Barbara Bretton

Sneak Peek

The Homefront Series: Sentimental Journey

Before they became The Greatest Generation, they were young men and women in love . . .

It's June 1943. From New York to California, families gather to send their sons and husbands, friends and lovers off to war. The attack on Pearl Harbor seems a long time ago as America begins to understand that their boys won't be home any time soon.

In Forest Hills, New York City, twenty-year-old Catherine Wilson knows all about waiting. She's been in love with boy-next-door Doug Weaver since childhood, and if the war hadn't started when it did, she would be married and maybe starting a family, not sitting at the window of her girlhood bedroom, waiting for her life to begin.

But then a telegram from the War Department arrives, shattering her dreams of a life like the one her mother treasures.

Weeks drift into months as she struggles to find her way. An exchange of letters with Johnny Danza, a young soldier in her father's platoon, starts off as a patriotic gesture, but soon becomes a long-distance friendship that grows more important to her with every day that passes.

The last thing Catherine expects is to open her front door on Christmas Eve to find Johnny lying unconscious on the Wilsons' welcome mat with a heart filled with new dreams that are hers for the taking.

"This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny." --Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Chapter 1

Catherine Anne Wilson was no different from a million other young women on that warm June evening in 1943. She was twenty-one years old, engaged to be married, and impatient to get on with the rest of her life. If the war hadn't come along, she and Douglas Weaver would have been married by now, snug and safe in their own little apartment with a baby in the cradle and another one on the way.

Instead there she was, still in her parents' house in Forest Hills, curled up on the window seat in the pastel pink room where she'd played with dolls and learned how to curl her hair and dreamed of how wonderful it would be to be grown up and married.

Now, years later, she was still waiting to find out. She was a grown-up woman living the life of a dutiful daughter. Each morning she arose at seven, gulped down oatmeal and a cup of cocoa, then kissed her mother goodbye in the same routine she'd followed through four years at Forest Hills High School when she was counting the days until she was grown up. The only difference was, she no longer headed for the classroom; she headed for work where she spent nine hours a day posting numbers at her father's manufacturing firm. She came home at night to her mom's meat loaf and her sister's Sinatra recordings and an abiding emptiness inside her heart that almost took her breath away.

Even the songs matched her mood. Don't Get Around Much Anymore and the painfully beautiful As Times Goes By only served to point out how different this world was from the one she'd imagined when she was a foolish girl.

It wasn't as if she wanted very much out of life. All she wanted was the same things women had wanted for hundreds and hundreds of years. Her own house and her own husband. Children to care for and a life that was her very own. Woman's Home Companion said that these should be the happiest years of her life, a time when childbirth was easier, and housework more satisfying. They even hinted that the love between a man and a woman could prove that sometimes heaven could be found right there on earth. Instead, she felt like a hungry child with her nose pressed against the window of a bakery, longing for something as simple and natural as a loaf of bread fresh from the oven. Something that was as impossible as flying to the moon.

When her mother was twenty-one, Dot had already given birth to Catherine and was pregnant again with Nancy. She'd had a husband and a home and the happiness Catherine dreamed about every single night.

"Don't you worry," everyone said, their tones jovial and reassuring. "Things will be back to normal before you know it." The tide was about to turn any day, that Hitler and Tojo and Mussolini were on the run and any minute the Allies would strike the blow that would put an end to this insanity.

Like most other Americans, Catherine had been raised on happy Hollywood endings, firm in the belief that the good guys always won. Lately, however, she'd been finding it harder to hold onto the notion that everything would work out the way it did in Betty Grable movies. Instead of coming to an end, the war grew larger and more frightening with each day that passed. The headlines on the New York Daily News and the Herald Tribune talked of massive troop movements and losses that brought a chill to the blood.

Six million Americans were in the military and each day the ranks swelled as eager men signed up to defend their country. The Allies had suffered badly in Corregidor and the Bataan death march was all too real. The Movietone News put a good face on the truth but it wasn't until Guadalcanal, just a few months ago, that the Allies had scored their first victory.

None of it, however, seemed to register on her sister Nancy, whose voice floated up to Catherine's window from the front stoop where the high school senior sat chatting with her pals. Had it only been four years since Catherine herself had sat on the stoop with Douglas and made plans for the senior prom? She felt like an old woman rocking on the front porch as she watched the youngsters have all the fun.

