"Admit it, you don't think Carl's so bad. I've seen the way the two of you are together...always whispering and laughing at you're own private jokes. Come on! The whole class is waiting for you two to start going steady! Give the people what they want! At least let him take you to homecoming..." ~ A phone call from Bonnie.
It wasn't until after the wedding that I truly understood my parent's hatred of George Ackerman. Since the day I had been born, my sisters were a constant presence in my life. Now they were both gone, and it was all his fault. Regina wouldn't have enlisted and Lois wouldn't have been in such a rush to get married if it hadn't been for that bastard!
I adjusted to being an only child, but nothing stopped the unexpected ache of missing my sisters. Even though Lois lived only a few blocks away, I mourned her as if she were as far away as Regina. Lois and Elmer were too wrapped up in their newlywed's bliss to miss home, but home certainly missed them.
Elmer's mother and my mother began spending a lot of time together. I imagine a new friend was a nice distraction from worrying about your children. I, of course, now had Carl to fill the hole Bonnie had left and distract me from my own worries.
I did let Carl take me to homecoming. That night, during the slow dance, with his hands on my hips and his head bent close to mine; he asked me to go steady. I said yes.
Bonnie was thrilled. After the dance we went back to her house and talked the night away about all the double dates we would go on. At one point, around 3 am I believe, one of us suggested we might even have a double wedding.
"I don't have very long, I just wanted to hear everyone's voice. I wish I could be home for the holidays. I want you all to know I'm thinking of you and that I'll be home next year. Merry Christmas, I love you." ~ A phone call from Regina.
I wish I had a recording of the Christmas phone call. It gets harder and harder to remember the sound of her voice as time goes on. Sometimes I think about that phone call and I want to play it back again. I want to remember exactly what she said and how she said it. The only thing I'm sure of is that the last words she spoke to me were, "Merry Christmas, I love you."
The call came three days before Christmas, right before I left to go on a date with Carl. We were going to the park despite the biting cold and snow because it was the only place we could be alone, without any nosy neighbors or classmates listening in.
I told him about the phone call as we walked briskly through the frozen streets. I told him how hard it was to keep in touch with Regina, despite our best efforts. No matter how many letters were written between us, the postal service still operated at it's own pace. I told him how the Navy had begun censoring her letters. Not drastically, just the occasional blacked out word or line. I told him how rare it was to receive an actual phone call. I told him how nice it felt to actually hear Regina's voice. I told him how close I'd come to missing the call.
By the time we got to the park both of us were struggling to speak around our chattering teeth. We gave in and sought shelter at The Lemon Grass Diner. We discussed our New Years resolutions over warm cups of coffee. After we felt sufficiently warmed up we went back to the park, where Carl kissed me under the giant oak tree. It was warm and slow and gentle, by far the best kiss I've ever had.
Afterwards Carl walked me home and kissed me goodbye on my front porch. This kiss was far more chaste than the one in the park , my parents could see us after all. I watched Carl walk a little ways down the street, to be sure he wouldn't catch me running straight to Bonnie's house so I could tell her everything.
We celebrated Christmas at Lois and Elmer's new home along with Elmer's family. It was a good day, a day were no one worried about the war in Europe or their family members in the service. It was one of only a few truly good days we had left.
It was also the last Christmas before rationing began. We ate, we talked, a fire crackled in the background. Later, when I was cold and alone in a foxhole far from home, I would return to this night and feel the faint memory of warmth on my skin.
"Did you get a letter from Regina? Aren't absolutely green with envy? Maybe she got it right, this whole enlisting thing. I wish I were going to Hawaii. I bet Pearl Harbor is beautiful." ~ A phone call from Lois