Catherine Rutherford was a success – a self- made woman from the ground up, she’d had to fight hard for everything she had with only herself to rely on. But she had it all – a great job, a house, friends, a fiance . . . well, perhaps not so much in the fiance area. Glen was not quite what she’d hoped for in a man. He was nice enough – smart and funny and damned good in bed – but also indecisive and passive and quite happy to let her take care of him. She’d always yearned for something . . . more – much more, and much less politically correct.
Enter Mrs. Euphemia Jenkins, who ran a kind of curiosity shop that was full of just the kinds of things that had always attracted Cathy almost helplessly – that was, almost anything from the fifties.
And Euphemia was in the habit of giving the people – the ones that she felt deserved it – what they wanted most.
That was how a modern, twenty-first century woman found herself on the floor of a bridal salon in the year nineteen-fifty-six, in the arms of a man who looked very much like her fiance, but was tantalizingly different – confident, attentive, loving – and dominant with a capital D.
And as she tries to come to grips with where she was and even tries to create a way to get back, Cathy finds herself falling for a man she believes isn’t hers to love.
“Don’t forget to get to the tux place,” she reminded him as he got out of her cherry red, fully restored 1955 Ford Thunderbird convertible to stand there looking at her expectantly.
She was double parked on Main Street and would soon be blocking traffic.
He didn’t say anything, just stood there, as if he was just waiting for a cop to come by and give her a ticket.
No, she sighed.? That wasn’t why he was standing there like a dolt?he just knew she’d give in to him rather than let that happen.
“How much do you want?” she asked, not very patiently, reaching for her purse.
“Three hundred?” he asked hopefully.? “The new Call of Duty is out and I need to get the new issues of Superman and Spiderman.”
Refraining from explaining to him that comic books didn’t qualify as a need and that she didn’t think video games were quite that expensive?although she was far from an aficionado?she wondered, not for the first time, just what it was that she saw in him.
And then she remembered.
But damn! He was good in bed, but not that good!?
“Here.” She said handing over some money.
He had the audacity to look insulted since it wasn’t the amount he’d requested, but he apparently wasn’t insulted enough to complain about it or to forget to grab for it, as if he was worried she might change her mind.
He was a smart man, when he felt compelled to push past his usual lazy and annoying geeky, nerdy tendencies.
She didn’t retract it, but she did hold onto it until he looked her in the eye.? “I want you to go to the tux place first, pick one out and get it fitted and not spend all afternoon at the comic book place. ?The wedding’s less than a month away and you need to get in there.”
She refused to consider the fact that harassing him about not having gotten to the tux place, when she’d not found her wedding dress, made her a bit of a hypocrite, but she wasn’t at all interested in discussing the reasons why she might have been putting that very important search off.
“Yeah, yeah,” he agreed, tugging again on the hundred-dollar bill she was holding out, and she finally let it go.
“I’ll pick you up here at five?we’re going to your parents’ for dinner tonight, remember.”
Feeling more like his mother than his fianc?e, as she did alarmingly often lately, she drove off, glancing up at the rear view mirror?which she knew she shouldn’t because it was just going to aggravate her ulcers?in time to see him jogging down the street, past Mr. Tux and straight down to Comics R Us.
Sighing, she turned the radio from the hip hop station he preferred to the fifties station she liked and headed for the place she hoped would have the gown she’d been looking for?not that she had been looking very hard, but she had been looking.
When there was absolutely nothing else to do?no laundry; no vacuuming; no toilet to clean . . .
Mrs. Jenkins’ Emporium was a little quirky place at the edge of town, in a very old house that had obviously seen much better days; it was badly in need of paint, but as an inveterate flea marketer and garage sale enthusiast, she knew to look past the outside appearance.? Sometimes the junkiest looking places had the best ? well, junk.? It was the vintage clothing in the big bay window display that had always caught her eye when she drove by.? She’d meant to check here before but was too busy to do so?but she had noticed a few days ago that, this time, the display was of wedding dresses from the era for which she had a marked preference.
