Disclaimers: This story belongs to me so I don't give permission for it to be posted somewhere else under a different title, change in names or storyline.
Sex: But of course! J
Note: There will likely be somewhat graphic violence in this story, as part of it takes place during war times.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com .
San Jose, CA – 1968
The air in the attic was hot and stagnant, the smell of dust and unopened boxes filled the air. Megan Hannigan swung the beam of her flashlight to the left, crying out in surprise when she saw a tiny dark shadow scurry out of the light invasion. Hand to her heart, she grinned over at her mother's concerned expression.
Kate Hannigan rolled her eyes and proceeded further into the space, her beam aimed further up as she sought out the chain that would illuminate the naked bulb. “Bingo,” she whispered, the silver glint catching her light. She tugged and suddenly the space was covered in buttery light.
Megan let out a relieved breath and clicked off her flashlight. “Where did grandma say it would be?” she asked, hurrying over to the long hope chest that had once belonged to her mother's mother.
“I think she said in there, but I'm not sure. I know a lot of things got moved around when Dad put all the holiday decorations away last year.”
Those words stopped the two blondes in their tracks. The air became heavy with memories and sadness, a soft sob renting the air. Kate moved over to her daughter and hugged her close, amazed that her baby girl was getting married.
“I'm sorry, Megan,” she whispered into the hug, caressing the girl's back.
“I wish he could be at my wedding,” the girl said, her voice sad and wistful.
“I know. I'm sure he will be.” Kate placed a loving kiss on her daughter's forehead. “Come on. Let's find that dress.” Kate watched as her only child nodded with a brave smile and made her way over to the hope chest, falling to her knees as she pushed the heavy lid up to open.
Kate let out a heavy sigh and made her way over to a group of boxes, pulling a small kitchen knife out of the back pocket of her pants to slice the tape open and begin the search. Her daughter's wedding was in three months, and Megan had her mind set on wearing the dress her grandmother had married in and had given to her a couple years before. It had gotten stored somewhere in the attic until Megan needed it. Now, whether she wanted to admit it or not, her baby girl was becoming a woman.
Megan, completely unaware of her mother's musings, searched through the trunk, not finding what she was looking for. Frustrated, she glanced over and saw the old steamer trunk that her mother had used after she'd moved out of her parents' home, after she'd married Megan's father, George.
She unlatched the heavy latches and pushed the leather straps aside before pushing the lid up, making sure it would stay up before she began to peruse the contents. Old clothing – none of which was the dress she sought – as well as some articles clipped from May of 1945, donating the end of World War II, which her mother had talked very little to her about, though she did have a lot of questions about.
Deciding this wasn't the time, Megan continued to push object aside that weren't needed in this egg hunt. She felt something hard towards the bottom of the trunk and, curious, fished the object out. A wooden box came into view, no larger than two feet long and eight inches deep in size. It was a beautiful mahogany box, a mountain landscape carved into the top. She fingered the brass latch as she glanced over her shoulder in her mother's direction, something inside her telling her this was an important item for her mother. Turning back to the box, Megan chewed on her bottom lip before carefully unlatching the box and opening it.
Inside, Megan found a white t-shirt, carefully and lovingly folded to fit inside the box, as well as a few dried roses. Beneath these, she found a handful of old letters, the postmarked name was Danny Felts. Letter after letter, all but one opened, was from this Danny Felts person.
Beneath the letters she found a black and white photograph, somewhat aged now as it was more than twenty year old and was dated July 1943. The picture was of a man with short dark hair, though his longer bangs hung slightly in light-colored eyes. He was in military uniform, tie tucked into the opening between two buttons on the military-issued shirt as was the style of the day. The man was extremely good-looking. In fact, Megan would almost call him… beautiful. What caught Megan's eye, however was the woman who smiled up at him with absolute adoration. That woman was her mother as a very young woman.
Megan's gaze returned to the date, dark blonde brows furrowing. It was only a year before her mother had met her father, and from the looks of it, her mother was quite smitten with this Danny Felts guy.
