Something’s Gotta Give
Several weeks back, in my post titled What’s In A Name?, I introduced you to one of the character from the novel I’m currently writing. (If you missed the post, please check out.) She’s not a main character, but a secondary one. However, as is often the case with secondary characters, she believes the book is actually about her. Since it is not, I have been writing character sketches and scenes for what may one day be Daphne Magnolia Augusta Bohanan’s book.
Today I’m posting one such sketch. It’s the first time that Daphne meets Jonathan Tregaron, younger brother of Jackson Tregaron, who is the main man in my novel, I’m Glad There Is You. It is through Johnny that Daphne found entré into my book.
I had a dickens of a time coming up for a title for this scene. As I mentioned, this was meant to be a character sketch. I like to play around with my characters and let them introduce themselves to me. When I’m in that zone, I don’t care about a solid conclusion or beginning or in between. Sometimes I’m just writing good dialogue or jotting down some thought or idea about my character. However, sometimes those sketches take on a life of their own. Like the one today.
I’ve called it Something’s Gotta Give in honor of Johnny Mercer, a prominent and prolific Southern composer of some of the greatest American Popular Standards in the Great American Songbook. One of his most famous songs debuted and featured in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Moon River won the Academy Award that year, too. As Daphne was steeped in the South before moving North- to her mother’s horror- to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer, I thought it fitting to draw on her roots but also invoke the sophistication a Johnny Mercer song possesses. Daphne is Southern and Sophistication. And the song fits well with the narrative, too. (F.Y.I. Something’s Gotta Give featured in Daddy Long Legs, a musical starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. It was also nominated for an Academy Award, but lost to Love is a Many Splendored Thing.)
I hope you enjoy this scene. I love it because it give you a good litmus test of of who Daphne is. It also has equal portions of humor and heat. Without further gilding the lily, I give you:
Something’s Gotta Give
“I’ve never understood the purpose of a coat check,” Madge declared.
It might be January in Manhattan, the temperature reading 27ºF on average as it was a particularly frigid first month, but there Madge stood in the club foyer, shimmering and glittering like a disco ball in a silver sequin fringe micro-miniskirt, acrylic platform heels, and hot pink acetate tube top. No coat. No bra- which her pronounced nipples announced. No common sense.
“Apparently,” drawled Daphne, slipping out of her faux mink stole, “you don’t understand the purpose of a coat, either. Or, for that matter, sleeves.”
Madge put her hands on her narrow hips and narrowed her eyes. “Well, pardon me, Miss Gone with the Wind, but I’m not one to dress in drapes.” Smirking, she added flippantly, “The taxi has heat. The club has heat. A coat is gratuitous.”
Daphne refrained from replying, but demonstrated her exasperation in the vigorous fluffing of her black taffeta circle skirt. It rustled and swirled around her ankles. Honestly, the small expanse of flesh between the hem and her black T-strap heels was cold. How could Madge stand it?
“I always appreciate a coat check,” Jonathan said, taking off his dark blue beanie with NAVY emblazoned on the fold. “That way I don’t have to worry about someone nicking my things.”
He divested himself of his wool peacoat and shoved his hat and leather gloves into the left sleeve before handing it to the clerk behind the coat check partition. The woman— young, blonde, blue-eyes, and beautiful— handed him a manila card with the number 334 stamped on it in black ink; she fluttered her lashes and smiled winsomely at Jonathan. He grinned back.
“Unless, of course, the coat check isn’t honest,” Daphne stated, archly. She heard the bitterness in her voice. Heard it, and hated it. What was wrong with her? She dipped her head in apology at the coat check girl, who smiled warily at her in return.
Setting her shoulders back, Daphne reminded herself sternly that she did not care a jot if Jonathan smiled back at the girl. He smiled at everyone. It was his way. He was friendly, and gregarious, and handsome. And none of that mattered because she- Daphne Magnolia Augusta Bohanan- didn’t care. Not a jot. Not a tittle. Now, if only she could convince herself of that fact.
But it was very difficult to convince herself when he wore an impeccably tailored cream tuxedo shirt. One that was diaphanous enough so that she could almost see the definition of his muscular chest or the curls of hair there. Sheer, but not quite see-through. It was a tease. A very good tease.
