Pete Gray paced
along a path that only he could see, oblivious to the nearly frenetic
gaiety that surrounded him. His eyes occasionally left the narrow floorboards
and darted to the counter in the far corner of the room, as he tried
to keep an eye on his fiancée.
Pete thought with a visible grimace. Ive been calling her my
fiancée for five years now. If we dont go through with
this tonight, I dont think Ill be able to keep conning myself
into believing shell ever marry me.
large crowd, he saw her strawberry blonde hair bobbing along, as she
tried to return to him while balancing a pair of bottles on a small
"My gosh!" she
said, her cheeks pink from the heat, "I never thought Id get back
here." She placed the tray on a nearby counter and handed him a cold
Coke. "Im going to have to get in line to get another one before
this ones even finished. Are all USOs like this?" Sally
looked up at the slightly taller man and flashed him a smile that made
dissolved his pique dissolve in seconds. Her bright, clear blue eyes,
pale pink complexion, and fair hair gave the woman a captivating look
that the young Army private had fallen for the first time he saw her.
"Whats that cute smile for?" Sally asked, seeing the sparkle in
"I was just
thinking about the first time I saw you," he said, his smile growing
brighter. "I was so mad at my dad for uprooting us and forcing me to
finish high school in Concord, but when I saw you in my first class,
I knew that things in Concord would be just fine."
fellow, werent you?" Sally asked, giving Pete a grin that made
him want to kiss her right then and there.
"Yeah, I guess
I was." He looked down at the floor, his agitation building again. "Im
not very confident now, Sally. I dont know whats going on
in your mind." He waited a moment as he revealed something that had
been troubling him for years. "I never do. I used to think I knew, but
I dont think I ever have." She looked up at him and gave him that
smile once again, and he felt his resolve start to waver. But for once
he stuck to his guns and pressed the issue. "The nights almost
over. Are we going to get married or not?"
Sally giggled nervously, then placed her hand on his chest, her gentle
touch calming the man. "Pete, you know I want to marry you. Why else
would I have come all the way down here?" She laughed again, the musical
tone now sounding relaxed and natural. "My parents are probably still
The young man
let his mild temper flare a little. "Gosh, Sally, youre almost
twenty-three years old, your parents have to let you grow up someday."
treat me like a child, Pete, but running off to New York at the drop
of a hat to get married is a pretty big deal. I dont blame them
for being upset."
at her for a few moments, the spoke as his cheeks started to turn pink.
"They wouldnt have been so surprised if you told them before this
morning. I still cant believe you waited so long. For gosh sakes,
Sally, Ive been asking you to marry me forever."
Again, the young
woman stroked his chest, petting him like an anxious pup. "Pete, no
one knows that better than I do. But we only decided to do this two
weeks ago. You know how my parents are, honey. My mother doesnt
think its wise to have a rushed ceremony, especially one the family
cant attend. If shed had two weeks to work on me I never
would have had the nerve to come."
not my fault, either," Pete said, his anger showing again. "There wouldnt
have been a rush if wed gotten married right out of high school."
"There was no
possibility of that," Sally said, her eyes narrowing as some of her
steely determination began to show. "My parents scrimped and saved their
whole lives so that I could go away to college, and I wasnt going
to waste that opportunity."
"Lots of people
in college are married," Pete said, still scowling.
"Yes, and lots
of them get in the family way and never finish," Sally said. "I wasnt
going to be one of those girls."
his shoulders and shook his head in frustration. Some of his dark brown
hair fell across his forehead, and Sally reached up and urged it back
into place, stroking his tanned face as she did so. "Dont be angry
with me, Pete. Please."
hands into the pockets of his tan gabardine slacks caused his belted,
olive drab uniform jacket to hike up. "How can I not be?" he asked petulantly.
"I waited for four years, waiting around while you finished school.
Then you had to work for a year. I dont know why you had
to work for a year, but you did."
please try to understand." Sally stroked his arm, marveling at the muscle
that basic training had added to his wiry frame. "I didnt know
how much many hours a day Id have to work at the hospital, and
I didnt want to spend our first married year being away from you
so much. I wanted to make sure Id be able to concentrate on you,
honey. Really." She gave him her most earnest look and he felt his head
nodding, wanting to believe her. But the reality of their situation
quickly soured his mood again.
where we are now," he said, his lips pursed. "This is the first day
weve had together in six weeks, and Im being shipped out
we didnt have any way of knowing that youd be sent to Europe.
I thought theyd want to keep you here because of all of your business
experience. If Id known that you were going to Europe I would
have married you before you went to your training."
a stationery store isnt the kind of experience they need at the
Pentagon, Sally." He crossed his arms and dropped his chin, giving her
an adorable pout.
its too late to argue about the past. Lets think of the
fixed her with a steady look and said, "Our future will probably involve
spending our first two or three years of marriage apart ... if were
lucky." His lower lip started to tremble, his rare show of emotion surprising
her arms around him tightly and murmured, "Oh, sweetheart, I wish I
hadnt been so hard-headed about it. I really do. Im so sorry,
"Not much we
can do about it now," he said into her shoulder, the rayon of her dress
soft against his cheek. "I wish I could have gotten a three day pass
so we could have at least gotten married in New Hampshire. My parents
are upset about this, too."
"I know," Sally
soothed. "My mother called your mother as soon as I told her. They were
both fit to be tied."
softly, thinking of the sparks that often flew when the two strong-willed
women got together. "Did they have a fight?"
"A little one,"
Sally admitted. "Your mother said something about my dilly-dallying,
and my mother got her back up about it. You know how they are."
Pete looked into his fiancées eyes, searching them for
the truth. "Do you want to do this, Sally? Once my friend Rocco gets
the car from his cousin we can be in Connecticut in under two hours."
He tightened his grip on her shoulders and asked again, enunciating
clearly, "Are you sure?"
The young woman
took in a deep breath, then let it out, giving herself a few extra seconds
to think. Her blue eyes blinked slowly and she said, "This isnt
how Ive pictured it, Pete. Driving to Connecticut in a borrowed
car, getting married in front of strangers, spending our wedding night
in some cheap, roadside motel"
about the motel," Pete said, looking mildly embarrassed. "We have to
come right back to New York. Rocco can only get the car if his cousin
drives. Apparently Roccos not the worlds best driver."
Sally sighed. "So what does that mean? Do we have to find a hotel here?"
be nice," he said, speaking quicker as her eyes narrowed. "But with
two ships sailing tomorrow there isnt a room available."
"How do you
know that?" she asked.
"I talked with
that woman over there," he said, pointing towards an older woman sitting
at a desk. "She said that when the troop carriers sail a lot of friends
and families come to the city to say good-bye. The only places available
that we can afford are in flea bag hotels in bad neighborhoods. I cant
do that to you, Sally."
"So we have
to spend our wedding night necking in the backseat of a car with an
audience in the front seat." She shook her head briskly, trying to stop
the tears from coming. "This is just like high school, Pete. Ive
never heard of anything less romantic."
my idea of heaven, either," Pete said. "But I want to be married to
you, Sally. I want to know youll be waiting for me when I get
home. If I get home."
Sally held him again, holding on just as tight as she could. "Please,
please dont talk like that! You have so much to live for!"
all I want," he said, his voice quaking. "Just you, Sally."
"Pete, I want
you, too," she insisted. "But if we get married this way all well
have a marriage license. No wedding night, no honeymoon
"I know, but
its better than nothing. At least well be able to
as soon as I get home. Thatll give me the biggest
incentive in the world to come home safely."
She looked up
at him, her expression filled with sadness. She rested her head on his
chest, her eyes welling up with tears. "Im sorry, Pete. Im
sorry Ive always said no. I know how much you wanted to. I wish"
he said, grasping her arms and holding her so that he could look into
her eyes. "I wouldnt respect a girl who would give in just because
I pressured her. I wish wed been married earlier, but I dont
regret that we didnt
"Are you sure?"
she asked, blinking tears from her eyes. "I cant bear the thought
of your having regrets about the things we didnt do, Pete."
"No," he said,
a brave smile on his handsome face. "I hear the guys talk about the
women theyve been with, and it makes it sound so cheap. I dont
want it to be like that with us, Sally. I want
I want it to be
special. As special as you are."
"Oh, Pete, I
love you so much." She raised stretched up and laced her hands around
his neck, pulling his head down. They kissed for a long time, taking
comfort in each others arms. Their kisses grew in intensity as
Pete stumbled backwards, finding a stool, then he pulled Sally even
closer. The restraint they always exercised in public, and usually exercised
in private vanished. Pete ran his hands across the silky smoothness
of the material that hugged Sallys bottom, his breathing growing
heavy and ragged. She responded with soft, inarticulate groans as he
pulled her body hard against him, crushing her breasts into his chest.
She felt him shiver roughly, and pulled back just enough to see the
longing in his eyes. "I love you," she whispered again.
me," he said, his voice forceful but quiet.
"Oh, God, I
I have to
I need something to drink, Pete. Its so
hot in here, and Im feeling
Ill get you another Coke," he said. He tried to get up, but found
himself temporarily unable to do so.
on him, Sally patted his cheek, whispering, "Ill go for the drinks."
said, smiling shyly. "Youre a pip, sweetheart."
right back," she said, kissing him softly, then boldly letting the tip
of her tongue trace his lips.
"No rush," he
murmured weakly. "I wonder if I can be declared 4-F because of my inability
to stand. Then we wont have a thing to worry about."
"Your ship would
be empty tomorrow if every guy with your condition were exempt," she
teased, casting a glance around the room and taking in the throng of
groping couples. She threaded her way through the crowd, and he stared
after her, watching the delicious sway of her hips.
the Manhattan USO was one of the most crowded places in all of the city.
On any given night the place was filled with servicemen and young women,
but before a troop carrier sailed the building was so full it strained
at the walls. A juke box played loudly, and hundreds of people ringed
the dance floor, watching the couples who tried to dance their cares
Next to the
dance floor, the snack bar was the most popular spot. The sodas were
free and cold, and it seemed as though half of New York was waiting
in line. Sally resigned herself to a long wait, feeling more lightheaded
and dizzy by the moment. The line had barely moved when Pete appeared
and introduced Sally to the tall, dark- haired man who stood next to
him. "Honey, this is Rocco. Rocco, this is my fiancée, Sally."