“Mom?” Megan said.
“Yeah, honey?” Kate responded from across the attic, where she'd finally found the dress.
“Who's Danny Felts?”
Kate froze, mouth falling open and stomach dropping. “What did you say?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
“Danny Felts. You got a lotta letters here from him.”
Kate's eyes closed as she found herself falling back into history and into a world she hadn't wanted to think about again.
San Diego, Summer 1943
Kate stood talking with a few of her friends from school. The trio had skipped out on the last Friday of their senior year in high school, opting to head to a dance instead. Kate's best friend, Carol had heard that a bunch of servicemen had recently been transferred to the base, and she wanted to see them for herself.
Listening to the singer's version of I'll Be Seeing You, Kate turned away from her girlfriends, bringing a hand up to make sure her hair was still in place. She and Carol had worked to style their hair all day, wanting to make sure they looked perfect for the handsome young sailors.
“Carol, I'll be right back,” she said, tugging on her friend's sleeve before she tucked her clutch under her arm and headed towards the ladies room to reapply her lipstick.
“Okay,” Carol said absently, continuing her conversation with their other friend, Helen.
Kate smiled politely at a couple boys who turned to watch her walk by as she made her way down the hall that led to the restrooms. The two doors were set in a small alcove with a drinking fountain separating them. As she neared the alcove, she saw a uniformed sailor walking towards the ladies' room, about to grab the door handle. When he heard her approach, he jumped and turned to look at her with startled blue eyes.
Kate met his gaze, immediately taken by the June sky color. “I think you want that one,” she said with a smile, indicating the men's room door a few feet away.
The sailor glanced over at the other door then swiped his white cap from his head, dark bangs falling into his eyes at the move. He gave her a shy smile then headed to the men's room door, giving her a quick glance before he ducked inside.
Kate watched him go, her heart fluttering slightly in her chest.
“Mom?” Megan asked, snapping her mother out of her memories.
“Sorry, honey,” Kate smiled. “He was just someone I once knew.”
Megan was about to ask more questions, as her mother seemed to be really affected by the name, but was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell.
Kate's heart jumped at the sudden sound and she pushed to her feet. “I found your dress, honey,” she said, leaving the garment on top of a box. “I'll go get the door.”
Left alone, Megan stared after her mother, baffled. She turned back to the wooden box, running a finger over the smooth surface. With a final nod of decision, she closed it and tucked it under her arm, taking it with her as she climbed out of the attic.
Wayne, Nebraska, early Autumn 1942
The sun overhead was hot as Danielle leaned against the front fender of her father's 1929 Ford truck, one of the most treasured objects owned by the Felts' family. She drank down the glass of lemonade she'd been handed by Allison Hughes, the 34 year old wife of banker, Harvard Hughes.
“How is that lemonade?” Allison asked, her high heels clicking on the bricks that Danni had so laboriously laid for her the previous summer.
“It's right fine, thank you, Mrs. Hughes,” Danni said, raising the near-empty glass in grateful salute. Her gaze immediately found the ample cleavage that teased over the neckline of Allison's dress, then quickly looked away.
Allison rolled her brown eyes and clicked her tongue, not a single red hair out of place. “You've been doing work around here for what, five years now? Just when are you going to call me Allison?” she accused, a perfectly-shaped brow raised.
Danni smiled shyly and looked away. “Sorry,” she murmured. “Mamma always taught me to be polite to my elders.”
Allison gasped, not missing the playful smile on full lips. “Elders,” she muttered, giving Danni a playful smack with her kerchief. “Well, this elder has lunch all prepared for you inside.”
Danni watched the attractive woman walk away, noting the gentle sway of her rounded hips. Quickly turning her gaze elsewhere, she looked out over the work she'd been doing in Allison's yard over the past week. The front yard was planted, flowerbed full and freshly fertilized with manure furnished by her family's own cows.
She sighed and pushed off the truck. “Guess it's lunch time,” she sighed, finishing the rest of her lemonade and heading towards the house.
