While working on the boots he glanced over his journal notes for several of their “dates”. And he did consider them dates. It was an interesting courtship if that is what it was. Most of his relationships had been intense from the very start for an extended period of time, but he felt very much like he was courting Agnes, slow and deliberate, methodical and filled with feints within feints. She was so much younger and unfamiliar with his more mature and formal style. So he always felt he was presenting himself and she needed to be reminded on a regular basis of the structure of their relationship. He knew she was playing coy with him at times and teasing along, two steps forward, one step back, or to the side. He did not think they were deliberate ploys but maybe deflections borne from uncertainty.
He loved the sensuality of rubbing and working boot cream into the deep black leather, making swirls, building up depth and thickness. He worked meticulously, being sure to get the cream up under the various buckles. Once he finished working the cream into the leather he would let it sit so the leather would absorb the moisturizing cream. Later he would buff off the patina and add layers of warm soft wax.
He recalled a couple weeks ago, while walking down the street Agnes had been captivated by the dress and women’s wear shops, stopping and looking in all the windows. She stared in ecstatic wonder at the treasures in the shop windows. ‘Window shopping’ she called it but Frederick felt differently about it. In his mind, if you were going shopping you decided what you were looking for and went to a shop that would offer what you wanted and bought it. He recognized that his more direct approach was considerably different than hers. He was not sure whether it was really their different ages and life experiences, or if it was just a fundamental difference. The results of their shopping trip that afternoon helped to resolve the contradiction in his mind.
Frederick began making note of the particular clothing styles that seemed to catch her interest. When they came to the street corner he grabbed Agnes’s elbow and turned her to the right to cross the street, even though she had just then been turning the corner to go left. She followed along passively looking back over her shoulder, perhaps thinking about what she might have missed rather than really watching where they were going. A few doors down Frederick turned her into the entrance to a particular shop. Agnes turned to him and smiled, “Oh, look at the lovely dresses in these windows. I really do like the looks of these.”
Frederick smiled to himself, happy that he had interpreted her window shopping correctly. “Shall we go in and have a look around?”
“Oh, yes, I would like that. Yes, please.”
They walked past the foyer windows and on into the shop. They were greeted by two young sales girls and one of them addressed Frederick. “Good afternoon Sir. It is very nice to see you again. It has been a long while since you have been in.” They were both beaming, and Frederick could feel the slightest tug on his arm as Agnes recoiled back just a bit.
“Good afternoon ladies, I am happy to see you again. We are on a mission today to find the perfect dress. A dress to be worn to a very special dinner and night on the town; a dress that will show this lovely girl in all of her splendor. This is Agnes and I would appreciate you showing her your best offerings. Make no assumptions and show her a number of choices. Stir her imagination and find something to accentuate her beauty.”
The two girls smiled enthusiastically, came forward and each took hold of one of Agnes’s elbows and led her toward the racks. Agnes cast a questioning glance back at Frederick and he smiled, nodding his head in approval, encouraging her with a gesture to go ahead with the girls and see what they produced. Frederick followed along to the open space near the changing rooms and said, “I will sit here and enjoy the show. When you find a few appropriate dresses, Agnes can go and try them on and let me see how they look on her.”
Frederick found a leather wing backed chair and settled himself down. The three girls had gone off into the racks of clothing and he could just barely hear their titters now and then, punctuated by the occasional giggle or burst of laughter. After a few minutes they emerged from the racks and each of the girls were carrying several dresses and skirt/jacket outfits. Agnes followed along behind and as the girls stood in front of Frederick she stepped up and said, “Which of these do you like?”
“On the hangers they are just colorful pieces of cloth and I can’t decide anything other than perhaps I might favor a color or general cut. I need you to give them shape and life, show me how they take form when you put them on. Take them into the dressing room and try them on. If you like how they feel on you and look in the changing mirror, then come out and show me.”
“Which ones should I take?”
“Take all of them.”
And with that, the girls headed off toward the changing rooms with their collections. Agnes held back and looked at Frederick. Frederick smiled at her and gestured for her to “go, go, go on go” and she reluctantly followed along and disappeared into the dressing room maze. Once again there was the occasional giggle and laughter. Shortly, Agnes came out wearing a very nice floral patterned summer dress and stood in front of Frederick, hands crossed in front of herself, very tentative. Frederick noticed she had no shoes on and said, “Stand on the balls of your feet, as if you had on a pair of heels. Turn around and show off the dress.”
Agnes got up on her toes and took several steps and turned in a small circle, making the skirt of the dress billow and flow out. Quickly she seemed to lighten up and brighten up and fell into the playfulness of a little girl in a pretty new dress. After two circles and a slight spin, she stopped again in front of Frederick and said, “What do you think?”
“It is a very pretty dress but I am sure there are many more to try on and model. Set this one aside on a ‘possible’ hook and pick another for me to see. Later we will trim down the possibles.” Agnes grinned and disappeared back into the dressing room.
In a couple of minutes she came back out wearing another dress, similar to the first but in a bright solid color, not a floral pattern. One of the sales girls came out with her and walked over and stood beside Frederick’s chair. Frederick gestured up with the palm of his hand (up on your toes) and then spun his finger around (spin around and show me), and Agnes moved as instructed. Once again she finished, standing in front of Frederick with the obvious question on her face. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. She nodded her agreement and headed back to the dressing room.