Leaning in close so she could hear him clearly he said, "The car is
a pretty good subway ride from here, so were gonna go get it now.
Do you want to come with us?"
think I need to cool off first," she said weakly.
worry about it, sweetheart. Well go get it and come right back.
It shouldnt take us more than an hour or so. Will you be okay
here by yourself?"
she said, trying to project a confident tone. "You boys run along. Ill
be waiting for you." Pete kissed her quickly and started to plunge through
the crowd. Sally tried to fill her head with happy thoughts, but she
kept thinking of driving to her wedding with two strange men in the
car and began to feel sick again.
her musings, she turned when she heard a womans voice, low and
strong, admonish someone by saying, "If you dont stay in line,
you wont get a soda. I told you that before, sailor, and I never
forget a face. Now get in line with the other children and I wont
have to send you to the principals office."
at the speaker, her eyes growing wide. Goodness, she looks like she
could take on a lot of these fellas in a bare-knuckle brawl. The
woman in question was tall, taller than any of the women behind the
counter, and topping most of the men in line by a few inches. But it
wasnt her height that attracted Sallys attention
it was her presence. There was something so poised yet powerful about
the woman that Sally made a mental note not to make her angry.
As the thought
floated through her mind, the womans dark eyes landed on her,
and Sally felt herself begin to fidget when she was compelled to return
the look. She heard the deep voice say, "Im due for my break.
Can you girls handle these beasts?"
Gina," the woman next to her said. "Youve been here all day, kid.
Take an hour for dinner."
"I just might
do that," she said. Bending over, she snagged two cold Cokes and slipped
out from behind the counter. Walking down the line she stopped right
in front of Sally, saying, "You look like youre about to faint,
honey. Lets step outside and get you a breath of stale air."
blinked confusedly, looking into the dark, fathomless eyes.
"I said you
dont look so hot. I think its too warm in here for you.
I got you a Coke," she said, extending the cool bottle. "Now lets
go out and drink it."
I dont know
"Trust me, toots.
Youll be face down in no time if you stay in line. Your soldier
boy will forgive you."
all right," Sally said, casting a look through the crowd to see if she
could find Pete before he left.
trust him, huh?" Gina asked, chuckling softly.
"Of course I
do!" Sally glared at the woman, amazed at her nerve. "Were gonna
married, I think is what every dame in here thinks shes
gettin. If I heard that once, I heard it a thousand times."
"No, no, I really
am," Sally said, trying to sound convincing.
say, hon. Youre the boss." Gina put a hand on the blondes
shoulder and guided her out the door and down the rather steep steps.
The heat made the evening nearly as oppressive as it had been inside,
but and it was so humid and close that Sally actually felt worse. The
pungent, acrid smells of the city wafted up to assault her, and she
felt her knees begin to buckle. To Sallys amazement, Gina wrapped
one strong arm around her to stop her from falling, managing to hold
both Cokes in the other hand. "Hold on there, honey," Gina soothed,
depositing her charge onto the steps. Placing the Cokes beside Sally
she quickly pushed the young womans head down until it rested
between her knees. "Breathe normally," she ordered. "Youll feel
better in a minute."
instructions for a few moments, Sally began to struggle, muttering,
"Im a nurf."
The blonde head
lifted when Gina loosened her pressure. "Im a nurse. I know how
to take care of myself."
look like it," Gina said, shaking her head and chuckling again. "You
were almost ass over teakettle on those stairs."
"I was fine,"
Sally sniffed, miffed at the temerity of this stranger calling her professionalism
into question. "I was just about to sit down."
"Uh huh. Thats
what I meant." A mocking smile was still on Ginas face, and Sally
felt some of her normal feistiness come to the fore.
I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but Im quite able to take care
of myself." She started to rise, but felt her vision cloud again and
she quickly sat down. "Ugh." Sally put her head in her hands and took
a deep breath. "I dont feel well."
Gina sat down
next to her, forcing the steady stream of people trying to enter to
stay to the left to avoid hitting them. "Hey, were tryin
to get in here," one of the young servicemen said. "Get off the steps!"
Gina fixed him
with a lethal stare and Sally could nearly see the starch leave the
young mans sails. The blonde laughed softly, saying, "Why are you wasting
your time volunteering at the USO? With that look you could be a general."
eat nails," the brunette scoffed. "I dont take orders, I give
"And just what
do you do?" Sally asked, finding herself interested in exactly who this
unusual woman was.
"I own a grocery
store," the brunette said with a note of pride in her voice. "Well,
I own it along with the rest of my family. Its a nice place on
Im sorry, but I dont know the city. This is my first time
"No! I thought
you was from Queens," Gina said, laughing softly. "I dont know
where that accent is from, hon, but it aint from New York." Giving
her a long, assessing look, Gina said, "Im gonna bet its
from New England."
her hand and Gina did the same. "Sally Compton, Concord, New Hampshire."
head tilted in question. "Youre from Italy?"
no," Gina said. "My parents are, but I was born here in New York. Little
Italy is a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. Its right next to
said, nodding in comprehension. "I dont know where either of those
neighborhoods are, but they sound nice."
are," Gina said. "I love New York, even though it can get a little hot
and humid in the summer. You wouldnt like it in August."
Eyes open wide,
Sally gasped, "This isnt bad?!?"
Gina said, laughing. "I bet its not even eighty degrees tonight.
Itll get a lot worse than this. You should come back in late September
or October. Thats when its really nice."
head, Sally said, "I dont think Ill be coming back. Unless
Pete is sent here on leave or something."
Gina cocked her head. "Are you gonna get hitched soon?"
you could say that. Were supposed to go to Connecticut tonight."
Gina said dryly. "The roads are packed the night before a ship sails."
closest place to New York where you can get married without a waiting
period," Sally said. "I guess it is pretty popular, what with the war
going on and all."
what I hear." Gina reached into her pocket and took out a rumpled pack
of cigarettes. Shaking the pack, she extended one to Sally. "Smoke?"
With the tiniest
look of distaste, Sally said, "No, no thanks. I dont smoke."
surprised," the brunette said, a smile quirking at the corners of her
lips. "I bet you dont drink, either, do you."
Gina lit her
cigarette and blew out a thin, blue stream of smoke. Squinting, she
gave Sally a long look and said, "Feel free to tell me to mind my own
business, but why are you in such a hurry to get married? You in trouble?"
blonde thought for a moment, then blushed a bright pink. "Gosh, no!"
asked, rolling her eyes. "Are you old enough to get married? I think
you have to be sixteen, ya know."
said. "Ill have you know that Im nearly twenty-three years
old. I think that makes me legal in every state."
give you that one. Now, why are you in a hurry to get hitched? Is old
Pete shipping out soon?"
is tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. soon?"
pretty soon," Gina said, rolling her eyes a little. "You uhm
dont look like the type to run away from home to get married.
Is your family gonna be there?"
said, looking glum. "I just made up my mind this morning."
Are you nuts? I give more thought to what Im gonna have for dinner.
When did you meet the guy
"No, of course
not! Ive known Pete since we were seniors in high school."
"And you just
decided to get married today? What gives? Were you afraid youd
be the last people from your class to get hitched?"
the brunette in the ribs. "Weve been engaged for five years, smartie
vicious," Gina said, laughing heartily. "Youve got quite a mouth
on you." Shaking her head the brunette said, "I hate to be a pest, but
if youve been engaged for five years, why the rush? Why didnt
you kids get married in front of ma and pa and all of the other Concordians?"
" The blonde shrugged her shoulders and looked away. "I
I dont know why we havent taken the leap yet."
tough to land, huh?" Gina said, patting the smaller woman on the back.
"Well, dont worry about it. Now that hes facing death hes
finally come around."
The blonde eyebrows
rose and Sally snapped, "Hes been ready since we were seventeen!
Im the one who
" As she heard her voice make the admission
the smaller woman grew quiet, then once again dropped her head into
her hands. "Ive got to get some air. This crowd is driving me
"Come with me,
kid." Gina took her hand and pulled her to her feet, then led her just
a few yards down 43rd Street. They entered a coffee shop
that was cooled by a number of efficient ceiling fans, and when the
circulating air hit her moist skin Sally nearly cried with relief.
been so happy to be anywhere in my life," she sighed, dropping into
a booth. "I cant stay long, though. My fiancé went to borrow
a car. He might be back soon."
"No, he wont
be," Gina said in a dismissive tone.
"I tell you,
that hes itching to get married," Sally insisted.
laughed, her head falling back slightly to allow the full, rich sound
to escape. "Thats not what I meant, kid. Your boyfriend has to
take the number one train from Times Square, then switch to the number
eight bus. By the time he gets back here and finds a place to park,
you could have had a five course dinner."
"What? How do
you know where hes going?"
hes going to get my car."
"Your car? Youre
"Yep. One and
her head on her folded arms and let out a groan. "Great. So now I get
to drive to Connecticut with a woman who knows Im having second
thoughts about getting married. Thats just great."
I dont think youve had first thoughts," Gina said, smirking
as her head shook.
not fair! You dont know me at all!"
"Not yet I dont."
Gina checked her watch and said, "Youve got a good hour to fill
me in." She braced her chin on her fist and gave Sally a bright-eyed,
terribly interested look. "Start anywhere you like."
her eyes and squirmed a bit in the booth, relieved when the waitress
approached up. "Whatll you girls have?" she asked Sally with a
very marked lack of enthusiasm.
"Do you have
made a note and turned. "What about you, hon?" she asked, her gaze growing
more interested as she thoroughly regarded Gina.
With a smile
blooming on her full lips, Gina titled her head and asked, "What do
going someplace nice, but if ya cant afford to, Id tell
ya to get a black and white malt. Theyre not bad, and you look
like you could stand to add a few pounds."
Gina said, the corner of her mouth curling up. "A black and white it
right up," the woman said, turning on her heel and adding a little shimmy
to her walk.
after the woman with a slightly puzzled expression, then turned back
to Gina. "Do you still want to hear my life story?"
we have time to kill I guess Ill give you the whole thing." She
took in a breath and said, "As I told you, I met Pete in high school.
