Louisa slipped her gloved hand into mine. “You mustn’t ever give up hope. You never know when the right person will find you.”
I had a feeling Maxwell would have liked to chat with Louisa all night. To ensure this didn’t happen, I asked if our table was ready.
“Yes, yes, right this way. When I saw Barnes on the reservation list, I assumed it was the boss.”
We were seated at one of the best tables by the window. Maxwell described our dinner options and then left us to help another couple at the front.
Louisa gazed around the room. “I didn’t know how elegantly decorated it would be.”
“The boys had a whole team of ladies advising them,” I said, chuckling. “Between Mama and her sister, they had a lot of advice about fabrics and colors.”
They’d chosen pinks and golds for the chair cushions paired with stiff white tablecloths and napkins. Still, this was no elaborate New York hotel. The rustic logs and beams were appropriate for its mountain location.
The menu was a fixed one: a salad, followed by a tomato bisque, then a trout pan-fried in butter and fresh thyme accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and roasted carrots. Dessert would be a chocolate mousse.
After we’d ordered, Louisa said quietly, “Sometimes I barely recognize our little town. Everything is different from when we were children.”
“Do you miss the old days?”
“A little even though progress is good. But for those of us who’ve lived here all our lives, it’s startling to see so many faces I don’t recognize.”
I nodded in agreement. “Today I saw two patients new to town. I walked by the new schoolhouse and was struck by the size. Two stories and sixty students. Would we have thought it possible back in 1910?”
“Your father got his wish. A thriving community. My father was proud to have been part of it. Your father gave him that. When I think of the debt that we owe him and your mother, it’s hard to fathom.”
My stomach knotted. “I hope you don’t feel as if I’m a debt to pay?”
“No, no, Theo.” She stared back at me from across the table. “Everything between us is real and separate from the rest.”
Tension eased inside me at her words. “I’m glad.”
’t ever think that way. I’m here because I want to be. Not because of what you can do for me or anything I feel I owe your family.”
At that moment, movement outside the window caught my eye. Fiona and Li were getting out of a car. “My sister’s here.” I pointed toward them. “What in the name of God is Fiona doing here?”
“Oh, that. You don’t know?” Louisa blinked several times. I’d made her nervous with my angry tone.
I steadied myself with a deep breath and made sure to lower my voice. “Know what?”
“She and Li play at the dance hall. Your mother said it’s raucous-type music.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “My mother knows?”
“Are you mad?” Louisa’s hand trembled when she reached for her water glass.
I was immediately remorseful for making her upset. She’d experienced violence at the hands of an angry man when she was a child. I had to remember that when I spoke to her. “I’m not mad at you. I am, however, astounded that my parents allow such a thing.”
“My mother doesn’t like it, either,” Louisa said. “But maybe we’re all too old-fashioned.”
“This is my baby sister.”
“Who is nearly grown,” Louisa said.
We both watched as Li went around to the back of the car to pull out his violin and guitar cases. Fiona’s sparkly purple dress caught the last rays of the setting sun. Instead of coming to the front of the building, they disappeared around the corner. Down to the dance hall.