Bethany is celebrating her eighteenth birthday in Hot Springs. If her aunt and uncle have their way she will return engaged. Her life has been controlled, from the clothes she wears to the food she eats. But she plans to cut off her long hair like other girls and to fly free.
Paul chased butterflies when he was young. Now he chases gangsters. Bethany captures his interest like a butterfly. But two other men have determined to catch her and one is a dangerous gangster. Will she exit her cocoon, find strength and fly free or be trapped?
"What have you done?" Aunt Margaret's eyes darkened to black slits the moment they landed on Bethany. Anger radiated off her like heat from a boiling furnace. She slammed the door. "You little fool."
Bethany widened her eyes. She'd never seen her aunt this angry. Her fury froze whatever words Bethany might have spoken. She wanted to run and hide as she had when she was a small girl, yet she wasn't that small girl anymore and she had nowhere to hide, anyway. She never had.
"You gave your word you wouldn't leave this hotel."
"I didn't leave the hotel. They have a beauty parlor right here in the basement."
"I cannot leave you alone for even one minute." Aunt Margaret's face was a mask of fury. "You cannot be trusted."
"I kept my word. I didn't leave the hotel."
"You are a disgrace. You have disgraced this family. How do you expect to go out in society? That hairdo is unladylike. We won't find you a proper husband with you looking like that. If you were married, it would be grounds for divorce. You're a fool."
"I like it, and I'm not the only one. Others have told me it looks pretty."
"Of course the beautician who cut your hair is going to tell you that. People like that will tell you anything when they want to sell you something. Not only is your haircut unladylike, it makes your face look fat."
Bethany's stomach clenched. She wasn't fat. She wasn't. Paul thought she looked pretty. She'd known her aunt would be angry, but hadn't known she'd be this angry. If only Bethany could flee. Anywhere but inside this room. Anywhere far away from her aunt.
"You'll be lucky if Richard still wants to take you to that movie." Her aunt paced the room. "Just wait until your uncle sees."
"Sees what?" Uncle James stepped through the door, and his jaw dropped. He didn't even close the door behind him as he walked into the room.
Bethany reached up to the back of her hair and fluffed it as Tildy and Paul had done. That felt good, although she knew her aunt and uncle might take it as a defiant move. Paul likes my hair this way. I like it too. I don't care what they think.
"You've cut your hair," Uncle James said. He wasn't usually one to state the obvious, and yet he seemed dumbfounded.
She nodded. "Yes, I did."
"Well." He slammed the door. "It's done now."