After Lizzy finished her evening gown walking session with Penny Clay, she, Darcy, and Jane met Charlie at the consignment shop. Charlie was grinning, pointing at the sign.
Charlie: How do you like it, ladies?
Lizzy: Wow! This place is huge. You bought the closed up Harris Teeter? I like that. Buy an abandoned building instead of building a new one. One less empty store front. That’s the name of the store? CW’s?
Darcy: Charlie wanted to be a partner in this venture. “C” for Charlie and “W” for Will.
Jane: I like it. Sounds sophisticated instead of stupid.
Lizzy: You mean like Diva Duds? Cute does get old fast. It tries too hard. CW’s sounds classy. I like the sign, too. It’s not flashing neon, begging for business. It conveys, “We have the clothes you always wished you could afford at reasonable prices.” It’s an invitation, not a sledge hammer.
Darcy: This store is another reason you ladies should quit your summer jobs. It’s going to take a good bit of your time to be co-managers. First things first, though. Before we hire staff and open for business, you need to come in and choose what you like. You both need gowns, interview clothes, talent outfits, and competition swimsuits with the accessories. You’ll also need to be well-dressed while you work here. Givin’ you the right clothes will promote the image of the store, so it’s good business.
Lizzy: There must be a light or two burned out on your string if you’re going to just give us clothes, sugar. You’ll never make any money that way.
Darcy: We’ve already discussed this. I want you two ladies in the pageants, and I’m goin’ to pay whatever your costs are.
Lizzy: Yeah, but you’re crazy as a bullbat. What do you think, Charlie? You’re part owner. This is coming out of your pocket, too.
Charlie: I agree with Darcy. We can’t expect you two to quit your jobs, run this store, and win pageants without the proper clothes, and you have to dress the part in here and around town. You’re walking advertisements now for CW’s. Time to lose the baggy jeans and Walmart tops, Lizzy.
Lizzy: Why don’t you tell me how you really feel? You got a big hole in your screen door. Jane, you ready to take free clothes from your boyfriend? Makes me feel kind of cheap.
Jane: I hear you cluckin’, but I can’t find your nest. We’ve already talked about this. It’s part of the incentive package. We work for Darcy. It’s part of what he pays us.
Lizzy: We work for Charlie, too, apparently. He’s your boyfriend. You willin’ to take clothes from him?
Jane: The guys talked, and Charlie filled me in last night. I know Wickham mistreated Darcy’s sister in some way, and I know you’re an undercover reporter entering the pageants to see if they’re fixed. We’re all four in this together now. Think of these clothes as part of a uniform. We work for the guys, and our uniforms are part of the deal.
Lizzy: It seems everybody’s lost their vertical hold except me, but I’ll go along with it. I’ll join FCU. Lead the way.
Lizzy: Free Clothes University.
Darcy: You’re crazy as a loon, but I love you anyway. Let’s go in and get out of the heat. I think my nose just melted and it’s drippin’ on my shirt.
Lizzy: Wow! It looks great in here. I thought we were goin’ to help set it all up.
Charlie: Since Darcy found out yesterday the clothes were comin’ in today, we had workmen in all afternoon and last night to patch the walls and paint. The racks were delivered and set up this mornin’, so I had a few guys come with me as soon as I ate breakfast, and we hung everything up. You’ll probably need to organize it better. Divide it into sizes or somethin’. Caroline would’ve helped, but I didn’t tell her about it. You ladies get first choice. If I’d let her come, half the store would be empty now.
Lizzy: She’ll be mad when she finds out you and Darcy own this place, but you gave Janie and me first choice. You probably already noticed you’re sister’s crazy as a coconut.
Charlie: Yep. She’s crazy as a pet coon under a red wagon, and she’ll be madder than a piano player in a marchin’ band, but she’ll get over it. She already has so many clothes Daddy had to make the room next to hers a walk-in closet, and even then she wanted more room for her shoes. Why does anybody need so many pairs of shoes?
Darcy: Back off that ledge. I have a good many shoes myself.
Lizzy: I’ve noticed you haven’t worn the same pair twice around me. I thought you might be one brick shy of a load where shoes are concerned. Guess I was right. Doesn’t bother me, though. There are far worse things to be obsessed with.
Darcy: About your shoes … We really need to do somethin’ about what you have on your feet.
Lizzy: What’s wrong with my shoes?
Darcy: Nothin’ – if you plan to work in the garden.
Lizzy: You’re about two sandwiches short of a picnic, honey. I bought these shoes only two years ago. They’re just now broke in good.
Darcy: You’re crazy as Larrabee’s calf. Those shoes are so old, when they were new, rainbows were in black and white. The Dead Sea was just getting sick then. And that brand isn’t good for your feet.