She loved all things vintage?especially clothes?but there was something about the fifties that called to her more so than any other.? She didn’t know why she had always been intrigued by all things from the fifties, but she had, and the older and more successful she’d become, the more she’d been able to indulge that interest.? Somehow she felt more comfortable when surrounded by things of that bygone time than she did in the current hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century, despite the personal success she’d achieved in it.? If she had believed in those things, she might have said, quietly, to herself, that she spent a prior life living quite happily as a suburban housewife at a time when men were men, gentlemanly courtesies were still displayed towards the females of the species and, as evidenced by some of the popular television programs of the time, such as I Love Lucy, there was the distinct possibility that a wife could end up over her husband’s lap if she did something he didn’t approve of.??
That most prevalent thought, however, had her mind recoiling but?although the feminist in her was loathe to admit it?her ladybits were sitting up and taking notice.
Unknowingly, her fianc?, Glen or, as he was more frequently known to everyone, G-Dogg?a name she had laughed at first, hurting his feelings, because then he was G-Dogg Walker, although he had prevailed upon her to at least just call him G, which she agreed to as a lesser evil?had only exacerbated that interest, probably because?although they had been together for two years and were to be married shortly?he was beginning to be more of a needy child than not, and it was only getting worse.? And he was just about as far away from the typical middle class American husband in, say, nineteen fifty-five, as a man could get.
It didn’t help that she was the only one with an actual job.? He was always going to write the next big iPhone app, but never seemed to quite get around to it. ?Instead, he spent his time?and her money?playing his XBOX or PS4, both of which she’d bought him, of course, not realizing at the time that the controllers were going to become surgically attached to his hands.? The only times he went out of the house it was to go to the comic book store, or to his friends’ places to play D&D, or to attend a sci-fi, fantasy, or comic book related movie premiere.
Not that he didn’t have his moments.? He could be smart and funny when he wanted to be and often, even in bed, he had her dissolving into giggles at something he’d said. He certainly was sexy?all somewhat awkward six-two of him.? He was leaner than she might have preferred, but then, she was plumper than he might have, so they cancelled each other out in that area. ?He had shoulder length, black, naturally wavy hair, deep, soulful eyes?one of the first things that had attracted her to him?a strong jaw and full, sensual lips.? He was tall, the way she preferred her men to be, but tended to hunch a bit so he appeared much less so.
But he was also a twenty-five going on twelve and a self-confessed slacker, about which he hadn’t shown the least embarrassment.? He wasn’t proactive about much of anything, especially not as concerned their relationship, except for sex and acquiring tickets to every possible Comic Con or Comic-con-like event?and yet she had agreed to marry him.
No one had held a gun to her head.
In fact, she’d had to ask him ?
Just like she’d had to do everything else.? Anything practical or pragmatic about their life fell to her and her alone?bill paying, shopping, even what would traditionally, even now, would have been on a “honey do” list, since he couldn’t tell which end of a hammer to use.? He never really even made any attempt to man up in any way?even in the bedroom, really?not that he wasn’t amazing there. He was creative, adventurous, and up for anything.
But was that a good enough reason to marry him?
Or was she just going along, doing what she thought she should, since she’d been a bridesmaid in more of her friends’ weddings than she’d like to recall?
She sat for a moment in the parking lot of the shop, letting the music calm her as it always did.? Was she making a huge mistake?
Perhaps she should come to her senses, call the whole thing off and throw him out?kick him to the curb for the freeloader that he was.
But it wouldn’t hurt to look at whatever interesting things Mrs. Jenkins might have in store, regardless.? She adored little places, small shops and flea markets like this.? They always had such intriguing atmospheres, smelled old and interesting, and there was no telling what treasure one might find when one poked around a bit.
