Fiction Friday

We're winging this one. I'm writing completely on the seat of my pants. I have no idea where this story is going. Join me for the ride. Let me know if you have a suggestion or idea. I'm open to anything.

The Bandbox Hat
Chapter One

What's a girl in a bonnet to do when she's faced with the most beautiful pair of stiletto pumps ever created?
I stared through the window of Enns' Dry Goods, questions tumbling through my mind like grain falling into the silo.

1) Where did Emma Enns find this pair of black heels?
2) Did her father know she'd ordered them and they were currently displayed in his window, in front of God and everyone in Rosedale?
3) How much were they and if I skipped lunch for a couple of weeks, could I afford them?

Some of the answers I could supply.

1) Not from the store's usual suppliers.
2) Not very likely.
3) Only one way to find out.

I pushed through the heavy glass door, the metal bar hot against my hand.

"Sarah Jane. Hi." Emma's cheery voice greeted me from behind the checkout counter near the entrance.

I hurried to my friend. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the front window."

Her eyes sparkled with mischief and daring. "Father let me add some inventory to try and attract more tourists. So it won't be just zwieback and snoods."

"But will a tourist buy a pair of shoes in a Mennonite dry goods store?" For some reason, my practical nature chose that moment to show itself. "Craft items, maybe specialty foods. But they can buy the shoes at their own mall."

"Shhh!" Emma leaned across the counter. "I have a plan to keep the shoes. Or sell them to a good friend."

"Ah." Comprehension dawned as quickly as my hopes were dashed. "I'm sure I can't afford them. And your father made it clear that I abused his layaway policy and from now on it's cash and carry only for Sarah Jane Richter."

"I'll do my best to keep them for you while you save up," Emma said. "How's work?"

"Fine. It's home and family life that's driving me crazy."

"I'd give anything if my brother would build a garage apartment for me, instead of sharing with my twelve-year old sister. I'm ten years older."

"Yes, but you and Josef will be married in just a few months and you'll have your own home. I have no fiance' and, even worse according to my family, no prospects."

"You know that's not true. Benjamin and Aaron and David would all be glad to court you if you gave them any encouragement at all."

Her words were true, but the despair they triggered in my heart couldn't be shared. No one believed me that I was in no hurry to marry and bear children. I have twenty-six first graders to care for and make sure they are clothed and fed. And make sure they can read by the time the state mandated testing happens.

"I have to go." I moved to the exit and sketched a wave goodbye. Out on the warm concrete sidewalk I paused to draw in a breath of fresh air. Spring in Rosedale is glorious. And fleeting. In another two weeks, we'd be dashing from air conditioned cars to air conditioned homes. At least some of us would. My new garage apartment would have only a celing fan to keep the oppressive summer at bay. But since I'd be living there alone, there was no one to care or be shocked if I wanted to sit on the couch in my underwear. Or take a shower in the middle of the day, just to cool off.

"Oh, my, look!" The soft voice came from behind me.

I glanced over my shoulder. Emma's plan was working. A couple in vacation clothes, shorts and tee shirts had paused in front of the window display. The woman was tall and slender, with blonde hair pulled into a sleek pony tail. She pointed at ... I followed her finger. My shoes!

"I think I'll try them on," she said, and headed for the door.

The man followed more slowly. He looked around the street and his gaze met mine.

My heart twitched, almost like it had been in suspended animation and had received an electric shock to restart it.

He froze, too.

"Sarah Jane." His voice hadn't changed at all. Still deep, yet soft.


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