Scarlett; A Brush With History

I was a director of the local museum, six years of university managing to get me to this point. It was a small museum, in a southern state, funded by several Patrons of the museum. The Patrons of Oak Lane is the name they went by, the museum had been built to honor their family’s history and the history of the area. It had grown, twice they had added more to the museum, the building now over thirty thousand square feet under roof.

In actuality it was several old store fronts that got rebuilt and added to. The families had money, but were also wanting to preserve as much of the history of the area as possible. It was located in a quaint little town in the southern part of Georgia. Not much to the town, a main street and a few assorted gas stations towards the edge of town. We did get a few tourists from time to time, the area rich in history, with lots of plantations within a few miles of the town. A hotel, restaurant, some retail shops and a combination general store was it for businesses. We had three churches, representing most of the religions that people in the south worshiped.

How I ended up here is quite unusual. After my fifth year at university, one of my professors at University of Georgia heard from someone that needed a director for their museum. I was a history major, had my Masters already and was thinking of pursuing my Doctorate. My name was brought up and he had obtained an interview with the patrons of the museum if I wished to attend. It didn’t sound thrilling, so I was a little put off that he would ask if I am interested. He suggested that it might be worth my time to attend the interview, a lot of southern history is housed there and the families of the Patrons are very influential in the state. Even if I was offered the job and turned it down it would look good on my resume, a plus for future interviews.

So I drove down to the museum and met with Ms. Davis for the interview. The meeting lasted for over five hours as she asked me questions that I didn’t think would be asked. How I saw the museum in general, what importance I put on local history, and what relevance could history be assigned to modern day life.

My personal history is covered in detail along with my family and romantic interests. The questions on the museum and my view of it were expected, but the ones on my family and romantic interest were not. I answered truthfully, I had nothing to hide but wondered why a few questions came up in the questioning. I saw that she had a copy of my transcripts from college, I am sure my professor had provided that. Luckily I didn’t tense up, she is an easy lady to talk with, friendly but also deep probing.

The interview had started out with her asking me if it would be alright to video tape the interview. I nodded my assent. She said that the other patrons would review it before a decision would be made. After she got my viewpoint on everything including the price of eggs, she told me about the job and what would be expected of me. They wanted a working director, someone to host the tours, answer questions of the guests and attend any and all social functions in the state, representing the museum. It would require me to learn the history of the area and especially the families involved in the creation of the museum.

It sounded way more than I wanted to tackle, I imagine the pay would not be that much, so a lot of work for not much return. I politely listened to her, asking a few general questions about the hours of the museum, and if there was any other staff. They were open six days a week from ten AM to five PM, and other than two historians working part time, no other staff. All the setup of displays and exhibits was accomplished by volunteers, about thirty different ones that helped on a regular basis when needed. Any tour now was hosted by a volunteer, adequate but not what they desired in the long run.

I asked about the salary for the position, but she declined mentioning any pay figure until the rest of the patrons saw the interview. She suggested that I stay in town tonight, their treat, and come see her tomorrow at noon and she will fill me in on the rest of the details if I was approved. It was getting late and I was not looking forward to the three hour drive back to Athens, so I agreed to stay until tomorrow.

She had already made arrangements at the hotel in town for me, told me to eat at the Southern Lady restaurant and mention her name and they would take care of my tab. I got an unexpected hug and I left for the hotel. I was impressed at her interest in me, the hug something I was not expecting. The questions of the interview were fact finding, but the hug and her wanting to be sure that a room for the night and a dinner is okay with me kind of showed her concern for me.

Initially I had decided to turn down the job if offered, but time and thought might change all of that. A nice bed and a good meal would help my thought processes quite a bit, maybe it would help me decide what to do, if I was even offered the job.

I checked in at the hotel, they asked about baggage, I had not intended to stay the night, so I explained that and the desk clerk gave me a small valise with essentials for the evening, courtesy of the hotel. As she explained to me Ms. Davis owns the hotel, the restaurant and several other businesses in town. Maybe I shouldn’t be too hasty in turning this job down if offered, that thought came out of nowhere, but maybe deserved some consideration in the long run.

The room was huge, a canopy bed with exquisite linens, a full dresser, and a huge walk-in closet. I made myself comfortable on the love seat and stared out the window of the room. I was on the third floor that was the first obstacle since there was no elevators in the hotel. I was winded by the time I made it to my room, but once I opened the door with the key that was furnished all was better. No TV but an individual stereo, with racks of records, tapes and even some original 45’s still in their original sleeve. I knew what I would be doing tonight, to wile away the hours till bedtime. My love of music would at least be sated after the evening here.

