As always, you gals at the Academy are great. Thanks so much for the invite. Happy Halloween~~
I’ll Be Seeing You
The cold October wind whistled through the windows, reminding Miriam to put the bowl of Halloween candy on the table by the back door. She eyed the Butterfinger that mocked her as it lay on the kitchen table; it looked lonely.
She leaned heavily on her cane and glanced once more at the candy bar. She guiltily looked around and laughed to herself. “It’s Halloween, why not?” she said and opened it. “And I’m an adult.” After taking a bite, she closed her eyes as the taste brought her back to her childhood.
A loud knock at the back door shook her from the delicious memory. She saw the children huddled on her porch when she opened the door.
“Trick or treat,” they called.
Miriam laughed and placed her hand on her hip. “And who are you? Certainly not anyone I know.” She held the bowl of candy out to them.
Behind them, the mothers smiled and waited. “Hi, Miriam,” Doris called out. “The kids wanted to come to your house first. You always have the best candy.”
“I hope none of you want a Butterfinger,” Miriam said with a wink. She put the bowl on the table as the children scampered off the porch. She ran her fingers through her silver hair. “It’s only once a year,” she called back.
“Thank you, Miss Conners,” the children called out and ran to the next house.
Doris Walker stepped up to the door. “Truly, Miriam, thanks. The kids love you.”
Miriam watched them running down the block. “I’m glad,” she said with a wistful smile.
“You look tired. Why not stay home tonight?” Doris asked softly.
“Oh, no, dear. I’m fine. Just a long day.”
“Miriam, you’re seventy-eight years old. At least let me walk with you to the restaurant. Or better yet, let Bob drive you.”
Miriam waved her off as Doris stepped into the kitchen. “Nonsense. I may be seventy-eight, but it’s only two blocks, and I walk it all the time.”
Doris let out a sigh of resignation as she helped Miriam into her coat. “You’re a stubborn old woman, Miriam Conners.”
“Yes, I am. And you’re a good friend and neighbor,” Miriam said; she picked up her purse and shooed Doris out the door. “Go. Find your kids that are probably halfway to the city by now.”
Doris laughed and helped Miriam down the three porch stairs. “No drinking.”
Miriam laughed along as she headed down the walk and waved her hand. “No promises.”
As she walked the two short blocks to her restaurant, Miriam pulled her wool coat around her. She stopped and looked at the harvest moon that started to rise above the trees. For a moment, she closed her eyes as the brisk autumn wind blew through her silver hair.
The images of long ago were still there, intact, even through the years of loneliness.
“How’s my girl?” Geri asked happily as she walked in the back door. “Those bums lost again today. That’s three in a row for my Brooklyn Dodgers. Damn.”
Miriam whirled around from the stove. “If by ‘your girl,’ you mean me, Miss Monnahan, she’s fine. And if you’d move in, I wouldn’t be upset when you just waltz right in,” she said with a glare, “like you live here, which I wish you did. As I have mentioned.”
Geri blinked several times. “You certainly have a way with words, school marm.” Then came the lopsided grin.
Miriam shook her head. “Sit down. You’re lucky I made enough for two.”
Geri complied as Miriam placed the plate of food in front of her. Geri looked up and smiled. “First course?”
Miriam rolled her eyes but obediently placed a soft kiss against her lips. Geri groaned in response. “Never be able to top it. Don’t care what you cooked,” she whispered and pulled Miriam onto her lap.
Miriam gently cupped her face and looked into the blue eyes constantly filled with laughter. “Tell me.”
Geri grinned then. “I love you.”
Miriam kissed her, flicking her tongue sensually across her lips. “Again.”
“I love you,” Geri repeated and tightened her arms around her waist. “Love you,” she murmured. “Miriam...”
She opened her eyes and looked around when she heard her name. Or was it just the wind whistling through the trees? She was alone.
“God. Don’t start losing your mind at this stage of the game, Miriam.” She laughed and continued down the quiet street.
Several children ran across the street and up to the houses for last-minute trick-or-treating before the street lights came on. That was one rule the neighborhood insisted upon—when the street lights went on, the children had to be home or at least in front of their houses. It was a good rule, Miriam thought.
