Whence You Came

Whence You Came

by Annette Lindaas-Kanko


Publisher AuthorHouse

Published in Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


Maddie Reynolds manages a boutique in modern-day downtown Chicago. She needs inspiration to design a vintage-style display in the store, so one morning, she brings her unique family heirloom to the boutique. Derek, the handsome man across the aisle from her in the commuter train, claims his mother possesses an antique handkerchief exactly like the one Maddie is holding. Both families have speculated as to the meaning of the strange embroidery, but the greater mystery to Maddie and Derek is the connection between their families. As they team up to gather clues to the past, the two realize they are falling in love. They must decide whether the possibility of being relatives is enough to keep them apart.

Sample Chapter

Spring 1879 Ramsey, PA

Karl Hardt looked down at his chalk tablet and studied the numbers he had just written. His fingers were dusty and white from the chalk, and he was distracted by the choice to wipe it on his dark trousers or wait until recess to wash his hands. He glanced around the one-room schoolhouse. The other ten children in Washington school appeared to have finished their work well before him, as usual.

Arithmetic had never been Karl's strong subject. He wondered whether he even had a strong subject. Nothing came naturally to him, and it seemed to Karl as if he had to work twice as hard as the other children just to keep from embarrassing himself.

Miss Rudnitsky was watching him, wondering whether he would be able to finish in time for recess. She, too, was frustrated with Karl's difficulty. In spite of several tutoring sessions after school, he always seemed to be lagging behind the other children.

The teacher glanced out the window, rose from her desk at the front of the room and began walking toward Karl. He blushed as he waited for her announcement that it was time to put his tablet away and he would have to finish his work during recess ... again. Miss Rudnitsky walked right past him to the back of the room and opened the door to invite in a woman and a small girl.

"Class," the teacher began, "we have a new student joining us today. Her name is Hayley Dalen, and her family has recently come to America from Norway. She's almost eight years old, and I'm sure she'll quickly make friends with all of you." She smiled warmly at the little girl and her mother.

Hayley had been looking down, her eyes hidden under the brim of her light green bonnet. When she finally looked up and shyly returned the children's inquiring stares, Karl gasped. Hayley was the prettiest girl he had ever seen in his nine years of life, and he was certain he would never see one prettier even if he lived to be a hundred. He quietly let out his breath and prayed nobody had heard the quick intake a moment earlier.

Her eyes were the color of the sky on a cloudless summer's day, and her hair, still tucked mostly under her bonnet, was the color of Samuel's yellow dog but much shinier. Until now, Karl had thought Emilie Starke was the most beautiful girl in Pennsylvania, but Hayley Dalen might just be the prettiest in the whole world. He didn't dare blink for fear she might disappear before he reopened his eyes. When she untied and removed her bonnet, Karl almost gasped again but quickly caught himself. Her hair appeared to be made of sunshine.

Samuel shifted in his seat, then he looked at Karl with a serious expression on his face. Samuel Perschbacher had been Karl's best friend since they were both babies, and they knew each other so well that the boys claimed they could communicate without speaking. Samuel's face warned Karl not to make a fool of himself over some dumb girl. Karl decided it wouldn't be so bad unless Hayley also thought he was a fool. He would control himself, or at least try to, until he and Samuel were on their walk home after school.

The teacher continued, "Hayley, you may take the desk in front of Karl. Karl, please raise your hand so Hayley knows where she'll be sitting." He obligingly raised his hand, and Hayley gracefully made her way to the desk in front of Karl as he wondered exactly what "making a fool of yourself" might look like today.

She placed a small bundle of school supplies wrapped in grocery paper and string into the cubby of the desk then she sat with her hands folded in her lap. She still hadn't made a sound. She hadn't spoken when introduced to the class, and her silence as she had walked to and then sat at her desk made Karl think of a butterfly, so graceful and silent. He even wondered if she might be a figment of his imagination. Daydreams were often partially responsible for his getting behind in class. Maybe that was all she was. No, he decided, she definitely wasn't a daydream. He had never dreamt anything so spectacular. Karl concluded she must be real.

He glanced at Samuel, who by now looked like he was suffocating. He knew his friend was choking back laughter, as he must have guessed what Karl was thinking. Now Karl realized his chalk-covered hand was still in the air, and he quickly snatched it down. Yes, that might be an example of "making a fool of yourself." Karl sighed.

"Children, please introduce yourselves to Hayley during recess and try to help her feel comfortable in her new school." Miss Rudnitsky secretly expected the girls to comply; however, the boys would be a harder sell. Most of these future men still thought girls were best left alone — all except Karl Hardt, who was often seen consorting with Emilie and her friend, Blossom.

During recess, most of the boys ran to the far side of the school grounds while the girls swarmed around Hayley. Karl climbed the old oak tree in the middle of the schoolyard to a branch just high enough so he could observe what was happening in both assemblies.

