Lifting her lids and once again staring at her reflection, she proclaimed aloud, “You’re right. You, Josie Nightingale, are in love with Scooter Wilson.” Then, just in case she still didn’t believe herself, she repeated, “You’re in love with Scooter. And have been for some time.”
Nothing changed in her reflection, but something inside of her shifted. Yes, she was in love with him. Probably had been since his father had died and he’d quit school to take care of his family. She’d missed him immensely those first few weeks.
Her mind, which didn’t need an image in a mirror to question things, pondered something else. What was she going to do about it? Tell him? Not tell him? Definitely not tell him. There wasn’t anything she could do about it, and there was no need for him to know. Ever. Once Norma Rose returned from her honeymoon and took over at the resort again, she’d head to Duluth as planned.
Standing there, reflecting on many things and thinking about the future, Josie came to another conclusion. Scooter was the reason she joined the Ladies Aid Society. When she’d learned of Maize’s absence that day, she’d offered to help. She’d wanted to help. Scooter had already had too many burdens.
A heavy sigh built deep in her chest, burning so intensely she had to let it out. Scooter had had a lot of burdens back then—he still did—and now she’d added several more to his shoulders.
“Josie?” Heavy rapping sounded on the door. “Josie, I know you’re in there.”
The sound of Gloria’s voice increased the burning sensation in Josie’s chest. Scooter was the reason she’d joined the crusade, but why had she continued? Freedom? That was a sham. Being under Gloria’s thumb was far worse than being under her father’s.
The lightbulb above the sink flickered. Maybe because of the pounding on the door, or perhaps because the light was signaling she knew that answer, too.
Giving her reflection one last solid stare, Josie nodded. She had experienced freedom—just in a difference sense. The society had given her an excuse, a reason for not caring about fashion or makeup or clothes or glossy magazines, which had transformed into a cause. Seeing all those girls who had nothing, and were doing what they could to survive, made her understand how lucky she and her sisters were.
Josie pulled the door open just as Gloria’s rapping started up again.
“Where have you been?” the other woman asked. “Duluth? I told you not to go today.”
Feeling more herself and more confident than she had felt in some time—since her arrest actually—Josie stepped into the hallway. “I know what you told me.”
“And you know the rules,” Gloria said, finger wagging. “They are to be followed at all times.”
Scooter had already passed out all the rules she could handle today. “Or what?” Josie asked. “You’ll tell my father?” Years of pent-up frustration rose inside her. It had to be released. There was no other option. “You’ll tell him I’ve been driving up to Duluth every Tuesday? You’ll tell him about the cases of condoms in my closet? You’ll tell him you wanted us to drive up there during Twyla’s wedding? You’ll tell him all of that?” The words were rolling inside her, tumbling out of her mouth, and there were more to come. “Go ahead and tell him. Because I’m ready to do it myself.”
“Josie,” Gloria spat in her listen-to-me-or-else tone. “Hush up. You want this entire place to hear you?”
“I don’t care who hears me,” she answered. “You do.”
“Don’t threaten me, young lady.”
“Why not?” Josie asked. “You’ve been threatening me for three years.”
“I have not.” Gloria’s wrinkled neck was beetroot-red and her nostrils were flaring. “I’ve been the one covering for you.”
“Covering for me? You were the one making me go.” She hated arguing. That part of her would never change. “I’m sorry, Gloria, I—”
“As you should be,” the other woman snapped. “I’ve never been so rudely spoken to in my life.”
“I’m not sorry about that,” Josie said, her anger renewing itself. “I’m sorry your husband slept with his patients. I’m sorry he became infected and ultimately died. I’m sorry you were hurt by it all, but none of that had anything to do with me. Not then, and not now.” Shaking her head, she pointed out a fact they both needed to realize. “None of this is about either of us anymore.”
Gloria’s eyes turned beady and cold. “It’s that Wilson boy, isn’t it? He’s gotten to you. I told Shirley to put a stop to him.”