Hi everyone! Today's chapter is one that I've wanted to do for a while; it deals with Rosalie encountering the Cullens when she was still human. (She mentions in "Eclipse" that this happened once or twice, and that at the time, she disliked them because of their striking good looks.) Once again though, I've gone a couple of weeks without a Carlisle and Esme chapter—sorry about that. Next week, we'll be back with them for a more romantic chapter (though it takes place in a cemetery, so it's a bit morbid too), so please look forward to it! Thanks for your reviews and I'll see you next Sunday! :)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer is the author of "Twilight," and though I did some research for this chapter, any anachronisms you find below regarding parties in 1933 are my own.
It was, some said, more than a little tasteless to throw extravagant parties when times were so hard for so many. Rosalie herself was not personally acquainted with anyone who said such things, but her mother knew of high society women—the sorts especially active in charitable societies—who had refused to attend virtually any social event since the crash of '29! Which was silly, of course—sitting at home and being dour wasn't going to help the poor, and since the Hale family gave to several charities, Mrs. Hale always said that there was no reason why they shouldn't go out and enjoy themselves now and again, or invite friends into their home to do the same.
Rosalie agreed with her mother—helping others was all well and good, but she couldn't understand people who wouldn't go to parties just because a few people out west were having a hard time. In Rochester, everyone she knew was fairly well off—not as well off as her family, perhaps, but she'd never seen anyone actually starving, or living in those frightful shantytowns they wrote about in the papers. Yes, there were poor people, but her father was a bit skeptical that things were really as bad as some reporters made them out to be. This was America, after all. It seemed inconceivable that people could really be starving in the good old USA, and if they were, wasn't it possible that the poor themselves were to blame, that bad judgement or a lackluster work ethic had brought them to their lowly state?
As she put her hair up in an elaborate arrangement for the party that night—a celebration in honor of her mother's birthday—Rosalie considered current events without much interest. Her friend Grace had been hounding her to think about something other than Royce King for a change, so she'd glanced at the newspaper that morning and asked both her parents what they thought of the news of the day. In Germany, some people called the Nazis were introducing a lot of new laws that her mother said sounded very unpleasant, and Roosevelt was introducing a new phase of the New Deal, which her father declared to be a waste of money.
So, she would ask Grace about these things at the party tonight—Rosalie was hardly eager to talk about things that had nothing to do with her (or Royce King's probable interest in her), but she would do it to make Grace happy. Grace was a dear friend—not quite as dear as Vera, who was often too busy with her son these days to go out—but she was a bit of a stick in the mud. Rosalie just couldn't understand why she was so serious all the time! Grace was an intellectual sort of girl; she wanted to go to college of all things, and apparently, Grace's parents actually approved of her plans for the fall. Their oldest daughter had met her husband in college, and even Rosalie's mother had suggested that if Royce's interest proved to be a passing fancy, she might enjoy going away to school for a year and finding a new beau. But Rosalie knew that wouldn't be necessary—given the way Royce watched her when they were together, could it be anything but love?
"Mother says to come downstairs, after you put us to bed," her little brother said, poking his head into her room—he was quickly followed by the third Hale sibling, who was currently wiping his runny nose on his hand. "What are you wearing?!"
"This is the latest fashion, you philistine," Rosalie said regally, admiring her new blue dress in the mirror: it had a collar that draped over her shoulders and collarbone like the kind of cloths you saw artfully arranged over female figures in Greek statuary. It was very becoming, and rather daring, in Rosalie's opinion. There could be few other dresses in Rochester like it.
"Are you and Royce going to dance?" her other brother asked, grinning at her. There were several gaps in his smile, thanks to the recent loss of some baby teeth.
"Maybe, but only long after you've been put to bed and thoroughly tickled," Rosalie said, turning suddenly and running toward the door. The two boys, shrieking with laughter, ran down the hall toward their rooms, but Rosalie caught one, then the other, and tickled them anyway. Then she helped them get into their pajamas and wash before bed.
Afterward, she went back to her room, carefully put the final touches on her hair and makeup, and went downstairs to join her parents. As they greeted her mother's birthday guests, Rosalie drank in the admiring looks of their visitors, but all the while, she was looking for the familiar faces of her friends, and Royce King too, though he was always fashionably late for parties. Finally, after ten minutes of standing by the door and watching it like a hawk, Rosalie saw one of the people she'd been waiting for.
"Vera, darling!" Rosalie called, waving when she saw her closest friend. "I wasn't sure you'd be able to come."
"I would never miss your mother's birthday," Vera said with a smile, embracing Rosalie. "My sister's watching Henry now. Where are your brothers?"
"The little scamps are already in bed," Rosalie said, shaking her head. "Mother says that they can stay up for her party next year."
"Happy Birthday, Mrs. Hale," Vera said when Rosalie's mother excused herself from a knot of guests to say hello.
"Thank you, Vera," Mrs. Hale said, smiling. "How is your husband?"
"He's very well, thank you," Vera said. "He would have loved to be here, but he and his brother have gone to help a friend from school build a new house."
"That's all right," Rosalie's mother said. "I know that as you kids get older, you're going to have other responsibilities that keep me from seeing you whenever I like."