He was my first serious boyfriend, and weve been together ever
since. He wanted to get married right after high school, but my parents
wanted me to go to college. Theyre both teachers and they wanted
me to have the same opportunities to advance myself as they had."
"Uh huh," Gina
said, her dark eyes staring intently at the blonde.
"I got a scholarship
to UNH and
" She saw the blank look on Ginas face and added,
"The University of New Hampshire."
"Got it," the
"Pete and I
didnt get to see a lot of each other while I was in school, but
I think I did the right thing. I got my degree in nursing and that should
help us make a go of it in the long run."
"So, the schools
pretty far away from home, huh?"
yeah, its pretty far. It took me about an hour on the bus."
Gina asked, "How often did you come home?"
replied, "Oh, the usual school holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter."
"I see. Did
Pete go to school, too?"
"No, he didnt
have the money or the interest, so he went to work with his father and
his two older brothers. They own the biggest stationery store in Concord,"
"Two older brothers,
huh?" Gina commented. "Sounds like my family, minus four more kids."
her nose at her new friend, then continued, "So, I finished my degree
and then I decided I had to work for at least a year to see how things
were you worried about?" Gina asked, a grin settling on her full lips.
"Oh, I dont
know. I guess I was afraid that Pete would monopolize all of my free
time. I was starting my first job and I wanted to make sure I got off
to a good start."
"A good start,
huh? Well, did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Get off to
a good start?" Gina asked.
"Oh! I guess
I did. I worked hard and the head nurse in my department seems to like
its time to fly the coop, huh? Get your own place and start cranking
going to be hard to do with Pete away at the war," Sally reminded her.
"We wont even have a night together, since you and Rocco want
to come back to New York. Pete says there arent any hotel rooms
forgive me if Im poking my nose where it doesnt belong,
but are you telling me youre not going to get to
her head. "Pete says the only hotel rooms we can afford are in bad neighborhoods."
time if my sweetheart was shipping out tomorrow, Id sleep in Hitlers
bathroom if I had to. Hell, Id skip the wedding and get right
to the honeymoon!"
again, and narrowed her eyes. "Im not that kind of girl, Gina.
Marriage first, then the honeymoon."
hold it right there. Do you mean to tell me that you and Romeo havent
" She made a V with her fingers and brought them together to indicate
"No, we havent,"
Sally said rather prudishly. "Theres plenty of time for that after
head dropped back again and a full, earthy laugh erupted. Sally found
herself staring, having never seen a lady behave in quite that way.
"You kill me," Gina said. "You positively kill me."
"I suppose you
lie down with any guy who asks?" Sally asked with more than a note of
condemnation in her voice.
"For your information,"
Gina said, sliding her elbows across the table and leaning over as close
as she could, "Ive never lied down with any guy at all."
primly corrected primly.
schoolmarm, Ive never lain down with a guy." The waitress chose
this that moment to approach the table, sliding a pair of tall glasses
onto the Formica. She spared a wink for Gina, who was now blushing a
the waitress was out of earshot, Sally whispered, "So, youre making
fun of me, and youve never even had s-e-x."
in the booth with a superior smile, Gina crossed her arms over her chest
and said, "I didnt say that. I said Ive never had s-e-x
with a m-a-n."
Sally asked, "What else is there?"
dope. I have sex with women."
Sally sat motionless,
stunned silence reigning over the booth. "You can do that?" she finally
and let out a yawn, her long frame taking up the entire side of the
booth. "Oh, yeah, trust me. You can do that. Its pretty damned
easy, as well as a hell of a lot of fun."
had no idea," Sally said, still in shock.
"No idea? The
idea of women with women hasnt hit New Hampshire?"
reach me in Concord, if it has," Sally admitted. "I mean, every town
has a couple of prissy men that people whisper about, but Ive
never heard of women doing anything like that."
to New York," Gina said, chuckling heartily. "Men with men, women with
women, men with women, hell, cats lie down with dogs here."
her head, giving her new friend a wary glance.
about the cats and dogs," she said. "I think."
Taking a long
sip of her lemonade, Sally then sat back against the booth, seemingly
deep in thought. "My father always said New York was a strange place.
I bet he doesnt know how right he was."
"Hey! I dont
like being called strange," Gina said, obviously hurt.
"Oh, gosh! I
didnt mean you. I just meant that its so
here and it seems strange to me. I think youre really nice, Gina.
You dont seem strange at all."
the brunette said, nodding her forgiveness. "So, if youre over
the shock of my wild life, lets talk about you and Pete. I noticed
that you didnt marry him after high school because your education
was more important than getting married. Then you didnt marry
him last year because you didnt want him to take up all of your
free time. Uhm
isnt that what youre supposed to want?
Isnt that why you marry someone?"
head dropped and she sat very still for a few moments. "I suppose so,"
she said admitted quietly. "At least, thats what my friends say,
at least. They cant wait to be with their boyfriends." She lifted
her chin and said, "Ive never been like that. I want to have my
own life, Gina. I want what I want, and I dont think Ill
be able to make my own decisions once Im married. I was so happy
when I was in college," she said wistfully. "I would have stayed for
ten years if theyd have let me."
the dark- haired woman mused. "You sure havent been in a hurry
to get married so far. Why agree now?"
I guess I thought it was the least I could do
for the war effort,
missed that recruiting poster," Gina said. "I have a Victory Garden,
and I treat my hose like theyre made outta gold, but Id
have to say no to Uncle Sam himself if he asked me to get married."
"You know what
I mean," Sally said, waving her new friend off.
"I have no idea
what you mean," Gina said. "How does marrying a guy help the war?"
be so unhappy if I say no," Sally explained. "I dont want him
shipping off for Europe and going to fight if hes all down in
said, her voice growing serious and soft. "Theres nothing you
can do to keep him safe. If you marry him, if you get pregnant tonight,
if you go to church ten times a day. There is nothing nothing
you can do to bring him back safe and whole. Married guys get killed.
Married guys with a young son and another baby on the way
said, her voice choking with tears. She lowered her head and cried softly
while Sally reached across the table and gripped her hand.
"Yeah. My oldest
brother Vito. He was killed six months ago in France. My sister-in-law,
Angela works in the store with us. She had the baby a couple of weeks
ago. Named him Vito Junior." She shook her head and wiped the tears
from her eyes. "I can hardly call the baby by his name."
so sorry," Sally whispered. "Im so very sorry."
"I am, too,"
the brunette said. "Vito loved his family like nobodys business,
and if he couldnt keep himself safe, nobody can. Its the
luck of the draw, Sally,, and if Petes lucky, hell come
home whether or not hes married."
"I just thought
that knowing I was waiting for him would make him happy," the younger
woman said, a few tears rolling down her cheeks.
for her hand and patted it gently. "Im sure it would, kid, but
what happens if you decide its not right for you? How will he
feel if he gets home and you get divorced in a year or two?"
get divorced!" Sally said. "Even if I wasnt happy, Id never
do that to Pete!"
"Then wait for
him to come home," Gina urged. "Spend the time hes away trying
to decide if this is what you really want. Marriage is a life sentence,
Sally. Dont do it unless there isnt a doubt in your mind."
She squeezed the younger womans hand and looked directly into
her eyes. "You have a lot of doubts, dont you?"
"Yes, yes, I
do," she said. Her head bowed and she admitted, "I love Pete, but sometimes
I think of him like a brother. But we
we kissed tonight at the
USO and I felt some things Ive never felt, and that gave me hope."
"Yes, hope that
someday Ill want him like he wants me. He loves me so much, Gina,
he really wants to be with me."
think you can make yourself love someone, Sally, no matter how much
you want to. And Im sure you cant make yourself want to
sleep with a guy if its not in you."
"But what do
I do?" the younger woman asked, her blue eyes wide.
"I think you
tell Pete that youll wait for him, and then spend the time youre
apart trying to figure out whats stopping you from loving him.
Maybe being apart will give you the spark youve been missing.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, if you believe what you hear."
"Do you really
think I should do that?" Sally asked. "Thats what my mother thinks,
know best," Gina said. "My mom knows me better than anyone on earth."
"Does she know
that you like
"Yeah, she does,
but we dont talk about it. She lets me know in other ways that
shes on my side, though. When my girlfriend broke up with me,
my mom came over and hugged me for a long time. Then she kissed me and
said, She was never good enough for you, Gina."
really sweet," Sally said. "She must love you very much."
"She does. We
have a very close family. Darned good thing since were breathing
down each others necks all day long."
Petes family," Sally said. She shook her head and said, "Ill
never be able to face his mother if I dont marry him. Shell
have all of Concord turned against me by the time I get home."
no reason to get married," Gina said sternly. "You can run away and
join the circus if you have to, but getting married to please other
people is just stupid."
"I wouldnt be the first one to do it.," Sally shrugged.
"No, you sure
wouldnt," Gina agreed. "Thats why my girlfriend left me.
She couldnt stand to disappoint her parents, so she married some
guy she barely knew. Shes so unhappy shes ready to take
rat poison, but her parents are pleased as punch." She shook her head,
her face set in a resigned scowl. "She calls me all the time, but I
wont see her. She made her bed and Im not gonna lie in it
"Oh, Gina, Im
so sorry. You must have been devastated. How long were you together?"
she said. "I still love Joanne, and she still loves me, but she could
never grow up enough to make her own decisions. Now a guy she barely
knows makes em for her."
so sad," Sally sighed.
"It is, and
thats part of the reason Im being so blunt with you. I dont
want you to make the same mistake."
then looked at her watch. "Wed better get back. Pete and Rocco
should be back soon."
Taking the check,
Gina pulled her wallet from her purse, saying, "Ill get this one.
Depending on what you do, itll be a wedding or an independence
* * *
The pair walked
back into the USO, the crowd having not thinned in the hour theyd
were been gone. "Well never find them," Sally said.
"Sure we will."
Gina went to the soda counter and pulled out a case full of bottles.
She climbed up onto it and scouted all around the room, looking down
at Sally to say, "No sign of em. Theyre probably stuck in
traffic." Gina jumped down and guided Sally to the least crowded corner
of the room, but a bevy of servicemen hunted them down immediately.
After the sixth forlorn man was sent away Gina said, "Lets dance.
