I’ve looked high and low, in closets, in the garage behind old lawn tools, everywhere. Oh, fiddle de dee, as Scarlett would say. This charming piece of Southern femininity is an important symbol to me as I work on my Civil War romance time travel, “The Bride Wore Gray.” It’s a prop I’ve had for years when I worked in the theatre. A symbol of the attitudes and mores of ladies in a time gone by.
Can you imagine maneuvering your parasol over your shoulder while trying to text on your smart phone?
Not a pretty sight.
But don’t the dismiss the uses of a parasol too easily. These ladies knew what they were doing. A parasol can be used for:
Flirting. Protecting your skin from the sun. Whacking a gent over the head if he makes an unwelcome advance. A quick cover in a rain emergency. And certainly, a parasol is at its best if you’re Mary Poppins.
No, that was an umbrella, but you get the idea. But I believe a parasol has the same magic as Mary Poppins’ brolly when you pop it open and sling it over your shoulder in a sexy manner. It gives that provocative Southern charm to any woman. And makes flirting more fun.
That’s why I need my blue parasol. When I’m writing the character of Pauletta Sue Buckingham, the Southern spy in “The Bride Wore Gray,” it evokes that era and the slow, easy living of the time, as well as the seductive nature of her character.
A lone bird creased the early morning sky with its silent wings, soaring upward and out of sight. She [Pauletta Sue] watched it disappear into the heavens. Like a soul in flight.
A humid breeze kissed the back of her neck as she breathed in the dawn so deeply her lungs hurt. Tears welled in her eyes. Was it only a fortnight ago she had trembled at his touch?
Holding her so close to him, the heat of their bodies stripped away the heavy cottons, whalebone and silk ribbons of her garments separating them, the hardness of his chest crushing her soft breasts.
Two weeks? Or a lifetime?
â€œI cannot send you on your mission without telling you how much I love you, my darling,â€ sheâ€™d whispered in his ear, leading his hand to her breast. Daring, unladylike, but Pauletta Sue was beyond acting like a lady.
Brazen as a cheeky farmerâ€™s daughter, sheâ€™d slipped past the sentries down to the river, where the Confederate troops were camped, defying all authority to meet him. Theyâ€™d planned to be married next spring when the roses bloomed again and the fields were thick with plump cotton. The war would be over by then, everyone said, but Pauletta Sue couldnâ€™t wait. They were married in a secret ceremony by the magistrate, the paper not yet filed. Theyâ€™d had no time for a wedding night.
Then she started thinking. What if something happened to her beloved? No, Pauletta Sue swore. She couldnâ€™t bear to live. Something told her to come to him now.
Her hair blowing free as a restless wind, she didnâ€™t care what anyone thought.
â€œYou crazy female,â€ heâ€˜d said. â€œYouâ€™re as soft as a magnolia petal, Pauletta Sue, but as strong as an oak tree planted in Southern soil. Let me see your beautiful face.â€
She lifted her wideâ€‘brimmed straw bonnet with a big, black sash tied under her chin and smiled. She was proud of her small waist set off by a black cummerbund, her full skirts floating up around her in a sheer, filmy flowerâ€‘dotted pattern, her breasts outlined by her tight bodice. She winced as he squeezed her soft, womanly flesh, then swallowed hard when she heard him moan.
â€œColton, I had to see youâ€¦touch youâ€¦love you.â€ She bit down on her lower lip, trying to make him understand what she wanted from him, needed, if she was going to get through this war.
â€œYou must go, my love,â€ he said, the blazing look in his eyes telling her that he understood. â€œBefore I do something to harm your reputation.â€
â€œYou do me more harm, sir, by leaving me unfulfilled,â€ she whispered, this time with an urgency he couldn’t deny. â€œWe are married, in case it slipped your mind.â€
He grinned. â€œI must have been a fool not to take you to my bed that night.â€
â€œHow could you when you were ordered back to your regiment before you even kissed your bride?â€
â€œMy brideâ€¦I want to love you as you should be loved, but not here in a dirt field with the smell of death still settling upon the ground.â€
â€œItâ€™s hallowed ground, my love,â€ she whispered. â€œWe have but a few hours to live a lifetime.â€
â€œEven a lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to love you, my darling.â€ He pulled up her skirt. The rounded hoops underneath bounced up around her, the fine French lace of her underskirts flitting through his eager fingers like frightened butterflies.
She felt no embarrassment. No silly school girl blush tinted her cheeks as she watched him pull his dirty muslin shirt up over his head, the broadness of his shoulders ripping apart the hastily-sewn seams.
She had given herself to no other.
Why must she wait for the war to be over to be with the man she loved?
I’ll keep looking for my blue parasol.
After all, in Scarlett’s words, tomorrow is another day.