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How I Changed
“No, for the last time Bill, I am not doing anything else.”
I roll my eyes at Ma and Bill arguing over Bill going to war, again. Ma was giving me a funny look so I turned back to the cake I wake baking. It was Pa’s birthday tomorrow and as everything else was, it was my duty as Rosemarie Davis to bake him a cake, and make the icing.
“Rosemarie!” I turn around, and watch Pa walk into the kitchen.
“Are you making me a cake?”
“With homemade icing too, Pa.”
Ma thought this was a good time to show Pa that she was teaching me well. “Rosemarie, I thought you said you were getting your Papa and I coffee.”
My head hurt.
Then I remembered something. My fiancée, Henry, and my parents, did what they did because that was their job. I was a woman; my job was to be pushed around by the men in my life. Ma might not qualify as a man, but she let me become the woman of the house. As I could once command her, Ma now commands me.
I deliver my parents their coffee and go back to preparing the cake. Pa only likes vanilla, even with the war going on; he acted like his vanilla cake was more important than the lives of people at war, lives like Henry’s. Lives like what Bill’s will be.
After pouring it’s contents into a the pan, the bowl that previously held cake batter, accidentally clattered to floor, making contact with my foot and sending pain up leg. I murmur a soft sigh of pain and go about cleaning up my mess.
I turn around and watch my brother hand me my cloth. “You better clean that up before Ma and Pa see this mess.” I nod, wiping down the cupboards, humming to a tune on the radio.
“Thanks, Billy.” I say.
“You know, Rosie, I think you should be thankful that you have Henry.” Bill says, “You can get out of here when he comes back in two months. Ma and Pa can get so mean.”
I close my eyes for a second, if only he knew that Henry was just like Ma and Pa.
I mentally kick myself.
As a woman, it was my duty to be pushed around like this. I was a woman; I served and didn’t get served. The woman who went out to get the same respect and honour as men? They should be punished. They broke the rule all woman must follow. Serve.
“I think your right.” I drop the cloth into the sink.
“Rosemarie!” I walk over to the table, and watch as Pa glares up at me. “Do we have any marshmallows, girl?”
“No, Pa, but I can go to town and get you some if you like?”
“You do that.”
Ma pipes in, “Remember to pick up some fresh rhubarb.”
“I will remember Ma, I have it on the list.”
The store was busy when I got there. Somebody, a young man, no older I, was leaning against cash register. He was clean-shaven, something Henry never bothered to be. I assume he’s a gentleman.
“Excuse me, sir, but –”
“You want help with your bags?” I give the man an unthought-of look of shock. “Sorry, for cutting your off, Miss?”
“Rosemarie Davis, but you can call me Rose,” I find my fingers dancing across my gold necklace, “or Rosie.”
The young man walks around the counter. “I’m Matthew Hays, but please, call me Matt.”
Matt takes the bags, all of them, from my hands gently and gestures for me to walk ahead of him. Somehow, he even manages to open the door for me on our way out.
“I drive a blue Ford,” I say.
Matt points to my family’s truck and asks, “Is that your Ford, Rose?”
“Yes it is.”
We walk the few feet to the truck, small-talking all the way. Turns out, he and his family just moved in the farmhouse next to ours. Ma had said that we were having the family from the farm over to welcome them to town tonight, and I explain this to Matt.
“Good, I am sure your Mama makes a good meal.”
“I do the cooking, actually,” I feel my face go flush as I shove the key into the small keyhole of the Ford. “That is why I got the groceries.”
“Then what does your Mama do?” Matt sets the bags down on the passenger seat, hand resting ever so briefly on mine when leans out.
“Nothing really, plan dinner parties, be social, that sort of thing,” I sit down on the drivers seat and negotiate the key into the hole.
“Well then, I will see you tonight.” Matt pushes himself off of the frame of the Ford, waves goodbye and heads back into the store.
Foot now on the gas pedal, I drive away, tingling with happiness.