With any luck, no one will cut in."
and followed the tall woman to the dance floor. Gina put on her most
menacing look and rested one hand lightly on Sallys hip while
holding their clasped hands aloft. There were quite a few pairs of women
dancing since there was always a shortage of willing male partners.
The band broke into one of Sallys favorite songs, and she nestled
close as Gina smoothly led her through the steps. "I always want to
dance to this number, but Pete wont come anywhere near a dance
floor," she said.
know why guys cant figure out that women love to dance," Gina
said, chuckling softly. "Theyd do so much better with the ladies
if theyd just take a couple of lessons and quit standing on the
sidelines. There must be two hundred guys drooling at us like wolves,
but not one of em has the guts to ask us to dance."
"I wonder why?"
Sally asked absently, feeling very fluid and graceful under Ginas
lead. "Youre a very good partner."
brunette said. "Its a nice way for me to meet women, too." She
looked down to gauge Sallys reaction, pleased when her glance
was met with a smile.
imagine you have too much trouble finding a date. I saw the way the
waitress was flirting with you. I didnt catch on at first, but
after you told me about your
life, I noticed it."
my type," Gina said. "Besides, Ive been pretty leery of getting
involved with anyone ever since Joanne and I broke up. I think Im
a little battle scarred."
had my heart broken," Sally said. "It must be awful."
"Yeah, it sure
as hell stings. I dont like to date much, to tell you the truth.
Im a relationship kind of girl. When I meet someone I want to
be with, I really want to be with her. Why keep looking when you find
what you want?"
"I guess Im
the same way," Sally said. "But that must be pretty obvious, since Petes
been my only real boyfriend."
isnt the time to bring it up, but have you ever considered that
Pete just isnt the right guy for you? Maybe thats why youre
not ready to marry."
"No, I dont
thing so," Sally said. "Ive never met a man I like more than Pete.
Hes everything Ive ever said I wanted, Gina, really."
"I believe you,
Sally. But you have to admit you havent seen much of the world.
Maybe you need to get out and meet a different kind of guy. Heck, maybe
youre a big city kinda girl."
Sally gave her
an embarrassed smile and said, "Youre gonna laugh, but I considered
joining the WACS or the WAVES. They need all the nurses they can get,
but my family and Pete talked me out of it. They all think its
far too dangerous."
have to take a few risks to make life worth living," Gina said.
As the song
finished, Sally stood still and then gave the taller woman a wide grin.
"This is really my favorite song. I love Moonlight Serenade.
I could listen to this song for hours."
back. "Me too.," Gina grinned back. She slid her hand around to the
younger womans back and pulled her body a little closer. "Lets
show em what weve got, okay?"
Sally held on
tight and let the music and Ginas strong, yet supple body glide
her around the floor. They moved beautifully together, thigh pressing
against thigh, Ginas breasts barely resting atop Sallys;
their bodies so close that each could feel the others heartbeat.
Sally leaned into the larger woman, feeling safe and protected and calmer
than she had in days. Dreamily, she followed her graceful steps, wishing
the music would never end.
loud voices broke the spell and Sally felt Petes hand squeeze
her shoulder. "Were back."
With her eyes
darting from Gina to Pete, Sally gulped and steeled her courage. Grabbing
Pete by the hand, she led him to the quietest corner of the room. "Pete,"
she began, but before she could get out another word he said, "Sally,
Im so sorry, but we dont have a car. Rocco was speeding
and when the police stopped us he didnt have a valid license.
They impounded Ginas car."
He looked like
he was about to cry, and Sally felt her whole body flood with relief.
"Oh, sweetheart, how horrible! Are you all right?"
Im all right. But we cant get married, honey. Weve
been knocking our heads together for the last hour, but we cant
think of another way to get there. The last train to Connecticut has
already left, and I dont have enough money for a cab. Were
up at him, seeing the deep disappointment in his eyes. "We could pool
our money and get a hotel room," she offered, as much to her own surprise
as Petes. "I cant bear to see you so disappointed."
Youd really do that for me?"
"Of course I
would," she soothed, hoping that she could find the courage to do so.
the most wonderful girl in the world, Sally, but I could never do that
to you. No decent fella would ever try to sneak a girl like you into
a hotel room. You deserve the whole magilla, honey, and when I get back
thats just what youre gonna get. Well have a big wedding
in Concord with both of our families and all of our friends. Just like
youve always dreamed of." He pulled her to himself and hugged
her fiercely. "It means so much to me that youve finally said
yes, that it hardly matters when we get married. I want to make sure
our wedding is everything youve ever wanted."
"Oh, Pete, I
dont know how I ever got so lucky."
He kissed her,
and to her horror she felt the old sisterly feelings return. She wanted
the kiss to end, so she put her arms around him and held him tightly,
burying her face in the wool of his jacket.
Gina and Rocco
approached and it was obvious that Rocco had been given a lengthy lecture.
"Apologize," Gina demanded.
The man gave
Sally a sheepish look and said, "Im really, really sorry. I swear
I was just trying to get back in time for you to make it to Connecticut."
okay, Rocco. It could happen to anyone. Itll all work out all
right in the end."
"Do you have
any place to stay tonight?" Gina asked.
no, I dont," Sally said. "Neither does Pete."
"I can take
Pete to my house," Rocco offered. "Ill sleep on the floor and
he can have my bed. Its the least I can do."
welcome to come home with me, Sally," Gina offered.
to Pete and he nodded. "I guess thats best for both of us. Its
almost 11, and thats when they close here."
The band stopped
playing and someone made the announcement that it was closing time.
The crowd began to file out, the couple being buffeted by the moving
throng. Gina and Rocco stayed in place alongside the pair, discretely
waiting for the couple to join the crowd. "I cant bear to leave
you," Pete said, looking at Sally with a depth of sadness she had never
seen in his eyes.
go outside so we can have a few minutes alone," Sally
not much, but its all we have."
The tried to
find a quiet corner, but there wasnt an inch of unoccupied space
on 42nd Street. Gina and Rocco were trying to stay in the
background, but they were clearly visible in Sallys peripheral
vision. Swallowing her discomfort, she hugged Pete and tilted her chin,
waiting for his kiss.
of Petes embrace caught Sally by surprise. They were in the middle
of one of the busiest streets in the world, yet he was kissing her with
an abandon that hed never shown when they were alone. The depth
of his need finally became clear to her and her heart ached with sorrow
over how little his fervid kisses affected her. She noticed the crowd
and each person passing by, she saw Gina and Rocco, she saw the neon
signs garishly illuminating the street. Worst of all, she saw the desire
in Pete's eyes and she couldn't avoid the fact that all she felt was
love, not lust.
After an interminable
length of time, Pete backed away, his eyes glazed over. "We have to
stop," he panted, "or we wont be able to."
with all of her heart that she could echo his feelings, but instead
she gave him a small smile and nodded. "I suppose we might as well get
left the building together, and but when they reached the Times Square
subway they had to split up. "We have to take different train lines,"
up at Pete and froze. "I
I cant believe we have to say
good-bye," she said, her tears starting to flow. "Im gonna miss
you so much."
Pete held her
tight. "I love you, Sally. Even though we didnt get married tonight,
youve made me the happiest man on earth. I love you with all my
heart, and I promise that Ill be as careful as I can be."
tears she managed to say, "I love you, Pete. Please come home safe and
He kissed her
again and then pulled himself from her grip when Rocco signaled that
their train had arrived. "I love you!" he called out as he hopped aboard
the subway car.
against Gina, sobbing so hard that she felt sick to her stomach. The
taller woman wrapped an arm around her and let her cry herself out,
never rushing her. She just held on and offered what small comfort she
passed, and they were very long minutes for Gina. Seeing the happy young
couples running for trains, many of the men in uniform made her think
of her brother Vito. By the time Sally started to pull away Gina was
in tears and Sally immediately tightened her hold on the other woman,
glad that she could partially repay some of the kindnesses she had been
few moments, Gina stood tall and wiped her eyes on a crisply ironed
handkerchief that she pulled from her purse. Then she dabbed at Sallys
eyes, shaking her head and saying, "People are going to think were
awfully upset that we didnt make that last train."
Looking up at
her with a few tears still welling up, Sally said, "Wouldnt it
be nice if that were the least of our troubles?"
Gina agreed. She tucked an arm around Sallys waist and said, "Weve
got a little walk to get to our train line. Ready?"
woman looked around. "Ive been in such a daze that I havent
had a minute to be terrified of this place! How do you know where to
go? Ive never seen so many people in such a hurry in all my life!"
"This is Saturday
night, honey. This is a crawl compared to Monday morning. Thats
when its really a madhouse."
"Are you serious?"
Sally was staring at her new friend with amazement.
"Yeah, of course.
Theres a couple of million people running around this island every
day, and in reality Manhattan isnt all that large. Hell, you could
walk across it in an hour if you kept a good pace."
Sally gave her
a nearly blank look, then Gina saw a few sparks of life flicker in the
bright blue eyes. "You know, theres something exciting about this
place. Theres an electricity in the air that you can almost feel
in the air."
With a smile
that grew to luminous proportions Gina said, "You arent the first
to mention that, but Im damned glad to hear it." Tightening her
grip, she guided Sally through the maze of the Times Square station,
managing to arrive on the proper platform a few minutes later.
"I asked you
before, but this time I want an answer," Sally said. "How do you know
where to go?"
said, "Its not that hard, especially if youve been riding
the subway all your life. Every line has either a letter or a number
that identifies it. Our train is a one or a two. It eventually goes
to Brooklyn, but it stops in the Village on the way."
"Yeah, I live
in Greenwich Village."
face was filled with excitement. "Ive read about Greenwich Village.
It has a lot of history, doesnt it?"
"Yeah, I guess
it does," Gina admitted. "The main reason I like it is because its
close to my family, but not too close to my family. They have to call
before they waste the time taking the cross-town bus. If I still lived
in Little Italy, theyd pop in any time they wanted to."
"So you have
your own place?" Sally asked, looking a little suspicious.
Im an adult, and I had to prove that to my parents by getting
my own apartment. They didnt like it, but I needed my independence."
"Gosh, I cant
imagine what that must be like," Sally said somewhat dreamily.
your own place?"
her head, Sally said, "No, having your independence."
