Happy Tu B’Shvat, to those of you who celebrate!
This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples also comes from Chapter 38 of The Twelfth Time. While at Macy’s looking for fashionable new clothes, Lyuba’s next-youngest stepsister Natalya sees the cute guy she’s got a crush on, but is very upset to see another woman with him. It becomes clear in the next chapter who exactly both of these people are. (They’ve already been introduced as characters, but since they’ve only arrived in America recently, the others don’t yet realize who the woman is and what the young man is to her.)
Friday after work, Lyuba meets Katrin, Véra, and Natálya in front of Macy’s. As they go through the doors, Lyuba reaches back as she’s done several times since Wednesday, and belatedly realizes as always that there’s no more hair there. She’s grown so used to having long hair that she now feels as though she’s got phantom locks, the way many amputees have phantom limbs.
“There he is,” Natálya whispers as they’re browsing cloche hats. “The cute guy I saw on my way out of the movies recently.”
Véra takes him in. “He is pretty cute, and he looks around your age. Do you think he’ll be the type to not mind a girl asking him out?”
“Better yet, do you think he’ll mind you’re not a born American?” Lyuba asks.
“He looks Russian,” Natálya says. “I could be wrong, but he has very Slavic features. If he’s not Russian, he must at least have Polish, Czech, or Ukrainian heritage.”
The boy looks over at Natálya and smiles. Natálya is about to smile back when she sees an older woman coming over to him. Her face falls and she turns in the other direction.
“Oh, come on,” Lyuba says. “Look how much older that woman is. It’s probably his aunt, or maybe a much-older sister. You’ve got sisters who are more than ten years your senior.”
Véra turns back around and looks at the woman. She frowns slightly, trying to place where she might have seen her before.
“Natásha, do you recognize that woman?” she whispers. “She looks so familiar, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where we’ve met. Perhaps she was in one of the orphanages?”
Natálya gives her a once-over, trying not to look at the boy. “I don’t recognize her. Let’s go to the clothing department to get away from them. I can always find another potential boyfriend, now that I’m living on my own and have a modern look.”
“But we just got here,” Katrin protests. “Don’t let someone else ruin our fun. You can get plenty of beaux with all the hats you’re going to buy. Though I still think that’s just a sister or aunt. Look how much older she looks. Normal men don’t court much-older women, at least not when they’re that young. I’m sure he’s bought into society’s message that it’s obscene for a woman to be one second older than a man.”
Lyuba tries on all the hats that appeal to her, ignoring the ones that look like they were intended for old grandmothers and old maids. She particularly likes the ones with flowers, lace, and bright colors. Finally, her hair is short enough to accommodate a cloche hat, like a proper modern woman. She also selects a few other types of hats, not wanting to only have cloche hats in her wardrobe. Good fashion is all about diversity, not wearing the exact same styles.
The clothing section proves even more exciting. Lyuba feels like a whole new woman as she tries on skirts brushing her knees and blouses exposing her elbows. Only little girls still wear such long skirts and sleeves, and wear their hair long. She knows she looks a bit older than just twenty-nine because of all she’s lived through, but at least she doesn’t look like an old grandmother. With the new haircut and the modern clothes, she feels about ten years coming off of her. The only things she draws the line at are makeup and high heels. She never liked painting her face, and thinks high heels are just a modern Western form of Chinese foot-binding.
“Wait’ll your co-workers see you tomorrow!” Véra says as they leave Macy’s loaded down with bags and boxes. “And Iván is going to be so shocked when he sees you again in July!”
“He might even think it’s the wrong woman!” Natálya says.
“He can go on and be as shocked as he wants,” Lyuba says as she opens the car door. “I can’t very well grow all that stupid hair back overnight, nor will I go back to wearing those old-world clothes he liked me to wear. He should be glad at least I don’t paint my face and nails, and that I didn’t crop my hair.”
“You should start wearing more perfume too,” Katrin says. “It’s nice to smell nice as well as look nice. You’ve already got enough jewelry, so we won’t need to make another shopping trip for that.”
“And I don’t feel a bit silly for looking like this when I’m a mother of soon to be five children. Who says only young, single girls can have bobbed hair and flapper clothes? Those are the same kinds of people who think women can only be Madonnas or whores. I’m glad I finally found a middle ground.”