written by James Rada, Jr.
A new serial fiction romance story for your enjoyment
Margaret Rosensteel washed the dishes from her family’s dinner while she stared out the kitchen window at nothing. The next farm was over half a mile away to the west, and Emmitsburg was a mile or so to the southeast. She couldn’t see lights from either.
She scrubbed the remains of chicken and gravy from the plates and set them aside.
She remembered the young man she had watched drive past St. Joseph’s Church in town. He was her age, but she had never seen him before. Nothing surprising about that. Margaret doubted she knew everyone in town, but it probably meant the teenage boy wasn’t a Catholic. Between Mass and church socials, Margaret did know all the Catholic boys by sight. She even knew a lot of the other boys in town from her school classes. So, why hadn’t she ever noticed that boy before?
What did it matter? Why was she even thinking of him? Nothing could come of it.
Rebecca came downstairs in a blue calico dress Margaret had never seen her wear. She spun around, making the skirt flare.
“How do I look?” Rebecca asked.
“You look wonderful,” Margaret told her.
“I’ve been working on this all day. I saved for the fabric for two months, but could only buy it yesterday. I wanted to show it off tonight.”
Rebecca put her hands on her hips. “Yes. Tonight. The spring dance in town. How could you forget?”
Margaret hadn’t so much forgotten as put it out of her mind. She was going to be a Daughter of Charity, and Daughters of Charity didn’t go dancing, at least none she knew.
“Why was it so important to finish it for the dance?” Margaret asked.
“I want the boys to see me in it. Do you think they’ll like me in it?”
Margaret smiled. “Of course, they will. You look beautiful.” Her younger sister was a cute blonde with an outgoing personality. She was already catching the attention of the boys in town.
“You need to get ready now, so we can go,” Rebecca said.
Margaret shook her head. “I’m not going.”
“You have to, Margaret. You skipped the last two dances. I need someone to talk to. It’s no fun without you.”
“You’ll be too busy dancing and talking with the boys. Besides, other girls will be there.”
“Please, come. I won’t have any fun without you.”
That was a lie, but Margaret and Rebecca did have fun together. They were the middle children in the Rosensteel family, only a year apart in age. Jack and Paul were the eldest, and they were married and starting families of their own. David, Sarah, and Michael were all under 12 years old.
The problem was that Margaret would become a sister in another year. She needed to prepare herself for that. No use dancing with boys when there was no possibility of anything more. Her parents had planned her future already, more than they had any of their other children.
Rebecca took her sister by the hand and pulled her upstairs to their bedroom. She opened the armoire that both of them shared and took out Margaret’s Sunday dress and looked at it.
“Too churchy,” the younger girl said, as she tossed it on the bed.
“It’s my best dress.”
“But not one for a dance.”
Rebecca pulled out the second work dress Margaret owned and tossed it on the bed.
“Not that one either,” Rebecca said.
She pulled out the final dress. It was a light blue dress Margaret had made for Elizabeth’s wedding last year. She hadn’t found an occasion to wear it since. Her mother considered it “too casual” for church.
Rebecca shoved the dress into her sister’s arms. “There, now get dressed. You’re going to go with me, and you’re going to have a good time.”
Caleb Sachs sat in his room above his father’s store on East Main Street. His parents had the room at the back of the building because it was quieter, but Caleb’s room looked onto the street. He didn’t mind. He could look outside and see what was happening, and tonight, a lot was happening.
People on the sidewalks headed toward the town square, where the spring dance was being held. Everyone would be there celebrating and having fun. Everyone except the Sachs family. It was Friday night, and the Sachs, being Jewish, began celebrating the Sabbath at sundown.
Weekends were never any fun for Caleb. His was the only Jewish family in Emmitsburg, so while his family observed the Sabbath on Friday night and Saturday, he was stuck at home unless his parents went to bed early, and he could sneak off to enjoy time with his friends. Then, on Sunday, when Caleb was free to do something, his friends’ parents were making his friends observe their Sabbath. With nothing to do during the weekend, it felt as long as the week to Caleb.
He walked out of his room to the parlor where his parents sat. His mother played a song he didn’t recognize, but she often composed her own music. His father sat in his armchair reading a book.
“I can hear the band warming up at the square,” Caleb said.
“Mmm-hmmm,” his father said, as he puffed on his pipe.
“I was thinking that since it’s a special occasion, I could go to the dance for a little while.”
His father removed his pipe. “Just make sure to come home at sundown.”
“But Papa, it won’t even be getting going by then. My friends might not even be there. I won’t stay out late. I promise.”
His friends were more likely to arrive early and sneak out early as well, but Caleb wouldn’t tell his father that.
“It’s Friday, Caleb. You know that.”
His mother stopped her playing and turned around on the bench. “We can take the train to Baltimore next week, Caleb. We’ll visit your grandparents.”
“That’s not the same thing, Mama. I wanted to dance.”
She frowned, wrinkling her smooth, pale skin. “With a guy? Why would you want to do that?”
“I like to dance, Mama, and since we’re the only Jewish family in town, if I’m to do that, it would have to be with a Christian girl.”
“If you want to meet a girl, I will have your grandparents find a Jewish girl for you,” his mother said.
Caleb sighed. “Mama, I don’t want to get married. I just want to go to the dance tonight.”
His mother shook her head. “No, better you stay here and not get yourself attached to someone you can’t have.”
Caleb hung his head. His mother just didn’t understand the idea of having fun. For her, it was about finding him a wife since he would soon be 17.
As Caleb walked back to his room, he thought of the one advantage of being the only Jewish family in town, he wasn’t married yet. If there had been an eligible Jewish girl in Emmitsburg or even nearby, his mother would have already paired them up and been planning the wedding.
He looked out his window and saw Peter Wilhide walking down the street. Caleb slid open his window.
Peter stopped and turned around. He saw Caleb in the window and waved. “Are you coming to the dance, Caleb?”
“My parents won’t let me.”
“Won’t let you? Oh, that’s right, it’s Friday. Then maybe… later?”
Caleb grinned. “Yes, I think so.”
Peter laughed. “I’ll let the others know.”
Caleb shut the window. He glanced at the clock on his wall. The dance would be starting in half an hour. Everyone would be there by 6:30 p.m. He had that long to plan on how he would get past his parents without them knowing.