Listen to Almine tell the second story of Freckles.
For obvious reasons, Suzy’s best friends call her Freckles. But not being permitted such liberties, we’ll call her Suzy, and the fragrance she inspired, we’ll call Freckles…here’s her story ~
Suzy listened to Mrs. Downsworthy with unaccustomed attention as she told the tale of Helen of Troy. The boys loved the chivalry and battles. The girls loved the romance. Exhilarated by having the class’s attention, Mrs. Downsworthy poured her heart into the tale. Being rather plain and unremarkable in appearance, she dwelled at length on Helen’s beauty and how her face had launched a thousand ships.
Drawing on her experience of unrequited love, Mrs. Downsworthy ended dramatically on Helen’s apparent shift of affection to her captor: “For fickle and changeable are the affairs of the heart.” A few of the girls wiped away a tear and Molly Ashford was openly sobbing. Mrs. Downsworthy was triumphant. Secretly she thought this could be her finest teaching hour.
Suzy’s curly red head nodded dramatically. Yes, sir – she was experienced in the fickleness of the heart. After Jimmy spent the money he had earned mowing the lawn, on buying her a soda, he had made no further attempt to win her heart. She even thought she had caught him looking dreamily at Mathilda Beeson once or twice. Did Mathilda and her flawless skin have the ability to launch a thousand ships? Suzy had to admit that living in the landlocked state of Iowa, that would be impossible, but could Mathilda inspire at least a fleet of bicycles?
Suzy decided to have a woman-to-woman talk with her mother. Perhaps, it was time to pull out the blue dress that she had gotten when she turned thirteen last year. Her customary overall pants and sneakers somehow were failing to impress.
But before Suzy could seek out her mother’s opinion, she was told in a tone of voice that suggested that any argument would be futile, to take the dog for a walk. Suzy usually tried to avoid this chore. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Punky, their Shar-Pei, but he had a bad habit of chasing cats and smaller dogs. Suzy was a lanky, skinny young girl and Punky was a sturdy dog. On occasion, he’d drag her behind him in a very undignified manner as he pursued his target. It was only last week that she became airborne and flew past the neighbor’s front window where he and his wife were having afternoon tea. The look of shock and surprise on his face, as he saw a freckled girl with a bush of red hair fly horizontally past his window, was still burnt in Suzy’s memory.
Today however, both Punky and Suzy were unusually subdued as they went for their walk. Suzy’s thoughts were still dwelling on Mathilda’s reputation as the prettiest girl in class and comparing her to Helen of Troy, known at the time as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Mathilda’s father owned the local hardware store, and they lived in a two-story house, two blocks down from where Suzy lived. It just so happened that on that fateful day, he had received a large shipment of bicycles for the store. He had to assemble thirty bicycles, and decided to do so on their front lawn. By the time Suzy and Punky walked past their house, Mr. Beeson had just completed the task and had gone inside to call his employee to come and pick them up in the truck.
In horrified awe, Suzy stared at the fleet of bicycles in front of Mathilda’s house. Her worst suspicions were confirmed: Mathilda’s beauty could launch dozens of bicycles.
She ran all the way home, dragging Punky behind her. She had to rethink her strategy. If Jimmy liked frills and petticoats, she would show him that she was a woman of many moods.
The next morning, Suzy’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Barnes, watched in absolute bewilderment as she flounced past them, dressed in her frilly dress and petticoats, on her way to catch the school bus.
At the school bus stop, the children were equally perplexed at the dramatic transformation. One brave and foolish boy tried to lift up her dress to see the petticoat underneath. Suzy hit him with her lunch bag, with enough force to reduce her sandwiches to pulp.
At school, Suzy had to endure many comments and unwanted attention. Even Mrs. Downsworthy said, “You look nice today, Susan.” Suzy decided that being the center of attention was the price to pay for beauty, and gave a regal nod of thanks.
All went well that day until the children were let outside for a physical education lesson and a game of leapfrog. The children were jumping over each other’s backs and Suzy wished briefly that she was wearing her overalls, but she banished such thoughts as unworthy of a great beauty.
Then came the horrifying moment, when the very plump Theodore McFarlane had to jump over Suzy’s back. Everyone knew that his favorite pastime was eating and that recess was his favorite time. He would unpack his large lunch box as though laying out a banquet, and then partake of his feast until the bell announced it was time to return to class. Theodore McFarlane viewed jumping as cruel and unusual punishment. Not only did he lean heavily on Suzy’s frail back to support his weight, but he also couldn’t clear her hunched over height. He knocked her over and landed on top of her in a tangle of petticoats and frills. It was the most exciting thing he had ever done in his dull and uneventful existence.
Suzy was livid. She wanted to push him off her but was tangled in her dress, and pinned down by his weight. The children were giggling at her dilemma. But giggles turned into peals of laughter, when Jimmy shouted, “Look! Leapfrog has turned into squished frog!” A group of boys started chanting, “Suzy Barnes is a squished frog, squished frog!” Mrs. Downsworthy correctly gauged that Suzy’s fury was reaching the boiling point, and with great effort pulled McFarlane off her, and hauled him to his feet.
When Suzy arrived home from school, her mother was yet again speechless. Her dress was torn and mud smeared. Her petticoat was hanging in tatters. It rather looked as though she had been in a wrestling match and had lost. She wisely decided not to ask…
Finally, Suzy broke the silence, “Beauty is hard work! Can I wear my blue overalls tomorrow? I’ve challenged Tommy Stapleton to a race around the sports track.”