She grew tired now, feeling the ache in her legs; she was relieved when the restaurant came into view. “Don’t know what’s wrong with me tonight,” she said with a sigh. She’d walked this short distance at least three times a month for dinner. Although Halloween was always a special night.
It was when she met Gerilyn Monnahan all those years ago. When Miriam saw her tall lithe frame walk toward her that night, her life started. Falling in love was a minor technicality after Miriam looked into those crystal blue eyes. She remembered it so clearly…
“Who is that?” Miriam asked her friend when she saw the tall woman dressed as Groucho Marx for the Halloween party. She had taken off the thick eyebrows and mustache. Shocked by the transformation, Miriam could only stare. This woman’s smile filled her face; it was a happy smile, Miriam thought, as if it came from her soul. She sipped her Tom Collins, realizing her mouth had gone dry.
“Geri Monnahan,” Alice said absently as she picked through the peanut bowl. “Teaches phys-ed at the high school. Her brother just got back from Korea, wounded and got a medal, I hear.”
Miriam was about to ask her friend to introduce her when Geri glanced her way. Their eyes met. Geri cocked her head and her smile broadened. As Geri started to walk in her direction, Miriam quickly finished her drink.
It seemed a lifetime before Geri was at her side, but in a mere moment, they fell in love.
“Ah, Geri. I do miss you still,” Miriam whispered now as she walked up to the door.
A young man, just lighting a cigarette, stood outside by the entrance. When he saw Miriam, he tossed the butt down and opened the door for her. “Evening.”
Miriam nodded. The cane gets them every time, she thought as he slipped his arm under her elbow. “Thank you.”
The minute she entered the foyer, she felt at home. The familiar sounds of laughter coming from the bar, the wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen. So many memories flashed through her mind she could not keep up.
“Miriam. We’ve been waiting for you.”
Miriam looked up to see Sally with a grin on her face and her hands on her hips. “You’re five minutes late. I almost called 911.”
“I’m a little slow for some reason tonight, Sal.” Miriam slipped off her coat with Sally’s help. “My table ready?”
“Always.” Sally kissed her cheek. Miriam followed her through the dining room to her table by the stone fireplace.
With a tired groan, Miriam sat and ran her fingers through her hair. “Very windy out tonight. A wonderful night for Halloween,” she said, waiting for Sally to fill her water glass.
“All the ghost and goblins are out in force tonight, that’s for sure.” Sally leaned in. “And I think they’re all in the bar.”
Miriam laughed openly; Sally joined her. “Iced tea?”
Miriam thought for a moment. “No.”
Sally raised her eyebrows. “Okay. Name your poison.”
After a moment of thought, the familiar scene flashed through her mind from long, long ago. She smiled and looked at Sally through teary eyes. “I’ll have a Tom Collins.”
Sally seemed impressed. “Well…We don’t get a call for that much anymore. Coming right up.” She handed Miriam the menu, not that Miriam needed it—she had it memorized after all these years.
She glanced around the familiar restaurant, then lightly, almost reverently ran her fingers over the linen tablecloth. The same setting, the same time of year. She looked into the flames and blinked away the tears that welled in her green eyes.
“Here ya go, Miriam.” Sally placed the tall glass in front of her. “So what do you think of our new addition?”
Miriam took a sip of the drink; memories again flooded her senses. “What addition?”
Sally motioned to the far wall. There, next to the window was an old radio. Standing about four feet high and made of polished cherry wood, the radio looked as though it belonged there. “Where did you get that? My God, it looks in mint condition.”
“A friend of the owners brought it in. He said for some reason he thought it belonged here. It’s a 1937 Zenith, and I think it works.”
“Turn it on,” one man said from the next table. “Make sure.”
Sally shrugged and did as requested. Sure enough, through the static and tuning, they got a signal and a station. Several young people in the restaurant cheered when the heavy metal music came on. Miriam winced and put her hands to her ears. Sally did the same and turned the dial.
When the soft music started, the older patrons sighed with relief, much to the disappointment of the younger crowd.
“I had no idea it worked,” Sally said, walking back to Miriam’s table. “Now, Miss Retired School Teacher, what would you like for dinner?”
Miriam laughed. “I have no idea. I think I’ll enjoy my cocktail for now.”
