Bed of Roses



ROMANCE, IN EMMALINE'S OPINION, MADE BEING A WOMAN special. Romance made every woman beautiful, and every man a prince. A woman with romance in her life lived as grandly as a queen, because her heart was treasured.

Flowers, candlelight, long walks in the moonlight in a secluded garden . . . just the idea brought on a sigh. Dancing in the moonlight in a secluded garden, now that reached the height of romantic on her scale. She could imagine it, the scent of summer roses, the music drifting out of the open windows of a ballroom, the way the light turned the edges of everything silver, like in the movies. The way her heart would beat (the way it beat now as she imagined it).

She longed to dance in the moonlight in a secluded garden.

She was eleven.

Because she could see so clearly how it should be - would be - she described the scene, every detail, to her best friends.

When they had sleepovers, they talked and talked for hours about everything, and listened to music or watched movies. They could stay up as long as they wanted, even all night. Though none of them had managed to. Yet.

When they had a sleepover at Parker's, they were allowed to sit or play on the terrace outside her bedroom until midnight if the weather was okay for it. In the spring, her favorite time there, she loved to stand on the bedroom terrace, smell the gardens of the Brown Estate and the green from the grass if the gardener had cut it that day.

Mrs. Grady, the housekeeper, would bring the cookies and milk. Or sometimes cupcakes. And Mrs. Brown would come in now and then to see what they were up to.

But mostly, it was just the four of them.

"When I'm a successful businesswoman living in New York, I won't have time for romance." Laurel, her own sunny blond hair streaked with green from a lime Kool Aid treatment, worked her fashion sense on Mackensie's bright red.

"But you have to have romance," Emma insisted.

"Uh-uh." With her tongue caught in her teeth, Laurel tirelessly twined another section of Mac's hair into a long, thin braid. "I'm going to be like my aunt Jennifer. She tells my mother how she doesn't have time for marriage, and she doesn't need a man to be complete and stuff. She lives on the Upper East Side and goes to parties with Madonna. My dad says she's a ballbuster. So I'm going to be a ballbuster and go to parties with Madonna."

"As if." Mac snorted. The quick tug on the braid only made Mac giggle. "Dancing's fun, and I guess romance is okay as long as it doesn't make you stupid. Romance is all my mother thinks about. Except money. I guess it's both. It's like, how can she get romance and money at the same time."

"That's not really romance." But Emma rubbed her hand on Mac's leg as she said it. "I think romance is when you just do things for each other because you're in love. I wish we were old enough to be in love."

Emma sighed, hugely. "I think it must feel really good."

"We should kiss a boy and see what it's like."

Everyone stopped to stare at Parker. She lay belly-down on her bed, watching her friends play Hair Salon. "We should pick a boy and get him to kiss us. We're almost twelve. We need to try it and see if we like it."

Laurel narrowed her eyes. "Like an experiment?"

"But who would we kiss?" Emma wondered.

"We'll make a list." Parker rolled across the bed to grab her newest notebook from her nightstand. This one featured a pair of pink toe shoes on the cover. "We'll write down all the boys we know, then which ones we think might be okay to kiss. And why or why not."

"That doesn't really sound romantic."

Parker gave Emma a small smile. "We have to start somewhere, and lists always help. Now, I don't think we can use relatives. I mean like Del," she said, speaking of her brother, "or either of Emma's brothers. Besides, Emma's brothers are way too old."

She opened the book to a fresh page. "So - "

"Sometimes they stick their tongue in your mouth."

Mac's statement brought on squeals, gags, more giggles.

Parker slid off the bed to sit on the floor beside Emma. "Okay, after we make the master list, we can divide it. Yes and No. Then we pick from the Yes list. If we get