FOR BETTER OR WORSE
It was two days later. Rose was walking along the shelves of the Laverys’ general store, trying to find supplies for sewing, when she heard two women up near the counter, talking quietly to each other and taking quick looks in her direction. Furrowing her brow, she slipped up closer and listened.
"Are you telling me that that girl is a Dawson?" the older woman with chestnut hair and brown eyes hissed to her friend.
"Yep." Her companion nodded.
"But she doesn’t look like a Dawson. I mean, look at her red hair, and those green eyes. Everyone knows that the Dawsons have blonde hair and blue eyes. Plus, she doesn’t hold herself like a Dawson. She reminds me of a sophisticated society girl, her head up high, her posture straight. There’s no way. The Dawsons are not that classy, and have no manners."
Rose could have laughed out loud. These women obviously didn’t know Jack. Not even Cal had had as good a manners as Jack had. Sure, Jack didn’t sit up straight often. But he always put her first and treated her like a real lady, something Cal never had. He had treated her like a pet, or a possession.
"And you know how that Dawson girl carries herself. There’s no way the girl can be a Dawson," the woman continued.
"Maybe by marriage. Word has it that Vic’s been looking for a wife."
Rose grimaced at the thought. She would rather have married Cal. No, she was happy with the Dawson she had chosen.
"That young thing? Married to that uncouth…unwashed…Victor Dawson? Wash your mouth out."
Please, Rose thought to herself, rolling her eyes and shaking her head.
"Well, it’s possible."
"Rose?" Mrs. Lavery walked up behind Rose, who jumped, startled.
"Mrs. Lavery. Hello." Rose smiled. "I was just looking at some of your sewing supplies. I’m wanting to take up crocheting again. Keep myself occupied while Jack helps his uncles."
"Betsy!" One of the women waved. "We need you!"
"Come, Rose. Let me introduce you to some of the women in town. True, they’re twice your age, but they do have daughters your age." Betsy grabbed Rose’s hand and led her over to the counter. "Constance! Mildred! Hello!"
"Yes, how much is this material?" Mildred laid the fabric on the counter, eyeing Rose curiously.
"For you, twelve cents." Betsy scratched her chin, then looked at Rose, who fidgeted uncomfortably under the women’s gaze. "Ladies, I’d like to introduce you to Rose Dawson. She’s Jack’s wife."
"Oh, you two remember, don’t you? Before Butch and Victor Dawson came to town, their brother Hank and his wife Sarah lived there. They had a delightful son named Jack."
"Oh, yes, poor Hank and Sarah that perished in that awful fire. Wait a minute. They did have a son, didn’t they? Fifteen years old, if I remember. Poor dear was devastated and lit out of town like there was no tomorrow. That was when Butch, Vic, and that Lisa showed up. Glad I was that young Jack had left when he had." Mildred nodded.
"Yes. Well, this is Jack’s wife, Rose. They arrived in town a few days ago."
"What? You mean little Jackie is married? He can’t be more than twenty years old now, can he?"
"Rose, this is Mildred Simmons and Constance Lanstone. They were both close friends of Jack’s parents."
"It’s a pleasure to meet you." Rose nodded.
"The pleasure’s all ours, Rose. To think, Sarah’s son is back in town and married, to a pretty little lady by the looks of it." Mildred grinned. "Tell us, Rose, where is young Jack? The last time we saw him, he was as skinny as a rail."
Before Rose could answer, he entered the store, looking for his wife. His eyes lit up when he saw her. "There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you." Jack took Rose in his arms and swung her around, making her laugh.
"Jack, stop! Put me down!" Rose laughed.
"Why? You love it when I do that!"
"Jack Dawson?" Constance stepped closer to the young couple and eyed the boy curiously. She nodded with a wide grin. "Why, you’re the very image of Sarah. You’ve inherited her spirit, as well, I see."
"But of course he has Hank’s blonde hair and blue eyes." Mildred nodded. "Hank’s build, as well."
Jack began feeling a little uncomfortable. "Uh…do I know you, ladies?" he politely asked.
