Here's a sneak peek into one of the stories in April's Roots, which will be released in paperback and e-book next Tuesday, November 19. Enjoy!
Zora’s Story ~ 1838
The Middle of the Atlantic Ocean
The summer sky over the Atlantic flushed orange and pink to the west. Cradling her infant daughter in her arms, Zora Harpenau imagined the setting sun sinking all the way behind the skyline of New York City, still hundreds of miles away.
“All right, Zora, my dear?” her husband Theodor asked from behind her. He was practicing his English.
She nodded. “Ja.”
“You are beautiful,” he added. “My beautiful American wife watching the ocean.”
“Danke,” she said, smiling in spite of herself. She reached up and adjusted his spectacles with one hand.
Her English was better than his, but when the ship made port in a few days, they would need to rely on the new language permanently. Zora wanted to use her mother tongue as much as she could before retiring it. The SS Great Western was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world, and she still could hardly believe it was bearing her family to a new continent, a new life, in a city they had never seen.
Theodor put his hands upon her shoulders. “Such a grand ship,” he remarked. “When we arrive, I shall miss it.”
She nodded again, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. Their greatest adventure lay ahead. The days of this trip had been filled with exciting plans, lists of sights to see, people to meet, and things to learn… but at each sunset it seemed that she could think only of what lay behind them. She already missed home: the royal court of Oldenburg, the fine dark forests surrounding the castle, the friends who knew them so well, and her mother and father.
They had said their goodbyes over a month earlier when Theodor, Zora, and their daughter Hilda had boarded the train from Berlin to Calais. From there it had been a ferry from Calais to Liverpool, and another train from Liverpool to Bristol to board the Great Western, all with the new baby in her arms and their dearest possessions loaded into trunks and crates. Weeks later, Zora could still feel her parents' kisses upon her face.
In her arms, Hilda squirmed slightly and mewed like a hungry kitten. She would be seven months old on the day they were scheduled to arrive in New York City. It was time to return to the cabin to feed her again. Zora patted Theodor's hand on her shoulder, and he released her with a tentative smile.
“You should give her to Elsa and join us in the parlor,” he said. “Our new friends want to play dominos again.” Theodor had mastered the game of tiles years before, but Zora was an eager novice.
Zora nodded. “I will see you soon, my dear, yes?” she asked in English.
“Ja,” he said, his smile broadening under his warm brown eyes.