He’s wearing jeans, she told herself. Daphne hated the modern mania that said tuxedo shirts were fine paired with faded, threadbare denim. Besides, she needed to focus on his failings, and they were proving hard to find. But fashion faux-pas were faux-pas and she would maximize his.
Daphne hated to admit it, but Jonathan Tregaron was not what she had expected. When Madge had coerced her into making up a fourth at dinner, she most certainly hadn’t thought to encounter such an engaging fella, especially one several years her junior. Experience had taught her: younger men were never interesting; ever. She hadn’t been surprised when he showed up being one of the handsomest men of her acquaintance. He was a friend of Madge’s latest squeeze, and since Ted Preston was a handsome man, it stood to reason that his friend might be as well. The logic wasn’t sound, but Daphne fiddle-dee-deed it. She was a fashion designer. If she wanted logic and mathematical balancing, she would appeal to… well.. to an engineer. A handsome engineer. One who had an engaging British accent with adorable American inflections. How had he diplomatically described his enunciation at dinner? English rubbed smooth by many years living Stateside. In pursuit of his studies. And just what had he studied? Engineering, of course. Didn’t that just fit neat and tidy with a little bow on top?
Daphne shook her head, as though she could rid her mind of all the thoughts that had assaulted it since he had walked through the door at Cipriani’s, clean shaven with the most alluring jawline she had ever seen and the most appealing cleft in his chin. Certainly, she hadn’t been out with a good looking man in very long time. Not since she’d left Savannah simply eons ago. Yet, she hadn’t anticipated Jonathan Tregaron- not his Adonis looks nor his spouting of Homeric poetry or impeccable etiquette. She had her goals set, she reminded herself. They were hard and fast, and no man was going to shift her course. No matter how gorgeous he was in his bespoke shirt and adorable smile.
But, when Jonathan directed the full wattage of that smile on her, she knew such thoughts would be common place for the remainder of the evening. Worse, she knew he could have tucked his tux shirt into Bermuda shorts, or even more egregious, sweat pants, and she could forgive him. If a girl couldn’t count of her fashion sense to keep her on the straight and narrow, well, great balls of fire, what could she count on?
Offering his arm to her, he said, “Shall we?”
Before Daphne could argue or cajole herself into all the reasons why she shouldn’t, she had slipped her hand around his forearm- which was incredibly firm- and was walking down the darkened stairs into the throbbing fray of revelers and dancers. He led her to a table at the back, niched into an alcove of mirrored walls.
She slipped into the curved booth and pushed up the sleeves of her mohair sweater. It was warm. Correction; it was hot. And she came from the South. She knew all about heat.
Jonathan settled beside her, his cologne entirely too pleasing to her nose. While he scanned the dance floor, presumably in search of a waiter, she studied him in profile, the strong cording of his neck, the close cropping of his military haircut, the strength of his jawline, the impossibly straight line of his nose, his full lips sculpted by the hand of God. Fine; maybe not God, but at least, Michelangelo.
Daphne sighed. This boy could be her undoing, and she did not like that idea one iota. She had worked too hard to get where she was: nights that turned into days that turned into nights again in the sewing room where sleeping at the drafting table or draped over a serger was perfectly normal, 100 hour work weeks running hither and yon, countless hours on the phone with suppliers and manufacturers, meetings with textile designers. She thought nothing of the millions of quick sketches and flat sketches she drafted, or the hundreds of samples she’d draped in muslin, or the patterns she’d cut. That was the part of fashion design she loved. It was all the persnickety business details like analyzing suppliers for consistency, availability, and pricing or interviewing seamstresses or overseeing mass production of a sample that started to wear on her. Fashion was in her blood, but the business side had been a learning curve. But now, with her first successful show under belt- albeit to a small audience with minimal production- she was read to step out further, bolstered by the lauded reception of her work and the encouragement of designers she had looked up to as inspiration. But fashion meant focus. Anything that shifted her focus amounted to her undoing, and she’d have none of it. Thank you very much.
From the dance floor, a waiter materialized, his approach caught in bursts of light like a model walking a crowded runway. He smiled, fixing his attention on her in a forthright manner that she assumed was meant as a compliment, but which only irritated her. Jonathan tilted his head, a small furrow burrowing at his brows. His smile remained, though it was slightly tarnished in the brusque light.
