The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended. Beta'd by the lovely ShellyDuran.
Trigger warning for period typical language and biases- see end chapter notes.
The day after the meeting, it was eerie on the work floor. No one made eye contact. No one even tried to sneak a quick whisper to their neighbor. The foremen seemed extra vigilant and yelled whenever someone looked up from their work. Bella could feel the tension in the air and it made her already miserable job even more miserable.
Wiping her forehead with her sleeve, she quickly peeked up and saw Alice across the room, head down and working furiously at her sewing machine. As if she could feel eyes on her, she looked up, met Bella's gaze and mouthed something to her. Almost immediately, Sam, one of the biggest of the foremen was yelling at her to keep working. Alice startled. Bella saw a flicker of pain in her eyes and realized that she must've run through her finger again.
She didn't dare look around again, just worked until it was time to leave for the day.
It was bitingly cold outside after the heat of the steam presses. A light flurry of snow was falling as Bella stepped into the night with a crowd of her co-workers. She waited by the lightpost for Alice so they could walk home together.
Once on the sidewalk the girls from the factory began to chatter about what to expect the next day.
"Bella!" Alice's chipper voice cut through the din of noise and Bella gave her a weary smile.
"So," Alice began, "tomorrow, we walk out at nine. We're to head towards the Union Shop on the East Side. We join the union and we picket," her voice was filled with excitement and Bella once again was filled with wonder at Alice's spirit.
"Alright," Bella agreed.
"Union membership costs twenty–five cents, if you're not able to cover it…" Alice trailed off.
"No, no, I can do that. Papa put aside some money. He knew there would be a price," even to her own ears, her voice sounded tired and scared.
"Bella," Alice took her arm and hugged it to her side. "It'll be alright. You'll see! Things are looking up for us, especially after last night," she said with a wicked smile.
"Oh?" Bella asked her friend as they crossed through Washington Square Park. She saw the students from the University walking to and fro and tried to pretend that she wasn't searching for one in particular.
"Oh Bella, Jasper is amazing!" Alice chirped. "He walked me home, but stopped to buy me a cup of coffee and dinner at the diner. We talked for hours and hours. He asked to take me to dinner again, this time a real dinner in a real restaurant. Can you believe it?"
"I can," Bella assured her friend. "Just be sure that Major Whitlock treats you the right way."
"Oh he will. He spoke of his family back home in Texas. Can you believe it? Texas, Bella. His family owns a ranch near Galveston. He has a younger sister who is married and has two children: a boy and a girl…"
Bella couldn't help but laugh as Alice described Major Jasper Whitlock's entire family history.
"Stop it you," Alice said and playfully smacked Bella's arm. "Anyway, what about you? The very handsome Mister Edward Masen walked you home," Alice sing-songed as she swung her purse back and forth.
"Well, yes. But there was no stop at the diner for us."
"So..?" Alice pried.
"He walked me home and we spoke about the strike. Papa was waiting at the stoop and I introduced them. And then we said goodbye."
"That's it?" Alice asked sounding upset.
"Well," Bella hedged, "he mentioned he would see me again. But, really Alice, why would he?"
"Bella, why wouldn't he?"
"He's studying to be a doctor. His family clearly has money. There's no reason a man like him would be interested in a girl like me." All of the girls had heard tales of the rich students taking advantage of the girls from the work floor. Sometimes the temptation of making easy money by less than reputable means was too great for them to refuse. It was hard to judge them too harshly when the cold winds blew and the larder was empty.
"Don't do that Bella. Don't sell yourself short. You are just as good as the Edward Masens of the world."
"Bella Mia!" They both looked up at Bella's building to see Renee leaning out of the window to their apartment. "You come in right now, you are late for supper!"
"I somehow can't picture someone in Edward's life leaning out the front window and shouting at him that he's late for supper," Bella said and both she and Alice laughed.
"Edward Masen, you are late!" Esme announced from the top of the stairs when Edward came into the foyer.
Esme had scheduled a night out at Carnegie Hall to see an Italian opera singer, but he'd lingered after his Anatomy and Physiology lecture trying to see if he could spot Bella coming out of the Triangle Factory at the end of the work day.
Edward didn't know what to expect when he walked through Washington Square Park on his way to class that morning. With the excitement of the previous night, he thought that maybe he'd see some activity. A small crowd of garment union strikers had set up a booth in the park earlier in the fall, but there was really no increase in activity at that spot. He couldn't help but feel a little let down by that.
He sat through a Biology lecture followed by an Anatomy and Physiology lecture. He felt like a masher as he watched the crowd that came out of the factory at the end of the day, afraid that he'd be pushing his intentions upon her. Still, he couldn't help but feel disappointed when he didn't see Bella or her friend before he caught the trolley towards home.
"Forgive me Esme, my lecture ran late," he said as he bounded up the stairs.
"Your clothes are laid out; we are leaving in fifteen minutes to meet the Kings for dinner. If we're late, Rosalie will have your head!" She threatened as he rushed by her and into his room.
Usually a night of music would be just the kind of thing he'd enjoy, but the idea that he'd missed an opportunity to see Bella left him feeling unsettled. His mood was made even worse because having dinner with the Kings meant listening to the pontifications of Royce C. King Sr. The father of Rosalie's potential love interest was a self-made man, and considered new money by the establishment. He was known for loudly sharing his opinions on everything with everyone within earshot, rarely following the accepted rules of etiquette. More than once, Rosalie had commented on how he embarrassed her when she and Royce Jr. had been out with him in public. Never the less, he had made the commitment to attend this evening, and he would see it through.
He quickly dressed and with the assistance of Banner had his tie and tails looking top shape. He rushed downstairs to see Rosalie and Esme finishing their sherry.
