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Two Worlds, One Wish
Elizabeth sat lost in the sound that surrounded her, lifted her up, and gave her wings. Her eyes were fixed on the pale, elegant face from which music unlike any other escaped. Elizabeth watched the famous singer Scarlet like a cat eyeing a bird.
‘Does she even know how very lucky she is?’ Elizabeth mused. ‘Her life is free! Her future can be filled with whatever she wants! No one will be there to tell her how to dress, no one to fill her head with the endless duties of a wife and mother, and no one to throw into the arms of a man who wishes for a wife! She lives her own life, and is her own person!’
Elizabeth glanced to her left at her fiancé Matthew. At an early age her parents had arranged her marriage to Matthew, the eldest son of a successful high-class couple who were friends of the family. When Elizabeth had come to realize a few years later that there was no backing out of the planned marriage, she rebelled. Refusing to marry a man ten years older than she, not to mention someone she hardly knew. She locked herself in her room. Three days she had sat there, stubbornly ignoring all pleas to meet Matthew. When Matthew, himself, had finally coaxed her from her room with warm words, accompanied by a kind personality, Elizabeth began to weaken in her resolve. After spending a few weeks with him, Elizabeth decided she would go through and marry him, despite her romantic heart telling her otherwise. Even though she found him lacking in the fairytale-like qualities she so desired, she had come to the conclusion that Prince Charming was for children, not existing for the grown up world. It was now time she grew up. And though she did not love him, she respected and admired him.
Matthew felt her glance and turned to look at her. A smile pulled at his lips causing his mustache to twitch in a way that always amused Elizabeth. Moving slowly, Matthew reached for Elizabeth’s hand and cradled it in his own; his thumb gently rubbing across her knuckles. Elizabeth looked into his eyes and almost shivered at the emotion behind them.
‘Sometimes,’ wondered Elizabeth, ‘I think there is so much more to him that he keeps hidden away. Maybe marriage will pull it out of him,’ she thought with a smile. Turning back towards Scarlet, Elizabeth again felt a jealous twinge at Scarlet’s freedom.
‘How did she get to be here? What did she do to be able to make her way to this life? I wish…..’ Elizabeth paused, and glanced around guiltily, as if someone might have heard her thoughts. Elizabeth took a peek at her mother who also sat absorbed in the music. While Elizabeth’s mother adored all music, she strongly disapproved of the performers lifestyles; a subject in which all details were kept from Elizabeth. Yet, Elizabeth felt certain that despite her mother’s thoughts, it was a magical world to live in. When for a few brief seconds Scarlet looked up into their box and locked eyes with her, still holding her complicated notes, Elizabeth wished with all her heart that they could swap places in that single glance. A quiet sigh escaped her, causing Matthew to give her hand a soft squeeze. Elizabeth kept her eyes on her lap for the rest of performance; unwilling to daydream about a life that could never be hers; focusing instead, on the life that she would soon be caught in for the rest of her days.
Scarlet felt the music slip from her throat as easily as if she were speaking. Wishing she could close her eyes and savor this peaceful feeling, Scarlet forced herself to keep them open and enchant the audience with what her manager called, “The sad eyes of a doe, baby! You got them, now use them!” The only time she ever felt at peace was when she managed to book a singing in this harsh world of arts. Thankfully after years of hard work it was easier than it had been. She could still vividly picture the rundown places she had sung at before; where drunks would try to reach for her skirt from the edge of the tiny stages.
It hadn’t been long though before she managed to climb in the ladder of popularity. Now she sang in places where red satin chairs were common and the ladies and gentlemen came dressed in silk gowns and evening tuxedos. And still her life had hardships.
Painful nightmares plagued her every night. She constantly woke up drenched in sweat, terrified as she relived the beatings her father had given her every day of her childhood. Day after day her father had come home drunk and beat her till she retreated to bed, barely able to move. When an orchestra conductor had praised her voice after hearing her sing while she worked, Scarlet decided to move on that little bit of praise. Running from home she lived on the streets for months before finding someone to sponsor her natural ability to capture people with singing. Still she struggled.
Her manager was not honest and kept most of her earnings for himself. Instead of leaving him, Scarlet continued to sing under his command, afraid that another manager would not be easily found. Every little bit of money that managed to get through to her, she put away. For what would happen when her voice finally gave out and she was once again on her own? Marriage wasn’t an option she considered unless he was the perfect gentlemen. But what gentlemen would want to marry a street singer with her kind of past?
Every day she hoped and prayed for a better life to come her way. She would not be able to sing forever, so what would she do after?
Scarlet drifted into the second half of the song with ease; her voice reaching to the very back of the crowd. As she sang, preparing for the grand finale, Scarlet’s eyes caught a bit of movement off to the side. Without making it noticeable, she looked up into one of the elaborate boxes whose seats were bought out by the very wealthy. A beautiful young woman sat in it with an attractive man holding her hand in his. A splendidly dressed, elderly couple sat slightly to the side of them; all of them watching Scarlet sing with smiles on their faces. In one glance Scarlet took it all in then turned her eyes back to the young woman. She was rosy cheeked with good health and dressed with the obvious signs of a well to do family. Guessing the man to be her husband or fiancé, Scarlet couldn’t help but envy their simple hand holding. After locking eyes with the young woman for a few fleeting seconds, Scarlet then turned away, not wishing to impose.
As she faced the crowd, singing only to please them and survive, she wondered about the young woman’s life. There she sat with almost anything at her fingertips, her life safely planned for her, never having to fear the streets; she would always be well provided for. A man would be at her side for the rest of her life, to be there for her so that she would never have to know pain or the harsh side of the world. Nothing would cause a blemish in her life; it wasn’t allowed. She would live happily with a man she loved, raising children in a safe home, living each day as contentedly as the last.
Struggling to keep the lump from her throat, Scarlet finished the song on a lingering high note, causing the crowd to rise to their feet applauding loudly. Dipping her head in appreciation amid tossed roses, Scarlet could only think about the young woman. As she turned to bow in the direction of the boxes, Scarlet risked one more look. The young woman had her head turned towards the elderly lady and her perfectly shaped lips were parted in a laugh as she clapped with the rest of the crowd. While Scarlet burned the image of the four, happy people into her memory she, for a split moment, wished she could switch places. A painful moment consumed her and she wished with all her aching heart that the two young ladies could swap their lives.
But why would she, who had everything, want to swap with her?