Chapter 3

When Grace got up, Larry had already left for work with Cecil.

She stepped in to the kitchen to put a pot of coffee on. Grace scanned the newspaper Larry had brought home yesterday. She didn’t see anything new, save for that scoundrel Tommy Hill had married Leta Ballard.

Grace dated Tommy before she had gotten engaged to Larry. She was glad she hadn’t fell for his cheesy jokes and corny lines. Just the smell of his cologne, would knock a mule out. He wore some potent stuff that gave her a headache.

Grace laughed to herself thinking about how Tommy strutted like a rooster.

The coffee was perked to perfection.

Grace reached for her blue mug and poured herself a cup. She poured in a splash of cream and stirred it in to cool the steamy black liquid.

After two cups of coffee, it was time to get ready for work at the boutique.

Grace would be off tomorrow, but it would be bittersweet. She would get to spend a little time with her husband before she had to take him to board the train in Salisbury, North Carolina that would take him to Fort Meade in Maryland. She had taken the day off also because she knew it would be a stressful day.

She slipped on her navy blue cotton dress and navy sandals. No taming her mane today, a simple chignon at the base of her neck would have to do. She was going to be late if she didn’t hurry. After catching a glimpse of her reflection in the bathroom mirror, she realized her face was bare.

Grace wasn’t in the mood to be the charming sales lady today.

She reached in to her white purse, grabbed her red lipstick and applied a quick coat to her lips and was on her way to work.

The outside thermometer on the porch where Larry and Cecil were working said eighty five degrees. Hammering shingles on a black roof with the sun beating down, made it seem much hotter.

Cecil Larson was one of Larry’s favorite cousins. He was tall and had a lanky frame with wavy dark hair and eyes. He had a good heart and was always there to help out a friend or family.

Cecil and Larry took their morning break down at the little store on the corner. It was called Kat’s Corner Store.

Larry and Cecil bought Cokes and peanut butter crackers . They sat on the old hard wooden bench to eat their snack and talk before going back up on the hot roof.

Sitting on the bench in the shade, it felt good to feel a breeze blowing the leaves on the old oak tree.

Larry was the first to speak, “Cecil, you know I don’t know where the Army will be sending me after basic training. I sure would appreciate it if you and your wife Carla would check on Grace from time to time.”

Cecil said, “You know we will. Carla likes getting together with Grace, especially when she makes her pies and cobblers. They like talking about all that girly stuff and what’s going on with their friends. Stuff like that bores me. Yeah, we will keep a check on Grace.”

Larry said, “I know Grace will be just fine, still it’s good to know that you and Carla will see her from time to time. She worries about her brothers off to war and now I’m leaving, too. It just gives her more to worry about, you know?”

Cecil shaded his eyes with his right hand as the heat rose up from the black asphalt and said, “Yeah, I know how women worry. Carla worries about everything, too. She can drive me nuts.”

Larry laughed at that comment, “Okay, you ready to get that roof finished today?”

Cecil replied, “If either of us wants to get paid today, we better get it done. Come on, Larry.”

Larry and Cecil placed their soda bottles in the old wooden crate and put their cellophane wrappers in the trash barrel and were on their way to finish the roof.

Larry felt more at ease knowing Cecil and Carla would be around if Grace needed anything.

Cecil had injured his arm working at the saw mill as a teenager, so he couldn’t pass the physical for the Army.

Cecil was always doing construction work, his injury never interfered with his expertise as a carpenter and construction worker. He was blessed with a God given talent to create beautiful pieces of art in his spare time.

The day passed by fast and the roof the two men worked so hard on was completed by four o’clock in the afternoon.

Cecil collected the check and had it cashed at the bank to pay Larry his money. This was the last day the cousins would be working together. Cecil was on his way to drop Larry off at his house, knowing the next time he would see him he wouldn’t be a civilian, he would be a soldier in the US Army.

Grace arrived home about four o’clock in the afternoon. She had felt nervous all day knowing this would be her last night to be with Larry for awhile.