With a frighteningly
loud screech of metal on metal, the train pulled up to the platform
and Gina urged Sally into a seat. The car was crowded, and since Sally
had taken the last available spot, Gina stood and held on to a strap
above Sallys head. "Is it safe to stand up?" Sally asked, eyes
fine. I do it all the time."
The blonde tried
to believe her new friend, but just in case, she reached out and held
on to the hem of her skirt, Gina looking down at her thoughtful but
futile gesture with an indulgent smile.
* * *
They got off
the train at Christopher Street and Gina laid out their options. "We
can use our transfers and take the number eight bus, or we can walk."
"How far is
it?" Sally asked.
only six short blocks."
walk then," Sally said. "I want to see more of this place. Things go
by too fast on a bus."
They began to
walk towards the Hudson River, with Gina pointing out every building
and street of any significance whatsoever. After Sally had peppered
her with dozens of questions, the taller woman said, "You seem to have
been bitten by the New York bug."
either love Manhattan or they hate it. Its a hard city to be ambivalent
at her with astonishment. "How could you hate it here? Its absolutely
what I think," Gina said, "but you yourself said that your father told
you it was strange here."
"Yes, he did,"
Sally said. "Hes had to come here for some conventions, and every
time he swears he wont come back. He acts like the city is filled
with nothing but con artists and loose women."
"We have our
fair share of both," Gina said, smiling. "But we also have a lot of
people who are just as nice and wholesome as the purest New Hampshirian."
thats true," Sally agreed. "Youre one of the nicest people
Ive ever met, so it must be true."
said, a little embarrassed by the comment. They walked along in silence
for another block, turning onto a quiet, tree-lined, cobble stoned street.
Elaborately turned wrought iron light posts gave the picturesque street
a warm, golden glow, and Sally gasped in delight.
"What a lovely
said. "Welcome to Weehawken Street."
the cutest name Ive ever heard," Sally decided with such authority
that Gina didnt dare contradict her.
Reaching a dark
red brick building with painted white window frames Gina said, "Here
she is. I hope you dont mind a walk-up."
at the eight stone steps leading up to wooden double doors and said,
"No, I dont mind."
negotiating the steep stoop, they entered a small vestibule and began
to climb. By the time they reached the fifth floor, Sally realized she
did, in fact, mind a walk up apartment. She was about to cry for mercy,
while Ginas long legs let her glide up the stairs effortlessly.
Gasping for air, Sally practically fell into the apartment when Gina
opened the door. She immediately sank into an upholstered chair, trying
to catch her breath before she realized there was barely an extra molecule
of air in the place.
over and opened both front windows, then turned on a fan, but that did
little to help. The apartment was hot and stuffy in a way that Sally
had not imagined possible, and the look on her face must have telegraphed
its so hot in here," Gina said. "I think the neighborhood is safe
enough, but I always close it up tight when I leave. Theres a
fire escape right outside my windows and I dont want to invite
a cat burglar in. I promise the place will cool down within a half hour."
"Half an hour?"
Sally panted. "Ill never make it."
"Come on," Gina
said. "Ive got some summer pajamas you can put on. Thatll
help." She walked over to a chest built into the wall and pulled out
a pair of baby doll pajamas. Handing them to Sally she said, "I dont
think Ive ever worn these. My mother thinks Im still a teenager,
and she tries to get me to dress like I did when I was one."
be big, but theyre cute," Sally said, admiring the lightweight
is right there," Gina said, pointing to one of two doorways.
be right back." Sally went into the pink and black tiled room, smiling
at the homey touches that Gina had added. There were small, framed photographs
on the walls, and a basket of guest towels and decorative soaps artistically
arranged. Cute, she thought to herself. Not at all what I
expected. Her curiosity got the best of her and she snuck a peek
into the medicine cabinet, rather dismayed to find the usual assortment
of headache remedies, Band-Aids and other mundane bromides. The room
was sparkling clean and as neat as a pin though, and that impressed
Sally a great deal. After she had changed she went back into the living
room. "I feel better already," she said, smiling.
"I knew you
would," Gina said. "Heres a cold glass of lemonade. That should
help, too." Gina held up a bundle of cloth and said, "Im gonna
put on my pajamas too, dont go away."
"Go right ahead,"
Sally said. Taking a sip of the drink she added, "This is delicious!"
"Thanks. I made
it myself, with lemons from our market. We have the best produce in
the city." The tall woman gave her friend a quick wink, then went to
While she was
gone, Sally looked around the tidy, but small, orderly place. It looked
like Gina had lived there for a while, mainly because of the decorative
flourishes that graced the walls. Nothing was out of place, and it was
clear that she had tried to get as much into the living space as she
could, without making it look overstuffed.
over to the bookcases and looked idly at the titles, surprised that
many of them were written in Italian. One shelf of English language
books dealt exclusively with wine, while another was nothing but cookbooks.
Sally noted that quite a few books dealt with the history of New York
as well as of Liguria, and she guessed that must be a city in Italy.
and found her new friend looking over her small library. "Anything look
good?" she asked.
"Oh! I hope
you dont mind," Sally said. Cocking her head, she asked, "Do you
like to read?"
"Yeah, a whole
lot," Gina said. "My family makes fun of me for it, but Ive been
a bookworm since I was a kid. My moms parents are barely literate,
Sally. Ive been given so many opportunities just because I was
born in America. I feel like I need to use the gifts Ive been
The tall woman
walked across the room to put her clothing away and Sally looked at
her with increasing curiosity. Such an enigma, she thought. She
seems so rough and tough, but shes really a neat little bookworm.
Gosh, Id love to have someone to talk about books with. Pete acts
like his brain will burst if he reads more than the sports page.
Gina went into
the kitchen and reappeared with a bowl filled with ice cubes. While
she moved across the room Sally took a good look at her outfit. She
was wearing traditional mens summer pajamas striped top
and shorts but she had removed the sleeves from the top. She
had done so carefully, and the seams had been neatly sewn, but it still
looked rather odd. "I made these myself," she said, with a note of hesitation
in her voice. "Do they look funny?"
"No, not at
all," Sally lied. "They seem very practical."
are," the brunette agreed. "Im a pretty practical person, and
I like to wear as little as possible in the summer. I cant stand
to wear nightgowns, though. I always get tangled up in em. This
seemed like the best solution."
her attention back to the books. "Do you speak Italian?"
"Oh, sure. My
parents were born in Italy, and my grandparents are still there. We
speak Italian at home and at the store most of the time."
"Do you ever
visit your grandparents?"
"Yeah, I do.
Not very often, of course, and not since the war started." Her brow
furrowed with worry and she softly said, "I pray every night that the
fighting doesnt reach them."
"You poor thing,"
Sally said. "Youve really had a bad year, havent you."
scratched her head, looking strangely childlike as she did so. "I guess
I have," she admitted. "I just hope it gets better rather than worse."
"I hope so,
too," Sally said, impulsively giving her a quick, impulsive hug.
lift her arms, she just stood there, rigid and stiff. When Sally released
her the larger woman gave her a forced-looking smile. "Want to see my
favorite place in all of New York?" she asked, her voice pitched a little
dressed like this?"
"Sure. No one
will see us." Gina led the way into the kitchen. She unlocked and opened
the back door, then began to climb a ladder that extended up through
the roof that covered the back landing. Sally gamely followed her and
stopped in amazement when her head peeked out into the space. To her
surprise, Gina had transformed the rooftop into a beautiful garden,
complete with cut barrels filled with lush green plants, a few garden
benches, and a small café table and two chairs. "This is my heaven,"
the taller woman said proudly.
the rest of the way and stood on the roof, surveying all that surrounded
her. "Im stunned," she murmured.
"In case you
didnt guess from my books, Im crazy about wine. Both of
my grandfathers are vintners, and Ive got the bug. Im trying
a few things with some cuttings that I got the last time I visited,
and I think some of them are going to be great."
growing grapes?" Sally asked, fingering some of the curly tendrils that
cascaded down from the robust plants.
"Yep. I use
the basement of the store to actually make the wine, but the grapes
seem to love it here. They think theyre in Liguria," she said,
"Is that where
your family is from?"
"Uh huh. One
of the most beautiful places in the world. Every time I visit Im
tempted to stay, but Im always glad when I get back home."
have been very bad for your parents to have to leave," Sally said. "We
read about the horrible conditions of the Italian immigrants when I
was in school."
to giggle, making herself look young and girlish. "We didnt come
over here on coffin ships," she said. "My parents are from the Italian
Riviera, Sally. My grandparents live about an hour from Portofino."
Gina said. "Its a very nice place. But my father was the fifth
son, and he didnt want to spend his life working for his older
brothers. My mother and father were dating at the time and he talked
her into moving to the United States right before the First World War."
"Oh! I just
"Yeah, I know,
all Italians are poor immigrants from Sicily, and most of us are connected
to the mob."
think that!" the blonde said. But a long look from Gina made her admit
the truth. "I guess I did think that."
Gina said. "Thats the impression that most people have. And its
true that most Italians here in the Northeast are descended from Sicilians.
Theres nothing in the world wrong with Sicily, by the way, but
its not the only region in Italy."
to know more about Italy," Sally said. "I feel like such a dope!"
worry about it," Gina said. "I dont know a thing about New Hampshire.
I probably couldnt find it on a map."
"I bet you know
more about New Hampshire than I know about grapes or wine," Sally said.
"This is all so beautiful, Gina! Its a work of art."
she said quietly. "I love it here so much that Im pretty protective
of it. I have to trust a girl before Ill let her see my secret
glad that you decided to trust me," Sally said, her smile beaming in
"I trusted you
by the time I handed you the Coke," the taller woman teased. "Now Im
going to get a glass of Vermentino. Would you like more lemonade?"
