Mother came home only a few minutes later. I heard her from the back parlor, where I’d once again installed myself with my book. Before I had a chance to greet her, she went down to the basement, presumably to discuss my punishment with Daddy.
“Boy, she really mad, ain’t she?” Elizabeth asked, peering over her own book on the other side of the room. Her big brown eyes looked huge behind her cheaters.
“Daddy will calm her down. I hope.”
I wasn’t the sort to get into trouble regularly, but when I did, I always found the most spectacular ways of doing it, like the time in seventh grade when some of the kids made nasty comments about my family’s German ancestry, and the fact that my parents invited our negro servant to live with us. I wasn’t bothered by it at first; Rose and Elizabeth were family, and I loved them. I’d been happy they came to stay with us. Having Elizabeth in the house was like finally getting a sister. But when one of the boys insinuated the reason Daddy asked them to live with us had more to do with Elizabeth’s parentage than the dire straights Rose found herself in after her husband died, there was really only one appropriate response: I broke his nose.
Mother and Daddy couldn’t decide if they were furious or proud. I was made to write a letter of apology, and wasn’t allowed at any of the fall social functions, but Mother bought me a new dress all the same, and Daddy started taking me down to his laboratory, which I’d been begging to see.
This time, however, there wasn’t a note of pride to offset the trouble I’d caused. I knew what I’d done was wrong. This wasn’t Chicago or New York where Prohibition was flouted and openly ignored. Ohio was, by and large, a dry state, and home of the Anti Saloon League, the organization primarily responsible for the Volstead Act in the first place. Chief French was vicious as a bulldog in his hunt for illegal speakeasies and bootleg liquor.
We all gathered around the dining room table. Rose poured glasses of milk for each of us while Daddy cut into the roast. I was itching to tell Mother about what had happened that morning, but could tell from her expression she was still angry. I bit my lip, glancing at Elizabeth. We both knew that if we said anything, Mother would be even angrier. Rose would probably have a heart attack right there in the dining room, and Daddy…I wasn’t sure what Daddy would do, but it would probably involve me never leaving the house again.
“Your father and I have talked things over, Dru, and come to a decision,” Mother said at last, accepting her plate from Daddy. She reached for the bowl of potatoes, spooning some into one corner as she spoke. “Until you can prove you are trustworthy, you will not be permitted to use the car.”
I started to object, but bit it back. Daddy must have seen the look on my face. “Dru, dear, we know you’re a good girl. This sort of behavior isn’t like you. But what you did last night was dangerous–and illegal.” His frown deepened at a look from Mother. “You’ve embarrassed your mother and I quite a bit.”
“I had to explain to Chief French this morning what happened. He wanted to make an example of you. I managed to talk him out of it.”
Ah. That explained the thin set of her mouth. I stared down at my roast, picking at the potatoes with my fork. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to cause trouble.”
“We know, dear. But your actions have consequences. This is one of them.”
I bit my lip again, looking across the table to Elizabeth. For their part, both Elizabeth and her mother seemed to be pretending they didn’t hear the conversation, concentrating intently on their food.
I thought again of our harrowing experience that morning. If my parents found out I’d been shot at for nothing more than having a picnic, they were liable to lock me up and throw away the key, just as Alexandra predicted.
Elizabeth finally glanced in my direction. I could see her wondering why I didn’t say anything about it.
Instead, I lowered my head in contrition. “I understand, Mother.”
“And to show just how penitent you are, I think it would be a good idea for you to arrive early tomorrow, to help set up for the competition. Maybe you can make a good impression on Chief French, and remind him you’re a model citizen, not one of those flappers.”
I fingered the end of my bob. “I’ll be there will bells on,” I said at last, forcing a smile.
“Why didn’t you say anything about those men?” Elizabeth asked, reaching for my hairbrush. She started running it through my short hair.
We sat on my bed in our night dresses, just as we always did. Elizabeth used to brush and plait my hair before bed, but there was no call for it now. It had taken six months for me to convince Mother I should be allowed to cut it. I still wasn’t used to the lightness around my neck and ears.
Of course, just because my hair was short didn’t stop us from gossiping.
“I couldn’t do it. Do you know how angry our parents would have been? Your mother would never let you leave the kitchen again, if she found out.”
Elizabeth sighed, sinking back against my pillows. She fidgeted absently with the end of one of her braids. “You’re probably right. But shouldn’t we tell someone?”
“Tell them what? We were shot at in the woods by people we couldn’t see, for being in a place that probably belonged to someone else? More than likely, it was some farmer, upset we were trespassing.”
“Three farmers. There were definitely three people shooting at us.”
“Are you sure?”
Elizabeth nodded. “One of them kept aiming for George. He was the biggest. He was hiding behind some bushes. Then there was one who kept running around. He had the shotgun. I saw him darting in between the trees.”
“You’re right. And I saw the one hiding behind the barn. His aim wasn’t very good.” I tried to remember the shapes of the shadow men; possibly, the third man only had a pistol, and that was why his shots kept going wild from such a distance.
I sat next to her, leaning against the brass headboard, fidgeting with the ribbon at the cuff of my sleeve. “I just think we need more evidence before we go to the police.”
“Aren’t the police the ones who are supposed to get the evidence?”
She was right, of course. Elizabeth was always levelheaded.
“You want to go back there, don’t you?”
“Just to make sure. I just don’t want to bother the police if it’s nothing. Especially since I’m already in trouble. I don’t think they’d listen to me.”
“Really? Or are you just curious?”
I wrinkled my nose. “A little of both, maybe?”
My friend sighed. “Let me get this straight: You want to prove they had more reason to shoot at us than simple trespassing, by trespassing some more?”
“When you put it that way, it does sound rather ridiculous.”
“Dru, please. If you aren’t going to tell your mother, please just forget about the whole thing.” She grabbed my arm, pleading. “It’s dangerous. There’s no telling what they’ll do if they catch you.”
Patting her hand, I let my head tilt back until it rested against the wall. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I’m not allowed to use the car, remember? How would I get up there?” Though I might be able to get George to take me. Or maybe Alexandra. She’d think it was a regular adventure.
Elizabeth sighed again, this time in relief, relaxing against the pillows. “Well, that’s good at least. I’d hate to think of you traipsing around by yourself, when those men might come out of nowhere!”
But all I could think as we said goodnight and she retired to her own room was, No one said I had to go alone.