She wants her son happy even if it means an arranged marriage. An Unlikely Arrangement.

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A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement

Chapter 5 – 3

After an hour at Marilynne’s Dress Emporium, Mrs. Kirby announced her need to rest and take refreshment. “Not as young as I use to be, ladies, and I’m certainly not use to a whole day of shopping. Plus, I want you to see Rosie’s. It’s down the block and to the right.”

Arm in arm, the three women strolled the boardwalk until they reached their destination.

“Do you come here often?” Ruth admired the demitasse cups, the hanging plants, and colorful pots of geraniums. Multi-colored roses adorned every corner, and intricate lace curtains draped the windows. Music played in the background and gave the tearoom an elegant atmosphere.

“I try to come once a month, Ruth. It reminds me of home. It’s a treat I indulge in…without my sons. They wouldn’t appreciate the feminine setting.” She laughed and swept a hand around the room.

After they devoured their teacakes, the women grew silent. The day was fast coming to a close.

“Ruth, I would like to know what you think of my son.” Peter’s mother lifted the teacup half way to her lips.

Startled, Ruth’s cup clattered in the saucer. “Why, Mrs. Kirby, I do not really know him. How can I form an opinion?” Her heart sank. She did not want to talk about Peter Kirby, only enjoy this day with her best friend and this delightful woman. Deep down, she knew the subject would come up—and now that it had, the day became less enchanted.

“Oh, I know, Ruth, dear. You don’t know him at all. Nevertheless, do you find him attractive? I mean that is an important attribute, don’t you think? I know he finds you attractive.”

“He does? He told you?” All of a sudden, her skin tingled, her heart raced.

Ginny giggled aloud. “Oh Ruthie, he likes you! This is so exciting.”

“It is not, Ginny. Be quiet. I do not want to get married.”

“Ruth, it’s all right. I know it is a shock. Your mother and I have talked about this for weeks now. I want you to get to know Peter, not rush into anything. Lord knows, I want to see my son happy. These things happen all the time—marriages are arranged. For the most part, they turn out well. I can talk to your mother and father. Maybe we can push the wedding forward a month or two, give you and Peter time to get to know one another. You will like him, dear. He is a kind man, a gentle man, like his father. He provides for his two brothers and me and quit college to start his own business. You cannot find a more settled man. He takes responsibility to family seriously. You will be well cared for, Ruth.”

“Exactly the problem, Mrs. Kirby. I do not want to be well cared for, I want to care for myself, see the world, travel, see new places, and do new things. I will not make a good wife to your son. I have already told him. You cannot force me.” She rose from the table as if to leave, her face hot.

Elizabeth laid a hand on Ruth’s arm. “Please, I’m sorry. We will talk of it no more, if you so wish. Are you ready for a walk around the park? Let’s end the day on a pleasant note.”

They left the tearoom, stopped for the umbrellas, and turned their attention to the plaza.

Ruth, surprised at Mrs. Kirby’s silence, found curiosity got the better of her, and despite her resolve, wanted to know more. “You meant what you said? No more talk about Peter?”

Mrs. Kirby put her arm around Ruth’s waist. “If that is your desire, dear. I like you and want to be friends whether you marry Peter or not. I would like an opportunity to change your mind about marriage, however.”

“We can walk and we can talk, Mrs. Kirby, but it will not change my mind. I appreciate the day, and I hope I have found a new friend. But I still do not want to marry.”

“I can understand your feelings, my dear. Marriage is hard, and you are so young. I once had those very thoughts myself. I changed my mind after I met my husband. We were married two months later. I never regretted a moment of it.” The older woman’s voice faltered.

Ginny jumped out in front of the others and gaped at Mrs. Kirby. “Your marriage was arranged? How old were you? I simply cannot imagine being told who to marry,” Ginny exclaimed.

“Yes, my marriage was arranged. I was seventeen, like you and Ruth. Oh, I was afraid, angry, argued with my parents. However, once I met him, well…everything changed. He was so gallant and good-looking. I was swept off my feet. I never looked back, not once. Have you ever had a real boyfriend, Ruth? I had not. My husband was my very first encounter with the male of the species.”

Ruth felt the heat rise to her cheeks. “No.” Her heart jumped, her hands became clammy, and she had a funny tingle in her lower belly. It made her uncomfortable; she did not understand these feelings.

I hope she didn’t see me blush. Had she really experienced the same reactions, or is she trying to make her son irresistible to me?

         The three women continued to promenade quietly along the lakeside.

“You have those feelings, don’t you, dear? I know you do. I saw your face when I mentioned a boyfriend. It’s completely natural, what women should feel, although we are not to talk about it. In light of the fact your mother is not here, I feel I can approach the subject, since it is my son you will marry. You are practically part of the family. My son is handsome, don’t you think? It would be different if your parents chose someone not so attractive. Do you want a home of your own, come and go as you please, decorate it yourself? Have your friends over—be part of society? A married woman giving dinner parties to the most influential people in town. Think of it, Ruth. It will be more freedom than you imagine. You can still travel. Get an education; make a difference in the world, all with a handsome husband on your arm encouraging you. You would eliminate the struggle and get to those dreams sooner. I only ask you think about it, Ruth. I will see what I can do with your parents to postpone the wedding a bit. You are young and vital, a force to be reckoned with, and your parents know it. They want to protect you, help you avoid the mistakes young women of this time make in their enthusiasm. Will you think about it?”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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