A little bell on top of the door tinkled prettily when she opened and closed it. She was surprised at how big the place looked from the inside.? It was set up exactly as she had pictured it in her mind, full of gorgeous antique furniture grouped together by era and then room. There was even a kitchen filled with vintage Mixmasters and old hand crank egg beaters.? Fiestaware, milk and Depression glass were everywhere, along with some Russell Wright and even some bone china.?
She took her time, exploring all of the little, darkish nooks and crannies and exclaiming over the delicate, hand tatted doilies and the extensive collection of records that all seemed to be in pristine condition, somehow, with no sign of wear in the least.
In fact, everything in the shop seemed as if it should have the original price tag on it ? as if the proprietor had gone to some secret warehouse somewhere where she’d stored everything exactly as it had been originally until she brought it out to sell.
Further back, there was pretty maple buffet with a big old brown upright, push button NCR cash register to one side, although there was no one manning it at the moment.
“May I help you?”
The voice that came from directly behind her was soft, and female and finely cultured, and yet she had never heard anyone approach her.
When she turned, it was too see a very small, pristinely dressed woman of seemingly ancient but indeterminate age.? She held her hand out?one from which she had deftly removed a beautiful white glove.? “I’m Euphemia Jenkins.? May I ask your name?”
As a successful businesswoman, her hand went out automatically to clasp the older woman’s gently but firmly.? “Cathy.? Cathy Rutherford.”
“Ah, Catherine.? A beautiful name.? It means innocent, you know.? I’m Mrs. Euphemia Jenkins, the proprietor of this establishment.? But you must call me Euphemia.”
Catherine was the name on her birth certificate, but the only time anyone ever called her that was when one of her foster parents?the few that bothered?was yelling at her.
And she hadn’t known the meaning of her own name, but nodded her head in agreement anyway.
“May I offer you some coffee, dear?”
From where had that old electric percolator appeared, she wondered.
The older woman poured her a cup before she had a chance to respond, doctoring it exactly the way she liked it?a splash of milk and two sugars.
How could she have known?
But before Cathy had a chance to question her about it, she asked, “What kind of a wedding dress are you interested in, Catherine?”
She’d never mentioned that that was why she was here, and said as much.
Euphemia looked taken aback.? “That’s generally why women of your age come in here?vintage is ‘in’, isn’t it?? Have I assumed incorrectly?”
“No, no you haven’t,” Cathy answered slowly.
“Something from the mid-twentieth century, perhaps?” Cathy felt a chill run up her spine, until Euphemia added, “Judging by your car. Cookie?? These are my personal favorite.? There’s a bakery down the road that makes them.”
Cathy looked down at the plate of perfect, powdered sugar covered madeleines.? “No, thank you.” She cleared her throat.? “But yes, I would like to see dresses from the fifties. I’ve always found them to be so beautiful.”
“They are, my dear, they are.? What attracts you to that era, if I may ask?”
Any unease she felt about the old woman’s uncanny understanding of her fell away as she answered her.? “Oh, I’ve always felt a pull towards it, as if it might be a time when I’d feel more ? comfortable, somehow.”? She gave a self-deprecating chuckle.? “Almost as if I was born at the wrong time, you know?? Of course that’s silly.”
Euphemia patted her hand.? “Of course not, dear.? I know that feeling myself, and have encountered it in a lot of people.”
They chatted amiably and comfortable for a few more minutes, then, when they were done with their coffee, Euphemia asked, pointing to a spot behind Cathy, “Would you like to see some dresses?”
That was when Cathy turned around and saw a room she had missed in her first sweep, which wasn’t at all unusual in a place like this, but still, she would have sworn that it wasn’t there when she first got here.
But of course it had to have been.? She had just been so excited to see everything her eyes must’ve glided over it.
It was a room about the size of a living room, and it was crammed full of just what she had come to see?vintage clothing.
Vintage wedding dresses, in particular.
At first glance, it seemed as if all of them were from her favorite time period, however, closer inspection revealed that there were some from an impressive time span, although none of them could quite have been called modern.
And every single one of them was in almost unbelievably good condition, like everything else in the store.
