Susan Elizabeth Blythe sighed deeply. It was a beautiful Spring evening in Vancouver, the type where the setting sun shines brightly through dark grey clouds after a short downpour, and casts golden light on all of the trees. Her bedroom window was wide open, and the scent of the flowering lilac bush near the porch wafted up to her. Lilacs were so pleasant and romantic. At the age of fourteen, Suzy was setting out the first tender feelers toward the idea of romance. After all, next fall she would be going to high school, and even thought that meant her studies would become more difficult, it also meant parties and dances. Parties and dances meant boyfriends (a thought that Suzy blushed at a little, a most becoming pink flush across her pale cheeks). Dad had said that she was too young for dances, but she knew that by Christmas he would allow her to go if she kept up her grades. Shirley Blythe was a bit old-fashioned and protective of his daughter, but that was attributed to the fact that he was widowed and raising her alone. Suzy loved him dearly, and he loved her, but she didn't expect him to know about girls.
"There's not enough time to enjoy lovely things when you need to study" Suzy said to herself. "Math is so defeating." She was trying to finish the last of her math problems, because Dad had promised to take her for ice-cream if she had finished her homework when he came in from work. Dad was a flight school teacher, and sometimes he would take Suzy for short plane rides along the coast. How tiny all of the ships looked in the harbour! How the buildings looked like paper cutouts from such a height! She shivered. It was beautiful, but she wasn't if she could fly a plane herself. She thought that Dad was brave indeed, for controlling something that could fall out of the sky.
From the window, Suzy could see Dad walking up the front path. He was a solidly built man, with a quiet demeanor. Once the "little brown boy" of Ingleside, he was now a bear of a man, with a voice like a gentle roar.
Suzy quickly put on a cardigan, and rushed down to meet him.
"How was your day today, Scout?" Dad asked, using his special nickname for her.
Suzy grinned widely, and chattered away as they walked down the street. "Uncle Kelly said that if both Phoebe and I got at least seventy-five percent on our compositions this week, he'd take us to the cinema on Saturday." Phoebe was Suzy's cousin, and especial friend. "Of course we knew I'd be able to, but we were both sure that Phoebe wouldn't. Miss Cramston has a special vendetta against Phoebe, you see. Uncle Kelly says that it's because he was once engaged to her before he met Aunt Jacque, and then Miss Cramston broke the engagement because she was in love with someone else. Then that man died in the war, and she asked for Uncle Kelly's forgiveness, and he was already married. Can you imagine? How positively tragic!"
Shirley smiled. How could he, such a quiet man, have such a chatterbox for a daughter? She must get that from her mother, he thought. Dear Isobel! Not a day went by when he didn't look at her picture, and feel the pain of loss again. Suzy looked like her more and more every day, with the same lily-white skin and thick black hair. She had her father's brown eyes, which Shirley was secretly greatful for. He didn't think he'd be able to see Isobel's blue eyes look at him every day.
Suzy continued to talk. "But Phoebe showed her! She wrote the most fascinating composition about diabetes, and how insulin was discovered by a Canadian. Miss Cramston didn't know what to say about it, because it truly was the best composition written by anyone in the class. She grudgingly gave her a ninety-five, but I think it should have had one hundred, because it was that brilliant." She took a deep breath. "How was your day today, dearest of Dads?"
Shirley smiled. "I have some big news for you, Scout" he said a little gruffly. "Do you remember how I told you that the flight instructor position was only temporary until I could find something better?" Suzy nodded. "Well, something better has come up. Today I met with the president of an aeroplane factory. He was impressed with my knowledge of mechanics and air safety, and offered me a position as the manager of the safety inspection department."
Suzy grinned widely. "How exciting for you!" Her own father, making sure that planes were safe to fly! She pictured him at a desk, going over diagrams and making adjustments.
"Now, Susan, there's something else..." He sounded so uncertain about the 'something else' that Suzy stopped walking. He had called her Susan, as well. This forebode something unpleasant, she was sure. Shirley had only ever called her Susan twice, the first time when she was five and he had told her that her mother had died, and the second time was now. Hearing him call her that gave her the same sinking feeling she had when she realized that Mother was gone forever.
"The factory is on the East Coast, in Halifax. The president wanted an East Coast man, and I fit the bill perfectly" Dad continued.
