"Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up."
~James Arthur Baldwin
February 1941: The Bataan Peninsula
He took a breath, and his head spun. The second breath caused spots to appear before his eyes. The third—a tidal wave of crushing nausea washed over him. He turned his head and heaved, rippling pain coursing through his body.
“No sudden movements, Corporal.”
It was the voice of an angel, so soft and sweet; the last voice he heard before the drug-induced lullaby pulled him under. Now, with the haze of drugs wearing off, he heard her before he could see her as she moved about the room, the leather soles of her shoes squeaking on the cold, tile floor. The surgical lights played off the angel’s blonde curls, creating a halo. Her blue eyes looked into his own, a look of promise shining in them. Yet, he felt the movement of the bed, as if it were floating, drifting on one wave of sickness after another. He gulped down mouthfuls of air, trying to still the world that rocked around him. “I’m dying!” he gasped, pain exploding in his side.
“No you are not,” her dulcet voice whispered. He felt her warm fingers on his forehead, brushing away a lock of hair.
A fog of lemon verbena hung in the air. He remembered that smell. Was that the same fragrance his mother wore? Of course, it was. He could recall that lemony ghost following him through his childhood. Suddenly, he missed his mother. Soldiers do not miss their mothers. They were tough. They were strong. They were invincible.
Oh, who was he kidding? He would sooner curl up into the fetal position and cry. He needed his mother—now more than ever! However, he had the angel, Nurse Jessup, and she calmed him. Sensing his fear, she promised there was nothing to be afraid of. It’s a standard procedure, she explained before the surgery, child’s play.
He blinked a few times—the room a blur—and then her halo of curls appeared, hovering beside his bed. He licked his dry lips and drew in a deep breath. “I made it?” His voice was raw. The very sight of her seemed to anchor his world, and the room ceased to spin.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” Her pink lips parted, revealing a beautiful white smile. He tried not to look at her lips. The sight of them made his stomach flutter, and as sick as he was, fluttering—of any sort—was not acceptable. He bit his bottom lip, instead. When was the last time he kissed a girl?
She pressed her fingertips to his wrist to take his pulse while simultaneously bringing the cool metal of the stethoscope to his bare chest. That’s when he remembered why he was here, lying in the hospital bed. The memory of the excruciating pain in his side made him wince. “Is it…I mean, that thing…is it gone—out of me?”
“Your appendix?” A devilish gleam sparkled in her eyes. The sight made him smile, despite himself. She reached behind her and picked up a small, sealed jar. She held it before him. There was nothing inside but a sliver of pink tissue floating in a murky solution. “I thought you might be interested in taking a look at the little monster.”
“That’s it?” He could not believe something so small could cause so much pain. “I thought I would die!”
She chuckled. He liked the sound. “Want to keep it?” she asked.
“No, thank you. I could have lived a long and happy life without ever seeing…what did you say it was again?”
He swallowed back another urge to heave and moaned as a fresh wave of nausea snaked up his spine. “What does an appendix do, anyway?”
“That’s a mystery to everyone but God.” She put the jar back, the glass a hallow tink against the stainless steel table. “What about this?” She pulled an envelope from the front pocket of her surgical jacket. “Surely you want this back?”
Without waiting for a reply, she tucked the envelope beneath his hand. His cheeks reddened, a sheepish smile tugging at his lips. She must have thought him a fool for having her pen his last words to his beloved mother. He glanced again at his floating appendix, his cheeks growing even warmer. I’m such a coward, he told himself. He hoped he hadn’t cried—too hard, at least. Shifting on the sweaty sheets, he noticed the nurse’s eyes on him—eyes that looked as if they knew his thoughts. “No reason to be embarrassed,” she said softly, reassuring him. “First time surgeries can be harrowing.”
“I had my tonsils out when I was eight.” Tracing the edge of the envelope with his finger, he forced a feeble laugh. “But on the bright side, I guess I already have my letter written. If I catch shrapnel out on the battlefield, it will be ready for some corpsman to send home for me.” He slipped it beneath his pillow.
“Now that is just plain foolishness!” She chastised, jotting down notes in his charts. He could not help noticing how beautiful she was when she was angry. Her blue eyes brightened, and her nose scrunched up. She even chewed on the inside of her lip, gave her head an irritated shake, and pressed the pen a bit too hard on the paper.