The Hughes' house was the most beautiful in all of town: an old brick colonial with more rooms than Danni could just about count and even an outdoor swimming pool. She figured they had to be just about the richest people in all of America.
She'd been doing work for Allison Hughes since she'd turned 14, which had been awful helpful. After the Dust Bowl had ripped through Wayne back in '35, her family had nearly lost the farm and even their house. Allison Hughes had come through to help, offering to pay off the Felts' mortgage, then they could pay her back rather than the bank, with less interest on the loan and more time to pay it. Also in the deal, the Felts' only daughter, Danielle had to work at the Hughes' home doing odd jobs.
Just as she'd been taught, Danni removed her boots before stepping into the lavish home, her worn work boots set on a mat that was set up by the door specifically for her. She padded into the house, wiping her forearm across her forehead as sweat threatened to bead down in her eyes.
As she made her way to the kitchen, she smiled at the couple passing servants, all of whom she knew well as they all were in service to Allison in one way or another and for one reason or another. Through the swinging doors that led into the huge kitchen, Danni could hear Allison's voice booming as she barked instructions to the cook and young girl who would be serving them. Danni always felt guilty in Allison's house, as she was working for Allison too, but was treated much better than the house staff.
“Sit down,” Allison ordered when she eyed Danni walking her way. Allison gave the girl a winning smile as she, too sat down, placing the napkin delicately on her lap. “I'm sure you're hungry as a big ol' grizzly bear so you eat up.”
“Yes, misses… I mean, Allison.”
Allison beamed at her. “See? Now isn't that so much better?” Allison grabbed a piece of fresh bread from the basket between them and buttered it, handing it to Danni with a smile. “You've worked so hard this past week, Danni.”
Danni smiled her response of gratitude as her mouth was filled with buttered bread. It took all her control to not groan at the amazing tastes. She loved eating with Allison, as the best of foods were always served. Certainly better than the typical potatoes and roast that were served at her own house.
“Now,” Allison began, pausing as she waited for her and her guest to be served. Once the serving girl had left them in peace, she turned another smile on Danni. “What's got you so down in the mouth, hmm?”
Danni stared at Allison for a moment, brushing long bangs out of her eyes as some strands had escaped from the kerchief that held her long hair out of her face. “What do you mean?” she asked, knowing full well what the older woman meant. She hated how well Allison Hughes could read her.
“Don't fool with me, Danielle Felts,” Allison warned, preparing her cold cucumber soup for eating. “I know you better than that.”
Danni smiled, caught. She sipped from the fresh glass of lemonade that sat before her, grateful for the cool liquid. “I've been thinking about enlisting,” she finally said, simple and matter-of-fact.
Allison's eyes widened in surprise. “Have you, now? Would this have anything to do with Billy?”
“Some,” Danni admitted, her gaze focusing on her lunch. She felt nervous to talk about it out loud, but it always seemed to be Allison who she confided in. Guess this would be no different. “Since he was killed in the war last year Mamma and Daddy just aren't the same.” She sighed. “And I'm getting real sick and tired of Mamma trying to pressure me to marry the Connor boy.”
Allison gave her soup a knowing smile. “No, I suppose that wouldn't do for you now would it?” She met curious blue eyes but ignored the silent question. “I think it would just about kill your Mamma if you left.”
Danni sighed with a nod. “I know. It's just that,” she sighed again and sat back in her chair, forcing herself to meet Allison's frank gaze. “There's nothing here for me, Allison. I feel so darn trapped. ‘Sides,” she added with a shrug, “I figure the Navy could use another soldier to try and kill Hitler.”
“A soldier, huh?” Allison asked, brow raised.
“I don't wanna be no nurse, Allison. I don't wanna be no WASP or WAVE or none of those silly things. I'm just as good a shooter as any boy. Just ask Daddy on that one.”
Allison was silent for a moment, her heart pounding in her chest as fear clenched around the organ. “Danni,” she said softly, “I don't want to see you get yourself killed. Besides, you know full well they'd never accept a woman-“ Allison cut herself off, seeing the determination in those blue, blue eyes. “I see.”
