By Jessica B.

To Faith I. and Emma B., for seeing who I really am inside. 

Emma switched on the radio as she walked over to her armchair, her shoulders slumped and her mind at war with itself. She plunked down in the armchair that was next to the fireplace, though she never lit a fire. 

Rain lightly tapped at her windows and she could hear the footsteps of the family above roaming around.

She wondered occasionally what they were doing and who they were, but she never took the time to find out. She was much too busy, she told herself, though with what she never knew.

She barely had any housework to do, because she was naturally a very neat and clean person. She didn't have a partner to keep her company or children to look after. She was an old maid, she told herself, though she was only 23.

She'd be turning 24 in September. Only a month away and she didn't have the money to buy the coat she wanted. It wasn't anything too fancy like mink. She was a practical woman who only had practical things, mostly. The china cup set wasn't practical, but it was her grandmother's and it looked nice for her visitors, though she could only recall her mother coming over once before her death.

Mark would sometimes come see her, but they were friends and that was to be expected. He was a nice young man of 25 with dark hair and a fair complexion. He was quite handsome, Emma thought to herself sometimes, though his nose was crooked and he had a slight limp from a fall from an automobile. She wondered to herself, when she was alone mind you, why she didn't marry him.

He hadn't proposed to her, but it seemed in her mind that two young attractive people should get married and have attractive children together. That wasn't the way life worked, she'd correct herself. You had to fall in love to get married. Of course, there were arranged marriages, but she'd seen first hand with her parents how that had worked out. They would fight over the most insignificant things like a bit of lint on a shirt collar.

She shook herself from these thoughts and began to listen to the radio. It was a lovely song that was playing. With violin and piano. Just like the ones she'd learned to play when she was a little girl. It seemed so long ago that she'd sit down at Mrs. McKlayme's piano and play for the elderly music teacher, and sometimes her mother too. She remembered her mother wiping tears from her eyes with a silk handkerchief when Emma reached the end of a song. It made her smile slightly.

She closed her eyes and relaxed into the soft lull of the sweet melody. She could see the story of it in her mind, just like she could when she was only 11 while Mrs. McKlayme played. It was springtime and the little flowers were just waking up, stretching towards the sun's warmth after a winter's peaceful sleep. The animals frolicking amongst the tulips and lilies and bluebells, rejoicing that it was again warm and sunny. Emma could almost smell the sweet fresh blossoms and it made her smile. She could imagine herself dancing through the blooms with the deer and foxes and little fat-cheeked chipmunks. She felt like she hadn't felt for a long time, young and free. The world was beautiful and bright and all hers to enjoy with her little animal friends. She wasn't in her second-story apartment's living room anymore, she was in a blanket of flowers with the cheery sun shining down lovingly on her. She wasn't poor Emma Wood anymore.  She was a beautiful goddess with a long, flowing white gown and a crown of pansies and lavender and lilac atop her neatly combed golden locks. Her fair skin was perfectly clear without the blemishes that it normally had. Her gold-rimmed spectacles were gone, for her deep blue eyes could see perfectly now.

Beep! Beep! Beep! She opened her eyes and glanced about the scantily-furnished room for the source of the noise that had taken her from her perfect paradise. Then she remembered - the timer for the roast that she was cooking for dinner.

She sprang up and rushed into the kitchenette. She grabbed the kitchen cloth and pulled the oven open swiftly. It wasn't burned. She laughed a little with relief and a strange joy. She took it from the oven, placing it on the counter and smiled to herself. She pushed her glasses up her nose and began to hum the beautiful melody from the radio. It didn't matter that she wasn't married and didn't have children. Maybe she wasn't the prettiest girl in the world and maybe she wasn't too well off, but she was happy. She was a goddess. Not on the outside. But on the inside, where it really matters. 

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