My stomach growled, and that became the next concern. I washed my face and hands, brushed my hair and put it back in its low ponytail, tucked inside my shirt collar. I made my way to the restaurant as it was only right down the block, with only a small frontage on Main Street. When I walked through the doors I was amazed. The place was huge, at least a hundred feet back with the kitchen right in the center of the room. It was decorated as if it was directly pulled from the Civil War era and transported here. All the ladies working there were dressed in clothes of the area, their hair done up and piled on top of their head. The skirts were full the blouses gathered around the neckline showing off their breasts. The best part though is the smell that was emanating from that kitchen.

I was shown to a table and asked what I would have tonight. No menu was offered, if you didn’t know what was offered all you had to do was ask and the server would recite the entire menu. When she asked me I replied. “I’ll take a portion of what smells so good, some iced tea and a salad with some dressing.”

She started to tell me the dressings, I just told her to surprise me. The iced tea was delicious, obviously brewed here and not from a mix. They served some stir-fried vegetables with a ranch dressing for appetizers and of course fresh rolls. Those came with all the dinners no matter what you ordered. The first bite of the homemade rolls with butter made me a believer, the vegetables cinched the deal. I could make a whole meal on just those two items alone.

Of course, the delightful smell was fried chicken, the best fried chicken I have ever had. It was served with mashed potatoes and gravy, broiled zucchini squash and a salad. Six different lettuces, tomato, onions, bell pepper, with a blend of seasonings ground and sprinkled over the salad. Then a tray of dressings, six on this particular tray, ranging from Ranch to Bleu Cheese. I handled the decision on what to put on my salad by using a little of each.

I was stuffed when I finished most of the meal, there was still one piece of chicken and several pieces of zucchini, but I couldn’t eat another bite. Then the waitress had the nerve to ask if I wanted dessert. My answer was a low groan, so she brought me a plastic container for my left overs and a takeout container of iced tea. She informed me of the breakfast menu, then told me that the tab had been handled. I never had the chance to tell her who I was or whom I had seen today for the interview.

I walked back to the hotel, the walk up the stairs actually making me feel a little better. I opened the valise when I got in the room, and saw everything I might need, I took care of my bathroom duties, slipped on the pajamas that were furnished, silk by the way, and loaded some music on the stereo. The sound system was fantastic, the music filling the room as if the orchestra was playing right next to me. I slipped under the covers and soon was sound asleep. I got up to go to the bathroom around three, the music was still playing. I don’t remember loading that much music, but it was welcome, never the less.

I woke up at seven AM, got dressed in my clothes from yesterday and made my way downstairs. I tried to turn in the room key, knowing that I would drive back tonight as soon as I had seen Ms. Davis. The desk clerk told me to hang on to it, if necessary give it back to Ms. Davis when I left. I walked around the town a little, trying to remove some of the bulge in my tummy from last night. Around ten I ventured back to the restaurant and had a small breakfast, figuring I would skip lunch today.

There was a park nearby, so I spent some time there until my interview. I went back to the museum and walked around viewing some of the exhibits. They were very well put together and interesting. I saw where some improvements could be made, and then went back to the museum office a few minutes past noon. Ms. Davis was waiting for me, already behind her desk. On the side couch were three other ladies, I presume some of the patron group.

I was introduced to each, a Ms. Beaumont, Ms. O’Hara, and Ms. Liddell. Ms. Davis continued the conversation. “After looking at the video and discussing your qualifications we have decided to offer you the position. Salary would be sixty thousand a year, would include room and board in the hotel if that is satisfactory. Later, if you require a house we can make some kind of arrangement for it. Meals of your choosing at my restaurant. Hours worked in the fifty to sixty hour area, two weeks’ vacation a year, and a percent of the museum fees collected. At this time we have decided on five percent. Last year that would have netted you another five thousand dollars.”

“We would like you to take another day to think about it, we are wanting someone to stay with us for the long term, not someone only wishing to gain a position to be able to advance to another. For dinner tonight, I would like to invite you to my home, eight PM is fine. Since you are here without extra clothing please go to my clothing store and pick whatever you like, my treat. If you have the time we would like you to visit the rest of the museum and give me your thoughts tonight.”

That was it, they had liked what they saw and offered me the job. No further discussions seemed to be necessary, I should think about it and if I wanted the job just tell them. I was given directions to her clothing store, and said my goodbyes. I knew enough of southern customs, that I took each ladies hand, gave it a light kiss and thanked them for their consideration. When I left the room I saw four smiling faces.

