Recap: The girls have to register for school. Later, Senator Truman and his daughter Margie and her friend Gloria Jacobson all come to Mr. Cantor’s furniture store. Bayla and Mimi meet the girls who are about their age.
A week passed. One morning, we woke to stifling heat.
“I’m going to go put water on my head and wrists. I’m so hot!” Mimi said.
The sky was dark as usual, but it was also starless.
When we got to the barn the cows were restless. They were twitching, and it was hard to milk them. The horses also were skittery. “What’s with the animals?” I asked.
Mimi shrugged. “Can’t exactly ask them.”
Jason the farm hand heard us talking. “They sense a change in weather. Could be a storm’s blowing in. Wouldn’t worry. They get fussy over a bit of rain, these animals.”
“Wow, Hashem is so amazing. He even gives animals the ability to predict weather.” Mimi finished feeding a carrot to one of the horses. It kept stamping its front hoof and whinnying.
As we walked to breakfast, I gazed at the vivid, blue sky. There wasn’t a cloud. The animals had to be mistaken.
Marie was not in her usual smiling mood. Mrs. Cantor stomped out of the kitchen.
I wondered if she and Marie had quarreled.
Sophie was limping around without a crutch.
“Sophie, it’s great. You can put weight on your legs and you don’t need any help,” I said.
“In the kitchen I can get around without it, baruch Hashem. I can’t wait to start practicing my ballet routines.”
If only Aunt Aimee was here to see how Sophie was healing.
After breakfast, I headed into the garden, carrying my pink notebook. There was a nice little bench where I longed to sit and work on my story. I hadn’t written for a long time and I missed my characters.
I sat on the bench, engrossed in my story. I worried how my characters would manage getting out of Europe now that the borders were closed.
Suddenly, I was pulled out of the story by a tap on the shoulder, Mrs. Cantor stood, looking disapprovingly at me. “What are you doing?”
“Writing a story.” I closed the notebook.
“And why would you spend time on something like that. Women should not waste time writing stories.”
I thought of Jane Austen, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, and L. M. Montgomery, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful and contradict her.”
“You girls have to realize that a woman needs to learn domestic chores and spend her time on those. You’re almost of marriageable age. Don’t waste time on foolishness.” She reached for the notebook.
She was strong and she yanked it out of my hand. “You have no need for that here. Go into the kitchen and see how you can help Marie prepare for dinner. We have to bake the bread today and there are peas to shell.”
“Please, please I won’t write in it now. Please give me back my notebook.”
She was already walking away with it.
Tears coursed down my cheek. I wiped them with the back of my hand. Hateful woman!
Why did Tante Aimee send us to such a cruel person?
I stomped into the kitchen. Sophie took one look at me and ran over to give me a hug. “What’s wrong?”
I wasn’t going to say lashon ha’ra. It wouldn’t help to say what she did. It wouldn’t get me my notebook back.
“I’m okay. Show me how to bake bread.”
A few hours later, when the smell of bread baking filled the kitchen, Mrs. Cantor appeared in the room. “Bayla, I need you to buy some things at the store.” she said.
Mimi offered to go with me.
Mrs. Cantor shook her head. “No, Mimi is needed back in the barn. Jason wants to show you how to groom the horses.”
She handed me the list. I wanted to spit in her face, but I took a deep breath and listened to her directions for how to get to the store.
I headed down the long dirt road. It was so quiet. The usual hum of insects and the birdsong was absent. They must all be scared of Mrs. Cantor, I mused.
I was thinking of plans of how to find my notebook and get it back as I traipsed along the road leading towards the little town.
The bell to the general store tinkled as I opened the door. The sound was just like the bell at Mr. Cantor’s store. The exercise in the fresh air was pushing away my sour mood.
The storekeeper was in the back filling an order. I strolled around looking at the different products and tools on sale. Just then, I almost bumped into a familiar face. “Bayla?”
“Hi,” I said shyly to Margie Truman, remembering she was the daughter of a senator.
“Hey, what brings you here?” she asked.
I showed her my list.
“My mother had the same idea. Come, want to see the ready-made dresses? I don’t buy read-made but a girl can dream.”
“Do you sew your clothing?” I asked.
“Some. My mother’s an expert seamstress when she has time.”
Margie held a light blue dress with a white satin sash up against her and admired herself in the full-length mirror. Then she tried on a straw bonnet with a blue satin ribbon at the chin.
“Do you want to come tomorrow to play music together? We should get it in before school starts.” She crinkled her nose.
“If we can get away. Mrs. Cantor keeps us super busy with chores.”
“Let’s walk home together.”
We both made our purchases and then we headed outside.
As we walked along chatting, I noticed a strong wind blowing through the trees. There was a swish and whirring sound that made it hard to hear Margie.
“That feels good.” She stopped and let the wind riffle through her blonde curls.
“What’s it like having your father in the government?” I asked.
“It’s what you get used to. I mean I’m just me. I have to go to Washington, though, from January to June. I hated that at first, but I got used to it. The hard part is I go to two different schools every year. I’m in Missouri till January and then I go to school in Washington till June. Still, Missouri is my home.”
Suddenly, there was a hush like the world was standing still.
“Look at the sky!” I said. The sky turned emerald.
Margie grabbed my hand. “Oh, no! Can you run fast?”
“Why, what’s…?” My words were swallowed by a howling roar. We ran and ran. She was pulling me, but I felt like the wind was buffeting us along. I was running but I couldn’t catch my breath. The air was heavy and thick. Dust swirled around us and tree branches creaked.
A siren shrieked.
Lightning slashed the sky. There was a roar like the world was exploding.
“Hurry,” Margie yelled. “It’s a twister!”
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.