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In February 1941, Jane Baldwin has two goals—one is to become a stock broker and have her own seat on the New York Stock Exchange, something women have never done. The other is to see her sister finish college and have a good life. Meeting a man who flatters her and entices her interest changes her outlook, and she plans for the day she will wed him. Meanwhile, she is a secretary for a young man who is secretly teaching her the business of stock trading.
War rages in Europe, and Prescott Weaver, Jane's boss, prepares to serve in the U.S. military as soon as possible. Anticipating his absence, he has Jane learn all she must know to run his office for him. Neither he nor Jane realizes how long their reliance on each other must wait before they can acknowledge the love built silently between them.
And when Jane's world suddenly crashes, she must find a way to survive.
Page Count: 396
Word Count: 100766
Jane Baldwin hurried into her room right after work and closed the door, then leaned back against it in wonder. Her vain attempts to keep her lips from rounding into a satisfied smile soon erupted in a laugh, but she had to keep quiet.
It had been easier than expected to persuade her boss, Prescott Weaver, to formally teach her about his business, the trading of stocks. All she had to do was promise never to tell anyone.
Truthfully, Jane was surprised at his willingness. Always so proper and mindful of decorum, he did not seem like someone likely to go against the narrow-minded men of commerce who dictated that a woman could be a wife, secretary, nurse, or teacher, but could not be in business.
Although Mr. Weaver had said he had his reasons, Jane did not know what they were. She knew some things about his dealings, enough to know it was exhilarating and sometimes risky. She wanted to know how to do it well and someday make it her career. All the struggling she had done was over and nothing could stop her now.
Jane was still bubbling with excitement when she dressed for work in the morning. She ironed her blouse with extra care and took the time to brush her wool skirt and jacket thoroughly. As she finished applying lip pomade, her sister, Olivia, came to stand beside her.
“Is something special happening today?” Olivia asked, gazing into the mirror. “You look beautiful.”
Jane looked at her own reflection and knew she did not. No one thought she was beautiful. Olivia was the beautiful one. She was lovely, with her eyes the color of liquid chocolate and equally dark brown hair, which was long, straight and gleaming. When she twisted it into a chignon it emphasized her long neck and sat on her head like a crown. Her creamy skin was flawless, not like Jane’s freckled complexion. Olivia’s buxom, curvy shape had men looking at her from the time she was thirteen. Now, at seventeen, she had callers daily.
Jane, a little too tall and too thin, had acorn-colored hair that kinked and curled, making it nearly impossible to keep in a proper bun. Her eyes were of no particular color, neither brown, blue, nor green, but some middling shade, which seemed to change with what she wore. She was twenty-one and had been out of college for two years already, due to rapid advancement in school, and she had never had a single date.
“I’m only trying to look like a proper secretary,” Jane told her sister. “Nothing more.”
Olivia seemed puzzled. “You never worry about what you look like. You always say it won’t matter one bit, because you are going to be a career girl.”
Jane turned away from the mirror and her sister. “Don’t be silly. I never said that. It does matter.”
“But if you aren’t trying to attract a suitor…”
“Now stop,” said Jane. “I am being especially careful with my clothes because an important client will be coming to the office today.”
“So Mr. Weaver should dress well,” Olivia said. “That has nothing to do with you.”
Jane reminded her sister about Mr. Weaver’s rules for proper dress. And if I want my own stock brokerage someday, she told herself, I have to learn from the best and follow his instructions. She picked up her purse and walked into the narrow hallway that separated her room from Olivia’s. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for your first class?”
“I suppose.” Olivia pulled at her robe belt and went slowly into her room. Jane shook her head. Her sister’s whole outlook, and even her posture, changed when the subject of college came up.
Olivia had started with so much promise. She was a typical bobbysoxer with a fun-seeking outlook to match, yet over the months she attended Brooklyn College she had become increasingly less enthusiastic about school. Jane wondered why, especially since Olivia had pulled straight A’s in the fall term, but did not ask. Olivia was moody enough without her big sister prying into her personal business. Jane would try to find out later what was wrong. For now, she had to get to work.
Jane left the walkup apartment, descending the worn marble stairs and going outside to the street. The cold winter light did little to provide warmth, and the wind tore through Jane’s good wool coat, a legacy of her stepmother, Pearl. She pulled the fox-trimmed collar close around her throat and hurried to the trolley, pushing thoughts of Olivia’s strange behavior out of her mind. There was too much to do today.
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