Suzy was stunned. "We're moving to Halifax?" It may as well have been Africa or the moon. That meant she wouldn't be able to start high school in the fall with Phoebe. It meant they wouldn't go for lunch in Chinatown with Uncle Kelly and Aunt Jacque every Sunday after church. No summer swimming club at English Bay with her girlfriends. No taking the streetcar downtown with Phoebe on Saturdays to go shopping at the Bay and try lipstick secretly at the cosmetics counter, or to see a show at the cinema. No skiing in the winter, because Halifax had no mountains. Worst of all, it meant leaving their home, and the apple tree in the yard. That tree had always been dear to Suzy, because it had been Mother's tree. When Isobel had been brought there as a bride sixteen springs ago, she planted an apple tree so that she would have beautiful silky pink blossoms on her wedding anniversary. The tree burst into flower at that time every year, and it made Suzy feel as though her mother was sending her a sign from Heaven. What if the next people who owned the house cut the tree down?
"I won't go to Halifax" Suzy said stubbornly. She hated it already.
Shirley had expected this. "You aren't going to Halifax. I'm going to have an apartment there for myself. You are going to stay on Prince Edward Island with your grandparents, in the home where I grew up. Smile for me, Scout. I'll come on weekends, and during the week, I don't think you'll miss your old Dad much. There's a whole slew of cousins around your age in Glen St. Mary, and I'm sure you'll all get on famously."
Suzy didn't want to get on famously with any small town cousins from out east. She was sure that they were too sweet and old fashioned, like the stories Dad told her about his childhood. Dad was all she had, and she loved him fiercely, but moving across the country was ridiculous!
"Promise me you'll stay for the summer" Shirley pleaded. "If you decide that you don't like it by the end of August, you can come back and stay with Uncle Kelly and Aunt Jacque and Phoebe, and start school here. Just give it a chance."
Suzy agreed grudgingly. Their talk had left a bad taste in her mouth, and she no longer wanted ice-cream.
There were so many things to do in the last month before leaving! Dad had booked their train tickets for the twentieth of June, and they'd arrive in Charlottetown on the thirtieth. They'd stay in a hotel for a night, and then drive to Glen St.Mary for Suzy to meet the family. Grandmother sent her a letter, an airy, friendly letter, and snapshots of the family. There were so many Aunts, Uncles, and cousins! Suzy already knew Uncle Carl and Aunt Persis (who weren't related by blood, but dear family friends), because they often stopped in Vancouver when they made their yearly trip from Japan back to PEI. The rest of the faces were new, and a bit scary. Would she really be expected to remember all of their names?
Every night Phoebe was by to study for the year-end exams, and to help Suzy pack. One evening, Phoebe became over-emotional and started bawling. "I'm going to miss you terribly!" she cried, as she flung her arms about Suzy's neck. Suzy felt she should cry, too, but she couldn't.
"I'm going to be back in the fall, you goose!" Suzy said. "There, that's the trunk packed with my winter things, let your mother know that she can pick it up and store it in the attic until I come back."
School ended, and Uncle Kelly was as pleased as punch with Phoebe's grades, so he threw a year-end party. He set out the grill on the patio, and made hamburgers and frankfurters for all of Phoebe's friends. Aunt Jacque served the lightest angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream. It looked like a picture from a magazine. Aunt Jacque could make the best cakes in the world, Suzy reflected.
That night, five girls took over the living room for a slumber party. "What are all you kids up to this summer?" asked Patsy Jones lazily, as she chewed on a rope of licorice.
"Mummy and Daddy are taking me to Montreal for a week to visit Mummy's family" Phoebe said. She was the only teenager in their circle of friends who still called her parents Mummy and Daddy. Most other girls would be laughed at, but Phoebe had sweet bird-like features, and it seemed fitting that such an adorable girl would use cute words.
"We're staying in Vancouver this summer" said Rhoda Jensen. "I'm going to join the English Bay swim club, and maybe take boating lessons. How about you, Suzy? Is your Dad going to show you how to fly a plane?"
Suzy didn't feel like talking about her plans for the summer. "We're going out east for the summer, to Prince Edward Island" was all she would say. To her great surprise, the rest of the girls were interested.
"I wonder if it will be anything like The Moral of the Rose by Emily Byrd Starr," mused Rhoda.
"I don't think Suzy's family will be as crazy as the Abernathys," laughed Rhoda's sister, Greta.
Patsy chimed in, "Isn't Sara Stanley, the actress, from Charlottetown?"
"She's from PEI, but not from Charlottetown" Suzy replied. Feeling bold, she decided to brag a little. "I've met Sara Stanley and her family. Dad knows them from when he lived on the island." Suzy didn't mention that she'd been so in awe of the great elocutionist that she could barely speak to her on the occasions when their families had dined together.
"I've heard that her son is an absolute dream," sighed Greta. "Is it true?" Suzy blushed, and the girls broke into giggles.
I wish I didn't have to go, and that I could have spent my summer having good times like these, Suzy thought as she looked at the smiling faces of her girlfriends. There were two days left until she got onto the train, but she didn't want to think of that. She laughed harder than anyone else when Patsy told a bawdy joke, just so she wouldn't think about how much she would miss them all.