|Cretins and mannequins|
“That was lovely, Victor. Thank you,” Violet said, as they stepped out of their garden hideaway and back onto the noisy, hot and unforgiving streets of the city.
“You’re welcome,” Victor said, casting a furtive glance at her and wondering about her subdued behavior. “Anything wrong?”
“No, not at all,” she replied looking up and him with a small smile.
“Wouldn’t be lying to me just now, would you?”
“Why would I bother? You can see right through me,” she retorted, laughing.
“Not through. You just have very expressive eyes and I think perhaps I just know you,” he said, watching for her reaction.
“Funny, you didn’t know me that first time we met and you read my mind perfectly, as I recall,” she said.
“You wear your thoughts on your face like some women wear clothes, obviously for attention,” he said. He smiled as her face registered her confusion as she tried to figure out what that meant. “You do it unconsciously, of course.”
She opened her mouth, but didn’t get a chance to speak. Someone in the crowd called to them, a foul-mouthed cretin, by all accounts.
“G$@%&n, Victor, where the f#@k have you been hiding? S%@t, man, it’s been forever!”
“Not long enough,” Victor muttered, before turning to the abrasive man. “Hello, Drew. Tone down the language. There’s a lady present.”
“Ain’t no f%#kin’ ladies in the city! You know that,” Drew laughed, until he spotted Violet and looked her up and down. “F@%k me, where’d you get this hot piece of...”
“Drew!” Victor angrily interrupted. “This is my fiancé and she doesn’t appreciate sewer talk.”
“Then you better get her out of the city,” Drew said, laughing at his own joke.
“I was just about to. So if you’ll excuse us…”
“Wait, why don’t you and your…what’s your name, Honey?” he said, leaning toward her.
“It’s not Honey,” Violet replied, visibly recoiling. She gripped Victor’s arm like a drowning person would a life raft.
“Paula would love to see you, Victor,” Drew said leering at Violet. “And I’d love to get to know you better.”
“Perhaps some other time,” Victor said, putting his arm protectively around Violet and starting to steer her away. “We have an appointment and we’re already late. Catch you around, Drew.”
“Yeah, call me and we’ll go out for drinks like we used to!” Drew shouted, as he watched them sprint across the street.
“Sorry about him. Sweetie,” Victor said. “There are some people who just don’t get it.”
“Get what? How to behave decently?” she replied.
He laughed. “That and the fact that I don’t like him, never did and never will.”
“Yes, he thinks we’re best buds or something. He came with the ex…his wife was friends with Catherine. I thought I was well shot of him after the divorce, but apparently not.”
“Perhaps he didn’t get the memo?” Violet suggested.
He laughed as he held open a door. “Could be. Time to get you dressed up,” he said.
“What do you call this, I’d like to know,” Violet said, holding the skirt of her dress out as if to curtsy.
“A very pretty sundress. Don’t start with me, Violet,” he said, stopping her from the protest he knew was coming. “You promised and I’m holding you to it.”
“But this is silly,” she said. "I don't need..."
Just then a tall and extremely thin elderly woman with jet black hair came out from around a velvet curtain.
“Victor! Lovely to see you again,” she said, coming toward him with both hands extended.
“Dominique, lovely as ever. How are you?” Victor said bending over the woman’s bejeweled hands and kissing each.
“Much better now you are here. We’ve missed you…and your dear momma, God rest her soul,” she replied before turning her eyes on Violet, sweeping them appraisingly over her dress. “Hello, my dear. I see you are already a fan of my designs. I thought I knew all my clients.”
Violet stared in confusion then looked to Victor for explanation.
“Yes, I came for this and a few other dresses a while back. You, I believe, were in Paris at the time. I spoke with Sarina that day,” Victor said.
"Ah, I see," Dominique said, smiling slightly.“But that won’t do."
"No, this is why I brought Violet with me for the same treat I gave my mother.”
“Excellent!” Dominique said and clapped her hands twice. Instantly, a considerably younger version of the matron came through the same curtain and smiled first at Victor then Violet. “Tereza will see to you, Miss…”
“Violet Bennett,” Victor answered. “Go on, my love, and have fun.”
