Queen of the Garden of Girls, Part 16

(Chapter 7 continued)

It was so fast that Elaina had to stifle another gasp as her feet suddenly kicked into gear. Her heart was thudding and her stomach was doing uncomfortable loops. She hadn’t expected to be alone in Rose’s presence so soon. What was it that Robert had to do?

Rose walked quickly. She faced forward, trusting Elaina to scurry after her. The only parts of her that seemed to actually move were her legs and feet. Her neck and torso didn’t even bend a millimeter as they descended a staircase.

They stopped abruptly at a mahogany door. Without ceremony, or even acknowledging Elaina’s presence, she opened the door and walked in.

Elaina didn’t know what awaited her once she stepped into the room, but she knew she could only delay the inevitable only so long. Like Mary-Grace, Rose clearly did not like being kept waiting. So she took a deep, fortifying breath, and stepped forward.

It wasn’t a large room, so Elaina instantly felt claustrophobic despite the bright, almost harsh, lighting. The drapes were tightly drawn across the only window, long bolts of colorful fabric leaning against it. A wide stool sat in the middle of the room, beneath the crystal chandelier that shone brightly, filling every corner with it’s commanding light. Elaina couldn’t tell if it was tile or carpet under her feet; the floor was covered in unraveling bolts of colorful and subdued fabrics, taffeta, lace, and an assortment of ribbons. The one thing that surprised her was the complete dearth of prints. Everything, even the ribbons, were monochrome.

“I dislike prints,” Rose said briskly and matter-of-factly. “They’re too distracting. Everything you wear will be simple and elegant. Now step up. Clarice will take your measurements now.”

Nodding while her eyes began to glaze over, Elaina stepped up onto the stool. A young woman, just a few years older than  her, stepped close, quickly whipping a narrow measuring tape around her body. She murmured numbers to herself, but didn’t note any down. Elaina found herself staring at the young woman’s shiny cap of purple hair, wondering if this was somehow related to one of Rose’s tests. Her heart hammered as memories of standing just like this before Mary-Grace and her seamstress of the week pranced uninvited through her head.

Rose stood in front of Elaina, arms crossed, face emotionless. She merely watched, her eyes flickering from Elaina to Clarice. Elaina fought the urge to squirm under the woman’s impassive gaze, not knowing if she was pleased or not. It wasn’t a feeling she enjoyed. It reminded her too much of Mary-Grace, though Rose was much quieter compared to the other woman who used to rail at her seamstresses about everything.

A sudden jab near her chest made her gasp. Her eyes met those of the seamstress’s. There was kindness there, but the rest of her face was clearly professional.

“You must remember to breathe so I can take that into account,” Clarice said softly.

Elaina felt her cheeks and neck warm and fought the urge to blush. She began to take steady deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself, but it only drew glares from Clarice.

“Not like that,” the seamstress admonished. “Naturally, Elaina. Just breathe as you normally do, otherwise this bodice will be too tight.”

Catch up on the story here.

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