But, wait a minute! I don’t want to make her angry! He searched his drugged-hazed mind for something to say that would make things right; there was nothing.
She flipped the pages shut and clipped the board back on the foot of his bed. Then she brought those incredible blue eyes to his, and he flinched, afraid, for some reason. There was a fierceness suddenly in this nurse. It took him by surprise.
“This is Paradise, remember?” She raised her chin a notch. He couldn’t speak. “And if the U.S. does enter the war, it will be in Europe. There is no reason to worry, Corporal. That letter is useless.” Then she softened again, and he was never more glad of it. She flashed him one last smile and pledged to check in on him before the end of the day. He watched as she picked up the jar and waved it in the air. “I’ll bring your little friend with me. I wouldn’t want him to torment you any longer.”
“Much appreciated,” he said as a gush of wind escaped his lips in relief. He smiled back, watching with amusement—and a tad bit trepidation—as her golden curls drifted out of sight.
If all the nurses in the Philippines are like her, thought the Corporal, this is going to be a paradise, indeed. But mind you, he would never again say anything that Nurse Jessup might deem ‘foolishness’. That woman was something else.
“Hey, Dalton, you off to see your girl?”
Captain Peter Dalton slammed the door of his locker shut and adjusted the collar of his khaki, Hawaiian print shirt. “Only if she’ll see me.”
Jonathan Rafe chuckled. “I certainly wouldn’t.”
“The feeling’s mutual.” He ran his fingers through his closed-cropped curls. “You going to the golf game?”
Rafe picked up a bouquet of flowers wrapped in green tissue paper and smirked. “You know I’m not much for golf. These for me?”
Peter snatched them out of Rafe’s hand. “Don’t take it personally, but you’re just not my type. Too chatty.”
Rafe laughed and slapped Peter on the back as the captain hurried out of the bachelor quarters reserved for the officers of the Twenty-Sixth Cavalry. He made his way down the sidewalk lining verdant lawns and trimmed juniper bushes. The fort was busy with life and movement—sailors and marines hurrying on foot or riding in olive-tinted jeeps. Peter halted for a fraction of a second, snapping to salute a superior officer before taking the hospital steps two at a time, clutching the lilies in his hands. Inside, the surgical ward bustled with young nurses and Navy corpsmen making their rounds up and down the corridors. Ceiling fans cooled the halls, and he paused, taking a deep breath. His heart was already picking up pace with anticipation. Try not to grin like a fool, he told himself, his eyes scanning the white nurse’s caps. He wanted to find the one that perched atop the prettiest blonde curls he had ever seen. He grinned all the more.
What was it about Nurse Jessup that captivated him? Was it those deep blue eyes set delicately in that heart-shaped face? He remembered looking into those eyes, wanting to reach out and brush the back of his hand down her cheek, and finger one of those golden curls. Oh, and that voice! Maybe what captivated him was her soft voice that whispered to him that night in his drunken stupor?
He cringed. I was such an idiot.
Remembering that night made him smile and kick himself all at the same time, his face growing hot with shame. It was against his better character to indulge the way the other men did, but when he sobered and discharged from the hospital, he searched out the soldier from the Thirty-First Division and thanked him for the black eye. The man only blinked—stunned—and numbly shook Peter’s hand. “No problem, man,” he mumbled. However, if not for that fight, Captain Dalton never would have met Pearl Jessup, whom he was pretty sure—no, he was down right certain—was the prettiest woman he’d ever met. But, boy, did he wish he’d met her another way! Peter must have looked like the backside of a donkey plastered and sprawled out in the emergency room; limbs akimbo, words slurred, one eye swollen shut, uniform rumpled, and shirt untucked. What did he even say to her that night?
He shook his head free from the thoughts. It’s probably best I don’t know, he told himself, pushing further down the hospital corridor. He had to find her…and heaven help her if he did. His smile was devious. He was going to snatch her right up off her feet and claim her lips with his own. How long had he been wondering what her lips would taste like?
Suddenly, a flash of red was in front of him as he collided into a tiny nymph of a woman. Her green eyes were wide, and her startled yelp bounced off the high ceilings. Peter felt his feet sliding out from underneath him, and he reached for her, trying to regain his balance. The effort was futile. A clash of stainless steel on polished marble drew the entire corridor’s attention as passerbys stopped to gape, open-mouthed. Small glass containers of mysterious fluid shattered; vials tumbled, rolls of gauze bounced, and Peter Dalton lay flat on his back…watching the beautiful mahogany ceiling fan swish over him.
He shifted to see Lieutenant Rose Anderson, the nurse with the fetching red finger wave curls—Pearl’s best friend—push herself up from the floor. One auburn curl hung limply over a green eye. “Rose!” He scrambled to his feet, slipping once or twice in the pools of liquid now scattered about like land mines. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you.”
Once to her feet, she smoothed down her skirt and stared with disgust at the yellow stain that wetted her hem. “You got room 104 all over me!”
His eyes bristled. “Room 104?”
“Yeah, that’s right—room 104’s urine, to be exact.”
Peter’s stomach turned. He glanced at the puddles and noticed for the first time that they were yellow. Rose only giggled. “I’m just kidding, you goose.” She reached down and snatched up an un-shattered jar. “Iodine solution.”
Peter shook his head and picked up his bouquet of flowers. Rose brightened. “Why Captain Dalton! Are we proposing today?”
Peter liked her voice—it was tough with a city-girl accent. “Is she in? Morning shift today, right?”
“You mean to tell me you plow into me, ruin my morning’s work, and then don’t ask me to marry you?” She teased.
Peter blushed. “I really am sorry about that.”
Rose cocked her head and smiled. Peter wasn’t sure if she was flirting with him or not, but the way she let those green eyes scan the length of him made him squirm—and she knew it. She winked. “Yeah, Pearl’s in, but she promised a poor corporal she’d be waiting for him after his appendectomy. He was scared, and you know how Pearl is. Maybe you can catch her for lunch this afternoon?”
All the excitement drained from Peter, and he slumped. He hadn’t seen Pearl all week and was desperate to see her charming smile. “Can’t,” he sighed. “I have a golf game with General Wainwright this afternoon, and I don’t want to miss it.” He handed Rose the flowers. “Make sure she gets these, okay?”
“Sure thing, Captain Dalton.” When he started to leave, she called after him, “Hey, Soldier! What about this mess?”
“Sorry, Miss Anderson,” he teased back, “but you know I’m not qualified. You’ll make sure she knows I was here, right?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. I think by now you’ve alerted that entire hospital that you were here.”
He ignored the sympathetic smile Rose gave him as he walked away. Was he that transparent? Could any poor joe tell he was heartsick over a cute little number with dimples? Did it matter that those dimples could melt the toughest of men with just one flash?
Peter sighed and raked a hand through his hair as he stomped down the hospital steps. Suddenly, the Pacific sun and tropical heat didn’t feel so much like a paradise. Instead, it irritated him and zapped the strength right out his body, much the same it had the first day he arrived from stateside. The unfamiliar climate always shocked the fresh men’s senses when they stepped off the gangplank. Some did not fair so well, needing to be shipped back home.
Peter failed to notice a pretty Filipino woman selling baskets full of oranges smile sweetly at him. Instead, he paused to check his watch. Just enough time to make it over to the green. His shoulders slumped. Come on, man, he berated himself. Get her out of your head. Thinking about Pearl Jessup was not going to help his golf game with the top brass. He tossed the woman a quarter and snagged an orange out of her basket.
Pearl made her way to the nurses’ station, slipping out of her surgical jacket and trying to ignore her stomach as it cried out from hunger. Rose was in the doorway, one hip leaning against the doorjamb, a simpering smile on her lips. “Hey, Sugar,” she said. “What’s in the jar?”
“It’s my lunch if I don’t get out of this hospital soon. What’s on your skirt?” She tossed the jarred appendix at Rose who held it between her fingers and thumb, wrinkling up her nose with disgust. “Room 104,” Rose answered, as if it made perfect sense.
Rose looked up when Pearl paused by the lunch table where a vase of tropical lilies fought to regain some composure after their dance with iodine. The white edges were tinged with yellow—much the same as Rose’s skirt. “A handsome captain came by to deliver flowers to a certain little blonde he’s after,” she explained.
“Captain Dalton was here?” Pearl’s heart skipped a beat. She struggled to control her lips that twitched to smile. Instead, she drew in a deep breath and held it for a long, stabilizing moment before slowly releasing it. She could not let her feelings for that man run rampant. He was no good; she was certain. “I don’t know how to get it through to him that I’m simply not interested.”
“Well you may not be, but he surely is.”
She stuffed her jacket in her locker. “I’ve never given him reason to believe he stands a chance.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “I don’t understand you, Pearl. He’s a perfectly good man. He’s handsome…and an officer to boot!”
“Whom I only met because of a drunken brawl.”
Rose placed her hands on her dainty waist and smiled with one side of her mouth. “They can’t all be perfect, you know.” Her tone was dry.
Pearl didn’t bother to argue with Rose. She and her friend were like night and day. Rose was from Chicago with a tough-girl attitude. Pearl was from no-where Indiana where only the hands of corn huskers were rough. Pearl imagined Rose could swear and drink with the toughest—biggest marines stationed in the Philippines. But she didn’t, of course. It wouldn’t be the ladylike thing to do. Yet, Rose Anderson was a lady, no matter how tenacious she was. Even still, there were times when Pearl caught a glimpse of something in Rose—vulnerability, perhaps. It was this glimpse beneath the surface that compelled Pearl to pray for her dear friend every day. She loved her as the dearest of friends should.
She watched Rose sashay up to the table and finger the edge of one of the lilies. Her fingernails were a stunning shade of deep red. Pearl glanced down at her own. They were unpainted and chipped. “Lieutenant Lewis invited me to be his date for a USO dance in a few weeks. If Captain Dalton was to invite you, would you accept?”
Pearl hesitated. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
With that answer, Rose seemed satisfied. “That’s all I need to know.” She flew into action, grabbed her purse from her locker, blew a kiss in Pearl’s direction and headed out. “Don’t wait up for me tonight. I have a date.”
“No, Captain Jacobs. He’s new. Just landed in Manila a few weeks ago.” Fire sparked in Rose’s baleful eyes. “Who better to show him around Paradise?”
Pearl started to say that all the men in Rose’s life were ‘new’, but her friend was already gone. Pearl shook her head and slipped into a chair, smiling—despite herself—at the tainted lilies. I wish I was more like Rose, she thought, twirling a curl around her index finger. Maybe I should have her paint my nails?
Rose Anderson was a captivating woman. She had a way of drawing in the other nurses with her unhibited ways and contagious laughter. She made each day at work a pleasure, as she was rarely in a sour state. Why, just this past Monday, Rose gathered all the morning shift ladies up at the end of the shift and informed them all that the first round of cocktails at Jimmy’s Coconut Hut was on her—the second was on the first man she’d wrap around her pinky within five minutes. They all laughed—and stammered in amazement when she followed through on the entire deal. But, it wasn’t just the other ladies that enjoyed Rose Anderson’s company. The men enjoyed Rose in spades—obviously. If a stranger were to come up to Pearl and ask her who the most popular woman was on the Islands, Pearl would say, hands down, it was Rose Anderson. The dainty, tough, fiery redhead was indeed the most liked and sought after woman in the Philippines.
Sought after by everyone except Captain Dalton, of course. He obviously would not give up on Pearl.
Pearl plucked out a single lily and smelled it, happy to discover the iodine had not harmed the fragrance. She smiled. How long had it been since he had come into her life? Only a few weeks? Was that all? It couldn’t be! And to think of how her mother would feel to know that Pearl first met the man when he was blind drunk!
With an abundance of beer and hard liquor flowing freely through the Philippines, the men spent their evenings in Old Army style, making one toast and salute after another. Apparently, Captain Dalton—chaste as he tried to convince her he was—also celebrated Old Army style—and was carried into the hospital Old Army style: Arms thrown across the shoulders of strapping marines and legs dragging limp behind him. “Don’t be too hard on him, Miss,” one of the marines said, flopping the captain onto the table. “He’s just a victim of one too many toasts made by important men for important men.”
The other marine chuckled. “Hey, Mozley, who was the last man we toasted?”
“Sergeant York, I think it was. Good chap that man.”
Pearl pinned the captain with her gaze; his jaw slack and mouth hanging opened. She was certain he’d be happy to know that he wasn’t drooling. “And how did he acquire the peri-orbital ecchymosis?” she asked his consorts.
The men gaped at Pearl. “I’m sorry?”
She bit the inside of her lip to contain a wave of giggles. Teasing poor gyrenes could be such fun. “The shiner. How did he get the shiner?”
“Oh that. Well, you know how it goes, Miss. A fight broke out. Dalton here, he held his own.” The marine elbowed his pal. “Remind me to ask this guy how he perfected such a smooth left hook. Did you see how it leveled that joe?”
Pearl studied the captain. “You say he ‘held his own’? I would certainly hope so! Look at the busted lip. He’s going to need—I’d say, eight stitches on his left brow. I’ll have to X-ray that hand. It looks terrible!” The men's smiles vanished, replaced with the most somber of masks.
When the captain sobered enough to notice Pearl hovering over him, a lopsided smile lighted his handsome face. He gave her the same line as every other grunt brought in from a bar fight. “If you think I look bad you should get a look at the other guy.” Only the way his eyes sparkled and his grin lifted at one corner, made Pearl’s heart flutter for some strange reason. She smiled back at him, shaking her head.
He kept coming back after that night. Only this time, he came soberly and injury free. He tried to explain he’d never drunk a drop of alcohol before and never would again. Pearl rolled her eyes. His mother would be so ashamed of him, he’d said, she’d raised him better. Again, Pearl rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say, Captain.”
He asked her to go to the movies with him; or to one of the many extravagant parties the officers and their families hosted in their homes. Each time, Pearl politely shook her head and turned him down. He didn’t seem to mind. He came back…
And Pearl was secretly glad he did.
There was something about the captain. He was handsome that was a fact. She was sure there wasn’t a better looking man back home in Clark County, Indiana. He was tall, dark, and handsome. Wasn’t that what little girls grew up dreaming about—the knight in shining armor that would come riding in on his sterling white horse? Pearl sighed. He was a cavalry man. He knew how to manage a horse. But, to beat the band, Peter Dalton was charming! A prince—or a knight—was simply nothing if not charming.
Pearl’s heart jogged with her memories. She help but to let her mind wander over the memories of the man. He stood more than a head taller than Pearl. She imagined her head would lay perfectly in the nook of his shoulder, tucked just beneath his chin. He possessed broad shoulders and a tappered waist. Well built. Strong. His jaw was perfectly square. His hair dark and wavy, with streaks the color of autumn wheat running through-out. She’d touched his hair the night she stitched him up. He was unconscious; oblivious. She had marveled at its softness, and the way the brief contact of her fingertips on the skin of his forehead had caused him to smile subconsciously. Deep dimples appeared at the corners of his mouth just before he relaxed with a sigh…
Pearl shook her head free from the memories, uncomfortable with the pace of her heartbeat. She put the lily back in the vase with a sigh. Wouldn’t it be funny if she found love in Paradise? She giggled, and went back to filling out paperwork. No use in thinking about that, Pearl. You hardly know the man.
Rose was happy that the nurses’ quarters were empty. She shut the door behind her and kicked off her shoes, unbuttoning the front of her uniform and stepping out of the sweaty seersucker dress. She shimmied out of her slip, letting the sticky silk slide down her shoulders and legs before kicking it away. Hopping from one foot to the other, she peeled one stocking from one leg before removing the next. It was hot—too hot for so many layers of clothes. Why did they need silk stockings and slips in the Philippines? Couldn’t they stitch men up and apply compresses without them? She certainly thought so. In fact, she thought she could do a swell enough job wearing her a swimming suit, and the men wouldn’t mind, either! She chuckled at the thought. Oh, how the dates would line up!
Wearing nothing but her underpants and a brassiere, she thumbed through her small collection of vinyl records and settled on Scatter-Brain by Frankie Masters. She turned the volume dial up as far as it would go, the music washing over her, practically drowning her. She preferred to listen to her music as loud as possible. This way she couldn’t hear herself think. After all, for Rose Anderson, thoughts were her number one enemy.
Moving from the record player in the center of the room, she made her way to her personal locker, busting at the hinges with dresses, shoes, stockings, slips, brassieres of all colors, four plain white nursing uniforms, nurse caps, and three teeny tiny bathing suits she’d bought at Pearl Harbor—her stop before landing in the Philippines. It was the midnight blue dress with a white Dahlia print that she pulled out, kicking the locker door closed behind her.
