One lovely morning in January, Laura came home from school. Mary had been resting since her terrible illness, though she would return to school probably tomorrow or the next day.
"Guess what the big deal was in the mercantile today? I went in there to pick up a new paper tablet," Laura didn't look particularly happy.
"What? Nellie fell in the river?" Mary laughed, hoping to make her sister smile.
Laura laughed a bit and then went back to talking, "No," she looked at her sister once more with the mischievous smile of her's. "There's going to be a dance - a town dance, but only for girls and women ten and older. I'm only nine - but your ten and a half - nearly eleven, so you can go. I thought you might be interested. I wish I could go - I bet Ma will bake one of her good pies for it. I wouldn't want to miss out on a good pie."
"Oh Laura," Mary laughed.
"Well, I better go do my homework, I'm working in the barn today," Laura dashed off and nearly ran into Ma who was coming up the stairs to check on Mary.
"Ma, did you hear about the town dance for all of those ten and over?" Mary asked hopefully. She wasn't sure if Ma would let her go or not. Mary wanted to get dressed up in her Sunday best and have fun, listening to the lively music of the band (which may consist of Pa on his fiddle and a few other men who played various instruments), and eating one of Ma's warm pies with the flaky crust.
"I did hear about that," Ma replied truthfully. "Do you want to go?"
"Oh yes," Mary looked Ma in the eye dreamily.
"Well, then, as long as you are responsible and get good grades up until then, and go to school and start completing your chores and making up for when you were sick, then you may go. I know that won't be too hard," Ma smiled at Mary.
"It won't be hard at all," Mary nodded eagerly, "In fact, I can get up right now and help Laura with the chores!"
"Now, now, you don't want to relapse and end up getting sick and weak again. Just take it easy and then tomorrow morning, you may start chores and school. Now get some rest - tomorrow will be a good and big day. I'll bring you up your dinner shortly."
"Thank you Ma," Mary suddenly felt weak all over again just thinking about the chores and work she would go back to, so she sank back into the pillows and tried to go to sleep.
The next day at school, Nellie was bragging about her dress that she had gotten for the dance. Laura didn't think it was fair since Nellie had only turned ten no more than a week before. Apparently, the dress was imported from Paris and was the "height of fashion." Laura saw it, and even though she didn't really fancy huge, frilly dresses, she knew that it was considered beautiful.
That was when she knew that she had to get to the dance. Somehow.
That day, later in the house right as they were all sitting down to supper and setting the table. "Ma, can I please go to the dance? Please?"
"Now Laura, you know I don't like that sort of begging and whining. Act your age please. Anyway, no, the dance is only for those ten and up. Don't worry, your time will come to dress and go to a dance. You went to one last year on Independence Day, you didn't seem to like it that much."
"I know, but I think now I will like it - especially since Mary gets to go and I don't. It's not fair - I'm jealous." Immediately, Laura realized what she had said was wrong. It was naughty and mean to be jealous, and that was what Laura had just admitted to being.
"Well, give up those jealous thoughts - you have to Laura. I know that jealousy can get to us sometimes, but we can't let it overtake us. We have to brush it away like we brush away dust and dirt with a broom....." Ma went into one of her longer speeches about the way to properly behave. Laura secretly hated those speeches. Luckily, it was cut short as everyone was hungry and wanted to sit down and eat.
For the rest of the week, all the kids at school who were over ten were in a huge buzz. All the kids under ten could care less, but none of them, except for the boys, were exactly Laura's age.
Then, Mary came home one day in an excited frenzy.
"Ma! I got asked to the dance! Henry asked me! I'm so excited. I told him yes!" Mary looked dreamy. "I was planning on just wearing my braids with two bows on the end, but now I need something special. Really special. Maybe we could even curl my hair!"
"Calm down, now, Mary. Don't get yourself too worked up. But you've been doing a good job at getting back on top of chores and school, so why don't you go upstairs and look at your bed."
Mary went up the loft's ladder and Laura cautiously followed behind her; dreaming of what could be on the bed.
Sitting on the bed was a beautiful dress with a matching, frilly pinafore. It was a pale, pastel colored dress with a plaid white, orange and yellow striped plaid.
It was beautiful, and Mary gasped and nearly went into tears when she saw the beauty of the dress and pinafore. It was like her Sunday best yet it could still be practical for nice school spelling or geography bees where she would preform in front of the class.
Ma had followed them upstairs. Mary and Ma hugged right then and there. "I love it Ma. I love you."
Mary squeezed her eyes tight and the nice moment between the two of them made Laura's jealousy build up more and more inside. She fled the house and ran out to the barn where she sat in the barn's loft trying and trying to get the naughty jealousy to go away. It wouldn't. Just the thought of Mary getting to do something else while Laura sat home alone minding Baby Carrie (a chore she didn't particularly like). Mary getting something new - even if it was just a dress, and eating Ma's pies all night while listening to Pa and some other men get together and play. Pa would play fun dancing songs that didn't require dancing slowly in tiny foot movements - he would play something lively that would get Laura's feet dancing fast. But she wouldn't be there to experience any of that.
Laura tried hard to sweep the jealousy out as she would sweep out dirt and dust with a broom, as Ma had said. But each time she swept the dust and dirt out, the strong winds blew it right back in. Right back into Laura's mind that was filled with jealousy for her sister, for Nellie, and filled with pity for herself.
The night before the dance Mary tried her dress on to make sure that it fit just right. It did. It fit perfect - with a bit of growing room to spare. The skirt of it swayed when Mary turned around in front of Laura. Laura wasn't so jealous about a dress skirt's sway though, so it didn't bother Laura one bit.
Then, that night after they had gotten into their night gowns, Ma fussed and fought with Mary's braided hair. "We should curl it Ma - and sweep the bangs back," Mary thought.
"Well, okay, here let me get the curling rags and things. Come downstairs with me now. But then you must get to bed - tomorrow is going to be a huge day."
"The best day of my life," Mary sighed dreamily as she and Ma went downstairs to do the curls.
"Laura - there is no excuse for you to be up. Now get to bed!" Ma called to the loft where Laura was looking at the general store's catalog to try and stay up later.
"Yes Ma," Laura sighed before slipping the catalog under the bed frame and pulling the covers over her and drifting off to sleep.
The next day was going to be a big day. It was certainly going to be a big day for Mary and all those going to the dance, but that day was going to lead Laura to the adventure of a lifetime with a very special friend. Only, Laura didn't know that yet.