Rose pulled into her parking space in the carport, turning off the engine and resting her head on the steering wheel for a moment before she yanked off the scarf she wore to keep her hair from whipping around as she drove.
Her earlier excitement over the end of high school had vanished. Marla had succeeded in reminding her, though Rose had tried valiantly to forget, that her freedom would last only a few days before she was stuck in a marriage she didn't want. And now Rose had managed to alienate her best friend.
For a moment, she wanted to cry. Her graduation day should have been joyful, something to be excited about and remembered happily for a lifetime. Instead, she could concentrate only on her upcoming wedding.
Cal would be at her graduation, of course, and would undoubtedly want to take her out later after the small family party her mother had planned. Rose had been invited to several graduation parties and wanted to go to at least one, but she knew that Cal considered high school parties to be below him now that he was a college student.
He hadn't even taken her to her senior prom, though she had pleaded with him. She had missed her junior prom the year before, but that hadn't bothered her nearly as much as missing her senior prom had. The senior prom was the last big event of high school—besides graduation, of course—and Rose had desperately wanted to go. When Cal had refused to take her, or even return home that weekend, she had spent the evening of her prom sitting in the oak tree in the backyard, smoking the better part of a pack of cigarettes and making her way through a bottle of cheap wine that she had convinced the clerk in a rundown liquor store to sell to her.
When she had tried to climb out of the tree, she had fallen, landing hard and spraining her ankle. When she had half-staggered, half-limped her way into the house, she had stumbled against a cabinet decorated with small figurines, knocking several of them down, smashing a few, and waking her mother.
Ruth had taken her to the emergency room to have her ankle X-rayed, lecturing her the whole way about getting drunk and demanding to know where she'd gotten the wine, since she kept the wine cabinet locked and hid the key from her teenage children to prevent such a situation.
Rose's only response had been to throw up, then fall asleep. When they had reached the emergency room, Ruth had gotten someone to help her get Rose inside, since her half-conscious daughter had been incapable of walking across the parking lot.
After her ankle had been X-rayed and proven to be only sprained, Rose had been issued a set of crutches and sent home, slightly more sober after an hour in the waiting room. Ruth had helped her into the house, made her take a shower, and tucked her into bed, where Rose had awakened the next morning, suffering from a horrible hangover and with only vague memories of the night before.
Her mother had been less than sympathetic, filling her in on what she couldn't remember and demanding that she get dressed and go to church with them regardless of how she felt. The twins had been fascinated, wanting to know what it felt like to be drunk, and had continued asking until their mother had told them to leave Rose alone.
Ruth had also confiscated Rose's car keys, telling her that she was grounded, and for the next three weeks had driven her eldest daughter to school with the twins, only rescinding the grounding when Cal had come home for the summer.
For her part, Rose had vowed never to get drunk again, but had thought it unfair that she had only been given her privileges back when her fiancé had come home and wanted to take her out. The whole incident had served to emphasize to her how powerless she was and how much her life was controlled by others.
When Rose went into the house, she was surprised to hear voices coming from the library. The twins were spending the afternoon with friends, and she could hear Mrs. Di Rossi vacuuming another part of the house. Who could her mother be talking to?
As she approached the library, she smiled in spite of herself. The second voice belonged to her grandmother, who Rose loved but seldom saw. Sarah Wolper-DeWitt had accepted the invitation to Rose's wedding, but her granddaughter hadn't expected her to come to her graduation.
She wondered why her grandmother had come. According to Ruth, the older woman's health was frail, preventing her from traveling from Boston to Philadelphia very often. This claim had always confused Rose and her siblings, since the woman had always seemed to be in good health on the occasions that they had visited Boston, and they often received letters and postcards from exotic locations around the world. Their mother had told them that their grandmother was traveling for her health, though Tom Jr. had once told Rose that that was an excuse—especially since the latest postcards at that time had been sent shortly before the woman had set off on an African safari.
She walked towards the library door, which was partly open, but stopped short when she heard her mother's irritated voice.
"Oh, stop it, Mother. You'll give yourself a nosebleed."
Pressing herself against the wall, Rose listened more closely.
"Now, Ruth, I'm only looking out for the best interests of you and the girls. I don't understand why you stay in this place when you could move to Boston and be near your family."
"My family is here, Mother. And Rose is getting married in a few days. I can't very well leave her alone here."
"She won't be alone. She'll be with her husband. Think of all the opportunities Lucy and Julie would have in Boston—they could attend the same school you graduated from, meet the cream of Boston society, be in the midst of so much history and culture…"
"Philadelphia has plenty of history and culture, Mother. This is, after all, where the Constitution was created."
Sarah sighed. "I've never understood, Ruth, why you have to pick out the most irrelevant details and try to change the subject."
"I'm not trying to change the subject!"
Sarah went on as if Ruth hadn't spoken. "I would just feel better if you and the twins were in Boston. There's so much unrest going on, all these marches and even riots—it could spread to Philadelphia."