"No, I want
some wine, if thats what Verma whatever is."
wine," Gina said. "Are you sure? You told me you dont drink."
for a drink," Sally decided. "Its not every day I declare at least
a little bit of my independence."
up," the brunette said, a warm smile on her lips.
a few minutes later to find Sally leaning against the waist high ledge
that surrounded the place. "Having fun?" she asked quietly, placing
a pair of wine glasses on the smooth, flat concrete.
and regarded her seriously. "I should be having one of the worst nights
of my life, but Im enjoying myself tremendously," she said. "I
feel horribly guilty about that, but I really am having a nice time."
too short to feel guilt," Gina said, her voice strong and sure. "I learned
a long time ago that you do the best you can. You apologize when you
hurt someone, you try to right the wrongs youve committed, but
you cant feel guilty when you think youve done the right
thing." She grasped Sallys arms and turned her so they faced each
other. "Do you think you did the right thing?"
hesitate. "Yes. I know I did."
her one of the glasses. "Then theres no reason not to feel just
fine." She took her own glass and clinked it with against her friends
visitors. "To peace, and to the safety of all those we love."
Taking a small
sip, Sally let the unfamiliar liquid sit on her tongue for a moment,
then swallowed, feeling its gentle warmth as it slid down her throat.
Her head cocked, and she looked up at Gina in surprise. "This is good,"
she said. Taking another sip, she wrinkled her nose and said, "Actually,
Guerrieri made this," Gina declared. "Hes a very good winemaker.
I dont mean to brag, but this is a great wine and one of the classics
of our region. Very light and crisp, but with a soft finish." Gina swirled
the wine, then took a hearty sniff, her nose deep in the glass. She
took a sip, and Sally could see her moving the liquid around in her
mouth, then opening her mouth and taking in a breath before she swallowed.,
" Gina closed her eyes and thought for a moment. "Almond,
pears and a little bit of fruit. Can you taste the fruit on your tongue?"
"Gosh, I dont
think so," Sally said, trying hard and failing to come up with anything
at all on her tongue. "But its good!"
"I guess thats
all that really matters, isnt it?" Gina asked. "Lets have
a seat and drink a toast to my grandfather for making a good wine."
They sat on
the ledge and looked down the silent street, each of them lost in her
own thoughts for a few minutes. "This has been the most amazing day
of my life," Sally said quietly. "I made the biggest decision of my
life, then reneged on it, then got away without Pete knowing that I
was backing out."
her head and said, "We didnt have any time to talk once the boys
came back. Had you made up your mind? Were you going to back out?"
head nodded as she began to speak, "Yes, I was. I thought about what
you said, and you were right, Gina. If I loved Pete like I say I do,
I would have married him long ago. I do love him, but I love him more
like a brother than a husband. He deserves a wife, not someone who flinches
when he touches her."
Gina was silent,
she just nodded in agreement and stared down the street again. A few
more minutes passed, an occasional door closed, and a few quiet voices
could be heard from somewhere up the block, but everything sounded so
muffled from their rooftop that Sally felt as if they were on their
own little island. "Ive never felt so peaceful," she said, her
voice nearly a whisper.
"I start to
feel calm as soon as I come up here," Gina said. "No matter how stressful
a day I have, the pressure in my chest starts to ease when my head pokes
out of that stairway."
love to have a place like this," Sally murmured. "Sometimes my work
can be a little overwhelming and Id love to have a little nook
where I could be alone."
have one," Gina said, giving Sally a shy look. Both women turned toward
the street again, neither speaking for a long while.
A faint throat
clearing caused Gina to look at the blonde. Sally wasnt looking
back at her, she was staring straight ahead. "How did you know you wanted
be with other girls?"quietly
The taller woman
had expected the question, and she gave the only answer shed ever
been able to come up with. "I cant really say, Sally. Ive
always felt this way. Its the only way I know."
it bother you that most people would"
"Like to see
people like me locked up?" Gina asked, laughing derisively. "Of course
it does. But that doesnt mean it isnt right for me. Only
I know whats best for me, and there isnt a person on heaven
or earth who knows me better than I know myself. I am who I am, Sally,
and I dont really care why Im this way. Im happy with
who I am, and thats all that matters."
"Gosh, I wish
I felt that way," Sally said softly. "I guess Ive always tried
to please my parents and Pete first. It never really struck me that
I had to please myself, too."
"You do," Gina
said, now staring down the street herself. "If theres one gift
I can give you, it would be that," she said. "You have to get to know
yourself, then live your life as you please."
"But how can
I do that?" the younger woman asked plaintively. "I live with my parents,
and they expect me to do things their way. We eat when and what they
want, we listen to the radio programs my father likes, we subscribe
to the magazines he likes. Heck, we even have to like the Red Sox, even
though Ive always secretly rooted for the Yankees."
softly, "A fellow Yankee fan, huh?"
"Yeah, but dont
tell anyone in New Hampshire I told you," Sally said, giving her a wink.
"My lips are
sealed." Gina twisted her lips as though she were buttoning them, making
I know your advice is good, but how do I actually do any of it? My life
isnt significantly different than it was when I was in the eighth
grade, and Im almost twenty-three! My parents will never let me
live an independent life."
Her brow furrowed
and Gina looked directly into Sallys eyes. "You cant ask
for independence," she said firmly. "You have to take it. Sometimes
you have to fight for it."
the talk of Concord if I moved out," Sally said. "My father is the principal
of Concord High. Everyone in town knows him, Gina. Every time I leave
the house I have dozens of spies just waiting for me to do something
wrong so they can rat on me."
Waiting a beat
to offer a suggestion, Gina said, "Maybe Concord isnt the best
place for you."
Sally was silent
for a few moments, letting the thought sink in. "Ive never, ever
seriously considered leaving," she said, her voice soft and wistful.
"Have you thought
about it, even if you werent being serious?" Gina asked.
her answer, and after a moments hesitation she decided to trust
Gina. "Yes. Ive dreamed about it," she admitted. "I go to the
library sometimes and read The New Yorker. I read the reviews
of plays and things that are happening in New York, and I dream about
living here one day. But its always felt like a childish dream."
not a childish dream," Gina said. "Thats a wish. You can make
your own wishes come true if they mean enough to you."
"Can I?" Sally
asked quietly. "Can I really?"
Once again Gina
didnt face her. She continued to stare down the quiet street.
"You can," she said. Her voice, while still soft, gained intensity.
Not quite knowing
what she was going to do, and not at all sure of why she was doing it,
Sally reached over and rested her hand on Ginas cheek. She took
a breath, leaned in and kissed the full, pink lips, feeling almost no
response from the larger woman. Pulling back in confusion, Sally gasped,
"Im so sorry! I dont know why I did that!"
at her for a moment, her expression and demeanor remarkably calm. She
blinked slowly, then said, "I dont believe you."
stood upright and stared at the woman.
"I said I dont
believe you. When a girl like you kisses someone, she knows why."
embarrassed, Sally turned her back and walked to the where bench where
she delicately sat down. She was quiet for a moment, then said, "I wanted
to kiss you, Gina. Im not sure why, other than because I feel
so drawn to you. Ive
never felt like this about a woman,"
she said, looking down at the ground.
There was a
moment or two of dead silence, then Gina said, "I dont believe
respond immediately. She forced nearly fatal embarrassment aside and
made herself think for a few moments. To her surprise, she had to admit
something to Gina, and to herself. "I have had a few
some women," she said quietly.
"Uh huh." Gina
looked at her and waited for more.
talk about them," Sally said. "I
Im too embarrassed." Feeling
a few hot tears on her cheeks, she dropped her head and let and could
feel a few hot tears on her cheater body curl into a near fetal position
and she moved away from Gina while she cried piteously.
Gina sat down
on the bench, but didnt touch or speak to the shaken woman for
a long while, letting Sally struggle with her emotions on her own. Finally,
when the sobs slowed and then stopped, she said, "Youre not the
first girl to feel this way, Sally. Its nothing to be ashamed
of, and its not something thats gonna kill ya."
"Easy for you
to say," Sally mumbled.
not," Gina said, her voice rising a bit. "Its not easy for me
at all. Ive talked to dozens of girls who feel just like you do.
Hell, I feel just like you do. Its not the worst thing in the
world, unless you let it be."
Looking at her
with a tremendous sadness in her eyes, Sally asked, "Does this mean
Im like you?"
snapped, getting up from the bench to move to the wall. Leaning over
a bit, she pulled a cigarette out of the pack shed brought and
a moment, slightly afraid of the taller woman when she looked so angry.
She got up when Ginas shoulders lost some of their tension, and
she tentatively approached her. "Im sorry," she said softly. "I
didnt mean that to sound like it did."
"How did you
mean it to sound?" Gina asked, her voice hard.
know.," Sally said. She stood next to Gina and looked down the street,
watching a young couple enter an apartment building. "This is all so
new and confusing for me," Sally said. "Ive barely let myself
think about women, much less kiss one." She turned and rubbed the bridge
of her nose with her fingers. "Im very sorry I kissed you, Gina.
I dont know why, but I thought you might be interested in me
"I am," Gina
said, touching Sallys shoulder and turning her back around. She
looked into her eyes and said, "I saw how you looked at me at the USO,
and I thought you might be interested in me."
did I look at you?"
"When you were
in line. Every time I spoke, you were staring at me;, and when I looked
at you, you blushed like a schoolgirl. I thought you were blushing because
Id caught you staring."
her head, wishing a hole would open up so she could crawl into it. "I
guess I was staring," she said, "but just because youre so
distinctive. Ive never seen a woman as tall as you are or as confident.
Yeah, thats it," she said, as if the description she had been
looking for had finally become clear to her. "Youre very, very
"I saw something
else in your stare," Gina said, "and given what you did a few minutes
ago, I dont think I was wrong."
face with her hands, Sally said, "I dont know what I was thinking.
I still dont, Gina. Ive never been so confused. Its
like my entire world has turned upside down in the space of a few hours."
She gingerly put her hand on Ginas arm. "I dont know why
I need this so badly, but Id give anything in the world if youd
just hold me."
a moment, her conscience self-preservation telling her to never get
close to a confused straight girl again. But there was something so
honest, so sincere about Sallys request that she couldnt
turn her down. She stubbed out her cigarette and opened her arms, feeling
something in her heart open up when her arms folded around the soft
curves of Sallys body. "Hows this?" she asked, a slight
catch in her voice.
Sally murmured. The blondes face was nestled between Ginas
breasts, and after a moment, she turned her head so that her cheek lay
against the larger womans heart. "Your hearts beating so
fast. Are you all right?"
