“Mom, what’s this?” asked Vickie. She held hand showing a small silver bar with two pins soldered to the back of it.
“Where did you get that,” said Barbara. “Give it to me.” She snatched it from Vickie’s hand and sat on the sofa clutching it tight to her breast.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just putting the laundry away and I found it in your underwear drawer. What is it, anyway?”
“Something from a long time ago, a time before you were born.” A faraway look came over her face. She sighed, and Vickie recognized the look as the one she got when she drifted into her memories.
She seemed to do that more and more these days. That was one of the reasons Vickie had moved back to the house she grew up in. She was terrified that she would, one day, come over and find that Mom had fallen again, and this time broken something. She was doing amazingly well for her age, but at ninety-four and with failing eyesight Vickie didn’t want her to be alone. She left her to her memories and went to get a soda from the kitchen.
Barbara pulled into the driveway and turned off the ignition of the old Ford Coupe. She sat gripping the wheel, exhausted by her shift at Lockheed stringing bundles of wire through the air frames of gleaming new P-38 Lightnings. She smiled at the mental image of herself planting a bright red bow of a kiss, for luck, on each air frame she finished. After all, one of these planes might soon be flying support for Bob, somewhere out there in the Pacific.
Wearily she dragged herself out of the car and walked to the mailbox. It was there, the letter she hoped to find. The small brown window-envelope with the return address of War and Navy Departments. V-Mail Service was her only connection to the love of her life. She could see Bob’s handwriting through the window where he addressed it to her. His penmanship was awful but it made her smile. She remembered it from that first note he passed her in their high school math class.
Clutching it tight against her body as if to feel his warmth through the envelope, she hurried into the house and dropped her purse and keys on the table in the entryway. Laying the envelope on the coffee table, she went to the bar and made herself a Tom Collins. The glass was a souvenir of their Las Vegas honeymoon. Bob had just been accepted to Law School and money was tight back then. She sat on the sofa and pulled the pins which held her blonde hair up in soft curls and waves and shook it out. The Lockheed safety regulations required that she wear it up, but it was much more comfortable loose and hanging past her shoulders. She unbuttoned the bottom two buttons of her blouse. The bulge of her stomach was barely noticeable, but she wondered how much longer before it showed and she was forced to leave Lockheed.
She opened the letter.
1Lt Robert James
1Bn, 5th Marine Rgt
Somewhere in the Pacific
30 Aug 1942
My Darling Babs,
Just a short note to tell you that I am well and thinking of you. Just knowing
that you await my return is of immense comfort to me. My men have performed
admirably all that has been asked of them and I am so proud of every one of
As you have probably guessed by now, I’ve been promoted. Colonel Edson
personally promoted me to First Lieutenant just last week.
I can’t tell you where we are or what we are doing. It wouldn’t make it past
the censors anyway. Just know that I am doing my duty for God and Country
and that I carry you in my heart always.
All my love until we’re together again,
She clutched the letter to her breast as tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
“I love you, too,” she said softly. “We will be together again. I just know it.”
The doorbell rang. She laid the letter on the coffee table and went to answer it. A man in a Western Union uniform stood there. He handed her a telegram.
Stunned, she listened to the clomp, clomp, clomp of the messenger’s shoes as they receded down the walk. Her hands shook as she stared with horror and dread at the yellow envelope he had given her. He hadn’t said so much as a word. Taking a deep breath, she nodded her head in determination and opened it with a scarlet painted fingernail. Her trembling fingers fumbled with the telegraph form inside. She held her breath as she stepped to the kitchen window for better light and slowly unfolded the telegram.
The Secretary of War wishes me to express his regret that…
The telegram fluttered slowly to the floor. She gripped the rim of the porcelain sink and tried to steady her hands. Her knees shook and her stomach lurched violently. She was going to be sick. A wild primeval scream ripped itself from her very soul. She collapsed to the floor unable to hold back the sobs which wracked her body.
Vickie returned to the living room. Her mom had a strange look on her face and it took Vickie a minute to realize something was wrong.
“Mom? Mom, are you alright?”
She reached out and gently shook her shoulder.
“Oh, dear God,” she said.
The silver bar fell from her mother’s hand and bounced once against her shoe. At last, they were together again.