(Florensa enters the stage, holding a letter. Her brows are furrowed, indicating a sense of confusion mixed with a hint of despair. )
Miss Simons enters the stage, walking with a rush.
Miss Simons: Oh, honey! Here you are! I’ve been looking everywhere for you and we need to hurry! Mr.Williams is coming over in an hour and oh! Look at you, you are not even properly dressed yet! Get into your room right now and take a bath, quickly! (Florensa hides the letter and tries to walk away) Wait! What is that in your hands? Give it to me. (Florensa unwillingly hands the letter over). “Dear Ms. Moretti, I’m nervous to inform you of the delay of my departure because I’m uncertain of your feelings toward it. However, I could not control myself but imagine that this piece of new information will bring you possible joy, and in return bring me joy as well…. So, if it is not against your will, may we spend today’s afternoon together? Yours truly, Mr. Santora.” What a pleasant surprise! Honey, why did you never tell me that Mr.Santora is absolutely in love with you? Oh god, if only I knew this earlier! I would’ve never invited Mr.Williams to the house! What a waste of time, and now I have to deal with his annoying sister for no reason! Now, do tell me, and by do tell me, I mean that there is no other possibility, that you are going to spend this afternoon with Mr.Santora, right?
Florensea: I’m still considering…
Miss Simons: Considering? For what sake? Well, he may come off as broing and uneducated, but would you rather marry someone who is intelligent but financially unable to support you? I mean, he’s got a mansion that is framed by the best garden of Westville. The pictures on his wall are all framed by precious stones engraved in expensive wood. What were they called again? I’m really getting old. Anyway, that house can probably fit 200 people in there! Don’t you like parties? If you ever become Mrs.Santora, you can throw just about the best party anybody has ever seen in Westville! I mean, look at Lydia Westoff’s party last weekend, they didn’t even have everyone play bridge at night because half of them were too broke to even lose a few pounds on that table. Now, it’s going to be totally different when you do it, Florsensa, you are going to do it right. However, that has to be based on your relationship with Mr.Santora.
Florensa: But auntie, I really didn’t feel like going out this afternoon. I was quite sick from yesterday’s dinner and I just wanted to spend a quiet afternoon in the garden all by myself.
Miss Simons: Oh, that makes everything even better! Men love it when women are vulnerable. Since Mr.Santora is already so madly in love with you, I’m sure he will just love you more dearly for your sickness. Sickness can wait, marriage can’t!
Miss Simons: Now, do take a bathe and don’t worry about Mr.Williams, I will deal with him, and his annoying sister. Since you are sick anyway, just rest until it reaches to the time to get ready for Mr.Santora’s invitation. (exits)
(Florensa walks to the dinner table, sits down and continues eating her waffles silently)
Act I Scene 2
(Maid opens door,a tall, young men and a older women enters the house. Mrs.Simons is already seated on the couch, holding a book)
Mrs.Simons: Oh, isn’t this just a picture! You two cannot imagine the joy it brings to have you in this house! Now, hurry, do sit down and make yourselves at home for as soon as possible. Tea will be ready in 5 minutes.
Mr.Williams: It is surely one of my most honorable titles to be the guest of this house. It does have the reputation of having one of the most beautiful rose garden in Westville.
Mrs.Simons: Oh, Mr. Williams, I cannot take all of the compliments for myself, since my gardener Mr.Tinius do deserve some of the praise that I get for my rose garden daily.
Mrs.Williams: Isn’t that a shame then that I hear he also works for the house of Santora? If I ever have the luck to find such a skillful gardener that actually knows how to grow flowers in my house, I certainly would not let him to work for anyone else, no matter how high the price.
Mrs.Simons: Oh yes, Mr.Tinius does work for the Santoras as well, but I just let him since we are so close with the Santoras and it really isn’t a big deal as longa as Tinius is still taking care of my rose garden with all of his heart, as I believe any professional gardener should do.
Mrs. Williams: Yes, that does carry some truths.
Mr.Williams: How is Florensa? Is she out today?
Mrs.Simons: Oh no, unfortunately, I wish she was out since she is stuck in the house all the time and not getting any fresh air except for the time that she is in the rose garden. I always warn her that her health will deteriorate faster if she never goes out, but she will just never listen. She listens to me on all of the other subjects just like the good girl she is, but on going out, she is always too timid to ask for anyone’s companionship. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to say, she cannot come downstairs today because she is sick, not dangerous, but just bad enough for her to stay in bed and maybe read if she has the mind for it.
Mrs.Williams: Oh, what a shame. I was looking forward to meeting her and having some real conversations today, since I’ve heard so much about her beauty from my brother’s mouth. Now, I do understand fully that you can never trust the words that comes out of a man’s mouth when he’s in love, but I do want to see this lady that has entranced my darling brother.
Mr.Williams: Please, sister, do not use such definite words. Mrs.Simons, I do admire Florensa’s beauty and innocence, but I would not so easily define myself as in love. Either way, I wish her well soon and am looking forward to spending some time with her in the future.
Mrs.Simons: Yes, of course, men always guard their hearts better than women do.
Miss Williams: Now, if you don’t’ mind, we would greatly appreciate some tea and biscuits before lunch.
