Essie Sycamore was, bless her heart, the clumsiest girl in New York City, and probably the world. This was a great consternation to her, her parents, and her sister, but mostly to Rheba, the family's hired help. Rheba was so practiced in dodging Essie's kitchen "help" that upon her arrival this day, before Essie had half finished her sentence she rattled off, "No thank you, Miss Essie, I can do it myself."
Essie looked confused. Rheba suspected she'd missed something. "What'd you say?"
"I said I think I'm going to get married."
"Ah." That explained the misunderstanding. "Who are you getting married to?"
"I don't remember his name," Essie said slowly. "But he's so beautiful, he's the most beautiful boy in the world, and he's a hero. I love him so much. Would you bake my wedding-cake?"
When Rheba absently agreed, Essie grasped her dishwater-soaked hands and shook them almost off her arms. She squealed her thanks and seemed ready to lift Rheba off her feet before the cook disentangled herself from the euphoric bride-to-be.
"Hold on one minute," said Rheba, sitting Essie firmly on a stool. "Quit cutting corners. How'd you meet this young knight in shining armor?"
"Well," Essie began lazily, leaning back on her stool. It slipped from under her and she fell with a shriek and a crash. "Well," she continued, shaken but undaunted, "I was trying to deliver candies, and it was icy or must have been, because I was practicing jetés (pronounced 'jetties') and I kept slipping." Rheba suspected a different reason would explain Essie's falls, but she nodded sympathetically. "Anyways, I fell one last time near the old Hay place, and my ankle twisted right off the curb. I couldn't walk, much less dance, and I didn't know how I was going to get home!" Her eyes grew starry as she reached the interesting part. "Then this young man crossed the street, and I could just die, 'cause he'd seen me fall. I thought he was going to laugh at me, but he looks at me with his big, beautiful eyes, and he says, 'Are you alright?' I say I am, only I can't walk and I'm so far from home and my dress is soaked. He asks if I need a ride. He's got a wagon with stacks of paper, and he lifts me, gentle as anything, sits me on the papers like they were a throne, and pulls me all the way home." She sighed. "It was so romantic."
While Essie was preoccupied, Rheba had taken the opportunity to whisk nearby breakables out of reach in case the story required hand gestures. At the pause she froze with her hands full of china tea set and said, "That sounds sweet," before shoving the cups haphazardly into the cabinet.
"He is," breathed Essie. "Just think, he gave me one of his papers." She tugged a folded piece of paper from the waistband of her skirt and smoothed it out. "Trotsky Lives," she read aloud, and sighed again. "He put it in such a beautiful font. Italic, he says."
Rheba looked worried at the message Essie's true love was circulating. "He's not some sort of a... Communist, is he, Miss Essie?" she asked, whispering the offending word.
"Oh, no," Essie replied cheerfully. "He's an amateur printer. He told me himself he didn't even know who Trotsky was; he just found the name on a book and thought it sounded nice."
"That's alright," Rheba said.
Rheba flew to the decorative plate that was now dangerously close to Essie's arms. "What is it?"
"I remembered two things," said Essie. "His name is Edward Carmichael..."
"And I invited him to dinner tonight."
The bell rang in the front room. "Doorbell!" Penny shouted.