"Sure. I uhm
smoke too much. Nasty habit."
stop," Sally said. "No matter what they say, it cant be good for
smoke when Joanne and I were together," Gina said. "She didnt
like the way I smelled. But since she left
"Maybe you need
someone to care about you and remind you to take care of your health,"
Sally said. She let her arms tighten and nuzzled her cheek against Ginas
a mother," Gina said flatly. "Ones enough."
Stung by what
she felt was a rebuke, Sally released her hold and stepped back, trying
not to cry. "Sorry," she mumbled, walking retreating a few steps before
Gina pulled her to a stop.
The tall woman
stood behind her and asked, "Whats wrong? What did I do?"
said, "Nothing. I just had a thought about how nice it would be to care
for you. But I can understand that you dont want that."
Gina slid her
arms around the smaller woman, linking them under her breasts and giving
her a good squeeze. "I do want that. I want that more than I wanna admit."
She bent her head and kissed the soft whiteness of Sallys neck,
her stomach doing flips when her lips touched the lightly scented skin.
in her embrace and rested her head against Ginas chest again.
"You do want me?" she asked in a tremulous voice.
"Of course I
do. Youre a swell girl, Sally. Id give anything to have
a girlfriend like you."
"Hold me," Sally
murmured, tears starting to sting her eyes. "Just hold me."
her arms tightly around the blonde, feeling some of her defenses melt
as her body once again experienced the feel and the scent and the warmth
of a woman. Slowly, Gina began to move, and soon the pair was dancing
in the soft glow of the moon. Softly humming the song they had danced
to earlier in the evening, each woman clung to the other like a lifeline.
passed like seconds, and after a very long time Gina said, "Id
love to be with you, Sally. Will you think about moving here?"
quality of the evening was shattered. Sally felt all of her normal fears
return with a vengeance. Thoroughly confused, she asked, "But how could
we do that? My parents would never let me move to New York. Id
have to quit my job!"
I said about having to make your own decisions?" Gina asked.
"Yes, of course
I do, but its a lot harder to think about actually doing it!"
Her eyes were wide with fear, and Gina tried to be reassuring.
"There are plenty
of nursing jobs in New York, Sally. You could have a job in no time,
and even if you had a hard time getting started I could support you
until something came along."
blonde asked, "Youd do that? For me?"
"Yes, I would.
There were people who helped me when I was first going out with girls.
Id love to help you like I was helped."
Sally sat down
again, her head spinning. "This is so much to think about," she said.
"I couldnt just stay here, Gina. Id have to go home and
talk to my parents, and talk to my supervisor at work. Id have
to give proper notice at the hospital, and"
said, her large, warm hand resting on Sallys leg. "We can work
out anything if we want to."
easier said than done," Sally said, her voice high and shaking. "I
I have a life in New Hampshire, Gina. I cant disappoint people
just to please myself. People depend on me!"
Giving the young
woman a penetrating stare, Gina asked, "Are you ready to risk what you
have to risk to be with me?"
Sally got up
and walked back to the wall. She was shaking so hard that she felt chilled
despite the intense heat. "I want to, Gina. I really want to." With
a frustrated sigh she dropped her head, letting it dangle a little to
relieve some of the stress in her shoulders.
make a sound for a few moments, waiting for Sally to offer a few encouraging
words. When none came she tried to hide her hurt and put on a businesslike
voice. "Youre right. Its too hard. There are too many difficulties.
It would never work out." She laughed softly, though the laugh sounded
sad, and said, "Its a nice dream, though. Its nice to have
a dream to keep you goin on a lonely night."
and gave her a hopeful look. "Maybe it doesnt have to just be
just a dream. Maybe I can have a talk with my parents. Theres
a chance, a small change, that they might let me move. Maybe Rocco could
talk to Pete about how nice it is to live in New York, and I could get
Pete on my side, too. My parents will let me do almost anything if Pete
says its all right."
hold in a scream of rage, Gina patted the smaller woman on the shoulder
and said, "Thats a good idea. You can write to me and let me know
how its going." She stretched and said, "Its getting late,
and Im sure youll want to take the early bus home to New
Hampshire. Youve got a lot of people to talk to."
dont remind me," Sally said, feeling some of her dread and anxiety
start to fade. "Im so worried about the things Mrs. Gray is going
to say about me. Luckily, it wasnt possible for Pete and me to
get married, so I might escape with a few shreds of my reputation intact."
"I hope so,"
Gina said. She started for the stairs, saying, "Ill go down first
in case you trip." She did so, waiting patiently for Sally to descend.
Gina opened a pair of doors that Sally had assumed led to the bedroom,
but a full sized bed appeared. "Uhm
whats that?" Sally
"My Murphy bed,"
Gina said. She lowered the frame to the floor, and revealed a neatly
made bed, complete with three pillows. "I, uhm
can sleep on the
floor if youd like."
"I assumed you
had a bedroom and that I could sleep out here in the living room."
"No, I cant
afford a one bedroom. Im sorry, Sally. I really will sleep on
be silly. I should sleep on the floor; Im the one whos putting
putting me out, Sally, and I dont mind sharing my bed with you.
But if you want to sleep on the floor, be my guest."
The blonde looked
from Ginas dark eyes to the hard, wooden floor and asked, "You
really dont mind?"
"No, I dont
mind. I slept with my sister Toni until I moved out of my parentss
apartment. Im used to company." Gina nodded her head in the direction
of the bathroom. "Theres a new toothbrush in the basket with the
guest towel and soap. Why dont you get ready for bed."
went into the room and started to brush her teeth, her mind fully occupied
with how she would explain the events of the weekend to her parents.
She passed Gina on her way to the bed, nearly running into the substantial
woman. "Oh, sorry," she mumbled. "My minds going a mile a minute."
Gina disappeared into the bathroom and spent a few minutes preparing
for bed, then returned to find Sally lying on her back, eyes focused
on the ceiling.
"Do you think
I should reveal my reservations about Pete first, and then wait a few
weeks to talk about moving to New York?"
said, "I dont know your parents. Youll have to play it by
ear." She rolled onto her right side, hugging the edge of the bed. "Lets
get to sleep, okay? Im bushed."
Sally said. She rolled over, too, staring at Ginas broad shoulders
for a few minutes. Thoughts of Pete and his parents and of Concords
town gossips filled her head for a long while. Every time she started
to calm down another thought raced through her head, sending her heart
into overdrive again. Time and again she let her eyes drift to Ginas
back, somehow reassured by the slow, steady cadence of her breathing.
After a while
she realized that she wasn't thinking about her parents, or Petes
parents or Pete anymore. The only thing occupying her mind was the all-encompassing
desire to touch the olive skin that peeked out from the sleeveless top.
Without allowing her brain to stop her, she reached out and started
to draw her fingertips down Ginas long back, amazed at how the
skin was stretched over taut muscle.
"What are you
doing?" Gina mumbled, slightly perturbed by having her sleep disturbed.
A very quiet,
slightly wavering voice answered. "Im not sure. I only know that
I cant stop." Gina didnt respond to that, so Sally kept
touching her lightly, running her fingers from her neck down to her
waist. When the brunette didnt complain, Sally expanded her territory
and started to touch every part of the muscular back, finally getting
up the nerve to go a little lower.
After a few
minutes of this gentle massage, Gina murmured in an indistinct voice,
"Youd better stop."
across the bed and leaned over the brunette. "Dont you like it?"
she asked, looking wounded.
"I like it too
much," Gina said, quirking a half-smile at the younger woman. "I dont
think very clearly when Im hot."
"Should I aim
the fan at you?" Sally asked guilelessly.
With a smile
lighting up her whole face, Gina said, "Not that kinda hot. If you keep
touching me, Im gonna want to have sex with you, and thats
a bad idea."
rolled away and faced the wall, not saying a word for a few minutes.
She could hear the clock on the wall ticking, Ginas rapid breathing,
the water dripping from the faucet in the bathroom. Suddenly, she rolled
over again, grasped Gina by the shoulder, and pulled her onto her back.
"Why?" she demanded.
"Why is it a
bad idea to want to have sex with me?"
"What a grownup,"
Gina said, chuckling wryly. "Couple of hours ago you had to spell it."
Sally said, her brow furrowed. "Why is it a bad idea?"
raised herself onto her arm and looked at the blonde for a moment. "Are
you kidding me or what?"
not kidding. Why would I kid about this?"
"Oh, so youre
just crazy, huh? Im supposed to have sex with a girl who was one
speeding ticket away from being married right now. A girl whos
making plans to have her fiancé talk to her parents so she can
move to New York. A girl who has to go to a library to read a magazine
she likes. A girl who has to root for the fuckin Red Sox, of all
teams! You are a god damned lunatic, Miss Compton, and if you touch
me one more time, Im going to sleep in the bathroom!"
eyes filled with tears and she said, "My mother always says that if
a boy curses around me, it means he doesnt respect me. Dont
you respect me, Gina?"
"Oh, for fucks
sake!" Gina got up and started pacing, her dark head shaking the whole
ever said that word in front of me," Sally mumbled, "except in the emergency
and faced the younger woman, her arms akimbo. "Look, toots, if I didnt
respect you, your panties would be off and your legs would be in the
air. I respect you plenty, but youre driving me nuts!"
bed, Sally said soothingly, "Please come back to bed, Gina. I promise
Ill wont try not to drive you nuts any more."
The dark- haired
woman blew out a frustrated breath, then reluctantly got back into the
bed. "Can we please go to sleep?" she asked. "This has been the craziest
night of my life."
"Yes, we can,"
Sally said. "Im sorry for being such a pest."
not a pest," Gina said. "Youre just confused, but Im not
gonna let you confuse me, too. Now turn off that brain and go to sleep!"
Sally said, her voice very quiet.
tumult of the evening must have worn Gina out, for she was sound asleep
within five minutes. Sally watched her in the dark, memorizing the inky
strands of her hair, the strong line of her shoulders, the narrowing
of her waist, and the abrupt mounds of her bottom. She wanted to touch
her so badly that her whole body ached, but she knew that Gina didnt
want that, so she controlled herself. She heard the clock ticking the
minutes away, and noted with shock that it was after 2:00 a.m.
onto her back, giving the blonde vast new territory to study. With only
the dim streetlights and the glow of the moon, she set about memorizing
her topic subject with the intensity of a scholar.
