Characters: Nick, Alice, mention of Cindy
Rating: PG-13 for suggestive conversation
Summary: Nick explores the attic at the farmhouse.
Notes: Canon, but won’t be featured in a chapter.
Word Count: 1,137
Nick grumbled as he hauled himself up the ladder to the attic. His mother had sent him up to find one of his great-grandfather’s old top hats, and his father was insisting on wearing a hat for the wedding ceremony that was taking place in less than a week. It certainly wasn’t how he had planned on spending the day; ever since he’d received word he’d be leaving for basic training in two weeks, he wanted to spend every second with Alice. But Alice and Cindy were busy sewing away at a wedding gown, and Nick was forbidden from the room while they worked on it. If he’d done as he should have, and told Alice how short their time left together was, his mother might have made an exception, but he couldn’t bear to see the look on her face when she learned that he’d have to leave just a week after their wedding.
He made short work of finding the top hat. You could say all the horrible things you wanted to about Matthew Bradford, but one thing you couldn’t call him was disorganized. All of his old things were either hung neatly in an old wardrobe, folded carefully and wrapped in tissue paper in a nearby trunk, or carefully boxed up on a set of shelves. It was on those shelves that Nick found the top hat. It was still as good as new and only slightly dusty, but it definitely smelled as if it had been sitting in an attic for many years.
“I’m sure Mama has a way to fix that,” he muttered to himself, putting the hat, still in its box by the ladder. He was about to climb down, but he turned away from the opening. He could still hear the whirl of the sewing machine, and he knew he’d be shooed off on some other errand as soon as he produced the hat. Instead, he began exploring the attic, something he hadn’t done since he was a boy.
He began to open trunks at random, and riffle through their contents. Much of what he found he’d seen before, either through his explorations or actually seeing it in use by his grandparents or parents. Further back, near to where he’d found the top hat, he opened another old wardrobe that he’d never searched before. It was full of brightly colored dresses, in fine fabrics. Clearly, this was where Jan’s old things had ended up. The empty space in what appeared to be the formal gowns confirmed his suspicions; that space must have held the wedding gown that the ladies downstairs were currently pilfering of its lace and beading.
Bored, and curious about the woman that his father and grandfather had so despised, he rummaged further into the wardrobe. He found gloves by the dozen, shiny button boots with hardly a scuff mark on them, and a strange looking contraption that resembled a small bird cage. He held it up, trying to figure out what it was, but stumped, it put it down and continued to poke around in the wardrobe.
Rummaging further, he discovered an hourglass-shaped item that had eyelets threaded with a ribbon-like fabric. It looked stiff, and upon further assessment he found that it was, as there was some sort of bracing sewn into the fabric. It was plainer than anything else into the wardrobe, which struck Nick as odd considering how showy the rest of the items in the wardrobe were.
“What are you doing?”
The voice startled Nick, and he quickly shoved the questionable item back into the wardrobe before turning around to see Alice standing near the opening, her arms crossed and her eyebrows raised.
“Nothing,” he replied quickly, shaking his head.
He could tell from her expression that she didn’t believe him. He squirmed slightly under her intense gaze, and after what seemed like a very long time he let his shoulders drop.
“I knew that Mama would send me off on some other errand after I brought her the hat, so I decided to poke around here up.”
Alice shook her head. “She has been doing her best to keep us apart as of late. I’ve tried to tell her it’s not bad luck for us to see each other now.”
“Mama’s just focusing on the wedding so she can block out the fact that I’ll be leaving soon.”
“Do you know when yet?” she asked, her voice shaking ever so slightly.
He wanted to tell her, but he shook his head instead.
“So, what treasures did you find?” she asked, gently pushing him aside and moving towards the open wardrobe.
“Oh, nothing much,” he stammered.
Alice picked up the cage-like item, and laughed softly. “I never thought I’d see one of these in person.” She took the two strips of fabric and them around her waist, the cage sitting at her lower back. “A bustle! How did women sit while wearing these?”
“So that’s what that is,” he muttered.
She shot him a look. “I suppose you though it was a bird cage. No, it was fashionable years ago, during your great-grandmother’s time. They, and corsets, gave the dresses the ladies wore the proper shape. I, for one, am thankful that we don’t have to wear such things anymore. Being restricted like that? Can you imagine?”
Nick shook his head.
“Of course you can’t. Men don’t have to suffer such uncomfortable undergarments for the sake of fashion.”
Nick blushed at Alice’s mention of “undergarments,” and she snickered as she untied the bustle and returned it to the wardrobe. As she went to close the door, the corset fell out, and she laughed.
“Should I be worried about you checking out unmentionables?”
“I didn’t even know what they were!” he half shouted, throwing his hands up in exasperation.
“Sweetheart, I was just teasing you a little,” she said, reaching up to smooth his hair. “I didn’t mean to make you mad.”
“I know,” he sighed, leaning into her touch. “And I really couldn’t figure out what they were.”
Alice picked the corset up off the floor, and held it against her. “Got a better idea now?” she taunted.
Nick’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “That’s…quite…the…picture,” he stammered. “But, I can understand why it would be uncomfortable. I understand why you’re glad you don’t have to wear one.” He noted that the corset didn’t reach Alice’s sides, and Alice was tiny.
Smirking, Alice sashayed towards Nick. “I would think you’d be glad that we don’t wear these any more either.”
“Why’s that?” he asked cautiously.
“Can you imagine having to get me out of this thing on our wedding night?”
Nick gaped at her words, as she continued to smirk as she tossed the corset back into the wardrobe and closed it.