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Follow Your Star

by SandyB 

Posted: 29 April 2013
Word Count: 1778
Summary: In this chapter, Tara meets her Aunt Kit, a flapper from Boulder, Colorado.

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Greeley Tribune 1924April22
Three genders: masculine, feminine and flappers.

Greeley Tribune 1926June18
Note to tough flappers: If you’ll look carefully,
you’ll note that the boss men of the community
haven’t that kind of wives.


I hold my needle up to the bare bulb hanging from the ceiling trying to get enough light to pull my thread through. The closing of a car door makes me jump and I miss the needle altogether. “Did you hear that?”
“Are you expecting anybody?” Anna asks.
“No.” My first thought is that someone from the law has come looking for union sympathizers. I go to the window, expecting to see a black sedan with state officials, but when I pull back the curtain, I see a shiny peach-colored roadster sitting in front of our house. There are other automobiles in town, but nothing this outlandish. This is the most beautiful, stylish thing I’ve ever seen.
“Who is it?” I hear fear in Anna’s voice.
“It’s all right.” I begin to breathe again. “There’s a fancy car outside. Whoever it is must be lost.”
I open the door to a woman dressed like a real flapper, like one of the models in Anna’s Photoplay Magazine. If she had arrived from the moon, she couldn’t have looked more out of place. Blue eyes glisten under thick black-caked lashes and her pursed lips are painted to look like a bee sting. A close-fitting crimson hat covers her hair, framing straight platinum blonde bangs on her forehead, and she’s wearing a white fur coat. Who would wear white into a coal town?
But even with all her finery, there’s something familiar about her.
“I must be out of this world lost,” the flapper says. “The fellah at the gate gave me directions, but all these coal shacks look alike.”
“Where did you want to be?”
“I don’t want to be here. I’ve goofed up.” She turns to go.
I should let her go back to where she came from, but she’s too colorful. I want to keep her talking, as if being close to her will brighten my life too.
“I know about everyone in town.” I try to sound casual so as to not scare her off. “If you tell me who you’re looking for, I can help you.”
The woman stops and faces me again.
In that instant, I know who she looks like. Exactly like old photographs of my Grandmother Allen, but she’s been dead for five years now. This flapper could be Aunt Kiturah, but no one has talked about her in so long I figured she was dead too. “Excuse me. You look like you could be my father’s sister.”
“Are you Tara? Tara Allen?”
“Yes, I’m her.”
“If you’re Tara, I’m your aunt, here to wish you a happy birthday.” She studies my face. “There you are. In those eyes! Everyone knows us Allens by our blue eyes. And you’re so tall! I think you’re even taller than I am.” She stomps her feet. “So, are you going to ask me in? I could freeze to death out here.”
“Yes, come in, Aunt Kiturah.” The word aunt feels awkward on my tongue.
“Call me Kit. Nobody calls me Kiturah anymore.” When she hurries inside, her feet make such a flopping sound I have to look down to see why. She’s wearing green galoshes that flap around her legs. Red and white striped stockings go all the way to her knees.
I close the door behind us, and the next question she asks is, “What is that harlequin getup you’re wearing?”
“I was trying to put together the worst outfit I could think of.” I force a laugh. “Just for fun, you know. A way of passing the time.”
“The skirt is nifty, a little summery maybe, but whoever made it, can work with a needle.”
“I’m sorry! I haven’t introduced you. This is Anna. She made this skirt for my birthday.”
“Oh, she’s your seamstress. I thought it looked handmade.”
“Anna is a seamstress, but not for us.” How does Kit think we can afford someone to make our clothes?
As Anna rises to her feet, she places her sewing back in her basket. She curtsies and says, “Nice to meet you, pretty aunt.”
Kit sizes up Anna, from her curly hair to her full skirt down to the heavy boots on her feet. She snorts in my direction. “Harrumph! Well, I never! I’m certainly not her aunt. It sounds as if this girl needs to know her place.”
“Her place is with Tom,” I blurt out. “Tom and Anna are engaged.”
Kit draws in a deep breath. “You don’t mean my nephew Thomas is engaged to a gypsy?”
I’m mortified. It’s bad enough that my beautiful aunt has seen me in this outfit, but now she connects me to someone who looks like Anna.
Kit lays the back of her hand to her mouth, and asks in a loud whisper, as if only for my benefit, “She’s really going to marry Thomas? Look at her. Listen to that accent. Straight off the boat.”