"It could spread to Boston, too."
"In Boston you'd be with family and friends."
"I have plenty of friends here in Philadelphia."
"But no family except your children. I understood your living here while Tom was alive—he grew up here, after all, and his businesses were here—but after he passed away, I don't know why you continued to stay here. He has no close family left but you and the children, and there's really no reason for you to stay."
"Mother, I'm happy here. My life is here. I have no intention of leaving." Ruth's voice was strained.
A horrible thought occurred to Rose—would this be her in twenty years? Would she be struggling to be civil to her mother while trying to maintain her independence? What if something happened to Cal? Would her mother try to pull her back in, try to control the lives of herself and her children?
Rose was beginning to understand why she seldom saw her grandmother, in spite of the fact that the woman adored her grandchildren. Sarah Wolper-DeWitt and Ruth DeWitt-Bukater didn't seem to get along very well.
"Can you even afford to stay here, Ruth?"
"I couldn't help but notice that Tom's car collection is gone, as is some of that fine artwork you collected. You've only got one servant left—and Milton has told me that most of your husband's shares in his companies have been sold. Your finances—"
"My finances are fine, Mother! I never liked Tom's car collection, and the art really didn't match the rest of the décor. And we really only need one servant, with only the girls and me here."
"If you and the girls moved to Boston, I could provide you with everything you could need or want. I've told you that before, but perhaps you've forgotten. If you move to Boston, you'll never have to worry about Tom's money running out—the DeWitts always take care of their own."
Rose's mouth dropped open in shock. Her grandmother had offered to provide for them? There was another solution besides her marrying Cal?
Anger coursed through her. Her mother had pushed her into marrying a man she didn't love, into giving up her future, so that she herself wouldn't have to leave Philadelphia.
Rose was about to barge through the library door when common sense prevailed. She couldn't let them know that she had been eavesdropping—both would be furious.
Tiptoeing back to the front door, she opened it quietly, then closed it with a thud. "I'm home!" she shouted.
The library door opened. Sarah and Ruth hurried through it, relief at the interruption written on Ruth's face. "How was school, Rose?"
"I'm done. I'm graduating. That's the best part of the day." She turned to Sarah. "Hi, Grandma! I didn't expect you here today." She stepped forward, giving her grandmother a hug.
"Well, you sent me an invitation, Rose. Why wouldn't I come?"
"Mom said you weren't feeling well."
Sarah raised an eyebrow at her daughter. Ruth returned her look stonily.
"I'm fine, Rose. Your mother always did worry too much. I'll be staying until the wedding—Sophia has set up a guest room for me."
Rose glanced at her mother, imagining Ruth's reaction to having her there for almost two weeks.
"I'd love to stay and talk, Rose, but your mother and I have some last minute shopping to do for your party tonight. When we get back, we can chat, or perhaps tomorrow, if there isn't time today."
"Yes," Ruth added, "perhaps the three of us can sit down and have tea, or maybe go to lunch tomorrow." She gave Rose a significant look, which her daughter understood immediately. Don't tell your grandmother about our problems.
After the two women had left, Rose sat down, thinking about what she had heard. Her family's survival didn't really depend upon her marriage. If they moved to Boston, there would be no question that there would be enough money, not just for the essentials, but for all the luxuries they were accustomed to, as well. Ruth wouldn't like the idea of giving up her home in Philadelphia and her independence with it, but Rose didn't like the idea of marrying Cal and giving up her future.
Still, her mother's voice nagged at her conscience. Everything is set for the wedding, Rose. Isn't it wonderful? You look so beautiful in that dress. Everyone is so excited. Only eleven days to go, Rose. It'll be the happiest day of your life. You'll see.
I don't want to marry Cal, she thought. I don't want to marry anyone. I want to go to Berkeley and get my degree in art and have a career—at what, I'm not sure, but something.
But the wedding is so close. Can I really back out now? Would it be fair to Cal if I did?
Rose's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. Leaping to her feet, she hurried to answer it, half-afraid that it was Cal. How would she face him with what she had found out?
It wasn't Cal who was waiting outside, though, but Jack. He had a flat, wrapped package in his hand.
"Hi. Can I come in?"
Rose let him in, looking at him curiously. She'd invited him to her graduation, of course, though her mother hadn't liked the idea. He in turn had invited her to his, two days from now. She hadn't expected to see him until that evening, though.
"I…uh…I brought you something." Looking around, he asked, "Where's your mom?"
"Grandma came down from Boston today. They just left to go shopping."
Jack nodded. "When will they be back?"
"Not for a while, probably. Why?"
"I didn't want to give you this in front of your mom. I don't think she'd like it."
"What is it?"
He handed her the package. "Open it and find out."
Rose did as he said, tearing the package open. She squealed with delight when she saw what it was.
"The Beatles! I love them! They're fab!"