But she was much too excited to worry about that lucky happenstance, and much too busy oohing and ahhing over the merchandise.? There were dresses that looked like what Elizabeth Taylor had worn when she married several of her husbands, as well as the one she had worn in Father of the Bride.? There was a beautiful knockoff of the dress in which Jacqueline Bouvier had married JFK, as well as a carbon copy of the gown Grace Kelly wore when she became Princess Grace of Monaco.
Those more famous dress styles were far from all that was available, though, and Cathy dove into the racks of them, having a horrible time trying to decide which ones to try, because she wanted to try them all on!
She had so many draped over her arm that she started to list to one side until Euphemia came to her aid.? Cathy protested. If they were too heavy for her, since she was far from the tiny, delicate type, they were going to knock Mrs. Jenkins clean over!
But the older woman was apparently stronger than she looked; she took every dress from her one handed, without so much as a hard breath, all the while holding a different dress in her other hand.
As Euphemia turned to take the dresses to the fitting room, Cathy’s gaze lingered on the dresses. “Stop!” she practically yelled, walking over to one that she hadn’t seen before draped over Mrs. Jenkins’ back by the hanger.
“How did I miss this one?”
It was, in a word, stunning?pure white, as if it had been manufactured yesterday, full length, true princess style, lace over satin dress, with a corseted bodice that laced in the back rather than zipping up?a detail she found utterly charming?and a perfect sweetheart neckline.? It was everything she hadn’t even known she was looking for, and she had to try it on.
Hell, even without having put it on, she didn’t care what the old woman wanted for this dress?or even whether or not she used it in a month to marry Glen.? This was her wedding dress!? No other could ever, ever do!
“This one. May I try this on first?” she asked, nearly vibrating with excitement.
“Of course you may, dear! You picked out some beauties but I thought this one might be perfect. I have the veil here, too.? You might be interested to know that this also has a little bolero jacket to cover your shoulders?you know, for the church ceremony at least.”? She tapped her lips for a moment pensively.? “I know I have it somewhere.? I’ll find it while you change.”
If Euphemia’s smile had been a bit too bright, her words a bit too eager, Cathy didn’t notice it?she was too excited to get herself into that dress.
The older woman led the way to the fitting room, which she was glad to see was more like what she’d seen on Say Yes to the Dress than one that might be found in a department store.? It was its own room, if decorated a bit datedly, with a full, regular door?for dramatic effect, she supposed, although there wasn’t a place for anyone to watch her come out, not that she needed that.? She had come alone expressly because she wasn’t at all interested in revealing to her friends?her maid of honor or any of her bridesmaids?that she hadn’t gotten a dress yet.? It would be entirely too embarrassing to do so and would bring up questions that she had no interest in answering?especially from her best friend, who was quite vocally not in favor of her marrying G.
Mrs. Jenkins hung the dress and its beautiful seed pearl Juliette cap and finger tip veil and blusher?which each had seed pearls around their hems?on the hook designed for that purpose, then left, closing the door behind her with a startlingly loud click.
Cathy had to admit that she was a little surprised to have been left alone to dress herself.? What if she had a problem getting into it?? She was of a mind that formal dresses like this were probably a bit complicated and required assistance to don, but she was quite happy to find that that was not the case with this one.? It was ridiculously easy to get into?she didn’t even need to adjust the laces?it just ? floated onto her, and, when she turned to look at herself in the floor length mirror, it took her breath away.
She couldn’t believe how wonderful she looked. She loved everything about the dress?the delicate lace, the long elegant lines, how small her waist seemed to look while her curves were still accented, somehow, and how the stark whiteness set off her auburn hair and accented her slight tan.
Cathy had always been on the wrong side of the hundred and twenty pounds her doctor wanted her to weigh.? She wasn’t fat, but she definitely leaned towards plump.? Perhaps that was one thing that attracted her to the era she was obsessed with?she looked a lot more like the famous women of the fifties than she ever would Victoria Beckham or Keira Knightly.
