(An autobiographical essay.)

Golden dust motes rose and spiraled in the lance of sun that came through the skylight as the teenage girl dusted. She wielded an ostrich-feather duster with more art than function—she liked to imagine it was a fancy fan, and she a belle of the ball.

The girl paused for a moment, dreamily staring out the great bow window overlooking a palm-tree rimmed pond where imported swans circled, mentally embroidering her fantasy to write down later. Her mother, sweating and irritable, stuck her head into the suite.

“Hurry up, we need to get the vacuuming done before they get home.” She pointed to a large bottle of perfume perilously near the edge of the vanity. “Be careful of that. They say it’s the world’s most expensive perfume.” She hurried on.

The girl picked it up. “Joy de Jean Patou,” she read softly. She examined the heavy square-cut bottle with its plain embossed label. Darting a glance at the door, she pulled out the stopper, taking a sniff.

I remember it as much bigger than this. Maybe they make a jumbo bottle?

Like a genie rising, voluptuous scent encircled her. This was not the chemically-enhanced bath spray she was used to. This was the blood of truckloads of real roses, bushels of delicate French jasmine blossoms, crushed to pulp and distilled into precious golden liquid.

With another glance at the door, she rubbed the crystal stopper on her wrists. The scent enfolded her like the satin of her imaginary ballgown. How beautiful it was!

A heady feeling swept over her as she flew about her work: she had stolen Joy! Wearing the world’s most delicious and expensive perfume, she became a suburban Cinderella, lady of the manor disguised as a maid.

She volunteered to clean the master suite from then on. The level on the bottle of Joy got a little lower, but that wasn’t noticed. What was noticed were the shine of her eyes, the self-confident sparkle of someone who knows she is meant for better things. She’d stolen Joy! And her imagination was her magic carpet to the good life.

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