The massive circus tent was packed. Squished between Dot and Trey, Marina was hot, sticky, and utterly miserable. While she appreciated the excuse for close contact with Trey, it was more than offset by the hot and sticky part.
Her trousers were midweight for fall and early spring, but this April was unseasonably warm. Even if it were ten below, all the people here would make coats unnecessary. Not for the first time, she wished she were allowed to wear the light and floaty dresses Dot got to wear. In fact, she was required to wear dresses to church. Any church. And her mother didn't care if almost every other woman in Reverend Scarritt's congregation dressed in trousers.
Marina was breathless sitting so closely to Trey, and she didn't have to look into his cold blue eyes, knowing he was taking in every inch of her homely face and hair. She wanted to stare right back into that pretty face and golden hair and lovely smile that made her heart race every time he flashed it at her.
He could afford to be somewhat bold in assessing her because he was a man. A boy would blush and stammer and look away. Marina was expected to blush and stammer and look away, which was precisely what Trey made her do. So sitting beside him was easier than sitting across from him.
Doing so at supper would have been agony just for that, but, worse, Father had picked at Trey about every little thing as if he were lying about who he was when anybody could see Trey was exactly who he said he was.
Marina was so embarrassed, she'd kept her head down all through the meal and escaped to the kitchen as soon as possible. Normally, Father would ask her about her studies and account for her marks because, quite frankly, she was terrible at school. Father was getting impatient and she had to do find some way to improve them. That discussion wouldn't have embarrassed her. Trey would have found out the extent of her struggles and offered to help her.
Somehow, miraculously, he had found a way to teach her that she understood. She had no doubt he could teach her anything and everything she would ever need to know.
Her next chance to bring her math grade up was Thursday and she could only pray God would help her remember what Trey had taught her. She'd done well on her homework, surprising her teacher, but it was clear by her handwriting she'd worked the problems herself. For good measure, she'd stayed after class to explain her good fortune and demonstrate on the chalkboard.
"Marina," Trey whispered in her ear. It startled her that his mouth was so close to her face. She was thrilled, but frightened by her parents' reaction because she didn't know if that was proper or not.
She'd never had a suitor before.
"You don't look a thing like your parents."
She was surprised he hadn't blurted that out the second he met her parents. Most people did. She finally looked at him, his mouth now a suitable distance from her face. She thought. She didn't know. "I get that a lot," she said simply. "Father says I must be a throwback."
"Hm. They're a lot older than parents of a girl your age."
She nodded. "They didn't think they could ever have children. I was a miracle baby. Like Samuel."
Her brow wrinkled. "You do know that story, don't you?"
His mouth twitched. "I've read the Bible several times."
The service began with a rousing band and choir, tambourines and joyful voices belting praises to the Lord. Marina and Dot rose with everyone else. Trey followed. The congregation raised their hands high and began to sway like kelp in the ocean. Mother and Marina did not participate. She didn't know why Mother didn't, but Marina didn't because she was not spiritually gifted, which was a great source of sorrow for Father. Dot didn't, of course. Trey didn't, either.
Marina turned her head just enough to study him without detection and was surprised to see him tense. Uncomfortable. He'd said he was looking for a church whose preacher sent the Spirit through him, to move him to repentance. Was this the first revival he'd ever been to?
On the other hand, Dot had been uncomfortable her first few times too. She went to church faithfully but, she explained, her services were quiet with congregational singing. They had an organ, that was all. It was Friday and Saturday nights when they were loud and had entertainments that weren't church services. Now Dot simply saw Marina's church services as an entertainment, which ...
Marina scowled. That hurt. But if Dot didn't come to church with Marina, Marina's father wouldn't allow her to run with Dot at all. Maybe, just maybe, Marina should consider Dot's presence a gift and be grateful for it.
She lifted her voice in praise when it was time. So did Dot, who loved to sing but couldn't carry a tune, which knocked Marina off her notes. Trey didn't sing, but maybe he didn't know the words. She bent clear over and snatched a hymnal out from under her folding chair, then offered it to him.
He took it with a bare glance and nod of thanks, then looked up at the hymn board before flipping to the page.
Father came out to great fanfare, as always looking resplendent in his long white frock and green knee-length cowl embroidered with the cross.
All went quiet. He bowed his head. Marina and Dot did too. Trey did. Then the prayer began. It was long, his voice rising and falling with the spirit's touch. To her great shame, she found herself not listening. She was thinking about Trey. And her school marks. And Trey. And her math test tomorrow. And Trey. And if he could also help her with her English assignment. And civics. He couldn't help her with PE and she had home ec licked six ways from Sunday.
She hesitated to ask him if he would come to Kresge's tomorrow, but she had an English test Monday and—
Oh, who was she kidding? She wanted him to come because he was paying attention to her, he seemed to like her, and he was going out of his way to court her properly. Even though she had wanted a suitor so badly, if she didn't like him, she wouldn't be squirming with excitement that he was here.
It saddened her that he thought they might not get along, but it was only logical. Girls and boys broke up all the time because they stopped being able to get along. The only thing she could do was to accept the possibility and enjoy him now.
"We praise you Father in Jesus' name amen."
The preaching began. It wasn't much different from the prayer only louder, more intense. Softer, more urgent. He called people to repentance and, weeping, they stumbled up the aisle to the altar, fell on their knees and rededicated themselves to Jesus. He called upon the sick and crippled, the blind and deaf.
They healed and walked, saw and heard. Marina was always in awe of how God worked miracles through Father's hand. She sneaked another peek at Trey, who seemed just as awestruck.
"Brother Trey!" Father boomed, startling all three of them and Mother, on Dot's other side. Trey's jaw dropped. Marina's father was looking directly at him, holding his hand out. "We have a seeker in our midst, Brothers and Sisters!" Father roared, closing his hand and strolling away to the other side of the stage. "A young man seeking God, seeking repentance, who has not had God's grace visited upon him in quite a while and misses it. That, Brothers and Sisters, is a man of God, knowing His grace, having felt the Spirit, but unable to recapture it because no other congregation has stirred him! Shall we stir him with God's Holy Spirit? Say amen!"
Someone broke out in song, a deep voice. The choir picked it up. The band followed. The congregation—at least four hundred people—fell in behind.
"Come, Brother Trey!" Father bellowed over the music. He was strolling leisurely back toward them, looking at Trey. Trey looked back with an odd look on his face Marina supposed was God working within him.
He took a deep breath, his chest expanding, and stepped forward to the altar where he dropped to his knees and dropped his head.
Marina nearly cried with joy. The congregation saw and the music swelled to ear-splitting.
Trey had found his church home.
YOU ARE READING
Kansas City, Missouri, 1929 Trey Dunham, a mid-level cog in the Pendergast Machine during Prohibition, runs 1520 Main, Boss Tom's most prized speakeasy featuring good booze, hot jazz, and beautiful women. Trey wants to buy the join...