NOW & FOREVER
Rose stared after Jack as he departed, confused and upset by his sudden change in attitude. They had been having fun—some of the time, anyway—and working together, and then he had suddenly turned cold to her, as though he were angry about something. For the life of her, she didn’t know what the problem was.
Could it have been her fainting spell? Perhaps he had been embarrassed by it. Some people were, but it hadn’t surprised her at all that it had happened. She had been afraid of heights since she was very young and had fallen from the balcony of her house, landing her in the hospital for three months. Over the years, she had become more inured to heights, but today’s incident had been particularly disturbing—she had almost fallen again.
Jack had helped her then, and his comforting presence had enabled her to get back down to the deck before she had fainted, but afterwards he had been so angry, wanting nothing to do with her.
Still confused, she watched as he headed towards the bus stop. He hadn’t even wanted a ride home with her, although most people would be glad to ride in such a luxurious vehicle.
As she stared after him, still wondering what had made him so angry, Jessica came up beside her. Watching as Jack walked away, she remarked, her tone snide, "I don’t think we’ll see him again. Heavens, Rose, what were you thinking, bringing a gutter rat on our boat?"
"I thought he was my friend." Rose frowned, looking into the distance. Jack had disappeared, but she still wondered what had gone wrong.
"Rose, you know that our kind doesn’t associate with people like him. We have certain standards that we must maintain."
"Why?" Rose asked, surprised at her own question. "Why are those standards so important? What’s wrong with people like him? I liked him."
"Liked is the key word here, Rose. You always were impulsive, and all too willing to associate with the wrong kind of people. They aren’t like us. They don’t have much money, or any understanding of the sort of manners required by our society."
"And yet we hire people like him to be our servants, and our employees when we go into business."
Jessica shrugged. "We’re doing them a service—providing the jobs needed for subsistence."
"Don’t you think they deserve just a little more than that?" Rose asked irritably. Her frightening experience that afternoon, followed by Jack’s seemingly pointless anger, had left her nerves raw. Jessica’s attitude was only making things worse.
Jessica looked at her as though she had grown two heads. "We’re more than generous already. If people don’t like the way things are, they can go somewhere else."
"We could at least give them some respect," Rose muttered, eager to take her leave of her cousin. Checking her watch, she told her, "I’d best be going. I have some homework to do."
She walked away in the direction of the waiting limousine, leaving Jessica staring after her in shock and bemusement.
As she reached the limousine, she took care to greet her chauffeur, Marvin, in a friendly manner. As he drove her home, she gazed out the window, lost in thought.
What had upset Jack so much? she wondered. Their moods had run hot and cold all afternoon, it was true, but his sudden anger baffled her. She could find no reason for it.
At last, an idea of what the problem might be occurred to her. When she had been arguing with Jessica, she had referred to Jack as a lowlife, a scum, and a gutter rat. Was it possible that he had overheard and hadn’t realized that she was being sarcastic?
It was possible, she acknowledged, but she didn’t know how to contact him and find out. She might be able to talk to him in school tomorrow—if he was even willing to acknowledge her. He had been so angry, he hadn’t even spoken to her when he left, had just walked away without a word.
Would he even speak to her? And if he did, would he understand what she had meant and be willing to forgive her for the misunderstanding?