Grace heard a vehicle pull in the driveway thinking it was Cecil bringing Larry home, but when she looked out the door, she saw it was her dad’s 1936 cream colored Dodge. Her dad stayed in the car while her momma walked up the back steps to greet her, carrying a basket of food.

Grace smiled, “Good to see you, Momma. And what do you have in that basket?”

Myrtle smiled back at her daughter, “Oh not much, some pressure cooked chicken, potato salad and some tomatoes you can slice up for supper. I put the last two servings of the blackberry pie on a plate and covered it with some wax paper. I know how much Larry loves my blackberry pie, so I thought it would be a nice treat for him before he left.”

Myrtle Lee Baker was a sweet and quiet spoken lady, with just a trace of silver starting at the temples of her jet black hair. Her high cheekbones were prominent, the bow in her top lip and her almond shaped dark eyes were her most attractive attributes. Grace was lucky she had inherited her looks from her momma.

Myrtle was small boned, taller than her daughter Clara’s stature of five feet, but shorter than Grace’s height of five feet and five inches tall. Grace and Clara were more medium boned with big bosoms.

Myrtle had her hair bobbed to her shoulders when Grace and her siblings were small. Grace remembered how she cried when her dad brought her momma home from the barber shop. The braid was twenty nine inches long where the barber took his scissors and hacked through the thick mane of hair.

In those days, people thought the weight of long hair caused headaches. Later on, Myrtle thought it was the withdrawal of caffeine that was the source of her headaches. Still, from then on, Myrtle kept her hair a little longer than shoulder length, long enough to twist up to do her work and still look feminine.

Grace took the basket of food from her momma, hugging her tightly and said, “Thank you Momma. Today, I was tired before I even got to work.”

Myrtle nodded her head, “I knew it would be a hard day for you. I haven’t heard from the boys lately, but hopefully I will soon.”

Myrtle and Will Baker had three sons, William, Joel and Marvin away at war. She tried to hide her fears about her boys. It would only upset her husband and two daughters even more if they knew how worried she really was.

“I think about them a lot, Momma. All we can do until we hear from them is pray. I know it’s hard on you and Dad.”

As Grace said these words she reached out and squeezed her momma’s hand.

Myrtle tried to hide the fear in her voice, “I know sweetie. I need to go, Will is burning up in the car. Tell Larry we love him and be safe.”

Releasing her momma’s hand she said, “I will tell him. Thank you, Momma for fixing up this food for us. I love you.”

Myrtle said, “You are very welcome. I love you, too. honey.”

Myrtle hesitated and turned around, “By the way, you know you don’t have to stay in this little apartment. You can move back home and have one less bill to pay.”

Grace said, “You know, I was thinking about that. We pay for this apartment by the week and I was wondering if you and Dad would mind if I moved back home? I was going to talk to Larry about that tonight. The furniture came with the apartment, so I only have my clothes, dishware, pots and pans to pack.”

“Okay, think it over and drop by the house. We can help pack you pack up to move back home.”

“I will, Momma. Thanks again.”

Myrtle got in to the car with Will and they were on their way home.

Grace’s mom and dad had only been gone thirty minutes when she heard a truck pull in to the driveway. Perfect timing she thought as she removed the chicken from the warm oven. The table was set, the dark amber tea had ice cubes floating to the top. Lemon wedges sat on the rims of the clear glasses.

Larry greeted Grace with a kiss on the cheek.

He said, “Hey, babe! Wow, I smell chicken and something sweet. Do you mind if I wash my hands up in the bathroom? I will be right back as soon as I scrub up.”

Grace said, “Sure, sweetie, I need to slice the tomatoes. Momma stopped by to bring us a nice supper and one of your favorites, two pieces of blackberry pie.”

“That sounds great, babe. Tell your momma thank you for me, please.”

“I will, Larry.”

As soon as their delicious dinner was over, Grace cleaned the kitchen up.

The coolest room in their apartment was their bedroom. A metal fan sat on the dresser blowing cool air. This side of the apartment was shaded with trees that kept their room cooler.

Larry had showered and lay on top of the sheets in his boxer shorts, reading a book he had borrowed from Cecil.