Danni could only meet her gaze, not sure what to say. She knew Allison would get her meaning sooner or later, she just happened to get it sooner.
“You could get yourself in a great deal of trouble, you know.”
“Yeah, well even trouble is better than what I've got here. Heck, I'd rather spend the rest of my life in prison than have to marry James Connor.”
Allison smirked. “Honey, marriage can certainly seem like an awfully large prison cell.”
“Exactly! I don't have any interest whatsoever in marrying and having babies and runnin' a farm. It's not me, Allison.”
“No honey, that it is not.” Allison picked up her abandoned spoon. “Eat up, now. You got more work to do out back.”
Danni lay in bed that night with her hands tucked behind her head, staring up at the dark ceiling. She wasn't seeing the shadows of the night nor hearing the distant sounds of the cows in the dairy. Her mind was focused on all that she'd disclosed to Allison that afternoon, as well as her determination to make something of herself. She had no idea how exactly she was going to pull it off, as she knew she'd have to pass a physical, just as her big brother, Billy had to do
Older than his now-19 year old sister by two years, William Jefferson Felts Jr. had left for the Army when America went to war, one of thousands of young men who left their farms and homes to enlist and fight the good fight. Billy was the closest person to Danni and she used to relish his letters, soaking up every word and adventure. Sadly, he'd been killed after a short three months fighting over seas. A couple posthumous letters had trickled in as late as early summer.
Danni could still see Billy's smile and remember his boisterous laugh. Where she was quiet and shy he had been exuberant and confident. They were exact opposites in personalities but looked a great deal alike. Billy had been tall and strong, his sky blue eyes turning every head who saw him. He wore his good looks well, never in shortage of a date.
Danni, tall and farm-strong like her brother, didn't know what to do with her looks. She was much taller than most the young women her age, and she didn't have the same build as the demure women of her generation. Danni had grown up working on the dairy farm, not afraid of hard work; in fact, she relished it. She was well-muscled and absolutely did not fit in anywhere. The boys wanted little to do with her, despite the fact that she was a natural beauty and the other girls didn't know what to make of her. None of this bothered her, however, as she lived her life close to the vest, her only real friends Billy and Allison Hughes. Now that Billy was gone, she had very little left to stay for.
Turning to her side, Danni stared out the small window placed above the top of her dresser. The moon was high and glazed everything with an eerie silver glow. Knowing that sleep would be far in coming, Danni slid from the bed and lit the lantern next to her bed. She rummaged through the top drawer in her dresser, where she kept all her secret treasures. Inside she moved the small stack of Sears Roebuck catalogs she'd kept – she enjoyed looking at the pretty models inside – and dug until she found the letters Billy had sent her, including the picture of himself in uniform he'd included.
Picture in hand, Danni moved back over to her bed in the attic bedroom. She ducked blindly as she'd hit her head on the slanted ceiling more times than she could count over the years. The room was not built for someone who stood nearly six feet tall. She sat on her bed near the lantern and looked at the picture, rubbing her finger lovingly over the grinning face of her heroic brother. He wore his uniform with pride and Danni could just imagine what it did for his social life.
She smiled at that thought, wondering for just a crazy moment if it would do the same for hers. Closing her eyes, she buried her face in her hand. “You're an idiot, Danni,” she whispered. “No girl's gonna want you, uniform or not.” She looked at the picture again, a sense of pride filling her; pride for what her brother had done and what he'd given and she felt pride for what she knew ultimately she would do. She figured it best, however to wait until after the holidays were over with: not only for her mother but also for herself as who knew if she would ever have another holiday again?
Danni pushed up from the bed and replaced the picture, covering her little stash with clothing then shoved the drawer shut and returned to her bed. Dousing the lantern, she lay back down and let out a long breath in the dark, closing her eyes as she tried to find sleep.
