SEP 12, 2022
Her tiny room in the boarding house meant everything to Cora. Having endured a difficult life, she understood struggle. The Great Depression had consumed her entire family, sparing just her, leaving her orphaned and destitute, after which, a distant aunt had taken her in. A few years later, tired of her unending needs, and Cora having reached an age of majority, she cast her out to the world. Cora's 'American Dream' thus continued being a never-ending nightmare. Her ambitions were denied by her poor education, the clerical work she sought was now just another false start.
Prospective? Her dreams of a suitor were reduced to either blue-collar workers, and given the diner's location, a sailor, or docker, either being non-desirable, given that they were likely married or worse, bore cupids itch. She, the least of the fortunate, desired a white-collar man, whose life involved riding elevators up to fancy offices to pursue his career. She felt entitled to a much better life, and would not trade herself, just yet, with anyone.
Cora knew that without bettering herself, she would be the next Sally, spending a lifetime working registers in nondescript diners. She, adaptable, did not look down on that, but she knew there was more to life, and she wanted more in her life.
It felt like her life was stuck in a vicious loop, spent either at the diner or in her tiny room. She ate all her meals at the diner, 'perks', she called them, of her trade, when in reality, it was her way of saving money. She had tired of the same meals daily, but she swallowed it all with a smile. It would take 3 months to add a single new item to her now growing wardrobe, and understanding she was attractive, she knew complementing that with a good fashion sense was her last bastion of hope for landing a suitable suitor. Cora thus would break her loop every quarter, to traverse the bargain holes of the city. If there was a sale, she never missed it.
Her encounter with Mr Ronan's lunch companion did not register beyond that single interaction and was forgotten long before their sandwiches had settled in their bellies. The ginger hair had however stood out, and she sullenly thought that it was not popular in her world, not that the drab suit rounded off with a flowery tie did him any favors. To Cora, a docker in a suit was just as impressive as a docker in dungarees. She had thus surgically cut him out of her mind.
Her morning started with a slight shiver, as she made her way out of the boarding house. With her hands dug deep into her well-worn overcoat, her mind was buzzing with shopping ideas for her necessities. She walked down to the new shopping center, and began cruising the aisles, shopping sparingly, desiring, but never touching.
“Cora, hey Cora!”
She caught sight of the caller, a sort of familiar face, but one she could not place. He certainly knew her.
“Fake smile, Cora,” she told herself, plastering it expertly.
She faulted her memory for not remembering who this man was, as he approached her.
“Hi Cora,” he greeted.
She muttered a greeting back. Her mind was racing, and she immediately started taking stock. Slicked ginger hair, hidden underneath a newsboy, well-fitted pants with a dapper jacket, and was that a hint of Old Spice? While she quickly made mental notes, her face betrayed her with a blush. Did he notice? She prayed not.
“It's me, Rob, remember?”
“I work for Mr Ronan at the docks, we met a couple of weeks back at the diner…”
Ding! Light bulb moment. It was coming back to her. The man in the mockery of a suit. She never considered what had happened to him, and had never seen him again. Here he was now, causing Cora's heart to pep up, for some weird reason.
“Oh yes, I remember you. How have you been? It's been a while.”
“Attagirl!” Cora told herself. “You can talk.”
Which was all that she could do, that and fidgeting with a lock of her hair. Had she cared to notice, she would have realized that behind his fancy costume, Rob was facing his own dilemma, his heart off to the races, riding this unending crest of his feelings. They chatted for a moment, at the aisle, before Cora had to go, she had a shift ahead of her.
“Come by the diner,” she had invited.
The conspiratorial hand was played. Cora had met Rob. The new Rob. The old Cora. She forced herself to walk away, step by step, as did he, though she did not realize, that as she walked away, Rob had snuck a peek. The sway, he had often dreamt about.
As she walked back to the boarding house, Cora's dreams of a skyscraper man were quickly replaced by a freckled ginger. One that had transformed into a… a what? She could not quite believe what she had just seen. She filed that for later scrutiny when she was less preoccupied. However, she accepted one thing, she had a new mission in life, and a cunning plan was needed, and the walk home was her transformation. Her rebirth began.