The Bandbox Hat
Previously: SarahJane had an epiphany about the men in her life and left the Date My Son! house and called Jesse. They agreed they belong together in Rosedale.
It didn’t take long to pack up my tiny furnished apartment. I had my clothes and a few tchotchkes. By noon the next day, I’d given notice at the school and to my landlord, and April and I were chugging up I-5 toward the Valley and home.
I’d even managed a quick call to Nathan, still at the Date My Son! set. He confessed his feelings for Cassie and I told him I was thrilled for him. I really was and it didn’t have anything to do with my own light-hearted feelings for Jesse.
April kept herself occupied with her iPod and my thoughts continued to whirl like a tornado, touching down on various thoughts about where I’d live, work, and love in the future.
Jesse and I talked all night. The job he applied for was a good one. He could afford a place of his own while we got re-acquainted. I would insist that Jake and Daniel and Abel finish my garage apartment. I needed a place of my own, out of the main house. The clapboard farmhouse was Anna’s nest now and I had been kidding myself to think I had any say in how she ran it.
I shouldn’t have a problem getting my old job back at Rosedale Elementary. But even if Principal Reardon had replaced me, it wasn’t the end of the world. I could drive a tractor as well as my brothers.
By the time we pulled off 99 and into Rosedale, I was just the teensiest bit apprehensive about seeing my brothers and Anna. Would I be strong enough to stand up for myself? I never could before.
I stopped in front of Enns Dry Goods, put the car in park, and sagged against the seat back.
“Can I get an ice-cream?” April asked, pointing to the lunch counter.
“Sure.” It seemed like a good idea and would give me a chance to catch up with Emma.
The black stiletto heels, the ones I saw on the day Jesse and Rachael had returned to town, still held a place of honor in the front window. Along with a traditional Mennonite kappe. Our order didn’t wear them, but the tourists didn’t know that.
The juxtaposition of the chic heels and plain bonnet made me smile.
Inside, April slid onto a stool at the counter and placed her order. I kept looking over my shoulder at the front window.
“SarahJane!” Emma hugged me then stepped back. “Oh, I’ve missed you!”
I grinned at her. “I have so much to tell you. But first, I have to buy those shoes and that kappe.”
She grabbed my elbow and pulled me toward the window. “I can’t believe neither has sold yet. They’ve been in the window for weeks.” She reached over the waist-high back and snagged first the heels then the bonnet. “It’s like they were waiting for you.”
I laughed out loud at that. “You know, I think they were.”
At the register, Emma rang me up. Instead of a paper or plastic bag though, she pulled out a box from under the counter. “These deserve something extra special.”
The box was more than an ordinary shoebox. It was round, like a hatbox. Cream-colored with a black band around the lid.
“That looks like something out of the 1940’s,” I said.
“I ordered just a hundred.” Emma fit the shoes inside and laid the kappe on top. “They’re for the discriminating customer who will appreciate them.” She winked at me as she pushed the box across the counter.
Tears filled my eyes.
“SarahJane, are you okay? It’s just a box.” Emma’s concerned voice slipped around me like a warm comforter.
I blinked rapidly. “I’m fine. I—it’s just—I have so much to tell you and this is the perfect end to this summer. These shoes, the kappe, the box. It’s my life in one neat package. Our culture and heritage, and the reality show that gave me back my past.”
April scampered up then. “I’m ready to go home now.”
I propped the box on one hip and gave her a hug with my opposite arm.
“We are, sweetie. We are finally home. And there’s no place I’d rather be.”