I went through the museum first, making notes on my IPad, for discussion later. They really did have a lot of local history housed there, laid out pretty well for visitors to see and enjoy. From there I went to the clothing store and was greeted by the manageress as soon as I entered the store. Being a small town I figure everybody knew who I was now, even if I hadn’t been introduced to them. I was taken to a changing room in the back, where she helped me get undressed and measured me.

I was a little worried about her behavior, but soon realized that is just how she handles her customers. Since most of the clothing offered is for ladies, I am sure they like this type of treatment. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it was just that it is so unexpected. Rose returned in a few minutes with a handful of clothing for me to try on. I was just going to pick something and settle for however it fit me, but she was against that from the start.

I tried on each piece until I had tried them all, picked the items that I thought looked the best and then had to put them back on again for her to make note of where they needed to be altered. I was going to say something about the fact that I needed them for tonight, but she hushed me telling me they would be ready in thirty minutes. I dressed again in my clothes, and walked around the store looking at what she had to offer.

I was surprised she had so many period pieces, right out of the movies, even the undergarments that went with them. She caught me looking at one particular dress, cut low in the bodice with an enormous skirt, at least five feet across from one side to the other. I had been looking at the dress for ten minutes, moving it around on the rack to get a look at the front and back of the dress. Not something a man would normally do in a clothing store.

Without any hesitation she asked me if I wanted to try it on, well that short-circuited my mind and nothing came out. She smiled. “When you want to try it on just come back and I will personally take care of you. Now here is the garment bag with your clothes for tonight, the rest of your wardrobe will be delivered to your room later after the shop closes.”

I did manage to get out of the shop, but my mind is apparently gone, now missing in action. Why was I looking at the dress? Rest of my wardrobe, I only picked out the one suit, nothing more. When no sane thoughts are possible the stomach rules and I went to the restaurant for a snack. Five hours till dinner, is a little too long when my body is already close to shut down, both from lack of food and lack of mental activity. I had questions, lots of them, but there is no activity in my poor overwhelmed mind.

Those delicious vegetables and the dressing to dip them in was a perfect snack, without ruining dinner. Back to the hotel, the stairs seem to be getting easier, I am not sure why. I hung up the suit, then laid down for a few minutes. I must have dozed off, because the call from the front desk reminding me of the dinner, was my salvation. I wondered for a minute how they knew about the dinner, but then in a small town, everybody apparently is aware of what is going on.

I freshened up, got dressed and made my way to her home. The directions she had given me were clear, with me arriving a few minutes before eight. Her butler answered the door, a very imposing man, quite polite and very businesslike. I was shown to the library, where Ms. Davis awaited me, and after greeting her I set in one of the side chairs near her love seat. I complimented her on her looks, and she on mine. We discussed the museum, and I gave her my thoughts on several things.

Nothing was said at the time, but she seemed to be receptive to my ideas. It was never brought up whether I would accept the job, just talk about the museum and then a tour of her house. It was beautiful, way too many rooms, but each one decorated to the period and all with apparent antiques, original to that time in history. There was nothing out of place, not a bedspread, curtain, doily, throw rug, absolutely nothing.

Gregory, her butler, announced dinner, and led us to a huge dining room. The table must have seated at least twenty, for tonight just the two of us, setting at one end of the huge table. The dishes were China, all antiques, and the settings were fully displayed. A dinner dish, dessert plate, salad plate, soup bowl, cup and saucer, then all the serving dishes gathered in the middle of the table next to our place settings. The silverware was actual Silver, the design quite ornate, and I counted at least seven pieces around my place setting. Three crystal glasses were there too, for what I am not sure, but they added a lot of elegance to the place setting.

The food looked delicious, pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, Sauerkraut, corn on the cob and of course salad. She apologized for not having soup, but she felt it was too warm to offer it at this time of year. I put a little of each on my plate, at this rate I will be a blimp before I manage to leave town.

Idle chit chat during dinner, then we made our way to the parlor for tea and pastries. The pastries did it for me, every different kind I tried so mouthwatering delicious. Ms. Davis was smirking as I tried to be conservative in my choices, but when the pastry got to my mouth and I took a bite, the low moan of satisfaction kind of gave the game away.

