The next morning, Liam took the day off of work to show Rosie more of the city. He didn’t tell her where they were going, only that they must travel by train to get there.
Rosie wore another Gibson Girl outfit that made her look fashionable and sporty; a white blouse with a ruffled front, and a bright red, cotton skirt. To her straw boater she added faux cherries she had found in a costume box in Kate’s closet. The whole outfit, combined with her white parasol trimmed in red ribbon and her small white handbag, made for a very summery look.
When Liam arrived at the theater, Rosie was impressed by his appearance. He wore the jacket from his double-breasted navy suit with a pair of white linen trousers. His straw boater rested at a rakish angle and his red tie happened to match the red in her skirt.
“Oh, Liam,” said Rosie, “You look absolutely dashing!” He slowly turned around to show her the entire ensemble, as if he was modeling the latest fashion. He must have spent a good deal of effort, and money, on the outfit.
“And you, Wild Irish Rosie,” said Liam, “look like a wonderful slice of All-American cherry pie.” He placed his hands around her and kissed the tip of her nose. Giggling at his silliness, she then jumped into his arms to kiss him with adoration, picking up her feet behind her. His kiss back was just as eager as hers. “And sweet as cherry pie, too!” After several more kisses, she finally leapt out of his grasp.
“Well, Mr. Cooper,” she said with seriousness, “what’s the big plan for today?”
“Another surprise for Miss McMurray,” he said, chin raised high and mystery in his voice. Liam took her hand and the two made their way toward the train station, laughing and joking along the way. Their first train took them into Brooklyn, where they hopped on a second train leaving from Greenwood. After an hour or so traveling, they finally arrived at their destination.
“Here we are, Rosie!” Liam jumped out of the train with a kick of his heels. With much presentation, like a circus ringleader, he pointed to the white sign hanging above them.
“Welcome to…” Rosie said, reading the sign, “Coney Island!” She had seen postcards of Coney Island, but had only dreamed of seeing it firsthand. She skipped forward with excitement. “Another wonderful surprise! Why are you so good to me, Liam?”
Liam ran up beside her. “Because you are the best girl in the world and should be treated like it.” Rosie squealed with delight as he picked her up and spun her around. Like kids at play, they ran all the way to the entrance of the famous Steeplechase Park.
The place was crowded with hundreds of people milling about; buying their twenty-five cent tickets, eating food, and standing in line for amusements. Nearly all the women carried fashionable parasols to shade them from the sun, and Rosie felt lucky she had brought hers. Liam paid their admission fee, and the two made their way to the main amusement area. Rosie was amazed by the tall architecture that created the feeling they were entering a racetrack. Coney Island was so different than the Lower East Side.
Rosie spun her parasol and gaily laughed when Liam slid down a children’s slide. He was so tall, he almost got stuck at the bottom, which made Rosie laugh even more. Liam paid an organ grinder to play a song, and a tiny monkey clapped his cymbals to the rhythm. A small audience soon gathered around them while Rosie began to dance with the monkey, who looked like he was doing an Irish jig. By the time they were through, Rosie and Liam’s sides hurt from laughing so hard.
After a quick lunch, Liam took Rosie on an elephant ride. She never imagined riding an elephant before, and doing so made her feel like a princess from an exotic land. The animal was so large, each step made Rosie and Liam rock from side to side in the giant saddle. Fearing she might be thrown off, she clung tightly to Liam’s back. This also gave her the opportunity to breathe in the smell of Liam’s soap, something that was rapidly becoming her most favorite scent.
Next, they stood in line for the premiere attraction, the Steeplechase race, a ride where wooden horses raced down a metal track to a finish line. Liam explained to her how it worked; he was fascinated by the idea that gravity propelled the horses down the track, up and down hills, and across faux streams.
When it was their turn to ride, Liam helped her sit side-saddle on her horse, and then he hopped up on the one next to her. The attendants, dressed like jockeys, explained how the ride worked, and made sure everyone was secure on their horses. A bugler blew his horn, and the horses were launched down the track. The ride was exciting; the salt-water air blew in Rosie’s face and cooled her off from the sun. Liam kept glancing in her direction, his laughter loud over the roar of the track that curved and dipped around the exterior of the park. The ride was exhilarating, and Rosie was incredibly happy to be sharing this experience with Liam, whose excitement made it look like he was a young boy riding a real horse.
