Wearing Hats And Holding Hands

“Careful of your dress on the brambles – hang on, you’re caught up.” Eb stooped to free the fabric from the thorns. “It’s a pretty dress,” he said, as he straightened up. “ ‘Twould be a shame to tear it.”

It was in reality the plainest ash grey dress imaginable, except for a neat little white collar; it became her well, but the reality was that in Eb’s eyes what made the dress pretty was basically Flo.
Flustered by the compliment, which drew attention to her appearance in a manner most uncomfortable for a Plain troll, Flo evaded it, saying, “It shouldn’t have a collar like that really, but my mother made a mistake in the edge of the neck when she was sewing it. She thought of putting the collar on to cover it up, so it wouldn’t show.”

“Your mother made a mistake?” Eb feigned astonishment. “And she an eldress? Wisdom slipped?”

He was only teasing, but as soon as the words were out, he wished he hadn’t said it. A shadow passed over Florence’s face, as if she had had to be patient about this many times. Eb realised it must be lonely sometimes, among Plain folk, being an eldress.

“I’m so sorry, Flo” he said quickly, seriously. “It was meant to be a joke.”

He stepped round in front of her, to face her on the path. “Flo?” he said; “I’m sorry.”

She shook her head, smiling at him. “Well, you are forgiven” – and she reached up and kissed him on the nose.