Dollie Belloit and her sister, Patty, work at the settlement school. Patty has just become engaged to one of the local men, Willem Henry. Dollie is interested in Willem's brother, Lucius. Looks like it might be a match made in heaven, until a dead body shows up in the creek. This excerpt takes place at the end of the school year party. Dollie and Lucius are on their first official date.
Willem met Patty at the door and the four of them walked in together. Music played on the record player. One of the men had rigged it so that it was piped through the speakers. This would do for a time, but the play party games music would be played by a group of local men and one woman who often performed together.
Somehow, Lucius' cousin Jed had been convinced to introduce the tunes and start the records. He was doing an admirable job of it. A new song started just as they walked in the door. Jed smiled, giving them a thumb's up. The opening strains of "Moonlight Serenade" began.
"Miss Dollie, would you honor me with this dance?" Lucius asked.
"I'd be delighted," she replied as he led her onto the dance floor.
Dollie hadn't expected Lucius to be able to dance, but he did very well. Smiling and laughing, they spun around the dance floor with Willem and Patty nearby.
Jed followed the slow dance with another popular song by Glenn Miller, "In the Mood". Lucius surprised her further by swinging her into a rollicking dance. Many of the others hung back, unsure of the steps. The enthusiasm of Lucius and Dollie was contagious and soon all of them were dancing.
Gasping and laughing, the couples had to rest afterward. They gravitated toward the refreshment table where the younger girls served cookies and punch. Lucius got two cups of punch for himself and Dollie.
"It's hot in here. Reckon you'd like to step out for a breath of air before the games start."
"Reckon I would," she replied.
Willem and Patty followed them, keeping their distance. Dollie thought it was so they could keep and eye on them, but her sister and Lucius' brother were too wrapped up in each other to notice.
"Will put the last nail in the house today," Lucius said. "Outside's finished. Got to do the inside, but that won't take long with me and the boys helping."
"Reckon he's gonna make it official any day," the young man said, raising an eyebrow in the direction of their siblings.
"I think he just did," Dollie added, watching the other two kiss.
"Yee haw," Lucius said quietly. "Miss Dollie...."
"Just Dollie, please. No need to be so formal."
"Dollie.... I'm not a big talker...."
"But I like talkin' to you mighty fine. I think you're about the prettiest girl I ever met. If you'd consider.... That's if you'd...."
A loud screeching wail emanated from inside the dining hall. All the men and older boys leaped to attention. Those sitting down, stood while the others rushed to the doors. Lucius jumped back from Dollie like he'd been stung. Loud laughter echoed from inside as music started to play. Jed laughed louder than anyone as he tried to apologize.
"Sorry, folks. Not a fire drill, it's 'Rhapsody in Blue'!" Doubled over, he laughed until his sides ached.
The moment between Lucius and Dollie was lost. Both of them hoped somehow they could find it once more. There were questions that needed to be asked and answered. It would have to keep. At least Dollie knew he was interested, that much was obvious.
More determined than ever to get his kiss, Lucius led her back inside as the small band took their places and the games and country dances began.