Daniel arrived today.
In my dreams and imaginations our reunion was nothing short of divine. He would exit the ship dressed in a crisp suit, a bowler hat on his blond head, and the sun glistening like a halo behind him. I, of course, am wearing the latest fashion which I’d recently ordered from the Sears catalogue, including a new military style corset. Gone thankfully, is the dreaded, back-aching S curve, and instead a slim, straighter line moving from under the bosom to mid thigh. It’s all the rage, and I couldn’t wait for my fiancé to see me in my sleek, royal blue, tailored wool suit that landed almost too snuggly just above my black pointy-toed boots. My new black straw hat with its overly large satin half-bow—my hair brushed to a shine, tied loosely to the top of my head—was pinned securely.
So dressed, I would glide toward him. Our eyes would lock and the world around us would disappear. Our steps would pick up as we hurried to embrace. His hands would cup my face, and I’d shed tears of happiness.
Dreams are dreams and real life is, well, real.
I only wanted Molly to accompany me to the docks, but father insisted that he be there too, to welcome Daniel, not only as his future son-in-law, but as a business partner. Louisa overheard our discussion and demanded to join us.
“I like Daniel! I want to come too!” Her cheeks burned red and her little fists tightened. She jumped up and down and I feared her boots would leave marks in the wood floor. I do hope my half-sister grows out of this spoiled stage. Unfortunately, she couldn’t be calmed until Father consented and of course that meant that Sally would be there too.
I protested. “There’ll be no room for Daniel in the carriage!”
Father smiled with a look of determination. “I’ll give Mc Doogle the day off and drive the carriage myself. Daniel can sit up front with me. It’s quite lovely weather, and we’ll have plenty to talk about.”
“But, he’s come for me!” I couldn’t believe my own Father would upset my dream. How could he be so insensitive? “Daniel should ride in the carriage with me!”
Father chuckled which just infuriated me even more. “There’ll be plenty opportunities for you to be together, love. Like you said, with the four of you ladies in the carriage, and his luggage, don’t forget, it’ll simply be too crowded.”
So there we all were, Father, Sally, Louisa, Molly, and me, on the docks at Boston Harbor, watching with awe and anticipation as the ocean liner grew large on the horizon. Steam billowed into the sky from the three gigantic smoke stacks, like enormous black and red candles snuffed out by a giant invisible thumb. One could almost forget the stench of fish that blew over from Quincy Market, as all of one’s senses were captivated by the sight.
Passengers disembarked in a long thick crowd, a blur of mens hats and ladies’ parasols. From our position on the dock it was impossible to make out a face.
Louisa pointed with her small gloved finger. “Is that him?”
I stared in the direction she indicated, angry that she’d spotted him before I did, and then drenched with disappointment when I saw no one I recognized.
“Oh, I thought I saw him,” my sister said, and now I was cross with her for getting my hopes up.
I’d tied my boots too tightly and my feet started to ache. My neck grew stiff from straining and, even though the sun was shining, the air still contained its early spring chill. I feared my nose was turning an unflattering shade of red. (I dare say, I crossed my eyes for the briefest second and it was true!)
We waited so long for Daniel to appear, I started thinking he’d changed his mind. Marriage to me was too grand a price to pay to save his beloved home in England. Perhaps he found another way to turn his fortunes around.
As if reading my mind, Molly patted my shoulder and said, “He’ll be here shortly.”
I glanced at her sharply. When Molly McPhail was worried, a latent Irish lilt slipped into her speech. She’d definitely sounded Irish just then.
“Oh look at her, George,” Sally said, her dark eyes flitting my way. “I told you she wasn’t ready for this.”
“I’m ready!” I snapped. I was ready to leave my step-mother’s house and set up my own, that was what I was ready for!
My throat was as dry as the desert, and my eyes watered, not due to happiness as I’d once imagined, but from frustration.
Maybe Daniel missed the boat in Liverpool and we hadn’t yet received his telegram. Oh mercy. I hope he didn’t have to delay it another day. I couldn’t bear to go through all this anxiety again tomorrow. Dinner this evening would be unbearable with Sally’s dry comments and lack of sympathy, and conversely, Father’s eyes soft with pity.
Daniel Gold! Where are you?
And then he appeared.
No halo. He looked tired and worn. I’d been following the newspapers religiously, tracking the weather and I knew there had been a storm. My husband-to-be was in less than tip-top shape and looked rather green around the gills.
Still, he was here. We were together, standing on the same ground, in the came continent.
He shook Father’s hand, tipped his hat to Sally and Louise. Greeted Molly politely.
Finally, his eyes washed over my face and he smiled. The world didn’t fall away. He didn’t hold my face in his hand. In fact, Louisa’s nervous giggles were loud and clear, completely ruining the moment.
Worst of all, I froze like the Washington statue. After months of wishing for Daniel to be here with me, there he stood and I didn’t do or say anything. Five long months had passsed since we’d spoken in person. I was suddenly overcome with shyness.
“Well, the wind is brisk,” Molly said, once again saving the day. “Cook has a warm meal waiting.”
Daniel and Father walked ahead of us as the porter with Daniel’s luggage struggled to keep up. I climbed into the carriage alongside Molly, and sat opposite Sally and Louisa. I was oddly grateful that Daniel was sitting up front.
“You’ll warm up over time,” Molly said, encouragingly. “He loves you.”
I nodded, believing it was true. I had his letters, after all. We needed time to get to know each other again.
Sally scoffed, interrupting my thoughts. “You think he’s marrying you for love? Believe me, marriage is a business contract. You’re nothing more than rail car of steel or a stock number to him.”
I finally found my voice. “Maybe that was true for you, Sally, but I’ll marry for love or not at all!”
I swear, that woman brings the worst out in me.