The dark brows
and eyelashes mesmerized her for a good half hour, with Sally wishing
she had enough light to study each individual lash. They were so dark,
so long and beautifully curved, but she had to satisfy herself with
imagining how they framed the lovely dark brown eyes, and how they blinked
slowly when Gina was troubled by something. Are Petes eyes
gray or hazel? Realizing that she couldnt recall, Sally had
to admit that shed never, not in five years, spent this much time
studying Pete. You spent lots of time trying to avoid looking at
him, she had to admit. Didnt you ever stop to think about
what a bad sign that was?
The next hour
was split between focusing intently on the way Ginas chest moved
when she breathed, and trying to decide how many ways her parents could
kill her for declaring her independence.
At around 3:30,
a revelation hit her like a bolt of lightning. Her parents couldnt
kill her! All they could do was lecture her. And to her knowledge, no
one had ever died from a lecture. She was over twenty-one and her parents
only had as much hold on her as she allowed them to have.
She was so excited
about this discovery that she wanted to wake Gina to tell her, but she
knew her breakthrough wouldnt be greeted with much enthusiasm.
Instead, she rested her head on her hand and tried to figure out what
two girls could do together, amazing herself with the possibilities
she was able to conjure up.
4:00, she slipped out of bed and went into the kitchen, where she found
a pen and a pad of paper. It only took her a few minutes to write the
message she had spent the last half hour composing mentally, and as
soon as she was finished, she went back to bed.
When the sun
crept into the living room window, Ginas eyes opened, and she
gasped in surprise when she saw Sally staring at her. "Jesus!" She sat
upright, pushing her hair from her eyes and shaking her head to remove
some of the cobwebs. "How long have you been staring at me?"
she said. "Ive been busy."
what?" Gina asked warily.
my life. Thinking about my family. Thinking about you. Mostly about
you," she admitted.
mostly about what your mouth will taste like when you finally kiss me.
But lots of other things, too. I let my imagination go wild, and believe
me, I surprised myself!"
me, too," Gina said. She grasped the sheet and pulled it to herself,
looking slightly afraid. "Have you finally lost what little sanity you
"No, no!" Sally
got to her knees, so excited that she began to speak as quickly as an
auctioneer. "Im finally sane! Im almost twenty-three years
old, and Ive just this very night decided to start to act like
a woman! Not like a little girl who lets everyone tell her what to do
and how to act. Im a woman, damn it, and Im going to start
acting like one!"
"You just cussed!"
Gina said, her eyes saucering. "You cussed!"
giggled. "I guess I did." She looked down at herself and said, "Im
still alive and well, so I guess God doesnt smite those who take
his name in vain. Another revelation!"
Gina edged out
of the bed, taking the sheet with her. "Im gonna go to the bathroom,
and when I get back, Im gonna look for a straight-jacket" She
nearly ran for the bathroom, and Sally heard her friend bolt the lock.
she said, laughing heartily.
When Gina emerged,
hair combed and face washed, Sally said, "Stop in the kitchen and pick
up the paper I left on the table, okay?"
"Can I get some
orange juice, too?" Gina asked.
a big glass,. Im parched."
Gina did as
she was told, returning to the room with a large glass of juice and
a piece of paper. "If you get up, I can make the bed."
"No, no, you
just come right here," Sally said. "Im not ready to get up, and
neither are you."
not," Sally informed her. "Now hand me the paper."
handed it over and sat down gingerly on the bed. Sally cleared her throat
and read the contents of the note.
Pete and I did
not marry STOP
to stay in New York STOP
a woman who needs a roommate STOP"
She looked at
Gina and said, "I cant tell them everything at once. They only
need to know the facts right now."
Turning to Gina,
she said, "Youll have to tell me your exact address.
have a phone STOP
my job STOP
You may send
my clothes or give them to the war effort STOP
I love you all,
but I need to grow up STOP
daughter, Sally STOP"
She peeked over
the paper and asked, "Well, how did I do?"
"Are you honestly
going to send that?" Gina gaped.
"Yes, as soon
as I take care of some business," she said.
said, reaching over to take the glass from the larger womans hand
and place it on the floor. She leaned in close--so close she could finally
see those lovely, individual eyelashes. "Im not crazy, Im
not a child, and I do know what I want. I want to kiss you, Gina. May
sure, I guess," she said, looking terribly confused.
her head just a little to reach Ginas beautiful lips. "Ive
wanted to do this since the moment I saw you," she whispered. She wrapped
her arms around the broad shoulders and pressed her mouth against Ginas,
letting out a purr of delight when her kiss was met returned with complete
equal enthusiasm. "Thats more like it," she said dreamily. "Thats
how Ive always wanted to be kissed."
Gina took the
opportunity to encircle Sally with her long arms and tug her down to
the bed. They gazed into each others eyes for a few moments before
the dark woman said, "I can do much better than that," and spent the
next long while proving it.
"I should have
reserved judgment until I had a better wider sampling," Sally murmured
when Gina let her come up for air. "Thats how Ive
always wanted to be kissed."
be in such a rush," Gina insisted. "Theres all kinds of ways we
can kiss each other, and Im sure no one in Concord knows about
a couple of em."
her right in the eyes and said, "Show me. Show me everything you know."
Gina asked, one eyebrow raised in question.
Sally said. "I want your hands to be the first ones to ever touch my
bare skin. I want to give myself to you, Gina. Only you."
at her for a long moment, her dark eyes filled with intensity. "Are
you sure, Sally? Are you positive?"
never been surer of anything in my life. I want to wake up next to you
for the rest of my life, Gina Guerrieri. I want to be your
looked into the most beautiful dark eyes shed ever seen and asked,
"What will I be?"
"My love," Gina
said, placing a whisper soft kiss upon her moist lips. "Youll
be my love."
* * *
walked into the activity room and approached the woman on duty. "Hi,
Im Gloria. I just transferred over from the main hospital. Mrs.
Johnston said youd show me around and introduce me to the patients
before you signed out."
"Oh, okay. Im
Janice, by the way." Janice inclined her head to at the sprightly, but
elderly woman moving gracefully across the floor, dancing with an unseen
partner. "I was just watching Mrs. Gray to make sure she doesnt
fall and break a hip. She dances for hours a day and half of the time
her eyes are closed."
theres no music," Gloria said. "Is she
Janice asked. "No, shes not delusional."
"Does she communicate
at all?" Gloria asked. "Its kinda creepy to watch her dance like
the woman a perturbed look. "Shes not creepy. Shes
confused. It could happen to any of us, you know. She worked as a nurse
here at the main hospital for forty years. She developed Alzheimers
a couple of years ago, and its been a pretty rapid decline. I
didnt know her, but Mrs. Johnston said she was a top flight nurse."
"She was," a
soft, sad voice said from behind the women.
"Oh, hi, Mr.
Gray," Janice said, fervently hoping the old man had not heard their
entire conversation. "This is Gloria; shes going to be filling
in for me while Im on vacation. I was just telling her about your
Pete shook his
head, the little hair he had left shining white in the sunlight. "I
hope you give her a good report," he said. "I know its hard to
believe, but she was as sharp as a tack just two years ago. Now she
doesnt even recognize me. It breaks my heart," he said, as his
voice started to quake.
so sad," Gloria said. "But she doesnt seem unhappy." She looked
at the woman for a few moments, forcing herself to really see her. "You
know, Ive never seen a woman look more content."
He nodded. "She
is happy. Shes thinking of a very happy night. It took me a while,
but it finally dawned on me that shes thinking about the night
we got married."
"You must have
danced for hours at your wedding," Gloria said, rather charmed by the
sweet old man.
"Well, no, shes
got things a little mixed up in her head," he admitted. He started to
tell the tale, but caught himself. "Do you girls have time to hear this?
I know youre busy."
got time for you, Mr. Gray," Janice said. "Youre my favorite."
The old man
laughed softly, and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, Ill make it
short," he promised. "We got married the night before I shipped off
to Europe during World War II. Boy, that was a night! I had less than
a day in New York, and Sally was able to come down from New Hampshire,
but we couldnt get married because there was a waiting period.
In Connecticut we could get married immediately, so my friend Rocco
borrowed a car to get us there. But poor Rocco was speeding and got
a ticket. He didnt have a license, and the car was impounded.
Sally and I thought we were sunk. We said good-bye and I went to Roccos
while Sally went to stay the night with his cousin."
Gray must have been upset," Janice said. "No woman likes to have her
wedding plans ruined."
"Oh, Sally was
such a trooper," he recalled. "She didnt put up a fuss at all.
But Rocco felt so bad, he was up half the night trying to find another
way for us to get married. Turns out that New York only had a twenty-four
hour waiting period, and Sally had been in town so long that the period
was just about over. Roccos father knew some people who knew some
people, and they found a judge who agreed to marry us. Rocco and I showed
up at Roccos cousins house at 4:00 a.m.!" He laughed heartily
at his recollection. "Tired as she was, Sally was sitting at the kitchen
table writing a letter! We snuck up on her by coming up the back stairs
and she was as surprised as Ive ever seen a woman. When I asked
her what she was doing, she said she was writing to me. I hadnt
even left town, but she was already writing to me. Have you ever heard
of such a sweet woman? Boy, it was a close shave, but we made it just
in time. Wed been married about ten minutes when I had to get
on that ship. Rocco and I stood at the railing and waved until our arms
nearly fell off," he said. "I can still see my sweetheart standing there
with Roccos cousin, Gina. The poor thing cried like her heart
had been broken in half." He shook his head and added, "The men had
to do the fighting, but I think the war was as hard on the women as
it was on us."
"It must have
been," Gloria agreed.
darned sad," Pete said, watching his wife sway to the music she heard
in her head. "I have nearly sixty years of happy memories, but Sallys
stuck in the past. Shell never remember how happy we were for
all those years, but at least she remembers the night we married. That
gives me some solace," he said, watching Sallys mouth curve into
a warm smile.
"I love you,
Gina," she said, just loudly enough for the group to hear. "Ill
always love you."
"She says the
name Gina," Pete told the women, "but she barely knew that girl. After
we were married, she never saw her or heard from her again, so I know
its just a little mix- up upstairs. I know that my Sally is thinking
about me. Just like she always did," he said, a peaceful, contented
smile on his weathered, wrinkled face.
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