After a few joyous moments, the ride ended when the horses slid into the finish line. A heavy-set man next to Liam was the winner, but Rosie didn’t mind at all. She felt like a winner spending this incredible day with Liam! Suddenly, the live music from a ballroom drifted over to the finish line, and Rosie recognized the song immediately.
Liam’s mouth widened in disbelief when he heard “Wild Irish Rose” play in the distance. “This is serendipitous!” he shouted over the music. “I may have bribed the German musicians, but I certainly did not ask Steeplechase Park to play your favorite song!” With a laugh, he gallantly lifted her off her horse. She gave him a sweet kiss of gratitude.
It was a perfect day, and she couldn’t have asked for a better man than Liam. In some ways, he reminded her of her father; caring, generous, hard-working, and always there when she needed him. Rosie knew in her heart that her parents would have liked Liam as much as she did.
Rosie and Liam made their way to an ice cream stand before heading to the tallest attraction, the Ferris wheel. It was an adventurous new contraption that Liam was especially excited to experience. The line was long, and they had finished their cool treats before getting on. Finally, they packed into a car that would take them high above the park, a car that fit sixteen other passengers. The view at the peak of the gigantic wheel was simply gorgeous; the sun had nearly set and hundreds of incandescent lights now illuminated the park. The wheel stopped at the top while more riders got on, and as they waited, Liam told her about the giant contraption.
“Did you know that the first Ferris wheel appeared only a few years ago at the World’s Columbian Exposition? It was created by Mr. George W. Ferris. George C. Tilyou, who built this park, enjoyed it so much that he bought a smaller version to install here.” Because the car was crowded, they were squeezed in as close as they could to each other, Liam’s right arm holding a bar above their heads.
“I remember seeing the Ferris wheel at the fair in Chicago,” said Rosie, “but I never got to ride on it. I’m happy to be on this brilliant invention today.”
“And many thanks to a brilliant inventor,” added Liam, “for creating this cozy little cab we’re sharing.” Liam was so charming, Rosie just couldn’t resist reaching out and pulling him close for a long kiss.
“Maybe we’ll get stuck up here,” she whispered, with a mischievous and hopeful glint in her eye. Suddenly, a loud noise broke them apart. Fireworks were going off at the edge of the island, and they had the best seats in the house! Unable to speak due to the sheer volume of the fireworks, the two simply held hands and stared at the sky as it lit up in blues, yellows, reds, and greens. The explosions resonated in Rosie’s chest.
She looked at Liam, watching the lights from the fireworks dance in his eyes. She studied his chiseled jawbone, well-defined eyebrows, freckled light skin, and long eyelashes. Not only was Liam very handsome, but he was everything she desired in a friend, too. Liam was trustworthy, considerate, and never failed to make her laugh. She wanted to tell him all this. More importantly, she wanted to tell him that she loved him, but something made her decide to wait. Rosie was satisfied in knowing she loved him, but she wanted to be absolutely sure he felt the same way about her.
The giant wheel began its orbit again and Liam gave her a wide smile. Rosie smiled too; Liam had no idea that her heart was orbiting in her chest out of pure happiness and love!
Rosie fell asleep on the ride home, making it a much quicker ride back than it was to get to Coney Island. Liam walked her home by the light of the moon. They were happy and content, whether looking up at the stars or staring into each other’s eyes.
“Goodnight, Rosie,” said Liam at the backstage stairs. “Today was a lot of fun and I hope I can take you there again.”
Rosie smiled sweetly. “I had fun, too. Thanks for taking me. I will never forget your happy face on the Steeplechase ride.” Rosie suddenly remembered why she had brought her handbag with her on their daytrip. “I almost forgot! There’s something I want to show you.” She pulled out her beloved leather journal from her handbag. Liam looked at her with curiosity. “I did this last night after you walked me home,” she explained, and flipped to a page that had once remained blank for a long time.
Now the page had a drawing of a curly-haired girl in a flowered-print dress, a wide sash around her waist. She was standing on a city rooftop, the wind softly blowing her hair and the puffed sleeves of the dress.
Liam smiled broadly when he recognized what it was. “This is you from last night. You still have that same smile on your face.” His hand lightly settled on her cheek.
“You’ve given me a lot of things to smile about,” Rosie honestly told him.
“You’re an excellent artist, Rosie, and I’m so happy you’ve started drawing again. Thank you for showing me this, I love your work.”
