Élucide: part five
“Fern! See what I’ve brought!”
“Fannie, how are you?”
They came close to synchronizing these non sequiturs and might, trading them, have considered themselves squared for hellos. The basket occurred every month. The imported foods department at Rutherford’s was not the only place within a day’s travel up or down the river, where cheeses, chocolates, nuts, and sugared fruits might be purchased. Papa said Rutherford, by making a gift of such things to his friends, was also doing business. The Gremots had served Rutherford’s Stilton to Mr. Ebrach yesterday, and to their cousin Jerome—though Ebrach seemed the likelier convert.
“My buyer’s import man says those dates got no alcohol. Take a month or two maturing…just evaporates off.”
Mother said to Fannie: “Thank you, dear. You and George are so kind.”
And without a word, Sarah, handed the basket, carried it off, up the steps of the carriageway entry.
“I’ve kept myself very quiet, Fern.”
“You look well, dear. Your hair…”
Fannie was given to bobbing towards others, patting their arms to stop them speaking, thus to cut in before they’d finished.
“Ringlets fill out my face a little, I think. I don’t like my chin.”
“Fannie, there is nothing wrong…”
“Élucide is the lucky one. That’s what I’m always telling her.”
It was true. Fannie readily found compliments for Élucide…when within Edith’s hearing. Seeing the Horaces off, she’d flitted in a half-circle, and lighted on admiring Élucide’s dress. “Have I seen it? I don’t think I have! These young girls have the complexion to wear yellow…isn’t it a shame, Virginia!”
“Oh, Fannie. You and I are not the same age.”
Fannie, lifting her heels, and tipping on her toes, reached up from stairs to porch as though she plucked an orange blossom from a low hanging branch. She playfully tugged at a sausage curl. “Now, blue is a bad color near the face. Unless you’re very rosy.” This musingly; the thought, as it might have been, having just bubbled up. Fannie added, “Never wear your hair pulled back, Luce, not ’til you’re much older. Well, though, they do say, if your shoulders are broad…”
Fannie, like Élucide, was petite, and in this war with Edith, most of Fannie’s missiles were aimed at Edith’s stature, at the lack of feminine grace that must accompany height and heavy bones. However―
(2017, Stephanie Foster)