Mrs.Simons: Oh, yes! How could I forget that! I apologize and in no means am forcing you to accept my apology. Joseph, will you bring out the tea and biscuits now for our amazing guest?
Joseph : Yes, madam.
Act I Scene 3
(In Florensa’s bedroom, she lays on her bed with a tired expression. Nora knocks on the door. Florensa gets down form her bed and opens the door. The two girls sit down on the chairs across from each other.)
Nora: Florensa, is there anything I can do for you?
Florensa: I appreciate your kindness from the bottom of my heart, but there is really nothing I need of this moment.
Nora: Are you sure? You don’t look so well. I would really suggest you to put off Mr.Santora’s invitation this afternoon and just stay in bed.
Florensa: You heard my conversation with auntie? (Nora appears to be scared) Oh, don’t feel bad. It is not a big deal. I was considering asking Mr.Santora if he wants to spend some time next week, but Auntie seems really insistent on this subject of matter, and I don’t want to discontent her in the least bit. After all, she is doing all of this for me.
Nora: But Florensa, this could very well harm your health.
Florensa: Yes, but I don’t really have a choice now have I? I’ve been living in this house for too long. Does it even occur to you that the longer you stay in a place the more you feel like a guest? Now don’t misunderstand me, Auntie does love me and I can feel her love, but this is not my home, and every moment I spend here is merely adding on to the mountain of debt that I will never be able to repay her. (silence) Oh, Nora, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for it to sound like some sort of selfish ranting. I’m simply stating that I respect Auntie’s decisions. Please don’t be alerted.
Nora: No, Florensa, I’m not alerted, I’m just frustrated that you don’t feel like a hostess of this house even though you have lived in here for 10 years. You’ve been here since you were 7 and I still remember the first day you came here. I may detest Mother for all she is, a mean and demonstrative woman that shall never have my respect. However, her love for you is true and I can feel it. I’m her daughter after all.
Florensa: Yes, I understand. She has transferred the love for my mother onto me and I can’t be more thankful for that. She has done so much for me that I never deserved. Everyone in this house has done so much for me, and I have never done anything that makes me worthy of all these people. Now, I’m finally 17, and there is something I can do for Auntie. If I marry Mr.Santora, he will make sure that Auntie will never have to worry about money again. There is no hiding it, Nora, the money from Uncle’s death is running out, I can see it from the decreasing number of fresh flowers delivered everyday, from the departure of Mr.Tinius, from the almost spoiled food that we occasionally have to consume. I’m not blaming it on myself entirely, but I was part of this family that spends money like we had an infinite amount of it.
Nora: Don’t think like that. You have been frugal with your spendings, only once or twice have you splurged on a trinket or a dress, and those were required for the balls in Westville. You have done nothing to cause us to be in this situation. If anyone is to blame, it should be my mother who knows no limits when she is hosting a party or paying the servants.
Florensa: Don’t talk bad about auntie, please. It really breaks my heart to see you two with such opposing and hateful attitudes.
Nora: Oh, I would not have been so hateful if she could just stop trying to manipulate everyone around her to her advantage. Look what she is doing to you! Florensa, you deserve so much more than Theodore Santora who has nothing but money. I mean, you have talked with him for an hour at the party last weekend, did he show any sign of intelligence, at all? All he talks about is his father and how rich his father was and how rich he is going to be! If you sacrifice you future happiness and do marry yourself to that boring and vexing man just for money, your mother would weep for you in heaven!
Florensa: (weeps) Oh, Nora, don’t mention it, please….
Nora: Florensa, I wouldn’t want to if you would just make a decision for yourself once. It isn’t that hard. I’m sure Mother would listen to you if you express your true intentions to her.
Florensa: But what can I say? I don’t want to upset her, especially not in her current state. She has enough problems to deal with, and I don’t want to become another one of them.
Nora: You are not a problem. You are a girl who is in the best ages of her life and should enjoy every second of it with the person she truly loves! Do you love Mr.Santora, if the answer is no, then that should be your answer to his invitation.
Florensa: I envy you, Nora. I truly do. You have so much courage and faith in you to fight for your own happiness. But, me, I’m an add-on of this house. I have never learned how to be independent. All my life, I belonged to someone. I truly do wish you the greatest joy in life, which for you, is freedom, but for me, it is the happiness of my loved ones. My jubilance is almost weightless when compared to the future of this house. And do not weep for me so much, Nora, life is full of struggles and I have tasted every flavor of it. This is just another God-sent gift that comes in the form of punishment, and I will find ways to comfort myself in the house of Santora as I know that Auntie will have a better live as long as I’m in there.
Nora: Ugh! Florensa! Your speech depresses me. How can you say things like this? Aren’t you at least a little bit sad about the fact that you are marrying yourself off like a merchandise to some men who has absolutely nothing to offer but money?
Florensa: (silence) Nora, I’m tired, would you please come back later to dress me when the time comes for Mr.Santora’s invitation?
Nora: Florensa! (sighs) Sorry, but I cannot bear seeing the sight of you walking to your own tragic ending with so much pathetic willingness. Just tell the maid to do it. I will catch up with you later. (exits)
(Florensa gets up from the chair slowly. She coughs when she is up from the chair. She gets back on her bed. As she closes her eyes, tears stream down her face silently and fall on her pillow. The tear stain is soon dried.)