The sales girl knelt down beside Frederick, put her hand on his forearm on the arm of the chair. Leaning in, she whispered, “She is a very pretty girl Sir, with a lovely figure. It is easy to see why you fancy her.”
“Thank you Camille. I agree completely. She is new to Paris and in need of a friend. I am happy to befriend her and help her in any way that I can.”
Camille chuckled as she stood up to head back to the dressing room, “Yes, of course Sir. Your friendship is very generous and appreciated, I am sure.”
She gave him a wry smile and disappeared behind the curtain.
Again there was much laughter and giggling from the changing room area and Frederick began to wonder if they had become derailed from the dressing process. Then finally there was quiet and a couple minutes later Agnes emerged again.
This time she was wearing a blazer and skirt combination. It seemed particularly provocative because she had no blouse on under the buttoned up jacket. The outfit was even more appealing because of the way her calves were accentuated by the tip-toeing and the skirt was mid thigh, with broad pleats. It was a medium charcoal gray that went nicely with the dark blue of the blazer; very classic looking. Agnes did her tip toe, spin around, flare and twirl showoff routine and landed fore-square in front of Frederick again smiling broadly.
He looked the outfit up and down and with a broad smile, nodded his approval. Agnes smiled back and turned and ran back into the changing room and there was the familiar giggling again.
Over the next half hour Agnes came and went several times with a variety of different styles and shapes and colors. Frederick made a mental note of a couple of his favorites and was keeping track of the ones that Agnes said she liked as well.
Finally, Agnes came out in a little black dress that immediately caught Frederick’s attention. It was shaped in a way that highlighted all of the strong features of Agnes’s figure. It had a nice trim waist, slightly flared at the hips, three quarter sleeves and high neck line but with a slit that exposed a good deal of cleavage in a provocative and immodest way. The length was shorter than many of the others, showing not only her lovely calves but the musculature of the backs of her thighs. Frederick was particularly fond of Agnes’s legs, not too thin, muscular and strong without being bulky, ‘swimmers legs’ was the description he had heard that seemed perfect to him. The dress was immediately slotted at the top of his favorites list.
After Agnes modeled the little black dress she stood before him with a sad face and said, “I have run out of selections to show you.”
“Have you found something that appeals to you?”
“Oh, yes, I have, yes.”
“Why don’t you go back and change into your own dress and send Darlene out here. Camille can help you change and gather your things.”
Agnes disappeared and Darlene emerged. “Darlene, please hang everything we have tried on today on a small rack and bring it back out here. Also, discreetly gather her measurements and sizes for lingerie.Thank you.”
Darlene walked over close to Frederick and squatted down in front of him and spoke softly.
“Certainly, Mr. Frederick. It is wonderful to see you again. It has been a long time. I have missed you.”
He reached out and took hold of her hand and pulled her up, “It is good to see you too, Darlene.”
They smiled warmly at each other, she rose and turned and went back to the changing room.
When Agnes came back out she was in her old summer dress and sandals. She was accompanied by Camille. Darlene came out behind them with the rack and placed it in the middle of the floor. Frederick stood up and walked over to Agnes, took her hand and led her over to the rack. “Do you have a favorite among all of these?”
Agnes looked them over, reached out and touched one and said, “Yes, I do, this one.”
“That is a very nice dress, I like that one too.” He pulled the skirt and blazer out a bit and asked, “How about this?”
“Yes, I like that too, but think I prefer this other dress.”
Frederick reached into the rack again and pulled out the little black dress, “And this one?”
Agnes looked confused by his questioning, her smile was gone and she seemed to tense up, “That is nice too, but I really do like this one.” Again, indicating her first choice.
Frederick stepped closer and put his hand on her shoulder and pulled her to his side, “It is okay, I am not trying to change your mind or make you pick something you don’t want.”
He could see her visibly relax again. He pulled her even closer so she was standing side by side against him with his hand on the back of her neck. Frederick turned to the two girls and said, “We will take these three, the two dresses and the blazer outfit.”
Agnes pulled away a bit and said, “I can’t afford these dresses, Frederick. The one dress is within my range, but there is no way I can get all three of these outfits.”
“It is a treat from me Agnes. I brought you into this store and it is what I wanted to do. I also know your birthday is coming up very soon and so this is an early gift for you.”
Agnes threw her arms around his waist and hugged him. “Oh Frederick, thank you so much, but this is too much. These dresses are expensive. I can’t let you do this.”
Frederick smiled down at her and said, “You are very welcome and it is not a matter of you letting me do this or not. It is what I am doing. These will be nice additions to your wardrobe and will inspire me to find opportunities to show you off. I will be challenged to find outings which will befit you and these lovely outfits.”
Agnes hugged him tightly again and said softly, “Thank you so much Frederick. You are so good to me. I am a lucky girl, thank you.”
Frederick gestured to Camille to pull out and package up the three selections. He untangled himself from Agnes and said, “Agnes, go with Darlene, I think there are a couple more things that you will need to compliment these dresses. She knows what is needed and will help you.”
Frederick smiled at the recollection. it had been a fun afternoon; a great outing. He picked up one of his boots and pushed the shoe stretcher down into the toe, locked it in place and did the same with the other boot. With the leather stretched and formed he started vigorously brushing off the patina of the cream in preparation for applying the wax.
When he finished buffing the boots he picked up the bottles and cans and papers and tidied his desk. He set the boots in the sun to warm them in preparation for applying the wax. Looking at the time, he walked over and picked up the phone and called to make reservations for the evening.
Agnes reflects on the shopping trip