Ma was the only one home, and she tells me that Pa and Billy went off with the other truck to get something for the farm. She was laying the new tablecloth that she made onto the table, a look of pride on her ever so slightly cubby face.
“Do you have anything in mind for when that Hays’ come over tonight?” I was already laying things out for the basics of making supper.
“No, just make something a whole-hearted family would enjoy,” Ma actually seemed, dare I say it, nice. Where were the demands?
“Should we give them some of Pa’s cake for desert?”
“No.” It was the cold, hard no I was used to.
I set to work making supper, skirting around the house like I always do, and it almost seemed like I never met Matt. As the food baked in the oven, I set about cleaning the house. Ma sat there and watched impatiently.
Once the cleaning was done, and the table set, I finally had the chance to sit down. I retired myself to my room, changing into my favourite dinner dress and comb my hair. I clamber down the stairs and plant myself by the door, cracking open my favourite book.
Pa and Bill came in shortly thereafter, dressing up in their best clothes and looking like they didn’t just come from farming. Bill joined me on the couch, reading a book about farming like it was the Bible.
Ma turns up the radio and joins us in living room, complaining about how her thread wasn’t going into the eye of the needle like it was supposed to. I watch Pa roll his eyes, and just as he does this the doorbell rings loudly.
I get up and smooth my skirt, letting my feet carry me to the door. “Good evening, you must be Mr and Mrs Hays.”
A slightly cubby man nods and allows his fair wife to do the talking, “Yes we are, I am Kathryn and that is John.”
“Pleased to met you, dinner will be ready shortly,” I offer to take their coats and hang them on the coat hook. “I thought my Ma said you had a son?”
“We do, Matthew and his sister Ann are busy admiring the beautiful garden your family has planted,” John says, about to close the door before a girl steps into the doorway.
“Hello, you must be Rosemarie, I’m Ann,” she looked as though she were only sixteen, two years younger then I. As I take her coat, and she and her parent’s slip into the living room Matt makes his appearance.
“Sorry, I’m late, Rosie,” Matt takes off his coat, ignoring my outstretched hands.
I become startled when Matt reaches out and takes my hand in his, pulling me gently in front of him to let me leave the room first. I turn toward him and let my hand slip out of his. “Go ahead, Matt, I have something I have to do first.”
Looking slightly offended, Matt steps around me and walks into the living room. I busy myself straightening the coats, and once I feel as though what I wrote was suffice, I walk over to the kitchen to check on the food.
“Matt seems nice,” Bill almost makes me jump when he speaks.
“Yes, I met him a store today, it was the first time I did not have to ask for someone to help me with my bags,” I test the taste of the soup with a spoon, “his family sure seems nice.”
Bill leaves the room as I begin placing the food on the table, but I am soon greeted by helping hands from nonetheless, Matt. I accept his help, and start to pull the chicken from the oven but am distracted by Matt’s voice.
“How about I take the chicken and you call everyone in?” I could tell that Matt was not making me do it, but I nod, murmur a thank you and pad over to the living room.
“Do you need any more help, Rosemarie?” Ann stands up and starts to walk my why, “I would be happy to.”
“No thanks, Ann, but please call me Rose,” I say, “What I am here for is to tell you that it is time to eat, I trust that you will enjoy it.”
I ignore the cold stares from my parents, and gesture Kathryn, John and Ann into the dinning room. Be a good hostess, Rose, who cares what Ma and Pa think?
I find that my place at the table is beside Matt, who pulls out my chair for me like a real gentleman. This was something that Henry would never be caught doing; least it would save his life.
“Let us pray for Henry, Rose fiancée,” I steal a glance at Matt, a look of shock plastered on his face at Pa’s words. I close my eyes in shame as we pray.
The rest of supper goes on without a hitch, but Matt does not say anything else during this time.
The next few days came and went, causing nothing even relatively interesting. Through my calls inviting Matt and Ann over for a Sunday tea, I only ever got Ann, of which she actually agreed to.
