Sequence: Brickbats (part two)
In her bedroom, she slipped Stanley’s communication under her mattress. She went to her vanity, and smeared cold cream on her face, wiping away the powder and lipstick she always wore…for there was always the possibility of being surprised. Their neighbors found Miss Bragg bohemian, appropriate here only because she was, all said and done, a Bragg. But they did sometimes call. Harvey dropped by now and again, unannounced.
And Luberta did on occasion, but not often, question how she had fallen between life’s cracks.
She had not lied to Rica Bullard. Pioneer Braggs once had owned shares in potash mines; later, they’d sold these, reinvesting the profit in every sort of mining stock. When she turned thirty—and a few months, as it turned out, before his death—her father had sighingly given her an allowance. Her shares, in trust, would have been her wedding gift…to her husband. So he’d said.
The Potash Princess had wanted only a man dashing as Desanges. He, at her estimate, was some years younger than herself. The light in which he saw his criminal associate…
Was concealed in his mind’s coffer of private calculations, behind his single eye. Luberta told herself she had no hope—and really, therefore, she had every hope. She took up her comb and arranged her hair. She put her shoulders back and her chin up, set her mouth in a certain way. Instinct told her she must be Talou, if she were to draw Stanley out.
She would need Stanley.
Viola tested mild evasion. Her pursuer and his lady friend―she, the first to step aboard the trolley, seating herself in front of Viola, meeting Viola’s eyes in the mirror of her compact (Viola giving her a hard stare in return); he, moving to the car’s rear, with his newspaper and show of indifference towards the woman Viola had seen at his side, driving slow in their shabby Ford, three mornings in a row―were either inept detectives, or they menaced her on purpose.
Another passenger had pulled the cord, but Viola knew this street. She saw the woman’s tweed coat pilled all across the back with white fluff, as though she wore it to bed at night. Well, she might do…not everyone’s rooms were heated. Viola, not minding that her voice was loud for the foot of space between them, called out, “Ma’am, this is my stop. Will you let me carry your packages?”
Tucked in each armpit, the stranger had a bundle…and a handbag over one elbow, a basket over the other. On the sidewalk, she would yield none of these. She drew away from Viola, the fall of her soft hat not hiding her prominent eyes; and if she spoke English, Viola supposed it was her own gypsy looks had frightened the woman speechless.
(2016, Stephanie Foster)