Author: Lucy Voss (Scorpio)
The four Queens had met by chance while out in town and they were sitting on a bench in a small, pretty square just off the main street.
The Queen of Swords had a very large plastic bag she kept shifting from side to side. “What’s in there?” asked the Queen of Cups. “What’s that smell of mothballs?” asked the Queen of Wands at the same time.
“It’s my costume,” said the Queen of Swords.
“Costume???” “Yes, you know, a costume, jacket and skirt. I’m taking it to the cleaners. My mother used to wear it.” “Well, your mother won’t be needing it now, surely……?” said the Queen of Pentacles. “No of course she won’t” replied the Queen of Swords impatiently. “I’m taking it to the dry cleaners so I can wear it.”
She opened the bag, releasing even more mothball smell, and shook out a longish straight grey skirt with an inverted kick pleat at the back, followed by a very fitted and darted jacket. “And here’s the hat,” she said, producing a close-fitting lighter grey silk hat with a broken feather. “It’s a lovely little hat,” said the Queen of Cups, stroking it and gently straightening the feather. “Iron mould,” said the Queen of Pentacles, pointing.
She picked up the costume. “This is very good material, and it’s tailor-made … and this is 1950s style with all these darts and the cut of the lapels… and your mother never wore this, it’s your grandmother’s.”
“Why are you taking it to the cleaner’s?” asked the Queen of Wands. “Send it to the charity shop.”
“I need to wear it at a formal occasion,” said the Queen of Swords.
“What formal occasion?” asked the other three.
“An investiture” mumbled the Queen, going slightly pink.
“Investiture??!!” shouted the others.
“The King received a gong in the Birthday Honours so we are going to the Palace to receive it.”
“And you are going to wear your grandmother’s 1950s suit?” asked the Queen of Wands with awful emphasis. “What do you think you’ll look like? No-one else will be turning up in a piece of jumble.”
The Queen of Swords picked up her costume and hat, bundled them back into the bag, and stood up to leave.
“No you don’t,” said the Queens of Wands and Pentacles, tugging her by the elbows so she had to sit down again.
“The King will be hiring his togs from Moss Bros, won’t he?” said the Queen of Pentacles, “so he’ll look up to date – ”
“ – And then he’ll be accompanied by you looking even worse than usual,” said the Queen of Wands.
“Oh, really,” said the Queen of Cups, “that was a bit outspoken.”
“I know” said the Queen of Wands. “Come on, this calls for a visit to HM Modes,” and without waiting for agreement she herded the other three along to an unpretentious-looking shop not far away.
“She needs to look elegant,” added the Queen of Pentacles.
“But she needs to feel comfortable in herself,” added the Queen of Cups.
“Good Morning,” said the manager of HM Modes as she glided out from her office. “Now, please explain.”
The Queen of Swords stood mute while her three companions explained, contradicting each other, giving instructions to the HM Modes manager, and encouraging the Queen of Swords to speak up for herself while at the same time telling her to be quiet. HM Modes turned to the Queen of Swords. “So you are accompanying your husband who is receiving an award? And you will no doubt be wearing the outfit again possibly for weddings
“- I DO NOT DO FRILLS,” interrupted the Queen angrily –
“And no doubt you go with your husband to conferences and graduations?” The Queen nodded. “Good,” said HM Modes. She turned to the other Queens. “Perhaps,” she said, “you three would like to leave us and come back in an hour and a half. The show will be ready by then.” and she gently persuaded them out of the shop.
The manager of HM Modes held up colour swatches, offered different cuts and shapes to try, different fabrics, suggested accessories, pointed out the usefulness of different garments together and apart. “I don’t sell shoes,” said the Manager of HM Modes. “Take your outfit with you when you go to buy them. Try Eight Pentacles in Leather Street – they’ve done this kind of thing before for my clients. They find the right shoes for the right outfit , not expensive… and don’t worry, no ‘Car to Bar’ shoes.”
The other three Queens returned. “Ready?” asked the Manager of HM modes. And she pulled back the door of the changing room. Three pairs of big round eyes gazed at the vision that appeared. The Queen of Swords was wearing something severe (as always), but extremely elegant, with a small asymmetrical hat worn tilted slightly to one side which offset the severity of the rest of the outfit. The other three were speechless.
“I didn’t know I could look like this” said the Queen of Swords, musingly, admiring herself in the mirror once again.
“Well, here at HM Modes we try to help our customers to see themselves from a different perspective. We nearly always succeed… I suggest Challis Knight for hair and make-up” added the manager. “He’s a bit inclined to admire himself, but he knows what works for his clients… and don’t worry,” she added as the Queen pulled an anxious face, “you will look like you, as you are meant to look.”
The instructions for admission to the Palace were very precise. The Knight and the Page of Swords were on their way to meet their parents for the Investiture, but they had forgotten their ties and had had to buy new ones so were now in a terrible hurry, pushing past people and feeling flustered as they drew nearer the Palace.
“Come on,” urged the Knight. “We’re going to be late.” The two young men drew close to the meeting point and slowed down. “Ah,” said the Knight, “that’s father. But there’s no sign of mother.”
The Page looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, who’s that standing near father?” he asked.
“Oh, I don’t know, that’s not mother – too well-dressed, and she said she would be wearing that old grey thing of great grandmother’s.” The Knight and the Page approached the King.
“We were wondering where you two had got to,” he said.
“Well, surely we aren’t late, mother’s not here yet.”
“Oh really??” asked the King. Then, turning, “Shall we go in?” he asked, offering his arm to the woman standing nearby.
The two young Swords’ jaws dropped. “Mother??”
(c) Lucy Voss June 2018