in my own words...

Annabelle LakeIt's not easy to come from nothing.  Especially when you wind up with nothing.  I know my parents did the best they could for me and my brother, but I always wanted more than the best they could do.  I wanted to be able to go to the swank parties and flirt with the debonair men that I always read about in the society pages of the newspaper.  I knew there had to be a way out of my dreary life.  I thought that I'd found my way when I met Stephen.

Stephen Lake was so very dashing and charming.  When he came into the little flower shop I worked at, my head was definitely turned his direction.  I already knew how to use my looks to get what I wanted.  All I had to do was bat my eyes at Daddy and I could get out of any kind of trouble that I had managed to get myself into.  It didn't surprise me when Stephen asked me to dinner.  What did surprise me was that he was just as broke as I was!  He always said "Never let 'em know how little you got."  What he lacked in money, he more than made up for in dreams.  Stephen had a money making scheme for everything.  Some of them actually worked!  Before long, he had me just as convinced as he had himself that the next big thing was gonna come along and pay off.  What could I do but hook my wagon to his star?  I should have just let his wagon roll on by, but I couldn't.  I had discovered that I was carrying his child.

After we married, Stephen's "business ventures," as he so loosely called them, got crazier and crazier.  Sure, I went along with them, but after Stephanie was born, dreams weren't enough any more.  We had a baby to feed and take care of.  I made sure that I took whatever extra money we might come across and put it away.  Soon, I had saved up enough money to put myself through secretarial school.  I realized that Stephen couldn't support us financially all the time, so I knew that I had to take care of myself.  I allotted just enough time in my class schedule that I could audition for plays at the local theatre.  I just knew that some big Broadway producer would come along and just have to have me in a show!  Boy, was I naive.   Actually, one did come through town once and I managed to talk my way into a part in the chorus of something he was doing off Broadway.  Stephen was furious.  He told me there was no way I was going to leave him with a screaming brat for months while I was off becoming a "star".  Funny how his charm seemed to wear off as time went on.  He needn't have worried.  Stephanie came down with pneumonia the day before I was supposed to leave.  As much as I wanted to be in that show, I couldn't leave my baby.  I never got another shot.

As Stephanie grew, I went to work full time as a secretary and Stephen's schemes grew more and more shady.  Besides that, I knew he wasn't being faithful to me.  He had to have been stupid to think I didn't know.  But, I had my secrets too.  I was seeing my boss on the side.  Mr. Carlson was very good to me.  He would give me money and nice things.  Because of him, I was able to buy Stephanie the dollhouse that she wanted for her fifth birthday.  It all came to an end, though.  Mrs. Carlson found out about me and soon I was out of a job.  That didn't last long.  I knew all I had to do was go into an interview and ace the shorthand and typing and flash a little leg and I'd be hired in a second.  Then, everything came crashing down.

I remember the first time those men came to our apartment.  They were looking for Stephen because he owed them a lot of money.  I had no idea that Stephen had gotten involved with the mob!  Stephanie held on to me so tightly as they ripped the apartment apart.  When they finally left, we both just sat in the floor and cried.  I knew I had to get her out of that; I just didn't know how.  I shouldn't have worried.  Everything took care of itself.

Stephen just disappeared one day and the men stopped coming.  I really did try to look for him.  He had a daughter to support, after all.  But I never saw him again.  Finally, I decided we needed a new start.  Stephanie was thirteen and needed a stable life.  I just opened a map a picked a spot---Albanyville.

Things were much better now that we had started over.  I got a job as a secretary at a law office and she began to grow into a beautiful young woman.  We still didn't have a lot of money, but at least we didn't have to worry about gangsters in the night.  I couldn't believe our lives were about to be disrupted again when my brother Mort showed up on my doorstep with his daughter Sara.

Sara's mother had run off years earlier with a traveling salesman and hasn't be seen since.  Mort has been in and out of trouble for years.  In fact, he was a part of more than few of Stephen's schemes.  Mort told me that he had some information on a big investment in Europe that was sure to make us all rich and he was getting ready to hop a ship for England.  He just couldn't take Sara with him.  What could I say?  Sara came to live with us and Carl left for Europe.  I guess his investment never paid off, because we never heard from him again.

I try to make up stuff for Sara about her father.  I tell her that he just called, but she was out and things like that, but she's not stupid.  She knows it's all a lie.  She plays along, though, I think that if she tries to believe it in her head, then it has to be true.  Stephanie and Sara are grown now.  Sara's in college and Stephanie will graduate high school in a couple of months and they'll both be on their own.  I've sacrificed too much for too long and now it's time for me to take care of myself.  Now, it's my turn to be taken care of.  I look in the mirror and I know I'm older, but I still have the same flirtatious charm that I had in my youth.  I can still find a well-to-do man who can take care of me for a change.  I know that things aren't quite as they should be between Charles and Francis.  He is just the kind of man that I need.  Now if I can just convince Stephanie and Sara to look for a man who can provide security for them instead of love.  Love fades.  I found that out the hard way.  Security is what last.  If you've got enough money, you don't have to worry about anything.

March, 1935