Wednesday April 19, 1933

17 days until the wedding

It sounded like the entire city sighed as I exited the dressing room, stepping up carefully onto the pedestal. I wasn't going to trod on the train of my dress — heavens, no. This was the twenty-ninth dress I'd tried on since my engagement in March. They'd all looked great, of course.

Still, despite the admiration from the salesgirls at Walters Bridal, I had remained unsatisfied.

Until now.

I very much liked the way the white satin pooled at my feet, flowing behind me. At least a hundred buttons on the back of the dress were quickly attended to by the shop ladies. A grand and delicate organza veil and blusher descended from my head and seemed to float down around my body. At the collarbone, satin turned into lace that fit like a second skin all the way up to my neck. Of course, there was a modest layer of white fabric under the lace; it would have been much too revealing otherwise, and I was absolutely and obviously not a woman of such promiscuous implications.

God forbid.

Mother seemed to like the dress, as well. Tears brimmed in her cornflower blue eyes, and she appeared too stunned to realize, for she didn't wipe them away.

I grinned – my full lips parting to reveal my immaculately straight, white teeth – when I caught my own eyes in the mirror. I almost blushed, amazed by… well, myself.

I doubted I would ever grow tired of how pleasing my reflection was, how aligned my features appeared in photographs. How very angelic I would look walking down the aisle in this gown. The violet-blue irises in the mirror twinkled back at me as if they agreed. This is a wedding dress meant for a girl like me.

"Too many buttons," Mrs. King flatlined.

The spell that had fallen over the room drained away. I saw two salesgirls exchange a look.

"Do you think so? I quite like them." I turned so the buttoned-up back was fully visible from my perspective of the mirrors and examined the reflection over my shoulder.

Mother was curiously silent, despite her visible emotion. From the corner of my eye, I saw her finally wipe those tears away before looking meekly at my mother-in-law-to-be.

"How many buttons are on this dress, exactly?"

"One hundred and twenty, ma'am." The shop's associate chimed in from the back corner of the room.

"That's certainly too many. It's tedious," Mrs. King shrugged. "Naturally, when you have the help of salesgirls to get you in and out, it doesn't take long. And, when your wedding night arrives… well, you'll only have Royce to help you out of it, you know."

I did know, and it made my heart leap in my chest.

If there was one thing that Mrs. King, Mother, and myself could all agree on, it was that perceiving me was equal parts pleasure and pain. I was smart enough to know that providing such pleasure often inflicted pain upon others; many coveted my beauty for a multitude of reasons.

That said, I was a righteous woman.

Having children as soon as possible was the utmost priority when it came to my pairing with Royce. And of course, we were attracted to each other.

But it was quite untoward of her to speak about my impending wedding night so publicly…

I could hear one of the girls exhale sharply through her nose, taken aback by Mrs. King's forwardness and finding it apparently hilarious.

My head whipped around from gazing over my right shoulder to the left. I locked onto the girl who had made the noise and trapped her in my glare.

Whatever controversial thought she'd conjured that had taken the attention momentarily off of me seemed to evaporate. It helped that I was standing on the bridal platform, but my five feet and nine inches would've towered over her regardless. She froze, not even daring to breathe back in.


I lingered for just a bit too long – I wanted her to be dizzy with fear-induced oxygen deficiency by the time I turned back around to the women whose opinions actually mattered. While I remained, I analyzed her lackluster appearance. Attractive, certainly, but absolutely nothing special. I wouldn't have called her pretty. Dishwater blonde hair, a pallid complexion spotted with freckles, too-big front teeth (accompanied by a nose to match), a sizeable forehead, and a sickly frame that was much too thin. Her shoulders pointed out unnaturally, jarringly. I could see them sticking out through her shop uniform.

I could see how some men might be attracted to a body like hers, in the end. But even if she could find a fella… could she get a baby past those narrow hips…?

I turned back around.

