It’s December…and you know what that means! It’s time for trees and menorahs and snow and singing and sledding and weeks off from work and school and presents! And it occurred to the Ballroom Authoresses this year that we were terribly rude last year and forgot to give Lady B Christmas presents. We’d had a whole thing planned out for Boxing Day 2011, but it ended up being a rather late and liquored evening on Christmas Day, and we forgot.
So, this year, we decided to go all out, and make sure we delivered our gifts to Lady B early in the month.
“…to avoid the cold shoulder she can so expertly deliver,” I’m explaining to the rest of the group when the Lady in question materializes at one end of the ballroom.
“I beg your pardon, Miss MacLean?”
I look up from where I’m arranging paper-wrapped boxes beneath the Ballroom Christmas tree, and mutter, “Good lord. The woman has ears like a…like a…”
“Hawk?” Kate offers, from where she is adding her package to the stack
“I think that’s eyes.” Miranda says.
“Owls have excellent hearing,” Tessa adds, opening a bottle of ratafia.
“No doubt, but I don’t think that’s what I was thinking.”
“Actually, the best hearing is often attributed to the tiger moth,” Katharine pipes in.
“Fine,” I say, rising from the foot of the tree. “Then the woman has ears like a tiger moth.”
I turn to find Lady B standing directly behind me. “You’d best remember that, gel.”
“Lady B!” I cry, “You’re just in time!”
She looks to the tree. “I see you’ve brought another needley plant into the house.”
“I have!” I say, quite proud of myself. “And this time, it’s trimmed with presents!”
This seems to mollify the Baroness.
I leap to add, “Presents for you!”
The authoresses beam.
“Would you like to open them?”
“I suppose I might have the time for one or two.”
“Or eight?” Lauren suggests.
“Or eight,” Lady B agrees.
“Excellent!” I’m thrilled that we’re off the tiger moth at this point. “We all thought long and hard about the best gifts for a lady of discerning taste…”
“You really shouldn’t have spent your hard earned money on me.” Lady B demures, every polite.
I refrain from telling her that we agreed on a $25. limit on gifts, and instead wave at Kate. “You start!”
Kate presents her gift to the Lady, who tears at the wrapping with gusto. Opening the small, flat box, she peers in and says, “How lovely!”
“This bronze ladies’ watch is fashionable as a necklace or as a pocket piece. I thought it might help you to keep time when time in the Ballroom starts to get…”
“Wibbly-wobbly?” The lady finishes for her.
Kate nods. “Precisely.”
“Thank you, Miss Noble. I shall wear it with pride.”
Kate blushes. “Thank you, my Lady.”
I wave Gaelen forward. “Knowing your penchant for sweets, my lady…” she trails off as Lady B rips at packaging to reveal a small gold box. “I thought you might enjoy this…er…new delicacy.”
“Godiva? Like the nude woman?” Lady B raises an eyebrow. “Miss Foley, is this quite appropriate?”
“Oh, totally!” Gaelen says.
Lady B peers into the box. “Brown balls?”
Miranda snickers. “A wonder that name didn’t stick.”
“Truffles, my lady,” Gaelen clarifies. “Chocolate truffles.”
“Chocolate is a liquid, Miss Foley,” Lady B says. “I should know. I drink it every morning. It’s my very favorite warm beverage.”
Gaelen smiles “Try one.”
Lady B bites into one truffle carefully, skeptical for less than a second before she closes her eyes and moans her pleasure. “Oh, my. Oh…MY.” The Lady pops one more into her mouth. “They’re HEAVEN!”
Gaelen grins. “I thought you’d like them.”
Lady B speaks around a mouthful of chocolate. “What else have you brought me?”
“Ooh! Do me!” Lauren leaps to gather a long, slim box and set it on Lady B’s lap. The Baroness reluctantly relinquishes the Godiva, but not before sneaking another into her mouth. “This one is from Miss Gwen and me, Lady B…I noticed you envying hers…”
Lady B opens the box and lets out a little squeal of happiness. “My very own sword parasol!”
“For warding off those Ballroom fashion infractions!” Lauren adds.
“It’s perfect, Miss Willig. Precisely what I wished for.”
“My turn!” Tessa is getting excited. Or, she’s ready for Ratafia. She points to a small, thin box beneath the tree. “That one!”
Lady B claps her hands. She’s getting excited, too. Or she’s ready for Ratafia. Once the package is in hand, she tears at the wrapping and opens it to reveal…”Quills!” She turns to Tessa. “Do you expect me to draft my own novel, Miss Dare?”
