Enjoy an Excerpt from To Be a Debutante

To Be a DebutanteLondon

March 1833

Lady Emily Black liked presents.

It wasn’t that she always expected to receive presents nor did she expect everyone to bring her presents when calling on her.  It was just comforting to think about presents and what might be forthcoming.

Like the anticipation on a rainy day.  There were so many possibilities when one was confined to an indoor space.  One never knew what one might embark upon.  Given a rainy day, Emily would most likely be found in the sewing room, patterns splashed across the sofas, fabrics spilling to the floor, her nose near touching the fashion plates of the latest edition of La Belle Assemblee.  She could have an entire season’s wardrobe designed in the space of one drizzly afternoon.

As she contemplated the pencils in E.B. Worths on Marlborough, her eyes didn’t see plain, black stubs of charcoal.  She saw designs springing from their tips to radiate across the blank page of her sketchbook, a waterfall of fashion from a single nub.

Yes, Emily Black very much liked presents, and these pencils would do just nicely.

“Papa,” she said then, spinning about and holding the charcoals aloft.  “I think I should like these.”

Her father did not seem to have heard her as he stared out the front window of the shop.  The light fell across him in such a way as to accent his finely tailored coat of dark cloth and trousers cut just right along the thigh and knee.  There were things about her father Emily found lacking, especially his inability to keep his gray-smattered dark hair in neat fashion, but his choice of tailor was not something with which she could find fault.

“Papa,” she said, louder this time with quite a lot of girth as her mother would say.  “Papa, I said I would like these charcoals.”

Still nothing.

After presents, the second thing Emily Black liked most was attention.  She found the blood in her temples pounded a little harder when someone denied her the attention she wished.  Right now, her papa was guilty of such a thing, which was rather unusual.  She would expect such behavior from Jane, her older cousin, and certainly from her brothers, Ashley and Michael.  She had the pleasure of her younger sister’s complete and total attention when she was present, but Emily feared that was more out of some sort of worship phase the child was going through.

Emily softly patted the cascading folds of her skirt, the fabric just the right shade of pink to complement her untarnished skin, and a soft, knowing smile came to her lips.  Madeline had every reason to adore her.  The child had shown outstanding astuteness in the choosing of a proper role model for such a thing.  As the eldest daughter of the Duke of Lofton, Emily was worthy of such a position.

What she was not worthy of was her father’s current state of inattention, and Emily’s tolerance wore thin.

“Papa,” she said again, her teeth nearly scraping with her impatience.  “Papa, I—”

“Just a moment,” her father said, raising a single hand in her direction.

Her blood went from pounding to rampaging.

If Emily felt immense joy at the prospect of presents, she felt an equally intense but entirely opposite emotion about being ignored.  Anger flared inside her.  For but a moment, her nostrils flared, her mouth tightened, and her fingers curled into fists.  However, such gestures wreak havoc on fair and untouched skin, so with a breath, she purposefully released the tension in her body.

Shaking her head, she approached her father standing at the front window of the shop.  Mother was always saying how her father did not always understand the proper handling of womanly issues, and this was apparently one of those situations.  She assumed an expression of tender understanding, not unlike the one she used on simpletons, like servants and the sons of viscounts or gad, barons.

“Papa,” she said once more, her tone dripping with what others might term condescension but Emily liked to think of as helpful and necessary correction of one’s behavior.  “You seem not to understand the importance-“

“Worth,” her father said, his tone gruff and forthright, the way it sometimes sounded when Uncle Nathan would burst into their house at whatever hour of the night, ruthlessly rousing her from her needed rest.

Something was amiss, and it was not her father’s slip in appropriate behavior.

Her father strode past her to the back of the shop where the proprietor stood, the Mr. Worth from which the name of the store was derived.

“Worth, have you an errand boy?  Anyone who could deliver a note for me?”

Emily did not like this line of questioning whatsoever.  Her father had brought her here to shop, and it was to her his attention was due.  Why was he asking about errand boys?  She put fisted hands to her hips in the manner her mother had taught her.  One’s fragile skin must be sacrificed for the good of straightening men from their misdeeds, such as not paying adequate attention to Lady Emily Black.

“Papa, I demand to know what is going on.”


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