It was her marriage. Why was she kept in the dark? An Unlikely Arrangement. Chapter 3 – 3

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Chapter 3 – 3

A dreary rain drizzled lightly and cast a gloomy pallor on the morning.

“Oh, you look beautiful this morning, Ruthie. Your cheeks are pink, your eyes sparkle. Mr. Kirby’s a lucky man, indeed.”

“No matter, Sarah, I’ll look like my mother after I am wed. Babies, drab days of nothing but mindless social gatherings, and household chores will steal my beauty soon enough. I want more, Sarah.”

“We all be wantin’ more, child. What we dream and how we end up are often two different things. You should be proud and thankful your parents watch out for you and give you a stable life, not actin’ like a spoiled, willful child. Wish I had parents who cared so much for me.”

“I know Father spoils me, but Mother’s sternness balances it all. I do know they love me. But to arrange a marriage because I sneaked out the window is going too far. Can’t you talk to them for me, Sarah?”

“Oh, to be sure, tell my employer how to raise his daughter, a wise choice, indeed, for future employment. Enough talk. When Mrs. Kirby and Peter arrive, I’ll come fetch you. Mind you watch your tongue and stay civil, or something worse might happen to you.”

She waited in silence, hands in her lap, and looked around the room.

It could be the last time I see my lovely room.

A soft knock roused her from melancholy. “Come in Sarah,” she said,

~~~~

Ruth stood like a statue at the parlor door, dreamlike. Two days ago, she and Ginny planned a schoolgirl’s adventure, and today, her fiancé’s mother sat in the next room. How in the world did this happen?

Sarah reached for the door handle, but Ruth intercepted. A silent, pleading look implored the maid to end the charade. Instead, Sarah shook her head and walked through the door.

“Mrs. Kirby, Peter. Welcome,” Sarah began.

Peter rose, removed his hat, and bowed. “May I present my mother, Elizabeth Kirby.”

Sarah curtseyed and turned to present Ruthie. “This is Ruth Squire, daughter of Priscilla and Robert Squire. Ruth, please meet Elizabeth Kirby.”

She gathered her courage, fought the urge to bolt and run, and curtseyed to the older woman. “I am pleased to meet you, Mrs. Kirby.” As an afterthought, she turned to Peter and said, “Mr. Kirby.”  Ruth took the chair opposite her guests.

After an awkward silence, Mrs. Kirby took up the conversation. “So tell us, Ruth. Have you graduated high school yet?”

Fascinated by the stylish woman, she hesitated, “Why, I don’t graduate until the spring, Mrs. Kirby. I must say, your dress is lovely. The color is most unusual. Is it the new fashion this year?”

“Oh, my no, child. I brought this dress from the homeland. It is my favorite color. My dear husband bought it in France. The color is wild blush. A daring name I suppose, but fitting. Your emerald dress is lovely against your skin, dear. I use to have skin like yours…when I was young.”

“May I ask after your husband, Mrs. Kirby?” The blush rose to Ruthie’s cheeks as she realized the question might be inappropriate.

“We lost Mr. Kirby two years ago. My son, Peter brought us here to start a new life. Oh, good, here’s the tea.”

Sarah set the laden tray on the table beside the settee, and began to pour the steaming liquid. She reached for the plate of scones and offered them to the guests.

“Oh, no, just tea, thank you. I couldn’t eat,” Peter’s said.

“Sarah makes the flakiest scones around, Mr. Kirby. I wouldn’t want to offend her if I were you.” Ruth smiled and took the tray from Sarah.

“Peter, you should try these. They are wonderful. I must have the recipe.”

Peter accepted the scone. “Of course, pardon me Sarah. I thought I’d make a mess of it and look a bit foolish. I love scones, thank you.”

“Ruth, my dear, I have planned a trip to town tomorrow to shop. Would you like to go? I would love to have the companionship of such a stylish young lady. A fresh look so to speak. Sarah, would you have any objection?”

“I don’t know, Mrs. Kirby. I would hate to go against Mrs. Squire’s instructions.”

“I will take full responsibility, don’t worry.” Elizabeth smiled at her. “Is there anyone you would like to invite along, Ruth? We could make a day of it. A girlfriend, perhaps?”

“Oh, Mrs. Kirby, it does sound delightful. Could I ask my best friend, Ginny?” She glanced at Sarah for a brief instant.

“Of course, how lovely, I will look forward to meeting her. Now, Peter, I am going to have a word with Sarah. She needs to give me the scone recipe. Would you engage Miss Squire in conversation while I am occupied?”

“Of course, Mother. Do hurry though; I fear it is going to rain. I wouldn’t want to get caught in a storm on the way home.” After the two women left, Peter spoke first.

“Miss Ruth, may I be so bold to speak frankly? You are surprised by all this, aren’t you? Did your parents not tell you of their plans?”

 

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

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