“Annabella Grace 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 beautiful.
“Of course I was right,” Jacob asserted. “I don’t know how Mr. Andrew Calloway will be able to resist himself tonight,” he
Annabella tried not to blush. “The very thought, Jacob!” she scolded.
“But 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
“Alas, who is?” her friend agreed. “But Mr. Calloway certainly does seem to have an eye for you.”
“How 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!”
“As you wish, Cinderella,” Jacob teased, bowing deeply.
The 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 their
The 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.
He 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-”
She 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!”
The 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?”
He had a point, Annabella realized. “I don’t know… four or five.”
“No, surely it was more than that!”
“I meant this week! In all… goodness, I’ve lost track. My dressing room looks like a flower shop.”
“See 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.
She had scarcely been there two minutes when Andrew Calloway appeared beside her.
“Miss McKinley,” he greeted her, “I’m delighted you could come!”
“It 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.
“You 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.
At that moment, a harsh voice called out from behind them.
“Andrew! There you are! I’ve been looking all over!”
Annabella turned around to see the stern face of Gertrude Calloway glaring at her.
“Mother,” Andrew asked. “You remember Annabella, don’t you?”
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 for you.”
Annabella was 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
They 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 way.
At last, their dancing slowed, Andrew gently pulled her aside and whispered
“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?”
Annabella was shocked by the woman’s rudeness. Her temper was starting to flare.
“Excuse me, but who are you?” she asked, as politely as she could.
The woman laughed icily. “I am Mathilde Giroux. Andrew’s fiancé.”
She 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 for Annabella.
“What? I… why didn’t you… I can’t!” was all she could stammer.
Mathilde 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, Andrew.
“Annabella,” he said. “I can explain.”
Bella was naturally incredulous, but she cared for him enough to give him another chance.
“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.
“But what about your parents? They don’t like me, I can tell,” she asked forlornly.
“My 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 you.”
In 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.
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