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Hillsboro, North Carolina
Johanna Shelby, eighteen and recently having returned home from boarding school, stood looking out through the rain-smeared bedroom window. It had started raining early in the morning and had continued steadily all day. Now it was coming down in sheets.
Sighing impatiently, she turned back into the room. She gave a rueful glance at her new scarlet taffeta party dress hanging on the ledge of her armoire. She was looking forward eagerly to wearing it tonight at the first party of the holiday season, held at the home of her best friend, Liddy Chalmers. But if this kept up, it might be impossible to get there, country roads being what they were.
On her way across the room, she practiced a few dance steps, ending up by holding on to one of the bedposts, where she twirled around a couple of times before plopping down and bouncing onto the feather mattress. There she sighed again.
Although she had only been home a few days, she already felt restless, at loose ends. Why? At school, she couldn't wait to get home for Christmas. And now it certainly was not that she missed school! For a free-spirited girl like Johanna, the rules, regulations, routine, the tedious hours in needlework class, and the memorizing endless verses to recite in the weekly elocution programs were boring and meaningless. In fact, Johanna was determined not to go back. That is, if she could convince her parents that she was quite "finished" enough. After two and a half years at Miss Pomoroy's Female Academy in Winston, she had had enough!
No, it certainly wasn't the lack of boarding school schedule that made her feel so fidgety. It was that she couldn't seem to settle down now that she was home. She felt so betwixt and between. She had changed more than she realized while being away. She'd gone off to school when she was sixteen and didn't seem to fit back into the family nest so neatly.
Johanna didn't really know what made her feel so uncomfortable back in the Shelby family circle. Maybe it was her prickly relationship with her sister Cicely, the next oldest. After her first greeting, Cissy had slipped back into her old adversary role with Johanna. Of course, Elly, the youngest, was adorable and as loving and lovable as ever. It was something else Johanna couldn't define. Even though she tried, she had the uneasy feeling she didn't really belong here anymore.
That is why after only a few days, Johanna found herself strangely at odds with everyone. It wasn't that she didn't love them all. It was just that she had the strangest feeling, as if she were on the brink of something, something unknown, something that was both exciting and a little daunting.
Johanna walked over to the window again. Putting her palms up against the steaming panes, she pressed her face against the glass. Just then the sky seemed to split open with a jagged streak of lightning that zigzagged down through dark, purple-edged clouds, sending the bare trees outside into stark silhouettes in a blinding flash. This was followed by a loud crackle of thunder that caused Johanna to jump back from the window in alarm.
In a panic reaction, Johanna turned and ran out of the room and down the stairs into the parlor, where the rest of the family was gathered, in time to hear her mother declare, "My good gracious, that was quite a jolt. It's a regular downpour. The roads will be rivers of mud by evening. I've a mind not to set out in this weather"
"Not go?" a chorus of protest came from both the other girls. Cissy ran to stand beside her mother, peering out the window. Elly jumped up from the hassock, dropping her cat, which she'd been holding in her lap, to exclaim, "Not go to the party?"
"Oh Mama, surely you don't mean that!" cried Johanna, looking at her father for support and mainly concerned about having another evening confined at home and about losing the opportunity to wear her new dress.
"Well, I don't know." Mrs. Shelby's voice trailed into uncertainty. "Just getting from the carriage to the house, we'll get drenched for sure."
"Oh, it will be all right, Mama. We can bundle up and wear boots and carry our slippers 'til we get inside," Cissy assured her. At fifteen, she was the practical one.
"I suppose." Mrs. Shelby's voice still sounded tentative.
"Please, Mama, don't say we can't go!" wailed Elly, who at nearly eleven had been promised this treat, her first time to attend a really "grown-up" party.
"Oh, come now, Rebecca," boomed Tennant Shelby, the girls' father, who had caught Johanna's pleading look. He laid aside the book he had been reading to say chidingly to his wife, "Can't let a little rain deprive these pretty young ladies of the first party of the holiday season."
His wife gave him a cautionary look. Tennant was so indulgent of their three daughters, especially Johanna, that it was she who sometimes had to exert discipline or take the stern parental role. However, she was already inclined to put aside her own misgivings about the weather. The Chalmerses' party was the first of the holiday season. After all, she wasn't yet too old to remember what fun a dancing party could be. More to the point, with three daughters to eventually marry off, it was important that they get out socially. Particularly for Johanna, their oldest, home after her years out of circulation here in Hillsboro. Now eighteen, ready to be launched into society and ready for a serious courtship and marriage proposal. Not that it would be much of a problem. Johanna was pretty, vivacious, and bright. Any number of eligible young men would no doubt find her attractive. It was only a matter of choosing the right one.
Posted May 25, 2012
Posted December 23, 2003
The Pattern has been an amazing story of love, when you really love someone, you love them for who they are not for what they have. I really enjoyed this book, and recommended to everybody. When you start reading it you just can't put it down. I'm buying the sequence.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.