We eventually got down to some serious business, discussing the museum, their plans for it and my ideas on what could make it better. Three hours of this discussion brought us up to Eleven PM. I told her I would like to take the job, as long range employment, not something for just a few years. Everything she had told me was satisfactory, the wages, the room at the hotel, and the meals at her restaurant.

I will work with them to develop a plan for implementation of some of their better ideas, and also solutions to make their other projects more doable. “I need three weeks to take care of my responsibilities at Athens, then I will be back to start employment. I just have some personal effects, and some clothes to bring, no furniture or other larger possessions.”

“That will be fine, the store has delivered to your room your wardrobe that has been altered to fit you. I think you will find adequate clothing there for your job as director. Unless you want to choose another room, the one that you are in will be your room at the hotel. When next at the restaurant you can pick a table as yours, it will be kept empty for you whenever you desire it. Please plan on coming to one of our houses every Sunday for dinner, a must if you are going to be working with us. When you return Gregory will work out a schedule for you. Thank you for accepting our offer of employment, I am sure both parties will be quite happy.”

We said our goodbyes and I headed back to the hotel. The stairs seemed to be getting easier, now I don’t mind them at all. I made myself comfortable, put on some music and relaxed in a chair over by the window. I could get used to this, although not an apartment it is a nice room with bath and with the restaurant I will not starve, probably the opposite a more likely outcome. I suddenly remembered the wardrobe, got up and went to the walk in closet. Now full with all manner of clothes, many suits, sport jackets, slacks, and even a horde of casual clothes. I couldn’t believe it, thousands of dollars of clothes now in my closet. I guess there was not much doubt of me taking the job, since the clothes were delivered before I actually accepted the job offer.

I relaxed for quite a while, then packed a few items for my trip back to Athens. I had told her three weeks just in case, but I doubted it would take me three days to gather what few items I wanted to save. The dorm room was not a problem, all I had to do was clean it to get my deposit back. I would have to make sure that I thanked the professor for his help, a dream job delivered to me on a platter, a silver platter.

The next morning I made the trip back to Athens, gathered my few possessions and checked out of my dorm room. I found the Professor and thanked him, he then told me that before I went down to the interview he knew I would get the job. I was a perfect fit for what they had in mind, both short term and long term. You made a good decision to accept the offer I am looking forward to seeing you at some of the meetings of museum directors later this year and next year.

I took my time heading back, even spent a day at one of the theme parks in the area. Then another at one of the gardens, known nationally for their beauty. It is kind of weird to visit them alone, but I had fun people watching, a favorite past-time of mine for years. I arrived back and settled the few possessions I brought back into my room.

The restaurant was my first stop, I had missed it the most, although the stereo and the music was a close second. I tried there Boston Butt, the first bite sent waves of pleasure through my body. The steamed cauliflower and homemade macaroni and cheese completed the meal. I managed to clean my plate, even using my finger to get the few spots of cheese sauce off the corner of the plate. I decided then to skip breakfast and lunch so that I could enjoy the dinner here at her restaurant in the future. I found out that they offered ten different selections every night, nothing repeated during the week.

The next day I made my way to the museum, to get started. Ms. Davis was waiting for me, her network of informers in the town doing their job well. She showed me my office, then allowed me time to settle in and get started. I made another tour of the museum seeing what should be fixed now and what could wait for a few days. I contacted a couple of the volunteers, asking them if I could get their help in the next few days.

When I arrived the next day they were waiting for me, eager to get started. I gave each of them a project, outlined and explained on a computer generated sheet. I had them read it, to see if they had any questions. The smiles on their faces showed that the way I had explained the project was perfect. By lunch most of them had finished, the couple of projects that still needed some help soon had the rest of the volunteers pitching in, and by three all of the projects had been completed.

What I had done initially was to label each display, using computer generated signs and artwork. All were true to the period, in easy to read script detailing what each display was pointing out. People involved, time lines, what actually happened, and impact on history. The displays they worked on had some of this material, but in homemade signs and graphics that were hard to read and lacking all the information. All the volunteers had to do was mount the signs and attach them to the display. I had generated each display with a different background color, so that the nearby displays could easily be distinguished from one another.

I had taken a few pictures with my phone and sent them to Ms. Davis. It is something we had talked about, but she didn’t have any idea how I was going to implement it. An hour later, all four patrons entered the museum, walking around and admiring the changes. Nothing was said to the volunteers, but as they left I received four bigger than life smiles from the Patrons.

During the rest of the week, I spent time learning about the local history, who was involved and what happened. As I was committing all of this to memory, I found a few mistakes where the wrong information had been supplied to the people setting up the display. That turned out to be my second week project, finding and fixing all of those mistakes. Most of it was just clerical errors, putting the wrong name down when researching the history.

