Having nothing better to do, Betsie tagged along with her parents to a cocktail party. There she met a man with a German accent. She’d never seen him at any of the functions in her parent’s circle of friends nor from any embassy function she’d been obliged to attend. His name was Claus. Not a particularly tall man. Maybe he was five-foot-eight or so. His hair, unlike Betsie’s, was blonde and cropped short to his scalp. During the party, Claus announces that he was going to Blob’s Park for a German meal and dance event. He went every month, and his dance partner wasn’t available this time round, so he invited Betsie. At first, she was a little hesitant, but her mother encouraged her to go along saying it would be fun.
A week later, Claus came by her parent’s house and picked Betsie up. The drive was a good forty-five minutes or more down roads she’s never seen before. She’d never actually gone that far from home with anyone but her parents. They passed by a prison on the way, and her throat constricted. She refocused on Blob’s park. What a strange name, she thought. It was named after Mr. Blob; she wondered if he was teased as a kid. All the scary movies she’s watched down country lanes started to get under her skin as she and Claus talked. He seems like a nice enough man, but there was something off about him.
Finally, they arrived. The plaque in front of the Tudor-style building read Blob’s Park. They were met at the door of the ballroom by a hostess. She took them to a table by the edge of the dance floor. Pre-arranged German beers and plates of sauerkraut with onion covered bratwurst were placed in front of them. A voice from an overhead speaker asked the guests to eat their meals while music played in the background. They said the show would begin soon. After the meal, players came out with instruments over their shoulders that resembled enormous cob pipes. Claus said were called Alpenhorns, and they extended ten-feet out across the floor. The sound was deafening in the small hall. Then cloggers came onto the floor to demonstrate their skills with tapping and stomping. Next, came a polka demonstration followed by waltzes. The music continued at a reduced volume, but the floor emptied as dessert and coffee were brought out. Twenty minutes pasted. The music was turned up, and an announcer encouraged everyone to come onto the dance floor.
Claus stood and held his hand out to Betsie. He knew all the waltz moves and led her through them. She wasn’t sure how to respond as she’d never experienced any type of dancing, much less with an older man, other than standing on her father’s feet as a child and moving through the steps with him. The memory brought a smile across her face that Claus seemed to take as a compliment, even though it had nothing to do with him.
At the end of the evening, she was more than ready to go home and still felt odd about going to a dance with a man who must have been at least forty. On the way home, he diverted down an alternate road. He stopped in front of an old stone building with a dilapidated sign dangling from one of the two hooks. Looking sideways at the crooked letters, she reads St Francis’ Orphanage. At that moment, her skin prickles and she thought of horror stories once again. Then, Claus told her why they were there. He said the place closed decades before. When he had recently gone to visit the nuns, he was quite disappointed the place was empty. That was the last place he’d seen his baby girl. Betsie knew she was adopted, but this announcement didn’t make a bit of sense to her.
Circling back to the dance, he expressed how much he’d enjoyed the special evening they’d shared and wished they could have spent more time together. Now she was really creeped-out, and wanted nothing more than to be taken home, and never wanted to see this peculiar man again. What had her mother been thinking when she encouraged her to go to Blob’s Park with him. She thought of the prison they’d passed before the dance. Her imagination was getting the better of her. Could he be a recently released convict? No, her mother would never have told her to go along. Taking a deep breath, Betsie waited to hear what Claus had to say about the orphanage. He stared out the window for what felt like an hour, but was only minutes. Finally, he told her what their evening was really all about.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I never should have left you.”
“Your mother died and—and I left you. I left you here.”
“No, it’s true. You were only six months old when she died. I couldn’t take care of you. Your parents, your current parents, adopted you from this orphanage a few months later.”