Katherine “Kate” Adams sat in the dark theater, pinned between her best friend, Carol and Jimmy Canton, who was the boy her mother had set her up with. Jimmy was the son of a prominent attorney in town and Beth Adams felt he'd be the perfect match for her only child and that Kate needed to be seen with a different class of friends. All of this Beth had explained to her daughter as she picked out the dress the petit blonde would wear, as well as the jewelry that she felt would compliment the 17 year old's lovely green eyes. After all, everyone always mentioned Kate's eyes.
Kate rolled those very eyes as she thought of the tense moments over the past few days leading up to the date. Kate had absolutely no desire to sit in the dark next to a boy she found annoying and unattractive and resented her mother's pestering and fussing.
“He stinks,” she whispered into her best friend's ear.
Carol snickered at her friend before leaning forward to check out the poor boy across Kate's body. “What does he smell like?” she whispered back.
“Onions and gasoline.”
Carol's bark of laughter earned them glares from movie-goers around them, including Jimmy Canton. Carol smiled apologetically and returned her attention back to Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal.
“I think he smells like a cat box, too,” Kate whispered after a few moments.
Carol met her gaze, eyes twinkling. “You are so mean,” she whispered.
“Will you guys shut up?” John, Carol's date whispered. “I'm trying to watch the picture show, here.”
Carol gave him an apologetic smile then returned her gaze once more to the film, neither she nor Kate saying another word for the duration.
After the film finished, the four teens headed to the lobby where they stood awkwardly for several minutes. Finally, Jimmy Canton smiled at the girls, hands tucked into the pockets of his pants.
“Well ladies, this was swell.” He turned to Kate. “Maybe we'll do this again sometime.” He leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her cheek. He didn't notice that Carol discretely sniffed the air as he did so.
“Thank you, Jimmy. Yes, it was swell. Well,” Kate said, clapping her hands together. “My father should be out there waiting for us, so…”
“Goodnight, boys,” Carol said, shooting a teasing grin at John.
John and Jimmy watched the two young women walk away. “Man, she's got great stems,” Jimmy confided, his gaze roaming up and down Kate's legs and her behind, which was outlined nicely in the flowered dress her mother had chosen for her. John's reply was a whistle of agreement between his teeth.
“God!” Kate groaned as they exited into the cool evening. “That was the most awkward date I've ever been on, Carol.”
“Tell me about it,” her friend agreed, eyeing the parking lot. “There he is.”
The girls walked towards Percy Adam's black 1941 Dodge Luxury Liner Custom, the fedora-wearing man behind the wheel smoking a cigarette. “Evenin' girls,” he said around the smoke. “Have fun?”
“We did, Daddy, thank you,” Kate said, sliding into the front seat next to her father and Carol next to her.
“Off we go, then.”
It had already been decided that Carol was going to spend the night with Kate, the two girls inseparable since the age of 6. Now, eleven years later, they were still attached at the hip. The giggling duo sat on the floor of Kate's spacious bedroom, a smattering of records lying across the floor as the music of Tommy Dorsey filled the room. They both sat cross-legged, a smattering of letters – opened and unopened – sat between them, as well as snapshots of uniformed men.
“Okay, listen to this one,” Carol said, her giggles heightened by the sips of stolen whiskey from her father's liquor cabinet. “'My sweet, sweet girl,'” she looked at Kate, both girls breaking into new giggles. “'When I come back from Germany, I want us to build a howse' – spelled howse, by the way – ‘together. We can have lots of childrens together.'”
“Childrens?” Kate laughed.
“It gets better.” Carol continued to read. “'Our childrens will be part of both us and will some day rule the world.'”
Both girls dissolved into a fit of laughter, Kate falling backwards to lie on the floor, her hand coming up to wipe away the amused tears. “Oh my god, that soldier needs some schooling.”
“Yeah,” Carol agreed, also falling back to stare up at the ceiling. “I need to meet a really handsome soldier, Kate. Maybe at the dance next week.”
Kate heard her friend but her mind was off and running in its own direction. “Don't you want someone to really love you, Carol?” she asked at length, her voice soft and dreamy.
Carol stared at her friend as though she'd just grown a second head. “What?”
