One day earlier
Thursday, June 4, 1942
“Well, well, Audra. I do believe you’re ready to take this matter to trial.”
Audra Schaeffer soaked in the atypical praise. While Roger Clarion was a good man and fair boss, he did not toss praise around for any and all to hear. Satisfaction pulsed through her. After seven years of school and two years where the only job she could find after law school required her to serve as a paralegal, Mr. Clarion had given her a chance. If everything went well, she’d litigate her first case in Superior Court Two in one month. A simple case, but it was hers.
He pulled reading glasses low on his bulbous nose and examined her over the rims. “Don’t let me down, or we’ll both be the laughingstock of the Indianapolis legal community.”
“Yes, sir.” The image of her standing at the podium in front of the counsel table, a legal pad resting on it, filled her mind. She’d finally done it! She’d earned the right to try a case.
He smiled then shook his head. “I never thought I’d see the day when I’d have a woman working for me as an attorney, of all things.” After a twist to his bow tie and a tug on his sweater vest, he stood and grabbed the wool jacket hanging on the coat tree in the corner of his office behind the massive cherry desk. “Now get out of here. I understand you have an important call to take back home.”
Audra couldn’t hide the smile that tugged at her lips. “Fortunately, Rosemary’s usually a few minutes late.” Since the day she was born a week late, Rosemary couldn’t be hurried to join the rest of the world. Audra stood and walked to the doorway. “You can’t believe how hard it is to wait for her calls. But it is a blessing her landlady allows Rosie to call us regularly from her phone. I don’t think Mother could handle it if we didn’t have our weekly report on all things Hollywood.”
Mr. Clarion chuckled. “Off with you. Can’t stand in the way of that.”
“See you in the morning, sir.” Audra hurried from the office and scooped her hat and purse from the seat of her desk chair. If she hurried, she’d make the bus that would get her home in time for Rosemary’s call. Being a little out of breath would be worth it if she could steal a few moments with Rosemary without her parents listening. Audra pushed through the front door into the bright sunshine of an early summer Indianapolis day. Squinting against the brightness, she merged into step with the other commuters headed to carpools or buses. The sidewalks pulsed with energy as people hustled to get home to dinner and their families. The United States had only been at war a few months, but already women outnumbered men on the sidewalks.
Audra glanced at her watch and sped up her pace. Her high heels clicked against the concrete as she did everything but run toward the bus stop, one hand squishing her hat securely to her head. Ahead she could see the behemoth belching exhaust as it idled, waiting for passengers. She had to reach it, because she couldn’t miss Rosie’s call.
The last time Rosie called home, she’d been out of sorts. Short. Distracted. Tense. Yet no matter how Audra had tried, she couldn’t pull what bothered her from Rosemary. She imagined her sister doodling nonsense images on a piece of paper as she held close what disturbed her. If Rosie were home, Audra could eventually tease the problem from her and help her deal with the situation. But now, with so many miles separating them, Audra felt powerless and impotent to do anything. How she hated that. She was supposed to smooth out Rosie’s problems, as she had all through high school when the boys decided Rosie was the cat’s meow—her long legs and sweet face attracting them long before she was aware of their looks.
Audra reached the bus and her shoulders sagged. She’d made it. She climbed the steps, deposited her coin, and found a seat in the back by one of the lowered windows. Though tinged with the stench of diesel, the trickle of outside air seemed fresher than that in the bus.
“Is this seat taken?”
Audra looked up and smiled at an older woman. “Please.”
The woman, burdened with a couple bags of groceries, collapsed onto the seat next to her. She fanned her face and turned forward. “I didn’t think I’d make it in time. My kids would have been mighty disappointed if they had to wait for supper while I waited for the next bus.”
Audra smiled politely then turned back to the window. She twirled a strand of hair around her finger then tucked it behind her ear.
Tonight, Rosemary would have funny stories to weave about people she’d observed, stars she’d met, and roles she’d almost landed. The dinner table had been too quiet since she moved to California six months earlier. She’d set her face toward the West and moved, determined to make her mark on the world.
Memories of the many times Rosie had stubbornly set her path before flowed through Audra’s mind. Time after time Audra had stepped in to either help the dream come true or staunch a pending disaster. She hid a chuckle behind her hand at the image of Rosemary’s determined attempt to make the costumes for a neighborhood play one summer. She’d written a script, drafted neighbor kids for the various roles, and then decided nothing less than specially made costumes would work for her production. Only problem was, she’d never sewn a stitch in her life and Mother was visiting a sick relative. That had left Audra to fill the gaps, something she’d gladly done. The play had been a neighborhood smash, the parents overlooking the melodrama and applauding the kids’ efforts. And Audra stood in the background enjoying Rosie’s success.
Similar scenarios had played out through Rosemary’s in-between years. And Audra had loved stepping in to smooth the rough spots in Rosemary’s big plans. She wondered if Rosie had anyone to do that for her now.
Rosemary would call.
Then Mother would smile, and Daddy would lose the tight lines around his eyes.
And everything would return to normal.
And for once, Audra had exciting news of her own to report to Rosemary. Her sister would understand how hard Audra had worked for this opportunity and what it meant to have her own case. Rosemary might aspire to appear on the silver screen. All Audra had ever wanted was to appear in court, weaving arguments that won the day. She had followed her grandpa around his one-man firm for a summer, and the legal bug had bitten hard.
A tremor of excitement coursed through Audra at the thought she would finally get to stand in front of a judge and make the arguments that would determine the outcome for her client. Yes, she had news of her own. Her dreams were ready to come true.