Visiting an old friend

Caroline sat in her seat as the train trundled towards the northwest. She sat wringing her gloves in her hand as the landscape swept by outside the window unseen. She hadn’t told Frank where she was going. It had been an abrupt departure. She left a note.

Frank,

Went to New York for new clothes and to research hotels for a few days.

                                                                        Lots of Love,

                                                                        Caroline

It was still out of character, but she had thought Frank would accept the explanation and not have another opinion of it. This was something she needed to do. She wouldn’t feel right if she didn’t. She had already felt ashamed that she had to ask Dauterive.

“Where is Margot buried?” The lawyer had given her a surprised look.

“Chicago, of course, my dear.”

My dear, as if he hadn’t detested her very presence in Frank’s life.

“But the name of the cemetery, darling, it is after all a very large city.” Caroline had stared at him with her most innocent expression until he finally replied.

“Mount Olivet, Miss Caroline,” Dauterive replied.

Now she was on her way to Chicago. It wouldn’t be a long trip, but she was still anxious. If Frank knew her true intentions, he’d say they were ridiculous.

When the train finally pulled into the station, she caught a taxi to Mount Olivet cemetery. Caroline spent most of the day trying to locate Margot’s burial plot. The cloud hung heavy overhead, making the cemetery gloomier than it needed to be.

When Caroline finally found Margot’s headstone she was caught off guard. She stared at the white marble engraving for a few minutes before remembering she had come there for a reason.

“Margot…” Caroline began, she bent down and brushed away some leaves caught against the headstone. “Margot…it’s been a long time hasn’t it. I’m sorry…about Cylus. I should have tried harder to stop him…to change his mind about the bank. I could have done something, but I didn’t.” Tears began to well up in Caroline’s eyes.

“I don’t know where he is. I don’t even know what I would do if I saw him again.” She swallowed her revulsion. “I’ve um…been working with Frank again. No banks, trust me…I feel like you already know that though.” Caroline glanced around the cemetery. In the distance, there was a burial taking place, but no one took any notice of her talking to herself.

“I saw the fortuneteller. She said that you had a message, that you were pushing me towards Frank. What is it you want?” she asked exasperated. “I know Frank has moved on, but I still feel like crossing that line is betrayal. I thought if I did it…I would feel…more at peace, but I felt guilty, Margot. He’s your husband. I shouldn’t be sleeping with him.” Caroline stared at the stone’s engraving. A wind blew across the lawn and pulled at her jacket. “I need some sign, Margot. I want to be doing the right thing.” She stood there waiting, but nothing happened except that a light misting rain began to fall. People at the distant burial began to disperse and seek shelter. Caroline bowed her head, her eyes intent on the name ‘Margot C. Sicero.’

“What do you expect me to do about Frank?” she asked bluntly. Nothing happened. She turned and strode away from the gravesite. Perhaps it wasn’t even worth the trip. Perhaps she would have been better off standing on the Boardwalk and asking the ocean.

Caroline strolled through various shops and department stores, but her mind wasn’t on the clothes. When clerks asked if she needed assistance her responses were huffier than she intended, but she just wanted to be left alone. She flicked through a rack with a sigh. Were these the fashion these days? She finally waved over a sales girl.

“I’m not sure if it’s me, but I feel like I keep seeing the same things over and over again. You wouldn’t perhaps know what came in most recently,” Caroline asked. The girl nodded.

“Why yes, I do have a few things in the back, I wasn’t supposed to put them out yet, but it’s a slow day. I’ll be back in a moment,” the girl walked away and disappeared behind her counter. She couldn’t quite place the face, but the woman looked familiar. She tried to recall the films she had seen recently as she plucked a few dresses off a rack and carried them out. Caroline stood at the counter frowning into space.

“Ma’am? Perhaps one of these?” the girl held them up one at a time for her to see. Caroline shrugged. She had told Frank she was shopping. She had to come home with something.

“I’d like to try on those two, maybe that one too,” Caroline pointed. The salesgirl nodded and led the way to the dressing room. She was still trying to figure out where she had seen the woman.

Caroline tried on the dresses. She tried to imagine what they would look like in the light of the Libellule lounge. She focused on her face in the mirror and froze. She looked tired, she felt old. The dresses, they seemed frivolous. I work in a nightclub, she told herself, people expect a certain flashiness. She forced a smile, and moved around more to allow the light to glint off the beading. Then she let out that laugh she used to be polite when the joke wasn’t really that funny.

Perhaps Frank will like it, she thought then stopped herself. No, Caroline, you don’t know that’s what Margot wanted. She growled and clenched her fists in frustration.

“Is a simple answer too hard to give?” she asked out loud.

“Is everything fitting all right in there, ma’am?” the salesgirl spoke up from outside.

“Oh yes, everything is fine. I’m only trying to make up my mind,” Caroline said in her high pitched “sweet” voice that always allayed people’s concern.

When she emerged an older saleswoman also stood at the counter. The girl turned and smiled.

“What did you think?” she asked.

“I’m going to take these two and I also need some more basic things,” Caroline said. The girl helped her as the other woman started wrapping up the dresses. Somehow she managed to never take her eyes off Caroline as she did it.

“Would you like to take these now or shall we have them sent to your home for you?” the woman asked.

“I’ll take them. I haven’t even checked into my hotel yet,” Caroline replied. She handed the salesgirl cash for her things.

“What hotel are you staying at? It’s possible that we can still send them over. They can be held under your name,” the woman suggested. The hairs on the back of Caroline’s neck rose.

“The Congress, but it’s no trouble. I would rather take them now,” Caroline accepted her change and picked up the box. She hurried away from the woman’s dark gaze.

“She looked familiar,” the salesgirl commented innocently.

“I couldn’t get a name out of her, but I think she was the Connolly woman. You know, from that gang that robbed one of the banks. It was several years ago now. You are probably too young to remember, but it was all over the newspapers,” the woman said. The girl looked shocked as she thought about the large bills she had held in her hand.

“It didn’t end well,” the older woman added.

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