Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Part Four: A Song, a Swing and a Kiss

I was just getting off the factory floor and walking outside to go home when I noticed the stars shining up in the sky.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so bright.  It looks like they’re almost smiling down at me.  It’s been five months now since the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the war effort is gathering steam.  It was a long day at the factory, making army tank engines.  I am covered with metal dust by the time the day is done.   On the bus home I notice the driver glancing at me from time to time.  He looks sad, worried, but when our eyes meet he manages a closed-lipped smile.  You see that look a lot these days; like we’ve lost our innocence, or we surely will soon.  I’m certain he’s wondering what the future will bring, how long this war will last, how bad it will be, and whether we’ll survive.  I know because I think these things all the time.  But no matter.  It’s Friday and I have to get home.  I’m meeting the girls at our favorite place, Harry’s.  Some Jitterbug dancing will lift our spirits.   

I’m all dolled up now and ready to go. I hear my friend Ruth letting herself into my apartment.  She’s one of the three girls I pal around with.  Alice and Anna, my best friend, are also coming here first so we can head over to Harry’s together.  Anna and I are the two singles of the group.  Ruth and Alice are married and their husbands are already overseas.  Ruth’s man was shipped off just last month.  They both act so brave.  But, I can see it in their eyes.  The longing and the worry of seeing your heart’s love go off to face the dangers of war.  It must be unbearable.  That’s why I promised myself I wouldn’t do it.  I’m not going to fall for a man just to lose him somewhere in the Pacific or in Europe.  Anyway, Ruth is calling and I’m in the mood to go dancing!

“Hi Helen,” Ruth coos as I emerge from my room.  “Don’t you look sweet.  Are you ready for some fun tonight?”

“Am I ever!” I reply.  “Oh look, I see Anna and Alice coming up the walk.  Let’s go.”

We get to Harry’s and our favorite table is free.  Harry’s has the best big band sound in the neighborhood.   Glenn Miller and the Jitterbug are our favorites.  Me and the girls can boogie woogie until late into the night.  It’s the only thing that makes us forget the war.   

“Are you gals ready for some Chattanooga Choochoo?”  Anna asked as we grabbed our table.  Anna is such a dear best friend to me.  What a gal.  And boy does she like a party!

“Anna,” Alice chided with a smile, “It’s blues night tonight... jug head!”
“Oh yes, so it is.  I forgot. No matter,” Anna shot back, “Just so long as there are some cuties and a Whiskey Sour then I’m happy."  Classic Anna.

We are lucky to get our table tonight.  The club is more full than usual.  I see several soldiers and a few sailors already dancing with their girls.  Harry, the owner, is an old man now, but he sure knows what the kids like.  I see Harry behind the bar serving. The band is playing one of my favorite Billy Holiday songs, “I’ll be seeing you.”  I just love this song and it . . . wait a minute.  I see eyes staring at me.  Two baby blue eyes.  What is this?  My heart is racing. Why is this happening?  There’s a soldier.  And a fine man he is.  He’s with a friend who’s making his way over toward our table.  

“Hi there Mrs.” one of the soldiers says. "Would you give a soldier a dance?”

Anna, her cheeks flush but surely thrilled, replies, “It’s Miss Anna actually and, while it’s very nice of you, I don’t think I should.”  She’s like a cat playing sadistically with the live mouse it just caught.

“Well Miss. Anna, me and my buddy here will be shipping out overseas in a few days and it would make me so happy to take with me the memory of a dance with a beautiful lady like yourself.  My name is Earl, Earl Hooks,” he said holding out his hand.   

Anna smiled coyly to us like a Cheshire cat as she put her hand in his and rose up to head to the dance floor.   

Hours later I noticed Anna again.  “She seems to be having a good time!” I said.  Anna and her new man were still cutting up the dance floor. 

“She sure is,” Ruth said.  “Helen, it’s getting late and I think Alice and I are going to start walking home.  Besides, all these soldiers aren’t good for our lonely hearts.”

“Okay, doll.  Will you two be all right?  I’m going to stay a bit and wait for Anna.”

