Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?

A Friends of the Library Mystery

Chapter XIV
            The two women arrived in New York in 1933 by way of Bremen, Germany after a long ocean trip. Teodor was at the dock to meet them, and shepherded them to the train station where they would begin the long train ride to Chicago.  During the trip Teodor was excruciatingly correct with both women as he audaciously pursued every unaccompanied woman under the age of 30 on the train. By the time they reached Chicago, Hulda and Anna were both convinced that he was a playboy and would not be suitable for Hulda at all.
            To all of Anna’s questions about László’s romantic life Teodor was noncommittal. He did not want to deal with the emotion that he feared would ensue if Anna knew that her son was in love with an Irish girl. He spoke instead about the World’s Fair Expo that was going on in Chicago that year. He promised to take them to see the sights once they were settled in the city. The trip was only a week long, but by the time they reached the outskirts of Chicago Teodor felt that he’d done penance enough for not wanting to marry Hulda.
            When the morning finally dawned that would finish their journey, Anna anxiously peered out of the windows, searching for her son. Suddenly she saw him and tears filled her eyes. “I must get out!” she said to Teodor.
“In a minute, Anna!” he exclaimed.
“No! I must get out right now! That is my son I must see!”
The porter came by and offered assistance. “Mister, I think you’d better give in to her. Looks like she’ll go right through that window!”
Teodor turned to look at Anna. She had suddenly stopped her frantic noise and was standing with her hands over her mouth and her eyes wide. Teodor leaned over to see what had caught her attention. He saw László there, and on his arm was a pretty Irish girl.
Teodor turned his head and spoke quietly and urgently to his sister-in-law. “Anna,” he said, “in America, boys and girls often marry people not from their own home country. They call this country the melting pot. If you do not act happy to see her, you will hurt your son and you will start your new life in America off on the very wrong foot.”
Anna narrowed her eyes at him, squared her shoulders, summoned her dignity, and said tightly, “Teodor! If my László thinks that he is going to marry an Irish girl, he is not the smartest of the Tímár men as we have always thought. It appears that I arrived here just in time.” Barely looking to the side Anna directed Hulda to join her, and they went to the door to exit the train.
Celia returned to dormitory that evening to find Emajean sobbing on her bed.
“Emajean,” she said softly. “What on earth is the matter?”
“László and I cannot marry. His mother hates me because I’m not Hungarian. Oh Celia, I can’t make him choose between his mother and me. It would be wrong,” Emajean choked out.
“Whoa, back up there. What happened?” Celia asked.
“His mother got off the train, approached him, and received his kiss. He said something to her in Hungarian, and gestured to me as if he was introducing me. She said something back, turned around, and went back toward the train. I’m not stupid. She was telling him that she was going back to Hungary.
He followed her, pleading with her, I guess. I left the platform and went into the station to wait. Teodor came to find me and asked me to meet László later this evening at our usual place. I think it is so he can say good-bye,” Emajean finished. “Will you go with me?”
Celia nodded, almost in tears herself. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to work out. All great stories ended up happily ever after. But remembering the census record, Celia had a feeling that what Emajean feared was about to come true.
They left the dormitory a little while later, with a soft evening breeze accompanying them while they walked to the willow tree. Emajean slowed as they neared the place. As on the previous evening, László was waiting in the long, flowing limbs of the tree.
            “Emajean,” he called softly. The caress of his voice on the syllables of her name made her catch her breath. He held out his arms.
“László!” she exclaimed, “do you still want to marry me?”
He buried his head in the softness of her freshly washed hair and inhaled deeply. “Yes,” he said roughly. “My mother just needs some time.”
Emajean almost sobbed in relief. Their lips met and they kissed deeply. She stepped back to look into his eyes to see her joy reflected there.
Her elation was momentary though. Out of the darkness they heard a voice call to them, “Are you really so stupid? Do you really think we would allow a dirty Hungarian to marry one of our girls?”
They all recognized the voice of Anthony Harper as he stepped into the light with two other men. Those men held clubs in their hands and were tapping them menacingly.

And next week, the finale.  I promise!

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