by Judy Thomas
The bell jingled over the door of the Style Emporium and Marilyn looked up from jumble of gloves she was sorting, automatically pasting a smile on her face.
“Welcome to the Style Emporium. How may I serve you?” Her gaze took in the slightly bewildered look most men wore on their first visit to this bastion of women’s fashion. She noted the fine leather gloves he held clutched in his left hand and the cane in his right. His face was clean-shaven, except for a well-trimmed mustache, and a look of panic shone in his eyes. Yes, definitely a newcomer to the world of women’s fashion.
“Sir?” she said again. “May I be of service?”
He blinked his eyes—a warm brown—as if waking up from a dream. “Oh..OH.” He hurried to the counter. “I’m sorry. My maman sent me in to buy her a pair of gloves.”
“Very good, sir,” Marion said, pushing the gloves she’d been working on to the side. “For what type of glove does your mother wish?”
He looked at her blankly. “The kind with fingers?”
She bit her lip to stop from smiling. It would be her job if Mr. Clark discovered she’d laughed at a customer, especially one as obviously wealthy as this young man.
“We have gloves of all lengths, from 2-button to opera length, and in a variety of materials, from—”
“Kid!” A smile lit his face. “I remember that. She wants white kid.”
“Very good, sir.” His exuberance made her grin. “And length?”
His face fell. “I think... oh, wait. She said she wanted them for daily use. Does that help? Oh... and ‘for heaven’s sake, don’t get shorties.’ That’s what else she said.”
“I think these 4-buttons might do the trick.” She took out a display pair and slipped them on, smoothing the leather over her wrist before holding her hand out for him to examine.
“Mmmmm...very nice.” His voice sent pleasurable shivers up her spine and she mentally shook herself.
“I’ll take them.” He pulled out a card and handed it to her. “Please send them to this address.”
“Very good, sir.” She took the card, then stopped him as he turned away. “Oh, sir. What size shall I send?”
“I guess that would help, would it not?” A frown creased his brow. “Take off the gloves and let me see your hand again. Perhaps I can tell.”
She slipped the glove off and put it back in its spot under the counter. He took her hand in his and a tingle went up her arm. She fought off her first impulse to pull away as his thumb stroked the top of her hand.
“I think... yes, Maman’s hand is just a little larger than yours. Send her one size larger.”
She stood in a daze as he went out the door with a cheery wave. What a strange person. And what a strange reaction for her to have. She glanced at the card in her hand. Jonathan Miller, of St. James Place. Well, Mr. Miller of St. James Place, I hope your mother’s gloves are to her satisfaction.
The following Monday, Gloria, the other gloves clerk, came to the stock room where Marilyn took inventory. “Marilyn, a gentleman is asking for you. He mentioned he was in last week.”
A ball formed in Marilyn’s stomach. She certainly hoped it was not a complaint. When she stepped into the showroom and saw Mr. Miller standing there, her heart sank.
The gloves must not have been suitable. No matter she sent what she was told to send... it would be her fault and her job. Taking a deep breath, she walked to him and said, “Mr. Miller, how may I serve you?”
“Oh...Miss...I’m sorry. I was rude last week and neglected to get your name.”
She frowned in confusion. “Miss Trent. Marilyn Trent.”
“Well, Miss Trent, I just wanted to thank you. The gloves were a success...so much so my sister wants a pair just like them.”
Relief washed over her. “Very well, sir. And the size?”
He snapped his fingers. “I knew I forgot something. May I please see your hand again?”
The tingle was no less intense than before, but a great deal more pleasurable. Time seemed to stop as his thumb softly stroked her hand. Their gazes locked.
“Mr. Miller.” Her words were almost a whisper.
“The size...oh, yes, right.” He dropped her hand and said, “The same size as the last ones, I suppose. Her hands are nowhere as dainty as yours.”
Her face heated with the comment and she turned from him to remove the glove box from the case. “Delivered, sir?”
“Yes, please.” Again he gave her a grin and a cheery wave as he went out the door.
The following Monday, Marilyn looked up every time the bell jingled. What nonsense. She could not believe he’d affected her so strongly. Why, she had even dreamed about him, and her face heated as she remembered the content of the dream. She was not some fresh clerk to have romantic fantasies about customers. Especially not ones who lived in St. James Place.
It was nearly closing time.
“No, ma’am. I’m sorry,” she said again to the overly large woman before her. “We do not have Egyptian calfskin gloves in burgundy. I’m not sure where your friend may have gotten them, but we do not have them.” How many times did she have to repeat herself?
The bell jingled and, against her will, her gaze went to the open door, the fussing woman in front of her all but forgotten. Mr. Miller stood there—an anxious smile on his face.
“Excuse me.” She left her customer and went to the door. “Mr. Miller. How may I be of service?”
“I need one last pair of gloves,” he said, “and this must be a very special pair, because they are for the woman I wish to marry.”
Marilyn’s heart fell to her feet, but she managed to keep a smile on her face.
“What type of gloves?”
“Well...what kind do you like, Miss Trent?”
“The white calfskin gloves we have just gotten in are lovely, with beading on the cuff.”
“Do you like them, Miss Trent?”
“To be honest, Mr. Miller, I prefer something a little more simple. The black kids are exquisite.”
“That sounds good. And... the length, Miss Trent. Which length do you prefer?”
“Mr. Miller... really. Perhaps your fiancée....”
“Oh, no. This is a surprise.”
Marilyn released a sigh. She would rather be waiting on Mrs. Trundle again than picking out gloves for Mr. Miller’s fiancée.
“A nice mid-length is always nice.”
“Fine, fine. I’ll take them.”
“The size, sir?”
“She has dainty hands... just the size of yours. Whatever would fit you.”
“And, where should these be delivered, sir?”
“I’ll take them with me. You see, they are a gift... a betrothal gift.”
Marilyn wrapped the gloves in tissue before laying them in a gift box, tears pricking her eyes. How foolish she’d been to read anything into a few words and caresses. No—he came from a different world, with different rules.
She locked the door on her way out and caught sight of him beside the building.
“Mr. Miller...you gave me a start. Is there a problem with the gloves?”
“Oh.” He looked down at his hands holding the white box with red ribbon, almost as if he’d forgotten it was there. “No. I... dash it all, Miss Trent. I’m bungling everything. Here.”
He thrust the package in her direction.
“I had it all planned out what to say...and what you would say...and nothing worked like it was supposed to. Miss Trent—Marilyn—will you please accept this gift as a token of my high esteem and allow me to call upon you and your father tomorrow?”
“Uh...Mr. Miller... Jonathan... I... yes, oh yes!”
And as the gaslight from the sidewalk beamed down on them, Jonathan Miller drew Marilyn Trent into their first, but definitely not their last, embrace.
About the Author: Judy Thomas is a writer, editor, co-owner of a website, wife, mom, and amateur photographer. She and her husband also own a tree and stump removal company. In her spare time, she thinks about cleaning the house. You can hang out with her at her blog: http://jhthomas.blogspot.com.