It was not until four days after the supper that I saw Matt again.
I was outside picking food from the garden when I heard a truck drive up. I glance up, thinking that it was Pa after going to town for some farming supplies. It was, Matt and his dirty brown hair bouncing down the, what was left of, the drive, and over to me.
“Have you seen your brother, Rose?” I felt my breath suck in sharply, I wonder why.
“No I have not, I would tell you if I knew,” I watch as Matt starts to turn around, “Wait! Matt, I am sorry that I did not tell you about my fiancée, Henry, but I did not know you that well yet and…”
Matt steps closer, “What are you saying?”
What was I saying? “I want to be friends. I am also sorry about the offence you took at getting the news, I would love it if we could just put this part behind us.”
“I would to,” Matt barely manages to get in.
“Ann is also coming over for tea tomorrow, and I would absolutely love it if you would join us,” I say, “I am also baking cookies.”
“Well, since I can not resist cookies…” Matt laughs and I join in.
“I best get back to work, see you tomorrow, Matt,” I begin tending to the garden again.
Matt pauses for a moment, “See you, Rosie.”
As soon as Matt is far enough away, I drop my picked vegetables in the kitchen, and rush up the stairs to my bedroom. I pull my journal from the bookshelf and a pen from my desk, and get to work writing about the event that had just occurred.
I was curled up on the couch when I should have been getting ready for tea with Ann and Matt, but I could not help but stare at the letter in my hands. Something had changed, I may not of been aware of what it was but something made this letter different from the last ones I had gotten from Henry.
It is only four months away from the day I come home to you. I hope you have come up with ideas for our wedding, not that I will like all of them. I have been writing down some myself, for example, I would love it if you made some of your homemade chocolate to dip strawberries in.
I have been told that Bill will be stationed here, with me. I trust that you have been preparing him properly for the day that he will go off to war. As his sister it is your job to do this.
I got a telegram from your mother about a young man named Matthew Hays, who just happens to be the son of some of your parent’s friends. I would watch yourself if I were you, do not get too involved with him, he could be terrible for you, with all we know. I would adore it if you would just leave him alone altogether, but I know you are loyal enough.
I do not want to here anything that goes on with you and this Hays to anything more then a small, off and on friendship. I repeat, watch yourself.
I love you,
Since when were John and Kathryn friends of my parents? Since when was meeting something practically falling all over the enemy? Then again, how was Matt even considered an enemy of Henry and me? Henry was assuming way too much for his own good.
Reluctantly I pull a piece of paper out of my journal and begin writing a short letter to Henry.
I do not want to worry about my time being spent with Matthew, we are just friends and besides his sister Ann is often with him when I am around him. It is not like we are not being watched.
Trying to prepare Bill would be fruitless, he is so stubborn on the subject that even with Ma and Pa fighting with me we can not get through his thick scull. Pa says he will come around some day and we can prepare him like he should be. I presume he is still in denial.
As much as I would like to have chocolate dipped strawberries on our wedding day, I think that it is not realistic, as I would be doing more important things like making sure that everything is prepared as we wish it to be.
I best be going, I am having Ann over for tea.
I underline my name to make sure that he is aware that I want him to call me Rose, not Rosemarie because of the length it is impractical.
As I am about to go upstairs to finish getting ready Bill opens the door and lets in my two guests, Ann and Matt. This was not good as my hair was not combed, or my dress straightened properly.
“Rose!” I heard Ann exclaim as she skirted into the living room, something resting in her hands. It looked like a pot full of pot-roast.
“Ann and our Mama made some pot-roast for your Papa’s birthday,” Matt says, “It is my Mama’s favourite recipe so I hope you and your Papa enjoy it.”
“Thank you so much, but you really should not have,” I take the pot-roast from Ann, and am followed by her and her brother.
“Ooh, I love that flower arrangement, Rose,” Ann steps over to the table, leaning over and smelling the flowers, “who did this?”
