Welcome back to the Bradford Legacy! Last time around, Matthew questioned his life‟s choices butdecided he was in the right after all; Viola and Sterling got together, which upset Melanie and caused her tocreate a scene at the Bradford Farm; Melanie then realized how much her bitterness was affecting thosearound her and decided to escape Simsfield to Sarsimsota Springs to see if it would help her recover;James felt left out because all his friends were paired off and he didn‟t have a girlfriend yet; Matthew diedafter one last go-around of his family‟s faults and the family put on mourning only to keep up appearances;Jefferson settled into his new role as head of the family with support from Marsha while Jan tried toreconcile herself to her new dowager role, and Henri enjoyed her last days by spending them with thoseshe loved.Remember that the possibility for non-PG language and situations exist. We‟re about to roar into the1920‟s, so be prepared.So, having said that, I give you Chapter 20 of The Bradford Legacy.
She was ready.She had been ready for the past six months.It had been just over two years since Matthew‟s passing, and Jan was more than ready to join him.
Her life as a widow had not been easy, and Jan was not used to difficulties. During the first year, the yearof seclusion of first mourning, Marsha had bustled about, thoroughly enjoying her new role as lady of thehouse. She‟d rearranged the kitchen, redone the flower beds, and purchased a new sofa for the study, allwithout consulting Jan.Thoughtless creature, Jan sneered. In her anger, Jan had conveniently forgotten that she had done thesame when she had been in the same position after the death of her father-in-law.
After first mourning had finished, Jan had thrown an afternoon tea to announce her return to society. Shehad thought that seeing her friends and acquaintances again would raise her spirits. That was not thecase. Instead, she found that many of them had passed in the year she had been stuck in the house, andthose who had not were too old and frail for visiting. Even the daughters of her friends had been adisappointment, as they would rather visit with Marsha than Jan.
And then there was the appalling lack of respect from her family. James and Cyrus, she could understandto a point. Both boys divided their time between schoolwork and baseball, and rarely had a free moment topass with their grandmother. Viola‟s actions, on the other hand, were inexcusable. She spent all her sparetime with her oil paints or sketchbook, and never spared an afternoon for the old lady.Selfish chit, Jan scowled. But what could one expect, with a mother such as Marsha? That woman hadbeen nothing but selfish, right down to steeling Jefferson away from his intended bride.But of course, not all the blame for that fiasco lay with Marsha, as much as Jan hated to admit it. Jeffersonshouldered a share of it as well. Of all the times for him to develop a backbone…but that was in the past.There was nothing that could be done about it now.
What she could do was silently disapprove of the way things were done, especially today. The family hadabandoned her to watch James and Thaddeus play one last game of ball for the Simsfield school teambefore they went off to college.Here she was, an old woman on death‟s doorstep, and there was no one home with her. It would servethem right, she thought, if she dropped dead at that moment. Then they would be sorry that they weren‟tthere to bid her farewell. Of course, she had been the only one present at Matthew‟s deathbed, and therest of the family hadn‟t cared.
The sun was beginning to set as the clock struck six. She moved towards the kitchen, intending to checkon dinner‟s progress. Instead, she felt a wave of cold rush over her. She turned and faced a presence thatshe had seen not so long ago.And at the end, she was alone.
Marsha had come home ahead of the rest of the family to find that Jan was dead. She had quickly calledthe necessary people to make the necessary arrangements, and was now waiting for the rest of her familyto arrive home. Despite her dislike of the woman who had been her mother-in-law, Marsha hated the thought that she haddied alone. Even Matthew, horrible as he was, had not suffered that fate. Still, if Jan was not feeling well,she should have told someone. They weren‟t mind readers, after all.
Jefferson was the first through the door, leaving the younger folks lingering at the park in the twilight. Heknew straight away that something was wrong, by the way Marsha was gingerly sitting on the sofa, and byhow quiet the house was.
Upon seeing the question in Jefferson‟s face, Marsha offered a sad smile.“You mother passed away while we were out.”Jefferson‟s legs wobbled under him, and he dropped to the sofa beside his wife.
“She was all alone. Why didn‟t she say something? I could have stayed home with her…”“Jefferson, you know as well as I do that the woman lived to spite us. I wouldn‟t put it past her to havedone this just to make us feel guilty.”“True. She‟s gone. I have to call on Lizzie and tell her. Will you tell the children when they get home? Itold them to be back in half an hour, but they lose all sense of time when they are with their friends.”“Of course I will.”
Jefferson got up and moved towards the foyer.“Oh Marsha,” he called over his shoulder, “Let the kids know that we won‟t be putting on mourning this timearound. I don‟t see the point, do you?”“Not at all. Give Lizzie my best. And don‟t you think that we should invite Phily, Victor and Jane over fordinner soon?”
Now close the windows and hush all the fields: If the trees must, let them silently toss;No bird is singing in them now, and if there is, Be it my loss.It will be long ere the marshes resume, It will be long ere the earliest bird:So close the windows and not hear the wind, But see all wind-stirred.-“Now Close the Windows” by Robert Frost
Melanie Miller Alcott had been in Sarsimsota Springs for several years. It had been nice to get away fromall the memories in Simsfield. The people in the resort town had been very kind to her; it was all too easyto explain that her extended visit was for her health, and that her family couldn‟t come or visit because theyhad too much going on with work and school.After it became obvious that she was not coming home straight away, George had secured a small housefor Melanie to live in, and helped to secure a maid-of-all-work to make sure it was taken care of. Hehimself had not been to visit her, as he felt that it was best for her to be left alone during this time.Still, Melanie thought often of her family. She wrote to George frequently and he replied, though not asoften. She also wrote to her son, though Sterling had yet to reply to any of her correspondence.
Truthfully, all Melanie‟s letters sat unread on Sterling‟s desk. He was still angry at his mother for how shehad treated Viola and her family, and he was glad that she was gone. Things were much easier for himwithout her meddling in his affairs.
It was much easier for him to spend time with Viola when he didn‟t have to hide from his mother‟s eye. Ofcourse, there was James to be worried about, but he seemed to have a blind spot when it came to hissister and Sterling. He was beginning to dread going away to college in a few years, as it would meanleaving Viola behind.
After a while, and with Viola‟s encouragement, Sterling did sit down one night and read over several yearsworth of letters from his mother.
Dearest Sterling,I can only assume by your lack of response to my letters that you are still upset with me. I do not blameyou. My behavior was abominable, and I would not be surprised if you had not forgiven me. I hope thatyou understand that my absence is because I want to improve myself so that I do not descend to such lowsagain. I realize from the letters your father sends me that you are serious about Viola, and that she willbecome part of our family. Therefore, I understand that I must change if I want to continue to be a part ofyour life, as I do want very much.
On the chance that you read this letter, I‟ll tell you what I have been doing to clear my mind. First, I haveindulged in the local cuisine. The breakfast food here is especially amazing, and I often have it for mylunch and dinner as well. I highly recommend that you come here just to try the food.
I have spent much time at the spa as well, soaking in the hot springs…
And found more appropriate ways of dealing with my frustration and anger.
I have also purchased local items of interest that I plan to bring home. I do hope that you will enjoy them.
