I didn’t want to sound too interested in her because I was afraid of my sister thinking I was desperate and of my brother thinking I was seriously considering his choice and otherwise allowing him to pat himself on the back one more time. So I organized my questions about her, distanced them through the dinner’s conversations to quench any suspicions.
I asked for her full name right off, to which Kimberly replied while setting down her drink, “I think her real name is Scarlett Rosamund.”
I winced as I turned to Lewis who sat across from me in the dimming light of the restaurant. “That’s rather harsh, don’t you think?” I asked.
“Or is it Rosamund Scarlett…” Kimberly continued, picking up her drink again and looking at the ceiling as if the answer was up there. She shook her head finally and said, “Either way, she’s a King-Fontaine.”
“Should I know that name?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t think so, they’re not from here.”
I could have asked where she did come from or about the size of her family, but I didn’t. I resigned to examining my sister’s outfit while Alice inquired of her latest adventure.
Kimberly was wearing slender black pants that were too short with small flat shoes and on top she had a white sweater with ruffles all down the front. “This is how the women in Paris dress,” she said while spinning 360 degrees before we sat down at our table. I admired the way she kept her hair free of frizz and tamed her natural waves. I wished that were the way Rosie King-Fontaine, if that was her real name, would have kept her hair and clothes.
It was getting dark outside and the yellow lights on the walls by the mantle sent everything in the room aglow. Kimberly was talking about Potter’s School for Girls when I tried to fit in my next question about Rosie. My sister sent the table into laughter when finishing her anecdote with, “That’s why all the boys in Mallory thought it was a finishing school.”
“Isn’t it?” I asked.
“Hardly. This is the twenty-first century, Marty.”
“They teach girls how to cook and sew and clean.”
Kimberly nodded, obviously offended by the comparison and said, “And Latin and French and German and how to decode Milton while solving quadratics and building from the periodic table.”
I began to wonder if I had judged Potter Girls, for that was what we all called them here, entirely wrong. Kimberly went to Potter’s School and she turned out fine, not cold and unapproachable like I had labeled the gaggle of girls that filed from the dorm every night.
“And you met Rosie there?” I asked, coughing after, hoping that if they didn’t hear me they’d just skip to another topic.
Kimberly nodded. “Yes, she was two years younger than me.”
“You were friends then?”
“We said hi and bye. She was quiet and I was quiet; never one for socializing until I was done with that school.”
Kimberly may have outgrown her shyness and severity but Rosie, for what I could tell, hadn’t yet.
“I don’t know where she was before she came to Windsor but I know why she did,” Kimberly added. “Her father had a stroke and the consequences on his health were grave. They had to buy a house to accommodate his needs and the big house on Coach Street is hers. That’s all the girls ever told me about her.”
“So she does go to Windsor?”
Lewis, Alice and Kimberly looked at me as if I should have been asking about something else that Kimberly had said and I looked, puzzled at each of them, until Kimberly said, “I don’t know. I don’t go to Windsor.”
Lewis cleared his throat on purpose and said, “Now that you’re back in town you should invite her out, Kim.”
“And let her know about your scheme,” I interjected immediately, disgusted by the idea. “Not a chance!”
“Kim wouldn’t say anything, would you, Kim?”
“Of course not! It’d be far too embarrassing anyway.”
“See what she’s like,” Lewis said. “You’d be a very positive influence. Alice should go too.”
I frowned as I surveyed them all making plans and although I despised the idea more than thoroughly, I couldn’t help being intrigued to find out more about Rosie’s life and Kimberly, if anybody, would be the best influence on her.
It seemed, after my sister told me her name, I saw Rosie King-Fontaine everywhere; I passed her on campus sidewalks, coming through doors and even waiting in hallways. I stared at her each and every time waiting to see if she would stare back. She never did. She never seemed to look up once. This wasn’t working; this waiting, in which I didn’t know what for, or the inaction I wasn’t taking, though I didn’t know how to act if I had the guts.
I had to wait to find out if Kimberly had spoken with her because Kimberly didn’t show up to lunch at the Den. Alice didn’t either and when I asked of her whereabouts, Lewis told me she was with our sister.
“Kimberly did want to see you though. Something of some grave importance I’m sure,” Lewis mentioned, forgetting to veil his sarcasm as we sat at a small table outside on the terrace where men were smoking expensive cigars in expensive suits.
I began to worry that Kimberly was with Rosie that very minute and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else Lewis said. I was imagining the worst; Kimberly in close proximity with Rosie and discussing Lewis’ plan and roaring in laughter over how stupid it was.
“If I call Alice at the house—they could still be at the house—where should I tell Kim to meet you?” Lewis asked.