“I’m hoping for a memoir, honestly, my lady…but these are no ordinary quills. They’ve got ballpoints!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Er…I mean to say…they’re self inking!”
“Self-inking? You mean I don’t need an inkwell any longer?”
“How very clever!”
“Isn’t it, though? Farewell ink-stained fingers!”
“The one downside to so many balls…no longer!”
We all lean forward to watch Lady B test the quill on a swatch of wrapping paper, signing her name, Heliotrope, Lady Beaufetheringstone, in wide, sweeping letters.
“And there’s more in the box!” Tessa can’t contain herself.
“So there is! The lady reaches in and extracts several long, red tubes. “It’s…” she lifts it to her nose. “Wax?”
“For sealing envelopes! You just put them into your glue gun…” Tessa trails off.
“Uh-oh.” Sabrina looks up from where she is feeding Albert lobster patties.
Tessa looks like a deer in headlights. “You’re…glue gun?”
There is a long pause before Lady B says, “Hmm. I shall have to ask Lord B about this glue gun. He shall be very grateful for the wax, no doubt, Miss Dare. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Tessa says, sounding immensely relieved. She looks around. “Who’s next?”
“I shall go,” Miranda volunteers, handing Lady B another small box.
The lady is getting into it now. “How wonderful you all are!” She peers into the box. “Apothecary viles!” She lifts one sparkly vile and reads closely. “China glitz? Is it from the Orient, Miss Neville?”
Miranda leaps in. “Indeed it is! For painting your toenails!”
Lady B’s eyes go wide. “Only the most scandalous ladies paint their toe nails, Miss Neville.”
Lady B giggles. FULL ON GIGGLES. “I shall enjoy that very much.” She looks around, right at me. “Miss MacLean? Did you bring me something?”
The Baroness has become rather forward.
I smile. “I did, Lady B.” And I’m really quite proud of this one. I pluck my package from the boughs of the tree and hand it to her, the ribbon flying away instantly.
“Oh!” Lady B says, lifting the long silver chain from the bed of cotton inside the box. “It’s a necklace! And is that…” she peers closely. “Is that one of Albert’s feathers?”
Albert squawks. Thief!
“I didn’t steal it,” I assure him. “I simply retrieved it from the floor after your last run in with Harold!”
Albert does not look pleased.
“Oh, tosh, Albert. It’s lovely,” Lady B says, putting the necklace on. “I shall have a piece of you with me whenever I wear it!”
The bird flies to Sabrina, who consoles him with lobster.
Lady B turns to Katharine. “I am ready for you now, Miss Ashe.”
Katharine leaps to deliver her large, flat package. “I have several of these, and they’re very useful.”
Lady B tears the paper and reveals a lovely large Tall-Ships Calendar. “What a handsome calendar! How clever, with the different pages for each month! This is quite lavish, Miss Ashe. I shall be able to keep track of all my balls quite easily now.”
Miranda snickers again, but just barely before Lady B adds, “Tell me, what does 2013 mean?”
We all look to Katharine as she answers easily, “It’s the year.”
Lady B’s eyes go wide. “The year?”
Katharine realizes what’s she said. “For…yaknow…future planning.”
Lady B laughs. “Rather far into the future, my dear.”
Katharine laughs with the Baroness…a touch too loudly. “Right! A fine jest, don’t you think?”
Lady B nods and turns to Sabrina. “And you, Miss Darby?”
Sabrina plucks her box from beneath the tree. “Here you are, my lady…”
“It is!” Sabrina says. She lifts a pair of headphones from the packaging and places them to Lady B’s ear. “Don’t be alarmed, my lady. It won’t hurt you…just listen!” She pushes a button on the walkman in the BAroness’s lap and we all watch as Lady B’s eyes go wide in shock.
“It’s music!” She yells at the top of her lungs. “IT’S PLAYING IN MY HEAD!”
Sabrina explains to the rest of us… “It’s a mix tape of Christmas Carols and Czech pop songs. I figured and give her a Walkman, to introduce her to the “old fashioned” way of sharing music.”
Thank goodness we saved Sabrina for last…Lady B is lost to us…amazed and entranced by the music in her head.
And who can blame her? Walkmen are pretty cool.
Ok readers! We gave Lady B eight presents under $25. What’s your favorite gift under $25.? Share in comments — we could all use some good ideas this holiday, I’m guessing!