Grace felt cooler after taking a tepid bath in the big tub. She felt comfortable in her short white cotton gown that let her skin breathe.

She walked around to her side of the double bed to lie beside her husband.

Larry marked his place and put his book on the built-in night stand by his side of the bed.

The only light in the small room came from a small lamp. It was clamped on by a metal clamp in the center of the headboard.

Grace slid over to lay her head on Larry’s shoulder and her arm fell across his stomach.

Larry’s mouth felt dry, but he started the conversation.

“Grace, you know I will come back home as soon as I can, right?”

She cleared her throat and said, “Yes, of course I do, sweetie. I wanted to ask you about something.”

“Yeah, I wanted to ask you about something too, babe,” Larry said.

Grace didn’t hesitate, “What do you think about me moving back home with my parents?”

Larry said, “That’s what I was going to suggest to you. Why keep the apartment while I’m gone? I want to build or buy us a house when I get out of the service.”

She was relieved it wasn’t a big deal to Larry about her moving home. He actually felt better about her living at her parents.

“Larry, you will be welcome to stay at my parents with me when you get a leave to come home.”

He said, “That is very nice of your parents to let me stay at their house when I’m on leave from the Army, babe.”

Grace said, “Well, you know they like you a lot and gave us their blessings to marry. That should let you know something. They wouldn’t have give their blessing to just anyone I chose to marry, you know?”

“And I appreciate that Grace. It’s just they haven’t known me very long.”

He laughed then and said, “Heck, Grace you haven’t known me that long, either.”

She laughed and pulled him close, “I think I’ve got to know you pretty well.”

“I agree with that, babe,” he said with a big grin on his face.

“One more thing, Grace. Joe is picking me up around six o’clock in the morning to take me to the train station. I think it will be better to say our goodbyes here. I don’t want you driving while you are upset.”

Grace’s smile faded, “I will be fine. I can come along.”

He released a breath all at once. “I would feel better if we just said goodbye here.”

She relented and said, “Fine. We will say our goodbyes here, then. It’s not good bye, remember? It’s see you later.”

Larry wrapped Grace in his arms, “That’s my girl.”

The next thing Grace knew it was morning. She was awake most of the night and barely remembered Larry kissing her goodbye. She felt disoriented and felt warm tears slide down her cheeks…

(to be continued)

Advertisements

Strength, Love and Grace by Lindsey Curtis
Chapter 2

Before Larry was shipped off to the Army base in Fort Meade Maryland, Grace was going to purchase him a gold wedding band to remind him of her love and their vows. They married in such a whirlwind after Larry proposed to her, she didn’t have the time to shop for her beloved’s ring.

Grace had a job at Betty’s Boutique, a store that only carried ladies clothing. She had a savings account at The First National Bank in downtown China Grove for the last five years. Now, she was glad that she had the discipline to put her a little stash of money away on a weekly basis. Grace withdrew the money she needed on her mid morning break, while Betty could cover for her.

Tuesday’s at Betty’s Boutique were always slow and Grace was elated that she had gotten off at two o’clock, early enough to take care of all of her errands. She planned to stop by the same jewelry store that her friend Ruth had told her about, Pearl’s Jewelry in Landis.

Entering the jewelry store, she saw a pretty redhead dusting off counters. The lady came around to the front of the counter to greet her.

Hello, I’m Pearl. Is there something I can help you with today?”

Grace smiled, “Hello, I’m Grace. As a matter of fact, I’m sure you can. I just got married three days ago and everything just happened so fast, I didn’t have time to buy my husband a wedding ring. I was looking for a yellow gold wedding band, fourteen carat and a size twelve.”

You’re right, I can help you. I have some plain gold bands and some that has some intricate detailing around the exterior of the band. Most are size ten, eleven and twelve.”

Pearl reached down to the middle shelf and pulled out a tray of wedding rings for men. Grace peered at all the bands. Some looked far too dainty for Larry’s large hands and fingers.

Pearl glanced at the rings on Grace’s wedding finger and thought she recognized the engagement ring and wedding band as the rings she had recently sold to a nice guy named Larry.