But in this dress, she felt more beautiful than she ever had in her, whole life.
It was a sad commentary, she knew, but it was the God’s honest truth.
And the veil could only add to the effect.? She placed the delicate, almost lacy cap horizontally across the top of her head and it?like the dress?fit as if it was made for her, although, as she stood there and the veil settled down her back, she experienced a wave of dizziness that clouded her vision a bit and made her feel faint. Cathy reached for the back of the only chair that was in there, leaning heavily against it until the feeling passed, closing her eyes against the way her vision became blurrier by the second.
Eventually it passed.
She should have had something for breakfast, she thought. Must be low blood sugar.
She straightened and took another look at herself in the mirror?still awed by how good she looked, then turned to head to the door, stopping for a moment to remember to pull the blusher down over her eyes, although it almost completely obscured her view.?
She couldn’t wait to show it to the woman who had picked the dress out for her, and she wanted Mrs. Jenkins to get the full effect!
She grabbed the door knob and pulled it open, stepping out into the shop she could barely see and calling for her at the same time.
“Euphemia!? Euphemia, come here, I want to show you how I look in this!”
It wasn’t until she had taken a couple of steps out into the store that she noticed just how bright the lights seemed, and she pulled the blusher back over her hair to see that the place she’d stepped into was not Mrs. Jenkins’ Emporium.
Most definitely not.
Somehow, the store she was now standing in was big and bright, and obviously a dedicated bridal salon.? Gone were the records, the kitchen, the Fiestaware, the dark ambiance and the little cubbyholes full of unknown treasure.? In its place were brand new, gleaming fixtures, racks and racks of white dresses, as well as displays of veils, hats, handkerchiefs and gloves to go with them, and women who were obviously other customers, men who were looking bored or uncomfortable or both, and salesgirls who were in smocks of a pale peach with nametags.
Not only was this a bridal salon rather than a kitschy emporium, but the men were all in wide shouldered suits, with fedoras in their laps or on the seats next to them, and all the young women were in the equivalent of cashmere sweaters, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, heels or Mary Janes, and bobby sox.
They all looked as if they’d just stepped off of the set of Happy Days!
“Cathy, there you are.? You were in there for a while?we were getting worried.? If you’ll stand on the platform we’ll get on with your last fitting, and then you’ll never have to see us again!”? The young pretty brunette woman approaching her joked with a smile as she motioned her towards a platform in front of a wall of mirrors.
“Euphemia?” Cathy said again, hoping against hope that that would set things right again.
The girl, whose nametag read Maggie, looked confused.? “You called that name a couple of times when you first came out.? Is she a friend you’re expecting?”
Cathy’s mind was racing.? What the fuck was going on here?? What had happened between the time she’d been left in the dressing room and the time she’d come out of it?? She felt like Dorothy in Munchkinland, only there hadn’t been a twister to send her here.? Nothing out of the ordinary had happened at all, that she could remember, besides feeling a bit dizzy.
Walking slowly back into the dressing room, she spoke even more carefully.? “No, she was here just a minute ago?she found this dress for me.? You don’t know Euphemia Jenkins?? She was right here!”?
But not really here, exactly, her mind finished, although she wasn’t in any hurry to say that.? Several people?customers and employees alike?were already looking at her as if she had lost her mind.? Frankly, she was figuring much the same thing, but she didn’t want to contribute to their impression any further than she had to.
She made her way back to the dressing room. Surely her purse was in there, with her cell phone, her wallet, her ear buds and all her credit cards.
So she went in there again, shutting the door tightly behind her, only it wasn’t the room she’d been in before, with Euphemia, and nothing she had brought in there originally was there, of course.? The clothes that were hanging there were a smart, conservative suit with a pencil skirt in powder blue, with a matching headpiece hat with pearls, tiny silk flowers, and a powder blue velvet bow?none of which she’d never seen before in her life.? And the clutch?powder blue with little pearls around the edges?contained nothing more than a small brush and comb, a lipstick and compact, small bottle of aspirin and some change.