Nancy's voice was high and excited--after all, it wasn't every day you got to go into Manhattan and see the real life Stage Door Canteen. Their father had pulled a few strings and made special arrangements to take the family into the city to meet some of his squadron members and have a good old-fashioned celebration before he boarded a troop ship the next morning for Europe. "We're not going to sit here watching the clock tick," he had said to Dot and his daughters at the breakfast table that morning. "Let's meet the fellows and make an evening of it."

Nancy had been beside herself. It seemed to Catherine that her little sister had been baptized with stardust and blessed by Max Factor. Nancy pored over her stacks of Photoplay and Modern Screen as if they held the secret to life on their glossy pages. Nancy believed in love at first sight, that Clark Gable was the most handsome man in the whole world, and that if she only had Betty Grable's legs, Rita Hayworth's hair, and Lana Turner's smile, her happiness would be assured.

"Do you know that little girl is positive she'll meet Van Johnson and Tyrone Power tonight?"

Catherine turned away from the window at the sound of her mother's voice in the doorway.

"What's worse," she said, summoning up a smile, "is that she believes they'll both fall in love with her."

"That child is starstruck," said Dot as she entered the room. Her slender figure was hidden inside the lavender housecoat Grandma Wilson had made for Dot's birthday present, and her thick light brown hair was tightly wound into curls crisscrossed with bobby pins and dampened with Wave-Set.

Her mother's familiar scent of Cashmere-Bouquet and Pacquin's hand cream was a balm to Catherine's troubled soul. She made room for her mom on the windowseat. "I'm glad Nancy's the way she is. One serious daughter is enough, don't you think?"

Dot glanced at the alarm clock ticking away on Catherine's nightstand then leaned over and poked her head out the bedroom window. "You have one hour to get yourself ready, young lady. Daddy expects us dressed and on our way to the subway at six o'clock sharp."

They both laughed at Nancy's shriek of, "I don't know what to wear!" which was followed by the sound of her black-and-white saddle shoes as she raced up the front steps. Lucky Nancy with nothing more to worry about than choosing between her red blouse or her white one.

"Are you going to wear your green dress?" Catherine asked her mother.

Dot's cheeks flushed prettily. "I wouldn't dare wear anything else. It's your father's favorite."

"If you like, I'll help you pin your hair into an upsweep. Mary Clare down the block showed me how to roll the most adorable pompadour. With that gold mesh snood Aunt Mona gave you, you could--"

Dot gave her eldest daughter a long look that stopped Catherine cold. "What's wrong?"

Catherine glanced out the window. "Nothing."

Dot inclined her head toward the pale blue letter on her daughter's lap. "Did something in Douglas's letter upset you?"

"He's fine." A sigh escaped her lips. "At least, I think so." She held up the heavily-censored letter for her mother to see. "There wasn't much left to read after Uncle Sam got through with it."

Dot's smile wavered. "I guess your dad and I will have to invent a secret code for our sweet nothings."

Catherine wanted to say something reassuring but the lump in her throat made speech impossible. Her cheerful, upbeat mother--the woman Catherine had leaned upon for twenty-one years--suddenly looked like a frightened child. The war seemed closer to Forest Hills than ever before.

Dot looked away for an instant and when she met her daughter's eyes again she was once more her ebullient self. "You get yourself ready now, honey. You know how Daddy hates to be kept waiting."

Catherine blinked away sudden, embarrassing tears as Dot headed toward the door. "Mom?"

Dot paused in the doorway and looked back. "Yes?"

The moment passed. "Nothing. I'd--I'd better get ready." Catherine longed to throw herself into her arms and cry her heart out but Dot had her husband to worry about now. It wouldn't be fair to add her daughter's own fears to her burden.

"You know you can tell me anything, don't you, Cathy?"

Catherine nodded and her mom turned then disappeared down the long hallway to herbedroom.

You know exactly what I'm thinking, don't you, Mom? I've never been able to fool you about anything at all. You can see that I'm scared to death that something terrible is going to happen to Douglas, that this dark cloud I've felt hovering over me for days means something.

Catherine shivered despite the balmy June weather and wrapped her arms around her knees as she looked out the window at the street she knew so well. Hansen Street, a narrow road lined with powerful oaks and graceful maples, was her whole world. She'd been conceived right there in the English-tudor style house, three months into her parents' marriage. She'd taken her first steps in the front yard while Mrs. Bellamy and old Mr. Conlan called out their encouragement.

And she'd fallen in love with Douglas Weaver, her very best friend, as they sat beneath Harry Weaver's crabapple tree under the spangled moon when she was twelve years old.

