A moment past her prime, Marthe tilted her chin forward.
It was a trick taught by her mother that “elongates the neck and makes your decollate irresistible.” She hoped it was working because she felt a bit like a fool, or a giraffe, maybe a foolish giraffe.
Boning poked at the tender skin under her arms, and she wondered if the cleavage was too much. It was expected, the style for a woman her age, but every time she looked down, there it was, a mountainous spilling of porcelain.
Two men walked toward her, one as if surveying a buffet. She let out a breath, tried not to roll her eyes, and put on her demure smile, the one her mother said, “should be the smile of a woman willing to compromise, dear.”
The eager man took her hand in his sweaty palm and she rose, as was proper, for yet another twirl around another ballroom. She had memorized the next steps.
She would laugh at his jokes, if they were funny. Express her opinion, if he even bothered to engage. She would do her best to keep her true self hidden, her real laugh at bay. He could glide her across the polished floor all night, but she would never give in, never become what he needed.
After one, maybe two dances, he would return her to the satin cushion of her seat, put her back on the shelf, as they all did. She had become that woman. Not the marrying kind.
“What is it about her? She’s beautiful. She must be doing something wrong.” The hens would say as the night droned on.
Hours passed and it was as she predicted.
“Perhaps it’s her education, you know she was schooled far past what was necessary. Some kind of writer.” The woman in the yellow meringue whispered, foolishly thinking a fan would muffle her words.
“So sad, her days are numbered. It won’t be long before they stop taking any notice at all. She’ll be alone,” the one dripping in diamonds replied, her arrogance eliminating the need for subtlety.
Both women nodded in agreement.
Marthe collected her wrap, and as the cool night air touched her cheeks, she prayed they were right.
That’s all from the laundry room. Goodnight.