As I said earlier, the people are very nice, but some of them are very strange. Still, I am doing my best tobe sociable. It is nice to have someone to talk to from time to time.
It worries me that I do not hear from you, son. I hope that you will be able to find it in your heart to forgiveme. Your father tells me of what you are up to, but I would like to hear from you, just once.I shall end this letter now. Keep up with your studies, and I am certain that you shall do well on yourentrance exam to SimHarvard.All my love,Mother
Back in Simsfield, George was commiserating with his father about his wife‟s long absence.“I know it was for the best that she left, Papa, but I can‟t help wishing that she‟d come home soon.”“Son, if it was meant to work out it will. Your mother and I were a prime example of that. Melanie willcome home when she‟s ready. If she comes back before then you‟ll just end up with more of the same.You could always go and visit her.”“I could, but I feel as though I‟d be intruding upon her recovery were I to do so.”
At that juncture, Sterling came downstairs.“I think you‟re right, Papa. I finally read her letters – it sounds like she‟s changed a lot. I think we shouldwait it out. She should be home soon.”
“I‟m glad you read her letters, son. Are you going to write back?”“I…” he hesitated, “I‟m not sure I‟m ready to write to her. I‟m still mad, and I don‟t want that to comethrough and cause her distress. Perhaps you could mention it to her when you write at the end of theweek?”“I would be happy to, Sterling. I just hope that you decide to write back to her soon – I think it would do hera world of good to get a letter from you.”“Soon, Papa. Not now, but soon.”
When George did sit down later that week to write to Melanie, it was with a heavy heart.Melanie,I know that I should not bother you with sorrow at this time, but as you were close to my father I feel youshould know the news straight away.
My father passed away earlier in the week. It was hard to see him go, as you can well imagine, but insome ways I am relieved that he has gone to join my mother. They were so very much in love with eachother that it was hard to see him go about without her at his side.
Sterling is, of course, distraught. He asked me to mention that he has read your letters, but does not trusthimself to write to you just yet. He is still angry with you, as you fear, but he is getting better.Do not let this news change your plans. Continue to stay in Sarsimsota Springs for as long as you need.Sterling and I will manage just fine.All my best,George
Phily walked into the entryway, weary from her morning‟s activities. The rallies and the protests seemed totake a lot more out of her lately. She placed her sign down by the door, removed her hat, and movedtowards the dining room where she knew she would find Meadow with a hot cup of tea waiting for her.
“You look exhausted,” commented Meadow as she poured a cup for her partner.Phily nodded as she sat down and accepted the cup. “The younger set sometimes forgets that we oldbroads don‟t have the stamina they do. We must have marched two miles today.”
Octavia looked up from her homework. “If it makes you so tired, Grandma Phily, why do you march in thesuffering rallies?”
The two older women chuckled. “Perhaps suffering rallies is a more appropriate name,” Phily admitted.“But they are suffrage rallies, Tavia. I‟m protesting the fact that women cannot vote.”“But why?” the girl persisted.
Phily‟s face softened. “For almost as long as theres‟ been talk of suffrage, there‟s been a Bradford womanchampioning it. First, it was my eldest sister, your Great-Aunt Anne. She was a bold woman, and shespent much of her youth attending rallies and speeches as I do now. She even saw Susan B. Simthonyspeak once! She was one of the greatest suffragettes of all time. But Anne became very ill when she hadher children, and had to give it up.“Then, your Grandma Henri took up the cause. It always bothered her that women had no right to owntheir own property outright, and that they had to defer to their fathers or their husbands for a voice. Sheworked towards suffrage until just before she died. I took it up in her honor. Hopefully, I‟ll live long enoughto see women get the vote.”
“If you don‟t,” said Octavia with sincere eyes, “I‟ll become a suffragette and get women the vote.”Phily smiled at her granddaughter. “That‟s good to know. My sisters would be proud.”
Meadow put down her teacup. “Are you finished with your sums?”Octavia nodded.“Leave them here and I will check them for you. It‟s time for you to practice the piano.”“Yes, Grandma Meadow,” she said as she scurried out of the room.
After Octavia left, Meadow and Phily sipped their tea in silence. It was broken suddenly when their twograndsons burst into the room.
“Grandma Phily! Grandma Phily! You‟re in the paper!” cried Asher, waving the evening edition of thePortsimouth Herald about.“I am?” she wondered.“You are,” Raymond nodded. “A picture, and you‟re quoted.”“May I?” she requested, holding out her hand. She took the Herald from Asher, and began to read.
Suffragettes from Portsimouth took to the streets of the city again today, urging Congress to adopt theamendment that would grant women the right to vote.“The President has called for Simaricans to support our brothers and sisters in Simland and SimFrance asthey fight for their right to democracy,” says Philomena Bradford of Elm Street, Portsimouth. “Yet he failsto recognize the fact that his own country is in the middle of a battle for democracy as well – a democracythat allows all its citizens, be they man or woman, the right to vote. Mr. President, though we are women,we too are citizens of the United States of Simerica. We demand that our right to vote be recognized!”
“An excellent and compelling argument,” nodded Raymond. “If it were up to me, Grandma Phily, womenwould have been able to vote long ago.”“Thank you, Raymond. And the reporter quoted me quite well. It seems that the media is on board withour movement now. It seems that the tide for suffrage may have turned at last.”“I believe it has. Our teacher seems to think that the amendment will go through Congress soon. Afterthat, it will be up to the states.”“We shall all pray for it to occur. It is our right to have liberty.”“Here, here.”
James was not one to read the newspaper, but one afternoon in early spring a headline caught his eye.18th Amendment Ratified – Prohibition to be Law“What the Hell?” he said aloud, and grabbed the paper to read the attached story.
Beginning with the start of the new decade, it will be illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicatingliquors. By definition, this means any and all beverages that are more that 0.5% alcohol by volume. Theamendment will supersede any existing state prohibition laws.The temperance movement has finally seen its ultimate victory with the passing of the Volstead Act. Thereis much hope that this law will bring about a decrease in the crime of our country, specifically murders androbberies, as it is a well-know fact that alcohol consumption is the primary cause of their increase as oflate.“What a load of crap,” muttered James as he folded the paper. “That‟s not a national issues – if a statewants to ban alcohol so be it. Massimchusetts would never do something so dumb.”
That night at dinner, the whole family was talking of the news. Marsha had been the happiest about thenews – she had always been a teetotaler, and Jefferson had seemed to be pleased about it as well. Cyrus‟had his head in the clouds as usual, and Viola had no real opinion on the matter. James had grownfrustrated with the conversation, and had refused to participate in it.James seemed to be the lone person who thought prohibition was a disgrace. Still, all was not lost. Thelaw as he read it said nothing about consuming alcohol that one already owned. And James was thinkingof his grandfather‟s wine closet in the study. There was enough in there to hold him over for a time oncehe got back from college, if the stupid amendment hadn‟t been repealed by then.
The morning after the newspaper headlines announced the ratification of the 18th Amendment, Marshawent into the study and collected the remnants of Matthew‟s wine collection. Now that prohibition wasbecoming law, she had her long-waited for excuse to destroy all the liquor in the house.One by one, she uncorked the bottles and poured their contents down the drain. When a bottle was empty,she gave it a quick rinse and returned it to the case from which she drew them. It was oddly satisfying, shethought, to be able to do as she wanted without fear of reproach. Now that both Matthew and Jan weregone, Marsha need answer to no one.