All of the local history was taken from journals, letters from the people involved and from newspaper clippings of the time. These actual history sources were kept in safe storage in the basement of the museum. We used acid free boxes and folders, stored in a temperature controlled environment free of any sunlight. Since the material has been stored this way for years, all of it is in pristine condition. I planned to take it one step further, having all the material scanned into electronic files in the near future. This would serve as a second backup if there was any damage to the originals.

By the third week I was hosting the tours myself, we had two a day, a walking tour of the museum where I filled the attendees in on other aspects of the displays, history not in the display itself. They were scheduled for two hours each, although I never was able to limit them to that time. Once we got started they were interested in the rest of the story, and how all of it tied together leading up to the families of today.

From my first day I had kept a journal of things that interested the visitors, questions asked of me and what parts of the local history were the most popular with the visitors. Without a doubt the Civil war period and prohibition were the two periods that fascinated people the most. Since most of our visitors were female and their children, the dress of the period, what activities were pursued, and what people did to entertain themselves were the most asked about.

Along with the walking tours, we were visited several times by the local schools, ever year, and the variety of our exhibits kept the attention of the students. We had agriculture exhibits, what crops were grown, how food was prepared, and what life was like back in the civil war years. Since most of the historical material was from that period that was what most of the exhibits dealt with. There was a small tourist interest in the area, mainly civil war buffs and people interested in the prohibition years.

That was the other claim to fame of the area. There were numerous stills in the area, lots of fast cars and even a large speakeasy just outside of the city limits back in that era. How it got to be here is a mystery, but since we were not that far from Augusta and Savannah it was very popular. At first they did not want to acknowledge that time during prohibition, but eventually the patrons decided it was more noteworthy than humiliating.

Ms. Lydia Davis was the spokesperson for the group of ladies that funded the museum, the patrons to all the rest of us. She had asked me to her home, to discuss something that has just come up. I had an idea, since one of the Patrons, Ms. Liddell, had died recently. Her funeral was quite large, a very prominent citizen like her is quite respected and everyone turned out to show their respects. Of course, I attended, although we were never close like Ms. Davis and I, we still interacted every once in a while. The one odd thing was the Sunday dinners with each of the Patrons, her house was never gone to. When it was her time to host the dinner it was always at Ms. Davis’s house.

I usually got along with Ms. Davis, her ideas were doable, not something that could never be attempted. After their selection of me I was pretty much left alone to run the museum. She did check in with me from time to time, but never to interfere. At those times I would cover changes that I was planning and the general condition of the museum. She would listen then go back to the Patrons to report. Never a comment made to me about what I was doing or how I was doing it.

I was greeted at her front door by her butler Gregory, a very influential member of the community and frequent volunteer to the museum. He led me to her parlor, where she was waiting for me. I took her hand and kissed it, a familiarity that was often indulged in the south and a normal thing between the two of us.

I found a seat and Gregory asked what I wanted to drink. I chose tea, a favorite of Ms. Davis, I am sure that he had prepared a pot for her. Ms. Davis started the conversation. “We need to deal with the death of Ms. Liddell, a prominent member of the Patrons. She left her entire estate to the museum, with a few stipulations in place to make sure her wishes are carried out. Ms. Liddell was the most financial well off of the females in the Patron group, so the museum will benefit greatly.”

“Her house which is right next door to the museum is the main part of her gift to us. It has been in her family for over a hundred and sixty years. It has recently been renovated completely from the basement to the attic. Everything has been kept as it was in the years around the civil war, but some modern upgrades have been added to make it more livable. Those things that have been changed, have been done so that the mansion is still authentic to its period in appearance.”

“She wants the house added to the museum tour, with someone living there all the time to host the tour and speak of the life in those times. Since it is quite large, including a miniature ball room in the basement, she would like socials, balls, dances hosted there to give everybody a peek at the atmosphere she was raised under. It is her dream for it to become an integral part of the community again, like it once was.”

She paused, I nodded my head and told her I saw no problem with her wishes. “It would be fairly easy to make the addition to the museum, then set about scheduling events there to fulfill the rest of her wishes and desires. Gregory had brought us our tea and we both sipped at it, enjoying the sweet taste of this brew. I sensed there is more to this than what I have heard so far, but I also knew that Ms. Davis preferred to do things at her pace and remained silent until she restarted the conversation.