“Victor,” Violet whispered, turning her back on the two women. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Play dress up.”
“What?” she said. Surely Victor had lost his marbles.
“Try on the clothes they bring you and come out to model them for me. I want to see them all,” he said, casually.
“What?!?” she shouted, shocking the women.
“Mama used to love this. I would tell her which outfits look best on her and those would be the ones she kept. She valued my opinion.”
“Of course she did,” Violet said, unenthusiastic to the last. “I’m gonna make you pay for this, Victor Romanoff!”
“They have my credit card number on file here and I have excellent credit,” he said, waving goodbye.
“That’s not what I meant!” she snapped as Tereza grabbed her arm and forcibly led her behind the magic curtain.
Violet could not have felt more uncomfortable. It was bad enough she had to undress in front of a total stranger— oddly enough, it felt much like that disturbing pineapple dream. Luckily, Tereza was nothing like Lacey Delacriox and Violet was relatively secure in the knowledge she might not produce a machete and use it to alter her clothes.
There she was surrounded by human mannequins which only made her feel even smaller than she truly was and frumpy on top of that. Then she also had to march out so Victor could survey these less than modest creations? Yes, they would look great on pencil thin mannequins, for whom they were obviously made, but Violet was not a pencil thin mannequin. Far from it! Her boobs spilled out of each outfit and her hips, curvy as they were, filled out the bottom half rather…let’s just say voluptuously.
“There is just no way his mother dressed like this!” Violet said, looking at the dress on the hanger as if it would spring up at any moment and bite her on the neck.
“Mrs. Romanoff? Oh, yes, she love dee sexy dress,” Tereza said.
“You knew her?” Violet asked, astonished to hear it.
Tereza seemed a sweet, soft-spoken girl, but she barely looked older than Sophie. She also sported a delightful accent which Violet couldn’t quite fix on any one country. Tereza tried her best to ease Violet’s self-consciousness, but her soothing prattle was more irritating for what she said, not how she said it.
“Yes, she come the last month. She buy so many clothes then she die,” Tereza said, going behind Violet and unzipping the dress.“Mizz Bennett, you are so lucky, no?”
“Am I? Why do you say that?” Violet asked, slipping out of her sundress.
“Mr. Romanoff, he is so handsome and now no mother. Is veddy good.”
“He is extremely sad about losing his mother. Anyone with a heart would be,” Violet sternly replied.
“Yes, but she no like his other wife, so maybe she no like you. Good she go.”
“I don’t see it that way at all, Tereza,” Violet said. “Victor said she and I were very alike. He thinks we would be great friends…had she lived to meet me.”
“Hmm,” Tereza said, helping her on with the new dress. “Mr. Romanoff, he is beautiful man and so rich!”
“Good looks and money isn’t everything, Tereza,” Violet said, becoming annoyed.
“No?” she said, with a sly grin. “Money makes life good, no?”
“Well…yes, if you have enough life is very good,” Violet replied.
“He is veddy handsome. He may have many women, no?”Tereza said, going behind Violet to pull up the zipper.
"Many women like him, yes," Violet admitted.
“He has, much money. May keep many women, no?”
“Keep? I…well, I don’t know about that!”
“Many rich men do,” Tereza said going back to the front and adjusting the low neckline a tad. “He choose to spend all money on one…first his mamma and den his first wife and now on you, dee next wife. Dat makes you lucky one, Mizz Bennett."
Tereza stepped back and looked at Violet smiling brightly. "Beautiful! Now we show Mr. Romanoff, no?”
With her head buzzing from all this chatter, Violet was pushed to another curtain—this one of a satin-like quality. Violet peeked around the curtain and saw a dais of sorts, raised above a row of five wingback chairs, the center one bearing Victor, a crystal tumbler half filled with an amber liquor dangling from his hand.
He brightened when he spotted her and sat up straighter, motioning her to come forward.
Her heart gave a leap and Tereza’s words echoed in her head:
He choose to spend all money on one…first his mamma and den his first wife and now on you, dee next wife. Dat makes you lucky one.
“Then color me lucky,” Violet mumbled as she slowly stepped out from behind the curtain.