James came downstairs from packing his trunks for SimHarvard, looking for a snack. He froze in shockand horror when he saw what his mother was doing.“Ma!” he cried. “Don‟t you know how much that stuff‟s worth?”“That is of little consequence, considering it‟s illegal now.”“That doesn‟t go into effect for another two months,” the teenager scoffed. “I don‟t see why we can‟t use itup before then,. It seems like a huge waste to me.”
Marsha set down the half-empty bottle she held and turned to face her eldest.“James, while you are correct, I see no reason to delay the inevitable. This house will be dry, as I havealways wanted, starting today. Now, you can help me, or get out of my way.”
The two stared at each other for a moment. James relented first. He grabbed an apple from the bowl onthe table, turned, and exited the room, muttering under his breath.
Marsha sighed, and turned to lean against the counter. The wine bottle that she had set down momentsago seemed to mock her. She grabbed it by the neck, and hurled it towards the wall.
It made a tremendous smash that Marsh found oddly satisfying in her frustration. Then, as she watchedthe wine trickle down the wall to meet the glass shards on the floor, her shoulders dropped.“I shouldn‟t have done that,” she sighed to the empty room. “Now I‟ve got a mess to clean up.
He would never admit it to anyone, but he was scared.James Bradford was scared of going off to SimHarvard.It wasn‟t just that every Bradford man since his great-great-grandfather Elias had attend SimHarvard andgraduated with honors, though that fact weighed heavily upon him. It also had to do with the fact thatJames had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.It didn‟t help that everyone around him seemed to have that figured out. Taddy and Sterling were going tojoin their fathers‟ businesses after college. Viola was going to be an artist. Even little Cyrus (who Jamesknew wasn‟t little any longer but calling him that made James less envious of his younger brother‟s height)was going to do something with automobiles. But James was clueless as to what he wanted to do after hegot his diploma.
There was something else, of course, though James wouldn‟t admit it. He also felt the weight of theresponsibility of finding a wife and carrying on the family name. It had been so easy for everyone elsearound him; why was he having such a hard time finding a girl?Taddy had Calla. Sterling and Viola had each other, as much as James hated to admit it. Even Cyrus hada girl, as he was courting Georgianna Simself. James stood alone.
Stepping out of his room for a moment, needing a break from packing, James faced the portraits of hisancestors on the wall of the upstairs landing. His great-great-great-grandfather John and his wife Chris‟portraits held the place of honor on the far wall. James moved forward for a closer look.
One by one, he looked at each set of portraits. One day, his would hang there, with a companion portrait ofhis unknown bride.He wondered what she would be like. Would she be a dark-haired hard worker, like great-great-great-grandmother Chris, or fair and soft-hearted like great-great-grandma Uma. Or perhaps a fiery redhead likegreat-grandma Carolina, of whom his father spoke so kindly. He hoped she would be as kind as hismother, and have none of his grandmother‟s traits.
“James?” Marsha‟s voice called up the stairs. “Your new school clothes just arrived from the tailor. Comedown and get them, please, so you can pack them in your trunk.”“Yes, Mama,” he replied.James gave the portraits one last glance before he headed downstairs. Whoever his wife would be, hehoped to meet her soon. It wasn‟t any fun to be alone.
It was a warm afternoon, and James, Viola, Sterling, Taddy, and Calla were lounging at the edge of thewoods near the Seiff house. The boys were heading off to SimHarvard the next day, and the teens weredetermined to make the most of their last day together by spending it together. Marsha had packed them apicnic lunch, complete with fried chicken and a chocolate cake.The boys were tossing a baseball around while Viola sketched them. Calla was leaning against the sametree as Viola, until she flopped dramatically to her friend‟s side.
“How can you sit there so calmly? They‟re going away tomorrow!” the redhead demanded.Viola put down her sketchbook and looked at Calla. “I don‟t see how you can be so dramatic. It‟s not likethey‟re going off to war – thank goodness that‟s over with. They‟re just going to college. We‟ll be followingthem soon enough.”“Two years, Viola. Two years! Do you know how much can happen in two years? A lot.”
“A lot of what?” asked Taddy as the boys joined the girls in the shade. Their cheeks were flushed fromtheir activity, and the two girls thought to themselves how handsome the added color made their boys look.“A lot of fried chicken,” replied Calla, giving Viola a look that clearly said, keep your mouth shut about ourconversation. “Your Aunt Marsha packed us far too much food for five people.”“You obviously haven‟t seen how much those three eat after they‟ve had one of their romps,” retorted Viola.
Sterling burst out laughing. “My girl speaks the truth. And speaking of food, I‟m starving.”“So let‟s eat,” replied James as he sat down and opened the picnic basket. “Can somebody go and grabthe Cokes out of the stream from where we put them to keep them cold?”“Viola and I will do it,” replied Sterling, offering her his hand up.“No dallying,” insisted James, with a sharp look and a mouth full of drumstick.“Wouldn‟t dream of it.”
Sterling and Viola walked the short distance to the stream hand in hand. Sterling would very much haveliked to have Viola closer, but he could feel James‟ eyes on the back of his head and he dared do no more.Viola was thinking about what Calla had said. She was more nervous about Sterling going off to collegethan she let on. Of course, with his plan to get his degree in three years instead of four so that he couldstart law school early, he wouldn‟t have as much time as the other two for socialization and shenanigans,but still, there were all those college girls. Would he forget about her?
They reached the stream where the Coke bottles were cooling in the water. Now out of eye and earshot ofthe others, Sterling took advantage of the moment to pull his girlfriend into his arms.“I heard what you and Calla were talking about. You don‟t have anything to worry about, you know.”“I know. It‟s just hard to think that you won‟t be sitting across the aisle from me in school anymore, and thatwe won‟t get to have afternoons like this as often.”
“No,” admitted Sterling as he smoothed her curls, “But we‟ll still see each other lots. Your parents go to thecity all the time. You can go with them, and we can take walks on the Common, or a cruise on the harbor.”“What about your studies?”“I won‟t be able to study all day, every day. I‟m sure James and Taddy will drag me out of the library uponoccasion.”“Still, you‟ll be meeting all these new people…”
“Viola Bradford,” he said, gazing into her eyes, “There will never be anybody else for me but you. Don‟tworry about that, ever. Besides, I‟d face the wrath of your brother if I ever did anything as stupid as hurtingyou.”“I know. It‟s just, I hate the idea of being left behind.”“I know you do, and you‟re not. You‟ll be off to SimRadcliffe soon, getting your art degree, while I finish uplaw school. We‟re moving forward, just at slightly different paces, that‟s all.”
A voice called from the distance. “I‟m pretty thirsty over here!”Viola leaned against Sterling, and chuckled. “Leave it to my brother to spoil the moment.”“We should bring the drinks back and join the others for the picnic,” said Sterling as he pulled the coldbottles from the stream.Viola extended her hand, offering to take a few of the bottles but Sterling shook his head.“I‟ve got it. Let‟s go; I‟m starving!”“What else is new?” she asked, looping her arm through his.It was comforting, thought Viola, as they walked back to join the others, that some things never changed.The boys being hungry, James having impeccable timing. Perhaps, it was a sign that Viola and Sterlingwould be able to survive the long haul.
