Friday, December 10, 2010

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery

Released from the hospital wing, Celia was ordered to stay in her dormitory room for another twenty-four hours. She figured that was all the time she had to make this whole situation right because if she had to work as a nurse, they would surely know she was not who they thought she was.
Emajean had shown up to escort her back to her dormitory room. Celia discovered they lived on the same hall. Emajean told her that Celia’s roommate was away taking a semester off to help with a sick family member. After Emajean had fussed over her for a few minutes, Celia told her to go away for a while and come back to get her for dinner. She needed time to think. She sat on the bed and closed her eyes, trying to remember the photos that had fallen out of the Annual.
If this is about Emajean and László, why does she still show up single in the later City Directories? Am I supposed to help them get together? Or is this about Walter and somehow healing that rift? Is the Anthony Harper of this time related to my husband?
Emajean returned as promised and the girls went down to the dining room. Everything was very formal. There were highly polished silver utensils and serving pieces, cloth napkins and beautifully ironed tablecloths. All the formality was in contrast with the food served which was sparse and not very appealing. Celia guessed that even though food was scarce in 1933, the administrators of the university believed that the standards of the establishment should still be maintained, thus the formality.
After the meal Emajean invited Celia to stroll outside to enjoy some fresh air. Taking the hint, Celia agreed and the girls wound their way through the tables to the doors. An older nun fixed them with her forbidding gaze and admonished, “be back by 8:30 p.m!” The girls chorused, “yes, Sister,” and went through the heavy wooden doors, down the front steps, and out into a clear evening.
Emajean peppered Celia with questions about the future as they strolled arm in arm around the quad. Celia dodged most of them, to the point that Emajean was exasperated and burst out, “why don’t you tell me anything?”
Celia answered, “I think I’m supposed to follow some code of not telling you things because it can change how things turn out.”
Emajean countered, “I’m not important enough to matter to the big scheme of history! I’m an average girl from an average family who has few aspirations beyond marrying László and having a decent life here in Chicago. What about me can possible affect the outcome of world events?”
“I’m not sure,” Celia said, “but I don’t want to take any chances. I think I need to err on the side of caution.”
As the girls neared the corner farthest from their dormitory Celia saw a huge willow tree between two buildings. Standing underneath the tree was a shadow of a figure. Emajean began to walk faster, and Celia suspected she knew who was under the tree.
When Emajean threw herself into his arms, Celia sighed. This is all so romantic but all so wrong for this time in history. How can I help them?
Suddenly, she knew. She stepped towards the embracing couple and then stopped, embarrassed. They pulled away from one another, similarly embarrassed. Girding herself, Celia announced, “we don’t have time to be embarrassed with each other. I’ve just thought of a plan.”
They both turned toward her eagerly, with attentive expressions.
“László , are there any young women your mother knows who would be a good wife for Teodor?” she asked.
“Well yes, there is our neighbor’s older daughter, Hulda. She is considered unmarriageable in Hungary because she worked as a nurse during the Great War. She is closer to Teodor’s age,” he answered.
“What do you mean unmarriageable?” Emajean queried. “Simply because she has helped wounded men?”
“There are many things about Hungarian traditional culture that would surprise you Emajean,” he said. “Including that if a woman has seen any part of a man’s body that should only be seen in marriage, she is considered to have been compromised.”
Seeing Emajean begin to wind up for an argument, Celia broke in. “Emajean! We don’t have time for this. Don’t you see? Hulda would be a perfect person for László to suggest to accompany his mother. She is a nurse, so if László ’s mother has any difficulties with the passage, she can minister to her. She’s a bride for Teodor who can help him make money here by helping Hungarian families with small children. I’ll bet László can even find a doctor who serves that community here who is desperate for someone who can talk to the mothers in their own language with their own traditions!”
Celia could see Emajean’s argument deflate and László’s beautiful smile widen. “Celia! This is a stroke of genius! Teodor cannot possibly object! I will not lose any time in my studies, I will be able to take the time I need to prepare for my exams, and I will be on the list to compete for good positions in the city!”
Emajean added, “and we can proceed with plans to marry! Celia, this is why you’re here! It’s brilliant!”
“Now all I have to do is convince Teodor!” said László.  “I’ll go see him tonight. Good night, dear ladies!” László gave Emajean a quick kiss and hurried away. The girls heard the tower clock begin to chime the half-hour song and hurried towards their dormitory.

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