Saturday, May 7, 2022

Moon Feather: Part 38: A Little Scandal

Joey 

Joey obeyed, curious as to what Lavina was up to. 

“You got a hairbrush, darlin’?” 

“No. I don’t use them. I have a comb though.” Joey pulled open the top drawer of the dresser and pulled out a comb made of bear bone, with extra wide teeth on one side and a finer set of teeth on the other. 

Lavina took it and examined it curiously. “Where did you get this?”

Joey shrugged. “I made it. I have a couple of wooden ones, but I like the bone the best. They take longer to make though.”

“My my, you are full of unusual talents,” she said, before tugging the leather thong holding up Joey’s hair loose, and letting it fall down her back. “Oh, my, ya have such lovely hair. Why is it so short on the sides?”

“As you can see, there’s a lot of it even with half of it cut off. It’s just easier to manage this way,” Joey said. It was true enough. Joey didn’t think it would be good to mention the tattoo she had on the side of her head underneath the inch or so of hair that had grown since her last shave. “If Everett was such an eligible bachelor, why didn’t he marry any of them?”

Lavina snickered. “Ta hear Everett tell it, it’s because none’a them is out of pigtails.” She lowered her voice in a mock version of Everett’s baritone. “I ain’t lookin’ for no girl I gotta finish raisin’. I ain’t gonna be Pa to my own wife.” She giggled at her impression. 

Joey snorted at that. Everett didn’t want to be Pa to his wife, eh? She’d have to poke him about that later.

“The eldest of the would-be hopefuls is Margaret Harmon, and she just turned seventeen not a month past.” Having combed out Joey’s hair, Lavina began arranging it into a style that hid the short hair underneath. “Of course, Margaret Harmon’s gonna have herself quite a time tryin’ ta catch herself a suitor, on account of her bein’ just as petulant as her mama. But I suppose her daddy’s money’ll sort that out for her.”

Joey wrinkled her nose. “Sweet Jesus! Trying to marry a damn child to a man in his thirties? That’s just gross.”

“Oh my,” Lavina said, her eyes wide in the mirror. Then she frowned. “Gross?”

“Disgusting. Repulsive. Nasty.”

“Oh, yes. I see. Well, whilst I do not disagree with the sentiment, might I suggest you…ah…temper your distaste should the Harmons see fit ta be a nuisance at church?” Lavina said, nervously primping at Joey’s hair. 

Joey waved dismissively. “You and Everett can relax. I may be out of practice, but I know how to behave at church. Besides, I get in enough trouble around here on my own without giving Everett more reasons to whip my ass.”

Lavina gasped. 

Joey groaned. “Aw, damn it! Sorry! Oh, sh–I did it again! Butt! Bottom. Backside. Whatever word I’m supposed to use that isn’t ass.” She stood up suddenly. “Gimme a minute.” 

Joey whipped out the door and down the hall to the bathroom and latched the door behind her. She really needed to get a handle on the language thing. After seven years of not censoring herself, not casually throwing out curse words was extremely difficult. In college, no one cared. Everyone’s favorite word was fuck, and the professors often cursed as well. The other hands at Bearclaw were all fairly mouthy, and, though Charlie preferred that they not curse in front of the kids, they all did anyway. Once Charlie had spoken to her about it, but she told him that he was delusional if he thought he was going to get a bunch of delinquent teenagers to stop swearing. She banged her forehead on the door a few times.

Since she was already there, she spent a few minutes figuring out how to pee with all the fabric. The split seat in the drawers was actually fairly convenient for that, she found. With a sigh, she went back to the bedroom where Lavina was sketching quietly. They exchanged nervous looks.

Joey pressed the tips of her index fingers together. “So…ah…” She squinted. “I would appreciate if you wouldn’t mention the whole cussing in front of you thing to Everett, if you don’t mind?”

Lavina stifled a snort. “He certainly would not approve.”

Joey tilted her head back and forth. “And normally, I wouldn’t care, but church pews are hard enough as it is, and we’ve fought enough this week already.”

Lavina nodded sympathetically, her golden ringlets bouncing. “The early days of matrimony can be difficult, especially if ya weren’t well acquainted beforehand. Henry courted me for a full year before askin’ for my hand, and we still had our pains. I can’t imagine what it must be like for two people who barely know each other.”

Joey shrugged, then winced. The soreness was starting to set in her arm from the jump this morning. “I could tell you, but you’d be even more scandalized than you already are.”

Lavina sat up straighter, eyes full of curiosity. She leaned forward, looking through the open door into the hallway. Her hand came to her neck to rub it self-consciously. “A little scandal here and there never did no permanent harm.” Her eyebrows rose, but she didn’t meet Joey’s eyes. 

Joey laughed. “There’s a little, and then there’s the things I could tell you, and I’m not too sure you’re ready for that.”

