By Christopher Leeson and Ellie Dauber
Chapter 2, Part 2
"Put this in yuir pipe and smoke it, lassie. Ye say ye want people t'think yuir a regular sort of girl. If that's what ye want, ye'll have t'learn how a girl dresses, talks, and behaves. I reckon yuir unschooled in doing that, but yuir aunt can give ye a lot of good advice. Ye should take it.”
Then the woman glanced toward Irene. “Mrs. Fanning, what's Myra's full name?”
“It's... Abigail Myra Olcott.” She paused, and then added, “I'll be telling folks that she's my orphaned niece from back East.”
Molly nodded and again faced off with Myra. “Missy, there's a lot that ye'll have to do differently from now on. A girl don’t get into fistfights over trifles, for one thing. Don't be hitting anybody or insulting anybody just for treating ye like a lassie. What else can a body expect? Or maybe ye'd prefer that everybody finds out that ye used to be Thorn Caldwell? Ye might give some folks a good laugh, but it'd be an easier row to hoe in the long haul. Wouldn't ye like that?”
Myra's stare could have killed a flock of prairie chickens. “No!” she said emphatically.
Molly shook her head. “Then I'd advise ye to keep clear of folks when possible, till ye've figured out how a decent young lady handles herself.
At that point, the matron paused. “That's enough for now.” Standing up, she faced Mrs. Fanning. “I think it's time to have a powwow about... certain subjects that perhaps yuir niece isn't quite ready to start fretting about.”
Irene nodded disconcertedly and then picked up the green robe that the doctor had provided. She held it out to Myra, who was wearing a gray patient's gown. “Myra, please put this on, and then go out into the other room and eat your breakfast. I'll join you after I've spoken to Mrs. O'Toole.”
Myra wanted to balk, but something, some sort of… voice in her head, repeated what she had been told, and did so with an intensity that compelled her to pay heed. She crossed into the next room on bare feet, slamming the door behind her.
“She'll need a bath,” Molly said after Myra had gone, “but we shouldn't be raising a lot of questions over at the bath house. The doc has a tub from out East. And after ye get her home, see that she cleans up every day or two. Most of all, remember what I'm telling ye about not letting her have much to do with people before she's ready.”
“How can I make her behave when you're not around?” Irene asked.
Molly looked doubtful. “Didn't Shamus explain it? Ye have just as much control with her as I do. Just tell the lassie what ye want, and she'll feel obliged to do it, as long as ye make it clear that it's really an order. Don't be worrying too much. The colleen'll be shaping up on her own in two or three months, if she's like the girls over at the saloon. When that happens, ye'll have a whole new set of issues, but everything in its own time. Meanwhile, ye’ll have t’be schooling her about girl-things, like clothes and having monthlies. Just teach her what yuir ma taught ye.”
“What do you mean about there being other 'issues'?”
Molly sighed. “Don't be surprised if she soon starts acting all flustered-like – around boys, I mean. That sort of thing seems t'come natural with the potion.”
Astonishment transformed Irene's face. “Boys? She'll like boys, like the saloon outlaws do?”
“Don't fret about it,” advised the older woman. “’Tis for the best. Loving and being loved ain’t a bad thing. But there's many a slip between the cup and the lip. Myra is just at the age when a girl can go wrong.”
The widow's eyebrows went up. “Do you mean she might become a... a hussy?”
Molly met her glance intensely. “An ordinary girl is brought up t’be right sensible about the lads. Thorn never got that sort of teaching. If that niece of yuirs starts thinking about boys the way too many girls his – her – age do, she might run square into... consequences... ”
Irene needed to sit down.
Molly led Irene into the back rooms of Dr. Upshaw’s office, the part that served for living quarters. There, in a cubical, was placed the physician's personal bathtub, also used by his patients when they needed it. “I got clothes for the gal,” she told her younger companion, extracting a bag from her big carryall. “They ain’t much, just some old things from when Jessie Hanks started, umm… working for me and Shamus.”
“Won’t Miss Hanks mind?” Irene asked.
“Not likely. She's all excited about showing off in flashy stuff now, like that fancy blue gown she wears when singing, and them frilly unmentionables for when… well, let’s just say when Paul Grant likes t’be seeing her in ‘em.”
Mrs. Fanning returned a doubtful glance. “I think I understand.” Feeling slightly uncomfortable, Irene went to check on the heating bathwater. An extra-large kettle sat on the hot griddle, a thin trail of steam wafting from it. When she dipped the tip of her finger, it hurt but didn't scald. Going to the door, she called, “Mrs. O'Toole, could you help me carry this hot water?!”
The saloon proprietress joined her directly and, using potholders, they carefully and slowly carried the heated vessel to the bathtub. Bracing the pot on the edge of the fixture, they poured in its contents. Then ladies put more water on the fire and continued the process until the tub was half-filled.
At that point, Irene tested the bathwater to see if the tub had cooled enough for comfortable bathing. “Perfect. Come back here, Myra!” she called.
The girl, who had long since finished breakfast, emerged from the reception area, where she had been sitting alone, feeling sorry for herself. Myra was keeping her eyes downcast, her lips pursed in disconsolation. As Thorn, she’d gotten over her bashfulness about being undressed in front of a woman, but this was so very different.
“Time to shuck off those clothes and lose that trail-dust,” said the Irish woman.
Myra sent a frown to each of her tormentors.
“Why so shy?” Molly asked. “Ye ain’t got nothing that yuir aunt and me ain't seen ten thousand times. But since ye’re not used to having what ye have, Mrs. Fanning and me’ll be strolling outside to continue our chat.”
Irene stepped up to her niece with a fluffy white terrycloth towel and a small washcloth. The latter was wrapped around an oval bar of soap. “Ye be sure t’be washing yuirself all over,” Molly instructed her. “Every inch o’ye, and when yuir done, dry yuirself well.” With that, the two ladies went out the back door, to the enclosed porch behind the building, and took their ease upon a white-painted bench suspended from chains.
With the women departed, Myra worked quickly, wanting to be done and covered up before they barged back in. She slipped out of her robe and peeled off her cotton gown, draping them both over a nearby chair. Then, using the same chair to brace herself, she stepped into the tub and lowered herself into the water. It felt hot against her newly-sensitized skin.
Hurriedly, Myra used the slippery bar of soap to work up a lather on the washcloth. This she rubbed over her arms and torso. Upon touching her breasts, she gasped in surprise. Curiosity aroused, the girl persisted in stroking them, the curious sensation growing more intense. The feeling was not a bad one. Now she could imagine why Gilana moaned so much when Myron had…
“Oh, my Lord… Gilana!" she exclaimed, her eyes open wide. Molly O'Toole had said that any man who drank that damned potion would become the double of the “fetchingest” gal he'd ever known. The prettiest girl in Myron's acquaintance had been Gilana Hulbard, a young cancan dancer of Yuma. Myra thought back to her reflected image in the mirror. 'Shit, I look just like her!'
The bemused maiden leaned back against the end of the tub, remembering her last visit with Gilana. As the shock wore off, Myra grew curious about her present body, so like Gilana's. At last she realized that she was as beautiful as dancer was. That thought inspired Myra to touch her breasts, which caused her to wince.
She continued caressing them, but now more gently. In her mind’s eye, she became Myron again, and it was the cancan girl's breasts that she was petting. 'Ooh… ooh, God!' The pleasure of it! It felt so wrong to have breasts, especially the sort of breasts that would make men sit up and stare. But here they were. It felt good to touch them -- and no one was watching…
A moment later, a curious hand, as if it had a mind of its own, slid down to that… place between her legs. It was the place that Gilana had so many times encouraged him to stroke. Why had the girl liked it so much? Myra couldn't hold back soft sighs while rubbing the sudsy cloth against that special place. She squirmed, savoring the moment. 'Are all women’s bodies like this?' Myra wondered. 'Maybe that's why gals want to take so many baths.'
Myra finally let out a low moan and sank lower into the tub. She kept stimulating herself with the cloth, luxuriating in the enjoyable little jolts the action triggered. Thorn had always disliked bathing, but this was different.... 'Oh, Lord, I could do this forever,' she thought.
No, she couldn't. Another voice in her mind had scolded her. Molly had said that she had to wash every part of her body, and Myra couldn’t do that if she kept obsessing about her new source of pleasure. She shook her head, at first refusing to listen. But that voice was insistent, powerful. Slowly, reluctantly, she sat up and started to scrub her neck and behind her ears.
But the parting was not at all sweet sorrow. “Damn!” she muttered, looking forward to bathing again, when not under the strict instructions of a mean old hen. She lifted her left leg so that her ankle rested on the side of the tub. Then she covered it with lather. The girl shifted, shimmying deeper into the tub and then repeated the process with her right leg. Her pace had quickened. 'Maybe I can get back to the better part after I finish washing.'
It seemed like a good idea; if she had had a mirror, she would have seen herself grin.
But, just then, the O'Toole woman and Aunt Irene came back into the room. “Ain’t ye done, yet?” Molly asked, a sly smile just curling her lips.
“J-Just finishing,” Myra answered, her cheeks warming from embarrassment.
Irene picked up the towel she’d draped over a chair and handed it to the girl. “Dry yourself,” she told her niece.
“Aye, but be careful,” Molly added. “Ye’d do best t’be patting yuirself dry. Yuir skin’s a lot more tender than it used t’be.”
Myra came out of the tub and began following Molly’s instructions, not liking being nude in plain sight, but trying not to show it. The older woman watched closely. ‘The way she’s doing some o’them places,’ Molly thought, a knowing smile curling her lips, ‘she knows exactly what I'm saying.’
“Done,” the girl said a few moments later. She tossed the towel to the floor and looked around. Spotting the robe, Myra picked it up and wrapped it around herself.
“Let's go back to the infirmary,” Molly suggested. When the three reached that destination, the Irish woman held out to the girl a pair of light gray drawers with white lace trimming on the legs.
Myra scowled. “These’re girl’s drawers.”
Molly nodded. “Aye, and ye’re a girl. There's no changing that fact, so ye'll have t'get used to the idea. Now…” her voice grew stern. “Put ‘em on and no more guff about not wanting to.”
The girl tried to protest, no words came out. She glared at Molly, even as she grudgingly stepped into the drawers. With her hands trembling, she pulled them up and snugged them around her waist. Myra did notice that the material felt softer against her skin than Myron’s old cotton drawers had.
“Now tie ‘em so they won't slip down,” Molly said, “and then ye’ll be standing there – not talking – while I measure ye.”
Myra did as she was told. Molly took a rolled-up cloth tape measure, a pad, and pencil from her reticule. “Take notes o’what I’ll be telling ye,” she told Irene, handing her the pad.
“Very well,” the other woman said, taking it.
Molly walked over to the potion girl and began measuring. Myra was five-foot four, a full six inches less than Myron’s five-ten. Her neck was a slender ten inches around. Shoulder width and arm length were all quickly taken.
“Just above the breasts, it reads… 32 inches,” Molly called out. Then she shifted the tape down, so that it circled bare breasts. The girl squirmed as her nipples were touched. “Hold still,” Molly scolded, adding a few seconds later, “Tape across her bust… 35.”
The inseam length was measured, as was the girl's waist and hips, 30, 22, and 35, respectively. Finally, Molly had her sit down while she checked the length and width of a foot. “For shoes,” she explained.
“All right, Myra,” Irene said, “Mrs. O’Toole has finished with her measuring, so you can get dressed. As she spoke, she handed her niece a gray chemise that matched her drawers. Bands of lace trim ran down its front, and there was a small lace rose in the front of the collar.
The girl grimaced as she inspected the garment. ‘Too damned girly,’ she thought to herself and tried hard to resist putting it on. But she found herself slipping her arms through the narrow straps and letting it slide down her body. The fabric felt cool and the weave tickled her… tits.
“Ye can be sitting down now,” Molly said, “and putting on yuir stockings.” She gave Myra a pair of yellow and green striped stockings. “Ye tie ‘em up above yuir knees, and then ye bring yuir drawers down over ‘em and tie those off there.”
The girl obeyed. She could guess how feminine she must look; it bothered her, but the damned magic had her its grip. When Myra was done, she stood up and saw Molly holding…
“A corset,” she whimpered. Out of all the outlandish, girlish things forced upon her, this was absolutely the worst. “Do – Do I gotta?”
“I'm afraid so,” Molly replied. “With yuir...figure, ye need the support.” The woman chuckled. “Or ye'll be jigging for all t'see.”
Irene smiled for the first time that day. “Can't have that, can we?” Then, realizing what a bad time it was for humor, her expression grew sober. “Put it on, Myra.”
The new girl took the garment and wrapped it around herself, as she'd seen Gilana do. It had hooks in back, but because she needed her left hand to hold the thing up in front of herself, the other hand, working alone, couldn't get the hooks into the eyes. “How is this done?” she asked, her voice strained. Irene stepped up and began closing the hooks. It felt different from what Myra had expected. As Myron she had heard men joking about corsets while sitting around the winter fire, but her corset felt like it was hugging her, and not uncomfortably.
“Now the most important thing.” Molly held up a dark brown...
“A dress,” Myra groaned. “Ain't all this other stuff bad enough?” she asked, gesturing at her body. “I gotta wear a dress, too?
“Yes, you have to, if you don't want people to think that there's anything unusual about you,” Irene answered. “Just take care not to rip it.”
Myra sighed and slowly, carefully, stepped into the garment. Having pulled it up, she inserted her arms into the sleeves. Then, gathering the fabric to her shoulders, she worked herself inside it and started buttoning. “These buttons are on backwards,” she complained.
“Them buttons are on the other side from what you're used to,” Molly explained. “Just go slow; ye’ll be getting used to ‘em in a minute or two.” She was holding a pair of used shoes, which, kneeling, she set down at Myra's feet.
With the closed frock drawn flush with her flesh, could see how the underlying corset held her breasts so that they pushed out the material. When someone saw her, they would probably be the first thing that they'd look at, she realized, and didn't care for that idea at all.
To put on the wooden-soled clogs that Molly had provided, she needed to sit down. “At least these ain’t too girly,” Myra muttered. They allowed her feet to slip right in; a buckled strap, going back around each heel, held them snug. “There,” she said, rising, “I’m finished.”
“Sit back down,” Irene admonished. “You’re not done. Your hair…”
“Your hair is full o’knots,” interjected Molly. “Boys ignore their hair something fierce, and when it grows long it just makes things worse.” She took a wire hairbrush from her apron pocket. Each bristle ended in a tiny bead. “Now try not t’be squirming. It’ll only be making the job more painful.”
The comb hit a snag immediately. “Ouch!”
The Irishwoman spent a full hour – or so it seemed to Myra – working through the morass of tangles. She yelped more than once as Molly showed the snarls no mercy. When there was no other choice, a mat of hair had to be snipped off with scissors. But, finally, the torturer had finished the session and lustrous red-brown tresses flowed smoothly down past her shoulders.
“Now, Missy,” Molly said, “let's take a look at ye.”
Myra stood up, her fists clenched, her brows knitted, her lips pursed.
Mrs. Fanning looked the girl over discerningly. She didn't think that a person passing by the girl by in the street would judge any aspect that Myra presented as out of order. In fact, though plainly dressed, it was her prettiness that would attract attention. “What should we do next?” she asked Molly.
The Irish woman motioned the widow to step outside the room with her. When they were alone she advised, “I’d say ye should be getting her home, away from prying eyes. She'll be needing some private time t'get used to...to everything that's new. It’ld be a good idea t’be keeping her busy with chores, so she won't be moping around too much.” The matron then added, “I shouldn't be wasting any time before taking the stage t’Phoenix. Somebody needs to be shopping for that young lady, away from where local people can see – and be asking questions.”
“You're very kind, but I don't know you. I would hardly expect so much charity even from my closest friends,” replied Irene.
Molly shook her head. “And I’m glad to have -- and t’be -- a new friend. Ye got into this trouble without asking for it; the climb out’ll be steep for a while, for both ye and Myra. I'm willing t’be helping ye carry a bit o’the load. Anyway, I’ll be enjoying an excuse t’be going into the big town. Christmas is getting close and there're things a body just can't buy in Eerie. And if ye find yuirself needing more help later on, ye just let me know.”
“I could use another friend,” the widow admitted.
Molly then led them back into the infirmary where she started to gather in her belongings. Irene stepped up closer to ask an urgent question. “Molly?”
“What should I tell people when they wonder where Myron is?”
The older woman frowned. “I don’t think ye should be saying a word. Most folks’ll figure that Myron died from that ricochet and them outlaws hid the body. And even if he didn't die, they wouldn't be expecting him t’be paying a visit back home, not with the sheriff out t’arrest him.”
Irene, surprisingly, felt better. “I guess I should be grateful that none of that is true.”
“That's the spirit. There was times when I was absolutely at my wits' end about how t’be getting them potion girls to shape up, but the good Lord somehow got us through. By the way, I've heard that the deputy is coming out to yuir place tomorrow. Tell... yuir niece... to be upfront when she's talking t’him.”
“What is he going to ask?”
Molly smiled wanly. “The main things he’ll be after are getting the gold back and catching them other outlaws. He won't be interested in making things harder for Myra. She already got hit with the worst punishment Judge Humphreys was ever likely t'be handing out for what Myron did.”
“She looks so angry,” Irene observed. “Could we tell her to feel happy?”
Molly shook her head. “The magic won't make a soul feel things that it doesn't really feel. Happiness can't be put into a person's head through the ears.”
She finished filling her carryall. “I'll come out to the farm right after me Phoenix visit. By then, ye'll probably have a laundry list o’ new questions. Until then, Mrs. Fanning....”
“You can call me Irene,” the farm widow said. “And I have to pay you.”
Molly shrugged. “For the clothes, for breakfast, I suppose. Not for any Christian help. I look forward to us talking later.”
“We will. Thank you so very much.”
TO BE CONTINUED in Chapter 3, Part 1