“Ms. Liddell made several specific requests in her will, all of them dealing with you.” That statement surprised me, I had talked to her during the two years I had been here, just as I did with the other Patrons, but we never managed to get beyond Patron/employee in any discussions that we had. Ms. Davis and I had got beyond that employee classification, we got along well and often interacted with each other away from the museum. I escorted her to a couple of dances, actually more of a social, but never the less we enjoyed a pleasant evening when the occasion arose.

Ms. Davis was apparently at a loss for words, not knowing how to tell me what was requested of me. Instead of saying something, I just sat there, waiting for her to find the words. I guess it is more difficult than even I thought, since she decided to pick up a copy of the will and read Ms. Liddell’s request of me directly from the will.

I want Scott to handle my home personally, live there and conduct the tours and be hostess to any social gathering she feels would be appropriate. I have admired her since the interview video, but not as Scott. Down deep she is Scarlett, a Southern Belle, to the core. Her interaction with others, her demeanor, her appearance all speak of an inner female that need to see the light of day. I know that initially she will reject the idea, her pride not allowing her to see inside her heart and body.

There for I am giving her a gift of fifty-thousand dollars, the only string attached is live in the house and dress as a female for fourteen days. Perform her duties as she usually does, but as a female. I have arranged for some help in her transformation, all of my clothes have been cleaned and tailored to fit her and her new body. No expense will be necessary for the fourteen days, everything has been taken care of. If at the end of the fourteen days you see fit to perpetuate the role, everything that I own and have will be yours, including the house. I do ask that you still allow the house to be toured, be a hostess to dances and social functions, like it was back in my youth.

“I know I have asked a lot of you Scott, but feel sure that you will make the right decision. Take a day to think about it, let your male façade go on vacation for two weeks, I am sure you will not regret it.” I was speechless, finally I managed to ask Ms. Davis if she agreed with what Ms. Liddell has stated.

“Since you came here you have always been Scarlett, maybe not in dress, but in mind and actions always a female, a cultured Southern Belle. Change the clothes, speak softer, and you are easily Scarlett.”

Maybe this is not the time to bring it up, but your professor in University saw it, when we asked if he knew of anyone, your name came up immediately. His words stated the obvious. “She would be a perfect fit for the museum and the local history, just needs to find herself, a job that I am sure you might be able to assist her in.

Lost in thought, it was quite some time later when Ms. Davis asked if I might want to eat something, she had been with me the whole time, letting my mind process all the information that had been dumped on it. I shook my head trying to get a rational thought out, I told her yes, something to eat would be nice. She rang for Gregory, told him what to get and he disappeared, soon returning with bags of food from the restaurant.

The dining room was set, the food placed on the table then Ms. Davis took my hand and led me to my chair. I was there in body, but also lost in thought. I ate, but couldn’t even tell you what it was that I consumed. I do remember that it tasted good, but that is the extent of my recollection of the meal. There was no conversation, at least, if there was I don’t remember a word of it.

After dinner I was having a hard time staying coherent, conversation was impossible. Ms. Davis asked if I would like to lay down for a while to let things process, I nodded my head and then she asked Gregory if he would take me to Ms. Liddell’s, briefly show me around then let me explore the house on my own for a while, maybe take a nap if necessary. It sounded good to me, I had never been to her house and since she had specified so many things in her will involving me I needed to get to know her a little better, maybe looking through her house would give me a feel for her. It was a short trip there, less than a block to be precise, right on the other side of the museum entrance. He showed me to the back door, unlocked it and handed me the keys. We went in with him leading the way as he showed me through the three floors of the house. He pointed out things, showed me where things that I might need were located and then prepared to leave.

I asked him to stay for a minute, tried to figure out how to ask him what he thought of all of this. He is also part psychic, as he gave me a big smile. “You have been the topic of conversation of the ladies ever since you arrived here. They have discussed every facet of this many times, your possible reaction and if you will accept their plan. Ever since the dress episode at her clothing store, you were being primed for just this type of thing. My opinion, yes you should do it, I also see a female beneath the shroud you live under. Wouldn’t it be nice to live life as it should have been, at least once? He leaned over took my hand and gently caressed it, then leaving a small kiss on it, he left.

It must have been hours before I realized that I was just standing there in her parlor, staring at an empty space somewhere in front of me. My hand was tingling where Gregory had kissed it, such a feeling to be treated as a female, a southern lady. I slowly made my way back through the house, looking at how it was decorated, the pictures that were hung on the walls, the nick-knacks on the various pieces of furniture. Although it was my first time here they were familiar, like I had been there when the picture was taken or the item purchased.

