McKinley, you look absolutely divine!"
"Oh, Jacob, I
think you were right about the dress!" Annabella squealed,
scrutinizing herself in the mirror. Her black and silver lace
gown swirled gracefully around her as she walked. Dressed to the
nines, with her short dark hair impeccably curled into the latest
style, it was so easy for her to believe that she truly was
course I was right," Jacob asserted. "I don't know how Mr. Andrew
Calloway will be able to resist himself tonight," he added
Annabella tried not to blush. "The very thought, Jacob!" she
you do think he's handsome, don't you?"
"Well, he's no Rudolph Valentino," she sighed. Everyone knew she
was still grieving over the late silent film star.
"Alas, who is?" her friend agreed. "But Mr. Calloway certainly
does seem to have an eye for you."
dare you say such things!" Annabella demanded, although trying
her hardest not to smile. "Now, do help me find my shoes, or we
shall be late!"
you wish, Cinderella," Jacob teased, bowing deeply.
year was 1928, and Annabella McKinley was poised to become New
York City's next biggest thing. The musical she, along with Jacob
Silverman, starred in was a huge success, making the young
runaway from Atlanta, Georgia into an unlikely star. Over the
months that they worked together, she and Jacob had become
inseparable friends, and tonight they were headed to a ball given
by two of the city's most prominent millionaires, Samuel and
Gertrude Calloway, who just so happened to be the producers of
Calloway's son, Andrew, a frequent patron at the theatre, had
invited the entire cast, although Jacob seemed to be quite sure
that it was only Annabella he cared to see.
made this clear as the pair stepped out of Bella's apartment
building, into the glimmering streets of Manhattan.
"Darling, how you blush when someone mentions his name! And the
way he looks at you… I wouldn't be surprised if-"
cut him off, unable to stand it. "Jacob, you know I haven't the
time for this nonsense! Mr. Calloway is merely an acquaintance
whose parents happen to be vital to my career. I've been so
successful since I came to the city, how could I ask for anything
else? Love is something that isn't in my future anytime soon… I
haven't even been on a date since I left Atlanta four years ago,
you know this!"
ever optimistic Jacob wasn't deterred by her words. "I suspect
that will soon change. How many times has he sent roses to your
dressing room before the show?"
had a point, Annabella realized. "I don't know… four or
surely it was more than that!"
meant this week! In all… goodness, I've lost track. My dressing
room looks like a flower shop."
what I mean? He wouldn't do that with just anybody. The upper
class are so picky about who they give their attentions to. Don't
be so practical, Bella darling. We're going to a ball, for
goodness' sake. Let yourself go, just this once! You might be
surprised where it takes you."
Annabella wasn't quite sure what to think about that, but her
mind was changed the moment they arrived at the party, held at
the most glamorous establishment in the city, the Plaza Hotel. As
soon as she and Jacob stepped into the gilded Grand Ballroom,
every ounce of her pessimistic practicality fled. It was
impossible not to be swept up by the beauty of the golden-hued
archways, sky-high ceiling and shimmering crystal chandeliers.
Perhaps even more glorious than the room itself were the guests:
Annabella suspected she had never seen so many diamonds and
pearls in one place.
had scarcely been there two minutes when Andrew Calloway appeared
"Miss McKinley," he greeted her, "I'm delighted you could
was so kind of you to invite us, Mr. Calloway," Annabella said.
"It's truly magnificent!" she added, taking another awestruck
gaze at her surroundings. In fact, the party was so lovely, she
thought, that the dress she had once found perfect was seeming
more and more plain compared to the riches she encountered here.
Her host seemed to notice her self- consciousness.
look beautiful, Miss McKinley, if I may say so. And how many
times must I ask you to simply call me Andrew?"
"Very well… Andrew," she replied, silently praying that her
cheeks had not turned as pink as they felt.
that moment, a harsh voice called out from behind them.
