A Darling Morning

Posted on Mon Jun 10th, 2013 @ 11:17pm by Clarice Darling

Date: Late February 2010
Location: Clarice's house, building in the city

Clarice stared in horror. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening.

She closed her eyes. Then opened them. The abomination was still there. Looking at her. Laughing at her.

Seething, Clarice glared at the gigantic jelly stain in the middle of her gray Hervé Leroux bandage dress. It was probably grape. Those brats loved grape. Not that it mattered. The dress was *ruined*! Outright scowling (something she avoided unless she wanted to wrinkle in her old age), she picked up the dress bag with dress inside from where it had laid on her bed and stormed down to her parent's suite just down the hall. Her pink-painted toenails, that went with her jeans and long-sleeved shirt, all in a shade of pink, almost clashed with the red carpet as she stomped through the suite to her mother's dressing room. In the room, her mother was on her personal dias, looking in a three-way mirror at a long white gown with matching hat. Said hat was big enough to waltz around. A part of Clarice thought that it still might not be big enough.

Sitting in a nearby chair was Jana, her 14-year-old cousin and disaster waiting to happen. She was in designer jeans and a cropped long-sleeved top, but it wasn't the disaster. Jana always looked good, even if she had the devil's own red hair to go with the Rotherbridge brown eyes. No, the disaster was her attitude. She'd had it ever since she came to live with them 10 months ago with her bratty brothers. Her arms were folded over her chest, one hand out texting on her cell phone. Supposedly, it was a cousin from her Lynds side of the family, whom she would rather have gone to live with.

Clarice was just sorry that her parents got to them first. All because Clarice was getting married and her mother was fretting over winding up with an empty nest.

She wished her mother had chosen another time to get all maternal.

"Momma!" Clarice shrieked, showing her the dress when she turned around. "Look what those brats did! I don't know how they got into my room, but I surely know what they took in there!"

Mariah looked at the stain, then sighed. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry. I'll have a talk with them. They know they aren't supposed to be in your room. But I'm sure we can find a dry cleaner to get that stain out." Jana snorted, and both women looked at her, Clarice with a glare and Mariah with resignation. "It's not that bad."

"I don't know, it's a pretty big glob," said Jana, looking down at her phone again. "It was probably Cole; you know he loves his peanut butter and jelly."

The identification didn't help. "Why my room?! What do they like so much about my room?!" There weren't even any toys in it!

Jana smirked. "The forbidden?"

"Shut up!" Clarice said, frustrated with the whole situation.

"Make me," Jana muttered.

Mariah got between them and took the dress from Clarice before she could further lash out at Jana. This was a common occurrence, and it looked like Mariah didn't want another battle for the moment. "I'll have them do their best. I'll get it back to you as soon as possible."

Clarice stamped her foot, but there wasn't much more to be done. Finally, she just pivoted and walked back out of the room, listening to her mother tell Jana to at least *try* to behave. She didn't need to hear Jana's words clearly to know what her feelings were on the subject.

Clarice stomped back to her room, then opened her closet, pulling out a different dress. Another Leroux, this time in burgundy. She pulled out another dress bag, put the dress into it, then reached into the very back of her closet, pulling out a small bag. She slipped it into the bottom of the bag and zipped it up. That done, she put on a pair of Ugg Boots and a light coat before she carried everything out to her Benz, laying it out on the backseat before sliding into the driver's. The sooner she was away from the house, the better.

The drive took a while, as it always did. Her destination was deep in downtown Dallas, not quite the bad part of town, but definitely not her neighborhood. It was a little run-down, the buildings needing a new coat of paint or new shingles, but it wasn't so bad she needed to worry about being jumped.

She got to the building she was looking for, and nosed her car up to the back entrance. As she got out and opened the backseat, a man came out the back and down the stairs. He was in his forties, slightly balding, and pleasant-looking, just not necessarily attractive. He was about as bundled up as she was, though there wasn't much snow in the city. She smiled at him. "Hey, Gary."

"Hey, Emma," he said, using her middle name. He knew her first name, but she didn't want her mother finding out about this. "You called earlier and said you had a package for me?"

She nodded, then reached in, unzipping the bag and pulling the small bag out. "Here you go," she said, handing it to him.

Gary held it and pulled out a top, similar to the one she had on. "The girls will love these," he said. "You know how hard it is to find things like this at Goodwill."

Clarice nodded, looking up at the building in question. "Yeah, I know. I only wish I could do more right now. But the wedding's coming up."

Gary nodded. "I saw the announcement. Congratulations."

Clarice nodded, smiling at him. "Thank you. " She turned, zipped the bag back up, then turned to him. "Should go drop this one off, too. And explain the color change." Gary raised an eyebrow. "One of my younger cousins got a jelly stain on it while I wasn't looking. I don't know why, but they love my room."

Gary chuckled. "Kids. Probably just looks up to you, you know."

She sighed. "I know," she said. "But do they have to do it so *much*?" Gary laughed, and she gave him a salute. "Until next time."

Gary saluted back and went into the building once more. Clarice got into her car, and found a text waiting for her. She smiled, sent a text back. then slid back out of her precise spot before taking a more direct route home. On the way, she dropped the dress with a friend, with more eye-rolling over her cousins, then she got home, finding a big truck waiting for her. Benjamin was standing next to it, and smiled when he saw her pull up. He was wearing jeans and a white cotton shirt with a semi-heavy brown coat and cowboy boots.

Clarice, grinning, got out of her car, barely closing the door before hurrying for him, throwing herself into his arms. "Benny! I missed you!"

He chuckled. "I missed you, too," he said, holding her securely in his arms. He kissed her temple. "Did I catch you on a run?" he murmured into her ear, kissing it.

She shivered. "Yeah, but don't worry, I was done." She kissed his cheek then pulled back, looking up at him. "Want to do lunch? I need to get changed, but I'd love it."

Ben nodded, smiling. "So would I," he said, then kissed her again, this time on the lips, holding her to him for a long moment. Then he loosened his grip and ended the kiss reluctantly. "How long do you think it'll take?"

Clarice rolled her eyes. "Just long enough for Cole and Gabe the Second to drive you crazy."

"You know he hates that name," Ben reminded her.

"I know," she said as they turned toward the house. "If he stops annoying me, I'll stop annoying him. How's that?"

Her fiance chuckled. "I'll go with it if he does," he said, escorting her inside.