Friday, March 23, 2012
The Valentine Dance
Camden Corners was abuzz with the news there would be a Valentine Dance held in the newly finished ballroom of the Hightower Winery. Special dance classes were being held for those who needed a refresher course in dancing or had never mastered the art in the first place. Even those with two left feet were getting into the spirit of the holiday.
Everyone involved in the building of the Hightower Winery was proud of the final results. The décor in the tasting and meeting rooms in the lower level was exceptional. The ballroom was reminiscent of the finest dance halls in any large city.
The Hightowers engaged the services of a catering company from New York City for the event enabling the local restauranteurs to attend the party as guests. They also brought in a band they had heard in New York when they were there finalizing their Uncle Shane's estate several months before.
At first the Hightower brothers thought they would sponsor the dance for adults only. Their wives thought it would be a better idea if the whole town was invited to the dance no matter what their age.
“Our town is growing thanks to Uncle Shane and his hard earned money. Why not let the children be a part of the growth since we hope they will be part of the town's future and build their lives here.” said Dahlia
Jennie Burke was tossing a ball back and forth to her brother Ben on the school playground. As usual, Jennie's clothes were disheveled. She was wearing her snowsuit pants and jacket. Her long braids were hidden under her brother Jack's old stocking caps. Her face was smeared with mud.
“That's a pretty good arm you got there kid”
Jennie turned around and looked into the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen.
The boy with the beautiful eyes said “Bet you could pitch for the New York Highlanders. That's my favorite team.”
Jennie, who was never at a loss for words just stared at the boy.
Ben shouted “Hey Jennie, toss me the ball, I'm going over to Billy's. Tell Mama I'll be home before supper.”
“Sorry miss, I thought you were a fella. Are you gonna be at the dance tonight? We are new in town so maybe I'll see ya there.”
Jennie could only nod her head. She couldn't get any words to come out of her mouth. She walked back home in a daze.
Meanwhile, Nadine was preparing a light supper for her family before the big dance tonight. Maddie was visiting with her mother with some happy news.
“Mama, I guess I should have known but you know how busy we were in the shop during the holidays and then that whole mess with Polly's family and Oscar being arrested for murder, it just didn't occur to me that I could be expecting. You know Jack has been helping Mack with his drawing, he is becoming quite good at it too. Well, Mack drew a sketch of me and my face was fuller than it had ever been. It was only then did I realize I had been feeling tired lately. Everyone has morning sickness but I didn't, not even once. Doc Julie told me some women never do have it although she isn't one of them. Julie had to excuse herself two times while I was there. She doesn't know how much longer she can keep up her patient load. Anyway, she confirmed it. Mack and I will have our own baby in August.”
“Maddie, that's wonderful news. I know you have been wanting to start a family. Mack must be thrilled.”
“He's passing out cigars to everyone. I told him that was suppose to be done after the baby's arrival and he just says he'll pass them out then too.”
Fiona arrived and threw her arms around Nadine. “We are going to be Grandmas together Nadine. Our dreams have come true.” She hugged her daughter-in-law and patted her tummy.
Jennie walked in the back door staring into space.
“Jennie, are you alright, you have a very odd look on your face”
“I'm wonderful Mama.” She proceeded to take her heavy snowsuit off.
“Jennie, I know you didn't want to go to the dance tonight. I discussed it with your Papa and he has agreed that you can stay home, we won't force you to go.”
“Oh no Mama, I want to go to the dance. I wonder if Bethany will let me borrow that pretty pink dress she wore at Christmas.”
Jennie walked up the stairs to the room she shared with her sister Lucy and her adopted sister Bethany. She sat down at the dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror. Lucy didn't think Jennie ever looked in a mirror. She never wanted to dress up in frilly clothes as Lucy did. She would rather play ball with her brothers than dolls with her sisters. She was a funny, happy girl and everyone just accepted that Jennie was being herself and they loved all her little tomboy ways.
Without warning, Jennie let out a yelp, yanked at her pigtails and started to sob.
“Mama, come quick, something terrible has happened to Jennie.”
The three women ran up the stairs two at a time. “What's happened” shouted Nadine.
Jennie was still seated at the dressing table. “He thought I was a boy. He's right, I do look like a boy and even Bethany's pink dress won't make me look pretty like all the other girls.”
“Who thought you were a boy Jennie?” Everyone in town knew Jennie didn't dress in frilly dresses or brush pretty curls into her hair.
“I don't know who he was but he had beautiful eyes and my tummy did flip flops when I saw him.”
Lucy shouted out “Jennie's in love” she was just a year younger than her sister but she herself had been in love at least three times in the last year.
“That's enough Lucy. Why don't you go downstairs and check on your little brother.” Fiona walked with her while Nadine and Maddie stayed with Jennie.
Nadine dried her daughter's tears. She knew behind all that smeared dirt on her face there was a very pretty young lady. Maddie helped untangle her braids and helped her sister wash her hair. She curled her pretty auburn hair with rags and pins. Bethany was more than happy to lend her sister her pink party dress.
Jennie was afraid her brothers would tease her if they saw her in her rags and pins and decided to stay in her room until just before they all left for the dance.
