The room smells of dust and the water dripping from my roof. The small window beside me looks out onto a side alley; dim afternoon light seeps into the room. Carriages, filled with women adorned in feathered hats and frosted with expensive jewelry, pass by. The passengers chatter, gossiping about their maids and discussing the large wardrobes they have to choose from. I survey my own room, imagining it as theirs must look.
My bed rests on the wood floorboards, draped in cotton and wool. The rug, an “extravagant” addition, is the dirt dragged in from the alley outside. The dress I wear is hand-stitched by the best dressmaker – my own hand, patching up an old frock. I stare at my reflection in my small mirror, admiring the crevices along my face. I dab my face with powder to shield it from the harsh sun, because men like pale women.
The water keeps dripping as I comb through the corn-colored knots in my hair. The carriage women’s extravagant wigs are nothing compared to the knots making my hair stand tall.
I picture myself on the way to an exclusive party, like them. Water continues to drip into the bucket in the corner. It increases in speed as the rain intensifies and the afternoon light drains to twilight. The sky clouds over and weeps, grieving as the day is replaced by darkness.
My reflection dims in tandem with the fading daylight. Streetlamps hiss on, falsely illuminating my small world. Donning the rest of my makeup and clothes, I leave my room and stand under the shelter of the door’s awning, watching the torrent of rain. I smooth my dress, nodding to the men and women passing by. Women like me stroll along the street, holding parasols of newspapers.
I wish I could follow them to the ball, avoiding the gutters expelling torrents of water. I imagine myself in the glowing ballroom, attracting everyone’s gaze. A man would approach and ask me to dance; we would waltz past windows blurred with rain. We would twirl, staying close together, dancing under chandeliers and warmed by the fireplaces.
As another streetlamp clicks on, my eyes focus once more on the room behind me. There is no ballroom, no chandeliers, no romance or dancing. There is only the cold mattress, the money on my dresser, and the half-full bucket in the corner. Standing by the window, I can almost hear the strains of violins and the tapping heels as women and men waltz through a grand, chandelier-lit ballroom.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.