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Outspoken Love

By Jeri Stockdale

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Seattle, Washington, September 1910

The rain slowed to a mist as Anna Bailey stepped off the streetcar, her pulse quickening as she hurried to the post office gripping the precious women’s magazine article she’d worked on for weeks. Why do women still have such little say? We have no vote, our ideas are often brushed aside, and even in publishing our words are not seen as equal to a man’s. Eleven submissions. And eleven rejections. This time would be different.
As she dodged mud puddles, horse-drawn carriages, and a few motorcars on the cobblestone street, loud angry words brought her to a quick stop. Ruby, her dearest friend, stood toe-to-toe with a large intimidating man who hovered over her small frame. A few curious onlookers watched, but did nothing. Anna rushed to Ruby’s side, ignoring the wetness seeping into her patent leather boots.
“Who do you think you are?” The large man’s raised voice reverberated around them. “Work comes first. You don’t see me missing any days, do you?”
“No, Mr. Morgan, sir, but my child was sick, and I had no one—”
“Excuses. My restaurant needs reliable employees. Besides, a woman has no business being a head cook anyway.”
Anna stiffened. Memories of humiliation, and the blatant way her former headmaster had treated her differently because she was only a woman came flooding back. Even though she had been at the top of her class, Mr. Hargrove made sure she did not receive the college scholarship she needed to realize her dream of a journalism degree. Queasiness engulfed her like a tidal wave. And when Mr. Morgan turned toward his carriage to leave, the desperation on Ruby’s face prompted Anna to step in.
“Excuse me, sir.”
The man stared, eyebrows knit together, and Anna’s stomach churned.
“Please sir, give her another chance,” Anna pleaded. “She needs this job. Her husband is a fisherman. He has been gone six months without sending any word.”
She waited by Ruby’s side. Please God, soften this harsh man for Ruby’s sake.
“If my businesses were run according to all the hard luck stories I hear, most of which are not true, they would fail.” He turned his attention back to Ruby. “You’re fired. You hear me? Fired!”
Anna exhaled the breath she’d been holding. Another unanswered prayer.
Ruby grabbed onto his coat sleeve as he tried to enter his carriage. “Please Mr. Morgan. I really need this job.”
He shook her off like a pesky fly and Ruby lost her balance. Anna tried to catch her, but Ruby fell, toppling Anna to the ground. They landed in the rain puddle with a splash, and a jolt hard enough to send Anna’s wide-brimmed hat with its blue satin bow flying. Remembering her manuscript, she stiffened as she saw her precious pages floating on the water, scattered outside the mailing envelope she had not yet sealed. She reached for one of the sheets, but her dirty hands only smeared more mud, blotting out the text. Her hard work was all for naught.
“See here, Morgan.” An attractive man in a business suit stepped forward and Morgan gave him a hostile glare. Morgan didn’t answer, but instead seated himself in his carriage, yelled at his horse and driver, and smirked as they drove away.
The brown-haired man’s eyes narrowed and face darkened as he watched Morgan’s departure. As he slowly turned his attention to her and Ruby, his features softened, and he held out his hand. “Allow me to offer my assistance.”
First, he lifted Ruby to her feet. She struggled to pin up the auburn hair that had tumbled from its coif onto her shoulders. Meanwhile, he helped Anna as well. He had a gentle touch, his dark brown eyes shining, with what? Admiration? He let go of her hand after a long moment, retrieved her rumpled limp hat, and bent down to retrieve the mud-splattered pages.
Anna gathered as many as she could also, but quickly realized it was a lost cause. Weeks of work down the drain. I’ll never make the article deadline now.
He reached into his breast pocket and gave her his handkerchief.
“Thank you,” she said, as she attempted to wipe the mud off her hands.
“Are you all right?”
“Yes, I am. Just angry.” She noticed the compassion etched on his face. “Look at my manuscript. Absolutely ruined.”
“You’re a writer?”
“Yes, just not a published one. Yet.” Anna liked the quirky smile he gave her in return. She glanced at Ruby. “Oh, Ruby, what will you do?”
Ruby shook her head. “He was an awful employer, but at least I could pay my bills.”
The kind gentleman took out his wallet and fumbled through the contents, growing more flustered by the minute. “I was going to give you my card, but I seem to have lost it. I’m Daniel Wright.”
“The Daniel Wright, the reporter for the Seattle Post Intelligencer?” Anna smiled and tried to tone down the excitement bubbling up inside.
“Yes, guilty as charged.” He stuck his hands in his pockets, jingling their contents, a smile playing around his lips. He glanced at her, at the ground, and then back at her again.
She liked the way the gold flecks in his brown eyes twinkled when he smiled. Then, with a jolt, she realized she was studying him. “I am sorry. My name is Anna Bailey and this is my good friend, Ruby Olson.”
They both dipped a small curtsey in their mud-stained ankle-length skirts.
He nodded as he touched the brim of his hat. “I’m happy to meet you both. If there is anything I can ever do for either of you, please feel free to call on me at the paper.”
Anna and Daniel gazed at one another again, until he reached for his pocket watch and checked the time. “Oh no. I’m late. Excuse me ladies, I have a pressing appointment.”
“Yes. Certainly. Thank you for your help,” Anna said.
“Yes,” Ruby added. “We appreciate what you did.”
Daniel nodded again and left at a brisk pace.
He seems too good to be true, just like another I remember. Anna pushed those thoughts aside. Daniel glanced back three times as he hurried away.
“Well, what do you know?” Ruby said, smirking.
Anna looked at her friend. “What?”
“Who would have thought my most unfortunate day could turn into one of great fortune for you.”
“What?” Anna repeated.
“Didn’t you see the way he was watching you?”
“I do not know what you are talking about.”
“Oh yes you do. We’re as bedraggled as half-drowned wharf rats, which he didn’t even seem to notice.”
“You have an overactive imagination.” Anna shook her head. “I still cannot believe your boss was so unkind as to fire you. We need to do something to stop men like him from treating us so unfairly.”
“We certainly do.” Ruby reached into her embroidered handbag. She pulled out a flyer and handed it to her. “Here.”
Women’s Club Meeting, Open to new members. Join us for lunch at 1:00 p.m., Monday, September 15th, at the home of Dr. and Esther Thompson, 225 Sixth Avenue W. The discussion topic will be “The Women’s Suffrage Movement, How You Can Make a Difference.”
“Will you come with me?” Ruby asked.
“I am not sure what I think about the movement. It’s certainly controversial.” Anna gripped her muddy manuscript tighter. Then her stomach rumbled. “Let’s go. I have no need to go to the post office now, and I will go to the market at Pike’s Place another day. At the least, we will get lunch, and maybe we can make a difference.”
Anna put her soaked pages in her empty market bag, with new determination in her soul. “Besides, bullies like Morgan shouldn’t be allowed to get away with such despicable behavior.”
And yet, why do men like him seem to? She watched thunderclouds forming across the expansive gray sky. God, another question for you. Another in a long list He had yet to answer.