“Thank you, Liam,” she said, burying her face in his chest as he hugged his arms around her. He said “love!” He didn’t say he loved her, per se, but he used the word “love” in a sentence! Rosie’s heart spun wildly in her chest.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” he asked, holding her tighter. His jacket muffled her affirmative answer. “I can’t hear you, but I’ll assume you said yes, Wild Irish Rosie,” laughed Liam. He released her and gave her a zealous kiss that nearly knocked her off her feet.
“Goodnight then, Liam,” said Rosie, blowing him a kiss as she skipped up the backstage steps.
She was almost through the door when Liam called out. “You make me very happy, Rosie, I… just wanted to tell you that.” He smiled, tipped his hat and turned in farewell. Rosie shut the door behind her, and started dancing a little jig of joy. She made him happy! And of course, he made her happy, too. Rosie couldn’t believe her good fortune, having fallen in love her first week in New York City!
She soon knocked on Brigid’s bedroom door, but no one answered. There was also no answer from Kate’s bedroom. Only Ireland was in the apartment, purring as he rubbed up against Rosie’s legs. Leaving her journal in the kitchen, she next knocked on the door down the hall that led to Jackson’s apartment, thinking her aunts were visiting, but no one was there, either. Finally, she made her way up front to the lobby. When she opened the auditorium doors she could hear a quiet conversation. At a far table she saw Brigid, Kate, Jackson, and another man she didn’t recognize.
“Rosie, come join us!” Kate stood up and motioned for Rosie to hurry over.
Brigid smiled proudly when Rosie got to the table. “Rosie, we’d like you to meet Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt II.”
Rosie turned to the stranger at the table. He appeared to be in his mid fifties with neatly combed, jet-black hair. He wore a long, black, double-breasted overcoat, and a shiny top hat sat on the table beside him. He stood politely and he held out his hand for Rosie.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Vanderbilt.” Rosie was awestruck by his handsome suit and distinguished air. She took a seat between Brigid and the very rich gentleman, who Rosie knew all about from reading the society pages in the newspaper. He owned just about every railroad in America.
“I’m in New York City for business, and I happened upon this establishment yesterday. I very much enjoyed your wonderful performance, Miss Rosie,” said Mr. Vanderbilt, in a polite and professional tone. “I’ve also heard great things about your upstanding character.” He nodded with authority, the chandeliers reflecting brightly in his monocle.
“Wait until you hear Mr. Vanderbilt’s business proposition, Rosie!” exclaimed Brigid, bursting with excitement, and apparently quite happy about something. Kate, always the more sensible and lady-like of the two sisters, politely patted her sister’s hand to remind her they were in the company of a very important individual.
“Thank you for your compliments, Mr. Vanderbilt, but what proposition is my aunt speaking about?” inquired Rosie.
“Well, darling,” said Kate, now placing her hand on top of Rosie’s, “Mr. Vanderbilt, after seeing our performance last night, thinks we have a very promising act.”
“And so,” ventured Mr. Vanderbilt, “I am making an offer for you and your aunts to come to my home in Rhode Island for the summer. Three months of performances for my guests, and a chance to vacate the city for a while.” Mr. Vanderbilt’s hands rested coolly on the table.
“Oh my, what fantastic news!” exclaimed Rosie in shock. Everyone in America knew that the Vanderbilt’s “summer home” was, in fact, a gigantic mansion in Newport. Built on the cliffs along the ocean, it could rival the beauty of any castle in Ireland.
“So, would you agree to the proposal, Miss Rosie? It would please me very much if you would accept.” Mr. Vanderbilt had a deep and dignified voice, and although he had a very business-like manner, he seemed friendly and kind.
“Well, if both of my aunts will agree to the arrangement, of course I will accept!” returned Rosie.
“Wonderful!” Brigid almost sang with happiness. “I’ve always wanted to see the coast of Rhode Island!”
“To be fair,” Kate said, noticing the silence of a usually very talkative Jackson, “I think we should hear what Mr. Grand has to say about this deal. After all, the Sullivans are under contract with Grand Theater.” Mr. Vanderbilt and the ladies turned to look at Jackson, who was using a handkerchief to wipe perspiration off his furrowed brow. The empty theater was deathly quiet while they waited for him to speak.
After a moment, Jackson crossed his arms and sat back into his chair. “The Sullivan Girls are my biggest attraction here at the theater. With them being absent for three months, I’m afraid I will lose more customers than I can afford. It is a risk to release them from their current contract, so I am completely against this business proposition.” His stern disapproval dampened the electric excitement in the air. Kate and Brigid exchanged quick, worried glances.
