It’s a Doll’s Life
Dusting the shelves of Laurel’s Playhouse was the worst part of owning a business. As if cleaning her house wasn’t enough.
The chimes rang cheerfully announcing her first customer of the day. Grateful for the interruption, she put on her best smile and made for door.
The man who entered towered over the dolls and miniature houses like Gulliver over the inhabitants of Lilliput. Blonde hair wisped out from underneath a cap. Wearing jeans, a blue work shirt and construction boots, he was dusty as he was big. He turned away from the row of shelves she stood behind and her gaze immediately lowered. Still, she wouldn’t mind wiping that bit of dirt off his rear and not with a feather duster. Such tasks required a hands-on approach.
He looked out of place among the frilly lace and ribbons. The expression ‘bull in a china shop’ came to mind. Except this bull was in her doll shop.
Laurel stole out of her hiding place. “Can I help you?”
He turned and smiled. “I’m looking for a gift for my sister’s birthday.”
His twinkling blue eyes were a pleasant relief to the lifeless stares of her collection. Standing next to him she felt like one of those dolls: petite and very feminine. “How old?” she managed to ask.
“Ahh, sweet sixteen.”
“Darling, you haven’t met my sister.”
She laughed at his joke, but foolishly blushed at the endearment. “What are her interests?”
Laurel twisted her hands in an effort not to brush away the dirt on his shirt. Where had her aversion to cleaning gone?
“Boys,” he said, his tone exasperated.
Again she laughed. “And she still collects dolls?”
He nodded. “Not that she’ll admit to.”
Laurel ran the inventory in her head. “Come with me.” She led him over to a display by the front window praying he wouldn’t knock anything over. It was cute how careful he was not to. “I think she might appreciate one of these.”
He was looking directly at Laurel when he said, “Perfect.”
She smiled as she carefully picked up one of her favorites, a sophisticated Gibson Girl doll that was about a foot tall. The figurine reminded Laurel of a bygone era when men were gentlemen or at least pretended to be. “Do you want it wrapped?”
“Yes.” He held up his hands. “These can save a plant from the compost pile, but when it comes to wrapping I’m all thumbs.”
Good looking and a great sense of humor. It had been a long time since a man made her laugh. As she worked the ribbon around the box she wondered if he was married. He didn’t have a ring on his finger, but that didn’t mean anything. Who’d wear a ring if they were making mud pies, which is exactly what he’d looked like he’d been doing before he entered her shop. She took his credit card and shamelessly noted the name. Ethan Edwards.
Laurel slid the bill across the counter and held out a pen. “Please sign at the bottom.”
Ethan’s fingers brushed hers. Her breath hitched and the pen fell to the counter. It could’ve been static electricity except the feeling was pleasant. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Ethan picked up the pen and his hand hovered for a moment over the paper like he’d forgotten how to write his name. “Thanks for the help Laurel. It is Laurel, right?”
She hoped the surprise she felt did not show on her face. It seemed he took note of the name of her store. “Yes it is. Come again.”
She could have smacked herself. Sure, he had every reason to stop by and browse in her doll shop – unless he had more sisters. Or nieces. Please, please don’t let him have daughters. That meant at best an ex-wife, at worst, a wife.
“By the way, I’m Ethan. I’m opening a gardening center down the street.”
“That explains the dirt.” The comment was out of her mouth before she could stop the words. Her flirting skills obviously needed polishing. A year had passed since her ex-finance had broken her heart. Maybe, she needed a refresher course.
But he wasn’t offended and laughed. “Yeah, sorry about that.”
The chimes dimly sang out as he departed.
When Laurel drove by his store during the following week she noted how it sprung to life with the arrival of plants and flowers. As she inventoried the backroom she mentally planned out the changes she wanted to make to her own garden. Perhaps she could ask Ethan for advice. Lame, but it was a perfectly acceptable excuse to see him again.
. The chimes rang and by the force of the sound she knew it was Ethan.
She barely recognized the man holding the bouquet of sunflowers. He wore khakis and a pressed white shirt, his hair neatly combed back. Not a spot of dirt on him.
“Hi Ethan. Did your sister like the doll?”
“Bea loved it.” Ethan shuffled his feet. “These are for you.”
She took the flowers he offered and raised the bouquet to her nose to breathe in the scent. “Thank you, but you didn’t have to.”
“I’ve been busy with the opening but when I saw them I remembered your smile.”
“Oh. How sweet.” Laurel blushed.
“Will you have dinner with me tonight?”
Laurel said yes. After all, Ethan cleaned up real nice.