Fifteen months ago, she had kissed Douglas goodbye at Grand Central Station. He had looked so handsome in his uniform, so tall and strong and painfully young that her heart had ached with love for him.

"I'll wait for you forever," she'd said, her tears staining the shoulder of his khaki jacket. "I'll never love anyone but you."

"I'm coming back, Cathy," he'd said. "I'll be back before you have time to miss me."

A thousand other soldiers whispered the same words into the ears of a thousand other sweethearts who also stood on the dock that snowy morning. The boys' promises were heartfelt. The girls knew the war would be over before they could dry their tears.

How wrong they all had been. The days turned into weeks, then the weeks passed into months and finally Catherine realized the war wasn't going to end simply because she and Douglas Weaver wanted a chance at happiness together.

Across the street Edna Weaver waved to Catherine's father Tom, who strolled toward home with his Daily News neatly rolled under his arm.

"You shake Bing Crosby's hand for me tonight, Tommy!" Edna called out, waving her pruning shears aloft in greeting.

Tom tipped his cap. "Come with us, Edna, and shake his hand yourself, why don't you?"

Edna laughed and pointed to her gardening costume that consisted of her husband's castoff trousers and her long-sleeved smock. "Movie stars will just have to wait until my rosebushes are in shape, but you and Dot dance a waltz for me."

Catherine's father promised he would do exactly that then turned up the path to the Wilson house.

Edna resumed her gardening chores of maintaining the dazzling display of scarlet, cream, and blush pink roses that were her pride and joy and the talk of the neighborhood. Douglas had always teased his mother that she cared for her rosebushes more than she cared for her husband and sons but everyone knew Edna Weaver's big heart knew no bounds.

"Just you wait until Douglas comes home, Cathy," her future mother-in-law liked to say over a cup of cocoa in the front room of her red brick house. "We'll take your wedding picture right here in front of the roses and everyone will say you're the real American beauty."

Edna Weaver tended toward exaggeration in everything she said and did. Her roses were the most beautiful; her sons and her husband, the most brilliant of men; and, her almost-daughter-in-law, the most perfect girl in the world. Edna Weaver also believed in happy endings and these days that kind of cockeyed optimism was a what she sorely needed.

This sense of foreboding unnerved Catherine greatly. Although she had a serious nature, she invariably saw the best in others, and believed that good things happened to good people. But ever since her dad had enlisted last December, she'd had the terrible sensation that nothing would ever be the same again. She did her best to push the darker thoughts aside but they refused to be ignored, overtaking her late a night when her guard was down and her heart was most vulnerable. It wasn't right that the man she loved was so far away, that the plans they'd made for the future had to be stored away for the time being like winter blankets come springtime. Douglas was her love and her friend and she missed him more than she'd ever imagined possible.

She wrote to him every night, long letters on her pastel stationery, letters filled with her hopes and dreams for the future still ahead of them. Dreams she shared with no one but him. Even the everyday happenings took on new importance. She told him that Count Fleet won the Kentucky Derby and that she went to see White Christmas for the third time and loved it more than she had the first. She memorized every word of his government censored letters and spent endless hours trying to reconstruct the missing phrases. She drew funny pictures of their neighbors and wrote out the words to As Time Goes By in her most elegant hand.

And she promised him a life of sunshine and beer and a score of little Weavers if he would just win the war and come back to her.

Late at night in the darkness of her room she tried to imagine their future. She could see their children, as blue-eyed as she; as blond as the man she loved. A little girl with rosy cheeks and a lopsided smile sat on her big brother's lap as he peered out from beneath the bill of his Brooklyn Dodgers baseball cap. She could picture the tiny white house with crisp black shutters that they would live in and the smart striped wallpaper and even the Philco radio that stood majestic and proud in the corner, but she couldn't picture Douglas. Heart pounding, she would squeeze her eyes shut, trying to conjure him up in the darkness. A thick wheat-colored brow...a flash of sparkling eyes...nothing. He faded away each time like a dream come morning, leaving her alone and terrified.

She remembered his words but the sound of his voice eluded her. The man she loved, the boy she'd grown up with, the one constant she thought would be with her always, and she couldn't recall the timbre of his voice or the way his hair looked in the sunshine.

Would that happen to her mother? Six months from now would Dot cry into her pillow as Tom Wilson's face stubbornly refused to appear before her eyes. It seemed to Catherine that all across the country it was happening to women who waited. Somewhere in Kansas a farmer's wife sat on her front porch and listened for her husband's voice in the summer wind then shivered as she heard nothing but the beating of her solitary heart.

