Chapter Seven

Rose spent the whole afternoon shopping in stores up and down Sixth Avenue. She was amazed by the variety of shops all available within a few city blocks. Molly's thoughtful purchases had given her a good head start on a wardrobe, but Rose had many household necessities to buy in order to furnish her new home.

The wide avenue was crammed on both sides with department and specialty stores, each trumpeting its wares with banners, flags and large posters, like so many cannons aimed at the competition across the way.

"Thousands of shoes on sale…all pairs $1.75!"

"Only the finest laces!"

"2000 beautiful Women's dresses- all $12.75! Silk stockings- 79c per pair!"

Rose bought just the essentials, leaving any luxuries until after she had found a job.

A job, she thought. Now that sounds strange.

She purchased a travelling trunk much like the ones she had brought onboard Titanic, though not nearly as stylish, and she stuffed it to bursting with the first batch of goods. Rose didn't want to stoke the curiosity of her landlady or neighbors, and she could imagine them questioning why all of the items she was bringing into her apartment were brand new. She hired a carriage to bring the trunk around to her building and tipped the driver well to help her maneuver the box up the narrow stairwell and into her room. She immediately locked the door behind her and headed back to the shops.

Several round-trips later she found she had furnished her new rooms with adequate supplies for everyday living. It was late afternoon before she felt satisfied with her progress and decided to call it a day. Various boxes were strewn about the apartment and Rose was in the middle of putting items away when she heard a knock at her door.

"Rose, are ya in there?"

"Yes, Mrs. O'Reilly," she replied as she moved to admit the woman.

Mrs. O'Reilly appeared at the threshold, cooking apron on. A man stood at the foot of the flight of stairs, looking up at them expectantly.

"I'm glad I caught ya, Rose. The ice man's here and I wondered if ya might want a delivery today?"

"Thanks for asking, but I don't expect I'll be cooking here for at least a few more days."

Rose called down the stairs.

"Sir, would you kindly bring me some ice on your next rounds."

"Suit yerself. That'll be in two days."

The iceman turned abruptly and headed back down to the street.

Mrs. O'Reilly looked around Rose into the apartment. Her eyes flittered with curiosity over Rose's belongings.

"Settlin in, are ya, then?"

"Getting a start, at least," Rose answered.

"When I told Cora you'd be livin above us she just about jumped to the moon. Would ya like to join us for dinner, seein as ya likely don't have any food in here yet?" Mrs. O'Reilly moved close, as though planning to let Rose in on a family secret. "Me husband's always a bit nosey about our new tenants, don’t ya know."

Rose smiled. She hadn't yet decided whether to return to the Waldorf that night and she found that Mrs. O'Reilly's offer made up her mind for her.

"Thank you, yes, if it wouldn't be too much bother. I wasn't looking forward to the trip back to my hotel."

"What's one more, I say. I'll send Cora up for ya when dinner's near ready, say in about an hour, then."

Rose walked idly to her window as Mrs. O'Reilly returned downstairs. To the east, towards Sixth Avenue, the sidewalks were crammed with people speeding homeward to a hot dinner. In front of her building the ice wagon lazily moved down the street, seemingly out of place among the faster carriages and autos.

It seems like it belongs to another time, she thought.

Rose found a proper place for a few more of her purchases and then washed and changed for dinner. She enjoyed the look and smell of her new clothes, and chose another simple floppy hat to go with a pale yellow dress.

She was nearly finished putting away her new tableware when Cora simultaneously called to her and banged urgently on her door.

"Rosie, Rosie, are ya ready?"

Rose opened the door and Cora blew in like a tornado. The girl moved from place to place around the apartment, looking but never stopping, and ended her tour by leaping up onto Rose's bed.

"Rosie, Mama said I should come fetch ya. Do you like stew? It's my favorite. I made some more drawings today, do you want ta color with me? Mama says not to bother you, am I bothering you, Rosie?"

Rose laughed.

"No, Cora, you're not a bother. Do you like my apartment?"

Cora spun her head for a very quick look around.

"It's okay. Are you ready?"

"Yes, let's go."

Cora nearly pulled Rose down the stairs, talking the whole way.

"Rosie, you're much nicer than Mr. Roberts was. He used to live in your apartment. I didn't like him too much. You'll get to meet my stupid brother.

"Mama, Rosie's here!"

Mrs. O'Reilly introduced Rose to her husband and to Cora's brother, John.

Mr. O'Reilly was a powerfully built man and his skin felt a laborer's rough against Rose's palm as they shook hands. John greeted Rose absently; he was entranced in reading an adventure book.

Rose sat in a comfortable chair in the family room. The O'Reilly's flat was bigger than hers but with so many bodies in it really didn't feel that much larger. She had a vague feeling of strangeness, of being out of place, though she couldn't pinpoint its cause.

Cora ran to retrieve her coloring book and knelt beside Rose's chair. Rose paged through it slowly, emitting gracious 'oohs' and 'aahs', much to the delight of the girl. John's frown as he glanced at them told of his practiced disdain for things so childish as coloring books.

In response to questions from Rose John related that he was ten years old and hoped to grow up to be a ballplayer just like his hero, Frank Merriwell. He was excited that the new baseball season had just begun.

Mrs. O'Reilly popped in and out of the kitchen, each trip asking Rose a question about her past.