"I see your point," I conceded. Patience certainly wasn't one of Royce's virtues. It wasn't mine, either – hence our 3 month engagement. "But I really do like the silhouette. And the details…" I traced my fingers over the beaded lace at my collarbone.

"Exquisite," Mother whispered. "If only there were fewer buttons."

"Can't that be arranged?" Mrs. King quipped.

The shop's associate chimed in from the back corner of the room, near the door. "Certainly. We could do custom alterations. Maybe the buttons by the neck remain, and we can stitch up the lower half at the bodice?"

I liked the idea. I could still have my buttons, and the amount of them would be satisfactory for my mother-in-law-to-be.

And, of course, my almost-husband.

"Let's see it, then." Mrs. King sat back into the velvet loveseat of the boutique.

"Hmm." The associate hummed affirmatively and gestured at the offending salesgirl, who came up timidly behind me. Using silver clamps, she pinned the back of the dress slightly tighter to make up for the give of the buttons. It must've been adjusted only millimeters, but my ribs felt considerably more constricted as the boning of the bodice crushed against the skin behind my lungs. The salesgirl's shaky breath felt hot on my neck. It was irritating.

But I kept it to myself, like a good girl. "This can work," I said airily.

I had to control my breathing to avoid making the clamps slip, of course. It only made me more short of breath, but the dress remained intact. That's what mattered.

"Darling, you're squeezed in there," Mother found her voice again. Though she spoke with genuine warmth, the words made my scalp tingle. The skinny salesgirl was right there, likely finding delight in squeezing me into the satin. She could fit into this dress without holding her breath. I bet she knew it.

But she wouldn't look nearly as beautiful in it. I knew she knew that.

"I can fit," I huffed indignantly. I had never not been able to fit into my clothing. My figure had always been absolutely perfect, give or take a few ounces depending on the next social function. But that was always easily remedied.

In fact, it was common knowledge that my looks were enviable, from my fair golden hair down to my size six and a half feet. More than common knowledge, it was the talk of the town. I knew most of the men in Rochester, if not all, would have killed for my hand in marriage. When Royce proposed, however, the others were forced to concede. We were a perfect match. Everyone knew it. No one and nothing dared come between us.

Except, apparently, some buttons and stitches.

"Perhaps…" Mrs. King's voice trailed off, teasing at a thought.

"...Perhaps what?"

"Well, it's nonsense. I was going to suggest dropping a few centimeters from your waist. But the wedding is so soon," she shrugged. "Ah well."

Had she been any woman other than the mother of my fiancé, I would've denigrated her on the spot. But, as fate would have it, she was the mother of my fiancé.

And I was Rosalie Hale. I was mere weeks away from being Rosalie King.

My nostrils flared as I forced myself into silent submission.

I didn't need her to give me the validation that she obviously, desperately craved. As I said, the perfection of my looks was common knowledge. The guaranteed passage of time – and the promise of children I'd bear for her son – spared her my wrath. Time would prove me right.

Despite that, Mother looked at me, pleading with her eyes. She knew as well as I did that neither of us could challenge Mrs. King on this. And why would we want to? I did want to look perfect in my perfect dress. Even if it only had half of the buttons I wanted.

Moreover, I was hardly settling. With every drop of introspection and smidge of self awareness, I appraised my reflection as resplendently winsome. I did love this dress. Everyone would be impressed. Royce would be impressed. And there would be fewer buttons for him to unfasten after the ceremony and reception.

My wedding night couldn't come soon enough. Royce and I wanted to start trying for a baby straight away. Though neither of us had experienced any sex acts yet beyond some kissing and modest heavy petting, I wasn't nervous. I was positive I could please him.

I had an excellent source of information; my best friend Vera and her husband Frederick had gotten pregnant so soon after they married, rumors had flown about whether their son Henry was conceived before or after the wedding. Not even I knew the truth.

