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Tranquility Point

By Pamela S Meyers

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“Hannah Maureen Murphy, what are you doing out here almost naked?”
Hannah continued to dry off her arms. “Oh, Pop, if a woman wants to swim and not just splash around, she can't wear one of those silly dresses. Could you swim in one of those?”

Her father stepped onto the dock and approached her. “No, but that's beside the point.” He scooped up her robe from where she'd tossed it and dropped it over her wet body. He reached over and dragged the fabric over a bare shoulder he'd failed to cover.

She had half a mind to shrug off the robe and dive back into the water. Instead, she worked her arms into the sleeves.

By now, his face was as red as a tomato.

She lifted her chin. “You can't get me to change my mind.”

“Does your mother know you're wearing such a scanty…” He paused as if searching for the right word.

“Yes, I do know, Nate. It's called a swimsuit, and stop being such a fuddy-duddy.” Mama came across the dock, her ankle-length skirt lifting in the breeze. “You seem to forget that back when we were courting how I said the very same thing.” She smiled at Hannah. “Did you have a nice swim?”

Hannah couldn't stop grinning. “Yes. You can't imagine the freedom of movement. You should get one of these swimsuits, Mama.”

“I'm tempted, but you'd best limit your wearing it to our pier only. I'm sure in time, the style will take hold, but at the moment, there are probably more neighbors who agree with your father than us.”

Hannah opened her mouth then shut it. Now wasn't the time to debate the issue. But she wasn't a child. She was twenty-two years old, a recent college graduate, and fully grown up. This was 1916, not the 1890s when her mother had defied her parents and wore bloomers to accommodate her bicycle riding. She'd only heard that story about a hundred times.

She grabbed up her towel from where she'd tossed it on a bench and began working it through her bobbed hair. “I need to get dressed. Charley McGrath and I are meeting Elly Hansen and George Muller for dinner.”

“It's nice you're keeping up with the people you've gone to school with all your life,” Mama said. “Charley seems like a nice fellow.”

“I'm going because the only way I can see Elly these days is if I see George too. To even things out, Elly invited Charley.” She stepped past her parents and padded across the dock to the shore. Another no-no she bucked last year. What was wrong with women being barefoot in summer? The only thing better than a swim in Geneva Lake was having the grass tickle your feet on the way to the house.

She circled the spring house. Made to look like a gazebo with pretty flowered pots, it was a comfortable spot where one could sit on a hot summer day and catch a breeze off the lake. The spring house must have been where Mama had been watching her swim.

Ahead, at the top of the short hill, sat the Queen Anne home her great-grandfather built after the great fire in Chicago. Moderate in size when compared to some of the other homes built on the lakeshore, he called the estate Safe Refuge because the land was precisely that for the family. Instead of heading up the steps to the veranda, she circled to her right and came to a flagstone path that led to the two-story cottage she now called home.

Hannah stepped inside and went directly to the living room window that gave a clear view of the dock and her parents. Her father's stiff posture indicated Mama hadn't yet softened his anger. They rarely argued, and when they did disagree, Pop usually came around to seeing things from her mother's more flexible point of view.

She glanced around the small, cozy room, taking in its casual arts and crafts style, and breathed in the scent of the last of the purple hyacinths Mama had picked that morning and placed in the fireplace. Their sweet fragrance would disappear by tomorrow. If only she had time to linger and enjoy the room and the novel she'd recently begun reading, but she had that dinner date.
Thankfully, she and Charley were not dining alone. Otherwise, she'd be bored listening to him go on and on about how the growing Socialist party in Wisconsin needed to be stopped. She agreed with most of what he said, but that didn't mean it was all she wanted to talk about over dinner.

A few hours later, Hannah, wearing a soft yellow, linen dress she'd updated with a wide Roman-style belt, and Charley, looking dapper in a navy, pin-striped suit, stepped into the Geneva Café.

“There they are,” Charley said as he took Hannah's elbow and guided her to Elly and George's table.

Ellie grinned, “I love your hair, Hannah. I wish I had the nerve to bob mine.” She patted her dark blond up-do.

“You should do it, El. You won't go back to waist-long hair again.”

Charley's gaze swept around the table. “Now that we've all graduated from college, what's next on your agendas? I know Hannah is heading to law school at the university in the fall, and I'm starting my new job in a few weeks. What about you, George? You graduated before the rest of us. What have you been up to?”

George shook his head. “I had to drop out for a couple of years. I graduated two weeks ago and have a new job at a bank in Milwaukee.”

Elly grinned. “I've been hired to teach third grade at a grammar school in Milwaukee.” She smiled lovingly at George. “Why don't you tell them our news, dear?”

Hannah frowned. Dear? Our news?

George grinned as if he'd just won a million dollars. “I asked Elly to marry me, and we'll be getting married over Thanksgiving.”

Elly pulled a glove off her left hand and held it up. A small diamond glittered from her ring finger. “He asked me the day I graduated from teacher's college.”

Hannah forced a smile as a sense of loss washed over her. What happened to those talks she and Elly had about their futures? Elly hoped to become a teacher then possibly a school principal while Hannah's job as a lawyer would lead to perhaps becoming a district attorney. They had no time for marriage and children until they reached their goals. She took Elly's hand and pulled it closer to study the gem. “I'm so happy for you both, but I had no idea…”

“That we were a couple?” George asked. “We ran into each other over Christmas break and started going out. Our courting was mostly done through letters except when we were both home for the weekend on a couple of occasions. We can't wait to set up housekeeping in Milwaukee. That is unless the U.S. decides to join the fighting over in Europe. I couldn't believe how much grief I received during my interview for my bank job.”

Charley frowned. “Grief? How so?”

“My German last name. Was I sympathetic to the Kaiser? Do I have thoughts about joining the German army? I've never been to Germany in my life. My grandparents immigrated and settled in Chicago, and my parents moved to Lake Geneva when Dad got a job with the bank.”

“But the U.S. is neutral, so why the fuss?” Hannah asked.

George shrugged. “Many Germans who immigrated to the U.S. in the past decade or so have returned to Germany to join up. Thankfully, the bosses at the bank believed me, and I start in two weeks. I'm currently looking for a flat or small house to rent for us.” He took Elly's hand and smiled at her.

Charley leaned back in his chair. “Better make sure the rental agreement has a clause that if the U.S. joins the war and you're drafted, you can break the lease. I did that before I rented my apartment in Chicago after Crane hired me.”

George stared at him. “Crane? As in the same Crane that owns Jerseyhurst on the lakeshore?”

“One and the same.”

As the men talked, Hannah's thoughts of spending the summer with her town friends disintegrated. Between marriage, jobs, and the war that was so far away, it seemed nothing would ever be the same again. Would it be any different tomorrow when she got together with her lakeshore friends?

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