Friday, May 25, 2012
To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward and the wonderful people who read my blog
From: Donna Banta
Subject: Another excerpt from my soon to be released novel, The Girls From Fourth Ward
Ever wonder why Bishop Loomis was mysteriously murdered? The shocking "true crime" story begins five years earlier.
Excerpt from The Girls From Fourth Ward:
The twelve-year-old swept the wedding gown into her arms. She caressed the white silk, then held the beaded bodice against her spare chest. Her friend appeared, already dressed in a plain square-necked ivory sheath. Another twelve-year-old stood half-zipped in a generic confection reminiscent of the plastic bride atop the wedding cake. The three struck a classic pose in front of the lavish salon mirror.
Sister Carrie Zimmerman captured their image with a click of her camera. Scarcely twenty and heavy with child, her new role as Beehive teacher taxed her strength. Nevertheless, “Sister Z,” as she was known, felt buoyed by this giddy event. The girls exuded the heady excitement of their new phase. Seventh grade, Beehive class, and a glimpse of the ultimate goal in the mirror before them. The Beehive’s bridal dress-up party at Souter’s Formal Wear was an annual tradition in the Abbottsville Fourth Ward.
Jill Spencer, in the square neck, zipped Betsy Miller’s dress, while Sarah Renfro swished her beaded gown to a dressing room.
“Look happy, Jill. It’s your wedding day,” said Sister Z.
Jill possessed an incredibly fresh smile, startling to those only acquainted with her dour composure. Betsy, on the other hand, could rarely be seen without a smile. Then there was brainy Sarah, shy like a new fawn, the last one into the fitting room. Sister Z wasn’t sure which was sweetest.
Three other Beehives joined them. Debbie Mitchell and Francie Lake were eighth-graders, anxious for their fourteenth birthdays and promotion into Mia Maid class. They feigned disinterest, without even a glance at their reflections. Then seventh-grader April Newsome, who was new in the ward, emerged in a whimsical combination of antique lace and flighty diaphanous layers. Sister Z was not surprised to see April in the most sophisticated dress on the rack, nor was she surprised by how well it suited her. Her family had just moved to Abbottsville from the big city of San Francisco.
“Can I wear it with garments?” April asked the mirror.
Sister Delores Souter, a plump, effervescent sort, chortled her reply. “Yes indeedy. I’ve selected only garment friendly dresses,” she said, referring to the sacred underclothes that the girls would wear upon marrying in the Mormon temple.
“I thought we had to wear long sleeves in the temple,” said April.
“You do,” said Sister Souter. “But the temple workers can give you sleeve extensions.”
Sarah stepped from behind the curtain with arms across her breasts. “This is ridiculous. I can’t fill out this top.”
“Oh, don’t worry dear,” Sister Souter said. “You’ll blossom in no time, and be bursting at the seams.”
The girls expressed polite amusement over this. But Sister Souter, who took great pleasure in her own wit, tittered all the way to the stockroom.
Sister Z continued to play paparazzi. They have so much ahead of them, she mused from behind her lens.
“Now for the veils!” Sister Souter trotted back into the room, her hands resembling colossal gauze mitts.
The room was a squall of white mesh. The first choice was never right. They each tried several. Eventually the lace settled, and the girls gathered before the mirror, adjusting their crowns.
“Sister Z,” said Betsy, “where did you meet Brother Z?”
“At Brigham Young University.”
“See,” said April. “The best marriages start there. It’s the gold standard.”
“My LaRue met her sweetheart at the BYU,” said Sister Souter. “And,” her tone turned triumphant, “that’s where I met Brother Souter.”
Sarah nodded. “The smartest boys from the best Mormon families go to BYU.”
“And then make loads of money,” Betsy added.
“BYU,” Jill said. “It’s a no-brainer.”
“Not a no-brainer,” said Francie. “It’s super hard to get in.”
“Why not go to Utah Valley State?” Debbie asked. “They accept everybody, and it’s right next to BYU.”
Sarah yanked up her oversized bodice until it nearly met her chin. “Culturally it’s miles away.”
“Utah Valley State is for losers. Do you want to spend your eternity with a loser?” said April.
Sister Z decided to take advantage of a teaching moment. “Girls, you don’t have to go to BYU. In fact, you don’t have to go to college at all. The man you marry doesn’t need to be smart or rich or from BYU. He only needs to be worthy to marry you in the temple.”
The Beehives nodded, visibly awed by the reference to the sacred temple ceremony.
Sister Zimmerman adopted the countenance of a solemn child. “Heavenly Father’s most righteous spirits are lingering in the pre-existence, waiting to be born into the one and only true church. They are to be your sons and daughters. If you do as the Lord asks, and magnify your calling as wife and mother, you will be exalted in the eternities to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. This is Heavenly Father’s plan for you and it begins tonight.”
The girls looked down and fingered their gowns.
Sister Z continued. “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet, who spoke directly with God. I know Gordon B. Hinckley is a living prophet who guides and directs our church today. And I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one and only true church on the face of the earth. I leave these things with you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
“Amen,” they repeated.
Sister Z brightened. “Change your clothes and we’ll go for ice cream.”
They flew like fairies to the dressing rooms. Sister Souter bustled behind to collect their gowns. But Sister Z could only sink into a chair and stare out the window. Across the street, girls worked at the barre in the Abbottsville Dance Studio. More young women practiced volleyball in the gym at Sally Ride Junior High. Some sipped milkshakes at the local Foster’s Freeze. Others were glued to TV or computer screens. For most girls in Abbottsville, the future was a mystery, a fuzzy picture that would sharpen with time. But for the girls in Fourth Ward, it was already all figured out.