“Sure honey.  Enjoy now and don’t stay too late,” they said getting their coats to leave.  

“Sure will girls.  Night Ruth, Night Alice,” I said.

Just before she turned to go, Alice leaned in to say, “Good night sweetie.  And be careful in here with your heart.  I see that soldier still has his eye on you.  If you fancy him make him sweep you off your feet.”

“Oh Alice,” I said with a blush, “I don’t think he has much of a chance tonight or any other night,” I laughed it off as they left the club with a wave.  But I felt something stir in my heart and stomach. Those eyes have been following me all evening.  Then, no sooner had I put my hand down on the table when those baby blues found me again. I could feel them on me and was mesmerized by them.

I turned around to look at them again and . . . but wait . . . where did they go?

“Hi there!” a deep and handsome voice said from behind me.  “Did I scare you?” he asked?  I was caught totally off guard. 

“Well, you did give me a bit of a scare,” I said smiling in relief.  I’m not sure if I’m relieved that the startle was just a voice, or that I found those baby blues again.  “You shouldn’t sneak up on someone like that,” I mildly admonished him.

“I’m sorry Miss.  But I was just wondering . . . would you care to dance?”

“You can call me Helen,” I said, “and, yes, I’d love to dance.”

“Helen… what a beautiful name for a beautiful angel.”

He took my hand and my knees went weak. My heart is about to jump out of my chest. What is it about this man that’s making me feel this way? I keep feeling butterflies in the pit of my stomach. His eyes, those baby blue eyes are stealing my breath away. We are dancing, but I don’t feel the floor underneath me. It’s like we’re dancing on air.

“So, Mr. Soldier, what should I call you?”

“My name is Frank.”

“Frank . . . a very handsome name for a handsome fella.”

What are you doing to me Mr. Soldier, I wondered.  I honestly feel like Cinderella the night of her ball.  Are you my prince charming?

“So,” I start to say, “Your friend over there tells us you’re both being shipped out soon?”

“Yes,” he answered. “We got our orders to leave in two days.”

“Two days! So soon?”

“Well,” he starts saying, “Before I used to think the sooner the better.  But now I’m regretting that decision.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, Helen, when I was first drafted I didn’t have anything or anyone here to miss or anyone to miss me.  I know what I’m about to say sounds like a pick-up line, but I swear it’s true.   I want us to win the war.  I guess my love of country was my only love at the time.  But at this moment, I think there’s another love growing in me.”

I am lost for words.  I’m totally being swept off my feet. I think I’m falling in love.  But this can’t be. I shouldn’t let it be! What about my promise to myself? I’ve seen Ruth and Alice both come to work with extra make-up on trying to cover their tear tracks from crying that morning and probably much of the night too.  But I can’t seem to help how I feel about Frank.  It’s so strong. I’ve never experienced this before.  Frank is just sinking deeper and deeper into my heart.  Then I heard the words of Billie Holiday echoing over the dance floor to my ears. They only confirm what I’m resisting, trying to deny.

♪ “I'll be seeing you,
             In all the old familiar places,
             That this heart of mine embraces,
             All day through . . .” ♪

Oh Billie! I don’t need real-life blues. My heart is already aching. But I can’t stop myself.  My heart has a mind of its own and my body isn’t obeying a word from my head at all.

♪ “In that small café,
 The park across the way,
 The children's carousel,
 The chestnut trees,
 The wishing well,
 I'll be seeing you,
 In every lovely summer's day,
 In everything that's light and gay,
 I'll always think of you that way.” ♪

Oh Billie, all what you’re saying is true. I will be missing you Frank when you’re gone.  But what can I do other than just say I hope I’ll be seeing you?

“Frank,” I looked up and said, “This might come out wrong, but I’m just wishing right now that you don’t go.”

“Why would that be wrong Helen? I feel the same way.”

“I think I’m falling for you,” I said looking into his eyes and drawing my arms tight around his shoulders.

He smiled down and then kissed me. My knees weren’t the only things that gave way, my whole body did.  It was a kiss from heaven like I’d never known before.

