Ursula heard the Ford pickup pulling up to the farmhouse. She went to the window and watched her mother, sister, and her sister’s friend make their way to the porch, their arms full of groceries and supplies from town. She hurried to the chair next to the phone in the hallway, and picked up the receiver.
When they came in the front door, they found her chatting in girlish conversation, her legs stretched out in front of her.
“I’d love to, Dolores. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Is there anything I can bring?”
Jessica raised her eyebrows, and Ursula pulled in her legs so they wouldn’t have to step over her on their way into the kitchen.
“That’ll be swell. I’ll be on the 10:45.” A burst of laughter. “Me too. See you on Saturday, then.”
Kate glanced at her elder daughter, who, after hanging up the phone, came into the kitchen to help put the groceries away.
“Ursula, don’t tell me you’re going to Peoria again? Why, that’ll be three times in the last two months!”
“You don’t mind, do you, Mom? Dolores is throwing a going-away party for her brother and I told her I’d be there. I’ll be back the next day.”
“No. I’m just surprised, is all.” She placed her hand on Ursula’s cheek and smiled at her, secretly relieved that her daughter’s state of mind had finally changed. For months Ursula had been distracted, moody, staring out the windows, and quarreling with Jessica. There were more highs and lows – and almost a false gaiety about her at times. Though when no one was looking, Kate saw despair in her face. Eugene, thought Kate, and shifted her thoughts away from her eldest son. Her eyebrows remained pinched. “Though I don’t like to see you traveling alone.”
Ursula groaned in amusement. “I’m eighteen, Mom. Besides, Dolores meets me at the train station.”
“You’ll have to bake something to take with you. We have enough sugar for some spice bread or cookies.”
“I offered, but she said there was no need.” Ursula opened the oven to check on the cutlets in gravy she had prepared. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she said.
“Nonsense,” said Kate. “You can’t arrive to a host’s house empty handed.” She reached for a basket in the pantry. “I’ll put some calico in here and we’ll fill it with cookies.”
“What an adventure!” cried Shirley, Jessica’s best friend. She and Jessica sat at the table, resuming their work on a large canvas banner for the Christmas dance in a few weeks.
Jessica had followed the exchange with curiosity. “Since when are you and Dolores such good friends?”
Ursula tucked her chin in surprise. “Since our plans to go to college. Don’t forget we were going to be roommates. Before the war.”
“Hmm. It’s just not like you to go gallivanting around like that.”
Ursula took the flour bag, cut it open, and began to fill up the canister. “Gallivanting? Hardly. I’m going to Peoria. I – I just feel like living a little. It gets tiresome here on the farm. Same routine, day in, day out.”
Jessica leaned her head to one side, eyeing her sister.
“Besides,” Ursula said with a sly smile, “Dolores knows some swell boys. Men. Some of them are officers.”
Shirley sat up, eager for details.
“Aha!” said Kate. “Now it makes more sense.”
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