“Good enough.” Sally patted her arm. “You give me a holler when you’re ready.”
As Miriam sipped her drink, she noticed a young man walk into the restaurant. He had an odd look about him; bewildered was the word that came to Miriam’s mind. He was tall, thin, and nondescript really, except for his clothes. This man looked as if he stepped right out of the fifties. His short black hair looked as though he had too much Brylcream in it.
Brylcream? Miriam thought and laughed inwardly. Who would know what that was nowadays? He must be here for the Halloween party downstairs.
Then the young man looked at Miriam; she was astounded when he walked up to her table.
“May I join you?” he asked, barely audible.
For some reason, Miriam nodded. Never breaking eye contact, she moved her cane to allow him to sit.
Sally was quickly at her table. “Sir, there are other tables—”
“No, Sal,” Miriam interrupted her, still watching this odd young man. “He’s fine.”
“Well, if you’re sure,” Sally said.
In the background, Miriam heard the announcer on the radio. “This Halloween, we have a birthday. Tom Guthrie is twenty-one today. Here’s a song he’d like us to play…”
While “Love Me Tender” by Elvis played, Miriam absently watched the young man as he glanced at the old radio across the dining room. She wondered why he looked so lost. He nearly jumped when Sally asked to take his drink order.
“I-I’ll have a beer,” he said quietly.
Sally cocked her head. “Really?”
He looked up and smiled slightly, producing his license. Sally looked at it and smiled as she handed it back to him.
“Happy birthday, Mr. Guthrie. One beer coming right up.” Sally walked away.
Miriam looked from the radio to the young man, who absently played with his napkin. She tore her gaze away from Mr. Guthrie to find a man standing by the old radio.
“They must be re-creating an old radio show… listen.”
“It’s October 31, 1956, and here’s some of the popular songs of the year. Of course, ‘Love Me Tender’ by Elvis Presley, ‘Just Walkin’ in the Rain’ by Johnnie Ray, and ‘Hot Diggity’ by Perry Como, to name a few.”
“Well, the radio certainly is popular,” Sally said when she came back with a glass of beer and refilled Miriam’s water glass. “It must be a full moon. We haven’t had a crowd like this in a while.”
Miriam looked around the dining room; Sally was right. The restaurant was rapidly filling. “A lot of reservations?”
Sally shook her head. “Nope, just walk-ins. And I have to tell, you, Miriam. There are no familiar faces.” She laughed and shook her head. “You’re about the only one who’s a regular.”
It was true. Miriam looked around at the guests and did not recognize one face. Usually, when it was this crowded, it was people from the neighborhood. It was then Miriam noticed for all the people in the restaurant, it was quiet and subdued. The patrons seemed to be as Mr. Guthrie—bewildered and somewhat lost.
“This is a nice place,” Mr. Guthrie whispered as he looked around. Miriam noticed he hadn’t touched his beer. He looked across at her then. “You come here a lot.”
It was not a question. Miriam smiled. “For a very long time, yes.”
He nodded and looked around once again.
“So, happy birthday,” Miriam said, unsure of what to say to this sullen young man.
He winced. “Thank you.”
Miriam caught Sally’s worried glance as she stood by the hostess podium. She gave Miriam that “I’ll get him the hell out here, just say the word” look. Miriam hid her grin and shook her head.
They sat in awkward silence for a few moments until Miriam could take no more. “Why did you come to my table?”
Mr. Guthrie blinked as if trying to understand her question. “I needed to…”
When he didn’t finish, Miriam leaned in and placed her weathered hand on his. “Needed to what, dear?” She was slightly taken aback when tears formed in his brown eyes. Her heart ached for this young man.
He looked around the restaurant again as the music played on the old radio. “So many of us,” he whispered, almost in awe.
Slightly confused, Miriam followed his gaze. Unsure of what he meant, Miriam had to admit, it was a strange night. Odd people, strangers really, seemed to come and go all night.
Mr. Guthrie looked down at their hands; Miriam watched him as he took a deep quivering breath and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry, Miriam,” he whispered, his bottom lip trembling.
