By the time Rosie woke up, it was nearly dusk in New York City. In the front room she found only Ireland, curled up in a corner of a comfortable chair. Wondering where her aunts might be, she knocked on Brigid’s bedroom door. Kate bade her enter. Once inside, Rosie saw Brigid was still in bed.
“Brigid, it’s almost six o’clock. Are you not going to do tonight’s show?” Rosie whispered, touching Brigid gently on the shoulder. Kate sat in a rocking chair embroidering some linen.
Brigid half-groaned and sat up slowly. “I think it’s best I stay in bed for the evening.” She coughed hoarsely into her sleeve. Brigid looked pale and weak, and not at all like her usually vibrant self.
“Have you sent for a doctor, Kate?” Rosie ignored the sinking feeling starting to rise in her stomach. Could Brigid have pneumonia?
“Yes, the doctor stopped in about an hour ago. Your aunt has a little cold, and she will be fine in a day or two,” said Kate. “But she won’t be singing tonight, that’s for certain.” Her tone was serious and Brigid looked disappointed she couldn’t perform. “Oh dear, I forgot to tell Jackson! Rosie, would you mind telling him we will need a replacement for tonight’s show?”
“I’ll go tell him right now.” Rosie fluffed Brigid’s pillow for her before leaving to find the manager of Grand Theater. Though Rosie felt bad for Brigid, she was relieved it was just a cold and not a more serious illness.
Rosie found Jackson atop a ladder on the stage, working with the curtain. The auditorium looked and sounded different in the daytime, devoid of a large and rowdy audience. As soon as he saw her, Jackson came down the ladder to greet her with a hearty handshake.
“Hello, Miss McMurray! To what do I owe this pleasant visit from a young Irish lass?” The burly Scotsman reminded Rosie of Santa Claus, for he had rosy cheeks and a large belly. He seemed in such good spirits, Rosie disliked being the bearer of bad news.
“Hello, Jackson,” said Rosie with a small curtsy. “I’ve been sent with the message that Brigid woke up this morning with a terrible cold. They’re very sorry, but The Sullivan Sisters won’t be able to perform tonight.”
His smile faded and he scratched the top of his head as he received the news. “Well, I’m very sorry Brigid is sick and will miss the show, but I’m sure I’ll find someone else to fill in.” Jackson was disappointed, but not angry. “I’d rather she take one night off than stay sick for a whole week; the audience will riot if she’s gone too long! So, do me a favor and take good care of your aunt. Make sure she gets better soon.”
“Yes, sir!” said Rosie, saluting the friendly manager as if he was a general. Within a few moments she was back with her aunts and relaying Jackson’s message.
“So who will go on in place of The Sullivan Sisters?” Rosie asked.
“It depends on who Jackson can find on such short notice,” said Kate. “Sometimes it’s Bubbles the Clown, or Marvin’s Dog Show, or The Tilly Twins’ Comedy Routine.”
“Are they any good?” Rosie asked skeptically.
“Of course not! Why do you think they’re the replacements?” Brigid croaked and sat up. All three of them began to laugh, but then Brigid started to cough again.
“Stop getting riled up, sister,” chastised Kate. “Get some rest.” Kate folded up her embroidery and tucked a soft pink blanket over Brigid’s shoulders. Brigid complied and nestled herself into her blankets. Kate and Rosie left Brigid to rest, closing her bedroom door behind them.
Kate began cooking dinner in the front room, and Rosie went to the washroom to prepare a bath. While the tub was filling, Rosie searched through dresser drawers and found some various bath pleasantries. She poured a rose-scented bath mixture into the tub, removed her clothes, and put her Chinese silk bathrobe on a nearby stool. Stepping in the water, her feet tingled from the heat. Once immersed, she could relax and not worry about her aunt’s sickness. Without intending on it to happen, her thoughts turned to Liam; her white knight in newsboy’s clothing. Now that she knew Alphonso and his friends for who they really were, it was amazing that someone would dare stand up to them.
Soon feeling refreshed, Rosie stepped out of the tub and put on the robe. She returned to her room and sat down at her dresser to fix her hair, ringlets were already forming around her head and down her back. Hearing a knock at her door, she turned and called out. “Come in!”
“Oh, Rosie, we’re in big trouble!” exclaimed Kate, walking in briskly, and speaking with urgency in her voice.
“What’s wrong, Kate? Is it Brigid? Oh, please tell me it’s not pneumonia!” Rosie’s thoughts flew to memories of her parents.
“No, it’s not Brigid. The problem is Jackson. He’s having a nervous breakdown because he can’t find a replacement for this evening. I feel partly to blame, so I thought maybe I should sing tonight, although trust me, even a sick Brigid would sound better!” Just then they could heard Brigid begin another coughing fit from the other room.
Rosie rushed to her aunt’s side. “We can’t ask Brigid to sing. I do not think that would be wise.”
Kate bit her lower lip and paused for a moment. Seconds later, her face brightened, as though she had suddenly thought of a great plan.
“Rosie, you can carry a tune, right?” Kate looked hopeful.
Rosie nodded her head in agreement. “Yes, why does that matter?” Rosie wondered what Kate was alluding to.
Kate shrugged her shoulders and led Rosie to sit at her dressing chair. “So, you would consider yourself a singer?” Kate nonchalantly took Rosie’s hair and twisted it up in a bun, studying her niece’s reflection in the mirror.
