Up until this point in the tour, Ella listened quietly occasionally offering a nod or smile of agreement to something Dan said. Caitlin noticed when Ella’s almond colored eyes came alive when she spoke. “I know you boys have something more masculine that watching us preen like peacocks.”
“You mean you don’t have any clothes in there to make the boys feel at home too?”
Familiar with Dan’s jesting she said, “Well, if you want to wear one of Aunt Peggy’s hats I suppose we could find one in your size.”
The boys slowly backed away from the conversation as though the demure woman standing in front of them had powers of persuasion they didn’t want to taste. Dan threw back his head and released a hearty laugh. “Just to get you wondering, I may take you up on the offer.”
Ella’s mouth fell open in surprise. Dan turned to the boys. “Let’s get out of here before a situation we’d all regret happens.” His voice trailed off with their descent down the hall. “I’m sure you’re familiar with the farm, but I’ll show you around.”
When she heard their footsteps reach the stairs, Ella removed a necklace with a key she was wearing. Using it to open the lock securing a black leather travel trunk she began chatting with the girls like they’d been together for a lifetime. “About a year ago a woman and her husband came through with these trunks full of dresses. A surprise snowstorm blew through and they stayed with us for a couple days. To repay our kindness she left five of these trunks behind. I tried telling her it was too much, but she insisted saying we might have visitors who could make use of them.” She paused and smiled at something she didn’t speak aloud. “Turns out she was right about that and a couple other things too.”
Caitlin immediately recognized the midnight blue trunk below the one Ella was opening. The key to it was in the front pocket of her backpack. Remembering what Dan said about withholding information about the future she held her tongue, which increased her eagerness to see what it held.
The brass hinges creaked, adding effect to Ella’s words. “These used to be my dresses when I was your age.” Her necklace held the key for the trunk. Kneeling beside the trunk she said, “I was lucky. Most people have to reuse the fabric to make another dress or pass the dress on to a younger sibling. My parents owned a general store, so we were able to have newer things.”
With the case fully open, the air around them changed from frustration at having to change to awe. The scent of roses reached Caitlin’s nose and she smiled in delight. “I thought for sure we were going to walk around and smell like moth balls. I’m glad I was wrong.”
The dresses folded carefully to prevent wrinkles drew the girls closer to the trunk. Marjorie reached to touch one of the dresses. Thinking better of it, she withdrew her hand.
“Oh go ahead and touch it,” Ella held the dress up for Marjorie. “It’s doing me nor it any good sitting in a trunk, waiting to be worn.”
“Really?” Marjorie accepted the dress and slowly opened it. With each unfold, the dress lengthened to show a tea length dress. Marjorie frowned at her red Converse All Stars. “These don’t match the dress.”
“Oh that’s no worry.” Ella pulled out another dress with a white and red flower calico pattern. “You’ll look like the past and the present met to have a party.”
Marjorie’s shoulders relaxed. Her breathy voice told them she was already somewhere else in her mind imagining herself in the dress. “Thank you.”
One by one, Ella pulled out dresses and compared the dress in size and color to the girls. Andrea was so pleased with the green calico dress she marveled, “How did you know green was my favorite color?” Ella looked questionably at Andrea’s leggings. “Most girls don’t wear green underwear.”
A simultaneous burst of laughter rang out throughout the room. Andrea caught up in the mirth of the moment found it easy to laugh at Ella and Dan’s interpretation of her attire.
“We don’t have much time, but I think we should have a little fashion show.” Ella said. “Each of you put on a dress.” She pulled out a box of beads and ribbons. “And you can use these to fancy them up.”
Marjorie rolled her eyes behind Ella’s back. To her surprise Caitlin and Andrea glared at her with such disgust, she reconsidered her position on the matter and mustered some enthusiasm. Showing best fake smile she said, “It could be fun.”
Selene sided up to Ella “Uhm, can we talk in private. There’s something I want to ask you but not in front of all the girls.”
“Sure honey.” Ella and Selene went to the next room giving the girls time to sort through the jewelry.
Caitlin tried on a pair of clip on rhinestone earring with a matching lace cut rhinestone necklace. “This is my mother’s favorite piece of jewelry. She never lets me wear it.” She went to the mirror to admire the jewelry.
“Do you want to explain what that was about, back there?” Marjorie snapped.
Caitlin didn’t hide her impatience. “Remember what Dan said about not telling him too much about the future.”
“And?” Marjorie drew out the word.
Before Caitlin had a chance to respond, Ella returned to the room. “Oh you will love what she has in mind.” She sat on the edge of the bed. Go to the other room with what you want to try and I’ll wait here for you to show me.”
“Do you mind if I sit and watch with you.” Marjorie sat before Ella had time to agree or disagree. She put on her best smile. “I already like what you’ve chosen for me.”
“If that’s what you want to do, alright.” Ella agreed.
One by one, the girls appeared in the room wearing different dresses and pieces of jewelry. Some of the dresses meant for parties were made of sheer fabric and lace. Each dress came with a pair of matching gloves. Other dresses designed for day-to-day wear had sturdier fabrics and fancy stitching became the embellishments thus eliminating the need for jewelry. Every time Angelica entered the room, she curtsied and commented that she wanted to draw a picture of Marjorie in the dress so she could recreate it when they returned home.
Marjorie warmed to the dresses when she saw they weren’t as boring as she imagined in her mind. She asked Ella, “When is Selene coming with her dress?”
Ella pat her hand. “Any minute now. She got something a little more specialized.”
“Are you ready to have your mind blown?” Selene called through the door.
All the girls sat on the edge of the bed awaiting her entrance. Andrea, Caitlin, and Angelica beat their hands on the floor creating a dramatic drum roll and stopped when Selene entered the room.
Marjorie took in the image of her sister and could only exclaim, “Wow!”
“That is so you.” Angelica oohed.
Marjorie alternated glances between Selene and Ella. To Selene she projected awe. To Ella her eyes said something to the effect of you didn’t tell us we had more options than what was in the drunk.
Selene wore a corset style dress with a long leather vest. A wide leather belt buckled at her waist keeping her features slim, and tied the different pieces of the outfit together. The front of the dress ended at her knees revealing her jeans tucked into her boots. “This is like something from the old west!” Selene twirled around in the clothes Ella provided her. “All’s I need is a gun, and nobody will mess with me.”
Ella let out a hoot of laughter. “That one’s spunky isn’t she.”
Selene’s smile softened at being called out for her true nature.
“You could say something like that.” Marjorie answered.
After seeing their reactions to Selene’s outfit, Ella guessed the girls preferred less dainty clothing. “Don’t get me wrong,” Marjorie said, “It’s not like we don’t like the dresses. It’s just that they seem more suited for a party, than for wandering around the countryside.”
Ella pulled out another trunk of clothing. For the next hour, the girls mixed and matched pieces to create outfits in a similar style of what Selene modeled. “Thank you for doing this Ella,” Caitlin hugged her. “We don’t get to do much without the boys. This is nice.” The other girls nodded their agreement.
“Oh you won’t have those kinds of problems here,” Ella said. “We tend to keep the boys and girls separated around here.”
The girls stunned silent simply responded by saying, “Oh,” and went back to the business of creating the perfect outfit.