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Here’s a first look at an upcoming short story entitled “Sensible Advice”.  Let me know what you think!  🙂

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The best advice is no advice, Jane thought privately to herself as the conversation raged on around her, now self-propelled.  She never ceased to marvel at the way they could start by asking her a simple question and then spend an hour dissecting her personal life.  Jane could stand up and leave the kitchen and it would go on still.

“I can never understand why my Jane is not married!” Mother was saying again.  “She’s a hundred times prettier than Meredith Kirk and she was married at nineteen.”

Jane pressed her lips together and looked down at her lap.  Jane was twenty-three, and hence the controversy. 

“She’s pretty, aye,” said Mrs. McRae, “but she could do more with herself.  Such plain clothes and hair, and such a horrid colour on her.”

Jane fingered the serviceable wool of her skirt and the sleeve of her pale grey shirtwaist.  Her clothes suited her fine, and her hair was dressed practically in a bun on top of her head.  A school teacher needed to dress professionally, not with the frivolity of the young girls.  She knew her age, only too well, and tried to look it.  It wasn’t her fault no men had shown any interest in her – at least, none Jane could think of as a husband.

“She’s too picky, if you ask me.” Mrs. Borden gave a knowing nod.  “A girl has to be prepared to settle for a decent man and turn him into a good one.”

Jane laughed internally at that – Mr. Borden was the most hen-pecked man she’d ever met.  She wondered if he’d known what he was in for when he’d chosen her.

“I tell my Jane she must learn to cook better if she wants a man,” Mother said importantly.  “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  

“They sure do like a good meal,” Mrs. McRae agreed.  “I always make my Charlie cherry pie – that’s his favourite.”

“If you ask me,”  Mrs. Borden ignored the fact that nobody had—“she’s much too concerned with work and reading.  The last thing a man wants is to feel inferior, like he has to compete with his wife.  Men want a girl who is prepared to settle down, keep house, and make babies.”

Jane choked on a sip of tea and put the cup down on the saucer delicately.  No one seemed to notice, and the conversation ploughed ahead. 

“It’s the making babies part,” continued Mrs. Borden.  “That’s the way to a man’s heart.”

“Please, Elsie,” Mother said, scandalized. “My Jane’s not married yet.”

“Good heavens, I know,” Mrs. Borden said, “That’s what we’re talking about, isn’t it?”

“I think Jane’s problem is the sad lack of suitable men in the county,” Mrs. McRae piped up, neatly changing the subject.  Jane couldn’t agree more.  “She needs to meet someone new – someone who didn’t know her as a little girl.”

Jane looked up at the ceiling, finding new heights of humiliation.  She had been a gawky girl, and somewhat awkward socially.  While her friends went on into graceful adulthood, Jane had never quite been able to lose the stigma of her childhood. 

“In fact,” Mrs. McRae continued, “Charlie’s brother William will be in town tomorrow – I’ve always wanted Jane to meet him.  I think they’d be perfect for each other.”

Jane groaned inwardly as the other two ladies enthusiastically praised the idea.  She had heretofore managed to avoid meeting the celebrated Mr. William McRae, by some chance or other.  But from the sound of the scheming going on around her, she wouldn’t be able to escape this time.  She thought of Mr. Charles McRae, a balding, moustachioed, paunchy man of nearly forty, and projected his image onto a younger model.  Add to that the elder Mr. McRae’s domineering arrogance and penchant for excessive talk, and Jane had a complete picture of a man she most definitely didn’t want to meet.

But plans went along, strung together like squares of a quilt, and by the time the ladies were walking out the door, Jane was finagled into coming for tea tomorrow and meeting the famed William. 

“Come at three o’clock.” Mrs. McRae waved over her shoulder at Jane.  It was the first time she’d addressed her directly in the past hour.  “And wear your lavender blouse – it looks lovely on you, dear.”

Jane watched her mother’s friends go with a wretched feeling of dread twisting her gut.  What had she got herself into?