“What’ll you be having tonight?” the waiter asked, a little too licentiously for her taste, his brows rising as though he were offering her a world tour of his svelte body.
Daphne ordered champagne. Jonathan ordered beer. She earmarked his selection as another failing in her book.
“Do you disapprove?” he asked when the waiter disappeared into the dark beyond their spotlighted booth.
“Of beer?” Jonathan’s hazel eyes sparkled with mirth. Daphne wanted to laugh at how boyish he was.
Instead, she pulled out her round compact mirror and smoothed a non-existent smudge of lipstick on her lower lip. She clicked the mirror shut and said, “Never order beer when champagne is on the menu.”
Jonathan laughed. A light-hearted laugh filled with the innocence of a child on a summer day, the richness of the finest whipped cream, and the intimacy of a warm bubble bath. Daphne felt her cheeks heat and directed her gaze to the dance floor, searching out Madge. She really could use that wild child right now. Anything to curb the rapport cropping up between them.
She found Madge and Ted tucked in the far corner of the dance floor. Ted’s hands had Madge’s waist, his thumbs brushing beneath her tube top, riding the fabric further up her body and exposing her taut midriff. Madge straddled Ted’s leg, her skirt shortening to an obscene length, though Ted didn’t seem troubled by the impropriety of such a display. His head was buried in her neck; hers was thrown back with a wild ecstasy that looked feigned, like she was trying to feel the rapture rather than actually feeling it. Above them a neon sign blazed Wilder Thoughts in pink. When a lento kizomba beat started, they began to grind provocatively against each other, as though the sign not only bathed them in phosphorescent light but imbued them with the message it blared into the darkened room.
Daphne felt Jonathan shift beside her. Then there was breath on her bare neck.
“They’re ridiculous,” he said, his voice vibrating over her skin.
Daphne had heard censure in his remark, but when she looked at him, he wore such a winning smile that she questioned herself; did he applaud such a display?
He settled back in the booth, stretching his arm along the top of the cushion back. He glanced at the couple again and shook his head, all the while wearing a grin.
“As if there’s only one sort of foreplay.”
Daphne smirked. She couldn’t help it. There was an air of sagacious worldliness about the remark that warred with his youthful appearance.
“And I suppose you’re well versed in all the different sorts of foreplay out there,” she said with more vinegar than she liked to hear in her own voice. Why did such a prospect bother her?
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“Well, then, what would you say?”
“Besides having three older brothers, I do go to a regimented school that is largely male, and men, well, they do talk.”
The answer pleased her, which also upset her.
“It’s a blasted inferno in here,” Jonathan stated, unbuttoning the top button at his collar.
At the second twist of the next button, it came off in his hand.
“Damn,” he said, looking down at the cream disk with two holes in the center.
Daphne opened her black leather clutch and took out her emergency sewing kit. From the few colors of thread provided, she chose ecru.
“Let me have it,” she said, sidling closer to him. With the expertise of proficiency, she threaded the needle, placed the button to its recently vacated place, and began to sew.
She hadn’t been thinking. The whole evening, she had tried to put distance between them which had been quite a task with Ted and Madge all over each other, simultaneously making Daphne uncomfortable by their proximity and Jonathan all the more alluring purely because of the kinship fostered through the intimacy of enduring such awkwardness. Yet, here she was, practically in his arms, her nose at his throat, her mouth millimeters from the place where his heart beat. If she were one given to fancifulness, she would admit to seeing the pulse throbbing prominently through the vein on his neck. She watched him swallow.
With a shaky breath that was filled entirely with his warm scent- there was that cologne; vetiver and citrus, she guessed, expensive, she knew- she threaded the needle through the buttonhole a final time, finished it off, and, without thinking, bent forward and bit the thread in two. Her nose grazed the hollow of his throat. A brush of red lipstick smeared the inside of his shirt, but she was too flustered to apologize or do anything other than stare up at him.
Jonathan’s hazel eyes were equally wide and bright, making him appear all the more young. Finally, he regained enough of his composure to send her a blush-riddled smile.
“See what I mean.” His cheeks reddened deeper. “Foreplay.”
So, what did you think about Daphne? Let me know. I really want to hear your thoughts.
And, for your listening pleasure: