Their trip to the courthouse had been filled with spine tingling adventure. The return trip had been filled with silly songs and laughter. The car had not seemed the least bit uncomfortable then, but now Suzanne realized it was not at all like her father’s Packard coupe. In fact, Jonathan’s roadster was most uncomfortable.
Thinking about her father and the look of hurtful sorrow on his face earlier tonight made Suzanne aware she was miserable as well as cold. As she thought of the audacious thing she’d just done and her mother’s final words, she began to feel rather frightened. Grace Hughes never retreated from a position and Suzanne knew she might not ever accept Jonathan into the family. It was quite possible that she would never again see her father or Edward or her cousins or grandparents.
Alarm seeped rapidly into Suzanne’s soul. “What if . . .”
“We’re almost there,” Jonathan’s voice rang out merrily interrupting her dismal reverie.
“No matter,” she reasoned, “I love Jonathan and he loves me. He makes me laugh!” She was sure that they would always sing and dance, enjoying a most great and happy life together. She liked the way he was driving so fast, too fast, so that he could quickly make her comfortable again.
Suzanne placed her gloved hand on Jonathan’s strong arm and serenely affirmed, “How wonderful, my dearest husband.” At which they both hooted with laughter.
Jonathan deftly maneuvered the roadster around a corner and up a dirt driveway.
A sign at the bottom of the slight incline stated in faded, but very large red letters:
Maggie Mae’s Boarding House
Come on in – Stay for Awhile
Although she knew a little about boarding houses from a novel she’d read once, Suzanne had never actually been inside one. She was not sure if she was excited or afraid. Her mother called people who lived in them “common” and Suzanne knew Grace carefully kept her away from anyone she considered to be such. Yet, she was just sure her mother was wrong, what could possibly be so different about such people?
Jonathan gallantly jumped out of his seat and ran around to open the door for her. Then, most unexpectedly, he swept her up in his arms and carried her up to the house. Giggling at the impromptu gesture, Suzanne did not see the woman standing on the porch until she yelled out shrilly, “Patrick, is that you. Where have you been?”
Hastily, Jonathan put Suzanne down and strode toward the woman.
“Ma,” he said, his voice sounding strange, “I’ve brought someone home to meet you.”
Suzanne was bewildered. “Who is Patrick?” she wondered.
“I’ll explain later,” Jonathan whispered in her ear as he came to stand beside her.
The woman he called Ma was rail thin, tall and rather attractive, but she looked quite haggard and worn out. As the three walked across the uneven wooden porch toward the red painted door, Suzanne looked up into the woman’s eyes. They were unfriendly, hard, and calculating.
Suzanne’s heart jumped and a shiver ran through her spirit. Her palms became clammy as she thought frantically, “Oh! What have I done?”