“Serious.” Kate looked at Carol. “These boys are cute and look so handsome in their uniforms but…” she sighed and returned her gaze to the ceiling. “Don't you want someone who will treat you well? Maybe actually love you?”
Carol studied her friend for a moment then rested her head back down, shoulders shrugged. “As long as he's handsome.”
Kate rolled her eyes, not bothering to add her two cents. Even in her buzzed state she knew Carol would never understand. In truth, she didn't understand. All she did understand was she wanted more than her mother had. Sure, they lived in a nice house in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in San Diego, but what good was money when there was little to no happiness behind it?
Her entire life, Kate had watched her mother brutalized by a domineering, controlling husband, whom for some reason spared his only child of the violence and insults. Even still, Kate had seen what her mother had become: a frail, judgmental and unhappy woman whose one goal in life was to live vicariously through her daughter. Perhaps in her mind, it was an escape.
A noise brought Kate out of her reverie. A glance to her snoring friend made her smile. “Carol?” she slurred, nudging her friend, who groaned in her inebriated sleep. “Come on. Bed.”
Kate picked herself up off the floor and made her way to her bed, glad to be already dressed in her nightgown. She didn't care whether Carol made it to be or not as she flopped down, face first.
Danni sat at the kitchen table, quietly listening to her parents discuss the state of their dairy business and the fact that a calf had recently been born. As their voices droned on in the background, she couldn't help but let her thoughts wander. She'd gotten the six cents from Allison to send off three different letters to Naval recruiters, all sent to Allison's postal address. Daniel Felts had been invited to sign up for service, and Danni was more than willing to accept the invite.
The holidays had come and gone, only Danni knowing their significance. She felt a tinge of guilt as her parents had no idea what she was planning that very night. A large duffel bag was hidden under her bed, already packed with some clothing Allison had provided for her: clothing for Daniel.
“Danni!” William, Danni's father bellowed, irritation in his voice.
The girl's head shot up, eyes wide in attention. “Yes?”
“I've been sayin' your damn name for a full minute!”
“Sorry, Dad,” she muttered, eyes lowering in deference to the man she admired most after her dead brother.
“It's gonna be a cold one tonight and we got that calf due any day now. I need you to check the barn every hour tonight.”
“Yes, sir,” she said automatically, mentally kicking herself, as it would cut into her plan.
Danni lay in her bed, hands tucked behind her head as she watched the snow fall outside. It was a cold January night and she did not look forward to heading out in twelve minutes to check the barn for the third time in as many hours. Knowing full well sleep wasn't coming tonight, she pushed out of bed and tugged on her clothes: loose pants that once belonged to Billy as well as a rough-hewn wool sweater to help fight the Nebraska cold.
Danni fell to her knees, pulling the packed duffel out of its hiding place and plopped it on the bed, the mattress bouncing under the weight. She knew this would be the last time she checked the barn; perhaps the last time ever.
Looking in the small mirror hung on her wall, Danni studied the blue that looked back at her. They were blue eyes that so many had told her were beautiful or unusual – or both – but right now all she saw was blue eyes filled with fear. Her gaze traveled to the long black hair that fell around her shoulders – never one to follow current trends. She knew within a matter of hours that hair would be gone. If her mother knew, she'd be devastated, as she'd always told Danni that no matter how beautiful her eyes were, her thick, shiny hair would always be her best feature. Danni didn't care as her gaze fell to Billy's picture, tucked into the frame of her mirror. His hair was cut short, hangs falling in his eyes. Many remarked how much of a Clarke Gable quality he had in appearance and style. A look back at her own reflection told Danni she'd have a similar look by morning.
“Here we go,” she whispered, deciding to check the barn early so she could head out while her courage was still with her.
Allison opened the back door, where Danni had been instructed to go. Finger held up to her lips, she allowed the teenager inside, quickly locking the door and escorting her up the back stairs – used for servants – and into an unused room on the third floor. Once inside, she closed the door, ensuring their privacy and silence.
“Someone's gotta get my father's truck back to the farm,” Danni said, teeth chattering from the cold drive to Allison's house.
