When the Whistle Blows, excerpt:
Hugh pulled up the buggy in front of the Lutheran church and parked several feet down from a row of vehicles. He stepped from the rig and hastened to Winifred’s side. He extended his arm to her. Her soft fingers squeezed inside his. Hugh’s heart rate sped up. Wiggling out of her seat and grabbing her umbrella, she stood beside him.
“I won’t look proper unless I open my parasol,” she said, her sweet lips curving up into a small smile. Winifred pushed the frilly umbrella open. A gust of wind whisked around them. She grasped the handle tighter to secure it, but in spite of her best efforts the breeze pushed the parasol’s mushroom top into Hugh’s derby, knocking it onto the dirt. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t—”
“Mean to do that,” he interjected. He chuckled and reached for his derby just as another puff of wind carried it several feet to his left. Running toward it, he reached for it as the breeze swirled and picked it up, landing the hat right in front Winifred.
She glimpsed toward him as he lowered his body and grabbed the derby. “I’m really sorry. Really I am.”
Looking up at her, Hugh lost his balance and plowed into her. She fell, her dress flying up in the air, exposing the pantaloons’ lace edges. He glanced at her lovely ankles. His face grew warm. Right this moment he wanted to hug and kiss this “refined” lady. He could not, of course, or a scandal would erupt.
“Hugh,” she whispered, her voice breaking as she attempted to pull her skirt down below her ankles. “You. Why are you so clumsy? Look at me. What will church members say?” She scooted her body, trying to right herself.
The incident, indeed, made for a bad scene, but he could not help finding humor in it. He smiled at her. He got to his feet then reached for her hand and quipped, “We’ve got to quit meeting like this.”
“Oh, Hugh,” she replied, her eyes misty. Standing beside him, she gazed at her skirt dotted with grime. “How am I going to go into church like this? Where is my parasol?”
He scanned the area, locating it a few feet from them. He picked it up and stepped to her. He presented it to her. “Here it is. You’re all in one piece, now.”
“No, don’t you see my quandary?” she sniffed and placed her hands on her hips. “My dress and parasol are spotted with dirt and the fringe is all tangled.”
She no longer looked like an elite plantation woman, but he liked seeing her like this. She looked. … What was the word? Like a person he could love. A woman he could take care of for the rest of his life. Studying her attire, he broke out in laughter.
“Mr. Hugh, this is no way to conduct yourself in these circumstances,” she said in a stern voice.
“Isn’t it, Miss Winifred?”
“No!” Biting her lip, she surveyed his countenance. She blinked then blinked again. Except for a squirrel scampering up a walnut tree, they stood there in quiet before a giggle escaped her throat. “Alright. Alright. I do see some amusement in this.”