Matt watches my cheeks turn chrisom at the praise, “Rose did, and she is blushing.”
I set the pot-roast down and elbow Matt in the side playfully, “Thank you, Ann.”
Taking the tea from the counter, I pour Ann and Matt, then finally myself, some tea and sit down. I pull the lid off the box of cookies and gesture for them to take some.
“Who’s book is that, Rose?” Matt asks, pointing to my current paperback novel, and steals a cookie.
“Mine, why do you ask?”
“I am reading the same novel, my Mama gave it to me for my birthday.” Ann turns to Matt, “What do you think Mama is going to get you, Matt?”
Matt shrugs the question off, dismissing it like he was not sure. Ann winks at me.
“When is your birthday, Matt?” I ask, taking a cookie for myself.
“Three days from today,” he admits.
“That is nice.”
Ann watches me closely, winking when I was watching her out of the corner of my eye. I was pretty sure that Ann knew what I was up to even from the short time that I knew her.
Pa was not happy when he overheard Ma and I talking about throwing Matt a birthday party. He did not want his birthday overshadowed, by a young man that he barely knew. I dismiss my father’s feelings for what I believe, is the first time in my life.
I later talk to Ann, Kathryn, and John about the party that I was planning for Matt. They agree to help, by baking and bringing their presents for him to the farm in which would be held that party. I was in charge of decorations and making sure that Matt was going on unaware. After much arguing with Ma, she finally agrees to give up some of her flowers for the party.
On the day of Matt’s actual birthday, in mid afternoon, he and his family arrive. I had set up tables for us to eat at, and for Matt to open his presents on. I put flower arrangements on the table for decoration.
Matt climbs out of his truck, his feet hitting the gravel with a crunch, “Rosie, did you plan this all?”
No, I did not get a “wow!” or “I was not expecting this!” Instead I get a question, and this seems so Matt-like that I cannot help but smile wildly. “Yes, I did, Matt.”
My mother radiates pride, and to me it seems as though she was happy that I did not joke back with Matt. I wanted to too, but that was not my place, and I was going to fulfill the wishes of my parents before joking with a young man I hardly knew.
Ann gasps as she looks at my flower arrangements. “I guess I do not have to ask who arranged these. They are absolutely wonderful. You should teach me who to arrange flowers so wonderfully, so I can do it for you on your wedding day.”
“Thank you, Ann. I will help you sometime soon.” I turn around and face Matt who was starting dumbfounded at my left hand, on which was my engagement ring.
Matt turns around and busies himself with looking at his presents, gasping slightly when he sees the one from me, and only me. I wasn’t some generic present from a group of people, it was actually thought out.
“Well, I should go and check on supper.” I say to the wind, as if someone will actually pay attention to me.
I walk into the kitchen and open the oven. I use a meat tester to see if my chicken was done. It was. I start to pull it out of the oven, praying internally to God that I would not drop it, as it would ruin dinner.
“Do you need some help with that?” Matt.
“Sure if you want to I am not going to stop you.” I stand up straight, not looking at my friend, as I take hold of the fruit salad in one hand, and paper plates in another. Matt was standing up with the chicken in his hands; I kick the oven door closed with my foot like Ma had taught me.
We walk out into the garden together, and everyone stares at us like something had just happened that they needed to know. It was just a normal conversation, I want to assure them, but no one had asked and therefore I was not going to reply.
Ma pulls on my sleeve and drags me to the far corner of the garden. “Rosemarie.” The word was like her no’s, hard, cold, and utterly lifeless.
“Ma.” I respond.
“You know better then to get close with Mathew.” Ma says, smoothing out her dress and smiling shamelessly.
“Yes, Ma.” She was right, getting close to Matt emotionally could only lead to bad, and then worse things for me, for my future marriage as well, as Henry’s feelings were also involved.
I am clearly dismissed so I walk away from Ma, and go back to help Matt with bringing out the food. When I arrive in the kitchen Matt is carrying the cake to the door.
