I had been named for my Grandmother Rose, who died when I was 6 years old. I had only met her twice. My father, Thomas Leighton, never liked to visit his family, claiming it "brought back too many painful memories". My mother, Linda, had told me once that he had been close to his father, my grandfather, before he died in the 60s. And that after his death, things had never been right his home. But my father had never offered to tell me anything about his past, and I didn't ask- it wasn't my place.
People always said my name was beautiful- Rose Angela Leighton. I suppose they were right. It wasn't terrible. My older sister's name was pretty inferior to mine, anyway. Hers was Beatrice Carol Leighton. But at least she was the first born. She got everything before me, like her license, pierced ears, and 16 pearls. Well, that's not totally fair. After all, I hadn't even gotten my ears pierced when my mother said I was of age, 13- it was just something I didn't feel the need to do. And the 16 pearls were bestowed upon a girl in our family on her 16th birthday, a family tradition. So it was already assumed that I would get mine too, eventually.
But at least I got the better name.
My father was a real estate agent, and my mother was his accountant. He wore the smile and she wore the chains of the business. He would go on day trips to potential buyers while she did the taxes and paid the bills and balanced the checkbooks. And she never once complained. Whenever clients came to our house, we would dress in our Sunday best, my sister and I. My place was by the door, next to my father. A stout man wearing a tux obviously too small for his rotund belly would canter in the door. My father would be waiting with a firm handshake and a reassuring smile. I would stand next to him, my hands folded in front of me, my smile polite and welcoming. My father would introduce me as his daughter, Rose Angela. I hated when he used added my middle name. But I would shake the man's hand, and his wife's and his 10 year old son's. And the would raise his eyebrows and wink at me, and I would try to keep smiling through my blatant disgust and disinterest. That's the way it always happened.
My mother and Beatrice would wait in the kitchen until the last possible second, then remove the cherry pie from the oven, where it had been sitting, finished, for the past 20 minutes.
Then we would stand around for a while, chatting away while my mother set the dining table. My father would heartily laugh at any jokes the client made, slapping him on the back. It was my sister's and my job to entertain the children. That was always the worst part of the night. They would run around crazily, threatening to knock anything and everything from its place, or would sit on the couch and stare at the television with a bored expression. My father always hated this outcome, because it made the child's father uneasy to see that his own flesh and blood did not approve of the house. Which was almost never the case, they were just lazy and unfriendly. But, in the nick of time my mother would announce that dinner was ready and we would sit down to a feast of roast chicken, green beans, perfectly smooth potatoes, and corn with, of course, cherry pie for dessert. The meal was made of cardboard to me, since this was what all the client meals consisted of.
The two families would chat, easing into the goal conversation of property, and by the end of the night my father would have the father signing a contract and writing a check for the down payment. It was a foolproof method.
This is why, when he came to my house that one night, John completely took me by surprise. Never had my father nabbed a client whom I knew!
John smiled at me, also surprised, when he came into our front door that October night. It had been less than 48 hours since I saw him at the theater!
"May I introduce my youngest daughter, Rose Angela," my father said proudly, urging me forward with a kind hand on my shoulder. I smiled tentatively at John, then his father, then his mother. He was an only child. My father prodded my shoulder again, wanting me to say something- I was not following procedure.
"It's nice to meet you, John," I said quietly. Then mentally slapped myself. My father did not know we had already met!
"Say, John," his father started with a thick voice, almost sounding like a British accent, "you know Rose?" I blushed furiously, but John was comfortable with the attention, and he nodded.
"We met a few days ago, at the movies." He winked subtly at me, and my face caught on fire. My father continued with the routine, asking John's father where he had bought his dress shoes, then complimenting John's mother on her diamond necklace which was obviously plastic. Right on time he shuffled them onto the kitchen. I heard, "Oh, welcome!" from my mother, as well as the oven door opening. But John and I stood in the entrance hall, alone.
He was just standing there, smiling at me, torturing me. "S-so," I stammered idiotically, "you want to buy a house?" His grin deepened and so did the shade of red on my face. I knew this because I saw my reflection in the mirror on the wall across the hall.
"Yeah, we just moved here, so we're living in an apartment in town until we can find a house. My father saw your dad's advertisement in the paper and got in touch. Though, I didn't know you were related," he said with a hint of amusement. Just then my mother announced dinner was ready, ahead of schedule, and I showed John to the dining room.