Once again, more white lies, Rose thought, and it made her uncomfortable.

Just a few more times, I hope.

She repeated the story of a Baltimore childhood and Mrs. O'Reilly seemed placated. Mr. O'Reilly said little as he rested on a hard-backed kitchen chair, sipping an ale.

Rose realized that she was most likely in his favorite chair but she knew his pride would prevent their trading places, so she didn't suggest such. She gazed around the room and realized that the unease she was feeling stemmed from her unfamiliarity with such a home atmosphere. It was much more… informal… than she was used to.

It's nice not to have to worry about being incessantly badgered about my posture, she thought, and then she sat up straighter nonetheless.

Mrs. O'Reilly poked her head in once again.

"Everything's ready. Cora, please take Rose's hat and put it on my bed, then."

Rose removed her hat and handed it to Cora. She was momentarily surprised by the look on the girl's face until she realized the cause of Cora's shock.

"Rosie, what happened to yer hair?"

Before Rose could answer Mrs. O'Reilly swatted Cora firmly on the rear.

"Cora, where are yer manners? Don't ya be so nosey!"

"Sorry, mama."

Rose could feel all their stares but no further questions ensued.

The stew smelled wonderful to Rose but her full appetite still hadn't returned. She politely tried to eat her fair share but was put to shame by the gusto with which the family enjoyed their meal.

Mr. O'Reilly glanced down at Rose's barely-touched plate and looked questioningly at his wife.

"Rose, ya don't like my cookin?" Mrs. O'Reilly asked.

"It's not that, Ma'am. I'm just not very hungry."

"Ya been sick?"

Rose looked around the table. Four pair of eyes stared at her expectantly.

"I've just gone through a lot lately."


After dinner Rose sat on the floor of the family room playing jacks with Cora. John tried to act disinterested but Rose could see him glancing over jealously as they laughed together.

Just a couple more minutes and he'll give in, Rose thought. The poor boy's trying his best to act manly.

John didn't last even that long. Almost immediately he scrambled over and sat beside them on the rug.

"Let me have a turn, Cora."

"No, they're my jacks."

The two children argued back and forth for a bit, their volume rising slowly, triggering a call from the kitchen.

"John! Cora! Mind me now!"

Rose smiled at how quickly the bickering stopped.

"Okay, John, you can go after Rosie."

Rose gave her best effort with the ball and jacks but Cora was too practiced a player for either her or John. She studied Cora when it was the girl's turn to play and watched her become lost in the game, enjoying it immensely.

It's great to get such a simple joy, Rose thought. It reminded her of the games of her own childhood, most of which she had to play alone.

It would have been wonderful to have had a sister.

If only Mary had lived.

There had been horrible complications when Mary was born. Rose remembered glimpsing the tiny baby, remembered her quietness. Her father had tried to keep Rose away as the doctor and midwife scrambled to save mother and child. In the end Mary never had a chance, and Rose's mom was so scarred internally that she could never have another child.

I didn't understand the heartbreak of that silent baby until much later, Rose thought. Much later.

Rose couldn't remember as clearly as she would like, but it seemed her mother had changed that very night, and when Rose's father died not long after it was as though the last vestiges of her mother's love of life died with him.

I wonder how Mother is doing tonight?


Later, Rose sat on the edge of her bed and glanced around her apartment.

She had remained at the O'Reilly's until bedtime for Cora and John. Cora had asked Rose to tell her a story before sleep and Rose had obliged.

She wove a story of a prince and a princess and how the evil forces in their kingdom had tried to keep them apart. At one point the princess sang of her lost love and Rose did her best to do justice to the song but Cora's scrunched-up nose told Rose that her future as a diva was limited. Rose laughed at her own singing, giggling along with the girl. On the second verse Cora joined in, her voice small and delightful.

Cora lay wide-eyed during the whole tale and seemed supremely satisfied when the lovers were finally reunited at the end.

"That's a happy story, Rosie. Do you think I'll meet a prince some day?"

"I'm sure you will. And then you'll be a princess."

Rose twisted Cora's nose between her fingers and the girl giggled.

"I hafta say my prayers now."

"Okay, Cora. You go right ahead."

Rose wasn't prepared for the effect that Cora's prayers had on her. The little girl recited just a simple version of the "Lord's Prayer" and an innocent plea for God's safekeeping through the night, but the words unexpectedly tore at Rose's heart. The quiet intonation of the verses in her child's voice seemed to amplify the meaning for Rose. She found it hard not to cry.

"…and if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen."

Cora looked up at Rose.

"You're supposed to say, 'Amen'."

A tear rolled down Rose's cheek. She wiped it away with the back of her hand.

"Why are you crying, Rosie?"

"I'm sorry, Cora… it's nothing..….Amen."

After tucking the girl in, Rose had thanked her hosts and excused herself for the night.

Now she sat listening to the strange new sounds around her and, leaning back on her elbows, she contemplated her flat.

My home, she thought. Mine.


Her arms ached from having carried so many packages. Some of her purchases still lay on the table, needing assignment to proper drawers.

Those can wait, Rose decided as fatigue overtook her and she considered her agenda for the next day.

In the morning, I need to retrieve the rest of my clothes from the Waldorf and then buy a few more things.

In the afternoon…well…it'll be time to find a job.


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