* * *

Daniel couldn’t believe what had happened. I actually forgot about my job interview. He had been anticipating this opportunity for days, and all it took was a few damsels in distress for him to lose sight of his goals. He walked briskly until reaching the tailor’s shop, and paused for a moment to glance in the store window’s mirror. He straightened his narrow black tie and smoothed out the wrinkles from his best trousers. At least they were dark pants. He didn’t have nearly the mud splatters the two young ladies were wearing when he left them.
Anna. What a lovely name. What a lovely girl. Her eyes had sparked flashes of fire at the unjust treatment of her friend. What color were her eyes? Green? Blue? They were beautiful, just like Anna. After her hat flew off her head even her mussed-up hair did not diminish her beauty. Daniel, you shouldn’t even be thinking such thoughts. Your plans do not include involvement with any woman.
He set his musings aside as he hurried to his interview. He came to a two-story brick building, the home of a regional magazine publisher. He wasn’t unhappy at the newspaper, but broadening his experience in journalism would be advantageous in bolstering his career. Ultimately, he needed job promotions to provide for his mother and sister, and keep them from falling into the pit of poverty from which they had escaped. He tried three times to open the front door.
Alarmed, he banged on the door, but all was quiet. He peered through the glass window, cupping his hands around his face to see inside. He thought he saw movement in the back of the room. He knocked again, more calmly this time. He heard the lock turn, and the door opened just enough to see the wrinkled face of an old man.
“What do you want? We’re closed.”
“I’m Daniel Wright. I have a job interview today. Supposed to be at eleven o’clock.”
“Well, it’s not eleven o’clock now, is it, sonny? Used to be eleven o’clock, but you darn well missed your time.”
“I know, but if you could just tell Mr. Jackson I’m here, maybe he will see me.”
“Can’t do it.”
“Why not?”
“Gone. You ought to thank your lucky stars. He was pacing the floor, checking his pocket watch every few minutes, glancing at the wall clock, muttering to himself. Never a good sign. If you’d gotten here while he was still here, he would’ve given you what for.”
“Can I talk with him tomorrow? Ask for another chance?”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll forget about any job here. He’s a bear to work for. Chases most everyone away. That’s why there’s always a job opening. He works people into the ground and then they quit.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Well, can’t right tell for sure. A long time.”
“Why haven’t you been chased away?”
The man got a twinkle in his eye, and a sad smile. “I guess when you’re the man’s father, and you know him better than most, you’re more willing to put up with him. Guess I’m the only one who can.”
Daniel nodded. “Thank you for your time.”
He forced a smile, turned away, and let out a sigh to release the pent-up pressure from missing his interview. Maybe it was for the best. Ironic he would encounter two bad employers in one day. So many gave no thought to those they stepped on. He remembered the day his family lost their first home. At ten years old he had witnessed the injustice of losing their land and their livelihood. Immoral men preyed on weak men, like his father. He thought of Anna and Ruby. James Morgan’s many misdeeds flooded his mind. The man had no scruples, provided it fattened his bank account.
The last hard-hitting article Daniel published had raised questions about Morgan’s integrity, and stirred up a hornets’ nest, but served as a warning to the man to tread more lightly. Suddenly, he knew what he would do—write another investigative piece on Morgan, and how misuse of power hurts a community.
Inspecting his pocket watch, he hurried to the home he shared with his mother and sister, the exact wording he’d use to write the article already coming together in his mind.

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