“Sorry for what? How do you know my name?” she asked, leaning in. Her heart raced along with her mind. “What in the—”
Miriam’s words were cut off by the static voice on the radio. “Another Halloween tragedy. There was an accident on Highway 9 late last night. A drunk driver slammed his 1956 Chevy into a station wagon, killing a local resident. The driver, Mr. Tom Guthrie, was found dead this morning, an apparent suicide.”
The hair on the back of Miriam’s neck bristled as she watched Tom Guthrie’s face, the look of regret and shame etched in his young features.
“Why are you here, Tom?” Miriam whispered.
“Another drink?” Sally asked as she stood by the table.
Miriam tore her gaze away from Tom Guthrie and looked at Sally. She shook her head and tiredly rubbed her forehead. “No more cocktails.”
“You just holler if you need me. I can’t believe how swamped we are tonight.”
When the voice on the radio started again, Miriam’s blood ran cold.
“Well, you Yankee fans are still riding high after Don Larson threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in game five of the World Series...”
“That was 1956,” she whispered.
“I know,” Tom said.
Miriam stared at the radio. “They were Geri’s favorite team—the Dodgers.” She laughed then and drew her attention to Tom. “Geri was beside herself with grief. I, of course, was the picture of sympathy.”
Tom grinned sheepishly as he toyed with his beer. “Of course.”
“I was,” Miriam said indignantly. “Though I had no clue about baseball.”
“How did you meet?” Tom asked quietly.
“We met right after college at a Halloween party. I taught English. Gerilyn Monnahan taught, as well, but in physical education.” Miriam stopped and patted Tom’s hand before she sat back. “We were an unlikely pair. Our differences, however, became our commonality, I think. And our love won out over every obstacle.” Miriam remembered the lopsided smile, the carefree attitude, and Geri’s signature signoff—I’ll be seeing you. She would always leave that way. Never goodbye.
“She hated goodbyes,” Tom said.
Miriam’s head shot up at those words. Once again, the melancholy look in Tom’s eyes nearly broke her heart. “Yes, she did.”
It was then Miriam saw a young girl barely ten years old walk into the restaurant. She walked up to a table where a man and woman sat. They didn’t appear to notice or see the child as she stood right in front of them. They seemed lost in thought, not touching or talking.
The voice on the radio said through the static, “Another dedication. From Anna. ‘Rockin’ Robin’ by the young sensation Michael Jackson…”
Sally walked by with a tray of drinks. “Well there goes Ed’s theory of a Halloween broadcast from 1956,” she said to Miriam as she served the adjacent table. “This song is from the seventies.” She then scurried off with the empty tray. Miriam watched as Sally weaved around the crowded dining room.
When the lively song started, the woman at the table seemed horrified, or shocked perhaps, Miriam thought. She put her hands to her face and let out a heart-wrenching sob. The man quickly put his arm around her. As the song played, the woman stopped crying; both smiled, then started to laugh.
Miriam was completely confused as the young girl stood there unnoticed. Then a young woman with long red hair walked in and stood behind the girl, placing her hand on the child’s shoulder.
“What’s happening, Tom? You know, don’t you?” Miriam asked as she watched.
Tom did not turn around; he merely nodded. “It doesn’t matter what year it was. It’s her time now.”
Miriam frowned and watched as the woman led the girl out of the restaurant; they faded in the crowd of people in the foyer.
“Time?” Miriam whispered. She looked around the restaurant then. “I don’t understand…” Her voice trailed off.
Tom smiled sadly and ran his fingers up and down the icy beer mug.
“Is that why you’re here? It’s…it’s my time?” Miriam asked, but somehow she didn’t need an answer.
He leaned forward and whispered, “She’s tired of wandering.”
Tom gently took Miriam’s hand once again. “Look, Miriam.”
Miriam’s eyes widened and her heart pounded in her chest when she followed Tom’s gaze as he looked at the foyer.
Miriam couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. There was Geri, looking as bewildered as Tom. She was young, beautiful, just as she was the last time Miriam saw her.
“Tom, am I in heaven?” Miriam asked as the tears caught in her throat.
“Almost” came his soft reply.
Miriam nearly fainted when Geri looked around the restaurant. She found Miriam and smiled, just as she had all those years ago when they first met. And, just as then, it seemed like a lifetime before Geri was at her side, but in only a moment, Miriam was in love again.
