“You’re sure she’ll do it?” Ethel Hamilton worried the wedding ring on her left hand, a nervous habit she was inclined to when she saw disaster looming. “She said yes?”
Daphne rolled her eyes and refilled Ethel’s cup with more chamomile tea. She served Ethel chamomile tea, because the poor thing always needed her nerves calmed.
“Plain as day, I asked if she’d help with the Firecracker queen pageant, and she said yes,” Daphne replied in her most calming voice.
“She said she’d compete?”
“These are her exact words: ‘Anything you need me to do, Aunt Daphne, I’ll do.’ What we need her to do is win a thousand dollars in prize money. That’s enough to hold that house for us, more than enough.”
“She knows she’s going to be on stage in her swimming suit and all?”
“Would she be bringing a swim suit for any other reason?”
“Well ... I guess not.” Ethel still didn’t sound convinced. “What about the evening dress competition?”
“She’s bringing a fancy dress, too.” Daphne pointed to the phone behind her. “Betsey’s on her way here now, but you can call her cell phone. Ask her if she didn’t pack her swim suit and evening dress.”
Ethel reached out and took her old friend’s hand. “Now calm down, Daphne. Think about your blood pressure. It’s only that it seems like a miracle that just when we need the money, here comes such an unexpected opportunity.”
“God works in mysterious ways,” Daphne murmured, offering again the sentiment she lived by. “I told you girls we’d find a way to get the house before the mayor could sneak it away. And it’s not like Betsey has to win. If she wins the interview portion and Miss Congeniality, it will be the right amount of prize money. So quit worrying and help me figure out what she’s going to wear in that opening dance number. They want the girls to wear something patriotic ... oh, Ethel, do you still have that Statue of Liberty headdress your granddaughter wore in the school operetta last year?”
The two women were so deep in their planning they missed the crunch of tires on the gravel driveway of Daphne’s neat two-story house and the sound of footsteps on the concrete sidewalk.
But no one on earth could miss Fern Heston’s excited screech as she came rushing into the house without knocking and trilled, “The Times is coming! That’s right, darlings, the biggest newspaper in this half of the state is finally giving our pageant the attention it deserves. And believe it or not, they want to zero in on your darling Betsey, Daphne.”
Daphne and Edith exchanged glances before turning as one to stare at Fern. A tall redhead trying to stall Father Time by sheer willpower, she’d been the director of the Firecracker Queen pageant since its inception. She might be old enough to have grandchildren in the contest, but she still dressed — and sometimes acted — like a kid herself. Today she was wearing lime green capris with a bright orange shirt tied at her waist. Green, yellow and orange sandals with four-inch platform heels and straps that buckled around her ankles completed the outfit. Once Daphne got past the impact of so much dizzying color, the full import of what Fern said sank in.
A reporter was coming to Milford Falls to talk to Betsey ... and she still hadn’t broken the news that she was competing to her niece.
Want to know more?