Grace Farrell had always been sensible—sensible clothes, sensible shoes, even a sensible hairstyle.
Such sensibility left little room for sentiment, and while others might regard that as a shortcoming, it didn't bother her. The clothes, the shoes, the hair—it was armor, protecting her against the wounds and weaknesses that might be result from allowing herself to become too invested in emotions—either positive or negative.
And if, in the privacy of her bedroom in Oliver Warbucks' mansion, she traded her tailored suits for flowing, flimsy nightgowns of silk and lace, no one but she was the wiser.
And if, curled up under the luxurious down comforter, she found her bed just a little too large and a little too lonely, she learned to ignore the feeling and instead to focus on what she did have—a secure position, a salary that included a wardrobe allowance, a gorgeous suite of rooms, and certainly no room for complaint. It was, as she'd told Agatha Hannigan, a terrible time to be out of work.
And if, at night, her dreams were filled with images of her employer, she endeavored to forget them by the morning. She couldn't afford complications; there was nothing to be gained from upsetting the status quo.
And then, Annie walked—danced—into their lives.
It had started innocently enough, with a night at the movies. Annie was in her room, filling the place with an innocent, uninhibited joy and enthusiasm that bespoke much more about her very nature than it did about her upbringing.
She'd been to that orphanage, met Agatha Hannigan, and the idea of sending Annie back there broke her heart.
Annie, with the unabashed honesty that only a child possesses, had complimented her hair—and called her pretty.
Despite Annie's encouragement, however, she put her hair up. Too much change, too soon could never lead to anything good.
And when she dressed, it was in the well-made and carefully-tailored clothes she always wore—ensuring the lines of her stockings ran up her legs in perfectly straight lines, that her shoes weren't scuffed, that her hatpin was securely fastened. It was, after all, in her nature to keep things smooth—orderly.
As they departed for Radio City Music Hall, she crawled into the car after Annie, and over the young girl's head, her eyes briefly met Oliver Warbucks.' She felt a chill pass through her. Something in the way he looked at her had changed—as though he'd stopped seeing her as an employee and started seeing her as a person.
And she found her carefully crafted mask of impassivity growing harder and harder to keep in place. Already Annie had seen through the cracks in it. Strangely, though, rather than worrying about what would happen should Oliver find a chink in her armor, for the first time she began to look forward to the prospect.
And through the course of the movie she'd stolen glances in his direction, and every so often, she thought maybe she'd caught him doing the same. Each glance, each moment of shared eye contact, sent a thrill down her spine. The movie was dark—tragic—and in spite of herself she began to cry.
And Oliver passed her his handkerchief. She sobbed into it unabashedly—only later, after the movie ended and her tears had abated, realizing that it smelled of his aftershave. She brought it to her nose one more time, inhaling deeply, before passing it back to him. He waved her away, and she felt only slightly self-indulgent upon slipping it into her handbag. She had no idea where she'd keep it, but she knew it would be something she'd treasure for a long time to come. It smelled, after all, like him.
And when, after they had returned home and they'd tucked Annie into bed, she found her heart leaping even faster. It was almost as though they were—a family.
She shut the door to Annie's bedroom quietly, and then turned, ready to go to bed. "Miss Farrell," Oliver whispered, and grabbed her by the wrist.
His grip was strong, sure, and electric. "Yes!" she answered, spinning quickly on her heel, her full attention on him.
For the first time since she'd met him, Oliver seemed to be at a loss for words. She continued to watch him—open, curious, and expectant—and he smiled softly, before saying, "Sleep well."
She blushed, and lowered her eyes, before looking back up to him. "You, too."
As she changed into her night gown and brushed her hair out, she could still feel the touch of his fingers on her forearm. She pulled the handkerchief out of the handbag and brought it to her nose before carrying it to bed with her.
Tomorrow, perhaps, she would wear her hair down.