I know there was mention of me posting a short story about a medic today, but I decided I’d give my readers a story that was a little more light-hearted.
Ellie ducked behind the corner of the wall, clutching the glass of purple punch in her hands.
It was demoralizing for any red-headed girl to wear a hideous red dress and she hoped she could spend the rest of the evening here, in the room with all the coats and hats.
This ugly thing should’ve been thrown out years ago when she’d first realized that wearing red clashed with her copper-colored curls. She could strangle her younger sister Meredith right now. What possessed the girl to pack Ellie’s most despised dress?
Ellie scowled and sank onto a bench, shoving several hats aside. It was her fault for letting her little sister pack their clothes. If she had set aside her college studies for just a few hours, she could’ve done it herself.
She wished she and Meredith hadn’t come to their Aunt’s yearly Christmas party. Their mother had practically made them go. She told both daughters that they needed to get away from their farm-house and out into some civilized society.
Ellie took a sip of punch. To make matters worse, many of the young men were home from the war just now, nursing their injuries. Aunt had invited nearly all the soldiers from the hospital to attend the party, and almost all of them had come. It wouldn’t be so bad if Aunt didn’t keep trying to get her to fall into love with someone, especially a soldier. Ellie couldn’t lie. Many of them were handsome and generally good-natured, but she found several of them rude and self-centered. Frankly, Ellie hadn’t met a soldier yet that could stand her quiet nature. She wasn’t like most of the girls she knew. Ellie was soft spoken and didn’t approve of the ridiculous flattery some of the soldiers tried to heap on her. She liked quiet conversation and the occasional joke. Not one soldier had understood that so far.
Ellie leaned forward, setting the empty punch cup down. For now, she’d hide back here. Hopefully, Aunt or Meredith wouldn’t come looking for her.
Where had she gone? Caleb searched over the heads of the couples dancing to the airy Christmas tunes. How hard was it to lose a girl wearing a red dress?
“What are you doing?”
Caleb jerked around, nearly punching his brother Davis in the face. “Don’t walk up on me like that! You know how I am.”
“Sorry, man.” Davis held up his hands apologetically. “Who are you looking for?”
Caleb swallowed. “No, one.”
Davis folded his arms. “Why are you just sitting here?”
“You know why.”
Davis’ rough face softened. “Just because you have a bad leg that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself.”
“No woman is going to dance with a man who trips over himself, or who has these scars.” Caleb reached up to finger the scars made by shrapnel during the war.
Davis pulled his fingers away. “So you think sitting here to mope is better?”
“I didn’t even want to come!” Caleb huffed. “You made me.”
“That’s what big brothers are for. I couldn’t let you sit around the hospital all night.”
“Where’s Annie? I thought you two were dancing.” Caleb wanted to be left alone. He appreciated his brother’s efforts, but it couldn’t be helped. No one would dance with him.
“She told me to come find you.” Davis rested a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “You’ve got to let go of what happened over in Europe. It’s time for you to start your life again.”
Caleb shook his head. “I’m fine, really. Just go and enjoy yourself, okay?”
Davis gave him a gentle shake. “We’re talking about this later.” His seriousness quickly turned into a smile. “Meanwhile, I’m going to try and find a girl to dance with you.”
“Davis, don’t you dare, or I’ll fill your bed with snow tonight!” Caleb’s threat didn’t reach his brother’s ears. Great, just great.
Caleb surveyed the room again. One girl had caught his attention. The girl in the red dress. She had been serving punch only ten minutes ago then had somehow slipped from the room.
He had watched her serve punch for quite a while. She was the quiet sort. When other soldiers tried to flatter her, she smiled gently to acknowledge them and then quickly went back to her work as if they weren’t even there.
Standing up, Caleb limped towards the punch bowl. Maybe he could get some answers from the small girl who had been helping serve the punch alongside the girl in the red dress.
“Excuse me,” he said softly.
The young girl looked up. Caleb smiled at the freckles that spilled across her face. She reminded him of Felicity, his younger sister.
She offered him a glass of punch, not even taken aback by the scars on his face. Most people would’ve looked nervous. “Can I help you?”
“There was a young woman here a while ago. She was wearing a red dress.” Caleb’s cheeks grew warm. What was he doing?
“Oh, you mean, my sister Ellie.” The young girl laughed. “She’s gone off to hide. She hates parties, and red dresses!”
Caleb couldn’t help smiling at the energetic little girl. “Do you know where she’s hiding?”
The girl’s face lit up. “Are you playing hide and seek? Ellie’s real good at that. I can never find her!”
“Can you try guessing?” Caleb felt a little like a stalker. He just hoped Davis didn’t see him.
“I think she’s in the room everyone put their hats and coats in. My name’s Meredith by the way.”
“Thank you for the information, Meredith.” Caleb turned.
“Are you going to ask her to dance?” Meredith giggled. “I think she’d like you.”
Caleb felt his face turn red. “I just wanted to say hi.” With a glance around his shoulder, Caleb made sure his brother wasn’t spying on him. Davis had a way of teasing him from across the room.
Ellie wanted to duck under the pile of coats in the corner when she heard someone coming. “Please don’t let it be Aunt or Meredith—Please.”
“Uh, hello.” A voice said from the doorway.
Looking up, Ellie saw a young man wearing a uniform. Great, another one. How could she get rid of him without being overly rude?
“Hi.” She said.
“My name’s Caleb.” He extended his hand to her, and that’s when she noticed the scars. Thick, horrible scars twisted across the left side of his face. Immediate compassion rose up in her heart. This was one of the soldiers that wouldn’t be going back to the war.
“Ellie.” She said softly.
“May I sit across from you?” He pointed to the bench on the opposite side of the wall.
She nodded, watching him limp to the seat. Her heart went out to him. She remembered seeing this young man before. He had been sitting against the wall, watching everyone dance. Poor, boy. Not once had she seen someone come and sit next to him during the evening. It was maddening. He deserved just as much respect as all the other soldiers did.
“I’m hiding.” He said plainly.
“Me too.” Ellie played with her fingers. What was she supposed to say? “Thank you for defending our country.”
Tears sprang to his eyes. “You’re the first person tonight to say that.”
“That’s not right.” She said firmly.
“I was watching you, tonight. Your simple red dress caught my eye out of all the other party dresses.”
Ellie laughed lightly, fingering the folds of her crimson dress. “That’s slightly creepy.”
“You aren’t a silly flirt like all those other girls traipsing around.” Caleb nervously played with the buttons on his shirt. “I hope I’m not forward, but—“
Ellie waited for him to continue. She hoped he was going to ask what she thought he was.
“I know my limp and all—well, it isn’t attractive, but would you consider dancing with me?”
“I’d love to.”
He offered her his hand and led her out into the big dance hall. “I’m a little rusty at this dancing thing.”
Ellie only smiled. “I don’t care.” For the first time since realizing red clashed with her hair, Ellie was thankful for her dress.