Chapter 1

Little Rock, Arkansas
Late September 1958

Lately, Fran Wilson doubted the wisdom of falling in love with Bobby Joe Anderson not long after she’d turned twenty-two. He was thirty and a successful lawyer.

She first noticed him across jam-packed Burns Park last year, where people meandered around her at the city’s July Fourth celebration. A mixture of unexpected but wonderful emotions coursed through her at the first sight of him. Keeping her distance, she sneaked glances toward him all afternoon. Once or twice, she caught him looking her way.

Fran had recently arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas, to begin her high school teaching career in September. Curious looks darted her way at the park, checking out the new girl in town.

Nevertheless, she focused on a certain handsome man who’d also smiled her way.

Suddenly, she sensed someone approaching her from across the crowded park. She turned, and the earth slowed on its axis when the man she’d watched earlier navigated through the throng toward her, clad in dark Bermuda shorts and a light blue T-shirt. Tall, well-built, not an ounce of fat evident on his muscular body. His apparent strength guaranteed he could protect her, and what woman didn’t want that in her man?

His long, tanned legs brought him closer, and he carried two large paper cups. The clusters of people waving tiny American flags to celebrate the holiday seemed to part as if not to impede his progress. His T-shirt strained tightly across his sturdy chest, the short sleeves snug around his biceps. Walking nearer, his sky-blue eyes locked with hers, and the sun broke through fluffy white clouds overhead to shine directly on them.

When he stopped mere feet from her, he offered a charming smile and almost perfect teeth. “Hey. Welcome to Little Rock. I’m Bobby Joe Anderson. I brought you lemonade.” After she took the cup he offered, he extended his hand in further greeting.

When his hand wrapped around hers, it felt like a velvet cocoon, hugging her body and soul with the promise of a lifetime of support and concern. She was in no hurry to pull her hand away. Her eyes never broke their gaze into his. “Thank you. I’m Frances Wilson, but you may call me Fran.”

And just like that, Fran gave her heart to Bobby Joe. She couldn’t help herself and didn’t stop to think whether his emotions were the same as hers or if he would be careful with her heart. When she recalled that first meeting, she didn’t describe her reaction to Bobby Joe as love at first sight but rather a desire to keep him close, to learn all there was to know about him.

Saturday, September 27, 1958

Over a year later, Fran still waited for Bobby Joe’s feelings for her to catch up with hers for him. She had expected to be married to him by now. However, not only had they not married, but the word love hadn’t passed across his lips. Enough of this! No good purpose would come from allowing her mind to wander aimlessly.

Fran finished dressing and drove across town to meet Susannah, the wife of Edward Hollis, the new partner at the law firm where Bobby Joe worked. They were meeting at the Crowne House for lunch. She parked in the small, paved area beside the historic house a short distance north of downtown Little Rock. The big antebellum house had been the Crowne family home until the third generation decided they didn’t want to live there. So, instead, they had turned the house into a delightful eatery serving savory cuisine with Southern charm.

Seeing Susannah’s car already there, Fran followed the red brick pathway from the parking area to the house’s front entrance. She admired the home’s exterior of the same red brick and recalled hearing that the bricks had been made by hand on the building site during construction.

She climbed the few broad steps at the entrance and crossed the wide, covered front porch. Inside, she greeted Susannah, and they followed the waitress to a small, square table draped with a white linen tablecloth. Since it was Saturday, all the diners were ladies, with no businessmen on their lunch hour in sight. Once seated and having given their drink orders to the waitress, Fran unfolded her white linen napkin onto her lap and let out a long sigh before picking up the menu.

They looked over the lunch options before Susannah spoke. “My goodness, what’s with the long sigh?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. How rude of me. Nothing, really. Just while I dressed to meet you, I foolishly allowed myself to think too long about my situation with Bobby Joe.”

The waitress returned and set their iced sweet tea on the table. “Would you ladies like to order now?” “Yes,” Fran replied. “I’d like the chicken salad over greens.” The waitress turned to Susannah, who closed her menu. “I’ll have the same.”

“Thank you, ladies.” The waitress took their menus and left the table.

Susannah sipped her tea. “And how are things with you and Bobby Joe? The last time we talked, you were a little discouraged in the progress of your dating him.”

“Yeah, things are the same. We date only each other and have been for months now, but Bobby Joe never says he loves me.”

“That’s too bad, but some men think their actions are all that’s needed. They conclude that you should know how they feel about you because they're seeing only you. From experience, I learned that emotions of the heart follow no one’s timetable. If you love Bobby Joe, you’ll have to be patient. We can’t rush others’ feelings any more than we can talk ourselves out of our own.”

“Yes, you’re probably right. But we’ve dated for over a year now. You’d think he’d express his feelings after all this time. Anyway, if he doesn’t say something soon, it’ll be too late. I may have to leave Little Rock.”

“No! You’re leaving Little Rock?”

The waitress arrived with their food and placed it before them. After she replenished their tea glasses, she left.

Susannah repeated her question. “Fran, you’re leaving Little Rock?”

“I may have to. After the Supreme Court ordered the immediate integration of Little Rock Central High School, Governor Faubus closed all four of our high schools as of September fifteenth. So, I don’t have a job. And no income.”

“Edward mentioned folks were talking about starting some private schools. If that develops, maybe you could teach in one of them.”

“I’ve already looked into that. One group trying to organize a private school is supposed to call me if they have a place for me. My rent is due by October tenth. My savings will only carry me for a few months.”

“Where do you live? Is it expensive?”

Fran laid down her fork beside her plate. “I have a place at the Rivercliff Apartments. On a teacher’s salary, anything’s expensive. I’ll have to tightly budget my savings and leave before I deplete them, so I’ll have enough money to start over someplace else.”

“You live at Rivercliff—overlooking the Arkansas River?”

“Yes. Why?”

Excitement filled Susannah’s voice. “Edward and I live there, too, and Bernice, the other secretary at the law office. We could have driven to lunch together!”

“What a coincidence!”

“Anyway, I’m so sorry this whole desegregation thing has affected you. Wish there was something I could do to help. Does Bobby Joe know you may leave?”

Fran lowered her eyes. “I haven’t told him, but he’s smart enough to figure it out if he’s a mind to. He’s taking me out to dinner tonight. It’s time I told him I might have to leave Little Rock. Maybe hearing that would cause him to think about whether my absence would matter to him. I guess it’ll all work out one way or another. Oh, let’s change the subject to something a bit more uplifting.”

A broad smile broke across Susannah’s face. “Well, then, I’ll go first. Edward and I are going to have a baby!”

“A baby! What good news. When? When is the baby due?”

“Next April. I just found out a week ago yesterday.”

Fran slapped the tabletop gently. “And Bobby Joe hasn’t uttered a word about it!”

“He may not know. We’ve told Charles, senior partner at the law firm, and Bernice. Of course, she told Gene, the firm’s Chief Financial Officer, because they’re engaged. Edward may not have told the other lawyers.”

“I’m excited for you both. May I share your news with Bobby Joe?”


With the mood much lighter, they finished their meal and left the Crowne House. At their cars, they laughed again that they had driven to the same place and promised to have lunch again soon.

Driving home, Fran smiled, remembering Susannah’s good news about the baby. She wished her own future was as well-ordered as Susannah’s instead of being so uncertain. 

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