Jack grinned, chuckling at her reaction. "I thought you'd like it. And I bet your mom wouldn't."
"No, she wouldn't," Rose agreed. "She thinks they'll be the downfall of society or something." She flipped the album cover over, looking at the list of songs. "Let's go listen to it!" She turned and darted up the stairs, Jack following.
Rose opened the album cover, carefully removing the record and setting it on the player. When she dropped the arm on the record, the song I Want to Hold Your Hand began to play. Rose grinned in delight—she had loved this song since she had heard it on The Ed Sullivan Show in February.
Her earlier musings forgotten for the moment, she kicked up her heels, dancing to the song and singing along.
"Oh yeah, I'll tell you something I think you'll understand. When I say that something, I want to hold your hand!"
Kicking off her shoes, she jumped up on her bed, dancing across it while Jack watched her and laughed. A moment later, to his surprise, she grabbed his hand, pulling him up with her. They bounced across it, singing along with the record and laughing.
When the song ended, Rose finished her dance with a flourish, jumping as high as she could and flopping down on her bed. Jack flopped down beside her, both of them breathless from laughter.
The sound of footsteps thundered up the stairs and, a moment later, Lucy and Julie popped into Rose's room, attracted by the music and the sound of laughter.
They stared at them for a moment, Julie grinning slyly and saying, in a sing-song voice, "Jack and Rose sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G—"
"Shut up," Rose told her mildly, getting up and turning off the record.
"I bet Cal wouldn't like it if he saw you—"
"We were jumping on the bed," Rose told her, "and the song ended."
"It sounded like the Beatles," Lucy interrupted her twin's teasing.
"It is," Rose told her. "Jack gave me a record as a graduation present."
"I want to hear it!" Julie hurried over to the record player and started the song over. "They're fab! I wish I could meet them!"
"You're just boy-crazy," Lucy told her.
"You want to meet them, too!"
"That's different. I like their music best."
"So do I!"
Rose looked at them and gave an aggravated sigh that sounded remarkably like their mother, though Rose would never admit it. Her sisters stopped bickering and sat down on her bed, enjoying the music.
After they had listened to the first side of the record, Rose shooed her sisters out. She had to get ready for graduation. Her good mood had faded again when Julie had started teasing her.
"Rose…" Jack began, stopping in the doorway.
"Uh…I was just wondering why I wasn't invited to your wedding. I mean, you don't have to invite me or anything, but…"
"Of course I invited you. Didn't you get the invitation?"
"No. Mrs. Di Rossi got one, but I didn't. Was I included with her?"
"I sent you your own. As many of them as we ordered, and as much trouble as we went to, I decided to send them individually."
"I never got it."
"Maybe the post office lost it, or…" Rose trailed off, remembering her mother going through the invitations to check the addresses. "…or Mom took it out."
"She's not very fond of me." Jack paused, looking at her. "Rose…are you sure about this? About getting married?"
"I…" Rose looked down. "No. I'm not sure at all."
"I have to."
Jack's eyes immediately went to her midsection. "You're…ah…"
"No." Rose looked at herself in the mirror. She didn't think she looked pregnant. She hadn't put on any weight, and her stomach was as flat as ever.
"It doesn't show," he told her.
"I'm not pregnant!" Rose wailed. "Why do people keep asking me that?"
"Well, when you say you have to…"
"It's not like that." Rose stopped, trying to decide whether to tell him the truth. "Remember how Mom made you leave because she said she couldn't afford to take care of you?"
"Well, she could have, if she hadn't insisted upon our life of luxury, but that's beside the point. Dad left enough for us to live on, especially if Mom got a job, but she ran through it in a hurry and refused to look for work because she couldn't earn enough to keep us in the lifestyle we're accustomed to. When Cal first proposed to me, I said no. When Mom found out, she told me that marrying him was the only way to keep this family solvent and keep my sisters from starving to death. She managed to convince me, so I told Cal I'd changed my mind. That was why I agreed to marry him—not because I loved him, but because he has money. And then today I found out that it isn't even necessary. Grandma would be more than happy to support us if we move to Boston—but Mom doesn't want to go."
"So…you're getting married and giving up college and all your dreams because your mother doesn't want to move." Jack cut straight to the heart of the matter.
"So cancel the wedding. Tell Cal you changed your mind. It'll be a lot easier to end it now than after the wedding."
"I don't know, Jack. All the plans have been made…"
"Plans can be changed."
"I know, but…"
"I just don't know."
"Rose, come on. You don't have to get married if you don't want to. I can talk to him if you don't want to," he offered.
Rose shook her head. Letting someone else tell Cal that she didn't want to get married was the coward's way out. "It's not up to you to save me, Jack."
He looked at her seriously. "I know. Only you can do that."
"I…I need to get over to the school. I'll see you later," Rose told him, turning away so he wouldn't see the tears in her eyes.
She listened as he walked away, then went to her closet to retrieve her cap and gown.
She had a lot to think about.