I was a wife one week before my nineteenth birthday. And much to my mother’s dismay, I married Chuck. The days after marrying my high school sweetheart drudged along. I worked and went to Miss Wade’s Fashion Merchandising School, came home and waited by the phone for my marine to call. Chuck called from almost every night.
“I cain’t wait to see you, Sweet Pea,” Chuck’s nickname for me was hokey, but I liked hokey.
“I miss you so much,” I said as his colorless eyes looked at me from his gold framed Corps picture sitting by my bed on the black lacquered nightstand. His eyes fascinated me. Changing from green to gold to brown; they were never the same color from one day to the next. With his square jaw and broad shoulders, Chuck took up the whole frame. We were married when he came home to Texas on leave.
“I miss you, too, Mrs. Lilian Wickham. I have to tell you somethin’,”
“I’m not sure how to say it.”
“Just say it.”
“I won’t be here but for about two months after you get here,” Chuck explained.
“We’re goin’ on a float.”
“How long will it be?”
“About 6 months.”
“I know we want to be together, but…”
“I wanna to be with you.”
“I know, and I want you to come to , but you’ll be here alone after two months. My lieutenant told me to leave you in while we’re gone.”
He was waiting for me to say something.
He and I have been dancing around each other since our hard and heavy relationship in high school began. He was my first in everything. He gave me attention that no other boy had ever done. It felt nice to be needed, wanted, loved by a boy. He protected me whenever he walked me into every bad situation I had ever been in. I trusted him to save me.
We broke up our senior year a week before homecoming. One Friday night after a football game, he forgot about me. We had an argument before the game out in the parking lot. I was tired of him taking my car and driving it around while I was performing with the drill team at the game. He grabbed the keys out of my hand and walked away into the stadium. I guess he forgot he had them and left the game with his buddies. Stranded after the game, I sat crying on the hood of my car until almost midnight waiting for him. I finally broke down and called my mom. She was overjoyed when I ended my relationship with him the next day. After packing up everything he ever bought me, dumping it on his front lawn, I avoided him the rest of the year. Mom retrieved the keys to my car.
The summer after graduation, I heard from his friend that he had joined the Marine Corps. Chuck started writing me after his friend relayed the message that it was okay for him to write. His letters were sweet. He told me how much he loved me and how sorry he was for that night. He told me how much he had learned from his experience in the military. I knew it had to be true. He never would have written like that in high school. Our romance was manic in high school. Now, it’s just us. He and I in letters… no friends or family telling us how to feel or what to do. I trusted him because through all that stupid stuff in high school, he never lied to me. Honesty drew me to him. I wanted a man to tell me the truth. I hadn’t had that, ever. I wanted it now.
“I can’t live apart from you anymore,” I begged holding the phone like it would run away if I loosened my grip.
“I know,” Chuck said.
“So what’s the plan?”
“You’re coming to . I just wanted to warn you what’ll happen after you get here.”
I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm as I reassured him. “I can handle it. I’ll get a job as soon as I get there. I’ll make friends.”
“I know you will, and I have a friend who’s gonna be here while I’m gone.”
“We’ll be okay,” I said to his picture relieved that he wanted me to come to as much as I wanted to go.
Changing the subject before he changed his mind, I asked, “Did you get my letter with the picture?”
“Yeah. Are you naked behind that umbrella?”
“No! It just looks like it. I put on one of the saloon girl’s dresses and just had Jody take the picture from an angle that hides everything.”
“Well it certainly got my attention—and my lieutenant’s.”
“Well he asked me if I had a picture of you.”
“That was for your eyes only!” I squealed into the phone.
“Well, you should have sent me something more… covering.”
“How am I supposed to hold my head up in front of your boss, now?”
“Aw, don’t worry about it.”
“Who else saw the picture?”
“Golf Company, a few guys at the enlisted club, and Richard, the friend I was telling you about.”
“Oh my God!”
“What are you worried about? You’re beautiful. You look like a beautiful blonde cherub with your soft white shoulders, your long curly hair, and those big blue eyes.”
“You’re just trying to suck up now.”
“I’m not sucking up. Everyone thinks so.”
“Oh my God!” I squealed into the phone again.
The day finally came for me to fly to . Mama drove me to the airport with my four dish pack boxes filled with clothes, a 13-inch TV, all the wedding gifts, and almost everything I needed to set up housekeeping.
“Call me when you get to your hotel,” Mama said.
“I will,” I reassured her.
“Be sure you do. I’ll worry about you if I don’t hear from you. You can call me collect anytime.”
“Okay, but I’ll be fine, Mama.”
“Just call me.”
We hugged in the airport terminal before I boarded the airplane. My mother and I had only been apart for a few weeks at a time for the nineteen years of my life. She had raised me by herself while working at a company and in a time period in Texas that didn’t like equal pay for equal work, or single parents in the work place. Everyone said we looked alike. We had the same round face, same big build. We even dressed the same. Not on purpose, we just seemed to always pick out the same shirt, usually in a different color. Her coloring was the darker version of mine. I was almost positive my blonde hair would turn brown like hers when I got older. We even had similar hair styles except mine was the longer version, again, not on purpose. She had beautiful, strong, dark green eyes, and I had my father’s weak, but brilliant blue. I’d worn thick glasses since I was two years old. In high school, my mom got me tinted contacts that made my eyes even bluer. My mother was my best friend. I could tell her anything, and I did. It was hard for me to leave her, but I wanted to be on that airplane. I wanted to have my husband and my own new little family. I was finally on my way to my honeymoon and the life I had been dreaming of since I saw Disney’s Cinderella at the movies when I was a little girl. That airplane was my magic pumpkin ride to a happy ending.