Lillian

She was tiny, so tiny.  She lived in the house in the city where she’d grown up, with her mother and her mother’s husband and too many brothers and sisters.  They were all much bigger than her, and very loud.  They had a busy life, all of them together; her stepfather was an Important Person in the Community, and that required parties and dancing lessons and carrying trays of hors d’ouvres around to guests.  When her mother informed her she was to be married to Mr. Chester Frank. she was both relieved and terrified.  He was at least quiet, from what she’d observed, but so very much older than she was, and so tall and thin.

Her mother took her shopping for a wedding dress.  In the bridal shop, the saleswoman shook her head.  They had nothing that wouldn’t swallow her delicate frame.  “What about these?” another shopper suggested, indicating the rack of dresses for flower girls.  They were frilly and childish, but led to the First Communion dresses.  Those, designed to mark the solemn transition to spiritual maturity one makes at age seven, were perfect. Being married was everything and nothing she’d imagined.  She moved her things into the apartment he’d been living in across town.  She kept house very well, and it was quiet and peaceful.  She continued calling her husband Mr. Frank after the ceremony, as no one had instructed her otherwise.  She did not recall her mother calling her stepfather anything.  Mr. Frank went out to work early in the morning and came home in the evening, weary and ready to eat.  She was not altogether certain what he did all day, but on payday he would give her money for groceries, so she didn’t ask questions.

Sometimes he had to be gone overnight, and that was a little frightening for her.  She’d never slept alone in her house growing up, and knowing there were other people in the building didn’t help much.  It wasn’t as though she knew them, after all.  She thought she might like to try to meet them, but wasn’t certain how to go about it.  After a few weeks of politely smiling in the hall, it seemed a little silly to suddenly introduce herself, and besides, she wasn’t sure if that was appropriate.  She had been brought up to be introduced.

She sometimes missed her old life.  They would attend parties at her home, but never stayed long because Mr. Frank couldn’t tolerate the commotion and conversation for more than a couple of hours.  She realized she longed to dance.  She found herself singing as she cleaned at home: “Hop down front then doodle back … mooch to your left then mooch to the right …” but it wasn’t much fun doing the Black Bottom alone.

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