August 16th 1963
“Miss. Miss. The Mistress sent me to wake you up.”
I don’t wish to wake yet as I spent a majority of the night awake, reading. As much as I wish to stay in bed I was not expecting mother’s wrath upon me so early in the morning. “Yes,” I sigh, “I shall awaken in a moment. Just let me enjoy the rays of light shining through my balcony window.” The maid must have come in and opened my curtains trying to wake me.
The maid nods her head, “Yes Miss, I shall go and retrieve your breakfast.” The maid proceeds to leave the room.
I wait a moment before turning towards the window. My chambers display the most amazing view of our estate. Wide rolling hills, magnificent gardens with wild colourful flowers and plentiful sculptures among the hedge clusters. The vineyards heavily laden with grapes are visible; as are the horse stables.
I allow myself to sit up and then leave the bed. I walk toward the balcony doors. I push them open and breathe in the fresh autumn breeze. The cool breeze caresses my bare skin. The wind whips my hair. Knock. Knock. Knock.
“Come in,” I call expecting the maid with my breakfast.
I hear the door open, “Miss,” says a high pitched voice, “I’ve brought your breakfast.” A giggle follows and I hear the sound of her putting the tray containing my breakfast on the parlour table.
I turn around, “Jessie!” I cry. I rush to her and envelope her in a hug. She hugs me back. “I thought mother said you weren’t allowed near me anymore. That you were a bad influence.”
“Your mother won’t notice. She’s been so busy preparing for today. She’s been overseeing the preparations. Watching like a hawk.”
“Jessie, what if she finds out that you’re here. You heard her last time; she’ll dismiss you for sure.”
“Don’t worry Vivian, she doesn’t want to upset you on your birthday. Happy birthday Viv.”
“Thank you Jessie. What happened to the other maid?”
Jessie giggles as I sit down at the parlour table to eat breakfast. I was overjoyed to find that mother had organised my favourite breakfast for me; freshly cooked warm scones with honey comb and hot cocoa. Accompanied by a platter of fruit.
“As the unsuspecting target this time, the maid was walking down the corridor and I ambushed her.” Jessie was now giggling uncontrollably. Between giggles she was able to wheeze out, “You should have seen her face.” Jessie then scrunches her face repeatedly in some pathetic attempt to try to mimic the poor maid’s face. Unable to control myself I burst into to giggles. We giggle uncontrollably because as my mother would say ‘Proper ladies do not laugh, they do not guffaw; they giggle.’
When we are finally able to compose ourselves I began devouring my breakfast. Meanwhile Jessie makes my bed. “Jessie.”
“Yes,” she mumbles.
“Have you seen my mother this morning?”
A giggle escapes her. “Yes Viv, yes I have.”
“What was she doing?”
Jessie spreads herself out onto the bed she just made; crumpling it. “A peacock.”
“A peacock. Your mother was walking around like a peacock. But the way a peacock shows off his plumage is the way your mother is bragging about you,” Jessie sits up and straightens herself. She clears her throat and begins, “My daughter, the lovely Vivian Campbell is eighteen today. Not a child any more but a young woman. Of marriageable age; I’ve had so may offers for her hand in marriage I’ve been nearly drowned by them.” Jessie’s impression of my mother is so like mother that it sends us both into fits of giggles.
Between giggles I am able to gasp out, “Please Jessie, I need to eat my breakfast and head down to see mother. She is expecting me soon.” Jessie tries to stifle her giggles but fails. Her face is as red as a tomato and random giggles escape between her lips. As terrible Jessie is at stifling her giggles it allows me to consume the rest of my breakfast.
I take a glance at the time and nearly choke on a bit of scone. I quickly sip some hot cocoa. “Jessie. Look at the time. Mother will go off her kettle.”
I rush out the door, “I’ll see you later Jessie.”
“See you Viv.”
I look up and down the corridor. It is isolated so I allow myself to speed down it. I turn left and speed down another corridor. I conscientiously slow down as I reach the stair case. I slowly descend down the stairs and run into my mother. “Vivian,” She squawks, “You’re late, the dress-maker is already here.” She reaches for my wrist and holds it as she tows me up the stairs again towards the designated dressing room.
I try to wrestle my wrist from Mother’s grip but her grip is like iron. Unbreakable. We arrive in the dressing room within minutes. Straight away mother pushes me into the arms of the dress-maker. The dress-maker then places me on the wooden platform in the middle of the room.
Suddenly, a small legion of maids appear from nowhere. I am surrounded by them; young ladies in black dresses; white aprons and frilly caps. They work studiously in making me appear presentable. Some tug my hair out of its braids, some start lacquering my nails whilst others start tightening my corset. Oh how I hate that dreadful thing. I don’t know how women can stand it? One of the maids ask me to hold my breath. I breathe in. All of a sudden the corset is pulled so tight that I start struggling to breathe. I can hear my mother in the background “Please make it as tight as possible. I want her to have the smallest waist possible.”
“Yes Mistress,” reply the maids. I feel them pull even tighter.
“Mother,” I say.
“Yes darling,” she replies.
“Are you trying to break my ribs?” I ask, accusation staining my words.
“No darling,” mother walks towards me and plants a kiss on my cheek. “I am anticipating that I will receive many marriage proposals on your behalf. So I don’t have to worry about you anymore and I can focus on your sister.”
After some more tugging and tightening of my corset Mother is satisfied that it is tight enough.
My mother decided I should appear appealing as possible which is why the dress-maker is here to sew my dress on to me. My mother says it will make it tighter and it’ll like a second skin. That it will make me even more attractive and appealing.
The dress-maker starts sewing on the dress. I feel it wrap around me. Tighten in particular places as the dress-maker slowly finishes sewing up sections of the dress. The dress maker starts with the sleeves, and works her way down.
After what seems to be an eternity the dress-maker completes the dress. She takes a step back and surveys her work. She then turns to my mother and nods her head.
One of the maids then uncover the masked mirror. I see myself reflected in the mirror. I gasp in shock.
The dress-maker has out done herself. The dress is pure white. The bodice is lined with silver gems. The bodice is also cut low enough to draw attention to it but not too low. Beneath the bodice is a flowing white skirt; down the front it has ruffles which provide elegance and style. The ruffles gather and lead toward the back of the dress, where a train stretches out for miles. The sleeves of the dress are long, finish just before my ring adorned fingers.
My auburn coloured hair has been neatly placed in an intricate bee hive style. I am unable to explain how they managed to so beautifully place it. The last addition are small diamond pins placed in my hair completing the elegant look – and portraying the wealth of the Campbell family.
I do not recognise the person in the mirror as me.
I see my mother’s face reflected in the mirror, she seems so proud. “You look beautiful darling. All the gentlemen tonight will be unable to resist you.”
I whisper back “Thank you Mother.”
And all that remains now is to wait patiently for the guests to begin arriving.