The library was the most fascinating room of the house. I browsed through her extensive library, picking a book here or there to read a page or two from it. All of it utterly fascinating. In these books were the history of the south, her family in particular. I was tempted to sit and read, the fascination of the books hard to suppress.

I yielded though to my curiosity, and went browsing again this time to the upper floors of the house. When I entered her bedroom, the feeling of being in the right place overcame me. I sat at her vanity, looking through her cosmetics, all brand new and never opened. I would imagine they were in my colors, if truth be known.

In one of the side drawers, there were letters, I picked up the stack, I know not the reason I did so, it just seemed to be what I needed to do. Shuffling through them I came upon one addressed to me. It was sealed, but had never been mailed. I used her letter opener and slit the top of the envelope. I withdrew the letter and unfolded it, there in her own handwriting was her request of me. Some of the words were the same as used in the will, others were obviously her personal words for me as to why she had made such a request of me.

If you have found this letter you and I have a connection that spans time and dimensions. Please read it thoroughly and believe that the things stated are true and heart felt. From the day I saw you in the video, I knew you were the one to continue my work here. The image in the video was of a young male, but all I saw was a female yearning to get out of her shell. Ten minutes into the video I told the other ladies that we would hire you, no matter the cost. As the video continued playing I outlined what my plans were for you. There was still some doubt whether you would join in, but after the visit to Ms. Davis clothing store we knew you would. Rose described your look after seeing that gown, I did so wish that you would have tried it on, it would have saved many months in planning. Your actions in the following months proved how right I was about you, your take control attitude about the museum, and your leadership of the volunteers, all done to perfection. Then there was your absorption of our local history, all of our family’s history. You found mistakes in those accounts and corrected them, something no mere employee would take the time to do. The other ladies soon saw what I saw from the start, joining in on my plan. Unfortunately my health got worse and I will not be able to see the conclusion of my wishes. I have always felt a connection to you that is not normal. I can sense what you think quite often and I think you can do the same with me. Please do as I wish and give yourself fourteen days to see if you can live this way. Consider it a gift to a loving Mother, who wants to see her daughter grow and prosper.

With much love and respect

Savannah Liddell

I laid the letter down on the vanity and walked to the bed. I slipped off my shoes, then my pants and finally my dress shirt. I laid down on the comforter, staring at the bottom of the canopy cover. My mind wandered, nothing specific, just random thoughts about my job, and my time here so far. Why I looked in the vanity drawer, then through the letters until I found the one addressed to me. Coincidence maybe, but I doubt it. Something was drawing me to the room, the vanity and then the drawer.

I drifted off to a restless sleep, immediately I thought of dancing at a ball, me in a gorgeous peach dress, the skirts swirling around my stockinged legs, while the corset I was wearing is tapering my waist for the best effect. The snugness of my bodice as it follows the lines of the corset, my hair dangling down from the top of my head in blonde curls caressing my ears and tickling my neck. I remember lots of dances, all the young men anxious to swirl me around the dance floor. I wake up, go to the huge walk-in closet and look inside, there on a hanger facing the door is that peach dress. I step in, touch the dress and run my hands over the bodice. I feel it against my body, as if I am wearing it.

I decide to try the fourteen days as a southern lady, as Scarlett. My mind is so preoccupied by the thoughts that I will never get any rest until I start. I put my clothes back on, close up the house and walk back to Ms. Davis’s house. Before I can knock on the door Gregory opens it and leads me to Ms. Davis. I set on the love seat with her, telling her I will do the fourteen days, as per Ms. Liddell’s request. A few minutes later Gregory and another female enter the parlor. It turns out she is Gregory’s wife, Tina, and she will be my personal maid and dresser during the two week period.

We have a nice dinner, both Tina and Gregory helping to serve it. There is little talk, the food is great but my mind is already looking forward to my transformation tomorrow. Ms. Davis and Tina had made the arrangements right after I told her of my decision. I was scared and also thrilled, even excited to be able to be someone else, to be Ms. Liddell’s daughter, to continue her work. The period, the time, the clothes all made that era so special. Most people knew nothing of that time, maybe a little history of the Civil War, but nothing of the ladies, the children and the lives they enjoyed, Maybe I could teach them a little, show them what it was like, help them to see a portion of that history that is so often overlooked.

Tina walks back with me to Ms. Liddell’s house, now mine I guess. I open the door and we enter. She scurries off upstairs to prepare my bed for the evening, I wander off to the library to read for a while. A little while later I hear Tina in the kitchen, she has made tea and I am given a cup. Then she pulls me from the chair and leads me upstairs. I left the tea on the desk, she tells me I can return as soon as she gets me dressed for bed.

Up the stairs her leading me directly to my bedroom. Over by the bed she starts undressing me, folding my clothes and laying them on the bed. She slides a chemise over my shoulders and it settles around my chest. Then a corset is placed around me, the front busk being fastened together. She goes to my back and starts tightening the corset, gently but soon has it conforming to my body. It is tight but not overwhelming. A pair of lacy voluminous pantalets are slid up my legs and settle around my waist.

I managed a peak at the mirror, Scott has already left the room. A lacey nightgown is lowered and I am officially dressed for the night. I am persuaded to sit at the vanity, as she removes my scrunchie and starts brushing my hair. It feels so good, the brush being pulled through my hair making me sigh as the feelings become almost too much to handle. She then separated my hair into three bunches and starts braiding it for me. When she gets to the end she ties the end off with ribbons. I am given some shoes, kind of like a sandal but decorated with ribbons and lace. A robe to wear to make me decent and I am ready.

She helps me to stand then helps me back downstairs. My tea is refreshed, then she gives me a cheek kiss. “I will wake you at seven, you have several appointments for tomorrow and a lot to learn in the next few days. In the back of your closet you will find your stereo and your favorite music to play this evening. Sleep tight and I will see you in the morning.”

I head back upstairs and to my bedroom. I stare at the image in the mirror as I stand before it. A couple of hours have passed since I accepted the trial, but I can see nothing of my male person anymore. I turn right then left to take in the total image. The braid looks so feminine, the ribbons tied off in a bow at the bottom of it, the ends of the ribbons splaying out over my hips. Since I had forgot to bring a book from the library I pick one from the small bookcase along the closet wall.

I lay it on the bed, then went to look in the closet, the closet is huge dresses lining both sides of the room with shelves at the end. Shoes are lined up on the shelves, most of them heels of varying heights. On a shelf shoulder high is the stereo from the room at the hotel and all of the music I had played on it. I load up a selection for the evening, then turn it on. Suddenly the room is filled with music coming from every direction. I look to see where the speakers are but can’t find them.

The closet keeps pulling me back in, the desire to look at the dresses and outfits quite strong. As I am going through the dresses I see the dress that I saw at the store. I pull it out and hold it up to me, swaying back and forth as if I was dancing in the dress I walk out into the room swirling around, the dress’s skirt swinging back and forth to the music. I gently lay it over the back of a chair, my choice for tomorrow if it is appropriate.

The next day is spent at a salon in a nearby town. Originally in a sweat suit, I am quickly undressed and they start work on me. My body hair is removed, my eyebrows are arched in a feminine shape and my hair is washed, conditioned and cut in a feminine style. Essentially my hair length stays the same but my split ends are removed and then placed in curlers to give me the curls of the era. Placed under a dryer my nails are worked on while my curls are baked in. No exaggerated extensions are used. Just shaped and many coats of polish are added. Once my hair is dry makeup is added and then sprayed to keep it fresh and smudge free. The last thing before my hairstyle is brushed out is a piercing in both ears and Ms. Liddell’s diamond earrings are inserted. Tina shows up with my underwear and dress for the day and thirty minutes later I am corseted and slipped into the dress.

I will have to admit it is heavenly to be encased in the dress, my corset pushing up extra breast tissue to fill the cups quite full. The dress is form fitting through the waist then flared out to a typical southern belle skirt. Tina helps me get back in the car, the skirt making it a requirement to use the back seat, the whole back seat. Back at home I am helped out of the car and taken inside. Walking through the door it seemed to be so much different. It felt like I was finally home, home where I was raised as Mom’s daughter. I shook my head at those thoughts, but they persisted. Up to my room, the huge skirt really not hampering me as I climbed the stairs. To my bedroom, and the feeling again as I realized that it was now my bedroom, what Mom wanted when she passed on. I looked in the full length mirror on the stand in the corner, the feminine image all that was reflected back to me. It was indeed the image of Scarlett, a daughter to my Mother, one of the original Patrons of the museum.

I turned around, now sensing all the things I need to do to fulfill my Mother’s wishes for the house, the museum and for my life. A simple brush with history and all of this is now mine.

Story Complete For Now

© 2016 thru 2021 Fran Cesca Walker

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