The Forgotten Daughter

By: Lauri Robinson
Chapter One

White Bear Lake, Minnesota, 1925

If only this was something she enjoyed...

The outdoor dance floor covering the ground between the resort building and the water fountain overflowed with men and women set on having a good time. More people crowded the tables covered with alternating red, white and blue tablecloths that gave everything a patriotic feel, and the colorfully decorated Chinese lanterns hanging on the wires stretched from the tall corner posts added to the overall festive appearance.

Even the hill, as it gently sloped toward the lake on the other side of the fountain, was a flurry of activity, with people lined up outside the little red-and-white tents set up for them to change in and out of their swimming attire.

Her sisters had been right. As usual. People had come from miles around. Dressed in everything from fringed dresses and suit coats to beachwear. Age made no difference today. Betty Sandstrom, who’d turned ninety-one last month, sat in a chair with her cane hooked on one arm and on the other side of the table, Hannah Willis bounced her six-week-old baby boy, Henry. He was a cutie, with his tuft of blond hair and big blue eyes.

From her stance on the resort’s balcony, Josie Nightingale held her customary role, that of being a bystander, wishing she could embrace all of this. She’d much rather be watching from her bedroom window, but that wasn’t an option. She was expected to be in attendance today. Front and center, along with the rest of her family.

Resort employees served beverages by the trayload. Soda pop with striped straws and cocktails created to disguise the liquor filling the bottom half of the glasses. There was food, too. Lots of it. The scent of fire-roasted meat and corn boiled on the cob still hung in the air. Soon there would be dessert. Cake and ice cream.

The sigh that built in her lungs became too large to hold in. Too powerful. Josie let it out, feeling no relief when she did so. Everything was running smoothly. Extremely smoothly, but there was little pride inside her. Even less excitement.

There should be. A lot of work had gone into the party. The planning had started weeks ago. That wasn’t unusual. Nightingale’s Resort was known for its parties. What was different about this one was that it wasn’t just a Fourth of July celebration—it was her sister’s wedding.

Twyla and Forrest Reynolds had been married less than an hour ago. They were dancing right now, looking at each other with stars in their eyes. They’d been meant to be together. Josie had always known that. Had seen it with her own eyes years ago when they’d all been kids. She had a knack for that, seeing what others didn’t always see, especially in themselves. Still, Josie’s shoulders wanted to slump clear to her knees.

It wasn’t that she wasn’t happy for her sister. She was, and not just for Twyla, but also for their oldest sister, Norma Rose, who would marry Ty Bradshaw in a couple of weeks, and Ginger, who’d married Brock Ness down in Chicago last month. Everyone had been surprised this morning when Ginger and Brock had shown up, having driven from Chicago for Twyla’s wedding. Ginger and Brock, along with Norma Rose and Ty, were on the dance floor next to Twyla and Forrest, all of them looking happier than ever.

Josie tried to not feel it, but it was there. That deep, somewhat bitter sense of being the odd one out. The story of her life. For years, she’d told herself that was her choice. It still was. She truly didn’t give a hoot about all the fuss and finery surrounding the resort, surrounding her family.

She did love them. Her family. And she was thankful for them. That’s why she did all of this—planned parties she’d rather not attend, made beds and swept floors, even waited on tables and wrote out admittance tickets. The resort was the family business.

Today it was all just a bit unsettling.

Something must have changed inside her. In the past, she’d been better at putting on a smile—for show—when needed. Maybe it was just that currently, her life was in such disarray that keeping up the pretense that the world was as wonderful as her sisters claimed it was grew more impossible by the minute. She wanted to believe the world was a wonderful, happy place. She always had. But she knew otherwise. That notion weighed more heavily on her mind today than usual.

Another sigh built and burned inside her chest as an arm fell around her shoulders.

“Well, Josie-girl, it looks like it’ll be just you and me.”

The souring sensation in her stomach she’d had for days increased. Bucking up, for there was little else she could do, Josie planted a grin as big as her father’s billfold on her face and leaned against his shoulder as he hugged her close to his side with one heavy arm. However, she made no comment in response to his statement.