A Tudor Rose
By Lydia Jones
Are workmen and WI ladies worth getting one’s farthingale in a twist over? Find out in this amusing coffee break tale from our archives!
My farthingale is tight-fixed on the fender. No matter how I twist, this Tudor petticoat is stuck fast.
In fifteen minutes I’m expecting ladies from Marchwood WI for Trials of a Tudor Housewife. I am the star turn. The only turn. These tours are a major part of my masterplan for reversing the fortunes of Marchwood Manor. If I ever get free, that is.
“Hello?” A man in t-shirt and jeans appears. “I’m looking for Lucy Carlisle.”
“You’ve found her.” I try to stand tall; look like a manager. “Can I help?”
Blue eyes sparkle.
“Looks as if you need the help.”
“I’m fine.” This bloke is only about my age; I can’t let him take advantage.
He shrugs; waves a tanned arm towards the window. I try not to notice how toned it is.
“I’m from Mitchum’s. The builders? Just prepping today, but I wondered if we could check the south facade work.”
“Certainly.” I take one step; a tearing sound makes me freeze.
“Excuse me saying so, Miss Carlisle – but you appear to be – er – stuck.”
OK, now I know he’s laughing. A blush spreads from my suddenly exposed-feeling cleavage to my cheeks.
“Can’t you just tug?”
“Thank you, Mr…”
“Jake. I can’t possibly tear this costume – it cost a fortune.” Having just completed quarterly accounts I’m acutely aware of our financial precariousness.
“Let me. I thought your tour was due.”
“The builder called Jake has his hands up my skirt!”
He’s kneeling, lifting the skirt of my gown. I’m glad I didn’t go for complete authenticity. I am wearing knickers.
“Wow – this is some contraption.”
“Thanks for the observation.”
“The spike’s stuck under one of these wooden hoops.” His hands rummage indecently through my petticoat.
“Lucy, your ladies are early – oh!”
Caroline, my office administrator, takes in the scene: me leaning on the fireplace; the builder called Jake with his hands up my skirt.
“I think you’re free, Miss Carlisle. We’ll discuss that other matter later.” He grins.
Caroline’s face is an astonished question mark as I sweep past.
“Don’t ask,” I hiss, before pasting on my best professional smile.
“I’ll tell the hunk to catch you later”
“But I’m certain they mixed treacle with arsenic.”
Most ladies are lovely but this hatchet-faced woman with eyes like lead shot has so far challenged me on everything from quill pens to pillows.
“I’ll check for you.” I smile.
At the window, an eavesdropping Jake winks. Luckily nobody notices.
“Let’s go out to the herb garden.”
As the group shuffles past, I push open the office door.
“Caroline, check Galenic antidotes – should be treacle and snake venom.”
“OK.” She pats my definitive text book. “Mitchum’s hunk wanted a word.”
“He’ll have to wait. Last thing I need right now is a chirpy brickie.”
“How’s the group?”
I wince. “Got a would-be boffin.”
“Bad luck. I’ll tell the hunk to catch you later. Only he’s already caught you.”
She giggles. “If I were younger, I’d not push him off my petticoat either.”
“After the day you’ve had you deserve a drink”
By the time Hatchet-Face has finished I feel I’ve conducted a mental boxing bout.
“Jake Mitchum is waiting,” Caroline says as, Tudor-gowned, I swish in to grab emails.
“Mitchum? It’s his company?”
What a great impression I won’t have made on the man I hoped would be an ongoing, supportive contractor.
“Mr Mitchum. I’m terribly sorry about the incident earlier.”
“It’s Jake. You’re good.”
“The way you handled that awkward old biddy – brilliant.”
I try not to look pleased.
“I bet you’ll make a go of this place.”
“About the work –”
I’m aware of flattening hands against stomacher like a prim Tudor maid.
“Lucy –” His eyes do their sparkling thing again. “After the day you’ve had you deserve a drink. Can we discuss repairs up the road at The Tudor Rose?”
A little fizz of something unfurls inside me. This day is looking up. I turn and grab my handbag.
“Er – Lucy? You might want to get changed first.”
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