Sketch for the main character in a series focused on a group of women enlisted in Britain’s Women’s Land Army during WWII.
England / 1941
The silk stockings skimming her thighs were a strange distraction. Together with the evening dress, upswept hair, and sophisticated makeup, she’d never felt so elegant – or vulnerable – in her life.
For several moments after she stepped onto the moonlit terrace, she thought she was alone. She closed her eyes and gathered her courage, let the heady scent of overblown roses fill her nostrils and lungs, let the music spilling out of the ballroom woo her hesitant heart.
A figure detached itself from the shadows. “It would seem you have grand ambitions for your dance card, Miss Finch.”
Too late to back out of the charade now. “Not at all. That is, my grand ambitions are not for myself.”
“Are you sure? You’re wearing the dress of a woman who bears you naught but ill will.”
“Well, yes,” she said, mouth dry and palms damp as she remembered her promise to speak freely and honestly, “but I’m wearing it to dance with you, your Lordship.”
He moved toward her through the shadows. “What makes you think I’m interested in dancing with you or anyone else?”
“Of course you want to dance,” she said, forgetting the discomfort of the stockings in her earnestness. “You’re just -”
He stepped into the light. “Half the man I used to be?”
“That’s not what I was going to say and you know it. You’re out of practice, that’s all. Your sister loaned me this dress because the only thing we agree on is that you’ll need our help to meet your mother’s expectations tonight.”
“Still don’t see how your dress will help me.”
“It makes me stylish enough to blend in with the guests so that no one questions our dancing together,” she said, running her fingertips over the unfamiliar texture of the fabric. “We’ll use your first two public dances to demonstrate your grace andaptitude.”
“And after that?”
“You’ll be the belle of the ball, with a bevy of eager dance partners lined up, thanks to your sister. And I have a field to plow at five o’clock tomorrow morning, so it’s off to the farmhouse and bed for me.”
“Say we try it, your refresher course on dancing. What about our hands?”
“Oh, yes, we ought to figure that out and try a practice dance or two before we go inside. Here, step up close. Let’s see. What would feel most natural?” she said, eyes searching his.
“Standard form,” he said, putting his right hand around her waist, palm on the back of her ribcage. “Centers my balance.”
She stepped into his hold. “Yes, that’s good. In keeping with standard form, my right hand goes around your waist and my left hand goes, hmm, would it be okay to put it here, on the outer edge of your right shoulder?”
“An empty arm socket is probably the last place a socialite will want to touch me, Miss Finch.”
“The families your mother invited to this evening’s war bond fund raiser are allies and supporters. The room will be teeming with eligible young women who would consider it an honor to dance with an injured veteran.”
“Is that how you see me? Injured?”
“Of course not,” she said, perfecting her stance in his arms as the orchestra struck up a new song. “You’re cryptic, contrary, and aggravating. Now, stop stalling and dance with me, your Lordship.”
His smile, slow and warm as morning sun piercing winter fog, diminished her anxiety over luxurious stockings, austere gentry, and the bloody endless war.