Papa talked to all the boys and told them not to tease their sister about the way she looks. “What's wrong with the way she looks. All my friends like her and want her on their team. They wouldn't ever make fun of her. Besides, she would sock them if they did.”
Maddie hurried home to change for the dance herself and she and Mack came back so Maddie could oversee her sister's transformation.
Jennie watched in the mirror as Maddie brushed her hair. She had never seen so many curls. Maddie applied just a touch of blush to her cheeks and a pale pink lipstick. Bethany's dress fit her perfectly. It was time for her to walk down the stairs. The whole family was waiting for her as she stepped into the parlor. There was total silence in the room. Jennie was about to dissolve into tears when her Papa turned on the phonograph and asked his daughter for a dance. Liam told his little girl how beautiful she looked. Her brothers and sisters all started talking at once. They had a hard time recognizing this lovely young lady before them.
“We'd better hurry if we are going to make it to the dance on time.” Everyone hurried into the waiting carriage and headed for the Mackenzie house so the families could go together as they always did.
Dr. Clayton Springer and his wife Margie were getting dressed for the dance. Clay was hoping he had made the right decision in moving his family to Camden Corners. It meant taking the children away from their familiar surroundings and their playmates. All three seemed to be taking it in stride and the youngest, Abigail already had two best friends in Camden Corners. Pete came home laughing about a girl he had mistaken for a boy. He told his father she had a better pitching arm than any of his chums back in New York. Samantha was always rather quiet. She enjoyed helping her mother with the cooking and loved reading. She was an excellent student and there weren't any signs that she was slipping in that area. He shook off his doubts and watched as his wife brushed her hair. She was the love of his life. Margie had a calming effect on Clay and just watching her face in the mirror quieted his unease.
“I'm very excited about the dance tonight Clay. I think we made the right decision in moving to Camden Corners. The children seem happy and it is such a beautiful little town. The people all care about one another. Mary McMillan and I went to the antique shop on Main and I met some of the loveliest ladies. Oh, by the way, I bought a pretty little lamp for Samantha's room. I think she likes it. It has an interesting history behind it. When I told Lily Crowley, one of the young owners of the shop, about Samantha's interest in antiques, she suggested she might like to work at the shop one or two afternoons a week. It seems everyone involved in the shop is a history buff. She even suggested Samantha might like to attend an auction with her friends Ethel and Jonas one day this summer. Samantha is thrilled with the idea and is planning to visit the shop after school on Monday.”
Clay was certain Margie could read his mind. She knew just when reassurance was required and always seemed to have the exact words he needed to hear.
“I'm a lucky man” Clay said as he kissed his wife on the forehead
“Why, because you have a wife who enjoys spending your money on antique lamps?” Margie laughed.
The night air was very brisk as people began arriving at the winery. This was the first time most of the townsfolk had seen the winery. All of the carpentry work had been completed but it wouldn't be in operation until the fall when the first wine harvest began. Nick Rossi was happy to show off the winery to everyone and his Papa, Lou was right at his side.
Upstairs in the ballroom, people were milling around enjoying a glass of champagne or fruit punch while they greeted their friends and neighbors.
The McMillans welcomed the Springer family and began introductions as they circled the room.
“It looks like Lucinda Rossi is busy behind the scenes” said Doc “I'll introduce you to her later. Lucinda is responsible for the Camden Corners hospital being built. She is an extraordinary young woman. She and her daughter are also from New York City. She married Nick Rossi after she and Cassandra moved here just over a year ago.”
Peter looked around the room. He recognized some of the fellows from school and excused himself to join them at one of the tables set up with appetizers. The girls were at the other table and he noticed a pretty girl with very curly hair. He thought she was staring at him. She did look vaguely familiar but he couldn't place her.
Lucy noticed her sister staring longingly in the new boy's direction. “That's him, isn't it Jennie, the boy who you saw today? My goodness, he really is cute. He's looking over here Jennie. Go say something to him.”
“I can't, I can't move my legs. Oh Lucy, I'm such a klutz. These shoes are so tight I just want to kick them off and walk around in my stocking feet. Doesn't he have the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen?”
Lucy didn't know how she was going to do it but she was determined her sister would have at least one dance with that boy, sore feet or not.
Harold Hightower stood at the microphone announcing it was time everyone took their seat. Shortly after that Will Duesenberry gave the blessing.
Harold walked back to the microphone and asked everyone to begin eating their dinner. He wanted to announce that Camden Corner's Hospital would be fully functional within the week. He introduced two new doctors in town, Grady Murphy and Clayton Springer. The men stood at their seats while the audience showed their appreciation in applause.
Harold then said “I would like to introduce the young lady who saw a need for a hospital in Camden Corners and fully funded the cost to build it with some left over for it's operation. Mrs. Lucinda McCoy Rossi.”
Lucinda was walking into the room just as the building shook with the sound of applause. Harold called her to the microphone. She slowly walked to the front of the room.
At the McMillan table, Clayton Springer looked on with astonishment. “I know that woman. She brought her very ill daughter to the clinic and she is definitely not who she pretended to be.”
Everyone turned to look at Clayton. It was obvious he was not as impressed with the hospital benefactor as the rest of the room was.