Rosie suddenly had a sneaking suspicion of her aunt’s plan. “I sing, but I’m certainly not a vaudevillian singer like Brigid.”
Kate put her hands on her hips and shifted her weight to one side, letting Rosie’s hair tumble down. “But you do sing, right?”
“Yes,” Rosie began, “I-”
“Perfect! I’ll go tell Jackson we have a stand-in for tonight. Get ready for your big performance!” Kate, clearly delighted, gave Rosie a quick embrace. Rosie stared at herself in the mirror, a little dumbstruck over the events that were so quickly transpiring.
Before Kate could leave the room, Rosie turned over her shoulder. “Kate, how do you know I’ll be any good? I mean, I used to sing all the time for my parents, but never for a large audience.”
Kate took a step towards her. “Call it an aunt’s intuition; you are like your mother in more ways than you know. Instead of seeing the audience you’re performing for, just imagine you’re singing for Hanorah and Connor. I promise that everything will be fine.” Kate’s reasoning had a soothing effect on Rosie’s nerves.
“Very well, I’ll do it!” Rosie agreed to the idea with enthusiasm and Kate gave her a happy smile in return. “Oh, Liam and his friends are coming tonight. Will you reserve a table for them?” Kate acknowledged her request with a nod, and then disappeared to find Jackson.
Was this really happening? Was she really going to sing in front of dozens of people? Her stomach churned with excitement. She shook out her almost-dry hair, and like wildfire, her red curls were springing to life and spiraling out in every direction. Rosie smoothed a foundation over her face that matched her skin tone, followed by a good amount of cream blush on the apples of her cheeks; she needed to look like a vaudeville performer in order to feel like one tonight!
Kate soon returned with a handful of other cosmetics and perfumes. With her aunt’s help, Rosie started to vocalize to warm up her voice, while Kate applied mascara to Rosie’s lashes. After a few moments, Kate stopped applying cosmetics, and just listened to Rosie sing.
“What is it, Kate?” asked Rosie. “Do I sound like a screeching owl?” Rosie let out a nervous laugh.
Kate placed a comforting hand on Rosie’s cheek. “No, my dear, you sound like a sweet sparrow. Hearing you sing reminds me of your mother; you sound just like her.” Rosie smiled at the nice compliment. After adding some eye shadow and a quick application of lipstick, Kate stood back and admired her niece. “You look beautiful, Rosie; like a real vaudeville performer!”
“I’m a little nervous, Kate,” admitted Rosie. She began dressing with a fresh set of undergarments.
“When it comes to performing, I’ve always been the most nervous of the Sullivans. However, I am completely calm about this situation. I know that you will be a wonderful performer, Rosie, it’s in your blood.” Kate hummed as she ran out of the room. Her aunt’s words comforted Rosie; if Kate had confidence in her, Rosie would have confidence in herself, too! When Kate returned, she was holding a deep-blue evening gown with black velvet trim.
“This will be a perfect premier costume.” Kate laid the gown on the bed and babbled on about how stunning Rosie would look.
“It’s lovely,” said Rosie, mystified by the sapphire blue gown. Although her parents designed dresses of the latest fashions, Rosie had never seen anything like this one. It had a showy quality only seen on the stage.
“It will look even lovelier when you try it on.” Kate handed her a pair of black elbow-length gloves. “You get dressed and I’ll go check on Brigid. Oh, and I’ll make sure Liam and his friends are here, too.”
“Don’t forget to get yourself ready, Kate!” exclaimed Rosie. “I need you up there because I definitely can’t play the piano!” They both laughed, and Kate bustled out of the room again.
Taking a few pins from a drawer and facing the mirror, Rosie twisted her hair up high off her neck, securing it back with a decorative black comb. She lightly shook her head, so that a few ringlets fell to surround her face. It was nice to have her hair off her neck, for ordinarily it reached to the middle of her back. Pleased with her hair and her makeup, Rosie slipped on the blue dress, which fit her perfectly. The dress had black ribbon straps and black velvet trim on the hem of the full skirt. Her shiny gloves matched the black faux roses sewn onto the strap near her left shoulder. Rosie knew the dress was short enough for her to wear her black kid boots without tripping over excess material while onstage.
She was about to run out the door, when she remembered something. Rosie opened the bottom drawer of her dresser to pull out the wooden music box her father had bought her. She turned the key in the lock and the lid sprung open, revealing a painted ballerina spinning gracefully on her toes to “My Wild Irish Rose.” Connor had even painted the ballerina with red hair to resemble Rosie who, as a little girl, used to practice spinning in the mirror. Putting the music box on her bed, Rosie carefully unwrapped a white linen handkerchief with her father’s initials, C.M., embroidered in green thread. The opened cloth revealed a black velvet choker with an intricately carved ivory cameo. It was her mother’s favorite piece of jewelry, which Connor had given her for their first anniversary. Connor claimed to have traveled to Italy to have a special artist carve Hanorah’s likeness into the cameo. Happy tears came to Rosie’s eyes as she clasped the hook. The necklace brought vibrancy to the ensemble and Rosie felt it added the perfect amount of vaudeville beauty to her appearance. Her father would have been happy that she was wearing it now.
Rosie then took a quick peek at Brigid, who was sound asleep. Making sure Ireland couldn’t sneak out, Rosie went out into the main hallway. It was time for the show!
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