"It's about time." Rosalie groused standing and handing her glass to Angela without a word of thanks.
"Rose, as always you look stunning," Edward nodded towards her. Though he thought her personality was at best prickly, he couldn't fault her appearance. She was wearing a pale pink gown and, with the assistance of Banner, shrugged into a white fur cape.
"New dress?" He inquired as he put on his white gloves.
"Yes, just came from Paris. It's a Worth," Rosalie said it in a manner that Edward assumed was supposed to mean something to him.
"Shall we?" Carlisle asked entering the room and motioned towards the foyer.
"And where are we meeting the Kings this evening?" Edward asked once the motor car had pulled away from the curb.
"The Waldorf Astoria, of course," Rosalie sniffed.
"Oh, of course," Edward mocked.
"Edward." Carlisle said quietly, warning his brother-in-law to behave.
Edward sat back and listened as they conversed about the day's events until they arrived at the lavish hotel.
They made their way to the restaurant and were met by the maître d'hotel.
"Dr. Cullen, Mrs. Cullen, as always it is a pleasure."
"Oscar, it is also a pleasure to see you," Esme said. The man kissed her hand as they handed over their hats, gloves and coats to the waiting staff.
"Your guests have arrived and are waiting at your table, this way," Oscar motioned them forward. Edward hid a small laugh behind his hand and tried to disguise it as a cough, though by the look Rose shot him, he wasn't successful. It would rather annoy Mr. King that he was considered Esme's guest, rather than the other way around.
Edward looked around the room as they made their way to their table and spotted many people he knew were the cream of New York society, members of Mrs. Astor's Four Hundred. While Carlisle wasn't on that list himself, through his marriage to Esme, he and Rose were often given access to the elite world. Edward was also sought out for invitations, due to his single status and wealth, but rarely took advantage of them.
A booming voice called out "Carlisle! Esme!" Every head in the place turned and looked at the boisterous figure of R.C. King, which was no doubt his intention, even if it did cause a murmur of shock to pass through the room.
"Good Lord," Rosalie whispered, but fixed a beaming smile upon her face.
"R.C., Royce," Carlisle nodded to acknowledge them once they were within speaking range. R.C. sank back into his chair before Rosalie and Esme were seated and it grated on Edward's nerves.
"No Lydia this evening?" Carlisle asked, referring to Mrs. King, as he sat Esme and Edward sat Rosalie.
"No, she was feeling a bit under the weather," Royce answered for his father.
"Nothing serious I hope," Carlisle asked with true concern.
"Nothing of the sort, I assure you," R.C. boomed.
The next few minutes were occupied with ordering from Oscar and polite conversation about the weather. Dinner was served quickly and conversation, while sometimes awkward with R.C., moved along. After the meal, Esme and Rosalie excused themselves to the ladies' tea room, while R.C. bowled his way towards the men's lounge.
Cigars were passed around. Edward abstained, but did take a brandy. The topic of conversation moved onto the news of the day: the looming garment workers' strike.
"Rubbish," R.C. said waving his cigar expansively. "You get these Kikes coming in and bringing all these strange ideas, planting them in people's heads. If you ask me, every damn one of 'em should be sent back."
"Evidently, he's never heard of the Pogroms." Edward murmured as he took a sip of his brandy, causing Carlisle to choke on his own drink.
"I'm afraid that's not a possibility," Carlisle said calmly once he'd caught his breath, but Edward could see that his ears were turning a bit red, a sign of his discomfort at R.C.'s cavalier attitude.
"No offense Carlisle," R.C. began and Edward knew that regardless, Carlisle would be offended, "but you are a bleeding heart radical. These people come here and expect us to change to their ways, and not consider that we were perfectly fine going right along without them."
"I'm sure that's what the American Indians thought," Edward said quietly enough that Carlisle was the only one to hear.
"Unions, bah! And women's suffrage, I tell you Royce, when you and Rosalie get married; you have to get these radical ideas out of her head," R.C. slapped Royce on the shoulder.
Royce, typically, had no argument to offer his father, but Edward could see that he was flushed. A small crowd of men stood around them, though not adding to the argument, they mostly seemed to agree with R.C.'s attitude.
"The conditions these girls work under are deplorable," Edward said. "And girls they certainly are. Hardly any of them at Cooper Union were over twenty…"
"Ah, I see we have another radical in our midst," R.C. narrowed his eyes at Edward. "Listen to me, son. Nothing these girls try will change things. The Garment Workers Union is a joke, not one of us owners takes them seriously. You mark my words: none of this talk of walk out or work stoppage will amount to anything."
Edward hoped with all his might that Bella and her friends would prove him wrong.
The evening progressed in much the same manner. Thankfully, R.C. was forced to stifle his opinions once they were ensconced in their private box at Carnegie Hall and the performance began. As the Italian tenor sang, Edward's thoughts once again drifted towards Bella. He couldn't help but think she'd enjoy hearing her mother's native language represented in such a beautiful setting.
After the performance ended, they parted ways with the Kings in the lobby. When Royce gently kissed Rose's gloved hand, R.C. scoffed, "Kiss her proper boy." He said giving him a slap on the back and causing Rose to turn bright red.
Once they were in their car and on the way home, Edward opened his mouth to begin a tirade on R.C. King and his impropriety, but Rose cut him off with a glare.
"Not a word Edward." She bit out. In tense silence, the car moved through traffic towards home.
Masher- a dated term for a man who accosts women, or inflicts his unwanted intentions upon them.
Use of the word Kike is believed to have started at Ellis Island. When immigrants came through, if they could not sign their name were told to use and X instead. Many Jews who came through refused, saying that an X too closely resembled a Christian cross and instead asked to use a circle or kikel in Yiddish. I, in no way mean any offense by its use, it is used in a historical context.