AN: A piece of Historical Fiction. This story is set at the beginning of World War II. The characters are made up, but I have tried to base the storyline in actual fact. I have a Masters in Military History, and have tried to research everything surrounding this story to the best of my ability. Constructive criticism is welcome. I am always looking to improve. I will be posting more of this as time goes on. I hope you all enjoy it.
0945- Friday, February 20, 1942
Room 507- Ritz Carlton Hotel
10 Avery Street Boston, Massachusetts
The smoke seemed to cling to the window as the young Marine stood leaning on its gold painted, wooden frame, staring down into Boston Commons. Through the thick panes of glass the city seemed as silent as the movies he remembered watching as a young man, before the age of talkies. The only sounds that filled his ears were the sounds from the wooden radio sitting on the table in the corner, sharing space with a few empty glasses from the night before. The residue of the previous night's liquor could still be smelled at the bottom of them. Whiskey in clean one, Bacardi in the one whose lip was stained with the remnants of its user's lipstick, and a third one sat just next to it, with the remnants of more whiskey in it. Les Brown and his Band of Renown's rendition of 'Shine on Harvest Moon' played from the fabric-covered speakers of the old dark brown radio. The tune held no significance one way or another to the Marine, it was just music to help pass the time while he waited for the love of his life to finish her bath so they could get going on their last walk before he went back to active duty with the First Marine Regiment.
Ordinarily this wouldn't have been out of the ordinary. The Marine had said goodbye to the beautiful woman many times before, but this was different. The bombing of Pearl Harbor had made everything different. There was not a single person in the United States whose world was the same after Pearl Harbor. Over three thousand families had felt the pain of loosing a loved one at Pearl, for the rest, change came soon after. Able-bodied men flooded recruiting offices for every one of the armed forces, factories and arms manufacturers went into overdrive as the nation began to change over to a war-time economy, but that wasn't what changed for the pair sharing a hotel room in the extravagant Ritz Carlton that morning. For them the change was far more personal and much more unknown. Neither of them knew if this would be the last time they would see each other, and that was more terrifying than anything else the country or the world could throw at them.
The woman opened the door and her large, doe-like, almond colored eyes gazed at the Marine who'd captured her heart so unexpectedly. Her heart began to ache for him, fearing the moment she would have to let him go. She took a moment to look at him, study him, committing him to a memory she could access any time she longed to be with him. The way he looked leaning against the window frame in a plain, white t-shirt, a cigarette hanging between his fingers, the gold Marine Corps ring on his right ring finger, glinting slightly in the dimmed sunlight that had gotten through the frosted windows made him look so rugged. He looked almost like a man getting ready for work in the factory and in some regards that was true. He was a man enjoying a smoke before he left for work, but when the bell rang at five o'clock for the rest of the world, she wouldn't be seeing him return to her. She wouldn't be preparing him dinner, or asking him how his day was. She was about to join the ranks of tens of thousands of women who were sending their men off to war. The thought sent goose bumps rippling over her body. She felt the hair on her arms stand on end and press gently against the silken fabric of her blue robe.
"It's getting late, Doll." The Marine said casually as he put his cigarette out in the heavy brass ashtray on the table next to him. He turned towards her, his blue eyes scanning the woman's body hidden inside the knee-length silk robe. Her dark brown locks hung around her face, only partially dry. A few clung to her pale, white face. His eyes locked on hers, not wanting to loose this moment. He stood before her in a white t-shirt, his green, wool uniform trousers, and cordovan shoes. The shirt was tucked in and clung tight to his well-defined chest, giving it a definition she always seemed to fawn over.
The woman was ripped out of her momentary fantasy and looked back at him, nodding slightly before taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, "I know. I'm sorry..." She walked over to the cherry-wood vanity with the large mirror and began run a silver plated brush through her hair. She let her voice trail off, not sure what to say. Part of her wanted to beg him not to go, but she knew he couldn't do that. She had known him almost three years and if she had learned anything about the Marine, it was that he would always do his duty. Perhaps that was part of why she loved him.