"Why, of course. We used to baby-sit you when your parents needed time to themselves." Mildred crossed her arms. "Why, Jack Dawson, don’t you remember your Aunt Millie and Aunt Connie? We used to take you out for ice cream whenever we could."
"And look at you. You grew up into a quite nice-looking young man. Sarah and Hank would have been so proud." Constance sighed. "God rest their souls."
Jack could only smile, still having no clue as to who the two ladies were.
Betsy laughed. "You two, that was so long ago. Of course he doesn’t remember. Jack, these were the two ladies who left that casserole at the house after the word of your parents’ deaths reached everyone."
"Oh! Now I remember. I’m sorry. It’s been a long time since I’ve even been in town. I’m kind of getting reacquainted," Jack apologized.
"And, of course, we’re getting acquainted with your pretty wife here. Just think, our little Jackie has gotten married. If only Hank and Sarah could have been here to meet her, too…they would have been so happy." Millie sighed.
"They would have adored your wife." Constance nodded in agreement.
"So, where are you two staying?" Mildred was curious. Surely Jack would want to keep his wife away from the rest of the Dawson clan.
"At the house. We’re staying there until we get a place of our own or enough money to head out for the horizon, whichever one comes first." Jack shrugged.
"Rose, how are you finding Chippewa Falls so far?" Constance turned to the young woman.
"Oh, it’s lovely. It’s so different from Philadelphia. I love it here." Rose leaned into Jack’s embrace, sighing happily.
"Well, we’re happy to have you, and if you need anything at all, just let us know. That’s both of you." Mildred nodded. "Come, Connie. We have to get back to prepare for the town picnic."
"Bye, ladies." Betsy waved. "Seeing you again brightened those women’s day, Jack."
"I didn’t know they cared." Jack laughed.
"Jack, a lot of people cared. You were just too full of your own grief to notice. Now, tell me, what can I help you and your beautiful wife with today?"
"Well…actually, I came for beer. They’re running out." Jack nervously cleared his throat. He wasn’t used to running errands for his uncles, and wasn’t sure he liked it.
"Those two drink way too much." Betsy shook her head in disapproval. "But that’s okay, just as long as they treat Rose with the proper respect."
"They know not to step out of line." Jack’s eyes were stern at this statement.
"Jack is very protective when it comes to my honor." Rose giggled, squeezing her husband’s hand.
"As well he should be." Betsy nodded.
"So, when is this year’s picnic?" Jack asked, changing the subject.
"Why, it’s this Saturday. You are planning to attend, aren’t you, Jack? It’ll be a great way to reintroduce yourself to the town and for Rose to meet other girls her age."
Jack shrugged. "I don’t know, Betsy. I guess it’ll all depend on whether my uncles need me around the house."
"Oh, Jack. Let’s go. Please. We have done nothing but stay in that house since we’ve arrived. It’d be fun to go to the picnic and perhaps get to learn what you were like as a boy. Plus make new friends…as you can probably tell, Lisa and I don’t have anything in common, and I think she’d rather I wasn’t around so much. Please, Jack. Please say we can go to the picnic," Rose begged. She was desperate to do something fun for a change. Fun was something she hadn’t had since the last night on the Titanic when Jack and Rose had dodged the stewards that had been searching the cargo hold after they had made love in the Renault.
"You won’t let up, will you?" Jack sighed, already knowing that he’d give in. He could never say no to Rose when she really wanted to do something.
"No." She grinned.
"Okay, fine. We’ll go to the picnic." Jack laughed. "I’ll get Lisa to make something for us to take."
"Hey, I can cook now." Rose pouted.
"But not good enough for a picnic, my dear." Jack laughed as Rose playfully punched his arm.
"It does my heart good to be around two young people in love." Betsy sighed, remembering her first year with Kyle. There was nothing more magical than the first year with the man she loved.
"We’d better get back. I’ll have to really work now since I’ll be taking Saturday off." Jack wrapped an arm around his wife.
"Bye, Betsy." Rose waved as Jack led her out of the store.
Betsy just smiled and shook her head. Jack and Rose were something special, all right. She was sure that they would have a full, happy, and long life together.