The men were disappearing, all of them. The Robertson twins, Arnie from around the block, and the man who ran the hardware store on Continental Avenue had all left for boot camp in the past week. Douglas's big brother Mac had gone to Europe as a correspondent but it looked like he'd be enlisting any day.

And now tomorrow her own father was off to war, leaving her mother alone with Wilson Manufacturing and the house and two daughters to care for. Not that either Catherine or Nancy needed fulltime mothering any longer, but there was something scary about being a family of women without a man's strength to lean upon.

Their lives were changing and there wasn't anything Catherine or Dot or Nancy could do to stop it and that fact scared Catherine more than anything else. She could write a thousand letters, knit sweaters and gloves for the soldiers, collect tin cans and rubber tires, buy war stamps and save up for bonds. She could become a Rosie the Riveter and take a man's job for the duration, but there was nothing she could do that would erase the last eighteen months of loneliness.

Men went to war.

Women waited.

That was the way things were and, as far as Catherine could tell, it was the way things would always be.

Teddy bears marched across the faded quilt tossed haphazardly across the bed in Nancy Wilson's room, their plump brown legs resting atop an array of bright cotton sundresses Lana Turner would have envied. Saddle oxfords sat on the rag rug next to her best dress shoes with the one inch heels that made her sturdy legs look almost elegant. Her school books, carefully covered with brown paper so they could be re-sold as soon as the school year was over, were buried beneath a stack of Photoplays and Modern Screens that were her prized possessions.

At seventeen Nancy was both little girl and woman and it seemed she spent half her life wanting to grow up and the other half wishing she could stay a child. She liked having an older sister like Catherine to look up to and parents who made her feel safe and secure, but in her dreams she longed to fly away from the house on Hansen Street and try her wings.

She glanced at her reflection in the dressing table mirror then looked across the room at the big color picture of Lana Turner that smiled at her from its place of honor next to Clark Gable on her bulletin board. Yesterday she had tried to muster up the courage to ask for a bottle of peroxide from Mr. Kravitz at the pharmacy but the memory of how everyone had laughed at poor Marie Finestra when she bleached her black hair blonde still lingered in Nancy's ears. "Nice girls" accepted the hair color God gave them and did nothing more than keep their tresses clean and curled.

Nancy sighed and looked back at her own round and fresh-scrubbed face. That was definitely the face of a nice girl. Her cheeks were full and rosy without benefit of Max Factor. Her nose was just the slightest bit pug and dusted with a sprinkling of cinnamon-colored freckles that not even Lady Esther face powder could hide. Unfortunately God had chosen to give her hair tha was the color of a rusty drainpipe, and curly and unruly and thick as a pony's tail in the bargain!

Life just wasn't fair.

And that's exactly what she told Catherine as she marched boldly into her older sister's bedroom across the hall and flopped down across the pristine white bedspread with the embroidered sweetheart roses.

"What did I do to deserve a fate like this?" she moaned, burying her face against a pink satin toss pillow as the scent of lavender sachet tickled her nostrils. "I look like one of those terrible monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. All I need is a knitted cap."

Catherine, who was combing her hair near the window, laughed out loud. "If you're looking for sympathy, Nance, you're not going to find any here. You're cute as a bug and you know it."

"I don't want to be cute," Nancy said, peering up at her beautiful sister. "I want to look like you."

"I thought you wanted to look like Lana Turner."

"I'd settle for looking like you."

"Gee, thanks." Her sister's honey-colored hair drifted down in a graceful curve that brushed her shoulders and stopped just short of her collarbone. "Shouldn't you be getting dressed?" Catherine looked at the Hamilton watch their parents had given her when she graduated high school. Nancy was due to get her own Hamilton in a few short weeks. "Daddy wants us ready to go at six on the dot."

Nancy's spirits plummeted even lower as Catherine touched her already thick eyelashes with a dab of Maybelline from a tiny red matchbox container then rouged her mouth with a tube of Tangee. Who would ever even notice she was alive with Catherine around?

Catherine was better than pretty; she was beautiful. Not flashy like Rita Hayworth or cheap like Betty Hutton, but something more like Carole Lombard's smart good looks mixed with Linda Darnell's cameo perfection.

