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A Perfect Life
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A Perfect Life
She was the belle of the ball. But was that *her* life to live?
Ninth Grader at The Potter's School - English 9
A Perfect Life
I fastened the tiny pearl buttons on my left glove and stepped over to the long mirror beside my four poster bed. Perfect! I slowly spun around, allowing Martha to admire the green silk dress. It had gathers along the bottom, allowing the white petticoats to show beneath. The green dress went perfectly with my chestnut eyes as well. “Oh miss, ‘tis gorgeous! You shall be the center of the party.” Ah, the party! Mr. Smith was holding a dance to celebrate the end of 1869 and the beginning of the New Year.
“I must hurry,” I thought. Out loud I said:
“Quickly Martha, get my shawl and muff.”
“Which shawl, miss?”
“Whichever you think best; I’ll never be able to decide in time,” I responded.
She came back with one of my favorite shawls, dark blue with green lace on top. She placed it loosely around my shoulders, gently pulling away my auburn hair. I glanced one last time at the mirror; everything was in order from my kid boots to my sapphire necklace. The necklace had been a gift from my father for Christmas; there were very few of its kind anywhere. However, I had little time to dwell. I picked up my white rabbit-fur muff, gathered the folds of my dress, and sedately hurried to my carriage.
“Why Bess, you look positively beautiful!” Jonathan Hawk gave this exclamation as he came over to me. I nodded modestly and flashed him a smile. He took my arm and aided me out of the carriage. We both walked over to the Smith mansion and stepped inside. We were just in time as the music had not yet begun. Jonathan helped me to a seat, and went to claim refreshments for the both of us as I looked around, hailing friends and nodding to acquaintances. The musicians were just beginning to seat themselves when Jonathan came back. We each began to eat a slice of cake when the music began and Jonathan put his piece aside. He asked “Will you be my partner?” I laughed and nodded, getting up to begin.
It was glorious, the lights twinkling as we spun around and around. The colors of the room and other dancers mixed together into a splendid mirage. Afterwards, Jonathan and I walked in the gardens. We whispered, spoke, laughed, and enjoyed each others’ company. I brought up the subject of Margaret’s wedding, telling him how I had known the whole time that she was going to marry Samuel. Jonathan gave a merry laugh, and then said to me “You know what they always say about weddings, don’t you?”
“No, what do they say?” I responded, half chuckling.
“They always come in twos.”
His retort seemed almost triumphant, “What do you mean Jonathan?” I queried further. He got down on one knee,
“Will you marry me, Elizabeth?” he said. My brow furrowed slightly when I heard this. Marry him? I was surprised, although I probably shouldn’t have been. I was eighteen, I had known him for at least a full three years, and I did love him.
“Yes,” I responded, “Yes I will.”
His smile broad, he hugged me and gave me a kiss. Then we both traveled back to the road where my coach by then was waiting. He helped me up, and I sat back on the red plush cushions. I was going to be married; how odd it seemed! Oh well, I knew my parents would be very pleased, for Jonathan Hawk was a good, wealthy, gentleman who had been sought after by many a young lady. A smile lit my lips. What a perfect life this was!
As I drove home I saw a ragged young woman sleeping with her head on her hands, sitting next to what looked like her brother. They were on the steps of a church, both looked so dirty and helpless! The bells rang from the steeple above them announcing New Year. At the sound of it the brother woke his sister. The girl sat up and looked at me, our eyes met for a fleet second, but I pulled mine away quickly. Looking at her made me shudder, and it gave me an odd, knowing feeling. Her red hair would have looked almost pretty if it had been washed and combed; and her brown eyes had a certain starry shine to them. I shuddered again and pulled my shawl tighter.
The next few months were a flurry of excitement. Everyone was busy planning flower arrangements, tailoring clothes, plus myriads of other things. I sat still for tedious hours while being fitted for my wedding gown. It was to be made of cashmere silk, with draping, feminine sleeves and seed pearls dotting it. It was almost pure torture until I put the dress on. Nothing that ever had, did or will exist was more elegant.
Ah, poor Martha! She had so much to do that June day. But she bore through it with willingness and spirit. She helped me to don the white silk dress, placed the matching bonnet on my head and handed me the arrangement of white and yellow roses. I sat in my carriage for the last time and rode to the church. I was sitting there stock still, my fingers trembling slightly until we reached the destination.
One, two, one, two, I counted the beats as I slowly walked down the isle. The organ music was ringing in my ears. I stopped and took a steadying breath as I looked into the eyes of Jonathan; he was smiling back at me as he placed his hand in mine. The minister began: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here this day to celebrate the joining of this man and this woman, together in the bonds of holy matrimony.” It was a perfect wedding day, from a perfect life. Then it suddenly all went wrong. I looked at Jonathan as I began to fall; concern was in his eyes as everything began to go black and quiet.
My brother James woke me. “Bess, Bess! Wake up, ‘tis New Year!” I sat up and looked above me. The bells of St. Paul tolled out the New Year. I acutely felt the rough cotton of my dress as I looked at the street. There was a lady in a magnificent carriage riding by. Just for a second our vision met. Staring into her brown eyes made me feel sad. But then she hurriedly averted her gaze from mine, and she rode away. With the back of her carriage rolling down the street, I quietly whispered “Have a perfect life.”
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"Wonderful story, Grace! I like the twist at the end." -- Bob Roberts.
"This was a bittersweet story, Grace. I enjoyed it! Thanks for telling me about the site." -- Leah Trayer.
"You love this era, don't you? I would have loved to be at that dance myself. You described it so well that I can really see her dress!" -- Gina W..
"Fun story!" -- Rebecca J..
"Excellent writing! The twist at the end had me genuinely suprised. Good job!" -- Luke.
"I really enjoyed reading this story!! Great job!!!" -- Kari F. .
"read it, pls." -- fanny, semarang, central java, indonesia.
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© 2006 Grace Simons
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