The boys were searching the yard for sticks to mark a course for a footrace they were about to run. Karl didn't care much for racing since he usually came in dead last. If they played a ball game he might join in, but for now, he would stay on his perch.

Emilie and the other girls were chattering and laughing in the shade at the side of the schoolhouse. The beautiful new girl from Norway stood in the center of the cluster. Karl wondered exactly where Norway was and whether all the girls in Norway were as beautiful as Hayley Dalen. He had just entered into one of his daydreams, trying to imagine what Norway must look like, when Emilie waved to Karl and motioned for him to join them. She had obviously caught him staring, so he had no choice but to comply. He waved back, scurried down the tree, and attempted to walk leisurely to where the girls had congregated.

As he approached the group, he heard Blossom introduce herself. Hayley responded with, "Ooooh, I love flower names. I don't really like my name."

Blossom asked, "What would you like your name to be?"

Hayley thought for a moment, as though she were making a groundbreaking decision, then she responded, "Lily, or ... Rose, or ... Daisy." Karl thought she sounded like she was from somewhere far from Ramsey, Pennsylvania and guessed it must be the way people talk in Norway.

"But I like your name!" Blossom said. Hayley smiled and thanked her new friend as Karl reached the girls. He tried to ignore the lovely smile and melodic voice so that he might be able to offer a word or two without getting them wedged between his tongue and lower front teeth.

"Hello. I'm Karl, but then you already knew that 'cause you sit right in front of me and Miss Rudnitsky told you my name so you would know where to sit and I hope you like Ramsey and school and make lots of friends and ..."

The girls giggled. All except Hayley. She simply stood there, quietly staring at Karl, who was wishing the jumble of words he had just dumped on her had gotten stuck somewhere.

She smiled again, this time directly at him. Then came the sweet voice, "Thank you, Karl. I like everything about this place, especially my new friends." Karl smiled back and decided he would give up speaking altogether.

* * *

Miss Rudnitsky was pleased with Karl's progress over the last three years since Hayley Dalen had joined the class. He was getting his work done almost as quickly as the other children were, and most days, he seemed able to focus on the task at hand. Miss Rudnitsky suspected Hayley had a great deal to do with the improvement. She had often seen them sitting in the shade of the big oak tree during recess. They appeared to be working, probably studying the material they had just covered in class. It might have been this extra tutoring, or maybe it was the confidence that Hayley seemed to nurture in Karl, but the teacher had noticed a new level of maturity in him since the girl's arrival three years prior.

Karl often thought of Hayley's first day at Washington School, how pretty she had been, how sweet when meeting the other children, and how poised she had appeared. He knew most children wouldn't have done so well had they been in her petite little shoes that day. It may have been her confidence that had impressed him most. Karl recognized it as one of her many admirable qualities he himself lacked.

However, the admiration went both ways. Hayley appreciated Karl's sincerity and sense of humor. Although she was an only child, she thought of Karl as a big brother. He made her feel safe, as if he would do anything for her.

Those first few days at the new school had been challenging for the newcomer. Although she was fluent in English, some words were difficult to pronounce. "Rudnitsky," for example, was a name she had never heard in Norway. She had mentioned the obstacle to Karl, who had then broken it down for her. "Rude ... knit ... ski," he had coached. By the time recess had ended that day, she had been able to pronounce the teacher's name like a Ukrainian, and she'd had Karl to thank for it. She had returned the favor by helping Karl memorize his math tables, and they often took turns reading to one another after school.

Then there was the time Hayley and Blossom had been laughing about something silly, but Emilie had thought they were laughing at her. She had erupted in anger, accusing Hayley of stealing her best friend, and had angrily announced she didn't want to be their friend any more. Karl stepped in and told them he thought the three girls were the best "friendship group" he had ever known. Within minutes, the girls had all become happy once more and had given Karl the credit for having rescued their friendship. Since that day, he and the three girls had been quite inseparable.

Karl still considered Samuel his best friend, but the time they spent together diminished as his friendship with the girls deepened. Karl gravitated toward them, while Samuel was drawn to the rough-and-tumble activities the boys offered. Neither Karl nor Samuel seemed to notice, nor care, that their relationship was weakening over time.

The trend continued for the next five years. In the spring of 1887, Karl and Samuel were nearing completion of their education at Washington School. These days they seemed to have very little in common, although they shared the anticipation of graduating at the beginning of June. Both were seventeen, Hayley was sixteen, Emilie was fifteen, and Blossom would turn fifteen in a few months.

Herman Pfahl had been added to the enrollment the previous August. Although he was a year younger than Karl and Samuel, he would graduate in June with the older boys. Until he had registered at Washington, his mother had schooled him at home. She had done an excellent job, and Herman was by far the most advanced in the class. He was also certainly the largest, well over six feet tall and had broader shoulders than any other sixteen-year-old Miss Rudnitsky had taught in her ten years at Washington School.