I know I should say something to defend my future sister. I wish I could wave my hands in front of Anna’s wounded face to erase the pain and betrayal I see there. Somehow, though I can’t find my voice.
Letting out a sob, Anna rushes out the door, knocking into Aunt Kit in her hurry. For a moment, I want to run after her and apologize, but the moment passes too quickly. “Fair Farren,” I whisper and close the door.
“That’s some of that Irish talk your mother would always say,” Kit remarks as I turn to face her.
“What’s that?” I say, embarrassed she heard me.
“What you just said to that gypsy girl.”
“We say it whenever someone leaves.”
“I remember now. She was always saying some thing or another in that language of hers.”
Kit means when Mama was her family’s maid. Before Daddy and Mama were married. Before Daddy was disowned.
Glancing down, I notice the coal dust streaking the front of Kit’s white wool coat. I feel an ache in the pit of my stomach. “Look at what that gypsy did.”
“Oh, my,” Kit says, brushing herself, smearing it worse. “It will wash, I’m sure.” But her voice doesn’t sound sure at all. “My fault for wearing white.”
The longer Kit stays today, the worse she’s going to look. But I can’t let her leave when she just got here. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” Kit crosses the room to the kitchen table.
I run ahead of her and wipe the coal dust from her chair before she sits down. Kit holds her arms around her, trying not to touch anything else.
Reaching to the top shelf of the cupboard, I bring down the bone china cup and saucer that we keep for special occasions. Facing away from Kit, hoping she won’t notice, I use the grimy towel to wipe them. I pour the cup full of the watery coffee and set it in front of Kit.
She grimaces and pushes the cup away. “I guess I’m not so thirsty after all.”
Seeing a thin layer of fine dust on the top, I whisk the cup away to the sink.
“I remember this book,” Kit says.
I pull my head up and my back straightens. The Walden book. Of course. Kit probably saw Daddy open this gift on his 16th birthday. It’s so easy to forget he grew up living in a three-storied house with servants. He’s given me glimpses into his past life, before he was disowned by his father, but seeing his sister here now, shocks me into that other reality. The other world where I could have lived if Grandfather had liked Mama.
“Daddy gave it to me for my birthday.”
“He didn’t!” She looks at me incredulously. “What kind of gift is a dusty old book for a young girl?”
My thoughts exactly.
“My brother always was such a Mrs. Grundy,” she smirks.
I’ve never met anyone who knew Daddy when he was a boy. Strange to hear what he was like back then.
“It’s nice to finally meet you.” I sit across from her with my coffee mug.
“What you really want to know is why I’m here.”
When I smile, she says, “Imagine when I looked in the family Bible and I saw my mother had written January 15th as your birthday. Are you thirteen today, is that right?”
I smile and nod.
“I brought something for you.” She reaches into her cloche bag and hands me a long beaded necklace. It’s made of coral colored bakelite and looks like something the actress Lois Wilson might wear. A starry gift. Tara means star and Mama always gave me a gift that made me shine.
“It’s beautiful! I’ll save it for special occasions.”
“Horsefeathers! It’s just an everyday kind of thing. Are you going to change out of the harlequin clothes soon, so we can see what it looks like the real deal?”
I close and open my eyes and force myself to say, “These are the only clothes I have.”
Kit’s fingers spread out in a fan at the base of her throat. She mutters, “God forgive me.” She wipes her face with the back of her gloved hand.
Just like that, her face brightens and a smile sparkles in her eyes. “I just had a brilliant idea! How about if I show you my place in Boulder? I could treat you to a meal, a bath, try you out in some glad rags – really make a day of it?”
My mind whirls. A hot bath? Real food? I can’t remember the last time I felt clean and warm. A shiver of excitement starts in my toes and travels to my face, where I feel a big grin.
“I’d have to be home before 6:00 for a meeting and before Daddy gets off work.”
“It’s not even noon. We’ll be back in plenty of time.” Kit jumps up.
“I’d go even if it was only for an hour.”
“Attagirl! Let’s skedaddle!”Kit opens the front door. “You there!” She yells and sprints out to the front. “Don’t be scratching up Old Rose!”
I run over to the chair and take out my composition book from under my quilt. I think about taking it with me, but I know I’ll remember every detail of today without taking notes, so I lay it on top of Walden. I pull my coat and hat and follow Aunt Kit.

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