Copyright by Lynette Sowell
Here’s an excerpt from the third novella in Sundays in Fredericksburg.
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“C’mon, Trudy! C’mon!” Eric Meier tugged on his sister’s arm. “We’re going to miss the parade! We can find a good spot to watch if we hurry.”
“Hold your horses. I’m right here with you.” Trudy didn’t mean to drag her feet, because part of her wanted to see the parade and hear the band and some of the Hollywood performers passing through Fredericksburg. Listening on the radio wasn’t the same thing, or reading about it in a magazine. Little Fredericksburg wasn’t a regular stop for many Texas visitors. Not until their own Chester Nimitz had risen to the top ranks of the navy to show the world that even from landlocked Fredericksburg, someone could go on to do great things.
But today Trudy felt closer to forty-one than twenty-one. Her legs felt like lead weights, her muscles tired from working at the beehives until sundown yesterday. She fought away the fatigue, clutched the Brownie camera that hung from a strap around her neck, and tried to be positive. Maybe today she’d get some good shots. Of course, she’d need to order more photo paper, something at a premium during these lean years.
She paused at her parents’ bedroom door. “Mama?” She heard nothing, so she pushed the door open a few inches. Her mother’s low snore filtered through the space. It was best she let her sleep, all worn out from her volunteer work at the hospital. She’d arrived home early that morning.
The front door banged. “Tru–dy! Come on!”
Trudy shook her head and closed the door. Eric could tear all over the countryside on his bicycle, yet for some reason he couldn’t make it to town without her presence at his side? “I’m coming, Eric.”
The May morning sun promised a toasty afternoon. If she had her way, she’d bicycle down to the creek with a book, a pen, and her camera. She’d sit under her favorite live oak tree and watch the wind blow the puffy clouds across the sky. The favorite tree would remind her of Kurt and the promise they’d made to each other under its branches.
Trudy blinked at the momentary pain and let it pass. She closed the front door to the house behind her, as if that could close off the memory. Today, she’d definitely win the bike “race” to town that Eric always tried to egg her to join.
“They have a midget submarine, you know.” Eric’s voice jolted her. He bent over to check the chain on his bicycle. “All the way from Japan. I wonder if we can touch it.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it your mission to find out if you can.” Thank You, Lord, that Eric can keep his childlike wonder, even during the war, even with Father away. It seemed like everyone gave something up once their country had entered the war. A lifetime of days had ticked away since December 7, 1941, a little less than eighteen months ago.
Soon they were off, down the winding road that led into town. Trudy could close her eyes and feel each curve in the road, anticipate each landmark, no matter how minor. The sameness should comfort her, but instead it itched her like a wool scarf that her grandmother had made.
Trudy thought of the ring that still lay inside the jewelry box on her dressing table. Kurt had released her from her promise to marry him after he returned from the war, before his last letter. . .
He deserved someone who’d be by his side at the peach farm owned by his family, someone who was satisfied with Fredericksburg, with the small-town routine. Once, she’d shared with him her wild dream of seeing the world. Kurt had blinked and asked, “Why?”
Less than a month later, his orders came and he shipped out, leaving her behind. Jealousy fought against fear inside her.
The town hadn’t changed much since her childhood. She caught sight of the first few homes on the outside of town, a snug row of Sunday homes, the middle one owned by her family. Her oma had lived there until her passing over the late winter. Trudy slowed down. If things were different, she’d ask her mother if she could stay in the house by herself and have a measure of independence. Of course, her help was needed most at home.
Next door was the Zimmermann family’s home. How she’d loved Sundays growing up in Fredericksburg, all the comings and goings and visiting. And the food. Oma, I miss you, and every time I see the house, it reminds me of what we’ve all lost.
Eric left her literally in his dust. He rang the bell on his bicycle and the jubilant sound joined with the sounds of celebration ahead of them on Main Street. The war bond tour had descended on Fredericksburg. It wouldn’t surprise her if nearly the whole town assembled along Main Street.
Instead of following Eric, Trudy moved off the road and circled back. She might as well leave her bicycle parked at the Sunday house. She could negotiate any crowd on foot, where a bicycle might get in the way.
“You’re just in time for the parade.” Her longtime friend Kathe exited the Zimmermann family’s Sunday house. Kathe Zimmermann, soon to be Kathe Mueller, grinned.
“Eric made sure.” Trudy tried to pop her kickstand down, but the contraption stuck so she leaned the bicycle against the house, just past the porch. “So how are you? I’ve been such a poor bridesmaid, and I should be helping you prepare for the wedding.”
“You’ve done plenty,” Kathe said as she linked her arm through Trudy’s. “Peter and I are keeping things simple, especially now. But my cake is going to be made with white sugar, not brown, and have gobs of buttercream frosting.”
The thought of a rich, creamy wedding cake with plenty of frosting made Trudy’s sweet tooth ache a little. “I’m so happy for both of you.”
“Thanks.” Her friend’s expression fell. “I know this must be hard for you, with Kurt. . .”
Trudy shrugged. “It’s all right. Like I said, I’m happy for both of you. The fact that Peter survived, came home to you, and now you get to have your happy ending, I’m just glad someone else is finding some joy in the middle of all this.”
She didn’t have to mention the Wagner twins who’d perished and now lay buried in a Fredericksburg cemetery. The war had cost Fredericksburg so much already, even with their favorite son, Chester Nimitz, commander in chief over the Pacific theater. Kathe hugged her. “Thank you. I’m praying you’ll have your happy ending, too.”
“I hope so, someday.” A lump swelled in Trudy’s throat. Gertrude Meier, I see now why you wish to travel the world and see life beyond Fredericksburg. That has never been my desire, and I release you to find your way. Lord willing, once this war is over and you have traveled, maybe we will find our way back to each other again. Trudy shoved the letter’s words away, burned into her memory. “Let’s go. I wonder if Mitzie Harmon looks the same in person as she does in the movies.”
Kathe laughed and the sound propelled Trudy back to more innocent times, to childhood. She echoed the laugh as they ambled the rest of the way to Main Street.
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Excerpt used by permission of Barbour Publishing. Check out this page for places to buy Sundays in Fredericksburg !
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