Nancy raised up on her elbows and watched as her older sister slipped into a plain blue short-sleeved dress with white collar and buttons and a narrow self-fabric belt at the waist. "You're not wearing that, are you?" she asked, unable to mask her horror.

"This is a perfectly fine dress," said Catherine, buttoning up the front then adjusting the belt. "This isn't a high school dance we're going to, Nance."

"Of course it's not! This is the Stage Door Canteen, Cathy! Every famous star in New York City will be there. Don't you want to look your best?"

"I look just fine," said her cool and calm sister. "Believe it or not, not everyone wants to look like a movie star."

"I liked you better before you and Doug got engaged." Nancy swung her legs off the bed and stood up. "You're an old stick-in-the-mud now. I remember when you thought Errol Flynn was dreamy."

A patch of color appeared on Catherine's high cheekbones and her blue eyes twinkled with mischief. "I still think he's dreamy and if you tell anybody I said that, I'll write to Gerry Sturdevant and send him your yearbook photo."

"You wouldn't!"

"Oh, yes, I would." She waggled her left hand in Nancy's direction so the tiny diamond sparkled in the afternoon sunlight. "I'm spoken for. Douglas would be so jealous if he knew I'd seen The Adventures of Robin Hood six times."

Nancy completely ignored that juicy piece of information. All she could think of was Gerry Sturdevant's face if he ever saw that absolutely horrid photograph taken last year when she was just a dumb kid of sixteen. "You wouldn't send Gerry my yearbook photo, would you?" Nancy hated it when her voice went all small and childlike but there was nothing she could do about it. This was too important.

Catherine ruffled her curls with a slender, graceful hand. "And ruin our servicemen's morale? Not on your life. Your secret's safe with me." Catherine disappeared into the hallway and she heard the bathroom door swing shut.

Nancy was tempted by the stack of blue letters from Douglas that rested atop the windowseat but decided against it. A few years ago, when she was young and didn't know any better, she would have dived right into the stack, giggling over the mushy parts and laughing at their silly romantic daydreams. Not any more. To her surprise, Nancy had her own romantic daydreams these days and the thought of someone violating her privacy was enough to make her bury her head in the sand and never come out.

She went back into her room across the hall and sat down at the edge of her bed, bare feet dangling. She'd rather work in Macy's Basement than ever let Gerry see that embarrasing photo.

Nancy's high school graduating class had been writing to servicemen for the past year. Mac Weaver, a foreign correspondent, had set up the morale-boosting program after his first trip to the Pacific theatre last year when he realized the effect loneliness had on the young boys. Mac was one of Nancy's absolutely favorite people. A few years older than Catherine, he'd been the idol of all the kids on Hansen Street. Strong, opinionated and funny, everyone knew Mac was destined for bigger and better things. Mrs. Weaver had said Mac was in Europe now and getting itchy to join the fighting. Nancy wouldn't be surprised if one day he gave Ernie Pyle a run for his money.

But the most important thing Mac had ever done, in Nancy's considered opinion, was bring Seaman Gerald Francis Sturdevant into her life. Her freckles and pug nose didn't matter a bit to Gerry. All that mattered was that her letters kept him in touch with home and all the reasons why winning the war was so very important to Americans. And, as if that wasn't enough, he thought she was funny and friendly and much more sophisticated than she really was. Why was it that the easy humor and lighthearted conversation that came so easily for her on paper never seemed to materialize when she was face-to-face with a boy? Oh sure, she had plenty of boys as friends, but that special boy/girl kind of magic always seemed just out of reach.

Except with Gerry. In her letters she was a combination of Jean Arthur and Lana Turner, with a touch of Katharine Hepburn thrown in for good measure. Lately she'd even found herself telling him some of her biggest secrets, secrets she'd never even shared with her mother or Catherine.

Maybe she was just a silly kid, as foolish now at seventeen as she'd been at seven. Living in a dream world filled with movie stars and crooners and thick onionskin letters from a sailor she'd never even meet.

She started at the touch of Catherine's hand on her shoulder. "You'd better get dressed, kiddo. Daddy expects us downstairs in twenty minutes."

Nancy jumped off the bed with a shriek. How on earth could she have forgotten to get dressed? "I'll never be ready in time!"

"Sure you will." Catherine scooped up the white peasant blouse with the embroidered trim that rested on the dressing table chair then pulled a wide black cinch belt from the top drawer. "This would look adorable on you."

Nancy, clad only in her white cotton panties and bra, giggled. "I'd look pretty funny, Cathy. I don't have a skirt to go with it. My green pique would look silly."