Early the next morning, George and Sterling were up, waiting for the carriage that would take him, Taddy,and James off to catch the train to the city and SimHarvard. It was a bittersweet moment for both of them.Melanie still had not returned, and they both had thought that she would have been back to for herhusband‟s birthday and to see her son off to college.
“She‟ll be home in time for your graduation,” promised George, but both of them knew that there was notelling whether or not the statement was true. “Do your best, and if that means taking your degree in fouryears so be it. Law school will be there when you‟re done. Don‟t kill yourself with your studies.”“I won‟t, Papa. I‟ll make sure to come home and visit too, so you don‟t get lonely.”“Don‟t worry about me, son. Worry about you and your future. I‟ve got my colleagues, and I‟m sure that I‟llbe invited over to the Braddfords for dinner a few times if Marsha has her way.”They heard the carriage approach, and George grabbed one of the trunk handles. “Let‟s get your thingsloaded. I don‟t want your friends to be kept waiting on your account.”
In the Seiff house, a similar scene was playing out. Taddy was hugging his father and kissing his mothergoodbye as he prepared to head off to college himself.“Make us proud, son.”“I will, Papa. I promise.”
At the Bradford Farm, everyone had awoken early to see James off.
…and a kiss and a handshake for his sister and brother.Soon, the carriage that contained Sterling and Taddy arrived, and the two teens climbed out to help Jamesload his things. Within minutes, they were on their way to Simsfield station.
The boys arrived at college and settled into their dorm. They managed to snag three rooms right next toeach other. They also made inquiries about joining the Bradford Society, which they fully intended ondoing as soon as they were able.
The air was getting warmer, and it was getting harder and harder for Cyrus to focus on his schoolwork.The lure of the ballpark was great, but the call of the latest edition of Popular Mechanics was greater.Cyrus‟ obsession with automobiles had not abated with time. Instead, it had grown to the point where itdistracted him from his daily tasks.Take that afternoon for example. He was supposed to be reading about the Simerican Revolution.Instead, he had slipped the magazine into his textbook so that he could read it without being noticed. Or sohe thought.
“Cyrus, what is that you are reading?”Hurriedly, he tried to stow the magazine in his desk, but it was too late. Mr. Locke had seen what he wasdoing, and snatched it away from him. “I was…that is, sir, I just...” Cyrus stumbled as he tried to think of a plausible lie. “I had finished thereading, and was just waiting for the others to catch up.” “Oh, I see. Then you‟ll be able to tell me the names of the signers of the Declaration of Independencefrom Massimchusetts.”“Uh…”“That what I thought. Now, I want you to finish reading the chapter, and then you are to answer myquestion.”“Yes, Mr. Locke.”
Cyrus finished the chapter, and slowly raised his hand.“Yes, Cyrus?”Cyrus rose. “Mr. Locke, the signers of the Delcaration of Independence from Massimchusetts were: JohnAdamsim, Samuel Adamsim, Simbridge Gerry, John Simcock, and Robert Treatsim Paine.”“Very good, Cyrus,” replied his teacher. “Now, you see I have written all their names here on theblackboard?”“Yes, sir.”“You will come up here and copy the names. I think it will help them to stick in your memory.”Inwardly, Cyrus groaned. “Yes, sir.”
Cyrus rose and began to write, thinking himself lucky to only be set with lines as his punishment. When hewas nearly finished, he heard his teacher speak to him.“Oh, and Cyrus? I will not be returning the magazine to you, and I will be calling on your parents thisevening to discuss this incident.”Cyrus could feel Viola throwing sympathy in his direction. “Yes, sir.”
That evening, Cyrus sat on the sofa in the parlor, facing the wrath of both his parents.“How could you!” scolded Marsha. “Mr. Locke is one of the finest teachers we‟ve managed to get in town,and you disrespect him like that.”“I‟m sorry, Mama.”“Sorry‟s not going to cut it this time, Cyrus. You shall write a formal letter of apology to your teacher.Really, I have no idea what got into you.”“Neither do I,” said Jefferson with a defeated-sounding tone. “I‟ve half a mind to cancel your subscription tothat magazine.”“Please don‟t!” cried the boy.Marsha and Jefferson looked at each other, carrying on a silent conversation. Cyrus waited, scarcelydaring to breathe, to hear his sentence.
“I‟m not going to cancel it,” decided Jefferson. “But your mother is going up to your room right now toconfiscate all your old issues of it. When new ones arrive, you can see them if, and only if, we havereceived a satisfactory report from your teacher. Is that clear?”“Yes, Papa.”Marsha, after a small nod from Jefferson, moved to leave the room.“And I‟m going to want to see that letter before you go to bed tonight, so you had better get writing.”“Yes, Mama.”
With Marsha gone, Jefferson sat down next to his son.“What possessed you to do such a thing, son?”“I don‟t know, Papa. It was a pretty dumb thing to do,” Cyrus admitted. “But I wanted to read about whatMr. Ford was doing with mass producing his Model Ts.”“If only you had been born fifty years later,” muttered Jefferson. “Your history classes would be about thedevelopment of the automobile industry. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Cyrus, I‟m not asking you tobe the top student in your class, but I do expect that you pay attention to the assignments and do themwhen you are told. I don‟t think that‟s too much to ask.”“It isn‟t. I‟ll do better.”“You say that all the time, Cyrus, and we keep getting notes from school about your inability to payattention and meet basic expectations. What will it take for you to focus on school?”
Cyrus was quiet for a long moment. Then, he turned and looked at Jefferson.“Will you buy me an automobile?”Jefferson couldn‟t help himself. He laughed. “How is that going to help? Instead of reading about them,you‟ll have one at your disposal. You‟ll take it apart and reassemble it on a daily basis, and yourschoolwork will still suffer. No, Cyrus, I don‟t think that‟s the solution to this.”“I don‟t mean now, Papa. I mean after I graduate from SimHarvard. I can‟t think of a better incentive to getme to focus on my studies than knowing I‟ll have an automobile of my own waiting for me at the end of it.”
Jefferson rose, and stared into the unlit fireplace. He was quiet for so long that Cyrus was certain that hewas going to reject his request. Then Jefferson turned, and looked levelly at his son.“I will agree to purchasing you an automobile, providing you agree to my terms. First, there will be no morenotes from Mr. Locke. Not even that he caught you dallying at recess. Second, you will devote at least twohours a night to studying, and four on the weekends. Third, you will get accepted to SimHarvard andgraduate in four years with at least a 3.0 average. Lastly, the automobile will be of my choosing. Do youagree to these terms?”
Cyrus nodded, not believing his luck.“Then let‟s shake on it.”Cyrus extended his hand to meet his father‟s.“All right. You keep your end of the bargain, and I‟ll keep mine. Just, let‟s not tell you mother right away.She won‟t understand.”
The spring afternoon was warmer than had been expected. James and Taddy were cutting across theCommon on their way back to their dormitory after catching a ballgame at Simway Park. Their belovedPortsimouth Blue Stockings had defeated their archrivals from New Sim City, and the victory had put thetwo young men in a very good mood. They were laughing as they traipsed across the grass. Occasionally,one would throw an arm around the other, and they would break out into a rousing chorus of Take Me Outto the Ballgame.
