Recap: Bayla, Sophie, and Mimi arrive in Pennsylvania Station after a long, harrowing boat ride. Then, they have to take a long train ride to Missouri to the Cantors’ farm.
Our train ride ended in a small town called Independence, Missouri. The late afternoon sun slanted through tall oaks that shaded the train station. When we disembarked, there were a few people standing on the platform waiting for passengers. I noticed that they wore plain clothing, mostly overalls and straw hats, or the ladies wore durable-looking skirts and blouses. Their clothing contrasted sharply to the dressed-up people in New York’s Pennsylvania Station.
A man wearing worn denim overalls and a dusty straw hat approached us. “Ya’ll the girls from England?”
As the oldest, I spoke up, “Yes, sir.” It was funny he thought we were from England because really Mimi and I were from Poland and Sophie was from France.
“Welcome then. I’m Arnold Cantor. I have my truck ready to drive ya’ll to our farm.”
“Thank you,” I said.
He helped us with our bags. Sophie hobbled next to me on her crutches.
He put our bags into the car and then we slid into the back seat of the truck. It was an open-roofed Jeep; I’d never ridden in one before.
Mr. Cantor pointed out a few landmarks and then the rest of the ride was quiet. I gazed at the wide expanse of land. The fields and farms seemed to go on and on, undulating golden in the late afternoon breeze. Mimi stared at everything, wide-eyed. She was clutching her flute case. Sophie looked pale and sad.
After about 30 minutes, we drove down a dirt road. The first thing I saw was a white fence that surrounded a neatly trimmed lawn. There were daisies and marigolds dotting the lawn. Everything was so flat. I realized I wasn’t used to a place with no hills.
A dog scampered over to the Jeep and Mr. Cantor jumped out and patted his dog. “This here is Dog. He came to greet you.” Sophie immediately reached down to pet the dog. Mimi did, too. I stepped back.
“The Mrs. is busy in the barn but I’ll show you where your room is.”
“My man, Jim, will carry your bags in.” A man wearing overalls and a dirty checked shirt came forward and took our suitcases out of the car.
Inside, the rooms were small but extremely neat. There were framed needlepoint pictures of flowers and farms on the wall. There was a rocking chair and a small dark couch and a glass coffee table. The bookcase was a beige color and I noticed the Shabbos candelabra. There were a few s’farim on the bookshelf and that was really all that the living room had. The stone floor was swept clean, but there were no carpets and no throw pillows. Everything was plain and serviceable.
Our bedroom had a bunk bed and a regular bed, all squished into a tiny room with one window. There was no desk and only one small closet.
“The Mrs. left some dinner for ya’ll in the kitchen. It’s on the table, I believe.” Mr. Cantor strode out of the house.
We found the small kitchen, which had a wood-burning stove and utensils hanging on hooks. There was a large skillet and a ladle hanging on hooks. A big pot of soup was simmering on the stove. Three bowls were set out on the table along with some homemade rolls.
We washed and sat down to the simple meal. I felt so tired that I could barely lift the spoon. “I don’t know why I’m so tired,” I yawned.
“Me, too,” Mimi said.
“I want to go home,” Sophie pouted and barely touched the food.
“Sophie, you have to give it a chance,” I said. “Mr. Cantor seemed nice enough and it’s very pretty here on the farm.”
“Listen,” Mimi said. “Don’t you notice? No air raid sirens. No whistling bombs.”
“Yeah, baruch Hashem!” I said.
Sophie sighed. “I miss my parents.”
Just then, Mrs. Cantor stepped into the kitchen. She was a middle-aged woman who wore a long black skirt and a blue headscarf. A wisp of gray hair escaped from the front. Her dark eyes were cold and her lips were thin.
“I see you’ve come. Y’all found the dinner I made?”
We all stood up. “Thank you very much, Mrs. Cantor,” I said.
She stared at Sophie’s crutches. “I wasn’t told that you were crippled,” she said.
Sophie’s eyes flared.
Before she could respond, I nudged Sophie with my elbow so she wouldn’t say something in anger. “She’s not crippled. She just had an accident and she will soon be walking totally on her own once she’s healed.”
“Well, I was counting on all of your help on the farm. She’ll have to work in the kitchen with Marie, and you girls will have to do her jobs in the barn.”
I didn’t like the sound of jobs in the barn, but I just nodded.
She pointed at Mimi’s flute. “What’s that for?”
“It’s my flute, Ma’am.”
“We won’t have time for anything like that here. Waste of time.”
Mimi’s mouth curved down. I squeezed her hand in sympathy.
“Our farm hand Jason is waiting for you in the barn. He came in special to show you how to milk the cows and feed the horses. You may as well go now to the barn. It’s just down the road. Ya’ll need to get up every morning at 4 a.m. I left a cuckoo clock in the room that will wake ya’ll.” She turned to Sophie. “Marie will be here in the morning around 5 a.m. and she’ll show you your work in the kitchen.”
“Come with us to the barn,” I whispered to Sophie.
We headed outside, and Sophie burst into tears. “She’s so mean! I hate it here.”
I was feeling the same way, but I put my arm around her and tried to reassure that it would get better. Mimi held her head high the way she does when she’s upset, and we headed towards the barn.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams (a novel, Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines, including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). Fiction serial in The Jewish Press – Falling Star (2019), article in the Winter 2019 Jewish Action Magazine. She contributes to the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and teaches creative writing to students of all ages.