Winfred sighed, cleared her throat, and straightened her skirt once more. "He handed it to me, wished me happy birthday, and said I could open it. While I was opening it, he said that he had been thinking about this for a long while, and had finally found the right store that had one."
"I opened the box and inside was something. Well, Bunny, I did not even know what it was." Winfred was silent.
"What did it look like?"
"It was like a bodice one would wear under their corset, but made of sheer gossamer, you know like a bride's veil. And it was red. It was decorated with yards of red lace." She took a breath." Bunny, it was only this big," Winfred opened her arms up and down to show an area no larger than 2 and 1/2 feet. And it had this small elastic piece with it, about the size of a small purse also made of the red lace." She was silent again. "I was just speechless."
Bunny, having a good idea what she was dealing with now, tried to gather her thoughts without a giggle. Just how was she going to handle this? Worse yet, what was Winfred going to tell her or ask her about?
Winfred continued,"The Colonel held the thing up next to me and said something like 'that should fit' and handed it back to me. Then he told me I could wear it that night."She stopped. "You know there some things that men are aware of that a lady should never know about. Some things are just not subjects you talk about in mixed company - even between a husband and wife. The Colonel has always been a fine man, a true gentleman."
She continued her tale of how the Colonel came back that evening and they had supper. When they got ready for bed, Winfred assumed the Colonel had either forgotten about the gift or decided it wasn't a good idea. She went into long detail about how they slept in separate bedrooms, but he respected her so much that she didn't need to lock her door. Then she stopped and was quiet. The ticking of the clock was the only noise in the room.
Winfred took Bunny's hand. "Dear, you aren't married are you?"
"Not now, but I was."
Winfred had a sigh of relief."So you know all about a man's 'needs' and a wife's obligation."
"Well that is the only time the Colonel enters my bedroom and even then he knocks before he comes in. However Wednesday night he just walked in holding the red bodice thing and said.'You forgot something.' I hadn't forgotten anything, I could never forget that pink box with the black bow and what was in it. Anyway, I was ready to go to bed, dressed in my night gown, night jacket and cap. Then he explained what the red bodice was for, and that I should wear it. He used a French word to describe it.You can just imagine how I felt. If I didn't know any better I would have assumed he had been into the stiff drink."
Winfred smiled shyly. "Well, I made him darken the room before I would put the thing on. Then I was cold and had to crawl in bed to get warm. Of course he was already in bed."
This was way too much information for Bunny. She hoped this would soon end. No doubt Winfred had to be close to the dramatic part of this story that so upset her.
Winfred just kept talking, a little faster,"Well, you know how things happen. But this was different. Usually I only have to be with the Colonel for 10 minutes then he leaves. But that night, it was hours." Her face lit up in embarrassment."Bunny, it was the most wonderful time I have ever had. I felt young and alive. In fact I cannot even describe it. That red bodice cannot just cause that can it?"
"Well, maybe," Bunny was able to get out before Winfred started again.
"Because I have worn it every night since and the same thing has happened."
"So what is the problem?"
"The problem?" Winfred said as she broke down into tears. "The problem is that I know that that red bodice thing has possessed my soul and I am now deemed to Hell for eternity."
"Oh Winfred, I don't think so."
"But, it felt so good."
"So why are you going to Hell?"
"Because any uncontrolled joy is the devil's work and I cannot imagine anything more uncontrolled and joyful. No doubt even my minister back home would not be able to save me."
Bunny's mind was off track. "How would he know?"
Through her tears Winfred said,"Because I would have to confess such a sin in front of the church."
"Winfred, this is not a sin. There is no need for you to confess anything to anyone. What happens between you and the Colonel is your business, and no one needs to know about it. Unless he is hurting you, then you would definitely need to tell someone."
"Oh, Bunny, this is a carnal sin."
"Winfred, I know that you and Colonel Walker are dedicated to our history. I am always in awe at how you two live in two eras simultaneously. However," Bunny paused, "this is the 21st century. You need embrace that in part of your life. Even if it is not in you public persona. Winfred, you have a right to a private life, to live as you wish - in which ever century you choose. And,"Bunny patted Winfred's knee again and smiled,"that is your business, not anyone else's."
"Suddenly, I have a different view on life. Maybe what I have always though of as sin, may in fact not be. Oh, the 1000's I have condemed, when I was only judging them in ignorance."
"Winfred, it's OK."
"Can I ask a question?"
"I've never see you in church. Do you not believe?"
Bunny hesitated. "Winfred, it's not that I don't believe, it's a long story."
Winfred seemed to silently accept Bunny's answer. Then she announced, "From today on, I am a new woman. I have seen the light. My soul is free." Winfred smiled broadly. "I knew you could help me."
"Trust me, I didn't do anything. Just enjoy life and don't feel guilty."