She would marry someone else. She had no other choice. An Unlikely Arrangement.

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Chapter 21

The day of the dance arrived, and Ruth sat at a small desk by the window while her roommate slept in the far bunk. The letter to Ginny was finished, and she licked the envelope, folded the sheet, and slipped it inside. She pulled out another piece of paper and started writing, “Dear Father and Mother.” The pen hovered over the parchment. Unable to form a sentence that made any sense, she tapped the pen on the desk, repeatedly. A list, of sorts, sat in front of her of all the events that transpired since her arrival. It was hard to verbalize the emotions that coursing through her body when it came to Mother and Father. Still angry with them for trying to arrange a marriage for her in the first place, it simmered underneath the surface. Happiness over their reconciliation, and the obvious shift in their relationship, entered into the mix. Of course, she wanted their happiness, but felt adrift on a lonely island.

The other emotion she tried to push out of her mind was of Peter. She had been shocked and betrayed when they met, but the attraction grew as time passed. His kiss and strong arms set her body a tingle. Nevertheless, he was to marry someone else. She must move on, begin to think of what she wanted to do with her life now.

The bunk behind her creaked as its occupant awoke. “What are you doing, Ruth?’

“Writing home, Doris.”

“Who? Your parents, Peter?

“Certainly not Peter, silly. He is engaged to someone else, remember?”

“Oh pooh. Anyway, you have Cal, now.” Doris chortled.

“I most definitely do not have Cal. I am doing him a favor.”

“If you say so, Ruth.”

The girls passed the rest of the day catching up on laundry and working on their school

projects due the next week. The hour approached when they needed to dress for the dance. There really was not much choice in what they would wear because it was required they wear school uniforms to any boy/girl event.

After brushing her bobbed hair into a sheen, applying a little rouge and lipstick, Ruth felt ready to go.

Doris, on the other hand, ran around like a silly goose, changing ribbons and applying make-up.

The housemother knocked on the door and informed them it was time to go.

They walked, as a group, the few blocks to the boys’ campus chaperoned by their hall mothers. At the head of the line marched, Mrs. Taylor, Cal’s mother.

The boys lucky enough to have dates lined one side of the walkway. The rest stood on the other side of the walk and followed tradition. The girls approached—if they liked anyone they would nod their head, and the boy would follow her into the hall. Those who didn’t get a nod had to take their chances inside, along the stag line.

Ruth spotted Cal, and he rushed forward to greet her. He took an arm and led her into the gymnasium. The music was playing, and at the end of the gym, long tables loaded with food and beverages beckoned.

Cal asked her if she wanted a cold drink, and she said yes. While he was gone, Mrs. Taylor approached her. “Cal is a perfect gentleman, Ruth. Don’t worry about him. It is good to see you are getting out and moving on with your life. The unpleasantness you left behind in Detroit will dim quickly as you focus on your future. Peter Kirby will become a thing of the past.”

Shocked, Ruth responded, “How did you know about Peter? I didn’t tell you about him.”

“Oh my dear, you do not think we accept girls without knowing their background, do you? I knew about Mr. Kirby from the beginning.”

Ruth continued to stare at the head mistress in disbelief.

Cal returned with a cold beverage. “What are you two talking about, Mother? Not me, I hope.”

“No dear, not you,” said Mrs. Taylor. “I must attend to my duties now. You two have fun.”

“What were you talking about, Ruth?” He turned to hand her the glass.

She took the tumbler and stared into its depths. “Nothing, Cal. Really, nothing.”

In the far corner of the room, a commotion broke out between a few of the girls. The scuffle continued to escalate, and Ruth wanted to move closer to check out the little skirmish.

Cal tried to discourage her.

“I want to see what the fight is about. It’s the most excitement I’ve had since I arrived. Don’t be such a killjoy, Cal.” Ruth pulled him toward the pandemonium.

A nucleus of students surrounded two girls scratching and clawing each other, pulling hair, kicking, and screaming.

