Here's Dare We Dream #3! The third chapter in my serialized short story, running Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Kansas Newspapers for Education. Enjoy!
Since waking up that morning, Frankie had felt a mixture of fear, anxiety, and excitement, but when Susan retrieved the jar of emergency money from behind the icebox in the kitchen, guilt swept through her as well.
“Don’t feel bad,” Susan said, reading her face as she unscrewed the top of the jar. “We’ll replace it with the birthday money I’ll get from Aunt Pearl and Aunt Fern next week. It’s borrowing – not stealing.”
Frankie nodded as Susan slid the bills they would need for their train and movie tickets into her purse. An approaching trolley clanged outside, so they grabbed their sweaters – just in case the April day grew cool – walked out the kitchen door, locked it, and hurried down the porch steps.
Frankie and Susan took the trolley from their house on the KU campus to Lawrence High School every day, and on the trolley, the campus, and at their school, they interacted with Negroes, because the college, their school, and most other places in Lawrence were integrated. Frankie had never given it a second thought before, but now – as she and Susan sat down across from a young black couple – she found herself starting to sweat and shifting uncomfortably in her seat. She felt as though the couple could see into her mind and know where she and Susan were going, and she felt even guiltier than when they opened the jar of emergency money.
The Birth of a Nation was controversial because – according to the Board of Censorship, the NAACP, and even Jane Addams, the suffragette their mother had gone to see in Topeka that day – the Civil War film was full of racial prejudice and hatred. It supposedly made the South look right, the North look wrong, and the Ku Klux Klan look like heroes, and in a state with as much of a pro-Northern, pro-Union, antislavery history as Kansas, that didn’t sit right. According to Frankie’s father, the movie was wildly historically inaccurate, and according to her mother, who, of course, had quoted Jane Addams, the film was a “pernicious caricature of the negro race.”
But neither Frankie’s mother nor her father had actually seen it, and Frankie felt she deserved to view the film and decide for herself. She wasn’t a child who couldn’t form her own opinions, and she didn’t want to be shielded from the nation’s important issues. Her mother was always talking about how women deserved a voice in the country because they were citizens in it, and Frankie felt she deserved to be aware of all the parts of the world she lived in and make her own judgments.
Still, when she glanced at the couple across from her, she wondered what she would think of a girl who was going to see a movie rumored to make the white race look bad. She turned to Susan, who was fiddling with a button on her sweater, and she had the feeling her sister was currently pondering the same thing.
The trolley bounced on and soon arrived at the Santa Fe Railroad Depot. Frankie and Susan climbed out and hurried into the tall, brick station. After purchasing their tickets, they sat down on a bench outside and waited for the arrival of the eleven-thirty train, which soon approached and screeched to halt in a cloud of dust and steam.
“Well, this is it,” Susan said as they stood. “Once we board the train, there’s no turning back.”
Her voice sounded strained, and when Frankie looked up she saw, for the first time, the slightest hint of fear behind her eyes. Her own apprehension quickly rushed back, so she fought it by taking her hand.
“Remember, you said you’d protect me,” she said with a grin. “So you have to be brave.”
Susan laughed, squeezed Frankie’s hand, and then turned to her with a single eyebrow raised. “I was born brave.”
So, hand in hand, they climbed up the steps and into the waiting train.