She might as well sit down. Her son had an amazing story to tell. An Unlikely Arrangement.

More chapters from An Unlikely Arrangement

A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement

Chapter 18

Peter did not anticipate the stampede of Priscilla and Robert Squire as he and Hattie re-entered the parlor. The announcement died in his throat when Mrs. Squire, with Ruth in tow, barreled past Peter, and out the door. In their haste, they knocked Peter into the obviously unsuspecting Miss Morgenstern, who crashed to the floor. Her scream of pain stopped Peter from pursuing the fleeing Squires.

“My ankle, I’ve twisted my ankle.” Hattie writhed in obvious pain.

Peter watched, helplessly, as Ruth raced away in the automobile. His duty, at the moment, was to see to the injury of their guest.

Elizabeth and Peter carried the stricken woman to the sofa. While Elizabeth ran to get an ice pack, Peter tried to calm her. “Try not to exert yourself, Hattie. The ice pack will help, and if the swelling is too much, we will take you into town to see Doc Atwood. He fixes all the broken bones and mishaps of this family.”

“Why in heaven’s name did they run out of here so fast? Oh, I think I’ve bruised my shoulder, too.” Hattie grabbed the offending appendage and winced.

“Mother, where is that ice pack?” Peter shouted.

Elizabeth rushed in. “Here, Son. Here it is.”

Peter applied the remedy to the ankle in question. “I don’t understand why they left. They didn’t give me a chance to explain. What can they be thinking?”

Hattie moaned at the touch of the cold compress.

“There, there, dear. The ice will dull the pain in a moment. Try to hold steady,” Elizabeth crooned.

Peter stood and grabbed his overcoat. “I must go after them, Mother. They misunderstood. I have to explain.”

“You will do no such thing, Peter. I cannot tend to Hattie alone. Her ankle might be broken, for all we know. If that is the case, we must carry her to the doctor. I can’t do it alone. There will be time for explanations, Peter. Right now, Hattie is hurt. Your place is here.” Elizabeth adjusted the ice pack and patted Hattie’s free hand.

“You are right, as always, Mother. I’m sorry Hattie. We’ll see you are right as rain, first.” Peter hung his coat on the hook and returned to sofa. “How is it feeling? Better?”

“I can’t tell. The ice has dulled the pain some. Is it swelling?” Hattie peeked under the makeshift bandage.

He moved the compress to the side. “It doesn’t look swollen. Let’s keep the ice on it, though. How is your shoulder? Do we need to ice it, as well?”

Hattie moved her shoulder around, shook her head. “No, I just grazed it against the door jamb. I think it will be fine.”

Elizabeth sighed and took a seat across from Peter and Hattie. “What in the world was all the commotion? Can you think why they ran out like that, Peter?”

He shook his head. “My only thought is I used the wrong choice of words. I said I had an announcement. They must have determined I meant I would wed Hattie. An explanation is in order. I need to pay a visit this evening and explain. Poor Ruth, she must be beside herself. I can’t let her think I’ve compromised the Squire’s good name. The longer I let this go without explanation, the angrier they will become.”

Hattie sat up straighter and touched the ankle gingerly. “You know, Peter, I’ll be fine. It’s not swelling. Why don’t you go on ahead and explain to the Squires. Your mother and I will sit a bit longer…until the pain dies down.

“Mother?” Peter looked at Elizabeth.

“Only if you’re sure, Hattie. I can’t lift you by myself, you know.”

“I’m fine. You go on, Peter.” Hattie pointed toward the door.

He snatched a jacket from the hook and stopped to smile at the two women. “I’ll return as soon as I can explain to the Squires. Thank you, Hattie. Tomorrow, if you can walk, we’ll set up the meeting we talked about.”

Peter bounded out the door and into the family automobile. The long road into town took an eternity. Panic became palatable as he realized what Ruth and her parents must have thought about the so-called announcement. A dog ran across the road, but he didn’t even swerve. People honked and shook their fists, his speed out of control. Finally, he arrived at the Squire’s house, threw the gear in park, and raced to the front door. After a frantic banging of the brass knocker, Peter realized no one was home. “Where could they have gone?” He fished around in his pocket, found a scrap of paper and a pencil, and scribbled a note. Please, I need to talk to all of you. There has been a misunderstanding. I am not going to marry Miss Morgenstern. I want to marry Ruth, if she will have me. Call me at your earliest convenience. Peter.

He slipped the note in the crack of the door, looked up to Ruth’s bedroom window, and when he didn’t see any movement, reluctantly walked back to his car. “Maybe I should wait. They could return any minute.” He shook his head. “No, I can’t leave Mother with Hattie for long. What if the ankle got worse? I’ll have to wait until morning.”

He sped back home, hoping beyond hope, they had called, and all was well.

Hattie Morgenstern stood at the window in the front parlor. “Did you talk to them, Peter? Is everything straightened out?”

He removed his coat and returned it to the hook. “No one answered the door. I can’t imagine where they went. No one called here?” Peter looked around for his mother.

“No one. The good news is my leg feels better. I don’t think it is hurt as bad as we thought. See? I’m able to stand on it, now.” Hattie took a step toward Peter.

“Be careful, you might not feel the worst of it until tomorrow. I don’t think you should be standing. Come…sit down. Where’s Mother?” He led her to the sofa.

She arranged the full skirt around slim ankles and smiled at Peter. “In the kitchen, making a snack for the boys upon their return from school. I assured her I was fine.”

Peter bowed toward Hattie. “Please, excuse me. I’d like to have a word.”

He found her in the kitchen hovered over a turkey sandwich. “Mother, what is wrong? You’re crying.”

Elizabeth flung herself into Peter’s arms. “Oh Son, I’ve made such a mess of things. I meddled in your life, and now look. So many people hurt. All I wanted was to find a way to make you happy. Poor Ruth, and her parents must be furious with me, and Hattie…she came so far to honor a stupid contract. Her ankle is probably broken. What will happen to her? Will you ever forgive me?”

He pushed away and looked down at her wet face. “Mother, stop crying. Of course, I forgive you. Hattie’s ankle is fine. No one let me finish my announcement. Didn’t Hattie tell you what I was about to say?”

“Hattie, tell me? Tell me what, Son?”

“Sit down, Mother. I have the most amazing story to tell you.”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,