Suddenly, a terrified shriek rang out in a voice clearly belonging to a lady. James and Taddy stopped intheir tracks.“It came from over there,” said Taddy as he pointed. The two quickly moved towards where the shriek hadcome from. Their mothers had taught them to be gentlemen, and if there was a lady in need of assistance,they wanted to be the ones to do so.
They rounded a corner, and were greeted by one of the oddest sights either one of them had ever seen. Ablond woman, who couldn‟t yet have reached her twentieth birthday, was doing an odd sort of dance on topof a park bench, ordering an unseen assailant to stay away from her.“Pardon me, miss? Do you need some help?” asked James after exchanging a puzzled glance with Taddy.
“Oh yes. Thank heavens you‟re here! Would you be so kind as to help me?” she pleaded.“With what?” asked James, obviously confused. “Why were you screaming?”“I was being attacked!”“By whom?”“That!” she shuddered as she pointed vaguely towards an area on the ground to her left.
James looked, but there was nothing. Just as he was about to ask the lady if she was feeling well(because she clearly was not in her right mind), he saw a speck of movement from the corner of his eye.He knelt down to examine it closer.
“Is this,” he asked as he picked it up and held it in her direction, “your attacker?”“Yes!” she shrieked again. “It was crawling across my shoe. Please, keep it away from me!”“Aw, it‟s just a little spider. He‟s not going to hurt you.”The young woman shuddered again. “I detest spiders. They‟re so…crawly.”
James was tempted to chuckle. Instead, he took a closer look at the little creature in his hand. He‟d seenfar bigger ones in the attic of the Gavigan Manor, and this spider looked like it wouldn‟t hurt a fly. “Comeon, little fellow. Let‟s find you a new home.”He walked over to a nearby birch tree, and let the spider crawl onto its milky bark. “Now, leave the niceyoung lady be in the future.” The spider, seeming to understand James, crawled up the trunk and out ofsight.
James now turned around to see the blonde had visibly relaxed. He crossed to the bench, offered her hishand, and helped her step down.“Thank you,” she said, her voice taking on a softer, lyrical quality now that the spider was long gone.“You‟re welcome,” he replied. “Come on, Taddy.”
“Wait!” she called. “Aren‟t you going to introduce yourself?”“Why?”“I‟d like to know the name of my savior,” she replied, batting her eyes.
James rolled his. “James Bradford, at your service, mademoiselle.” He dropped to his knee in anexaggerated gesture.“It‟s nice to meet you, James. I‟m Cindy Selby.”“Nice to meet you. Please excuse me; my friend and I need to be getting back to our dorm.”
The two young men walked away, leaving Cindy with a slightly perplexed look on her face.Once they were a safe distance away, Taddy smacked James on the shoulder.“What the Hell was that for?” James asked, rubbing the tender spot.“That was to knock some of your thickheadness out of you. She was trying to flirt with you, idiot.”James snorted. “As if I‟d go for a girl who was paralyzed by fear from something as trivial as a spiderrunning across her foot.”The two young men laughed, and continued toward their dormitory.“You know, Taddy, that really hurt,” whined James as he rubbed his shoulder.
Time seemed to fly by for Taddy, Sterling and James. Their schedules were very different, but they alwaysmade time to enjoy dinner together in the residence dining hall. There, they would catch up on their daysand swap the news from back in Simsfield.
Their days were filled with classes, assignments, and term papers. Sterling in particular was very busy,as he was taking extra classes in order to graduate early.
Before they knew it, their freshman year was over. As dorm life was starting to wear on them, Jamesdecided it was time for them to take their rightful place and live in the Bradford Society house.
Much had changed since Jefferson had been in college. The house had been completely redone, as thenearly 100-year-old structure had been ready to fall down with a strong wind. The new house had a similarfeel to it, but it was much nicer.
The study room was warm and inviting, and the boys often found themselves in there to study and read.The book collection was nearly as good as the college library, and it was much quieter.
Sterling especially appreciated the privacy the fraternity house provided. He could stay up working on hispapers until all hours and not be disturbed by the dorm residents.
The one drawback was not having someone to cook for them. James could barely boil water, and Taddywasn‟t much better. Had it not been for Sterling‟s grandmother insisting that he know how to cook a fewbasic meals, they would have been a very hungry bunch that first fall.
Phily‟s day couldn‟t have gotten any better. Firstly, she was headed to Simsfield for a long-overdue visit toher childhood home. Jefferson, true to his word (so unlike his father), had invited her, Victor, and Janeover for dinner. Meadow, still known to the world only as Phily‟s dear friend, was not included in theinvitation. She insisted that it was fine, and had set herself to preparing a special meal for herself and thegrandchildren.Her partner‟s exclusion irked Phily, but she knew there was nothing that could be done. Society simplydidn‟t approve of two women, or two men for that matter, being together in the same way that a husbandand wife could. Perhaps someday, this would change. But for the moment, Phily would not let this detailspoil her day.
The other thing that made this day so perfect was the newspaper headline that morning. It had beenOctavia‟s turn to fetch the morning paper, something that Phily would look back upon as fitting.The girl had picked up the paper, and, upon seeing the headline and what it said, let out a shriek of joy.She had then gone running back into the house.
“You did it, Grandma Phily!” Octavia exclaimed to the room. “They ratified it! We‟ve got the right to vote!”Everyone in the room let out a gasp.“Truly?” asked Phily, scarcely able to believe that it was happening after so long.Octavia had nodded. “You, Mama, and Grandma Meadow will be able to vote in the presidential electionthis fall. I‟ll have to wait until I‟m older, but when that time comes I promise to be first in line at the polls.”
Everyone surrounded Phily offering their congratulations. Victor disappeared for a moment, and returnedwith a bottle of champagne.“Victor,” Jane chided gently.“It‟s only illegal to buy or sell it,” Victor reminded her. “And we saved a few bottles for moments ofcelebration just like this. We‟ll all have a glass – yes, even the children – because this day is a great day inthe history of our great country.”
The bottle was uncorked, glasses were filled and passed around, and Victor turned to his aunt.“To Aunt Phily, Mama, Aunt Anne, and the countless other women who believed in suffrage. Thanks toyou, my daughter and granddaughters will have the rights that they deserve. To equality!”“To the vote!” cried Phily.Everyone cheered and raised their glasses.
The morning had been perfect. After the impromptu celebration, Phily had excused herself. After tellingVictor and Jane that she would meet them at the train station, Phily walked down the common toPortsimouth Cathedral and its adjacent cemetery.She walked the path to Henri‟s grave, knowing the footsteps by heart. She came here often. Not everyday, but enough to make sure the flowers were not wilting and the weeds did not grow. The Professor‟sgrave, right next to her sister‟s, sat neglected. It was very fitting, thought Phily, that the man who neglectedhis sister in life was neglected himself in death. Not even Victor spared a moment for his father on hisweekly visit after the family attended church. But that irony was not what brought Phily to the cemeterytoday.
