Monday, May 11, 2015

More About the Girl in the Striped Knit Cap

Ellen Wilder’s hair was the bane of her existence. She didn’t count bad hair days, she counted good ones. And she was lucky to get two, maybe three, of those a month. She’d tried every product her friends recommended to tame her wildly curly mop, but nothing seemed to work. Her aunt’s often-voiced opinion was that Ellie was too impatient, that she didn’t that she didn’t take the time necessary to make the most of her hair. But since Aunt Catherine spent a good ninety minutes preparing herself to leave the house—time Ellie didn’t have to spare, and wouldn’t use primping even if she did—Ellie gave that particular bit of advice the same attention she gave the rest of her aunt’s admonitions: She ignored it.

From time to time, Ellie had given serious thought to cutting her hair, but she’d never succumbed to the impulse. In the South, the length of a woman’s hair was sometimes viewed as an indicator of her femininity, and with her beanpole figure, Ellie figured she needed any advantage her dusky shoulder-length curls, wild or not, gave her.

Thinking longingly of short, wash-and-wear hairstyles, she glanced at her watch, yelped, then gave up on her hair and grabbed her toothbrush. Her boss had been at his desk at 6:50 a.m. yesterday, and she wanted to get there before he did. At the rate he was going, though, soon she’d have to start sleeping at the office if she wanted to win the get-there-first battle.

For her, it was a matter of pride. He, however, didn’t have a clue that they were engaged in an ongoing war.

It was probably the few things Ethan Montague didn’t know.

Today, she thought, straightening the cuffs of her coral blouse, he would discover another.

Yesterday her diagnosis of an extremely aggressive cancer had been confirmed by a second doctor. Monday she started chemotherapy and radiation. This morning, she had to tell her boss, then her mother and Aunt Catherine tonight. Ellie strongly suspected that the corporate mogul was going to take the news better than the two former beauty queens, despite the fact that he was likely to lose his administrative assistant and translator for the duration.

After a final look in the mirror, Ellie buttoned her grey suit jacket, then turned off the light. In a week or so, she would not have hair to worry about.

It was a daunting, and rather frightening, realization.

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