“What else is left?” I ask, as to avoid unnecessary work.
“Nothing, I have the last of it,” Matt said gesturing toward the cake in his hands.
I try to hind me stunned look, and then realize that there was something to be said. “You did not need to carry the food out, Matt, that is my job. You are the guest, you are supposed to be enjoying the party and not doing the hostesses work for her.”
“Rosie, you could not carry out the chicken by yourself without dropping it, or hurting yourself.” Matt sets down the cake, I cringe.
“It is not your job to look after me.”
“Whose is then, Henry, because he is clearly not here to do it for you? Your father will not, and Bill is to self-absorbed to notice when someone needs help.”
“Sure, they may not be jumping up to help me, but no one asked for you help either.” I take the cake off of the table. “Maybe you should learn a lesson from the women in your life, and know your place.”
“Is that what you think, that woman have places?”
I felt hurt inside, why did Matt have to push me around like this? He wasn’t one of the men that had permission to control my life.
“I do not want to discuss this anymore, and it is not your place to make me.”
“I was never forcing you into the conversation. By the way, how is that even possible?”
“Leave me alone.”
“I will be happy to.”
Matt storms out of the drop, as I drop the cake on the table. I follow him out of the house, and watch him climb into his truck, gesturing for his family to join him. They look at me and I nod for them to go. They climb in behind their brother and son.
I stand there feeling the need to write to Henry. I spin on my heels and walk into the house leaving my parents and Bill in the garden. After ambling up the stairs I head to my room, which thankfully does not overlook the garden. I pull some paper from my writing desk as well as a pen. I begin to write to my fiancée.
My dearest Henry,
I have come to the conclusion that both my family, which includes you, are right. Matthew is no good to me, and will only cause me pain and suffering. His friendship is completely useless in my life. I am sorry that I doubted you, I was wrong. You only had my best interest at heart. Please forgive me.
I miss you so much, Henry. Especially now, as I have just told Matthew how I felt, and could use your support and unconditional love.
I seem to have forgotten when you are coming home, and would be very thankful if you would remind me. If you were to remind me I will throw you a massive party and cook all of your favourite food. We can even plan the wedding earlier.
With all of my love, forever,
I came to the conclusion that Henry was not going to call me Rose, and that when I said yes, I signed up for a life of being Rosemarie. Matthew wanted to fight with me, and mistreat me when all Henry wanted was my best interest and happiness.
Who would want a man like Matthew, when you could have a man like Henry?
“Rose, someone is at the door for you.” I stand up and thank Bill. I skirt over to the front door and open it, ready to dismiss Matthew if he was coming again.
Just as the door opens an inch, I see the blue fabric of overalls. “Matthew go away you are no long welcome here.” I start to close the door when a foot slides in.
“Rosemarie, its me.” The door swings open and I see Henry stand there, a bundle of multicoloured daisies in his hand. I throw my arms around him and pull him into a massive hug. He tips my chin up and kisses me gently.
“Did you get my letter?” I ask, holding Henry’s face in my hands.
“Yes, the day I left actually. I forgive you, how could I not.” I smile, so happy to be back in Henry’s arms. All of my doubts and remorse from the days before were gone. “Who does not want a wife that agrees with everything that they say?”
“Yes, you are correct.” My smile fades away. “Ma, Pa, guess who just came home? Henry!”
I lean against the doorframe and look into the living room. Henry was trying to choose between two designs for my wedding dress. We decided that we were going to get married on New Years Day. Okay, fine, Henry decided to have it on New Years. I had absolutely no say.
Henry points to the design on the far right that I have only seen from a distance. “Henry, may I see the design, and approve it, as I am the one who will be wearing the gown?”
“No, you will like it, it is not necessary.” I felt the dismissal in his tone.
Without asking permission I walk over to the front door and pull my coat around me. I open the door and step outside. Today was the first snowfall of the year, and it glistened like sparkles or glitter against the sun. My boot crunch against the snow as I make my way to the Ford.
