sated. I must have you. Will you defy convention and agree to become my …?”
The words scatter as I am pulled back to reality and I hear the words that are actually being spoken by the dowager’s servant. “Hop to Girl. My lady is waiting to complete her purchase.”
There is no handsome rich man waiting to sweep me up into his arms. There is only a rich woman who is annoyed that I have inconvenienced her shopping.
I pluck the key from my apron pocket and place it on the counter as I say. “I am not your girl and I suggest that you ring the bell for the proprietor as I am no longer employed at this establishment.