I thought it would be fun to share one of my favorite scenes from my second book, Blue Moon, with you. It is the budding romantic scene between an unlikely pair. The year is 1895 and Harold (a one time jilted groom, a shy genius, and a man with little common sense or social skills) must make a purchase at a store he’s never been in before. He finishes his objective but gets something he didn’t bargain for in return . . .
This was the third time Harold had passed by.
The storekeeper must wonder what on earth I’m doing.
He gazed at the store window and saw his tall, thin reflection staring back at him. There he was with his shaggy hair, beak nose, and crooked glasses. Harold sighed. He tried to force himself to open the door, but he just couldn’t do it. It had been years since he’s been inside a lady’s shop.
Every time he went to grab the handle, he inevitably thought of how inadequate he was at making a choice. He was sure that he would stand in the shop like a mystified flummox and gape about wondering what to pick. He considered himself an intelligent man, but where woman’s fashion was concerned he was a flaming idiot.
Harold was startled out of his self-degradation as a woman opened the shop door. The little bell on the door tinkled as she smiled at him. Lovely, was the first word that came to mind when he saw her. He wasn’t one to ogle beautiful women, but this one, with her swoop of dark hair over her fine brow and wide hazel eyes made him take notice.
He tried to focus his mind on his mission and not on the woman in front of him. He was here to get his sister a birthday gift.
“Good morning, sir. Is there any way in which I may be of service?” The woman smiled brighter, if that was possible, and Harold stared at her with wide fish eyes.
“Have you come to purchase a gift by chance?”
Harold simply nodded. He worked on shaking off his bewildered state.
“Well, come this way and something you see in the shop may spark your interest.”
She held the door open for him, and he obeyed and entered. “A stylish pair of gloves, perhaps?” She highlighted a shelving unit with ladies gloves fanned out in a circle in an array of tans, white, blacks, and grays. Harold shook his head.
She moved on. Harold noticed a determined look on her face. Bless her heart, she was patient and kind with him.
“A parasol? They are just the thing to block out the hot rays of the sun. Any lady I know would consider herself blessed to acquire one of these lace eyelet models.”
Harold found his voice this time. “I think not,” he growled out.
“Well, we are making progress. No parasols.” She moved over to the open shelves on the wall which housed a fashionable ensemble of hats of all sorts in various degrees of adornment. “Every woman needs a good hat.” She looked at him with hope, but Harold waffled.
Should I? Is that what Bridget would like? He let out a small groan. Go with it man, he told himself.
“Yes.” Harold croaked out.
“Ah, ha! We have found what you desire. Now we must narrow down the choices.” She smiled a charming flash of teeth.
Harold said nothing and inwardly prayed, Lord, help me.
“Let’s narrow down a color, and then we can go from there.” With cheer, the sale’s clerk motioned for him to step up to the counter.
Harold came and scanned through the pages of the swatch book she put in front of him. He didn’t know what to get. He tried to think of a color that his sister wore often, but he could not conger anything up. He looked helplessly at her.
She took a deep breath. “Maybe we should go with something neutral,” she proposed.
Harold liked that idea and voiced it. “That sounds fine.”
“Here I have been so remiss. I should have introduced myself. I am Miss Maude Dubois.” She held out a thin but sturdy hand and flashed another winning smile at him.
Harold simply looked at her hand as if it was a dead fish.
“Har . . . Harold, Mr. Harold Montreaux.” Finally, he touched her hand with the briefest of clasps.
“Nice to meet you Mr. Montreaux.”
“Likewise.” Harold was amazed he got that out.
“Now that we know each other, it will be easier to work together. Could you tell me who it is you are purchasing a hat for?”
Harold was beginning to relax. “That would be my sister Bridgett.”
“How nice. Bridgett has a thoughtful brother then.” She actually winked at him.
Harold blushed at her compliment.
Her tone turned professional. “Now, I recommend a straw hat base. One can’t go wrong with that.”
She walked over and plucked a tight woven straw hat off the display.
“If we are sticking with neutrals, let’s add a taupe and lace silk band, a few feathers in cream, a sprig of white berries, and some silk rosettes to match the band.”
Harold watched Miss Dubois move around the store and grab the articles of millinery she needed. She twisted and turned the materials this way and that with her skilled fingers and crafted the trimmings for the hat.
He studied the woman before him. She was so utterly opposite of him in just about every respect. She was talkative; he felt himself tongue tied, at least verbally. She was decisive; he found himself dumbfounded when it came to making a choice. She was handsome; he considered himself hideous in his shagging graying hair and angular nose.
A pleasant tune even emanated out of her mouth as she hummed and worked. It filled the silence between them.
Her eyes flicked from her work and settled on Harold. “I’ve not seen you in town before. Are you a new resident?”
“I live in Webaashi Bay . . . well, part of the year.” Harold got out.
“I see. I moved here last autumn. I was in New York before that.” Maude swiftly tacked on some adornments to the hat with thread and needle.
“I reside in Buffalo in the winter.” Harold looked at her, and she smiled.
“I say, we’re practically neighbors, then. And what is you do Mr. Montreaux when you are not engaged in buying a hat for your sister?”
“What do you write?”
“Poetry and now a mystery novel.”
Maude lowered her work and widened her eyes.
“A real live author in my shop. Will wonders never cease? I love to read.” She picked up her work again and finished a few more twists of the ribbon roses. “You must tell me what your book is about.”
“A mistaken identity, a murder, and a superstition.”
“Ooo, it sounds delicious.” Miss Dubois finished and held out her work to him for inspection.
“Beautiful.” Harold said the word, but looked at her, not the hat.
She blushed, which made him blush in turn. She turned to box up his purchase in a linen box with gold trim and ring up his bill. Harold paid her the called for amount without batting an eye at the price. She held out his purchase, and as he took it from her, their hands momentarily slid against each other. Miss Dubois looked at him a bit stunned, but said nothing. For once she appeared speechless. Harold was the one who found his tongue.
“Do you like pie?”
“Well . . . yes. My mother told me to never trust a woman that doesn’t like dessert, for certainly she’ll be a liar.” She smiled and winked at him.
That wink gave Harold courage, and he astonished himself. “Would you join me for pie and coffee at The Eatery, Miss Dubois, say 6:30? That is, if you are free then?”
When was the last time I asked a woman on a date, Harold questioned himself. He couldn’t recall.
“Yes, I will, and . . . yes, I am.”
Harold tipped his head, and his cheeks bloomed pink once again.
“Wonderful, see you then.” He attempted to walk out of the shop, but the box caught against the door frame, and he bounced off and staggered back a bit. Finally, he succeeded in exiting. He offered a small wave to Miss Dubois from outside and went about his way.
He thought how the day had suddenly become brighter. He whistled as he walked back to his buggy.