She met the groom. He was a stranger. An Unlikely Arrangement. Chapter 1 – 2
March 8, 2013
A VG Serial: An Unlikely Arrangement
Chapter 1 – 2
She stepped into the dark, cavern-like wardrobe. which was a perfect hiding place. Before she found the light, the creak of a door opening frightened her. Footsteps echoed on the wooden floor.
“Ruthie Squire what in the name of everything holy are you doin’? Have you got a death wish, child? Your mum does not even let your papa in here. Come out this instant.”
“All right, Sarah, I’m coming. Where did they go, by the way? They tell you everything.”
“You know I cannot tell you. They would fire me for sure. Breakfast is awaitin’. Come down to the kitchen.”
The temptation to trick Sarah, slam the door shut, and lock it crossed her mind. She studied the back of Sarah’s head, haloed by short, blonde hair, and followed her down the stairs. It would not be fair to this woman, her friend for seventeen years. Mother would fire her. “You are right. She is a ruthless woman.”
“Oh child, she’s protectin’ ya, is all.”
“You can say what you want. You are not the one choked to death by her rules.”
Sarah looked up from the bottom landing. “I live by them, too, girlie. Different ones, to be sure, but rules all the same, and they protect my job here. One day you will learn it for yourself.”
“Are you going to lecture me all day or get my breakfast, Sarah O’Brien?”
“Thought you weren’t hungry, girl. At any rate, your breakfast is already made, and I’ll be thankin’ ya to watch your tongue, or we will be addin’ another crime to your long list.”
“All right, all right, I’m coming.” After a quick breakfast, she thought again of the telephone, but the candlestick device continued to elude her. Mother kept constant guard on it. Father’s office stayed locked. She was sure it was in the forbidden closet.
Discouraged, she followed the smooth wood of the stair’s banister with one hand back to her room.
How do I get inside Mother’s room without Sarah knowing?
She plopped onto the vanity chair, grabbed her brush, and brooded over what punishment loomed ahead of her. “Probably boarding school.”
Her fingers dipped into a small pot of rouge, the one indulgence Mother allowed. “Maybe I will make myself up like a clown. They would kick me out of the stupid old boarding school right off.” Her laughter filled the room. “If Mother wasn’t such an old tyrant I would wear lip paint.” She applied the correct amount on both cheeks, enough to give a rosy glow.
“I look too young in this brown frock. Let me see…if I pull my hair back like so—yes, much better. I could pass for twenty instead of a mere seventeen.”
“It is good to see you making use of your time, Ruthie.”
The flimsy chair toppled as she jumped to her feet. “Mother, I didn’t hear you come home.” “Prepare yourself for company. I will send Sarah up to help.” Her mother’s eyes narrowed—a clear warning.
“Please tell me…” Frozen, she watched her mother’s ramrod straight back stiffen, but continue out of the room. The maid appeared in the empty doorway.
“Who is it, Sarah? Who is coming?”
Sarah entered the room, picked up the tortoise-shell hairbrush, and began grooming Ruth’s hair. The housekeeper worked in silence, the brush rough against Ruthie’s scalp.
The sound of horse’s hooves on cobblestone and a high-pitched whinny interrupted the two women.
Ruth escaped Sarah’s grasp and peered through the upstairs window. “Why is a horse-drawn milk truck parked in the alley? Sarah?” She looked over her shoulder, but the room was empty.
Sarah has turned traitor, too.
Drawn to the scene below, she peered at the sight below. “Why would a headmaster drive a milk wagon?”
The front door’s brass knocker reverberated through the house. My fate has arrived.
The voices enticed her into the hallway to listen.
“Please wait in the drawing room, Mr. Kirby. Our daughter will be down soon.” Mother’s voice sounded strangely light and friendly.
“Mr. Kirby?” She scurried back to the bedroom determined not to come out.
A knock on the door startled her and she sat hard onto the bed, heart pounding.
Her mother swept into the room—all business. “Sarah has prepared the green dress. It is more suitable for receiving visitors. Change and be downstairs in fifteen minutes, not a moment longer.”
“Who is Mr. Kirby?”
“If you want to find out you best hurry.” Mrs. Squire left the room without further comment. Alone, Ruth stared at the empty doorway.
In the next instant, Sarah appeared—the freshly brushed green satin in her hand. Neither woman spoke as the homespun cotton fell to the floor. Ruth stood woodenly as Sarah pulled the green dress over her head and fastened the intricate buttons. After a final adjustment, Sarah gave a gentle push at the small of Ruth’s back. “Come on, dearie. It’s not as bad as all that. Go on now, I’m right behind ya.”
Tears threatened to spill over the rims of her eyes as she moved forward on leaden legs.
The conversation in the parlor sounded polite, friendly. The familiar creak of the stairs announced her approach, and her parents turned in tandem to welcome her. The parlor was a favorite room. Ornate cherrywood framed the forest green velvet sofa, a cozy place to curl up and read. Colorful flowered globes sat atop the twin oil lamps and each graced the matching end tables. Heavy, dark green drapes kept the warm afternoon sun at bay. In the corner on the settee, next to the glassed bookshelves, sat a man she thought looked too young to be a headmaster of anything, much less a school full of young women.
He stood and removed his hat, exposing sandy blond hair, bright blue eyes, a strong chin, and easy grin.
“Ruth, please greet Mr. Peter Kirby. Mr. Kirby, this is our daughter, Ruth,” Mother smiled. “Mr. Kirby has agreed to marry you. The ceremony will be next week in the family church.”
Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.
You can learn more about An Unlikely Arrangement on Amazon.