“Why yes, I am.” The woman touched her fingers to her throat, as if shocked to be greeted with such a compliment.

“Well then, it won’t surprise you to learn that the delicate rose petal is a key ingredient in Dalliance Cosmetics’s Rose of Sharon hand crème. Just a dab worked in at night, and your hands will be as soft as the petals on your lovely flowers. May I offer you a demonstration?”

“Oh, I don’t think so, dear. Jergens works fine for me.”

A softer closing of the door this time, but a closing nonetheless. Back the sidewalk, Lilly looked up the street. One house after another, all of them small and square. In some ways, no different from the row of clapboard shacks she left behind in Miresburgh. But here there seemed to be a sweetness to the smallness. Maybe it was the trim green lawns, the varied gardens, the short white fences. Who knows? Maybe her own street would take on life and beauty if it were bathed in this relentless Florida sun. Still, small houses meant small lives; small lives meant small dreams. Green grass or not, when she looked down the street all she saw was one closed door after another.

“Never gonna sell nothin’ in this lousy neighborhood,” she muttered under her breath. Still, she wasn’t about to cry over it. After all, it could be worse. She could be one of those women all wrapped up in a housedress nowhere to go. Why, they might be looking out of their windows right now thinking, What is that stunning vision of beauty doing on our humble little street? Lilly herself had been inspired by the beauties she’d seen in the movies and magazines.

Mindful of her purpose, she smiled sweetly at the young woman pushing a pram, followed by two sticky children. Half a block behind Lilly was a park. She’d planned to stop there and sit on one of its bright red benches to eat the cheese sandwich that was wrapped in wax paper and nestled among the bottles and jars of Dalliance Cosmetics in the tan leather case.

She turned around and followed the woman and the pram and the sticky children, who took turns looking back at her. Lilly stuck out her tongue and they did too. The mother never glanced over her shoulder even once.

Once in the park, the sticky children ran to the swing set; the mother settled on a bench and pulled the baby out of the pram to settle it on her lap for a gentle bouncing.

“Cute baby.” Lilly chose the bench on the opposite side of the little walking path that stretched around the park.

“His name’s John.” The recollection of the name seemed an exhausting endeavor.

“I don’t have any children myself.” Lilly crossed her leg and admired her shoe. White patent leather with a wide sea-foam green ribbon. She’d have to sell ten jars of Lilies in Moonlight to pay for them. “I’m a salesgirl for Dalliance Cosmetics. It’s highly rewarding.”

The mother smiled weakly, then hollered at the sticky children— June and Teddy—telling them to play nice and take turns.

“Of course, motherhood is its own reward.” Though truthfully, Lilly could think of nothing worse. Besides the disaster a pregnancy would bring to her perfect planklike figure, she’d grown up knowing exactly what kind of inconvenience it could bring to a girl’s life. “But I bet you like to take yourself a long, hot bath at the end of a day.”

Baby John began to fuss, bucking straight back in his mother’s lap.

“Or on a hot day like this, maybe a nice cool one. Not too cold—that can be shocking. But tepid. Just enough warm to take off the edge. So when you dip your foot in, you can’t hardly tell where the air stops and the water starts, except for the wet. And then, when you lift yourself out, no matter how hot it is, you get this breeze that just chills—”