The Forgotten Daughter(10)

By: Lauri Robinson



He was frowning and looking at her curiously.

“A tent, huh?” Josie said, pretending she hadn’t been thinking about other things. She let her gaze wander around the fountain, toward the big island in the center of the lake. “We all used to play out there,” she said. “Back in the day.”

“I remember your foot being bandaged when school started one year. You’d stepped on a nail out there.”

She’d like to have said she’d forgotten about that. Some of the other kids had teased her and Scooter had put a stop to them. Trying to forget that part, she said, “My grandmother said I was going to get blood poisoning from that nail and insisted I keep my foot above my heart at all times.” Shaking her head, she admitted, “I thought she meant forever. I was afraid I’d die right at my desk when school started.”

“I’m glad that didn’t happen.” With a wink, he added, “Old Mrs. McGillicuddy would have died right alongside you. Besides being as blind as a bat, she was afraid of her own shadow.”

“Probably because you boys were so mean to her,” Josie suggested.

“Mean? We weren’t mean to her,” he said. “She was so easily frightened we couldn’t help but put a stick or two in her desk drawer. She’s the one that thought they were snakes.”

Josie almost laughed at the memories, until she recalled she was still mad at Scooter. Standing here laughing over foolish childish pranks wouldn’t—or at least shouldn’t—lessen that. “Well,” she said seriously, “Mrs. McGillicuddy was a much better teacher than Miss Jenkins.”

Scooter lifted an eyebrow before he leaned closer. “Miss Jenkins,” he whispered, “was too busy chasing after the older boys to teach anyone anything.”

For some unfathomable reason, heat stung her cheeks. It didn’t have anything to do with Miss Jenkins. She barely remembered the woman. The influenza epidemic had hit shortly after she’d taken over as teacher and school had been closed for months.

“She married Dac’s cousin,” Scooter said. “They live over by St. Cloud and have five or six kids, last I heard.”

The cheering crowd brought her attention back to the dance floor, where Twyla and Forrest were embraced in a rather heated kiss. Along with everyone else, Josie watched, and wondered. Many things had changed in her life. Teachers. The epidemic that had taken her mother, brother and grandparents away in a swoop. She’d missed them terribly at first, still mourned the losses, but not even their deaths had left her with the uncanny sense of dread she felt today.

Perhaps because she’d been too young. She was twenty-one now, an age where she understood cause and effect, and consequences.

After a roaring round of applause, girls started passing out ice cream and cake. Josie once again looked for an escape route, but people were crowding closer, vying for the next bowl. Scooter handed her one that held both cake and ice cream, and a spoon.

“Let’s move over a bit.”

She started to protest, but was cut short when someone bumped into her.

Scooter caught her bowl before it toppled. “This way,” he said.

Josie followed him a few feet, to where he stopped next to Ty and Norma Rose. She’d barely taken a bite when Norma Rose shoved another bowl in her direction.

“Hold this.” Her sister then grabbed Ty’s bowl and Scooter’s. “We have to get those tables off the dance floor.”

“Why?” Josie asked as she took the bowls Norma Rose handed her. Having waited tables plenty of times, balancing all four was easy.

“That’s why,” Norma Rose said.

Josie turned in the direction her sister pointed. Their other newly acquired brother-in-law, Brock Ness, had positioned himself behind the piano that had also been transported outside as another round of applause echoed through the air. Brock was an excellent musician and the locals had missed his performances since he’d left for Chicago.

“Once he starts playing, people will crowd the floor, tables or not,” Norma Rose said.

Ty and Scooter followed Norma Rose. Frustration filled Josie as she glanced down at the four bowls full of untouched cake and ice cream. Spying a waitress nearby now gathering empty plates, Josie wasted no time in getting rid of all four. A touch of guilt ensued, but she ignored it. Scooter, as well as Norma Rose and Ty, could get more cake and ice cream. There was plenty.

She’d made it almost to the far side of the dance floor when a familiar hold once again caught her arm.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Scooter asked.

“I have things to see to,” she said, twisting her arm.

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