Pearl had to ask, ”Your rings are lovely. Did you marry a guy named, Larry?”

Grace grinned, “Yes, I did. I came by your store because my best friend Ruth recommended your store to me. Do you know my husband?”

No, I don’t actually know him, but he purchased your rings at my store.”

Well, he has good taste. I love my rings. And, I think I have found the perfect wedding band for him. I think I like this one.”

Pearl looked at the medium thick band Grace held in her right hand between her two fingers.

She said, “I think you made a nice choice. I like the width you chose, too. Okay, Grace I will put this in a box and bag it up for you. I will give you a receipt just in case it doesn’t fit. I give all my customers fourteen days to return their merchandise and get their money back, or trade it in for another one.”

Gazing down at her wedding rings, Grace said, “Thank you, Pearl. I’m so glad Ruth told me about your wonderful store and that someone recommended your store to my husband because I love my wedding rings.”

Pearl said, “It is better to have good quality gems than a large quantity of gems that look like something from the five and dime. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, Grace.”

I know what you’re talking about – cut, clarity and carat. My friend Ruth taught me about that. That woman loves jewelry. I’m telling you, she would sell her own mother for a pretty ring.”

At that comment, Pearl and Grace burst out laughing.

As Pearl handed Grace her purchase, she said, “Grace, thank you for coming by. I hope Larry likes his ring and come back to see me.”

Grace said, “Thank you, Pearl, I will and I will bring that crazy gal Ruth with me next time. Law, look at the time. I need to have Larry’s supper on the table and I still need to go by the market. Thanks a mill, Pearl! Bye now!”

Still giggling, Pearl said, “You’re welcome! Bye!”

Grace felt better now that she had gotten Larry a wedding ring. She put the few groceries she had bought in the cabinet and the pork chops in the small refrigerator. Grace wanted to relax and have a cigarette before cooking supper. The smoke curled around in the room as she was deep in thought.

Sounds of the kids playing next door echoed through the open kitchen window. They were jumping rope in the road. Little girl squeals and the weight of the old tattered rope whacking the pavement reminded Grace of her own childhood.

Her cousins on their maternal side, the Hunt’s came down with their parents from Lexington, North Carolina to visit in the spring and summer months. Grace’s parents garden always had a bounty of fruits and vegetables to share with their families and neighbors.

Usually there was some pulling hair before the girl cousins left to go back home. Their cousin Dotty wasn’t nice like her older siblings, she liked to cuss and bully Grace and Clara. Grace had a more passive personality and Clara didn’t mind fighting. Dotty got the worst end of the deal every time she fought Clara.

Grace couldn’t help laughing every time she thought of Clara and Dotty fighting while growing up in the good ole days.

Dotty always took off running to her pappy with a bloody nose or a big bruise somewhere on her body. If she had any sense, she wouldn’t have messed with Clara. It was like Dotty was just asking for a beating and Clara was more than happy to give it to her. Even moving in to adulthood, Dotty Marie Hunt had trouble getting along with people for some reason.

She stubbed out her cigarette in the clear glass ash tray and went to the kitchen sink to wash her hands to prepare supper.

Grace rinsed the pork chops off and blotted them with paper towels before dusting them with flour and a few shakes of salt and pepper. The oil in the frying pan was sizzling at just the right temperature.

She placed them in the black iron skillet to brown, covering them with a metal lid to tenderize, then turning them with a spatula. The fresh green beans her mother had canned from last summer, simmered in a pot with a little bit of fat back grease for flavor. The cubed potatoes were tender enough to whisk in butter, cream, salt and pepper. If Larry wanted dessert, Grace had homemade applesauce her mother had also canned.

Grace was setting the table when she heard an old pick-up pull into the dirt driveway. It was Cecil Larson, Larry’s cousin dropping him off. He had been helping Cecil on some construction jobs before he left for the Army.

Grace struck a match and was lighting two white tapered candles that sat atop the the small metal table as Larry walked through the front door. He looked very tired and sweaty, but was glad to be home to his wife.