“Henri, she said, brushing the inscription on the tombstone tenderly, “We did it. We got the vote. I wishyou could have seen it. Octavia – she looks so much like Victor, not a lick of Jane in her – is so happy.You‟d be proud of her. I know I am. Meadow, Jane and I are all going to vote together. It‟s too badTavia‟s not old enough yet. Can you imagine it – three generations of Bradford women all voting together.”
Phily sighed, wishing her sister could answer her.“Take care, Henri. I‟m going home, to Simsfield, for dinner, and I‟ll come back and tell you all about it.”Phily turned to leave when a thought struck her. “Oh, and if, on some off chance that Matthew and Jan arethere with you, give them the news.” She chuckled. “I‟d love to see the look on his face when he hearsthat women can vote.”
When she, Victor and Jane alighted from the train in Simsfield, Phily had a quick stop to make before shearrived at her final destination. She headed down Main Street, to the little white church that had stood inSimsfield for over 100 years. To its left was a small graveyard, and Phily opened its wrought-iron gate.She carried with her a bouquet of yellow roses, her eldest sister‟s favorite, and a sign. She made her wayalong the pathway, uncertainty in her step. Phily hadn‟t been here since Anne had passed, and she wasn‟tquite sure where her sister had been laid to rest.
She found the headstone, nestled between those of her brother-in-law Joseph and nephew Eldon. Allthree stones were well tended; it was clear that Ericka and her children were taking care of them. Sheplaced the flowers down, and propped the sign against the stone.Phily had never been as close to Anne as she had been with Henri because Anne was well into her teenswhen Phily had been born. Still, there was a sisterly affection between them, and Anne was the one whohad led her other sisters down the campaign trail for suffrage.Phily simply said, “It‟s done, Anne. Suffrage has come to pass. It‟s a shame you aren‟t here to see it.”
Her task done, she turned and retraced her steps. It was time to go home, something that she had wantedto do for so very long. And now, without her elder brother about, it would be an enjoyable experience.
Dinner was even better than Phily had expected. Yes, the food was good, but being in her childhood homewas food for the soul. Marsha had shown her aunt-in-law around the house, and Phily was amazed at howlittle it had changed since she had last been there. She had even taken a walk across the street to visit thenew family cemetery. Like Jefferson, she thought that the old one had been good enough, but it was lovelyto see what Lizzie had done with the trees and plants she added. All in all, Phily was glad she was able togo home. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
While the boys were busy with college, Viola did her best to fill her days. She tried spending time withCalla, but all the redhead did was wonder aloud what Taddy was doing and who he was seeing, and herchatter only made Viola miss Sterling more. Instead, she took to her room, and poured her sorrows intoher paintings. She had recently taken an interest in the art of the Far East, and was hoping that she mightbe able to go and see some of it firsthand. Until then, she poured over books, and did her best toreproduce the images she saw on the page.
She also made sure to keep up with her studies. Cyrus, motivated by his father‟s promise of anautomobile, had quickly become one of the best students in class, and Viola was not about to be outdoneby her little brother.She was counting the days until she and Calla would head off for SimRadcliffe, and they were getting fewerand fewer. Soon, she would be able to study art history, and see if she could become an artist of note.
Before long, it was time for Lizzie, Jefferson and Marsha‟s birthdays. Lizzie, still painfully shy, elected tohave a quiet celebration at home with her husband and son before joining her twin and his wife for theirparty.
She faired well in her transition to an elder, though she worried that her husband wouldn‟t find her asattractive as he once had.
Jason, of course, thought no such thing.“You‟re still beautiful, Lizzie. And it‟s nice not to be the only one with gray hair in the household.”“Stop,” she said. “I know I‟m not as pretty as I was before. Now, we should get over to my brother‟s. Hewon‟t want to wait too long before he celebrates his birthday.”
Lizzie, Jason, and Taddy arrived at the Bradford Farm, and the celebration for Jefferson and Marsha‟sbirthday began.
After their cake and a quick change of clothing, everyone agreed that both Jefferson and Marsha had agedvery well.
There were certain parts of Portsimouth that respectable folks avoided. The warehouse district near thedocks was one of them. The neighborhood was especially unseemly at night, with its dark alleyways andbroken streetlamps. It was on those streets that James, Taddy, and Sterling were now walking. Theyheard the bells from Portsimouth Cathedral tolling the hour, even thought it was clear across the city. Itwas an eerie sound in the midst of their current surroundings.Even James, the bravest of the three, was uneasy about the evening‟s excursion, though he would neveradmit it. He kept looking over his shoulder, certain he heard footsteps following them.
“Are you sure about this, Taddy?” he asked.“Positive. One of the guys in my History of Simlish Lit class told me about it. He goes all the time. Goodmusic and good…refreshments,” he said, not wanting to speak of the promised booze in case there wassomeone within earshot. “It‟s on the corner of Simgress Street and Simlantic Avenue. Go into the fakeshop front, give the password to Hal, the doorman, and boom – we‟re in.”“I don‟t like this,” worried Sterling. “I want to be a lawyer. I shouldn‟t be skulking around the city, trying tosneak into a speakeasy to buy illegal alcohol.”
“First, Sterling, we‟re going to a jazz club. You like jazz. Second, it‟s not illegal to drink booze; it‟s illegal tobuy or sell it. The refreshments are included in the fee to get in – hence, not illegal.”“One of the many beautiful loopholes in the law,” smiled James.“Besides, after tonight, it won‟t be just us. Two years of college done! That means the girls will be joiningus, and they‟ll want to tag along whenever we go out. And not that I don‟t want to spend time with Calla,but I want to have one last hurrah with just us boys. Besides, we‟re celebrating finishing our sophomoreyear. Well, in James and me‟s case anyway. I don‟t know what year you‟re technically in, what with youtaking double and summer classes. Don‟t be a wet blanket, Sterling.”“I‟ll try not to be, but I‟m still not sold on the idea. Are you sure we‟re going the right way, Taddy?”
The trio rounded a corner and saw a row of shops in the midst of the warehouses.“I think this is it,” said Taddy.
They went into what appeared to be a reading room. A large man was standing guard of a door across theroom.“Whadya want?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.“Hal?” asked Taddy tentatively.“Hal don‟t work here no more.”“Ah, I see.” Taddy shifted uncomfortably. “Well, I was told to tell him that the apple crop should be goodthis fall.”“That supposed to mean something?”
“Crap,” Taddy muttered, glancing from James to Sterling. It wasn‟t going to work – Taddy had dragged hisbest friends into this Hellhole, and it was all for naught.Sterling was doing his best not to say “I told you so.” Now, with the man‟s menacing glare leveled on them,was not the time.James was sizing up the man. He was only slightly taller than James, but he was clearly more muscular.His nose was slightly crooked, indicating that he‟d had it broken at least once. James didn‟t like his oddsagainst him.They were clearly not getting in, and decided to cut their losses. They turned to leave.
“Where you think you goin?” the man demanded.“We‟re just going to leave,” replied Taddy.“No, you ain‟t. Can‟t have people just wandering in here for no reason.” He cracked his knuckles.The three looked at each other. This was not going to end well.
Without warning, a petite blonde marched up to the man.“What do you think you‟re doing, Stanley, giving these boys a hard time?”“Mind your own business, Cindy. I‟m just gonna do my job and take out the trash.”“You giving my guests a hard time is my business.”James blinked. It was the girl from the park – the one who had been terrified of that little spider. And hereshe was, standing up to a man twice her size.
