Dorothy had been working at Eaton’s department store for nearly a year. She was thrilled to get her first job outside of work on the farm or minding posh Westmount children.
Ethel had put in a good word, “Mr. Graves you need to meet Dorothy, she’s a pretty thing and has a keen eye for style,” Ethel had said.
She was a country girl at heart but getting acclimated to urban life, frequenting cafés and boutiques. She shared the Westmount house with Ethel, her only confidante; her younger brother Joseph, a McGill University student and the housekeeper daddy sent down, perhaps to keep an eye on them.
Her Eaton’s shop girl position gave her a sense of freedom, an awareness of the world through the eyes of Montreal. It was cosmopolitan like Paris, where her customers were debutantes from the best families. She was thrilled to earn her own money and had aspirations in fashion, ever since discovering Coco Chanel in Vogue magazine.
The rest of the family; Mother, Dad, Luke and John lived up at the farmhouse, just outside Lachute, 50 miles north. The family business, Hughes Bros., was a construction company Grandpa Joseph started with his brother Hector, in 1885.
When the Hughes’ gathered, they converged at the farmhouse where they’d all been born. The original farm land had long since been subdivided but their estate was still vast. A short carriage ride took her west to Lachute Town Square or south to Riviere du Nord by the fairgrounds. Joseph and Hector had a construction office at the foot of the property on Main Street and the family home was tucked in behind it.
As a girl, Dorothy had loved bouncing down the hilly driveway to bring her father snacks and tea at the office or venture to the Lachute marketplace for local charcuterie meats and cheeses. She would pretend she was in a village somewhere in France.
It was a sweltering early summer afternoon when Dorothy first laid eyes on the man who would become her first husband.
She and Ethel worked the cosmetics counter together that day which was not always a good thing. They were close at home but Dorothy found working with her sister annoying and today was no exception, Ethel was getting on her last nerve.
“Dorothy, will you fill up the Pompeian Beauty and polish the casement glass? There are still fingerprints on it from last night. Bernadette doesn’t know how to close shop properly does she?” Ethel said. She was commanding by nature.
The department store had been busy midday but they had reached a nice lull by late afternoon.
Dorothy was in the back storage room gathering and sorting supplies when Ethel’s head popped in, “Dorothy. Let me do that! Come out here. You gotta get a load of this… there’s a man out here. He looks like a movie star,” she said, whispering frantically.
Ethel was prone to panic attacks. Dorothy was not in the mood.
“First, you want me to fill the shelves and now you’re after me about some customer. Ethel, you’re going to need to get over your shyness working with the public,” she said, as she took off her gloves and went to peak out front.
Through the crack in the door where Ethel’s head had been, Dorothy saw a formally attired gentleman perusing the glass display case appearing somewhat confused. He was fine looking indeed.
She moved past Ethel out to the front. He looked up and smiled.
“Good afternoon sir, how may I assist you today?” Dorothy asked.
“Your colleague told me you were an expert at selecting scents,” he said.
She saw something mischievous in his eyes. She was intrigued. The crinkles on his forehead gave her pause. He was older, more mature, maybe late twenties.
“Well, I’ve been known to please a number of customers, so yes, I am an expert,” she said. She faked it, since she’d only worked perfumes for the past week. She’d typically been auditing stock and making sure shipments were accurate.
His eyes were attentive; he wore a lovely dark suit and a hat with a black velvet band around it, that held small feather.
“What scent does a lady like on a picnic after Sunday service?” he asked, bashfully. Dorothy found it odd he referred to church service, considering most men would be running from the altar, not to it. This man was obviously married.
“I would have to know a little bit more about this particular lady. Does she like lilac or lavender or the color mauve?” she asked.
Clifford looked at her quizzically, men didn’t know the difference between shades of colors, “Let me see, she wears pink but she does wear purple too. I’m going to say a color, somewhere in between is her favorite… If it helps at all, she turns thirteen this coming Sunday,” he said.
“Perfect! Let me see here,” Dorothy said, scanning the stock in the window case. She was surprised how her nerves acted up and was relieved he was shopping for a young girl and not, God forbid, a twelve year old wife! Dorothy, you are ridiculous, you have only just laid eyes on the man!
“You see, I’m only in town for a few nights, making sure my goddaughter is in the best possible hands. Her parents are getting a divorce,” he said, whispering divorce.
“That is terrible. Let me make this as easy as pie for you,” she said. She chose a pretty bottle from the lower display case and set it on the glass counter.
He nodded, “I’ve spent the last two days entertaining the dear. Do I look like I know about teenaged girls? I thought the zoo would be good but she was too old for that,” he said.
“Then I thought, a singing and dancing picture, 42nd Street, would be appropriate but no, she wanted to see Bombshell! Have you an idea how lascivious, Jean Harlow is? I’m exhausted, I must tell you,” he said. Dorothy thought it sweet, he tried to please his goddaughter.
“Well sir, young girls today can be quite advanced. It sounds like you made a gallant effort, indeed. Do you like this bottle?” Dorothy asked. She waved her hand over the product as Ethel had shown her from the Timothy Eaton Presentation Skills guide book.
He stared at the bottle without expression. Dorothy smiled to herself, men didn’t understand that even the shape and size of the bottle was part of the perfume’s allure.