"Are the Kings here yet?" Vera asked, giving Rosalie a knowing look, and she blushed, pleased.
Her mother smiled, also pleased. "Not yet, but we expect them shortly. Oh, but excuse me, I must say hello to the Carmichaels."
"And here's Grace," Rosalie said, waving at their other friend, who broke away from her parents after a few quiet words and joined them, smiling.
"Hello Rosalie, Vera," Grace said quietly. For a long time, Rosalie had assumed she was shy, but now she believed that Grace was simply the sort of person who had a quiet temperament, though she could get rather loud when she became impassioned about something she'd read or an issue close to her heart.
"Thanks for coming," Rosalie said. "I like your dress."
"Thank you—and thank you for inviting us," Grace said. "You both look lovely as always."
"Oh, pshaw," Vera said, straightening her sleeves. "Henry was chewing on the cuffs of this until the minute I left. But thank you, Grace. How's the college admission process going?"
"It's going well, I think," Grace said, biting her lip. "I've submitted my application, but it will be a few weeks before I know if I've been accepted."
"But of course you will be," Rosalie said firmly. "Grace, you're the smartest girl in our class. And you know, as soon as we sit down, I want to hear what you think of some of the things I read in the paper this morning."
Grace raised her eyebrows. "You've...been reading the paper?"
"Religiously," Rosalie said innocently, and both of her friends laughed. "No, but I did read a bit today, because I knew I was going to see you."
"And what exactly would you like to discuss?" Grace said amiably.
"Girls," Vera whispered suddenly, nodding toward the door. "The Cullens are here."
"Where?" Grace hissed, and Rosalie and Vera smiled as their friend hurriedly patted her hair and smoothed her dress. "Rosalie, you didn't tell me that they'd been invited, or that they might actually come!"
"Why Grace," Rosalie said, narrowing her eyes. "Do you count yourself among the ranks of Edward Masen's many admirers?"
"Shh!" Grace shushed her, blushing. Rosalie frowned a little as she watched her father greet Dr. and Mrs. Cullen, along with Mrs. Cullen's brother, Edward Masen. It annoyed Rosalie that Mrs. Cullen, who must be nearly thirty, was now turning as many heads as Rosalie herself. Of course, her husband and brother were equally good-looking. The whole Cullen family, it seemed, was unnervingly gorgeous.
"You should try to dance with him," Vera suggested to Grace. "Not that I've ever seen him dance with anyone, or have ever even seen him at a party before."
"Yes, he does seem dreadfully serious—he makes you look like a regular cutup, Grace," Rosalie murmured, but Grace was too busy admiring Edward Masen to notice.
"You know, I've heard that Dr. and Mrs. Cullen give to every charity in town," Vera said quietly. "I suppose that's how your mother knows them? I've honestly never seen them at a party before."
"I get the impression that one never really "knows" the Cullens," Rosalie said, frowning. "Mother says they almost never socialize—they'll attend a gathering like this, but only if it would seem hideously impolite not to come. Mother all but insisted that Mrs. Cullen come tonight, so they could discuss some business for one of their charities. I'm guessing that's the only reason they're here."
"Wow," Vera whispered. "You know, I don't even know where they live. Have you ever seen their house?"
"No, they live a little outside of town," Rosalie sniffed. "And they never have parties themselves, though father says they could certainly afford to. They don't mingle with us poor mortals unless they have to."
"Please, you're just as beautiful as they are," Vera said. "Sometimes I'm surprised that you deign to mingle with us poor mortals. Anyway, I suppose the Cullens are just like Mrs. Phelps, who's using all her party budget this year to give to the poor."
"Maybe," Rosalie said skeptically. "I don't know, there's just something about them. When I see them...it's like a goose walked over my grave."
Vera frowned. "That's odd. What with Dr. Cullen being, well, a doctor, I'd think you'd feel the opposite when you saw him."
Rosalie shrugged. For an instant, her eyes met Edward Masen's. They regarded each other for what was probably only a second or two—Rosalie was determined not to look away first—but when he turned to speak to his sister, Rosalie sighed, relieved. When Dr. Cullen smiled and nodded in her direction, she smiled faintly, then quickly turned back to Vera, hoping that he'd really been looking at someone else.
"You're right. It's silly. Come on, let's go investigate the hors d'oeuvres."
"Excellent idea," Vera declared. "Grace, stop drooling and let's join the rest of the guests."
"Sorry?" Grace said, turning toward them again, her expression absent with adoration. She wasn't actually drooling, but it was a close thing—why, Rosalie wondered, doesn't Edward Masen stare at her instead? At least she would enjoy it.
"We're going to have a snack," Rosalie said, but then she stopped, frozen, when she saw the person who'd just come through the front door. "Excuse me, girls. I just have to go say hello to someone."
Grace rolled her eyes, but Vera smiled indulgently. "Of course you do. We'll see you in a bit then."
Rosalie grinned, hardly hearing them as she made her way toward Royce King II and his parents. She felt a little giddy as she moved away from her friends, away from her parents, away from the Cullens and their vague sense of otherness, away from her past...and toward the man that she believed would be her future.