Mud in Your Eye: part one
Her footsteps had the lightness
Her voice the joyous tone
The tokens of a youthful heart
Where sorrow is unknown
“She Wore a Wreath of Roses”
Thomas Haynes Bayly
Luberta Bragg was going out as a woman.
The public Luberta’s netted chignon was affixed, of necessity, to the evening headgear, this shaped like a wedge of orange-peel. Desanges had wanted her tonight in some pale, glowing fabric…which must be, in the event, a butter-colored taffeta, festooned with side bustles. He’d given her permission to shop. (More to the point, given her money.)
And now, instructing Luberta, he framed her hips with his two hands.
“So. A blank canvas, you understand me.” She was to place herself, standing, behind a certain individual, who ought at the crucial moment to be sitting down. That was all. Luberta didn’t question Desanges.
It was for Harvey she’d cultivated her persona of hats…though, if anyone wanted to know, Luberta loved them, breadbox-sized or teacup, fin de siècle floating island or cubist staircase…cocked, feathered, madly bowed, swathed in chiffon, making Harvey’s impoverished heiress an asset to his own drama. She kept, or rather, Desanges assisted her by doing the barbering, enough length in her hair to feather the back of Talou’s collar, and an overlong forelock he could brush carelessly from his brow, glancing up doe-eyed, catching another’s, his smile tentative.
When she was the other woman, nameless (“If you had to guess, what would you think? Oh, really? No, no!…not so fast, darling”), she wore a wig. She could brass it up in certain dim settings; she could sometimes be a redhead or a platinum blonde…but most often, she was mouse-brown, mid-toned, a gal, a sympathetic ear to the lone traveler, one who might soon—if he proved the right sort—meet Talou. Luberta had one or two reliable accents that would have astonished her father, and all this shipboard sociability invited a biography to bloom in the mind of her conversational partner.
Desanges inclined his torso over her shoulder. She lifted an eyebrow, meeting his assessing gaze in the mirror.
“Boardman is not well liked.” He nudged the wig-form on which the brown hair sat, sliding it aside a fraction of an inch. A crescent moon of clean ash veneer emerged on the vanity’s surface from a film of face powder. Desanges touched only the wire base. He had a distaste for dead human hair. “I believe he treats the help badly. But you are not trying to impress him.”
Mud in Your Eye
(2016, Stephanie Foster)