Lizzy: You’re such a snob sometimes. Your shoes cost more than I make in a week. I had a choice between wearin’ fancy, brand name shoes, or payin’ rent and eatin’. It’s obvious that I chose to eat.
Jane: Enough. I wondered why we had several racks of brand new athletic shoes in that back corner. In fact, all the shoes look new. Guess I know why now. Come on, Charlie. Let’s go look at the evening gowns. It’s about to hit the fan, and I want to be out of range.
Charlie: Good idea. All this fussin’ makes me jumpy as spit on a hot skillet.
Darcy: You can wear used dresses, but you can’t wear used shoes. That’s just disgusting, and worn out shoes are bad for your feet. I had my PA get someone to find the shoes at wholesale prices, and I bought in bulk. Pageant contestants need workout shoes and exercise clothes. Everything in here is necessary for girls in pageants.
Lizzy: I think I understand now. You have a shoe fetish. And this rack of designer jeans? And those high-end, name brand tops?
Darcy: You have to look good when you arrive to compete.
Lizzy: I think you’ve introduced “Build Lizzy’s Wardrobe” by stealth here. You’re plumb crazy, sugar. You got too many cobwebs in your attic.
Darcy: I admit I want you to dress well. You deserve it.
Lizzy: I deserve it? Or you deserve it? Are you ashamed of me?
Darcy: Do I act like I’m ashamed of you? You must be overdrawn at the memory bank. I’ve taken you everywhere I’ve gone, and I’ve told you you’re beautiful over and over. I’ve introduced you to my family, and I’ve told you I love you. This is not normal behavior for me, Lizzy. I’ve never loved any other girl the way I love you, and I want the best for you. How can I walk around in the clothes and shoes I have and not share my wealth with you? I feel like the biggest jerk in the world.
Lizzy: Don’t you like the way I am?
Darcy: I love the way you are. I just want to dress up the outside a little. I’d never change the inside. That’s what makes you special. Clothing is just outside wrapping. The real gift is inside.
Lizzy: I’m curious to know what you’d like to wrap me in. Come pick out an outfit for me so I can see what you have in mind.
Darcy: Really? You’d let me do that?
Lizzy: It seems to be important to you, and I love you, even if you are crazy as all get out. But know this upfront: I won’t wear anything I don’t like.
Darcy: I wouldn’t expect you to, love. That would be very unLizzylike. I want to keep you the way you are, just in better shoes and clothes. I, uh, already put together a few outfits – just in case. Georgie helped me get everything together. It’s all laid out in the dressing room with the pink door.
Lizzy: (Opens door) So, you think I’ll look good in these clothes?
Darcy: Yep. I imagined how you would look. Men are very visual you know.
Lizzy: I’m beginning to get the picture. I’ll be out in a minute. Stay right there.
Darcy: Jane! Bingley! Come over here and give your opinion. Lizzy’s tryin’ on clothes.
Lizzy: (Through the door) Everything fits. How’d you know my size?
Darcy: Georgie met you at the cookout. Remember? She has a good eye for anything to do with fashion. She helped with colors, too.
Lizzy: Hmm… She’s good at this. Ready? Here I come. (Throws open door and walks out) Will? Will? Say something. Don’t you like it?
Darcy: (Staring) I thought I had a good idea how you’d look when I saw you in yoga pants and a T shirt. I mean, at least the yoga pants showed more of your shape than the baggy jeans did, but the huge T shirt really hid you. I truly had no clue my girlfriend was such a knockout.
Jane: He’s right. You’re gorgeous. Maybe I should get Georgie to help me, too. She could be a fashion consultant in the store if she has time.
Bingley: Sounds like a plan. What do you think, Darcy?
Darcy: I’ll ask her. Why don’t you two go look at the front windows and see what you think we could do to draw interest? I ordered some mannequins. We need a few good ideas on what to do with them. Where’re you goin’, Lizzy?
Lizzy: I was goin’ to help them.
Lizzy: No? Why not?
Darcy: I want to see another outfit.
Lizzy: Is that my boyfriend talkin’, or is it my boss?
Darcy: Which answer will get me what I want?
Lizzy: You know, down South we love our crazy family members. We don’t hide ‘em away. We parade ‘em out in front of everybody. Proves how much we love ‘em.
Darcy: I’m missin’ the point. There is a point, isn’t there?
Lizzy: Relationships are everything to us. The closer you are to family, the better.
Darcy: Then I’m guessin’ “boyfriend” is the correct answer. Your boyfriend wants to see you in those stunning outfits his sister put together for you. Family all around.
Lizzy: See? That was easy. You just have to know how to ask, and then I’m sugar in your hand.
Darcy: Can I have a kiss before you go change again?
Lizzy: Of course. I’m crazy about you.
Darcy: That’s my favorite kind of crazy.
Lizzy: You ain’t right.