It was not surprising, Miriam half expected it, when the radio announcer said softly, “And a final dedication on this Halloween night. From Geri to Miriam.”
Her heart ached, and the tears threatened to overtake her when the violins started, then the sultry voice of Jo Stafford sang, “I’ll be seeing you, in all the old familiar…”
Miriam put her hands to her face in an effort not to sob openly.
“Hey, Mir, no crying, sweetie.”
Miriam looked up to see Geri standing there. Her lopsided grin spread across her face. Miriam sat in stunned silence.
Tom stood, offered Geri his seat, and held out his hand to her. Geri nodded and shook his hand; no words were exchanged between them.
He turned to Miriam then and smiled. Miriam nodded, unable to speak. He held out his hand, which Miriam took. Tom bent down and lightly kissed the back of her hand. “I am so sorry I took her from you,” he whispered without looking up.
Tom merely walked out of restaurant; he too faded into the crowd.
Miriam could not see through the tears that flooded her eyes as she watched him.
“May I sit?” Geri asked.
Miriam just nodded and watched Geri’s every move—she pulled the chair out; she sat down, ran her hands over the linen tablecloth, and smiled; she looked around the restaurant. “Nothing’s changed much,” she said and looked at Miriam. “Including you.”
This was all too surreal for Miriam as she nervously put a hand to her silver hair. “I have changed.”
Geri reached across and held her hand. “Not to me. I’m so sorry I left you.”
Miriam held on to the warm hand. “It wasn’t your fault. It was your time. It was just time.” She looked up into the crystal blue eyes. “You look wonderful.” Geri’s coal black hair fell in waves around her face, just as it did the last time Miriam saw her nearly fifty years ago. “I could never be with another.”
Tears formed in Geri’s eyes as she nodded. “But we told each other we’d go on and live.”
“I’ve lived. But I remember telling you I’d only love once. You argued with me. You always did.” She smiled and choked back the tears. “And you would never say goodbye.”
“I hated it, you know that,” Geri said with a helpless shrug. “Remember when we met?”
Miriam smiled and nodded. “At the Halloween party. You looked silly as Groucho Marx.”
“But you fell in love with me.”
Miriam looked into her eyes. “Yes, I did.”
“And I left you alone.”
Miriam heard the regret in her voice; the smile left her eyes. Miriam didn’t like this change. She then remembered Tom Guthrie and a shiver rippled through her.
“It wasn’t your fault, Geri.” She held her hand tighter. “It wasn’t Tom Guthrie’s fault, either.”
Geri looked into the fire. “If I had just stayed with you that night.”
Miriam closed her eyes and remembered the night as she had remembered it all these years. Geri had kissed her tenderly that night. As she turned to go, she called out over her shoulder, “I’ll be seeing you.”
“He’s paid for his sins,” Miriam whispered as the memory faded. She felt tired now—tired of being alone, tired of the emptiness.
They sat in silence, holding hands and listening to the song as it played through the static on the old radio. The memories flooded Miriam’s vision, so much so she could hardly see Geri sitting across from her. All the nights, all the lovemaking, the laughter.
All at once, it was 1956 and they were together and in love.
“Am I dreaming?” Miriam asked softly.
“No, sweetie.” Geri offered a tender smile and whispered, “I am.” She stood and extended her hand. Miriam took her warm hand and stood, reaching for her cane.
Geri stopped her. “You won’t need that now, Mir.”
Miriam looked at her hands. They were no longer weathered and old. She put a hand to her face; her skin was smooth and soft. However, when she glanced in the mirror above the fireplace, her reflection hadn’t changed; she was still old and gray.
Geri smiled. “You’ve never changed, Mir. Never to me. I’ve been watching you, with you, all these years.”
“I know. I’ve always felt you.” Miriam wiped the tears away and smiled. “I was looking at the moon, but I was seeing you.”
Geri nodded and slipped her arm through Miriam’s. “You were always the romantic one, Mir.”
Sally walked right by them, never stopping or acknowledging either one. Miriam looked up into Geri’s eyes and smiled. She leaned into Geri’s body and placed her head on her shoulder.
As they walked out of the restaurant, the radio announcer said, “That’s our last dedication for the night, folks. Until tomorrow, I’ll be seeing you…”