At first, Helen intended to lie to Madeline, yet with the truth burning her tongue, the desire for discretion vanished. For reasons she could not deny, she felt Madeline could be trusted with the truth.
“I needed to escape my life in New York.”
“An hour away by train must have seemed a safe distance for you,” Madeline commented.
Coffee was poured for both. Once their breakfast orders were placed and they were left alone, Madeline approached the subject again.
“You are a pretty young woman. I’m certain there are many fine suitors in New York City who would seek your attention.”
“I have a suitor, actually a fiancé,” Helen confessed.
“Yet you are here alone, on an escape from the city. Or possibly are you on an escape from him? Forgive me for being so intrusive. My question needs no answer.”
“No,” Helen rejected this. “I would like to answer your question. I’m engaged to a kind man named Howard Sherrod. I’ve known him since we were both five years old. This may sound odd, but I believe our families have intended from that moment for us to marry someday.”
“That is not an unbelievable notion,” Madeline remarked. “Families, especially those of wealth, have been known to plan such things. Many of their children do in fact marry in these respects, as dictated by social standing and protocol. Yet from your troubled expression and words, your heart betrays the marital endeavors of your parents. Am I correct?”
“Yes,” Helen responded breathlessly. “The very thought of my engagement to Howard leaves me unable to breathe.”
“That’s because it’s a noose around your neck, constricting each breath you take, strangling you. Deep down you understand this is no marriage, but rather a death sentence of sorts.”
“Yes, that’s exactly how it feels. What should I do?”
“You are presented with two options,” Madeline explained. “The first is to marry Howard Sherrod, dismissing what your heart desires deeply in wishing to please your parents. The second would be the rejection of social standing and protocols to follow what your heart wishes most for, that being freedom.”
“Black or white options, no gray,” Helen mumbled.
“Who decides there’s no gray and why does it have to be gray? Why not blue or lavender, or yellow . . . or black and white? Gray is indecisive, yes, a color of its own but not the most attractive. Happiness comes in a multitude of colors, even black and white. Listen to me, my dear. The young woman who sits here with me has almost made up her mind. Just by the simple act of escape, your heart is winning out over your troubled thoughts. This struggle, though, is not complete. For you to truly wish for freedom, you will need to confront both Howard and your family. I sense your reluctance to do either, leaving you in the gray.”