"I've already thought of that," said her older sister. "My black taffeta."

Nancy's eyes widened. "The full one with the crinolines?" Since the war started, skirts had become shorter and tighter; a luxurious full skirt complete with crinolines was almost as exciting as meeting Tyrone Power.

Catherine eyed Nancy critically. "I think it'll fit you. You're a few years away from needing a panty girdle."

"You mean--?"

"Of course I do. You'll be the belle of the Stage Door Canteen tonight."

Fifteen minutes later Nancy did a pirouette in front of the mirror then faced her sister. "What do you think?"

"I was right," said Catherine with a big smile. "You'll break their hearts tonight."

Oh, Gerry, she thought as Catherine performed some last minute magic on her unruly red curls, I wish you could see me now...

In the big bedroom at the end of the hall, Dot Wilson sat at her dressing table and watched her husband get ready for their night on the town.

"Did you get my shirts from the Chinese laundry?" he asked as he stepped into a pair of boxer shorts.

Dot nodded and tried to swallow around the painful lump knotted in her throat. "Of course," she said, forcing her voice to sound airy and cheerful. "Twenty-two years and I've never once forgotten." Twenty-two years of cooking and cleaning and caring for him. Twenty-two years of raising both his children and his spirits, of lying down beside him each night and awakening each morning in his arms. The only life she'd ever known.

The only man she'd ever wanted.

"Oh, Tom." Her voice broke on his name. "What am I going to do without you?"

He was next to her in an instant. His chest was bare and the unfamiliar dogtags were cold and hard against her breast as he pulled her to him. "You're going to wait for me, Doro. You're going to keep the bed warm for me."

She'd promised herself she wouldn't cry, that she'd do nothing to make him any more unhappy than he already was, but her tears spilled hot and fast onto his naked shoulder. "I'm scared, Tommy," she whispered. "I don't know if I can do it all alone."

"You're not alone, baby. You've got the girls with you."

She smiled despite her terror. Catherine and Nancy were her crowning achievements. Raising them was the most important thing in her life--second only to her devotion to Tom.

"I know," she said, "but I never imagined a time when you wouldn't be here with me." Even though it seemed as if every man in the country wanted to go head-to-head with the Nazis and the Japs, it had somehow never occurred to her that her very own husband felt the same way.

"Is there something you're not telling me?" He gave her a playful swat on the bottom. "I'm coming home, Doro, as fast as I possibly can. Before you know it you'll be so busy taking care of me again that you'll wonder why you wanted me back."

"Never." She covered his neck and chin with swift, sweet kisses born of love and fear. She closed her eyes and tried to memorize the feel and smell of his skin against the long months when he would no longer be there with her.

Tom hadn't been drafted. As a forty year old married man who was the father of two daughters, he was an unlikely candidate for military service. But Tom Wilson was not just a married man with children; he was also a patriotic American who could no more stay there in New York City while his countrymen fought for freedom than he could turn away from the scene of an accident.

She'd shamed herself the day he came home with the news of his enlistment.

"How could you!" she'd cried, thinking only of her own fears and the safety of their little family. "We need you here, Tom Wilson. The company needs you." In over two decades of marriage, Dot Wilson had never opposed her husband in anything, but that day she had asked him to choose between his country or his family.

His words still echoed in her memory. "There's no choice, Doro," he'd said. "If we don't win the war, we'll lose the freedom that makes our family possible."

And so there they were in the bedroom they'd shared for the first time on their wedding night and all the nights since. She could still see herself standing there, so young and scared in her white peignoir set, staring at the handsome boy who was now her husband.

The terrible thought that this might be the very last time she felt his arms around her as they dressed for a Saturday night outing made her feel as if her heart would break.

His caresses grew more ardent and she laughed softly and placed a hand on his chest. "We'll be late, Tommy."

He cupped her breast and she swayed toward him. "The Canteen will still be there."

"And after you told the girls to be ready at six o'clock sharp or you'd have them court-martialed! How on earth would we explain this?"

"Do them good to know their old folks still love each other."

She longed to stay right there in his embrace but making love in broad daylight with the girls waiting for them downstairs was too scandalous to consider.

"Get dressed, Tommy." She kissed him soundly.

The look he gave her was so thrilling that her breath caught for an instant.

"Tonight, Doro," he said as he reached for his Army-issue shirt. "When we close the door behind us tonight, I don't intend to let you go."



Sentimental Journey
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