A Short Story By J. D. Adrian
I can tell, you know, the tilt of the head, the set of the shoulders, the determined walk. What was it this time – the smile, the walk, or maybe what you brought home – that made me take notice?
Your shopping always has a singleness of purpose. Christmas of ’42 was the year of the hat. It had to be perfect for Cybil’s wedding, because her man was about to board a troop ship to parts unknown. Then, in June of ’43, when Cousin George came home on furlough, only the right cut of beef would do for that celebratory feast. I loved the sophisticated little dress you picked up at the thrift for the USO
dance, when you wanted to impress the feller you had met the week before. Not that you needed a new dress for that, as he already was well impressed.
We treasured the animated conversations on long Sunday afternoons over cups of tea, when the most important thing on our minds was the uncertainty that comes with this war; and we were two best friends, laughing and crying together – no money, no man, and only hope to hold it all together. We discussed what we would do when this is all behind us: buy a car and drive to California, visiting all the national parks along the way; go on the stage and become famous; or take a train to New York City and live the sophisticated life of the single girl.
But today you brought home the ultimate object of desire, something we talked about many times. You said you would not bother – too much trouble, you said. You would not want the responsibility and inevitable heartache, and it would change you too much.
We hear the war is winding down. Troops are coming home, and families will settle into lives with their loved ones again. Everything will be the same as before. But will they? What will happen to the women who have taken on men’s work? What will the men do, now that they are home again? Will the rationing be over at last? And what will become of our dreams – could we actually buy a new car, my dear friend, and afford the gas to drive to California?
Meet Bill, you said, and we shook hands. Look at what he gave me, you said, and I gazed at the diamond sparkling in the sunlight. Now that the war is over, all questions will be answered; and our foolish daydreams will disappear like snowflakes on the windowpane.
Yes, darling, this time you have brought it all home.