“Someone's already on it. Don't worry about it.” Allison quickly pushed Danni's threadbare jacket from her shoulders, tossing it to the chair tucked into the corner of the room then turned back to her temporary ward. “Let's get you into bed and warmed up.”
Danni nodded, moving towards the inviting bed, which Allison pulled the covers down for her. She allowed herself to be tucked in, Allison sitting on the side of the bed and looking at her.
“I can't believe you're leaving me,” the older woman said, a sad smile on her lips.
“It's only for a little while. President Roosevelt said the war should be over soon.”
“We'll see about that. They said the same thing about the first damn war and it lasted four years.” She leaned down and placed a soft – almost chaste – kiss on Danni's lips, shocking the younger woman. “Sleep now. We'll talk in a few hours.”
Left alone, Danni brought a hand up, fingers brushing her lips as she still felt the tingle of the unexpected kiss. She'd never been kissed before by anyone who wasn't a member of her family. Even the annoying James Connor hadn't dare try. She thought surely Allison was just trying to be motherly.
Secure in her thoughts but nervous of the actions of the next few days, Danni turned onto her side and tucked her hands underneath her chin and closed her eyes.
San Jose, CA 1968
Megan sat at the kitchen table, the lid to the wooden box open as her mother dealt with the Avon lady in the living room. She pulled out the pictures she'd glanced at before and gave them a closer look, her gaze riveted to the face of the man that her mother smiled at. Again she looked at the name and date then set the picture down on the table, her curiosity returning to the box.
She glanced up as she heard her mother walk her guest to the door followed by a distant goodbye. Within moments her mother appeared around the corner, a shoulder leaning against the open archway.
“What are you doing?” Kate asked. Her heart stopped when she saw what her daughter was sorting through, for a moment a feeling of anger shooting through her. Pushing it down, she walked into the room and sat in the chair to Megan's left.
“You seemed to really love this guy,” Megan remarked, her finger tapping the picture on the table.
Kate sighed, taking the picture in hand and looking at her much-younger self. As her gaze traveled to Danni, she nodded. “Yes, I did.”
“He's really good looking,” Megan commented, turning her focus back to the box. She removed the folded shirt, careful to keep it in its folded condition. Beneath it she was surprised to find a ring box. A glance at her mother earned her a nod of permission. Inside the red satin box she found a simple gold band. “From Danny?” she asked softly.
Kate nodded, her throat tightening with emotion, so long ago pushed down. “Yes,” she finally whispered.
“What happened? Did he die in the war?”
“No.” Kate gave her daughter a soft smile. “What happened was… It just wasn't meant to be.”
A 2 year old Megan on her hip, Kate hurried to the front door after George had yelled for her to get it, as he was getting ready for work. Irritated at the interruption, as she'd been getting George's lunch packed, Kate finally reached the door, tugging it open. Her breath caught, eyes wide as she looked at the ghost who stood on the other side.
“Danni,” she whispered.
Danni stood tall and proud, dressed in full dress uniform, cap cocked slightly on her head and beautiful as ever. A hard blue gaze turned to Megan. “I assume she's not mine?” Danni asked, a quip in her voice.
Kate's heart was pounding in her chest, a protective hand automatically coming up to cup the back of the toddler's head. “I…” her voice trailed off, not sure what to say.
Megan studied her mother's face, able to see that she'd fallen back to another time. She could see the old pain resurface, and for a moment wondered if perhaps it had been a really bad idea to bring the box down from the attic. She reached a hand out and took her mother's cool fingers within her own.
“I'm sorry, Mom,” she said softly, giving the fingers a squeeze, getting one in return as Kate returned to the present with a sad smile.
“Things happen for a reason, Megan,” Kate said quietly. She let go of her daughter's hand and carefully replaced everything in the wooden box. “It was the past and it needs to stay that way.” She pushed back from the table and took the box in slightly-trembling hands. “This needs to be put away.”
Left alone in the kitchen, Megan sighed, feeling awful. “Damn,” she murmured, also pushing back from the table.
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