The Marine walked into the bathroom to begin his own preparations for the day, while leaving his beloved to continue with her own preparations. He knew that she was feeling so much anxiety, but he didn't know what to say to comfort her, as he was feeling his own sense of dread. He couldn't stand the thought of not knowing when he would see her again. He was even more afraid of what would happen to him. War changed men, there was no question about that. His father was a veteran of the Great War, and his grandmother had told him stories about what he had been like before the war. It had changed him significantly and the Marine was even more afraid of what this war would do to him. He knew that there were enough odds against them being together, and he was now terrified that this war would change him to be someone that the woman in the other room wouldn't want. The fear broke his heart and caused him to reach into his pocket to ensure that the most treasured thing to him was still there. A sigh passed his lips as he felt it's velvety texture against his fingers before returning to his preparations.
A half an hour later the Marine was fully dressed in his winter green service uniform. His green wool cover sitting on his head, tilted at a forty-five degree angle, hiding his dark brown hair, slicked down with pomade. His green, wool, uniform coat fitted his form perfectly, the pair of emblems perfectly positioned on his lapels. Above his left breast pocket were two silver badges, one the shape of a cross, the other a single bar with two other bars hanging from it before coming to a target wrapped in a wreath. Pinned in place above them were three ribbons, adding some color to the otherwise solid green coat. On each sleeve were three green stripes on a red background denoting his rank as a Sergeant. Below that was a single green bar sewn diagonally above the cuff of his coat, signifying that he had been in for at least four years. Around his waist was a black leather belt with a brass buckle, perfectly squared on the button line of his coat. He looked every inch the perfect Marine sergeant.
By contrast the woman who walked out next to him looked like a Hollywood movie star. Her hair was so dark brown it appeared black, which gave her a Snow White appearance as her dark hair was pinned up in waves on her head, and her skin was so pale it looked like snow. Her lips were painted a bright shade of red and a single strand of pearls hung around her shapely neck. She stood just an inch or so taller than the Sergeant next to her, but that was on account of the blue, two inch heels she was wearing at the bottom of her long, shapely, stocking-clad, legs. Each nail, at the end of each slender finger, was painted the same color red as the Sergeant's stripes. Her black wool coat hung down to her calves and wrapped around her, keeping her warm. The brown fur around the collar helped keep her calm as the pair stepped out onto the sidewalk of Avery Street and she put her black, fur, pillbox hat on her head and pinned it in place.
The sky was appropriately grey, as thick clouds hung above the city, telling Boston of impending weather. A soft blanket of snow already covered the Common, and the Public Garden, but most of the rest had been stained by water, salt and dirt that had been used to make the streets drivable. Teams of men with shovels had cleared the sidewalks of snow, and so all was left were a few areas where the snow had refused to move, or had been knocked down by passerby's. The Marine pulled his brown sea-bag up onto his right shoulder as he took the woman's arm in his left and the pair began slowly walking down Avery Street towards the Common, neither speaking, neither knowing what to say under the circumstances. Across the street, a soldier, and his girl walked silently, hand in hand while the girl wept against the arm of his mustard brown uniform jacket. As the woman watched the Army couple across the street, it was as though she were watching another version of herself and the Marine she walked arm in arm with. She couldn't imagine how many other couples must be going through the same thing at this very moment in hundreds of places across the city. She closed her eyes, unable to bear the thought of so much sadness. Perhaps that was what had brought the grey skies, so many broken hearts ripped apart by a war that the country had tried so hard to stay out of.
"Pretty day…" The Sergeant commented as they walked through the narrow paths shoveled among the blanket of white snow that covered the common.
"Stop acting like it's just another day!" The woman commented back sharper than she'd meant to. She was trying hard to console herself and stay strong, when all she wanted to do was cling to him and beg him not to go, "I… I don't know how I'm going to make it without you." She said, stumbling over a few of her words.