But obviously, the girl knew some secret to getting pregnant immediately, and I was keen on figuring it out. She'd been "tutoring" me since my engagement, describing her husband's manhood and the things they did with it. We'd descend into fits of laughter when Vera's words inevitably failed her, and she'd have to demonstrate using a rolling pin or some similar phallic object.

I always felt an urgent flare of excitement when we had those conversations. Soon, I would have firsthand experience of my own with a man – the most eligible man in Rochester. I felt a tug in my belly as I imagined Royce kissing his way down my neck, undoing the buttons one by one, pleased to arrive at the last button earlier than expected…

The associate cleared her throat quietly. "When exactly is your wedding date?"

"The sixth of May," I cooed, the haze in my head clearing somewhat as I gazed at myself in the mirror. I really did look stunning in this dress. And the restricted oxygen was blessing me with the most delightful airheadedness. An unexpected benefit.

Her eyes widened. "I'm afraid our tailors won't be able to complete the alterations in two weeks' time. Typically, most engagements last significantly longer than –"

"Get it done," Mother spat. "Nevermind the rush fee. It will be available by April thirtieth."

"Of–of course, ma'am." The associate smiled and nodded eagerly, but the stress didn't leave her eyes. Any store in the town would be lucky to have our business, so they would do anything to keep it. Everyone knew it.

My family was among the last to afford luxury goods in this economy. Despite the bank failures that had upended most households in the country, the Hales were more than well off. Daddy's job at the bank — owned, naturally, by the Kings — had remained secure against the odds.

"A testament to hard, honest work and resulting good fortune," he said often, thanking God for the many blessings we'd been graced with.

Mrs. King looked at Mother and raised her eyebrows, pleasantly taken aback. I blinked in shock as well. Mother wasn't often so assertive. She must have been almost as eager for my wedding night and the resulting offspring as I was. Maybe even almost as eager as Daddy.

Not for nothing, I hadn't even officially decided on this dress in the first place. But I had to admit, I looked so beautiful in it that I felt a little high. I didn't want anything different. I couldn't want for more. Why not this dress?

Of course – because I couldn't breathe in it. A strange vignette was appearing on the edges of my vision. But that was of no concern. The dress would be altered and ready in time, I had no doubt. I was about to be a King; there was nothing that couldn't be done if I desired it.

With that in mind, I concluded that I would get the dress, whether I decided to wear it or not. I would keep an eye out for anything more breathtaking, but doubted I'd find it after exhausting every bridal boutique in Rochester. The eight carats on my left ring finger glinted as I raised my hands into a prayer position under my chin. I smiled angelically at Mother and Mrs. King. "I want it."

The two shared a conspiratorial look and spoke in a hush.

"Will she fit? Truly?"

"Without a doubt. Extra weight falls off our Rosalie like chicken off the bone."

"But in less than a month?"

"She'll go without sweets until the wedding. Half a grapefruit before each meal. Two meals a day. Did just the trick for her before Miss New York. It'll take no time."

Their eyes trained on me. Mrs. King raised her eyebrows at me, but she knew that I would pass her tests and exceed her expectations. Mother knew it, too. Everyone knew it. Even that waif of a salesgirl.


I brought my hands down to my flat stomach. "I'll do it again and again, and then again between each baby. Watch me."

My future mother-in-law nodded, satisfied, and sat back.

Mother's grin was full of pride. "It's settled, then. I'll have Thomas write up a check and I'll bring it by tomorrow morning."

"Splendid. Thank you, Mother." I sighed happily and swayed a little on my feet. The tiny salesgirl pinning my dress steadied me, swiftly removing the clamps before scurrying to her associate's corner. Air rushed back into my lungs a bit painfully.

Mother rose from the loveseat and came to stand behind me, peering over my shoulder. Her hands rested on my shoulders as our eyes locked in the mirror. "I'm so proud of you, darling. You look absolutely gorgeous."

She began unfastening the buttons in the back as I smiled and replied, "I know."