Like a Lady, Continued

Like a Lady, Continued (January 2019, Round 1, Day 7)

It wasn’t intentional. Really. I didn’t wake up that morning saying, “I’ll have oatmeal for breakfast, send a few emails, go for a walk, kill a man, head to the post office, and stop for coffee.” If it *had* been intentional, well, never mind, because it wasn’t.

I am simply not that kind of person. I come from a good family – ask anyone, they’ll tell you. My father was at the top of his class at Oxford. Not near the top or even in the top three. He was AT THE TOP OF HIS CLASS for God’s sake. People like him certainly don’t raise murderers as I’m sure you understand. He wrote important papers and was asked to present his brilliant ideas to heads of state. He, as everyone very well knows, was an important man.

He died, of course, as old men are want to do. He died in as dignified a way as possible and didn’t leave even a trace of a mess for others to clean up unless you count his corpse. There are people for that, though, so that hardly counts. He raised me well before he left this earth and the accusations being hurled at me would make him roll over in his grave if he were within earshot.

Anyway. As I was saying, calling me a murderer is simply uncalled for, clearly. Not only was my father brilliant and well connected before he married, he married my mother. She – well, she was a force to be reckoned with and would NOT have stood for anything so base as a murderous daughter. Anyone who had met her would tell you the same. She knew exactly which buttons to button and which to leave alone and you certainly don’t want to presume that anyone with that level of knowledge would bring up a killer. I was at her side, in the arms of my nanny, from my very first breath until the last breath of hers and, I promise you, I learned how to be a lady.

Ladies, I’ll have you know, remember what’s important even in the face of adversity. Our reputation is our most valuable asset. Hair and cheekbones and a smooth round behind will only take you so far. She said that every time she dressed for dinner and taught me to say it, too. I’ll always remember getting to perch on the stool in front of her makeup table and puckering my lips so she could make them red and beautiful with her silver lipstick tube. She taught me things while I sat on that stool and you’d better believe I remember every lesson.

It really was his fault, you know, that he ended up taking his last breaths in my presence. I didn’t ask for it to happen. I didn’t ask to watch a man die – there is NOTHING ladylike about any part of that unpleasant situation. I’d say you should ask him how it happened and why, though I understand how that isn’t quite an option at this point. If it *were* an option I’m sure I wouldn’t be sitting here, behind these drab gray bars, waiting for my lawyers to do their jobs. I would, instead, be boarding the 8 pm flight to Morocco.


Sadie chuckled as she watched Janell scramble up to perch herself on the stool in the bathroom. The little girl was as round as a three-year-old should be with arms not quite long enough to fully reach overhead and yet she had mastered the art of getting up on that stool as fast as could be. Sadie didn’t know which was more of a draw – the attention from her mother or the lipstick on her face – and had concluded that it didn’t really matter.

“Sit tight, little love. Mama will be here any minute.” Janell put a hand out, just in case, but let Janell maneuver herself into place without interference.

“Mama will put lips on me?”

“Yes, little love. I’m sure she will as long as you’re sitting still.”

“I sit still, Sadie.”

“Yes, little love. You sit still and Mama will come find us.”

The sound of Elsbeth’s high heels on the marble floors made its way into the bathroom first followed closely by the heady scent of the woman’s perfume. Elsbeth was already dressed and ready for the gala she and her husband would be attending that night. All that was left was to apply her makeup.

“Janell, Janell, my sweet little bell. Are you ready for me?” Elsbeth’s rich voice filled the bathroom.

“I sit still, Mama!”

“I see that, Janell.” Elsbeth smiled at Sadie over her daughter’s head. “That must mean you are, indeed, ready for me.”

Elsbeth hummed to herself as she gathered the bottles, tubes, and canisters she’d need to apply her makeup and Janell did her best to hum along with her. Sadie loved working with the family for things like this – the connection between mother and daughter was strong. She’d worked for families where she felt like more of a mother to her charges than a nanny and had assumed that was what she was walking into again when she’d interviewed for the position when Janell was still inside Elsbeth. She couldn’t have been more wrong and preferred this arrangement hands-down.

Elsbeth looked at herself in the mirror. “Janell, my bell, no matter how much time we spend making ourselves beautiful, we must remember that it is our reputation that is our best and most important asset.”

“Red lips, Mama? I can have red lips?”

Elsbeth chuckled and made eye contact with Sadie through the mirror. “Red lips and a solid reputation, Janell. Remember both.”


Of course, he would be the one to put this trip in jeopardy. Martin has been getting himself tangled up in my life since the third grade. He never seemed to understand his place in the world or, frankly, how different his place was from mine. You would think his parents could have given him some guidance in the matter, but, “that apple is still attached to the tree” is how Father described him.

I do remember the first time I met him. He joined our school in the middle of the year – something that simply wasn’t done. His parents appeared to have stumbled up into a new station and felt that inserting their awkward child into the mix at school was the right thing to do.

Mother pitied him. She said so while applying a lovely coral color to my lips. It was right after the first pass and before she instructed me to press my lips together. “Money does not have the power to buy wisdom, Janell, and it certainly doesn’t send wisdom down through the generations. Martin has a long road ahead of him and has been started on the path without the benefit of a map.”

She shook her head and touched up my Cupid’s bow before waving farewell to me and Sadie. Both she and Father were right. I watched him as we grew, from a lady-like distance. Martin made choice after choice to bring him to today. If his parents were still alive you could assign them some blame for setting him on his disastrous path, but certainly not me.


“Can I walk you home, Janell?” Martin blurted out the question just as Janell’s foot hit the ground outside of the school.

“No thank you, Martin. I’m quite fine on my own.” Janell ignored the giggles from her friends and gave the boy a polite smile before turning away to head home.

Martin called after her with hope in his voice. “Maybe tomorrow?”

The girls around her looked over their shoulders and waved and blew kisses to Martin while Janell kept walking and muttered, “leave him be.”

One of her friends spoke up. “Oh, Janell. Why do you put up with him? He’s so…base.”

Janell didn’t answer right away. She had grown accustomed to having Martin gamble around her like a basset hound puppy and there didn’t seem to be an easy way to get him to stop without damaging her reputation. What had been a bit entertaining at seven had become embarrassing at thirteen. “He’s harmless, and I’m not going to be rude.”

The jab silenced the giggles and the girls moved on.


I have been planning this trip for over a year and have little intention of returning. I only stayed for Sadie. She had cared for me so well and for so long it was only fitting that I would be by her side as she left this world. After all, I’d been there for Father and Mother and she was as good as family.

Putting my plans on hold wasn’t easy. It was, if you must know, quite a hardship and one that I don’t imagine finding anyone else worth the trouble again. I sat with her and listened to her stories – most of which I’d been there for in the first place – and patted her hand. I did what Mother would have expected of me. To have made it through all of that to end up here? It’s simply preposterous.

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