Anchor in the Storm(6)

By: Sarah Sundin

“So you can fit them in your trunk.”

“I hate carrying them on the train. Hate it. I only need them at night when I take off my prosthesis. And it looks odd to carry them.”

“Lillian,” he said in that low rolling way of his when he wanted to soothe her. “You’ll be fine.”

She jerked up her gaze, but he’d resumed sanding. She’d be fine? What did he mean by that? Didn’t he realize she didn’t want to step off the train in Boston carrying the emblem of her weakness? Not when she’d have to be stronger than ever, living with roommates she barely knew, working for a boss who didn’t want her, and pulling fully away from her family’s security.

She loved her family, but depending on them was beginning to chafe like her prosthesis at the end of a long day.

“You’ll be fine.” Dad ran a bare hand over the plank, one eye closed. “Lean on the Lord, and you’ll be fine.”

“I know.” She dragged more shavings from under the scaffolding. Everyone else in the family seemed to have faith that was warmhearted and alive. Hers felt mechanical and wooden.

A knock sounded. Lillian bonked her head on the scaffolding and rubbed it.

Arch Vandenberg stood by the door, wearing his navy blue overcoat and service cap and a smile that said, “You missed me, didn’t you?”

She didn’t.

“Hello, Arch,” Dad said. “You wanted to see the shop?”

“You did say I could come down. Is now a good time?”

“Of course. You’re always welcome.”

“Thank you.” He nodded at Lillian. “Hello, Lillian.”

“Hello.” Her hands twisted around the broom handle. She wasn’t done sweeping, but she needed to leave. She headed toward the entrance, even if she did have to pass Arch. One step past him, two, and soon she’d reach the door.

“Don’t leave on my account.”

She spun around. She’d misjudged. He stood only one pace away, several inches taller than she, his bright blue eyes twinkling a challenge. If she left now, he’d know she’d most certainly left on his account. Stuck. She was stuck.

“I . . .” She gestured to the back corner. “I need to switch brooms.”

“May I help?”

“Switch brooms?”

His smile surely made girls swoon up and down the Eastern Seaboard. “Sweep. May I help sweep?”

He didn’t look like the sweeping sort, which could be amusing. She handed him the broom. “That’s called a broom. You may have heard of them.”

Arch frowned at the item in his black-gloved hands. “Yes. Yes, I’ve heard of such things.” Then he winked. “And that’s called sarcasm. You may have heard of it.”

Lillian inclined her head in appreciation. At least he could take teasing. She grabbed a regular broom. She’d follow him and take care of all he missed.

“What are you working on, Mr. Avery?” Arch pushed the broom with vigor and decent technique.

“A yacht for a client in Columbus. She won’t be needed until summer, so I have time. Her name is Isabella, and we’re still getting acquainted.”

Arch removed his cap and bowed from the waist. “Good day, Isabella. An honor.”

Lillian peered at the officer. No sign of condescension or mockery. He simply shared her father’s love of boats, understood his mystical connection.

Arch pulled his cap on over his blond hair and resumed sweeping, as he and Dad discussed the sailboat’s specifications. Since sailor boy was doing a passable job with the push broom, she’d let him manage the open spaces while she cleaned under the equipment.

Lillian poked the broom under the woodstove, the only source of heat in the workshop, and she sniffled in the cool air. If Arch thought her lovely last night, he’d change his mind now that he’d seen her in a man’s work coat, heavy gloves, and the ugliest hat in Ohio.

“Good,” she whispered.

“I’m sorry it isn’t sailing season,” Dad said. “I’d love to take you out.”

“That’s all right.” Arch’s voice sounded stiff.

“I know how it is with sailors and the sea.”

“The sea was always my refuge.”

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