"One day at a time." The Sergeant replied gently, "Like my sister always tells me." He paused and turned to her as the clock struck eleven and the bells echoed throughout the city, "You're gonna make it one day at a time, Doll. And before you know it, we'll have those Japs licked and I'll be back." The woman said nothing and merely nodded as she folded herself into his arms and sighed gently. The Sergeant held her close, gently stroking her back before taking a breath of the crisp air, "Come on, we should hail a cab. I can't be late."
South Station, off Atlantic Avenue, was expectedly busy. The building its self seemed to be nearly bursting at the scenes. Cabs pulled up, and as soon as a person or couple had exited, another one entered. Most of those coming out of the station were civilians coming to the city on business, while the majority of those entering the station were service men and women who were leaving to return to their units. Tears seemed to flow everywhere and despite the bustling activity, there were very few loud noises.
The scene was a somber one. The large foyer before the main terminal was full of people and luggage. Soldiers, sailors and Marines all saying goodbye to their loved ones for what could be the last time, before they shipped off to war. From up on the second floor balcony, the Sergeant and the dark haired woman had the perfect view of everything that was going on, but neither of them was paying attention. Leaning against the black, iron, railing, the Sergeant held the woman in his arms as she dabbed her eyes with a white linen handkerchief. They hadn't said much, instead longing to just hold onto one another for as long as they could. It wasn't the first time she'd said goodbye to him and sent him back to his unit, but he'd always returned to her. Whenever the next leave was, or the next sixty-two hour pass, her sergeant would always return to her. This time was different, this time the stakes were might higher and he might not return to her at all.
The thought was more than she could bear as she began to sob into the shoulder of his wool uniform. It was so much more than the fear of his death. She now had to think of new ways to stop her parents from forcing her to marry a man she had no interest in. Everyone thought that in the middle of the twentieth century, that arranged marriages were a thing of history, but for those born into 'old money,' it was still a very real part of life and torture for those who loved someone far below their station.
"Platform C for the 12:15 Pennsylvania Railroad, service to Charleston, South Carolina. Calling at Hartford, New York City, Washington, Richmond, Norfolk, Wilmington, New River and Charleston will be boarding in three minutes. Please proceed to Platform C for the 12:15 Pennsylvania Railroad, service to Charleston, South Carolina." The man's garbled voice came over the station intercom. A shock of fear, and sadness rushed through both the Sergeant, and the woman as the words interrupted their soft moment.
The Sergeant pulled back a little from their embrace and saw the tears starting to pour down his love's face. He pulled her back in for a quick hug as a flood of people began to walk past them, heading for the upper platform just around the corner from where the couple stood. After a moment, the Sergeant pulled back again, "Before I go, there's… there's something I wanted to ask." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a black velvet box. The breath instantly left the woman's lungs as she looked at him with her soft almond eyes and the tears started to fall even harder as she watched him drop to one knee, "Will you marry me, Doll?"
She couldn't even bring herself to voice her response. She just nodded eagerly wiping her eyes with the handkerchief, leaving small smudges of makeup on it. She extended her left hand to him and let him slide the simple silver band with a single diamond flanked by two rubies. He knew it wasn't much, but it was all he could afford after saving up for months. She felt the cold metal touch her ring finger of her left hand as he slipped it on. It fit snug, but not too tight. As he stood she threw herself into his arms and was rewarded by a deep dip and a long, loving kiss. Their lips lingered, sharing the joy of the moment. Any worry she had of what her family would say or how she would hide this from the world until her Marine returned was washed away in the moment. All she was filled with was love. As the second warning came over the intercom, the woman felt a deep desire to give herself to him one more time but there was no time.
The Sergeant stood his fiancé up and kissed her one more time before grabbing his khaki colored sea bag and slung it over his shoulder. The pair walked to the platform and the woman joined the ranks of so many saying goodbye. One last kiss would have to get her through. One last look into the bright blue eyes of the man she loved so much would have to give her the strength to survive those long nights alone. One last look at him in his uniform would have to give her the strength to fight off the arrangement her parents were trying to force her into. She was his, and his alone. She didn't care about her social class, she would marry her Marine, all he had to do was survive the war.