Today's Reading

The courtroom was impressive, with a soaring ceiling and sunlight flooding in from impossibly tall windows. It looked not unlike the temple at the center of the trouble.

The pastel posse was here after all. I tried to catch Gracie's eye, but she was busy tugging her apricot twinset into place. Mother and I walked past Rabbi Selwick and his wife, both turned out in tweed, and I thought of him at our house with his daughter and her gift of peach preserves. Behind them were women in fur and men in pinstripes. The couples-probably from the Club—looked like they were waiting for a tray of martinis to glide by.

Mother stepped into the third row, and I slid next to her. Davis was five feet away, at the defendant's table. The collar of his white oxford shirt, crisp and starched, poked out above his blazer. I couldn't tell a single thing Davis was thinking, from looking at the back of his very handsome head.

The attorney nodded to me and twisted his mouth. "You're late." To the judge he said, "We apologize for the delay, Your Honor. We call Ruth Robb to the stand."

My pumps click-clicked on the marble floor. A woman with coral lipstick motioned for me to sit in the witness chair, like on Perry Mason. Goose bumps inched up my arms. I wished I'd thought to bring a cardigan.

She turned to me and said, "Raise your right hand and repeat after me."

I raised my hand and noticed a sunburst carved into the paneling over the door I'd just walked through, a little moment of brightness.

"Other right," she said.

"I'm sorry." I raised my other hand. "I'm terrible with left and right. I always—"

"Miss—" the judge said, looking down at a note card. "Miss Robb. No need to talk now." He had gray hair and half-glasses, and he gave a half smile.

And I thought: But that's why I'm here. Because I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

The woman picked up a Bible, and I placed my free hand over its worn leather cover. I knew there were two Bibles—one for whites and one for Negroes. I knew because Rabbi Selwick was on a mission to have Negro witnesses use the same Bible as the rest of Atlanta. I thought about asking for the Negro Bible, even though every single person in the courtroom was white, but as the judge himself had said: "No need to talk now."

"Do you swear on this Bible the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" the woman asked.

In the distance, I heard a sprinkler turn on. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I glanced at the Bible, the King James version, and it occurred to me I was swearing on the sacred text of another religion, that there wasn't a Tanakh for Jews to pledge their truthfulness upon.

I wanted Davis to look up. I wanted to see if his tie was straight. I wanted to see if he'd nicked himself shaving. I wanted to see the constellation of freckles across his eyelids. I wanted to see how he looked when he looked at me.

And then he did—his true-blue eyes locked right on mine. I felt the heat slide up my cheeks. Davis, who taught me about the Uncivil War, and blowing perfecto smoke rings, and real honest-to-God French-kissing. Davis, who said he wanted us to get married the second we turned twenty-one.

I swallowed. "I do."...

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