She stood there, wishing she could remember any magical incantations besides “bippity-boppity-boo” and “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.?
Think, Cathy, think! she admonished herself.
She’d gotten faint when she’d put it on. Perhaps that was somehow the catalyst for all of this madness, so she took it off.
She knew she was grasping at straws, but perhaps it was opening the door that had done it? So she turned and put her hand on the doorknob, took a breath and counted to ten before she reopened it.
But Maggie was still standing right where she’d left her, looking even more confused and now quite worried, too, on top of it.
She did it again, and again and again, so many times she lost count, desperate that things go back to they way they were.
But it didn’t happen.
Cathy had never fainted before in her life, but all of this?whatever it was?was apparently entirely too much for her to cope with, because before she could stop it from happening?as she watched herself as if from a camera angle in slow motion?she crumpled to the floor in a heap, falling out of the dressing room and into the salon itself, rapping her head rather sharply against the pedestal before everything in her world went frighteningly black.
The next thing she knew, before she came to full consciousness, she could smell the very pleasant scent of a woodsy, spicy aftershave cologne. She recognized that she was being held in some man’s strong arms, and that that same someone?probably the very same man?was patting and stroking her cheek gently as he whispered softly, “Wake up, babygirl.? Come back to me.”
Then, suddenly, someone shoved something nasty smelling under her nose and as she couldn’t help but breathe it in she reared back, more firmly into the unknown male’s embrace, practically yelling, “Take that shit away from me!”
There was no gentleness at all in his thoroughly scolding, “Catherine!”
“I’m sorry, Cathy.? I was just using our smelling salts to try to wake you up.? It’s not all that unusual for a bride to get all overwhelmed and faint.”
“Thank you for that, Maggie, but I believe she’s awake now,” the stranger said warmly, and Maggie fairly cooed.
She guessed she couldn’t avoid it any longer and Cathy finally opened her eyes, only to find herself staring up into the most striking?and strikingly familiar?pair of blue gray ones she’d ever seen.? They were surrounded and set off by long, curly black lashes that any woman would die for, and in the midst of a gorgeous face that she knew and literally left her breathless, even as it exuded concern and worry.?
Whoever he was, he knew her name.? He was holding her as if it was something he’d done a thousand times before.? “Wh-who are you?” The quiet, almost forlorn question came out of her mouth before she had a chance to consider whether or not she should have posed it.?
And the answer to whether or not she should have was the quiet titter that rippled through the audience who she was alarmed to realize were standing all around her.
Maggie tried to explain away her strange behavior. “She did have a bad fall, and we all heard her head hit the edge of the pedestal.? She’s gonna have a good-sized bump for a while.? It’s no wonder she’s a bit confused,” she heard the salesgirl whisper to someone.
As Cathy continued to stare up at him, it hit her. She did know who he was.
And his first words to her confirmed her suspicions as he smiled gently down at her.? “You know me, sweetheart.? I’m the man who worships the ground you walk on.? I’m your fianc?, Glen.”
He was Glen.
It was as if someone had gotten a hold of G-Dogg and dressed him in a fifties suit, cut his hair, forced him to work out and eat right to give him muscles that she’d always thought were hidden somewhere on him and an undeniable aura of command and natural confidence, as well as an attentive, worried look that she didn’t think she’d ever seen on his face before.
Cathy immediately tried to get up, but the man who held her?whoever the fuck he was?wouldn’t let her as he continued to frown down at her, looking even more concerned than Maggie did.?
She wasn’t what anyone of her era would consider a small woman, but this Glen was enormous.? She felt surrounded by him on all sides, and all he had to do was contract his arms a little and she knew she wasn’t going anywhere.
“I don’t think it’s wise for you to get up yet, honey.? Not until I’ve taken you home to your parents and we’ve had a doctor take a look at you.”