by Jessica Andress, age 16
Winter raged outside. It battered the shutters, whistled down the chimneys, and threatened to burst asunder the front doors of the ancient mansion with its exceptionally gusty breath. On that frigid afternoon, when the wild wind fumed over the frosted lands like an enraged stampede of buffalo and the fire crackled and sizzled with additional profusion, Mrs. Alexandra Garthen relaxed contentedly in her favorite armchair. Daughter of the Duke of Manchyle, she had inherited a particularly affluent, handsome mansion in the northern portion of England. She was also the wife of the eminent-yet-eccentric doctor, Sir George Garthen, whose esteemed personage was recognized throughout London. Settled comfortably in the old leather chair, Alexandra delighted over the latest magazine edition of the Royal Fashion. Hardly more than an hour ago, she had indulged in a quaint, though not entirely pleasant, visit with her mother-in-law, Lady Charlene, who was peculiar, yet amusing in her own way. They had chatted about numerous topics: the uncommonly chilled weather, the pompous lords and ladies who had participated in a charming revelry hosted by Lady Charlene last weekend, and the health of Sir George. Alexandra feared the stress of his work had perturbed and disrupted his demeanor. Of late he had committed to exhibiting bizarre behavior. As she mused upon this, an outlandish sound directed Alexandra’s attention away from her thoughts. Prying her eyes away from her magazine, she glanced up.
Her breath escaped her. Swinging back and forth on the priceless diamond chandelier like the pendulum of a clock, Sir George cackled hysterically, whooped in amusement, and yelped with delight. His sleeves had been rolled up shabbily to his elbows and plucked of their cufflinks. His professional appearance was ruffled, and his tie flew behind him like a flag. When he swayed backwards, his sandy hair billowed wildly. He was a comical sight. Somewhere on the ground lay his business coat, top hat, and unblemished silken gloves. From what Alexandra gathered from the appearances of these recently disposed items, she concluded that her husband must have entered the room without her awareness, stripped himself of his formal accessories, clambered up onto the chandelier, and discovered a means of swaying backwards and forwards without demolishing it. As he careened above her head, Alexandra, who wondered why on earth he indulged in such dangerous amusements, remained indifferent. Twice he nearly fell.
Calmly Alexandra observed as her husband performed his enthusiastic-yet-imprudent presentation. Obviously, the stress of his work had disrupted his organized, collective mind. Alexandra sighed. This was not the first time her husband had engaged in such juvenile behavior. Only last week she had spotted him flinging himself out of a window and landing in a most uncomfortable position in their pool, far below in the backyard. According to the theory of Sir George’s physician, such unruly activities were a form of stress relief. Although Alexandra hardly believed in such foolishness, her husband digested every word with unwavering faith. Back and forth he swung on the chandelier while Alexandra followed him with her eyes without the slightest alteration of her features. She was not concerned. The famed Sir George always knew what was best, and if he had a mind to soar on a chandelier, then, evidently, he would succeed in accomplishing such an exploit. As Alexandra observed her husband, an idea fashioned within her mind. She would mimic the style of her husband’s rolled up sleeves, cockeyed tie, ruffled hair, and disrupted glasses in order to create a fashion which the whole of southern England would adore. Granted, the style would not thrive in the north and expel profit, but the south had recently taken a fancy to wild appearances, and she knew more than a dozen such eccentric characters who would be willing to purchase the fashion which her husband now displayed. Perhaps she would name it “Swingin’ Styles.” Grinning over that name, Alexandra scooped up her magazine and engrossed herself once more in the styles of royalty while Sir George leaped off of the chandelier, landed upon the floor in an ostentatious flaunt, gathered his hat, coat, and gloves, and strolled calmly out of the room.