"Andrew! There you are! I've been looking all over!"
around to see the stern face of Gertrude Calloway glaring at
"Mother," Andrew asked. "You remember Annabella, don't
The elegant old
woman forced a smile. "Yes, of course. The actress." She
said the last word with contempt, as if it were something
horrible. Annabella easily got the impression that Mrs. Calloway
was not fond of her at all. But then again, Bella had often felt
like that around people from the upper classes. Although she,
too, was now wealthy, she wasn't born into her fortune like most
of them were. And that was all that ever seemed to matter to
people like Andrew's parents.
Gertrude made one last demand of her son before gliding away to
greet the other guests.
"Andrew, darling, do go find Mathilde. She was looking all over
just about to ask who Mathilde was when Andrew asked her to
dance. She couldn't resist, of course, and they were playing her
favorite song, a spirited waltz perfect for dancing.
took each other's hands and began to whirl gracefully around the
ballroom. Andrew turned out to be a fabulous dancer. Around and
around they spun; that first waltz turned into another, and
another, until Annabella could have sworn they had been dancing
for eternity. She didn't want it to end. It was strange, she
thought, but when she was with Andrew, the rest of the world
melted away. She couldn't ever remember being quite so blissful.
Crazy as it seemed , she knew she was falling in love with him.
And the way he looked at her, like she was the most beautiful
thing he had ever seen, told her that he likely felt the same
last, their dancing slowed, Andrew gently pulled her aside and
"Annabella, there's something I must tell you…"
Bella held her breath in anticipation. Then, out of nowhere, a
tall, glamorously dressed woman approached them, forcefully
ending their perfect moment.
"Andrew," the woman sneered, "I haven't seen you all night! What
is wrong with you?"
shocked by the woman's rudeness. Her temper was starting to
"Excuse me, but who are you?" she asked, as politely as she
laughed icily. "I am Mathilde Giroux. Andrew's fiancé."
couldn't believe her ears. Fiancé? Why hadn't he mentioned that
little detail before she had fallen for him? It was all too much
"What? I… why didn't you… I can't!" was all she could
chuckled in the same venomous laugh. "You mean he didn't mention
this to you?" She went on, but Annabella didn't hear. She was
already running out the door of the ballroom. She sprinted
through the lobby as fast as she could, swinging through the
revolving doors and into the frigid night air. She had left her
fur inside, but she didn't care. She just needed to get as far
away as she could. She finally sat to rest on the fountain
outside of the hotel. Her eyes filled with tears as she saw the
gleaming coins under the water. Whenever she had tossed pennies
into fountains as a child, she wished for true love. When she
thought she had at last found it, it turned out to be as fake as
her and Jacob's acted romance onstage.
Several minutes later, she noticed through her tears a figure
come out of the building. It was moving towards her. At first,
she thought it might be Jacob, coming to console her, but it
wasn't. It was the last person she wanted to see at that moment,
"Annabella," he said. "I can explain."
naturally incredulous, but she cared for him enough to give him
"Yes, Mathilde was my fiancé. Our parents wanted us to get
married, and I agreed, but only because I never thought I would
find real love. That was before I met you. I know I should have
told you before, but I honestly thought I could break it off, and
have you never find out. It was ridiculous of me. But it's all
over now- I just ended it with her! Please give me another
chance, Annabella," he begged. "I love you."
Annabella knew it wasn't always wise to trust so blindly, but she
knew in her heart that he was being honest with her, and it made
her love him even more.
what about your parents? They don't like me, I can tell," she
parents matter little to me," he said bitterly. "They have no say
in the matter. They can cut me out of their will if they are so
inclined, but none of that could ever change how I feel about
those few seconds, Annabella's day had turned from her worst to
her best all at once. She had no words to describe the emotions
she was feeling. The only answer she had was to embrace him,
tighter than she had ever hugged anyone in her life.
Then, he kissed her. It was the most passionate and perfect kiss
Annabella could have ever dreamed of.
All was right
with the world.