Inspired by The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, 1894.
“Darling, Mr. Crawford and his family will be coming to dinner tomorrow. Frank and I have much to discuss over the railroad so I will need you to entertain Mrs. Crawford and their children…” Brently whipped the newspaper he was holding in an attempt to straighten out the pages, making them stand at attention and hiding his face.
“Tomorrow? I have my women’s meeting tomorrow, Brently. It’s the same every week. I cannot miss it.” Louise stood beside the breakfast table, coffee pot in hand, her beige apron protecting her floral print dress.
“Skip it. Why you need to attend a women’s meeting each week is beyond me. What do you meet about? Stitching and floral arrangements? It can wait. I need you here. I need your support. Is not your family more important than some meeting? Besides, seeing Nancy with the children will be good practice for you.” He turned a page.
Frustration bubbled beneath the cage of Louise’s chest. A cage she felt tightening around her with every breath. “No, dear husband…” she nearly choked on the words. “Stitching and floral arrangements are not on the agenda. We have a very prominent woman of science coming to speak to us about her research into something called radium. She’s traveled a very long way to meet with us.”
“A woman of science? Your time is better spent focusing on a woman of the home and Mrs. Crawford can help you with that. There’s the end of it.” He peeked over the newspaper. “We’ll be dining at our usual time.”
That was the end of it. She swallowed hard, poured a warming up of his coffee, and turned on her heels to return the pot to the sideboard. Each hand gripped the lace doily as she leaned over the table and stared out the window. Outside a mother dressed in the season’s finest fashion walked down the cement sidewalk along ahead of her son, a bouncing young boy, and his caretaker. The mother’s posture was erect, almost leaning forward, as she propelled the group on toward the park just one more block away. The Mallards lived on a corner lot which afforded them a large view of the square on one side of the house and the beginning of their neighborhood on the other. Her gardens were well manicured and the roses just beginning to bloom in their fullest glory. The roses had been his idea, something to occupy her time while they waited for children to come and do the same. Her eyes followed the mother and the nanny. They lowered when they met the boy. She was not entirely sure she even wanted children, but it was what was expected of her and so she must try and embrace the idea.
When she married into the Mallard family she knew the contract she had signed. Wealth and comfort in exchange for a well-managed home and children. Always this obligation lingered in the back of her mind. It had not been a hard decision to marry the handsome and charming Brently Mallard, in fact, it was the most logical decision she had ever made in her life. She knew from where she came and the light stock of her family’s breeding so she doubly knew the good fortune she had when she was born with a pleasing face, calming demeanor, and well-shaped figure. It was why he married her, for her presentation. Not for her mind or her dreams, though he met her at University, but her ability to stand firmly at his side as his loyal and beautiful wife. A showpiece like any other figurine on their parlor mantel. It was a gift, then, that her husband had turned out to be as gentle as he was wealthy and though ignorantly resistant to her aspirations as a human being, he treated her more kindly than any of the other husbands treated their wives, her friends.
The women’s group was a godsend, a refuge for the babbling thoughts which raged within her mind daily. A place to knock around ideas about a woman’s role in the world, her ability to enact change, her eventual rights recognized by Congress through Suffrage. It was all too much for her in the beginning, but after her first meeting she was hooked completely and actively sought out the presence of such forward thinking, brave women. Women who were free in spirit, though chained to their homes. Together, in their small community of thirteen, they had fundraised scholarships for future women to attend colleges reserved for men. Together, they had made small ripples in their city to change the dialogue of a woman’s worth. Small changes, but changes nonetheless. It gave her power and courage.
Oh, to be a woman such as the inspirational Miss Curie! A woman not caged by the confines of marriage or restricted by her gender. To explore the inner depths of her interests which on the surface were manly, but which’s depths spoke out to all humanity. It took months of planning to curate her visit to Louise’s women’s group as Louise, the project’s spearhead, well knew. And she was going to miss it entirely. She held a duty to her husband first, herself second… and one day to children who would usurp her second place status to the bottom of the line.
Her eyes cleared of the misty fog which had unwittingly rolled in. The mother, her son, and his nanny had progressed down the tree lined pathway, leaving her gazing out over barren streets.
“Anything worth noting out there?” His remark came across sarcastic, but kind.
“Nothing, dear. Dinner tomorrow. We’ll be ready for you at six.”