Had she lost the one man she loved? Had he married another? An Unlikely Arrangement.

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Chapter 20

The dorm room was small, and by the look of it, by the look of it, a roommate was already installed. She only hoped they would be as nice as her best friend, Ginny. I’ve never shared a room with anyone before, except for sleepovers. “It should be interesting.”

“What should be interesting?” a voice asked behind her.                                                        Ruth jumped and faced the woman in the doorway. “I…I was wondering about my roommate. My name is Ruth Squire, and I’m new here.”

“Well, hello, Ruth. I am Doris and the roommate in question.” The girl gave a mock curtsey, ran across the room, and hugged her.                                                                                              All Ruth saw were braids, brown eyes, and freckles showcased in a plaid uniform skirt, navy blazer, white socks, and saddle shoes. “Happy to meet you Doris. I hope we will be fast friends.”

“Of course we will. Have you met Cal yet? Of course you did, he drove you?” Doris flopped down on the empty bunk. “This is your bed. All your things will go over here in the armoire. See? We both have one.” She opened the door of the empty, wooden closet. “My last roommate left weeks ago. Couldn’t hack the all girl thing. I’m so glad to have a new one. Isn’t Cal dreamy? All the girls have a crush on him.”

Ruth laughed. “Slow down, Doris. I just got here and don’t know what to think of Cal. I just met him. There are more important things to think about now, and boys are not included.”

“Oh pooh, don’t be so serious. You won’t make many friends being so stuffy.”

“I see. Well, I promise to give your advice some thought. Right now, I need to get settled, unpack, and find the hall mother to go over my schedule.” Ruth glanced around the sparsely furnished room, the only color, a dark green spread, and curtains.

“Follow me, I’ll show you.” Doris sprinted through the door, and Ruth had no choice but to trot after her.

After the class schedule was settled, Doris led her to the cafeteria where all the other girls gathered for their evening meal. She met all sorts of new friends, and retreated to the dorm room confused, excited, and melancholy. Sleep would elude her tonight, for sure—too many thoughts, too many distractions…her parents, the new school, and Peter. She lay in the narrow bunk praying for sleep, but continued to stare at the dull-white ceiling.

“Who are you thinking about, Ruth? I can tell you have something on your mind. Come on, give me the details.” Doris turned on one side and faced Ruth.

“I am not thinking of anyone, Doris. It’s been an eventful day, that’s all. Now go to sleep.” Ruth snapped her eyes shut, and hoped Doris would do the same.

“You are thinking about Cal Taylor aren’t you? Isn’t he the most handsome man? I wish he would ask me out, but he never does.” Doris rattled on.

“No, I am not thinking about Cal Taylor.” Ruth faced the wall and hoped Doris would get the hint.

“Then who, Ruth? I saw the look on your face. It’s not that dark in here. We are going to be living together. I want to be your friend, so give. I want details.”

Ruth sighed, turned back around, and sat up. “Okay, if you must know, his name is Peter…Peter Kirby. I was to marry to him, but another woman came in and swept him away.”

The pig-tailed Doris popped up and stood in the middle of the room, her white flannel bed gown billowed in the draft from the window. “Married? Oh my gosh. You were to be married at seventeen? I am going to die. How romantic. Please, Ruth. Tell me all about it.

The two girls huddled cross-legged on one bed, and Ruth told the story of her arranged marriage, the rebellion, and eventual feelings of love for the man she did not want to marry. There were squeals of delight, moans of dismay, and they talked into the wee hours of the morning.

Dawn came too early, and they struggled to wake up and get ready for class.

“It was so worth it, though, Ruth. Nothing exciting happens to me. You’ve already had more excitement than most of the girls here. Anyway, I will help you get through your first day.” Doris promised.

Ruth went through the rest of the day in a sort of fog until she reached the home economics class. The thought of learning the secrets of the tastes and flavors of the culinary world awakened her senses. After class, Ruth headed for the dormitory room, but a voice from behind stopped her in the hall.                                                                                                                        “Ruth, make I speak with you for a moment?”

It was Cal.                                                                                                                               “What are you doing here, Cal? Shouldn’t you be working this time of day?” She glanced around the hall.

“Break. Can we step out in the courtyard? I would like to ask you something.”

“Okay, but only a second. I didn’t sleep very well last night, and I hoped for a small nap before dinner and homework.” The courtyard was chilly, the wind had picked up a bit, and Ruth shivered.

Cal took his jacket off and placed it over her shoulders. “I’ll make this quick. I don’t want you to catch cold. There is an annual dance between the two schools Saturday night, and I wanted to ask you to be my date before any of the other boys got the chance. I have to help Mother act as chaperone, but there is no reason I can’t enjoy it!”

“A dance?” She thought back to the fateful night she and Ginny sneaked out to meet the boys from the high school. In part, it is why she ended up at this boarding school. Did she really want to go to a dance? “I’m sorry Cal, but I don’t want to go. I’m not interested at all. Thank you for the invitation, but you should ask one of the other girls. They all have a crush on you.” She took off the heavy jacket and handed it back to Cal.

He reached out and retrieved the coat, but stopped Ruth as she turned toward the door.    “Wait. I don’t want all those other silly girls. I want to ask you. You’re different. More grown up, mature.” He reached out a hand.

Ruth laughed. “There must be other girls in the Senior Class you find interesting. You don’t know anything about me. I’m new to this school.”

“They push me, Ruth. Put themselves in front of me, preen and flirt. I am sick to death of it. You have not once flirted with me. You’re more serious, more level headed. Please? There is no pressure. It will not make you my girlfriend, but it will save me from all the others who throw themselves at me for the chance to go to the dance,” he pleaded.

Ruth stopped and watched the anguish in his eyes. “Well, if you put it that way. I guess it wouldn’t hurt. Okay, I’ll go to the dance with you.”

He smiled broadly. “Thank you so much, Ruth. I will be a perfect gentleman, I promise.”

She laughed. “You better be, or I’ll have to tell your mother.”

Her first day at Barkley Women’s School was over. She made it through, but as she lay on bed, all she could think of was Peter. Was he married yet? Were they blissfully happy? She fell asleep with Peter’s name on her lips.

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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