I was staring into Lewis’ chest and studying his upper half as the bistro set concealed his lower half. He was wearing a suit, though it wasn’t as heathery as most of his others were; it was charcoal, and underneath was a black shirt—the whole ensemble was from his favorite store on Queen Street. “Marty,” he said, trying to get my attention.
I looked down at my wool cardigan and white Henley, saying, “Donahue’s.”
Donahue’s sounded like some Irish pub but the only good pub around that Windsor kids went to was the Iron Duke. Donahue’s was a men’s boutique with dark furnishings and a vast selection of tailor-made options. It was all Italy-imported goods, from their leather to their cashmere and everyone who worked there was white-haired and eighty. My father took Lewis there for the first time for his elementary school graduation suit. Kent waited on us and Kent had ever since, of course favoring us more whenever Kimberly was present like everyone does. “Such expensive taste,” Kent always said of her.
I met Kimberly there and she greeted me like any sister would and neglected to mention where she was or who she was with, so I figured anything she was about to tell me during our shopping excursion wasn’t going to be so gravely important as Lewis had figured.
“Buongiorno,” she happily saluted Salvatore who always manned the cash counter. He nodded toward her, smiling graciously and welcoming us in.
Kent walked in next, good and wholesome Scottish Kent who was always impeccably dressed. “Miss Wahlton,” he said. “Welcome, welcome. Ah, Mr. Wahlton, looking for something new?” I nodded casually as I scanned the shelved and hug garments on mannequins and in display windows. “Something new for church perhaps?”
“Yes,” Kimberly answered for me. “Maybe,” she corrected. “We’ll look first and ask for you when he’s decided.” Kent bowed his head slightly and smiled politely, leaving us alone as we were the only ones inside the store.
Kimberly examined folds of English tartans, fondled merino wools and clung to Italian leathers as we circled about the wall displays and table tops. “So. Guess who Alice and I ran into during lunch?” she began.
I stopped in my turning, suddenly terrified of her sentence’s end. “Please say Mum,” I begged.
She smiled. “Rosie from Potter’s; the girl Lewis is so set on me befriending.”
She didn’t need to be so specific. I knew exactly who she was talking about. Rosamund Scarlett King-Fontaine was the only name I had been fixated on for the last week when I should have been studying names like Locke, Hume or Descrates.
“Oh?” I said, concealing my eagerness to unlock every detail down to the way she wore her hair.
“Yes, it was completely on accident too, because I had planned to come up with some sort of way to meet with her.”
“How did you see her?”
“Alice and I were eating at the Tea Shoppe and she was purchasing something to go. I just shouted out her name and we got to talking. She remembered me rather well too and all that good stuff. I told her of my going to Europe and I asked about her naturally. Oh, Marty, you have to get this tie,” she exclaimed, pointing to a navy and maroon striped one inside the table’s glass top.
“What does she do?” I asked swiftly, not distracted by Kimberly’s subject change or impressed with her finding.
“She studies history at Windsor.
“History? What’s one to do with that?”
Kimberly turned and gave me a look. “Well, what is one to do with a philosophy major?” I blinked and stared into space, thinking on her question, but I decided to overlook it for now, seeing as the topic was Rosie King-Fontaine and not me. “I told her that I had to see her again and it wasn’t one of those invitations that I usually to say to other girls I haven’t seen in months because I don’t really intend to see them at all—it was real.”
“What did she say? Did she like you enough?”
“I think so since she agreed to watch the rugby game tomorrow.”
“Rugby? On campus?”
“Mm hmm, Alice is coming too.”
“Did she like Alice?”
Kimberly frowned at my anxious tone. “They barely spoke.”
“But everyone likes Alice.”
My sister laughed. “I’m sure she did like Alice just fine.” Kimberly moved to a rack of jackets and pulled one out. “Now, try this.” She handed me something of grey herringbone and shoved me toward the fitting room. When I came out, Kent was there holding the tie Kimberly had spotted earlier.
I looked down at the jacket on my body and tugged at it a bit, stretching and flexing my arms, feeling the fit of it. “You look great!” Kimberly said.
I spun to face the mirror. “It’s part of the fall collection, just imported,” Kent informed me, standing behind me with a measuring tape draped around his neck.
I looked down at the three-digit price on the tag and then at my reflection again. “Also, the new messenger bag you saw in the catalogue is in,” Kent continued. “It comes in the burnt brown like Kimberly suggested.”
I nodded and turned to face them both. “I’ll take it.”
“And the satchel as well?” Kent asked.
I looked at the mirror again and nodded slowly. “And the tie.”
Returns next Tuesday
If you missed any of the episodes, catch up in the “Stories” tab in the main menu
Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page so you’ll never miss a story!