Anchor in the Storm(10)

By: Sarah Sundin


“That’s what I was thinking.” Arch leaned forward on his knees. “Cleveland isn’t far. What do you say, Jim? Martin? Would Mary and Lucy like an evening of dining and dancing? Lillian?” He turned to her.

Her face went flat. “I don’t dance.”

Inside, he groaned. For heaven’s sake. Of course she couldn’t dance. Somehow he had to recover. “You can still enjoy an evening out. As for the dancing, I’ll sit out with you.”

“No, thank you.” She raised her book. Evil Under the Sun indeed.

“Well, I’m going to get dressed.” Jim stood and ran his hand over his rumpled dark hair.

“I should too.” As he changed, he’d think of an alternate plan. Why hadn’t he said dinner and a show? That would have worked.

He followed Jim up to the room they were sharing and shut the door.

Jim faced him and crossed his arms over his blue bathrobe. “What are you doing?”

“Doing?”

“With Lillian. You’re flirting with her.”

Arch’s mouth went dry, and he wet his lips with his tongue. “Would that be so bad?”

Jim scrunched up his face and shook his head. “Don’t.”

A slow measured breath. “I understand you want to protect your sister, but you know me.”

“Yes, I know you. I’ve watched you date half a dozen women and discard them all.”

“They were gold diggers. You know that. They only loved me for my money. Lillian—I know she isn’t like that. In fact, if it makes you feel better, she doesn’t like me at all.”

“Good.”

A burning sensation filled his chest. Apparently loyalty to a sibling ran deeper than loyalty to a friend.

Jim groaned and plopped onto his bed. “It’s not just you. It’s Lillian.”

“What do you mean?” Arch sat on the other bed.

“She hasn’t dated much. She’s only had one boyfriend, when she was at Ohio State. I don’t know the details, and she won’t talk, but it ended badly.”

“Oh.” Arch folded his hands between his knees.

“I do trust you, buddy. I do, but . . .”

But not with his sister. Arch gave a stiff nod. “I respect both of you too much. I’ll back off.”

A long sigh. “You know what, though? Lillian could really use a friend. She hasn’t had lots of those either.” Jim’s mouth bent in a smile, repentant and warm again.

“All right.” Most likely, Lillian would reject his friendship as she had his flirtation. But if she accepted his friendship, perhaps he could earn her trust. And Jim’s too.





4


Boston, Massachusetts

Monday, January 5, 1942

Lillian stood on the sidewalk across from Dixon’s Drugs, her only chance to be secure and independent.

A neon sign on a brick storefront, a striped green awning over the door, and windows plastered with ads. Typical but garish.

Her breath formed icy coils before her, and her fingers found the anchor necklace under her scarf. “Jesus is your anchor, your hope in any storm,” Dad had told her.

If only it were true for Lillian, but it wasn’t. Not God’s fault, but hers. Please be my anchor today, Lord. Please help me make a good impression.

She tucked in the necklace and rearranged her scarf over her bottle-green overcoat, the russet gloves warm on her hands.

Since the gloves were a gift from Arch, she hesitated to wear them, but they were so fashionable and supple and toasty. Besides, since Christmas, Arch had only been polite and kind. He’d abandoned the phony flirting he’d adopted as some strange way of apologizing for staring at her leg. As if acting attracted to her was preferable to staring.

He was much better company now that he acted normal.

Then she pulled herself tall. Only with cheer and confidence could she succeed.

Lillian opened the door, and bells jingled. In dim light, rows of shelves marched like soldiers, and a soda fountain ran along the right side of the store.

“May I help you, miss?” A matronly woman stood behind a cash register at a counter to the right.

“Hi, I’m Lillian Avery, the new pharmacist.”

“Oh yes. Mr. Dixon’s expecting you. I’m Mabel Connelly. Miss Felton isn’t here today—she’s the other cashier.”

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