Abigail Breckenridge is studying to become Ann Arbor’s second female attorney, but a scandal interrupts her studies and sends her off to Europe to avoid the town gossips.
Charles Van Aker, a 6′ 5″ poet, is the oldest of eight and at the age of 18 helps run his father’s furniture company. Charles and Abigail have been friends since grade school, so when the scandal surrounding Abigail violently erupts, Charles and his large family of brothers and sisters stand by Abigail.
Through scandal, distance and lost faith, the love between Abigail and Charles grows steadily, but can it survive the tragedies that a typhoid epidemic buries them under?
Ann Arbor, Michigan, June 1879
Humidity from a threatening storm wilted the starched-lace on the pleated front of Abigail’s engagement gown. At the head of the table, Grandpa drained his water glass and then dabbed at his substantial white moustache with his napkin. Hoping for twilight’s first shift of air, Abigail directed the butler, “Isaac, the windows.”
Isaac followed the Breckenridge house rules and pulled the dark green shades below the table top’s level, in order not to let breezes snuff out the candles. Behind the blinds and white filigree curtains, fly-paper curls ambushed insects drawn to the savory aroma of roast duck. Cooler air reached Abigail’s ankles, but harsh barking from the neighbor’s collie only added to the jangled state of Abigail’s nerves as did Grandpa’s continuing challenges to her darkly, handsome fiancé, George Lott.
Grandpa’s subject was George’s finances. “You think you can keep this girl in fancy dresses?”
George stiffened in the straight-backed, dining-room chair. “All she will ever ask of me.”
On her left, Charles Van Aker, her blond, curly-headed friend since grade school, smiled and then attempted to lighten the mood. “You could terrorize our Abigail, so she’ll never open her mouth.” No one cracked a smile, but Charles plowed forward. “Or, keep her in the house so no one will notice she’s out of fashion, no longer in harmony with society.”
George didn’t raise his eyes from his plate. Abigail scowled a warning at her grandfather, but he refused to look her way. Finally, Grandpa realized the ill-advised line of questioning. He frowned and then smiled at Abigail, his faded blue eyes twinkling with mischief. “Did I tell you, Abigail, they found Confederate gold out at the Husted’s?”
Abigail relaxed with the change of subject. Under cover of the tablecloth, she raised her skirt above her knees to take full advantage of the cooling breeze. She planned to share this secret of staying serene with Dolly Colt at the next opportunity. Where was her beautiful, redheaded friend? Dolly’s empty chair across from Charles reminded Abigail of their Jewish neighbor’s Seder celebration, where an extra place was set for an absent, invited guest. The prophet, Elijah, was welcome to occupy the Breckenridge chair any time, but she expected Dolly Colt.
Lightning struck nearby, shaking the house and making the candles flicker. The collie outside hushed.
Then Abigail screamed jumping up to escape whatever had grabbed her knees.
Rohn Federbush retired as an administrator from the University of Michigan in 1999. She received a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing in 1995 from Eastern Michigan University. Frederick Busch of Colgate granted a 1997 summer stipend for her ghost-story collection. Michael Joyce of Vassar encouraged earlier writing at Jackson Community College, Jackson, Michigan in 1981.
Rohn has completed fourteen novels, with an additional mystery nearly finished, 120 short stories and 150 poems to date.