Rosie was the first to speak up. “Oh please, Jackson, being a guest of the Vanderbilts is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”
“And imagine the billing you can write up when we return: ‘Back From a Sold-Out Engagement in Newport; The Sullivan Girls!’ This can only increase our popularity ten-fold, and bring larger audiences to the theater in the future.” Brigid made a valid point, and Kate looked pleased at her sister’s reasoning.
Mr. Vanderbilt opened his coat jacket, and removed his billfold. “Like all business transactions, Mr. Grand, I promise to pay you handsomely, in order to find replacements. I will also compensate you for what money you would have made during the three months of their performances. This is the amount I am prepared to offer you.” Mr. Vanderbilt removed a piece of paper from his wallet and slid it across the table to Jackson. Knowing how popular The Sullivan Girls were in the vaudeville world, Rosie knew the amount would be a considerable sum of money. That, coupled with the ample advertising this opportunity would provide Jackson in the future, would certainly be an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
Jackson studied the paper intently. Without a word, he removed a pencil from his coat pocket and made a marking on the same paper. He slid it back across the table to Mr. Vanderbilt. “I believe that this number would be more suitable, Mr. Vanderbilt.”
Mr. Vanderbilt nodded when he saw the revision to the compensation. “If this is the amount you require, Mr. Grand, I will have my lawyer draw up papers first thing in the morning. Does this mean you accept the proposal?”
Jackson was still quiet and red-faced, his mind going over every detail that could affect this business deal. His face was unreadable, and Rosie could not tell whether or not he would grant them leave from their performing contract. A few, painfully slow, moments passed.
“I must admit that I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the act, and it could really boost it’s popularity in the public-eye. This deal can only benefit Grand Theater in a positive way. Also, the compensation offered is an acceptable amount, enough to pay for any losses that I might incur in the next three months.” Jackson was deliberately slow, laying out the facts for all parties involved.
Kate shifted in her seat, leaning in towards Jackson. “Does that mean that you will accept Mr. Vanderbilt’s generous offer, and allow The Sullivan Girls to leave their contract for three months?” She sounded like she might already know the answer, but Kate was making sure his decision was perfectly clear.
“Yes. Speaking on behalf of Grand Theater, I will allow The Sullivan Girls a three month hiatus from their contract.” Jackson finally uncrossed his arms, and Rosie and her aunts breathed a happy sigh of relief.
“Then we have a deal,” said Mr. Vanderbilt, very pleased. “I will send a carriage tomorrow morning to take you to the eleven o’clock train.” Mr. Vanderbilt rose grandiosely and shook Jackson’s hand. He then formally kissed each of ladies’ hands, almost sending Brigid into a swoon.
“Thank you, Mr. Vanderbilt!” cried Brigid, jumping out of her seat to wave him goodbye. “We so look forward to being your guests!”
Jackson escorted the man from the auditorium, and Rosie clapped her hands in delight. An entire summer on the coast! Her excitement stopped abruptly. The three months she would spend in Rhode Island would mean three months without Liam. Her face looked grim as she bit her lower lip.
“What’s the matter, Rosie?” asked Kate, coming round the table to put her hands on Rosie’s shoulders.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” uttered Rosie, “but I’m really enjoying getting to know Liam. Now I will be gone for a long period of time.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll understand,” said Brigid, running to her niece and giving her a fierce hug. “He’ll know it is an opportunity you just have to accept.”
“And besides,” Kate added, “if you really want to be together, distance won’t change how the two of you feel about each other. Three months will fly by, and we’ll be home in no time at all.” Kate spoke with certainness.
“And you can always write him,” said Brigid. “Love letters can make separations more bearable.”
“Yes, I know,” agreed Rosie. “But our romance- I mean, our friendship- has only just begun.” Rosie stopped talking because tears were starting to well up in her eyes.
“Friendships make the best romances,” Kate said knowingly.
“And friends would want you to take opportunities that come your way,” added Brigid. “Friends always want what is best for each other.” Rosie’s aunts were so wise and so caring, and what they were saying was completely true.
“Of course, you are right,” Rosie murmured. Composing herself, she then stated with conviction, “If Liam cares for me as much as I care for him, then no distance or time can change that! Now let’s get packing for our holiday in Newport!” The three then shouted hurrahs and raced off to their rooms, with hearts as light as feathers…almost.
A New Chapter
The Streets of New York
A Night at Grand Theater
Newsboy for a Day
A Smart and Stylish Girl
A Day at The Breakers
An Empty Heart
Life Imitating Art
All Questions, No Answers
An Evening to Remember