For the first installment of The Courtship of Marjorie Graves, please click here.
The Courtship of Marjorie Graves
Margie glanced at herself in the oval mirror hanging above the little table that served as a catch-all for mail and phone messages. She saw her face, pale, with lines just beginning to stretch from the corners of her eyes to her temples. At 23, she was too young for crows feet. And yet, there they were.
War will do that to a person, she supposed.
Marjorie began unbuttoning her uniform jacket, exposing the silky cream bodice of her chemise beneath, and wondered how to handle this invasion of her privacy. She kicked off her heels as she plodded toward the sparsely furnished kitchen. She flicked on the radio. Helen O'Connell's “Wonder When My Baby's Coming Home” floated toward her and crowded out the day's restrained snatches of conversation from the older men that rode the elevator. The song was a melancholy reminder that until today, Marjorie hadn't seen nor heard from Harlan. Not in the three months since they met.
Now she knew why. Charlotte.
She fingered the envelope for a moment and breathed a little more steady. At their first meeting, he'd promised to write her everyday. A smile slowly pulled at her lips as she remembered the way the tips of his fingers grazed the back of her hand when he spoke with eloquent words. But it was his eyes had that had spoken what she longed to hear and his voice dared not say.
When she didn't hear from him after that night, she assumed he'd had a bit of practice saying many things to many girls on many occasions. And yet, she couldn’t banish the memories of his blue eyes, his broad smile, his strong hands. Now those assumptions of the last three months faded.
Glancing around the kitchen, she thought, Can't she take care of any of her dishes? A sigh launched from her lips and out over the sink toward the single paned window as she waited for the tepid water to turn hot. The soot of the surrounding chimneys had settled into the corners of each window in every neighborhood home.
Marjorie's furious scrubbings on Sunday afternoons had demolished the presence of soot and ash from the outside of their cottage-like home as soon as the weather was warm enough for her to do so. The ladies of the neighborhood who had children probably didn't have as much time to devote to eradicating all evidences of grime as she did.
What else was she to do with the small amount of free time she found herself with? After meeting Harlan, the small town's dances held no appeal. They were noisy affairs with too much drinking, too much shouting and too many fights to cap off the bitterly cold nights. Not her idea of a good time, though Charlotte loved it.
There were five men to every woman that attended the USO dances. Charlotte divided her time between as many men as possible, citing it her “duty” to provide a night of fun for the “poor, lonely soldiers giving themselves for their country.” Margie knew for a fact that it wasn't just the men who were giving themselves on nights like that. Marjorie was not against anyone having a good time, she was just not interested in participating.
“No more dances,” she told Charlotte after meeting Harlan, much to her roommate's chagrin. She was saving herself for him, and him alone. Just as he had promised her while holding her hand that night. They sat on his army uniform coat draped along the stone wall that ran the length of the front of a neatly clipped lawn. She hadn't noticed the cold then.
Neither had she seen Charlotte's lips pressed together in a firm line as the two roommates walked home that evening. Margie never imagined that her roommate would go so far as to throw away his letters from her. What else has Charlotte done to ruin our relationship?
After washing all the dishes scattered around the kitchen and peeking into the living room, she headed for her own room. The gnawing hunger she felt as she walked home from her work as an elevator operator had disappeared. Now the only appetite that could be satisfied was her longing to hear the words contained in Harlan's letter. She wondered if this was his first letter to her or one in a series of letters to arrive at her home.
Marjorie drew a neatly trimmed fingernail under the long seal of the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of neatly written words.
I so hope you enjoyed this peek into Marjorie's life. I would love to someday expand this into a novella. Time will tell!