“Helen,” Frank says, “Let’s go. Will you come with me?”


He took my arm and led me off the dance floor toward the door.  I grabbed my purse as we swept past my table and then a new feeling suddenly came over me.  It was an uncomfortable feeling and it stopped me.  As we headed for the door I noticed a man sitting at the bar.  I’ve seen him before.  I’ve seen that red tie before.  He was looking at me with a glass in his hand.  He raised it up as if acknowledging me.  Then Anna suddenly grabbed my arm and turned me around.

“Where are you going?” she asked. 

Her question just made me look at Frank.  Baby blue was looking at me and all seemed beautifully clear.  I just answered, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”  Anna smiled but still played the role of worried friend.  “Just don’t go too far, Helen.  Not too far,” she said looking me in the eye then winking. 

We walked outside and strolled into the empty field across the street.  Frank was leading me somewhere but I wasn’t sure where, and with all honesty I didn’t care. He walked me over to a beautiful big tree.  I looked up and saw the stars I’d noticed earlier after work. They were even brighter now, almost blinding. 

“Helen, I know this is fast and must seem awfully strange, but I feel like I’ve known you all my life.  And I can’t stand the thought of heading overseas…”

I interrupted him and put my finger over his sweet lips. “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I have the same feeling,” I said.

Then Frank got down on one knee, and looked me straight in the eyes. “Helen,” he said, “Will you marry me?”

I can’t breathe. There was only one answer in me.  Nothing else but that answer came into my mind, the words that were in me waiting for years to be uttered.

“Yes.  Yes, Frank, I will marry you.”

He got up off his knee, lifted my chin toward him and kissed me warmly.   These are not kisses, they are spells.  Enchantments that could never be broken and I would never want them to break.  

At 11:00 a.m. the next morning we were married at City Hall.  Our wedding was the most amazing day I ever had.  The amount of love we shared I think could have stopped the war itself.  The day after, however, wasn’t as sweet.  That was the day Frank had to leave.  I saw him off at the bus station.  My love, my husband is going to war. I can’t believe it. I promised I wouldn’t do this to myself but I did.  I’ve just joined the Ruth and Alice club.

I’ll miss you more than you can know Frank.  But I will see you and feel you in my heart.  ♪ “I'll find you in the morning sun; and when the night is new. I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.” ♫ Those words from Billie expressed everything I felt.  I just wish I could stop crying. 

That was six months ago since the wedding and Frank’s departure.  I’ve been getting his letters, almost one a week.  Despite my longing for Frank, these months have also been among the happiest of my life because even though he’s not here I found my true love.  Last week, Frank wrote that he’d be coming home on leave in November and that he’d be here for my birthday on the eighth.  I can’t imagine a better gift for my twenty-fifth birthday then a kiss from Frank.

Just a few weeks later I’m at the bus station with Ruth and Anna.  It’s a big day because all of our men are going to be here today.  We’re waiting for Anna’s fiancé to arrive home from leave as well and Ruth’s husband Raymond who will also be on the same bus.  So will my Frank.  Only there’s a pale over our happiness.  Alice didn’t come. She got the news last week that her husband Ralph was missing and presumed dead in the Pacific.  Poor Alice.  Despite it all, we’re trying to be excited for each other, Ruth and Anna, especially Anna, the soon-to-be Mrs. Earl Hooks.  It’s so exciting to see her so happy with her fiancé Earl.  They’re wedding is set for tomorrow at the church.  Alice insists on going.  She’s so brave.  Ruth is also anxiously awaiting her Raymond.  She had not seen him for nearly a year and I’m so happy for her. We all held our breaths as the bus appears from around the bend.

As the bus stops and the door swings open it was Raymond who was the first one off.  Ruth jumped and ran to him, her eyes sparkling.  Then Earl emerged and Anna threw herself on him.  Then the rest of the passengers starting streaming off.  I stretched my neck to look for Frank.  But he’s not there. Then, two baby blues walk off the bus.  I can hardly believe it.  My heart stopped, I’ve died and gone to heaven.  This is the best birthday a woman could ever have.

“Hello baby blue,” I said cradling my hands around his face.

