A serial fiction romance story for your enjoyment
written by James Rada, Jr.
3: the dance
Caleb Sachs opened the rear door to the store and stepped onto the porch. He had been careful not to make any noise coming down the stairs from the second floor where he and his family lived above the family store in Emmitsburg. He was equally careful not to make a sound shutting the door.
He hurried around the brick building to Main Street and headed for the town square. Lanterns hung from ropes strung between buildings to light up the square. Tables filled with punch, cakes, cookies, and pies lined the edge of the square. A five-piece band was set up in one corner playing “The Rare Old Mountain Dew.” Some couples danced in the streets while the rest of the townspeople milled around off to the sides. More than 800 people lived in Emmitsburg, and Caleb guessed that at least 200 of them were at the dance.
He saw Peter Wilhide and Thomas Baker sitting at one of the tables eating pie. Caleb dodged between the dancers and made his way across the square. He cut himself a slice of pie and sat down next to his friends.
“I didn’t think your parents would let you come,” Thomas said.
Caleb grinned. “I told them I was going to bed, and then I snuck past them.”
“And they won’t check on you?”
“I stuffed a pillow under my blanket. It should work if they don’t look too close,” Caleb told them. His friends laughed. “So anything interesting happen yet?”
“Not yet, but people are still showing up,” Peter said. “I brought something to make things fun, though.” He opened his jacket and Caleb saw the top of a bottle of liquor sticking over the top of the inside pocket.
“Is that for us?” Caleb asked.
“Some of it, but most of it is going to end up in one of the punch bowls.”
Caleb ate pie and looked out over the crowd. The band sounded good. He guessed the crowd was split about half and half between teenagers and adults.
“Are you going to dance tonight?” Caleb asked his friends.
“It depends on who shows up,” Peter said.
“I really want to dance with Becky Everett, but she is only interested in Luke,” Thomas said. Luke Wilhide was Peter’s older brother.
“Well, if we get too bored, we can always grab a cake and sneak away with Peter’s bottle.”
Caleb looked across the square and saw two girls come in from the west. One was blonde and slim. The other had darker hair and a fuller figure than the blonde. Caleb didn’t know them, but they were around his age, and they were attractive.
He watched them walk over to a couple they obviously knew. The man was a couple of years older than Caleb, as was the woman he was with.
Caleb stared at the blonde. She looked familiar, but he knew he didn’t know her. He would have remembered her if he had seen her at school, unless she went to the Catholic school. She might also be visiting from out of town. That still didn’t explain why he felt he knew her.
As if feeling his stare on her, the girl looked up and Caleb saw her pale blue eyes even though she was across the square. She smiled at him, which caused him to grin like a fool. Then Peter elbowed him, causing him to look away. When he looked at her again, she was talking to the older man again.
“You guys may want to sit around eating, but I came to meet girls,” Caleb said. “I’m going to dance.”
He stood up and headed across Main Street to ask the girl with the pale-blue eyes to dance. He wasn’t even halfway there before another guy came up, spoke to her briefly, and then led her into the street to dance.
Caleb stopped, his shoulders sagged, and he walked back to sit with his friends again.
“So, this is what you call dancing?” Peter asked. “I call it sitting.”
“I was going to dance, but that guy beat me to it,” Caleb said, pointing to the couple.
Peter shrugged. “There are other girls standing around. Dance with one of them.”
“You dance with them. I wanted to dance with that girl. Who is she, anyway?”
“I don’t know.”
Thomas said, “That’s Margaret. She’s nice enough, but her sister is better looking and available.”
“What? Is she courting that guy?” Caleb asked.
“No, but I heard she’s going to be a sister.”
“Oh, she’s Catholic.” No wonder Thomas knew her. His family was Catholic. He probably saw Margaret in church.
Margaret. Caleb liked the sound of the name.
He watched her dance. She spun around and laughed. He knew where he had seen her!. She was his angel!
By the time Caleb realized the song had ended, someone else had already asked Margaret to dance. He watched her move, remembering how she had looked this morning. He stood up and moved to the edge of the dancing area. He would not miss another opportunity to dance with his angel.
As he watched her, he realized she was also watching him. Even as she turned around with her dance partner, she kept bringing her eyes back to stare at him.
The song ended, and Caleb barely waited for Margaret’s partner to leave before he approached her.
He stopped in front of her and felt his mouth go dry. She stared at him with those penetrating eyes.
“Would you like to dance?” he managed.
He reached out and took her hands as they moved into a quadrille. Caleb was glad he knew the dance well because he found himself having trouble concentrating.
“My name is Caleb,” he said.
“I haven’t seen you around town.”
“I don’t come in all that often other than for church and school.”
“That’s a shame.”
“A shame I don’t come in or that I go to church?” She must have noticed the flustered look on his face because she added. “I’m just teasing you.”
“Do you know you’re an angel?” he said.
Her eyes widened. “I don’t know if I’d say that.”
“I would. I saw you this morning dancing.”
Caleb felt her miss a beat. Then he saw color rise in her cheeks.
“Really?” she said. “I was just enjoying the beautiful morning. I didn’t know anyone saw me.”
Caleb nodded. “I know. That’s what made it so wonderful. You were expressing yourself. It was so free, open, natural. I saw you dancing and thought of all the wonderful things in life. It made me smile all the way to Gettysburg.”
Margaret stared directly into his eyes. “That’s very kind of you to say.”
Caleb was about to ask Margaret to sit with him at a table when he heard shouts. He looked over his shoulder and saw Peter and Thomas arguing with the older man Margaret had been speaking to earlier.
The man held Peter’s liquor bottle while Peter shouted at him and grabbed at the bottle. Caleb stopped dancing and sighed.
“You’ll have to excuse me. My friends are causing trouble.”
He hurried toward the three men.
“Give me my bottle,” Peter said.
“Guys, calm down. You’re ruining the dance,” Caleb said.
“This guy stole my bottle, Caleb,” Peter said.
“You were spiking the punch,” the man said.
“You could get someone drunk who didn’t know it.”
Caleb stood between them with his hands on Peter’s shoulders. “It’s all right, Peter. We wanted it for ourselves, anyway.”
“Well, no one’s getting this,” the man said.
He turned the bottle over and dumped the contents on the street.
“No!” Peter lunged at the man, grabbing at the bottle. The man stepped back and pushed Peter away.
Then suddenly Thomas was swinging at the man, and Caleb was caught in the middle.
“Wait! Stop!” he shouted.
Caleb turned to hold Thomas back and the man’s fist hit him from behind. Caleb stumbled and turned. He saw Thomas’s arm shoot past him as he punched the man. Then other men were grabbing the man, Peter, Thomas, and Caleb, pulling them apart.
Caleb shook the hand off him. “I’m fine.”
“You boys need to leave,” Jack Harrison said.
Caleb was fine with that. He would much rather spend time with Margaret. He looked around to see if he could find her in the crowd. He glimpsed her leaving the dance with her sister.
He realized he hadn’t gotten her last name.