I open the driver’s door and turn the key that was always in the ignition, to start it. I pull the seatbelt over my shoulder and start to drive away. I am not sure why, but I am compelled to drive over to the neighbours.
I see a truck in the driveway, one that I do not recognize, when I arrive. I climb out of the truck and make my way over to the front door. I ring the doorbell and wait, slightly impatiently.
Ann opens the door, “Rose.”
“Ann I am so sorry, about what happened, and I will explain it more, but I need to talk to Matt.” I try stepping around her.
“Rose, he isn’t here, it is his day at work, but you are more then welcome to stay and wait for him here.”
“Thanks for the offer Ann, but I really need to talk to Matt now. Maybe I will stop by after I talk with him. A million thanks for excepting my apology.”
“Your welcome, Rosie!” Ann calls after me as I run down the drive back to the car.
It seems like forever before I am bursting threw the door of the convenience store and rushing over to Matt. He is bent over some bags trying to get them to rest on their hooks. He looks over when I call his name, and I smile hoping that he will not run in the other direction.
“Rosemarie.” I think that my heart visibly sank when Matt said my full name.
“Matt I need to talk to you about your birthday.”
“That is a year from now, and you know that.”
“No, the last one, and you know that.”
“Fine what is it.”
I proceed to tell him how sorry I am for what I said and that there was this issue with Henry. That he was controlling my life, and my wedding.
“So, do you still love him?”
“That is the problem I am not so sure anymore.”
“If your not sure, then why are you going through with it?”
“It is what I am supposed to do, what I am told to do. How can I disobey the people who have always been there for me?”
“Everything is at your discretion, Rosie.”
I throw my arms around Matt, and try and hold back tears. It has been months since I last saw Matt, but as he strokes my back to comfort me, I feel like all of that time has just melted away. The world was just the two of us, and no one was there to make me feel otherwise.
I feel Matt pull back slightly, and I think that I have taken the hug too far. Then, with conflict in his eyes, Matt leans forward and kisses me gently on the lips. Surprising even myself, I kiss him back like Henry does not exist.
“I promised Ann that I would stop by after I talked to you, maybe I should go over there now.” I feel myself turning away, and I do not know why in a moment like this that I would do that.
“You know that you can always stay with us, if you are not comfortable staying with your family.” I hear Matt breath in sharply. “Maybe being away from them for a while will be good for you, and for you relationships with them.”
I agree that yes, I would move in with them if that was okay with Kathryn and John.
The house is oddly quiet when I return, and they did not rush to welcome me home, or to see why I had left. Therefore I ascend the stairs, only to find Henry sitting on the bed, in our room. Correction, his room. I was moving out! I was making a decision for myself for a change.
“Rosemarie, there you are.” It was a statement that was not necessarily welcoming a response.
“I have the right to leave if I want to.” I was not sure if I was talking about moving out or storming out calmly earlier.
“I never said you did not.”
“No, but you implied it.”
“I think you are reading in between none existence lines.”
“I’m leaving.” It felt so good to not only tell him, if he read between the lines, that I was becoming my own person, but also to say a contraction. My Ma always told me not to, that it was for lazy people.
“You can not leave, you have to stay here and marry me!”
“I hate to break it too you Henry, but I’m making a decision for myself. This isn’t about you. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a new concept you, but news flash, it is the way it is.”
Henry stares with a deer in the headlights look at me. “You are leaving me?”
I think that it was the first time that Henry asked me a question that wasn’t hot air. “Yes, and I’m going to burst your bubble for free, I’m not going to let you control me.”
Maybe this came on suddenly, and I think that if I look inside myself I will see that. But sometimes, you just hit your breaking point. I just hit mine.
“Now if you excuse me, I’m going to burry your rusty metal in the backyard.”
As I turn around, I hear Henry say, “I never knew she had a sense of humour.”
Neither did I.