“Baby, before you say anything else, can I kiss you?”  Frank asked.

“You sure can soldier,” I replied just before being lost in his wonderful kiss.  I am in heaven. I can’t describe it any other way.

When we got home Frank said he had a surprise for me.  There was a knock at the door and Frank insisted on answering it alone.  He spoke to someone and I heard something jingle. Then the visitor left.  Frank returned to the living room.  He asked me to come with him outside and he put his hands over my eyes. He is so gentle, guiding me slowly, step by step through the door and outside.  Then he removed his hands from my eyes and told me to look straight ahead.  It was a 1940 Chevrolet Clipper!  It was burgundy red with shiny silver trim and whitewall tires.  As I ran to look at it I noticed that it also had an exclusive vacuum power shift, silent valve-in-head engine, synchromesh transmission, and new sealed beam headlights. Working in a tank factory, a girl can pick up a thing or two about engines!  What an amazing gift! Even with the war in full swing, at this moment my life couldn’t be any better.

We took the car out for a spin.  This will be a special night. The sky couldn’t be any clearer. The moon is smiling away. And I’m driving with my beautiful baby blues. We’re cruising down a quiet country lane surrounded by nothing but trees, the star-filled sky and us.  Then in a flash I see him again – the man with the red tie.  He’s waving at me, quietly yet knowingly, from the side of the road as I pass by.  It’s as if he’s waving good-bye.  Then just as suddenly a huge thud.  An animal, a deer darted in front of us and hit the car.  I lost control in a flash.  Everything went blank.

“Frank?”  I’m coming to.  What happened?  I’m wet. It’s blood.  Frank?  Where is Frank?  Good heavens, I see him. He’s laying close to me but not moving.  I’m in pain but somehow I crawl toward him.  I touch him.
“Frank?  Frank?”

“Helen,” he barely mumbles.  “I love you kitten . . . with all my heart,” he said in the quietest whisper.

“I love you too Frank with all my heart.”  Things are fading.  I’m holding my Frank, and I feel both of us going. What a night though.  I can hear Billie singing my favorite song.

♪ “I'll be seeing you,
In all the old familiar places,
That this heart of mine embraces,
All day through.” ♪

My quiet thoughts of my Frank, me and Billie are shattered suddenly by someone else’s voice.  A mysterious but sweet voice.  “There.  The deed is done and Hicious is balanced. You shall not get your deal with them,” it said.  Who is he talking to? Not me. What is he talking about? Who is he?

Then I hear a second mystery voice.  This a scary menacing one.  “You don’t know the hearts of Hicioulites like I do.  One day I will get my deal!” the horrible voice screamed.  Then only silence.

“Markus!  Markus wake up!”

I opened my eyes. It was Val sitting next to me on my bed.  My mom was also there with me and dad is standing at the door.  Even Jonathan and Nathan are here.

“Glad you’re okay dweeb,” Nathan said.  “Yeah, you gave us a heck of a scare,” Jonathan chimed in.  What’s this?  Jonathan being nice to me?  

“Yeah, dork, don’t do it again,” Nathan snarled but with obvious concern in his voice. Wow.

“Okay, who are you two and what have you done with my brothers?” I asked sarcastically. 

Jonathan and Nathan left and so did dad.  My mom kissed me on my forehead and told me not to over do it as she left too and went downstairs. It was just me and Val.

I turned to her.  “You won’t believe the dream I just had Val!  It was so real… so …”

“It’s okay Markus.  I’ll see you tomorrow and you can tell me all about it.  I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Yeah, that makes two of us.  Sorry for the scare Val.”

“It’s ok buddy.  What are friends for?” she smiled and headed out. It was getting late. 

This dream was so weird. I can’t believe it. I can’t get my head around it. But wait.  Frank looked familiar. Those baby blue eyes.  Even the kisses seemed familiar. And what was Earl’s last name again, the finacé of Anna.  I forget.  Why am I wondering this?  I don’t’ know.  Anyway, I think I should take mom’s advice and get some rest.  I can think about all this tomorrow with Val.


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