“You take that back,” a red-faced blonde screamed, her yellow dress torn at the shoulder.

“I will not, you daughter of a scalawag and scoundrel. You don’t belong here, and I want nothing to do with the likes of an offspring of Captain Adams,” shouted a petite redhead, a tattered blue hair ribbon sat askance and dangled in front of her face.

Ruth stood rooted to the spot at the mention of the Captain. Adams? Could it be the same man?

Cal tried to tug her from the fray. “Let the chaperones deal with this, Ruth. This is none of our business.”

She jerked away from him and moved nearer the scene. “I have to hear this. I have to know.”

“Know what, Ruth?”

She didn’t answer, only pushed closer to the crowd. When she turned around, he was gone. The two girls attended her home economics class, and she only knew their first names, Ella and Gretchen. She tried to figure out which one held the last name of Adams.

The chaperones finally broke up the fight, order returned, and the two offenders were whisked out of the dance. Ruth vowed to find out more about the mysterious girl with the last name of Adams. A quick glance around the room revealed Cal sulking against the far wall by the food table.

“What are you doing over here, Cal? You disappeared before I could ask you which one is an Adams, Gretchen or Ella.”

“Why do you want to know those girls? They are both spoiled troublemakers. I’d hate to think you would associate yourself with shallow brats like those two.” He grabbed a finger sandwich and stuffed it in his mouth, took a swig of punch, and turned a shoulder to her.

Ruth plucked at his sleeve. “I’m so sorry, Cal. I’m not interested in them as friends. It’s a personal matter. One I am reluctant to talk about with anyone. It involves my parents and an incident twenty years ago. I really need to know which one is an Adams. Do you know? I promise I’ll dance every dance with you.”

Cal faced her and smiled. “Promise? Will you go to the Spring Cotillion with me, too? It’s a much bigger deal than this little attempt at a dance. I don’t want anyone to ask you before I get a chance.”

She frowned, but thought over the prospects. Better to go with Cal, than some pimple-faced freshman. “Sure, it’s a deal. Now which one is the Adams girl?”

“Ella, her name is Ella Adams. Don’t get mixed up with her, she’s rich, spoiled, and use to getting her way about everything. Not the kind of friend you need. Stick with Doris. She’s real people.” He took her arm and led her to the dance floor.

The music resumed and the previous clatter faded into a memory. “Who is her father, Cal? Is he a Captain? Captain Alexander Adams?” Ruth stopped moving to the music.

Cal wrinkled his brow and closed his eyes. “He’s a Captain, all right, but I can’t remember his first name. Just Captain Adams. Rich guy. Gives his daughter everything.” He opened his eyes. “Not that she ever appreciates anything. From what Mother says, she just asks for more. Can we actually dance, now Ruth? I feel kind of silly just standing in the middle of the floor.”

She smiled, although every fiber in her body wanted to leave the dance and track down this Ella Adams. They moved to the music, and Ruth realized Cal was an accomplished dancer. They fit rather well together, he was easy to follow, and she felt comfortable in his embrace. Patience, Ruthie. He really doesn’t know anything more, but I’m sure Doris does. I can ask her when I get back to the dorm.

Ruth fulfilled her promise to Cal and danced the rest of the evening with him. She forced herself not to ask questions about the Adams girl and ended up having a very pleasant evening, Cal, ever the gentleman, escorted her safely to the door, brushed a kiss across her cheek, and said goodnight.

Back in the dorm, she rushed to find Doris—only the room was empty. Doris must still be at the dance. Restless, Ruth decided to walk through the hallways instead of wait in the room. Through the third upstairs hall, she passed room 302 and thought she heard someone crying. It took about fifteen minutes to make up her mind to knock on the door. The first knock was light, and there was no response. She gathered her courage and knocked louder. The door opened a crack, and Ruth found herself face to face with the feisty redhead from the dance. “Hi Gretchen, my name is Ruth, may I come in?”

Chapters of the novel appear on Monday and Wednesday.

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