This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples is from the opening of Chapter 5 of The Very First, “Starting to Settle In.” Cinni and Sparky have been out rather late (but not nearly as late as they were out in the first two drafts of the book!), and Sparky’s brother Otto, now called Barry (with a long A), is quite bemused to see them coming in at that hour as though there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it. Then young Cinni gets her first good look at the slightly older Barry, and so begins the genesis of their forbidden, secret, knowingly doomed interfaith love story, which plays out over eight books.
Sparky’s favorite brother Barry had fallen asleep on the davenport in the living room. At the sound of the front door opening, he leapt up. If this were a burglar, he had no idea what he was supposed to do.
He calmed down when he saw his sister and Mr. Filliard’s youngest child walking in together. Then he looked at the grandfather clock and back at them. He couldn’t believe they’d been out till after midnight. If only they’d been resettled in a large city like New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco, he thought. Those places had rules and regulations and didn’t let young people wander around after dark without even telling their parents where they were going.
“Do you realize what time it is, and how long you were gone?” he demanded in Dutch.
“I am very well aware of the time,” Cinni said calmly as she took off her shoes. “My parents don’t mind if I stay out late sometimes. This ain’t a big city like New York, where you could get shot or robbed alone at night. Sparky, tell this over-reactive brother of yours what we did.”
“Cinni taught me all about her friends, and we saw my first American movie! Then we went to the amusement park and I got my hair done. I am grateful forever to Cinni for teaching me to be American!”
“An’ from now on, no more Dutch. I overheard some of your English the other day, Otto, an’ it is absolutely atrocious!” Cinni suddenly noticed Barry giving her a look.
“Call me Barry. Judging from your lifestyle, I bet was dirty movie.” He saw her giving him the look right back. He had just seen the most beautiful girl he’d yet come across in America, and, wonder of wonders, the fact that she wasn’t Jewish wasn’t even bothering him.
“It was comedy. Much American slang I didn’t understand.”
“Yes, Sparky, I have to buy you a Dutch-English dictionary of popular slang.” Cinni eyed Barry intensely. He was the most handsome boy she had ever seen yet, and the fact that he was Jewish and a fair bit older only made the attraction seem even more exciting. Unlike Julieanna, Cinni didn’t think she was quite old enough yet for a practice boyfriend, but she knew she wouldn’t mind doing boy-girl things with Barry when she was a little bit older.
“Well, Kätchen, while you were out, Mutti and Vater found a kosher butcher across town, and a Conservative synagogue. It’s a good thing this city isn’t some hamlet you could throw a rock across. I’ve heard a lot of small cities in America don’t have a Jewish community.”
“You can tell your sister about this stuff later. Right now, it’s time for bed.” Cinni dragged Sparky upstairs.
Sparky was relieved to see Cinni had a changing screen in her room. Even if Cinni was another girl, it still would feel awkward to undress in front of another person and to watch another person undressing. Cinni let Sparky go behind the screen first. When Sparky came out in her long nightgown, Cinni went behind the screen. Sparky was a bit shocked to see Cinni emerging in a green lace nightgown of some sort that didn’t even have sleeves or meet the fingertip rule.
“It’s pretty,” Cinni said when she noticed Sparky staring at her. “I’d feel like an old grandma if I had to wear something like you’ve got. Why do you even need long sleeves and a skirt coming clear to the floor in August?”
“Because you never know when you might need to look modest. Even if you think you’re alone, someone could always come in without knocking, or you might have to leave the house if there’s a fire, God forbid.”
Cinni got underneath the bed and pulled out her paper bag of candy again. “Sure you don’t want something before we go to sleep? It’s so delicious. I carry food in my purse too.”
“No thank you.”
Cinni shrugged. “More for me then.” She wolfed down an entire chocolate bar and a small bag of purple gumdrops before climbing into bed. “Tomorrow I’ll show you something very, very special.” She gazed with adoring eyes upon the picture of President Roosevelt and blew a kiss to it. “Welcome to America, Sparky,” she whispered.