Saturday, April 2, 2022

Moon Feather: Part 33: Clothes


The dim, grey light of the early morning was bleeding through the lace curtain that shielded the lower panes of the windows under the heavy drapes. Joey sat on the chair beside the dresser that Everett typically sat on to remove his boots at night. Everett still lay sleeping under the ugly quilt. His arms were resting up by his head on the fat feather down pillow, the upper half of his beautiful torso exposed. Joey had the distinct urge to go run her fingers through the mat of chest hair, but thought better of it. It would be safer on the chair when he woke up. 

The sun rose higher and the light in the room brightened. Joey reached over and pushed the bedroom door farther open with one finger. The hinge creaked. Joey glared at it. This was supposed to be a brand new house. Why was the hinge creaking? 

Movement drew her attention back to the bed. Everett rolled over and threw his arm over her side of the bed. When his arm landed on nothing, his eyes popped open. He frowned at the empty side of the bed and sat up. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and looked around blearily before zeroing in on her huddled on the chair.

“What’re you doin’ way over there?”

“It’s safer over here,” she said, hugging her knees.

His brow furrowed. “What’s that s’posed ta mean?”

She glanced briefly at the open door, double checking her escape route. “I have a question.”

He straightened, eyes narrowing. “Do ya now?”

“Yes. Okay, so, I know you said not to ask…But!” She held up a finger. “But…hear me out.”

He flung off the quilt and swung his legs out of the bed.

“Wait! No! Stay over there, in the bed. Hear me out. I know…I know you said not to ask about the pants…and I respect that,” she winced, “ But! But…you seriously can’t expect me to meet your seamstress friend wearing literally nothing but your shirt. I admittedly don’t know a ton about this time period, but I do know you people wear a lot…a lot of clothes. Somehow, I imagine that this,” she said, gesturing up and down at her lack of outfit, “would be decidedly scandalous.”

He arched a brow. “And ya think indian britches’d be less shameful?”

“Than being bare-assed in a man’s shirt? Yes,” she said, eyeballing the open door in case he moved suddenly. “Even in my time, you don’t meet company in nothing but your boyfriend’s shirt.” 

He frowned. “Boyfriend?”

Joey sighed. “Lover. Liaison. The person whom you fuck.”

Everett ran a hand over his face and threaded his fingers through his hair to shake it out. “You cannot say things like that in front’a Lavina. She’s a right genteel lady. You’ll give her the vapors with vulgarities like that. I dunno why I let ya say ‘em ta me.”

“Because, as a soldier of some rank, if that belt buckle means what I think it does, you know how to pick your battles. And the use of ‘fuck’ in my own house is a hill I am more than willing to die on.” She lightly gripped her toes with her fingers on the edge of the chair. “You can chill out though. I won’t offend your friend’s delicate ears with my profane verbiage.” She looked away thoughtfully. “Buuuut, I’ll definitely offend her sensibilities unless you give me the pants. Oh, and the boots too? I know you guys have this thing about ankles.”

He squinted at her, standing up. Joey slowly lowered one foot to the floor.

“Settle,'' he said, shaking his head with a sigh. “I ain’t gonna whoop ya. Unless you leg out like ya seem ta be champin’ at the bit ta do. You got a point, and I ain’t unreasonable.” 

He tugged his drawers back up to their natural position and went to the closet. Reaching for a high shelf Joey couldn’t have reached without climbing or standing on something, he pulled out her buckskins in a neatly folded bundle. Setting them on the bed, he went back to the closet to pull out his own clothes for the day. He had worn much the same thing for the last several days. A darker brown pair of canvas pants, with a navy blue bib shirt with brass buttons that was clearly leftover from his army days, and the leather vest he always put on when he went to work with the animals and do chores outside. The day before, he had worn what appeared to be the same outfit she’d met him in, although it had been brushed free of the dust.

Today he must have felt like dressing up. After donning a short sleeved undershirt, he stepped into the same khaki trousers he’d worn yesterday, but today’s shirt was a crisp, white pullover with a few buttons at the top. Today’s waistcoat was a deep burgundy with a golden bronze sort of floral pattern that struck her as uniquely Victorian. It reminded her a bit of the wallpaper downstairs. The buttons were covered in cloth, and Joey found herself staring as he carefully buttoned them from the top down.  Moving to the dresser, he pulled a black ribbon cravat from a drawer and tied it into a sort of bow around his neck under his shirt collar. Taking a wooden comb from the tray next to the wash basin, he dipped it into the water, shook free the excess, and combed his hair out.  

“Feeling fancy today?” Joey said, watching him.

Everett frowned into the mirror, combing his beard now. “Henry Albritton has been after me to get a new waistcoat since Christmas. I’ve taken ta wearin’ my nicer ones any time I gotta see the man. I reckon he’ll be there when I pick up Lavina to escort her to the house, so…” He tugged the ends of his waistcoat down to smooth any potential wrinkles. 

He picked his belt up off the dresser and buckled it in place. He looked down at her with an amused expression.

After a few beats of silence, Joey frowned. “What?”

He chuckled, wiggling his eyebrows. “You’re in my spot, jaybird. I need ta put on my boots. ‘Sides, as much as you’ve been hankerin’ after them britches, I’d’a thought you’d’a been right quick to hop in ‘em.”

Joey slid off the chair, stripping off Everett’s shirt and tossing it on the bed. She stepped into her pants and pulled them up and tied the sash that cinched the waist. The shirt slid easily over her head, and she noticed the bullet hole had been carefully mended. She ran her fingers over the expertly patched hole. She looked back at Everett staring at her. He was hunched over on the chair, elbows resting on his knees. His pants were tucked into his boots, turning his gentlemanly look into something a bit rougher.

There was a softness in his expression as he studied her, a crinkling of tiny crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes, and she didn’t know if it comforted or disconcerted her. It had been a whirlwind week of blood and pain and undeniable passion. There was a strange sort of affection between them, something instant that felt like it had been there forever somehow. Perhaps it was her connection to Charlie, although she never had never seen Charlie in a romantic or sexual light. He had never been anything but strictly dad-like with her, but there was no denying she loved him and his family. They had taken her in when she had no one left. She supposed Everett had done the same. 

“You didn’t have to mend it. I would have done it.”

He threaded his fingers together and rested his chin on his hands. “I know.”

“I can’t do anything real complicated with sewing, but I can do that much.”

He stood up, smiling. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, jaybird.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “I’ll be back with Lavina ‘round lunchtime. You try not ta raise too much sand, ya hear?”

Joey blinked. “Uhhh…suuurrre,” she said, not really sure what that meant.


If you would like a glossary of western slang used in this story, here is the reference I'm using: Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West     

Wicked Wednesday

1 comment:

  1. This is such a sweet interlude. Somehow, I can feel the love between them.
    ~ Marie xox