September 17, 1914
The party was marvelous, Maggie dear!" Julia Kape declared as she walked out of the Lawton's beautiful townhome. She turned and gave Maggie a parting kiss on the cheek.
"They are only marvelous because you attend," Maggie answered, understanding the full import of complimenting good connections. And Julia was a very good connection. Her husband was wealthy and incredibly influential in London, just the kind of friend Maggie needed.
"You are such a charming girl! It's no wonder David Porter is enamored with you! Perhaps you'll keep this one?" Julia's eyes twinkled and she laughed cruelly at the implication of Maggie getting rid of suitors before anything came of the match. It was true, there was no denying the reputation she had established. Since her eighteenth birthday two years ago, Maggie had fastened herself to the arms of at least eight eligible gentlemen, none of them retaining her attentions for more than two weeks. It was no secret that Maggie was looking for the most eligible man in town, only the best would do.
Maggie laughed, reaching a hand toward Julia's arm. "For the moment, there is no one more rich or handsome in town, so I suppose I'll keep him."
Julia fell into a chorus of polite giggles, then swatted at Maggie with her fan. "You are too cruel!"
"Not me!" Maggie answered dramatically. "I just know what I want, and I want lots of money and a life of luxury!"
Both women laughed again, and as they caught their breath, Julia announced her final departure. "I really must be off, Stewart wanted to leave hours ago. I hope I'll see you again soon."
"I'm planning another party as we speak!" Maggie exaggerated. "My parents are to be gone for at least another month, which means the house is mine to entertain with. I would simply go mad without the company of my closest friends."
"All sixty of them?" Julia asked, her eyebrow raised in curiosity.
Maggie laughed anew as she watched her friend walk elegantly down the front steps toward the carriage that awaited her in the street. Stewart, Julia's husband, was waving his arm wildly at her as she got in, making Maggie want to laugh again. Despite being handsome, Stewart Kape was not the most patient of men, but he was rich, allowing Julia all the luxuries she could ever dream of, which is why she married him. From what Maggie understood, he left her alone most of the time, making the situation idyllic. Maggie could only hope she fell into such a life herself! To be left alone to enjoy parties and fashion and all the finer things in life sounded positively perfect. Perhaps David Porter would be just the man for the job.
At the thought of him, Maggie giggled to herself, knowing full well that David Porter was not rich enough to tempt her. Turning back inside, Maggie made her way upstairs to her elaborate bedroom, passing several weary maids as she walked. As she swept into view, they pulled back their shoulders and managed smiles, much to Maggie's pleasure. Upon entrance of her bedroom, Maggie glanced into the mirror before readying herself for bed. A smile crept upon her face, she still looked perfect.
Coffee colored hair, perfectly twisted and pinned, not a hair out of place. Her deep blue eyes still twinkled brilliantly beneath dark, thick lashes. The set of pearls around her neck coordinated perfectly with the sapphire color of her dress, her corset doing it's job discreetly. Satisfied that she had been the most attractive woman in attendance at her party, she shimmied out of her dress unassisted, and unbuttoned her corset, taking several deep breaths upon it's absence. Maggie had to admit she was glad corsets were on their way out, and was thankful she only needed to wear one for dinner parties and balls.
Her guests had arrived at seven o'clock in the evening for dinner, and Julia being the last to leave at three in the morning credited the parties success. Her life was filled with all of the finest things in life, silk pajamas, maids to execute every whim, no matter how ridiculous, the most fashionable gowns in the city, and plenty of leisure and relaxation. She was practically a princess, only her bloodline keeping her out of the palace, though she had certainly visited.
Expertly removing the several pins that held her hair in a fashionable twist, Maggie was freed from all that remained of the party. She flopped onto her feather bed, crawling beneath the crisp clean sheets. It did not take her long to fall asleep, not a single care darkening the sweet dreams she always had. Why should she not have sweet dreams? After all her life was practically enchanted.
Maggie gasped, her eyes flying open in surprise. Someone was shaking her, most aggressively. It took a moment for her eyes to focus on her best friend Amelia, who was the one waking her in such a rude manner. Behind Amelia stood a young maid, doing her best to pull Amelia off Maggie, but she was unsuccessful. "I told her you were still asleep, Miss! Told her you were not to be bothered. Please don't fire me, I could do nothing to stop her!" the maid cried, tears making her difficult to understand.
"Oh stop your babbling, it's too early for me to make sense of anything coming out of your mouth. It seems you shall have to get better at keeping unwanted visitors out of the house at ungodly hours!"
"Ungodly hours? Mags, it's nearly eleven o'clock," Amelia said, finally giving up on her shaking.
Maggie fell back against her pillows, relishing their soft comfort once more. "When a person is awake until three o'clock in the morning, eleven o'clock is quite miserable. Speaking of which, why were you not here last night? Wait, before you answer, you," Maggie said, pointing blindly at the maid who was still lurking in the corner. "Make me a cup of coffee and bring it up directly. Mia, do you want anything?"
"No, thank you." If Maggie had been more awake, or more perceptive of other's feelings, she may have noticed the melancholy tone with which her friend spoke. But, as it was, she simply waved the maid away, imparting a warning that she would not wait for more than ten minutes, and expected the coffee to be precisely as she liked it. With a bobbed curtsy, the maid left them alone.
"Now, sit down and tell me why you weren't here. I was waiting for you!" Maggie said, fluffing the pillows behind her so she could sit upright.
"Oh please, I'm sure you didn't even notice I wasn't there until just now."
Maggie cringed, her friend was right. Through the long hours of the party, Maggie had not once noticed her friend's absence. She had been far to entertained by all of her other guests. There's nothing wrong with that, she thought. I was busy entertaining, I can't be expected to keep track of all of my friends as well!