“You know them?” Stanley asked, clearly not believing her.“Yes. That‟s James, Sterling, and Taddy,” she said, pointing to each in turn. “I invited them here to hearme sing.”Stanley persisted. “How you know them?”“They were of some assistance to me on the common not too long ago. Now move. I have to get dressedfor the show, and you know how Russ hates it when I‟m late. He‟d really be mad if he knew it was you thatwas holding me up.”Stanley moved aside and opened the door. It revealed a set of spiral stairs. Cindy scurried towards them,and motioned for the boys to follow her.
Upstairs was totally different from the shabby downstairs. The club was decorated in an Art Deco style,and was impeccably clean. There was a band playing jazz music, and a few people were on the dancefloor, doing the Charleston. Taddy gave a small shout of joy when he saw the fully stocked bar. The threeboys started to move towards it, but Cindy grabbed James‟ arm.“You‟re lucky I walked in when I did. Stanley‟s not known for showing mercy to people that try to sneak inhere.”“It wasn‟t my idea. Someone in Taddy‟s class told him about it. But he said the doorman was named Hal.”“And it was, until he started letting too many people in.” She sighed. “Look, stick around for a while, atleast until my act is done. I‟ll walk you guys out again then, so Stanley doesn‟t do anything stupid.”“I don‟t need a girl to protect me.”“Yes, you do, in this case. Please, James, trust me. I have to go get ready now, but please, trust me.”
James could see that Cindy was distressed, and he didn‟t want that. “Okay. We‟ll wait for you to walkus home,” he said, feeling ridiculous as he did so.She replied with a stunning smile that took James‟ breath away. She then grabbed his arm and walkedhim towards the bar.“Carlos,” she said, nodding at them man tending bar, “These guys are my guests tonight. Make sureyou take care of them.”“Yes, Miss Cindy.”“See you in a few,” she said to James, and then she hurried out through a back door.“What was that all about?” asked Taddy.“Boys, I think we just got our asses saved by a girl who‟s terrified of spiders.”
The three enjoyed glasses of fine whiskey. After a while, Carlos signaled to the waiter. “Show these threeto the best table for Miss Cindy‟s performance. They‟re her special guests tonight.”The three sat down as indicated, as did most of the other people in the club. The pianist rose and went tothe microphone. “Ladies and gentlemen, I‟m pleased to give you the musical styling‟s of Miss CindySelby.”Cindy came out and went up on stage, a mischievous grin on her face. “Hit it, boys.”They struck up a tune, and she began to sing.
Ive got the blues, I feel so lonely; Id give the world If I could only Make you understand; It truly would be grand. Im gonna telephone my baby,Ask him wont you please come home. Oh, when you gone Im worried all day long.
Baby, wont you please come home? Baby, wont you please come home? I have tried in vain Nevermore to call your name. When you left you broke my heart, That will never make us part. Every hour in the day you will hear me say, Baby, wont you please come home?I mean, baby, wont you please come home?
Baby, wont you please come home? Cause your mamas all alone. I have tried in vain Nevermore to call your name; When you left you broke my heart; That will never make us part;Landlords gettin worse, I gotta move May the first. Baby, wont you please come home? I need money. Baby, wont you please come home?
James was mesmerized. Her voice, a sweet soprano that shouldn‟t have worked for the jazzy tune, wasperfection. Was this really the same woman he had “rescued” from the spider? He could scarcely believeit. Perhaps he had been too quick to judge her then.Taddy, seeing the rapturous look on his cousin‟s face, poked Sterling, pointed to James, and snickered. Itlooked like, at long last, James had found the allure of women.
Cindy sang several more songs before taking a bow and leaving the stage. Several people crowdedaround her, eager to have a few moments of her time. She ignored them, making a beeline for the tablewhere James sat.“Buy me a drink?” she asked.James practically jumped up from his chair. He offered Cindy his arm, and they went over to the bar.
The bartender poured a martini for Cindy before asking James what he wanted. James asked for whatCindy was drinking. Both their drinks in hand, Cindy pulled them to a quiet corner.“What did you think?”“You were amazing. I‟ve never heard anyone sing like that before. Have you had lessons?”“Nope. All natural talent.”“Wow. Just, wow.”“Thank you.”
They sipped their drinks and Cindy lit a cigarette. James continued to stare at Cindy, as if he was seeingher for the first time.“What?” she finally asked. “Have I got a smudge on my nose or something?”“No! Quite the opposite, in fact. You look impeccable. I was just thinking that I can‟t believe you‟re thesame girl that I came across in the park. It appears there‟s more to you than I first thought. ”Cindy blushed. “I must have looked like such a fool.”“It is rather hard to reconcile that scared girl with the brave, outspoken woman I saw tonight.”
Cindy took a drag on her cigarette, a thoughtful look on her face. “I suppose it would be silly to try toexplain. It‟s only recently that I‟ve had to become tough. But underneath it all, I‟m still just a scared little girlsometimes.”“Tell me about it.”She got a faraway look in her eye. “I was gonna be famous, you know.”
“I grew up in the middle of nowhere in western Massimchusetts, the oldest of three girls. There wasnothing in our town – nothing. Not even a general store. My dad farmed, like his father and grandfatherbefore him, and was content to stay there. Mom too. They expected the same for their children, but Iwanted more.“The only escape was reading the magazines my mom got. Moving pictures, Broadway, glitz and glamour.That‟s what I wanted. My parents laughed at me. No one ever left my little town, they said. I should getthose dreams out of my head and find a nice boy to settle down with. But I was determined to be theexception.”
“I knew I could sing – years of church choir had taught me that. I figured if I could get to New Sim City, itwould be easy for me to end up a Broadway star. Maybe from there, I could even get to on to Calsimforniaand Simmywood, where all the big movie studios are.“But I needed money for the train. There was also the small matter of my dad forbidding me from leaving.So, late one night, I snuck out after taking my share of the egg money from my dad‟s wallet. I hitched aride to New Sim City.”
“I found my way to the auditions with no problem. What I didn‟t count on was that there were a millionother girls with the same dream as me. And they had talents that I didn‟t – they knew how to dance and actas well as sing. Without that training, I couldn‟t get a gig.“I bought a train ticket home, only to find out that my family, and a good portion of the town, had beenwiped out by the Simmish Influenza epidemic. With nowhere else to go, I came to Portsimouth.”
“After the disaster in New Sim City, I took a job as a waitress at this club. The owner, Russ, was mostexcited about the fact that I was an orphan. At the time, it confused me but now I know it‟s because Iwouldn‟t have to answer question about where I worked to anyone. As I‟m sure you can tell, he doesn‟twant just anyone knowing about this place.“About six months ago, I got my break. One night, the regular singer was sick. Wayne, the pianist, heheard me singing along in the kitchen one day, and he told Russ that I had „a good set of pipes,‟ and thathe should give me a chance. Russ showed me to a dressing room and told me to be onstage in tenminutes.“The crowd loved me. I went into the regular rotation of entertainment, and soon became the headliner.”
