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There was a little clock hanging on the wall, dark against the pink-rose wallpaper. It was a pretty thing. A thin, lacy metal design bloomed from the edges and there were flowers painted along the edges in only slightly faded yellow paint.
It was only the hands that caused Nolie to scowl and sigh and stare. She lay very still on the bed and stared at the minute hand; two tick-marks past the three. Then she closed her eyes and groaned, inwardly, because the clock still read 9:17 in the morning and she knew her glaring at it wasn’t moving it along any faster.
Nolie stayed in the same position with her eyes still shut for as long as she thought she could bear it. (I will lie here, pretending to be asleep, right up until ten thirty, she thought, and tried very hard to relax, which is something difficult to do intentionally.)
When Magnolia was sure she must have been sprawled there for about a half an hour, the clock proved her wrong. In fact, when she checked it showed she had been lying face down on her quilt for about eight minutes.
Nolie gave a very deep, drawn-out sight and plodded over to the window seat. Outside, the sun was shining. Sun! The weather had been nothing but grey clouds and rain for the past week. And of course on the one day the weather is BEARABLE—and in this case, it’s BEAUTIFUL, I’m being forced to stay inside and go mad. She slumped and shut her eyes, scowling out the window and remembering—‘Why don’t you girls go and make yourselves comfortable until half-past ten?’ She’d sat down at the little round table in the OTHER dining room they were in. The less-than-grand one. ‘I mean upstairs.’ Mrs. Caddigan spoke in a honey-sweet voice. There was an edge there, though, a tone that told them they had all better go up to their rooms, now. From that moment on she’d made up her mind to despise Mrs. Caddigan. Her white-blond helmet was scaring her, anyway…hair wasn’t meant to be that stiff. Ever. Opening her eyes, Nolie checked the clock. It was 9:36. THIRTY-FOUR MORE MINUTES. OH PLEASE, PLEASE HURRY…
She exhaled. ‘A deep, calming breath.’ That was what her and Cora’s private tutor, Mrs. Fortescue, was always telling them—“Take a deep, calming breath, girls—just let your mind relax.” It drove her insane, but Nolie had to admit, it would be nice if breathing like that actually calmed her down. The light filtering in felt so nice on her face…she sat back and let her eyes close once again. The window-seat cushion was very soft. Her mind was wandering: fluttering and landing on a thought, but briefly. Always moving. She thought about the cook, who she’d seen when they’d been in the little dining room with Mrs. Caddigan. She made her think of a clothespin doll; a very round face and red cheeks, but the rest of her as straight as a meter-stick and about as thin as well. A meter-stick wearing a black dress and frilly apron without any stains. Then she wrinkled her nose and thought of Mrs. Caddigan, with her blond helmet-bob and her dress that fit tightly and came down off both her shoulders in the most ridiculous way. It was black and purchased in Paris, along with her floaty silk scarf. (She wore this tied, ever so daintily, in a loose knot around her neck.) Her heels were strappy and aqua-blue, and “one thousand one hundred ninety-five dollars from Gucci” as Cora had informed her earlier. (How did she know this? Nolie had no idea.) Her last thought before she started drifting was how much, exactly, does this woman spend on clothes every year? After that, she napped peacefully: lying in the sun and dreaming of clothespin dolls.