Rose readied for her date with a vigilant eye to detail. She made sure that her dress fitted her every curve as if a second skin—no crinkle or hitch in the cotton fabric. Dipping her hands in hair putty, she shaped her cropped red hair into finger waves, polishing them until the light of a nearby lamp caused the waves to look like spun copper. She applied foundation to her china doll complexion, just barely covering up the splattering of freckles across her round cheeks—freckles that she hated. She lined her eyes with a jet black liner and layers of mascara, the tips of her thick eyelashes curling up. She rubbed soft pink rouge into the apples of her cheeks and reached for her favorite tube of red lipstick: La Femme’s Gay Cornet.
After slipping a single strand of white pearls around her slender neck and pulling on a clean pair of silk stockings, Rose stepped into her heels and looked into the only full length mirror in the quarters. She surveyed her reflection from head to toe. She was beautiful. She knew she was…and she hated it.
Beauty got a girl into trouble.
Beauty beckoned unwelcome advances.
Beauty was a curse.
Oh, come off it, Anderson, she thought, smoothing a stray strand of red hair. Beauty is more than skin deep. You of all people know that. She sighed, whispering her own retort, “Unfortunately, for you…skin deep is as far as it reaches.”
Careful not to muss her dress, Rose sat at the side of her bed and reached for the little notepad she kept in her pillow case. Scrawled in her loopy handwriting, the name of the man she had agreed to go on a date with tonight, was written inside. It was a habit of hers, to keep a record and schedule of dates. After all, a girl has to keep her date’s names straight, don’t you know?
Captain Timothy Jacobs of Newton, Virginia.
Virginia. She didn’t even like Virginia.
Rose closed her eyes and tried to think back on when she’d met Mr. Virginia. Ah, yes, that’s right. She ran into the man at the Post Exchange where she was buying what else, but a new pair of silk stockings and a fresh toothbrush. Captain Jacobs was buying three packs of cigarettes and toothpaste. He made a joke about how they were destined to be together: she with the toothbrush, him with the paste. It was a lame pickup line, but Rose didn’t care. He had nice eyes and a head full of jet back hair. She’d never dated a man with a shock of jet black hair quite like his. Might as well. What else did she have to lose?
She tucked the notepad back in her pillow case and checked the time. Four in the afternoon. She had a half hour before Captain Jacobs would arrive; thirty minutes to let her mind wander. She could not let that happen.
She jumped off the bed and began to pace back and forth, singing off key with Frankie Masters. When the record skittered to a halt, she replaced it with Over The Rainbow by Judy Garland and Glenn Miller. She liked that song. She liked the movie. Who was the boy who’d taken her to see that flick? Was it Wesley Hampton? Nah, couldn’t be. Wesley was the boy who thought motion pictures were the devil. Hank Saunders, perhaps? “Oh, fiddlesticks,” she muttered to herself. “How are you supposed to know the name? How many men have you gone through since then?” She paused, squinting in thought. “Let’s see. That was…two years ago? There’s been at least one new man a week since then?” She shook her head and kept walking. “Oh, forget it!” She didn’t want to know how high that number would be.
Suddenly, her heel caught in a knot in the floorboard, and she fumbled to regain her composure. She investigated the patent leather of her pump, checking for a scratch, or scuff.
What had Captain Jacobs said they would be doing this evening? Was it dinner at one of the local Filipino cafes, or bowling here on base? Should she run down to the mess hall and get something to eat before hand?
Her pump was fine. No scratch.
She straightened, blowing an exasperated puff of air from her red lips. Rose’s mind was swirling with so many questions that she couldn’t keep up. But that’s how she liked it. If she allowed her mind to stand still for even a minute, she’d remember the boy—and the pink, soft blanket. She’d recall her mother’s horror-stricken face and the disgust in her father’s voice.
Giving herself a chance to relax and breathe would be a nightmare that she was unwilling to slip into. Instead, she filled her time with patients at the hospital and dates with one soldier after the other. She didn’t care what the other nurses thought of her. She knew that she was the gossip in the quarters—the trophy to conquer in the squadrons. At least they pretended to admire her—want her. She didn’t care. If it kept the past cloaked in darkness, she was happy to bear it. “Who cares what they think.” But then she thought of Pearl, and her heart softened. What did Pearl think of her?