James, who had been silent during Cindy‟s story, now spoke. “When did come to Portsimouth?”Cindy blushed again. “Two days before I met you in the park. I was feeling alone and scared, „cause I hadno idea what I was going to do or how I was going to live, and I was walking in the park „cause it felt like thewoods near my house. Then that damned spider crawled up my leg, and I took out all my pent-up fear onit.”“And I behaved like an ass.”“Yeah, you did.”
“I‟m sorry,” he said, taking her hand. “My mother taught me better than that, and she‟d have my head ifshe knew what I did.”Cindy smiled softly at him. “You actually did me a favor. You showed me, in a roundabout way, that Ineeded to toughen up if I was going to survive on my own.”“You‟re welcome?” James said, uncertainty in his voice.Cindy laughed. “I‟m glad that I was able to see you again, and let you see that I‟m not a „fraidy cat.”
An older man walked over to their table. “You want the boys to drive you home, Cindy?”“No, thanks, Russ. James here is going to see me home.”Russ gave James a once-over, and must have approved of what he saw. “Okay. Good show tonight, kid.”
“Is that our cue to leave?” James asked.“Only if you want to. This place never closes, per say.”James scanned the room for his friends. When he caught their eye, he nodded his head slightly towardsthe door. They headed for the door, and James rose.“I guess it‟s time to call it a night.”“Just let me go change and I‟ll show you boys out.”
Once downstairs, Cindy shot a nasty glare at Stanley. “If I hear that you aren‟t letting them in, I‟ll tell Russ.”Stanley glared back, but nodded.Cindy looped her arm through James‟, and the four of them walked out into the night.
When they arrived back at the Bradford Society house, Sterling and Taddy disappeared inside.“Thanks for walking me home,” James smirked.“My pleasure. That‟s a nice place you‟ve got.”“Thanks. It‟s a family fraternity, founded by one of my ancestors. Do you want to see inside?”“Maybe soon, but not tonight,” she replied with a wink.“I didn‟t mean…” he sputtered, and Cindy laughed.“Sheesh, James, relax. I was only teasing you a little.”“Oh. I haven‟t really spent a lot of time with girls, so I‟m not good at picking up on that kind of thing.”“Aw, that‟s so sweet.”
James drew a deep breath and took her hands. “Can I see you again?”“Of course you can. You have a standing invite to my show.”“That‟s not what I mean. I want to see you – just you – again.”“I don‟t know James,” she said, looking again at the house. “I don‟t think I‟m the kind of girl that someonelike you takes home to his mama.”
“I disagree. I think my mama would love you. But let‟s not put the cart before the horse. Let me take youout to dinner. We‟ll see where things go from there.”“Okay. My next night off is Tuesday.”“That sounds great. I‟ll see you then.”“Wait, aren‟t you going to kiss me goodnight?”
And then, it was time for Calla and Viola to head off to school. Calla went off with a kiss from her motherand a stern warning from her father to behave herself.
Viola was also getting quite the send-off from her family as well. Her parents hugged their little girl tight,and wished her the best as she took up studying art full-time.
Cyrus, of course, had to have his say, teasing his sister about how many suitcases and trunks she wasbringing with her. But he was going to miss having her around, and being the constant and sole focus ofhis parent‟s attention.
When they arrived at SimRadcliffe, Calla dragged Viola off to the hairdresser. She had been wanting to bea blonde for years, just like all the Simmywood starlets, and this was her chance. Viola balked at such adramatic change, but she did get her long, wavy locks chopped off to the bob that the flappers weresporting. It was freeing not to have to worry about doing her hair every morning. She wasn‟t sure if herparents would approve, but it was just hair and would grow back.
Not long after the girls had left for school, George Alcott pulled his new automobile into the yard of hishouse. The purchase had been an extravagance, but he had developed a fascination for them as CyrusBradford had. In fact, Cyrus had gone with George when he purchased the vehicle, offering his advice andgiving his opinions.George enjoyed driving to his law offices, and into the city to visit his son. Everyone stopped and stared,as there were still so few automobiles on the streets.That day, as George drove into the shed where he kept the car, he noticed that there was a light onupstairs in the house. Ever since Sterling had gone to college, George was used to coming home to a darkhouse.
He hurried into the house and up the stairs, not wanting to leave the gas lights on unattended. He wouldhave to speak to the housekeeper about this infraction when he saw her in the morning – such a lapsecould not go without note.Outside his room, he paused. He could hear someone moving about inside, opening and closingdrawers and closets.
He opened the door and stepped forward. Inside was a woman, busily putting items from a suitcase intothe wardrobe.“Melanie?” he asked, scarcely believing his eyes.“Hello, George.”
“How…how are you?”“Quite well, thank you.”“You didn‟t send word that you were coming.”Melanie frowned. “It was a spur-of the-moment decision. I only bought my train tickets yesterday.”“I see.”“Did you not want me to come home?”
“No, I‟m just surprised. I was beginning to think you weren‟t going to come home.”Melanie looked wistful. “I was beginning to think that myself. It was so peaceful in Sarsimsota Springs.But I wanted to see my son graduate from college and get married. How is he? He is still seeing Viola?”George nodded. “Yes.”“Good. I need to apologize to her for the horrible things I said about her. I know that she‟s a good youngwoman, and that I‟ll be lucky to have her for a daughter-in-law.”“So, you‟ve recovered, then?”She nodded. “I‟ll never be able to forget what happened to me, but I have managed to move past it.Besides, I have to shoulder some of the blame. I knew deep down that something wasn‟t right betweenJefferson and I, but I ignored it. I even said something to Mrs. Bradford the day of the wedding, but shetold me to forget it. I should have listened to my intuition. But that‟s in the past, and I am determined to livein the moment from here forward.”
“You‟ve changed, Melanie,” he said, caressing her face.“In some ways, yes. In others, no. I know I‟ve made mistakes. I just hope that it‟s not too late for you andI. I do care for you, George.”“That is, quite possibly, the best news I‟ve ever heard.”
“What do you say we visit Sterling in Portsimouth tomorrow? Maybe we can even stay for dinner with himand Viola.”“I‟d like that. I haven‟t seen him in so long. Do you think he‟ll be glad to see me?”“I do, especially if you‟re as gracious with him and Viola as you have been here.”“That will be the easy part. I bear Viola no grudge. I see that now. I‟m not sure that I‟ll be able to be as fairwith her parents.”“Then we‟ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Together.”“Together.”
*************************************************************************************************************************And on that note, we‟ll end Chapter 21. Have a blooper picture from Jefferson and Marsha‟s birthdayparty. James was very enthusiastic about the occasion, as you can see.I hope you liked the chapter, and are as excited as I am about James‟ intended Cindy. It‟s fun to write amore modern woman that‟s period-accurate, and I look forward to playing out the plot I have planned forthe generation 6-ers.Next time, we‟ll have some weddings. It‟s time to get generation 7 in the oven (generation 7! Holy cow).Please leave all comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop.com. Until next time!Credits on the next slide
*************************************************************************************************************************The song that Cindy sings in the speakeasy is “Baby Won‟t You Please Come Home” by Charles Warfield& Clarence Williams (though there is some debate about that). The lyrics are transcribed from a versionperformed by Bessie Smith, recorded April 11, 1923.Want to hear what it sounds like? Check it out on YouTube here.