Her mother’s secret love letters would be her way out. An Unlikely Arrangement.

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Chapter 5 – 4

The rain came down a bit harder, making little pebble noises on their parasols. The lake was awash with white caps, and the wind picked up speed.

Ginny moved a bit closer to Mrs. Kirby. “Elizabeth, can you talk to my parents? It all sounds so perfect…the world handed to you on a platter. It is really a bit of instant independence. You should listen to her, Ruthie.”

Ruth shot her friend dirty look.

Elizabeth addressed Ruth’s friend. “Ginny, you know I cannot talk to your parents. I don’t know them. The Squire’s and I have known each other for a while now. It is an idea developed slowly, over time, not a spur of the moment decision. Things will happen for you in good time, Ginny, and think of it; you can visit and be a part of Ruth’s new life.”

Ginny laughed. “I know, I was teasing. I am glad we met you. I hope we will be fast friends. What about you, Ruth? You are so quiet.”

“Yes, Ruth, you have not said anything. Are you open to my idea? Can we give it some time?” Elizabeth asked.

Ruth kept her head down, watching the ground as they walked. The rain made little puddles, and she watched in fascination as her shoes disturbed them. She thought of her life like those puddles. One day, life was normal, undisturbed, and the next, distorted and unclear.

“Are you listening? What are you going to do?” Ginny implored.

Ruth looked at her best friend, then at Mrs. Kirby. She liked this woman. She was friendly and talked to her like an adult instead of a child, and her voice was soft and kind. Her thoughts turned to Peter. Yes, he is handsome and makes a good living. Questions whirled in her mind while she tried to sort out what Peter’s mother offered—freedom. She longed for it.

The proposal sounded good, but would she really have freedom? Would he turn into one of those men who expected his wife to be servant to his needs? She was not prepared to make such a decision. “Mrs. Kirby. You have been so kind. This was a most pleasant day, a great diversion, and I like you. You are a lovely person. Your son is very handsome, I admit. I would like to take you up on your offer to post-pone any decision right now. Could you talk to Mother, get her to agree? I promise I will think about all you said today.”

Mrs. Kirby placed her arm around both girls’ waist. “Of course I will, dear. Don’t you worry, we will figure this out. I would like for you and Ginny to come to dinner tomorrow night. It will give you a chance to meet my other boys and talk to Peter a little more. What do you say?”

Panic turned her skin clammy. “I don’t know. I’m not sure I am ready. I need to breathe a little, get use to the idea. No, I don’t think I should.” She wriggled free of the older woman’s embrace.

Ginny grasped Ruth’s hand and forced her to look into her eyes. “Ruthie, think about this. If you are not willing to work on this, your mother is more likely to force you to marry quickly. Make her think you are considering the idea, otherwise, she will think you are stalling. I know your mother as well as you. She won’t like it if you aren’t co-operating. Think about it. We have spent many years figuring ways to thwart her. This is one of those times. Give her what she wants until you figure out how to get around her. Remember?”

“You have a point, I guess. She probably would push me harder if I resisted.” Ruth’s heart rate slowed a bit, she sucked in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. “What time should we be there? Will you send a car for us?”

“Of course. This is a wise choice, my dear. I am confident we will all get along famously. I look forward to dinner. Is there anything you prefer, any special dish? I am a very good cook, although, I do have a girl who helps with the meals. Not as young as I use to be, you know,” Mrs. Kirby chattered.

“Anything you fix will be fine. I’m not a picky eater. It is very kind of you, really.”

“What time, Elizabeth? I have to tell my mother,” Ginny asked.

Let’s say six o’clock. Is that good for you?”

The walk back to the car was pleasant. The conversation turned to their shopping escapade, their purchases, and the fancy lunch they shared.

In the back of Ruth’s mind, a plan formed.

I will go along for now, but Mother’s secret letters will be my way out. I only have to decide when to use them.



Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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