"Well I was disappointed that you were not there. I wanted you to tell Alyssa McIlroy all about your trip to France. It would have made her positively green with envy, which of course, I was hoping to be witness too. That would have made for quite a bit of entertainment. I swear, she thinks she is a great gift to our city! How terribly disappointed she would be to realize the opposite. Do you know she was wearing a dusty pink gown, it looked terrible! The color did absolutely nothing for her skin. She almost looked like a corpse, you know with that fair skin and pale hair, she needs to wear more vibrant colors. Oh how she irritates me…"
"Stop!" Amelia yelled, turning to face her friend for the first time since waking her. Maggie was startled. She could not ever remember Amelia raising her voice, ever. The novelty of it coerced Maggie to pay more attention to the young woman in front of her. It was then she realized that Amelia looked plain, and pale. She was wearing no rouge or powder, her hair was a complete mess, her dress was wrinkled and it seemed that dark circles had proclaimed residence under her eyes that were red and blemished.
Unable to find words, Maggie simply stared at this altered version of her friend, selfishly thinking about how much she disliked being scolded, but she was not given much time to think on such a topic.
"Don't you ever think of anything but your parties? Don't you ever think of anyone but yourself? Who cares what color Alyssa was wearing! It does not matter, not at all! None of it does. Not your champagne, your pearls, your expensive dresses or eighteen inch waist. The false friendships you proclaim to have are shallow, those people would easily stab you in the back if the opportunity ever presented itself! The things you surround yourself with can't make you happy. You live a meaningless existence and you're happy with it, which is truly sad. You are the most selfish, shallow person I've ever met. I just can't believe I used to be just like you."
"Used to be?" Maggie murmured, still untangling the barrage of words that had just been thrown at her. Maggie and Amelia had grown up together, sharing secrets and gossip. Criticizing other girls in their circle without so much as a second thought. They fawned over dresses and new fashions and experimented with makeup and hairstyles, always offering advice and tips to be the most popular socialites in town. Now, Amelia wasn't the same? Confusion etched across Maggie's brow, but Amelia continued.
"You know, I actually came over here expecting you to ask after me. To ask why my cheeks are stained with tears, to ask why my eyes are bloodshot and why dark circles have appeared. I expected my friend to wonder what was wrong. Instead, you order your maid to get you a cup of coffee and fill my ears with lost expectations for yet another party, expectations of my helping you to humiliate someone. I should have known better, I shouldn't have come."
Maggie had never felt more confused. When Amelia had returned from France they had had a sleep over, Amelia filled Maggie in on everything that had happened on her trip, and Maggie supplied the gossip from town that Amelia had missed. They compared new fashions and hair styles, and Amelia had certainly not called her shallow then. What had come over her?"
"I don't understand why you're attacking me. I've done nothing wrong."
"But you haven't done anything right either. A friend is supposed to comfort during times of need and crisis, and you're still sitting in your bed like a princess, while I'm over here barely keeping my tears at bay."
"Tears? What's the matter?"
"You won't understand," Amelia sniffed.
"Try, I want to listen, truly I do. I just didn't realize what you wanted when you came, I was woken rather abruptly." Maggie was hoping the comment would coax a smile from her friend, but it didn't. Instead, silent tears rolled down her cheeks.
Maggie's eyes bulged. Who's dead? And what had they died from? Surely Amelia wouldn't be upset about her father dying, she rarely saw him, and she isn't courting anyone. Maggie thought.
"Frederick, Freddy, MY Freddy!" The last word manifested itself in a wail and Amelia threw herself onto the bed, resting her head on Maggie's lap.
"The man you met in France?" Maggie asked, still not understanding. Amelia had told her that she had met a man named Freddy while she was abroad, but only in passing. Certainly she would not be crying so terribly over someone she had only just met and barely knew. But as Maggie put a hand on Amelia's head in comfort, she could feel her friend's body shaking with sobs, grief pouring from her.
"The man I loved in France. I didn't tell you because I knew you wouldn't approve! He wasn't rich, wasn't fashionable, wasn't spoiled. But he had the most beautiful soul. I never met anyone like him. He was there with the army, we met at a church service, I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I would have stayed in France were it not for the war, I would have married him."
Maggie still didn't fully understand what her friend was saying. But instead of dwelling upon it, she searched for more answers. "How did he die?"
Amelia's head shot up, and Maggie immediately regretted the question, but Amelia answered anyway. "In the war, he died in the Battle of Mons."
Maggie stared, making it plain she didn't understand. "You don't even know what the Battle of Mons is, do you?" Amelia asked, incredulously.
Maggie shook her head, ashamed, a feeling she was quite unfamiliar with.
"It happened almost a month ago." Amelia stood to leave, her eyes puffy and red from her newly shed tears, her hair even more disheveled then it had been before she'd arrived. "Grow up, Mags. There is more to life than parties and fun. There is love, grief, suffering, fear and a great deal more to concern yourself with than the latest fashions. The sooner you learn that, the more human you'll become. Maybe then you'll open your eyes to the terror our countrymen are currently enduring." Amelia pivoted, heading straight for the door, not leaving Maggie a moment to speak. Moments after Amelia left, Maggie remembered that no one had brought her coffee, but for the first time, she was not angered by the ignored order. Slipping back under her sheets, she went back to sleep.
So I wrote this story a couple years ago, and it has always been one of my favorites. With a little extra time on my hands this summer, I decided to revise it, add some things, brush it up a bit. I'm really excited to re-post this as a better version, hopefully! Any advice or comments you'd like to leave would be more than appreciated! Thanks for reading!