The teacher had been a bit relieved that enrollment was down that year. The school only registered eight students: Emilie Starke, Blossom Reagan, Hayley Dalen, Karl Hardt, Samuel Perschbacher, Herman Pfahl, and the eight-year-old Dolinsky twins: Yuri and his sister, Yeva. The pair had arrived from the Ukraine only a few days before registering for school and had spoken no English. Miss Rudnitsky hadn't minded speaking her native language with the children for the first few weeks, but she had pushed them to learn English as soon as possible. By that spring, they were nearly fluent. She was glad to have others from her homeland in the community, even if the twins were unable to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time.

Everyone in school seemed to cooperate and get along well. That was until, on an otherwise ordinary Friday morning in early May, Miss Rudnitsky mentioned the upcoming Ramsey Community Picnic.

The affair was held every year in the city park the second Saturday in June. It was considered a major event and was reputed to be responsible for many of the marriages in the community. Peter Bergendahl, the town's oldest bachelor at the time; and Edna Findley, the organist at the Presbyterian Church, had begun their courtship the previous June and were married by summer's end. Several students at Washington School were the product of relationships launched or renewed by picnics over the past several years. The annual function had secured a reputation such that the word "picnic" had its own meaning in the town of Ramsey. Courting couples were often said to be "going on a picnic" when they were simply taking a walk down main street.

There was no minimum nor maximum age limit for attendees, and those without dates were also encouraged to come. This meant that the months of May and June were the peak of the year for the local florists, Mr. and Mrs. Edmunds: May, in preparation for the event, and June for the results of it.

The children reacted to Miss Rudnitsky's reminder about the picnic as though they had completely forgotten about the annual event. They all began looking around the room, trying to predict who was going to ask who. It seemed logical that the three older boys would somehow pair up with the three young ladies in the class, but it would be difficult to predict exactly how that pairing would ensue. Karl and Samuel could still read each other's faces, not to the degree they used to, but well enough to know there would be a competition if they vied for the same girl's attention.

Karl still had his cap set for Hayley, although the other girls also appealed to him in some ways. Samuel knew this, and Karl suddenly realized the competitive look on Samuel's face must be because he also favored Hayley.

There would be a race to the finish for the two young men. Karl remembered all those footraces lost to Samuel and to all the other boys in school. Fortunately for Karl, this wouldn't be that kind of race.

When school dismissed for the day, the three older girls were out the door a full minute ahead of the others. Samuel and Karl gathered their books and hastily headed for the door. Herman took his time, watching as the older boys raced to be the first through the doorway. He assumed the challenge was all in fun, until the two hit the doorframe at the same time. That was when the brawl began.

Miss Rudnitsky shrieked as Samuel punched Karl in the stomach. Karl returned the assault with a blow to Samuel's nose. The twins looked on, enjoying the skirmish because finally someone else would be getting into trouble.

The teacher rushed toward the boys, unsure of what she would do upon reaching them, but she had the clear sense to pull Herman with her as she flew past where he stood. "Help me, Herman!" she shouted as the fight progressed.

He did as ordered, and he soon had the boys separated. Miss Rudnitsky sat down with an ungraceful thud, completely out of breath from the excitement. She looked up at Herman, who still had one boy's collar in each hand while the offenders stood almost tiptoed to avoid being choked. She tried to say "thank you" to Herman, but all that came out was a whisper.

Samuel's nose was dripping blood, and Karl appeared to be on the verge of a very impressive black eye. Both were filthy from rolling around on the floor of the entry hall, which until minutes earlier had been sullied with grime from the schoolyard.

The exhausted teacher cleared her throat and ordered Karl and Samuel to opposite corners of the schoolroom, chairs facing the corners. She shook as she scolded the boys with the announcement that they would be staying after school. She would immediately write notes, which they were to deliver to their parents. Herman remained holding the boys, hesitant to free them too early. He looked to Miss Rudnitsky for instruction, and she nodded.

Herman released Karl and Samuel, then he gathered his books and went outside to wash off the blood and debris before heading home. His mother would certainly ask what happened if she saw him as he looked now. She worried too much about him as it was, so he made sure to remove every smudge, including a couple of specks of someone's blood that had landed on his shirt.


Excerpted from "Whence You Came" by Annette Lindaas-Kanko. Copyright © 2013 by Annette Lindaas-Kanko. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Annette Lindaas-Kanko

Annette Lindaas-Kanko

Annette Lindaas-Kanko was born in Mayville, ND and raised on the Lindaas family farm. She and Mark, her husband of 35 years, live in Texas. They have 3 children and 8 grandchildren. She holds a Master of Science in Research Statistics and taught Mathematics at a San Antonio university for several years. She is also a published songwriter and enjoys teaching piano as well as tutoring math students. Whence You Came is her first published novel.

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