The ladies carried themselves without a second thought, but with a hearty heaping of grace. They moved differently from Minette. Their dresses weren’t royal or anything, weren’t attire for a ball, but their simplicity was beautiful. Minette wanted to feel the black buttons in her hands, slip her arms through a shapely sleeve. Maw could make a dress like that. But not for Minette.
Paw clapped a giant, calloused mitt on her shoulder, startling her. He nodded his chin out toward them with a grunt and a grin. “Nice to look at, ain’t they?”
The ladies scurried off at the sight of Paw’s scruffy mug. Minette watched them go, face going hot. She didn’t know what to say.
Paw chuckled, finding something funny about her silence. “I remember those days with your mother,” he said. “Courting is fun, but marriage is work. You don’t want the prettiest girl, you want the one that can keep house. Remember that, boy.”
Minette wanted this conversation to be over. “Yes, Paw.”
“And go out for once,” Paw said, brow wrinkling. “One drink wouldn’t kill you. You need the experience, the hair on your chest.”
“We’ll find you a good woman. Summer’s end. Guaranteed. It’s past time, Mort. We’ll get your hair cut and your shoes polished. Your mother and I will sort it out. Don’t you worry.” Paw clapped her on the back hard enough to make her cough and turned around, wheeling back into the forge and leaving Minette alone.
Minette tightened her jaw, watching the skirts bounce lightly above the ground as the girls turned a corner and disappeared out of sight.
Summer’s end, Paw had said. Brushing her hair out of her face, she looked at the sun-burned hills, the broad Oaks with some leaves already littering the dappled sunlight at their roots
Summer’s end was already here, along with the end of Minette’s freedom.
The real fantasy was how delusional she’d been. She’d assumed she could put it off forever, keep training, keep to herself, and maybe fall into something worthwhile, something that didn’t make her want to scream.
But reality was knocking, and she had to answer the door sooner or later.
She was so screwed.