BLAME THE BEAUTY
"It took some time before I began to blame the beauty for what had happened to me—for me to see the curse of it. To wish that I had been… well, not ugly, but normal. Like Vera. So I could have been allowed to marry someone who loved me, and have pretty babies. That's what I'd really wanted, all along. It still doesn't seem like too much to have asked for."
Yesterday I dreamed I was getting married again. The dress was white and long, and part of it was touching the floor. And I was holding orchids, freshly picked from a garden. It wasn't cold out. It was warm, and the sunlight made my hair shinier, made my eyes sparkle, made the day brighter.
And he was with me. Except, I didn't know who he was. I couldn't see his face—but I knew in my dream that he'd be the one, with a soft smile and strong arms. He'd call me ritzy and I'd laugh, blushing, and denying every sweet nothing he whispered into my ear. And he would shower me with flowers, but wouldn't throw me a line because he would mean every word he said.
He would be perfect. And I never liked it when boys called girls broads or dames or dolls, but with him I wouldn't mind because we'd be lovebirds and my heart would never stop beating because it would beat for him. I just knew it.
But now, there I was, sitting in a room with my long-time friend Vera and her baby boy, Henry, growing envious by the second of what they had, something I didn't have. She always told me there was someone out there for me—that there's someone out there for everyone—but I was seventeen, and in a couple of days I would be eighteen and still without my own one and only.
Was there something about how I looked? It couldn't have been the way I looked. I was a looker, that's what Vera always told me. My blond hair was the kind of hair girls dreamed about. I got stares, and I knew they were jealous. I was absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous.
Maybe it was my height. I was tall—unnaturally tall, especially since I was a woman. I towered over every girl I met, and some boys as well. Was it because of that? Did boys not want to be seen with someone taller than them? If that was it I'd probably never get married. I frowned. Henry cooed.
My parents wanted me to get married too. It wasn't out of love though, I could tell, it was because of money. But I wasn't a gold-digger. I didn't want jack—I wanted love. I wanted my companion to be completely dizzy with me.
Though, with the situation now, there wasn't time to fall in love. It was 1933 and cash was tight. Everything was tight. The stock market crashed four years ago and everyone thought it would pass, but it hadn't. Who knew how much longer it would be? My family wasn't great off either. So it was natural that they wanted me to marry someone rich so I wouldn't suffer, so they wouldn't suffer. Maybe I'd marry him for his money and he'd end up being the bee's knees and I'd fall so deep in love with him.
That was my fairytale wedding.
"How much longer do you think it'll last?" Vera asked me, cradling Henry in her arms. I felt sorry for her. Henry was a one year old and suffering. He had the most adorable dimples.
I looked out the window. Rochester, New York used to be full of life, but now it was practically dead. I turned my eyes back to her. "Hopefully it'll end soon," I murmured.
Vera smoothed Henry's dark hair, and even through it was probably the hardest for them, she was still smiling. Her arms were around her son and I leaned back, staring at them. I couldn't look outside. It made me sick. And look at Vera, with her tousled hair, tired eyes, and almost broken smile… it was beautiful, tragically beautiful. And I wanted that. Even through all the suffering she was smiling.
She had married when she was seventeen to a carpenter—the kind of man my parents would never approved of. But she was happy, and I think that was all she ever needed.
My parents were the kind that expected so much out of life. And ever since my father lost his job, he's been expecting so much more than before. We were barely making it, and soon, we'd have nothing left.
Vera lifted her eyes to mine. "You can stay for as long as you want, Rosalie. I'm not going to let you die out there alone."
"No," she interrupted, "we're friends, okay?"
And that was it. I wondered why we were still friends. We've known each other for years and she was still around. Everyone else was gone from my life now. I've known Vera the longest, she had been my friend for a long time, or, the only one I bothered to keep.
"My parents still expect a ring on the finger though, you can't give me that, can you?"
Vera sighed. "Rosalie, listen, it's the Depression right now, and I'm sure boys are looking for jobs more than girlfriends right now. And the rich boys… they're probably just using women, letting them believe he's going to marry them when really he just wants to… wants to make whoopee! We're all in the same boat, and when it's all over, I'm sure there will be someone for you. You wouldn't want a guy who just pitches woo without any kind of love in it, would you?"
There she was, always reasonable, always right.
"And since money is tight, there's probably a lot of trouble boys around too. Someone will come Rosalie, trust me. You're a looker. Everyone stops and stares at you at least once."
I couldn't help but laugh at her remark. First time today. "I know that Vera, it's just—"
She shook her head. "No, you have to get it through your head, Rose. You're beautiful and someone will come around. He'll have a lot of money and shower you with gifts while everyone else is barely scarping by."
"But I don't want to just be in for the money!" I leaned forward, looking straight at her. Henry stared with curious eyes. My heart ached.
"That will just be a benefit, Rose. He won't believe what he sees and he'll talk to you and get to know you and marry you and you'll be so well off. His money will just be something more."
I breathed out and leaned back, tilting my head to the ceiling. "If only," I told Vera, closing my eyes and imagining it. Though honestly, I could do without the 'something more'. If I had to give up the money I would, just to find someone Vera was describing to me—someone who I dreamed about every time I fell asleep.
And these thoughts, they were something the old Rosalie never gave much thought about. Not since 1929, since the Depression started. I was Rosalie Hale and I was beautiful. I never cared about marriage much, even if my parent's wanted more from me. But ever since the stock market crash I've been pushed harder and was reaching my breaking point. Now thoughts of marriage plagued me, and it was all I ever thought about.
The amount of people dieing because of this made me scared too. My father didn't work and my two brothers were doing all they could to make money, but it wasn't enough. I didn't want to die alone. I think that's why the thought of marriage was my newest—and probably last—obsession. I wanted to get married, be Mrs. Someone before I died, just to make my parents happy.
I closed my eyes for a while before turning to look outside. And that was when I first noticed him.
I never gave him much thought before—to me, he was just the son of the owner of the bank my father worked for. But now, it was like I was seeing him for the first time.
Even after the bank became bankrupt, he still had money on him—I could tell just by his suit. He had a jacket and trousers and I couldn't see it, but I was sure he had a matching waistcoat. His jacket slightly fluttered against the wind. He's walking slowly as his mouth stayed slightly parted, his eyes glancing around him. I straightened. He stopped walking. He's looking around and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He had broad shoulders and a narrow waist. I could tell that his hair was light—lighter than my blond hair—from the pieces that weren't covered by his fedora hat and I could tell it was soft. I couldn't see his eyes. I wished I could. Then he turned and looked straight at me and he was the most handsome person I'd ever seen in my entire lifetime.
"What are you looking at—oh," Vera said to me. I couldn't turn to her. She noticed. I could see her from the corner of my eyes. "Be careful, Rose."