Lavina lifted her nose and gave a haughty sniff. “I’ll have you know, Jolene MacMahon, that I have been married some three years now, so I would say I am far more experienced in the ways of marriage than you.”

“How old are you?”

Her brow furrowed. “Why, Jolene, that is a positively rude question!”

“Why?” Joey said, confused. “You’re not old and we’re alone.”

Lavina blinked several times, clearly unsure how to process Joey’s unfettered bluntness. “I’m twenty-two.”

Joey let out a little snort. “You might’ve been married longer, but I’ve been alive longer. Not that it counts for too much, since I’m completely out of my element here.” She tugged at her skirts to indicate what she couldn’t say. Let Lavina think it was the trappings of femininity or polite society, or whatever. It wasn’t untrue. She’d always had more of a masculine energy about her. It was why she fit in so well with the other ranch hands. “But in more…worldly…pursuits,” she said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively, “I likely got you beat.”

“Wait. How old are you?”

Joey snickered. “Twenty-five.”

Lavina looked mildly offended. “You are not!”

“I am, and–” 

The sound of the door opening downstairs cut her off. The heavy sound of Everett’s boots on the wooden floors echoed up to them.

“Ladies?” he called through the house.

“Looks like we’ll have to save the scandalous talk for another time,” Joey said.

Before she could turn to go into the hall and downstairs, Lavina was flying past her, fan in hand, a mantle of righteous fury about her shoulders. 

“Everett MacMahon!”  she shouted, gliding down the stairs with practiced grace. “I have a bone ta pick with you!” 

Oh boy. Joey followed after her, stopping at the top of the stairs. She eyed the banister and suddenly had the urge to slide down it. She looked back to Lavina who was shoving Everett back out the door. He looked up at Joey in wide-eyed confusion, looking a bit like a deer in headlights. Joey threw up her hands and shrugged.

As soon as the door shut behind them, Joey sat daintily on the banister and slid down, thumping into the newel post. She giggled. It was just as entertaining as she imagined. Even more so with the long dress, feeling like she was sitting side saddle on the smooth beam. 

The sound of shouting came muffled through the door. Joey went to the parlor and peered out the window to find Lavina and Everett squaring off in the front yard. Lavina wasn’t exactly short. Joey would have put her at about five and a half feet, but pitted next to Everett’s sturdy six-three, she looked tiny. It was pretty comical, her standing before him, one hand planted indignantly on her hip while the other gestured wildly with the folded fan as she lectured him. Joey couldn’t make out exactly what she was saying, but Everett crossed his arms over his broad chest, his frown deepening by the second. She saw his mouth move, but whatever he said was calm and measured, so she couldn’t hear anything. 

Lavina gasped, stepped forward and whacked Everett on the chest with her fan. He frowned down at the spot she’d hit. Joey snorted, hiding her laughter behind her hand even though they wouldn’t be able to hear her. Everett’s gaze suddenly snapped to her and narrowed. Oh shit. Joey flung the lace curtain closed and ducked below the sill. After a few seconds, she heard Lavina’s unintelligible shouting again and peeked up over the sill under the edge of the curtain. Lavina was now smacking Everett’s arm repeatedly with the fan. Suddenly, Everett snatched the fan from her hand, leveled a glare at her that made Joey’s ass clench, and said something that made Lavina freeze and back up a couple steps. She took her fan back and ran back up the steps of the veranda, blushing furiously. 

Joey popped back up and busied herself with packing up the rest of Lavina’s things, stacking boxes and pretending like she hadn’t been watching the entire spectacle. She picked up a stack of boxes and started for the door. Everett stepped through, glared down at the boxes then at her face. He shook his head with a frustrated sigh and took the boxes from her arms. 

“Go sit down, woman,” he commanded sharply. “Shouldn’t be carryin’ things with that arm,” he grumbled as he took the boxes out to Lavina’s wagon.

Joey sat awkwardly on the sofa through the next ten minutes of terse silence as Everett and Lavina loaded the wagon. Lavina came in to say goodbye, hugging Joey and giving those phantom kisses on each cheek while Everett stood just inside the room with his thumbs hooked behind his belt.

“Would ya like an escort home, Lavina?” he said.

She whipped around, giving him a look as sharp as one of Joey’s knives. “No, thank you. I’ll get home just fine on my own.” She tilted her head up and stomped out of the house.

Joey was staring at the floor for several moments twiddling her thumbs, the oppressive silence of Everett’s stare washing over her. She snuck a glance at him, noting his bewildered expression.

What did ya tell her?” 


~

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

4 comments:

  1. I would love to know all the things Lavina said to Everett!
    ~ Marie xox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was thinking the same thing Marie, my imagination has gone wild!

      Delete
  2. This is always such fun. It was head spinning all the things she wanted to say but couldn't, the censure she tried to apply was clearly wasted, now I need to know about the dressing down Everett just got!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are doing such a great job with this - ever fancy another audience for it - then Medium are happy for you to repost blog stories on there

    ReplyDelete