Holding me. Supporting me.
All around me.
He could break me. He could tear me apart and bury me. But I feel safe. I am safe here in his arms. I know he’ll never hurt me.
Disappointment hit Elsie as Hildreth set her down.
He smiled at her. “Well, Mrs. Mayhew. Here we are.”
“Yes. Hildreth, unbutton my dress.”
He chuckled giddily. “Just like that?”
He walked behind her, “hmm. I guess we need to get all of this veil out of the way. Let’s see. How to go about it?”
“Just pull it off.”
He laughed. “ahh. I don’t think that’ll work. There’s way too many pins in this thing. Just hold still, Els.”
She closed her eyes and focused on breathing calm steady breaths as Hildreth removed the pins.
One at a time.
“You’re doing this on purpose to frustrate me.” she said.
“Hm? No, I’m just…just…darn. How many you got on this thing? Fifty-five? Sixty-nine?”
Elsie spread her hands along the sides of her legs.
Just keep breathing. Don’t scream. Don’t explode. Don’t die. Just breathe.
“One, little two, little three, little piiiins, four, little five, little six, little piiiins.”
She slowly clenched and unclenched her hands.
“Seven, little eight, little nine, little piiins, TEN! little…uhh…pinion? boys? Well, that sounded wrong.” He removed the veil. “But! That doesn’t matter because woo!” He crumpled the veil into a ball and tossed it aside. “We got that number all removed. Now!” He rubbed his hands together. “For the fun part.”
She pulled her hair out of his way.
“Buttons. Buttons. Buttons. So many buttons. Hmm hmm hmm.” Hildreth hummed happily to himself. His hands were surprisingly steady as he unfastened the buttons trailing down her back.
Maybe he’d left his earlier nervousness in the car like a pair of muddy boots that couldn’t come into the house. Or maybe he’d transferred all of that nervous energy into something more playful.
Elsie stiffened as his fingers grazed her skin.
He stopped at the midway point. “What’s wrong, Els?’
She shook her head. “Keep going.”
His hands did not obey.
“Hildreth. Keep going.”
“I’d love to, baby, but there is something we need to do first.”
“I don’t care. Just keep going.”
She heard him take a couple of steps back and she nearly screamed swears. “Hildreth Mayhew. If you don’t—”
“Here’s the thing, Els. If I get started in full earnest, you can bet someone’s going to come waltzing into the house. I mean, the door’s open and unlocked.”
She took a long, deep breath and slowly exhaled. “I know.”
“We’ll need to lock all of the windows and doors, hide all of the phones—-”
Elsie resisted the urge to pummel him.
“Or we could be wild and crazy and take our chances.”
“Hildreth, if you keep standing there talking….” Her voice trailed off as she remembered the black box in her closet. “Okay. Fine. We’ll do security detail. I’ll let you take care of this floor and the basement. I’ll do the upstairs.”
He shrugged. “I could do the upstairs if you—-”
“NO. And don’t you dare waste time with asking why. Just go. Let’s get this done.”
“hmm hmm hmm. Such fired up hormones.” He kissed her. “But like you said, let’s get this done.”
“Before you go, unbutton me a little further.”
“Well. If you’re going to insist.”
“I’m not insisting. I’m demanding.”
“Ooo. I tremble and obey at your demands.” Hildreth teased as he went back to work on her buttons.