Larry grinned, “Hey babe! I’m a dirty mess. Do you mind if I get a shower right quick? I won’t be too long.”

Grace was smiling because her man was finally home. “ We are having pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls and applesauce for dessert.”

Larry blew Grace a kiss and said, “Sounds good babe.”

She said, “I picked up some Coca~Colas at the store. Would you like Coke or tea?”

A Coke would be good,” he said.

Grace was humming as she set napkins, salt, pepper and some butter in a light blue butter dish on the table. She couldn’t wait to surprise him after supper with his wedding ring she had bought him.

Larry walked into the small kitchen, freshly showered and had changed in to a light green cotton tee shirt and casual tan pants. Grace still had on her yellow polka dotted dress and low heeled white pumps she had worn to work at the boutique that morning. Larry loved seeing his wife in her pretty dresses.

She made their plates and placed them on the table. There was only two metal chairs around the metal table in the modest kitchen, but it was clean and neat. The mixed flowers in a milky glass vase sat on the window sill, smelling sweet and freshly picked.

Larry sat across the table from Grace devouring the delicious meal she had prepared.

Larry buttered his roll and said, “Babe, this meal is so good, it would make a hound dog break it’s chain!”

Grace laughed, “I’m glad you are enjoying it sweetie. It didn’t take that long to prepare. After we eat, I will wash dishes and we can spend some time together in the living room.”

That sounds good, babe. Cecil had to stop for gas and I picked up a newspaper I’d like to scan through.”

Okay, Larry, it won’t take me long. Relax and I will be in there shortly.”

Grace quickly put away the food in the refrigerator, washed and dried the dishes and silverware. She rinsed her dish rag under the faucet to wipe down the table, counters and stove.

She reached behind the Morton salt box and grabbed the black box that contained the gold band. Grace cupped her hand around it before stepping into the sparsely decorated living room. It only held a brown sofa, matching chair, coffee table and a tall metal lamp with an ivory shade, thin as parchment paper that had seen better days.

When Larry saw Grace, he folded his newspaper and laid it to the side.

Larry smiled and said, “Come and sit beside me, babe. How was your day?”

Grace sat close beside him, “I had a pretty good day. Betty closed the boutique a little early. Tuesday’s business is always slow.”

Larry squinted his eyes as the last rays of sun came through the slats of the venetian blinds.

So what did you do after you got off work? Did you stop by to see Ruth?”

Grace’s lips curved in t a big smile. “No, I went and picked you up a little surprise.”

Larry was smiling now. “Well, you didn’t have to do that, but since you did, what did you get me?”

Grace opened her right hand that revealed a black velvet box just like the one her engagement ring and wedding band had came in that Larry had given her.

She said, “Look, I felt terrible not having a wedding band to give you when we got married… Ruth told me about that new little jewelry store called Pearl’s Jewelry. I met the owner, Pearl and she’s real nice and sells great quality jewelry, too.” As she said this, she twirled her wedding rings around on her left ring finger.

Larry laughed and said, “Yes, I met Pearl when I went to buy your rings. And she is a really nice lady. She was very helpful and I’m sure she could tell I didn’t know anything about jewelry.”

Grace opened the box and took out the shiny gold band and placed it on Larry’s left ring finger.

Larry was totally surprised and looked at how perfect the band fit and how shiny it was. She could tell he was pleased.

He said, “I love it, Grace, this is really a nice ring. Thank you, babe. I love you.”

She was beaming because she could tell Larry really liked his ring. “I’m glad you like it, I thought you would. You’re welcome, honey.”

Larry leaned over and pulled Grace to him embracing her in his arms and gave her a long kiss. She hugged and kissed him back, feeling loved and appreciated.

They settled back on the sofa, Grace cuddled up to Larry and laid her head on his shoulder.

So how did your day with Cecil work out today?”

Well, it was a pretty good day until Ed Williams and his crazy sidekick Lewis Smith wandered down to the job site. Ed had on his five cent badge that says Sheriff on it pinned to his shirt. Somebody needs to put a leash on Ed and Lewis, they are so aggravating. It didn’t take long for one of them to cause trouble as usual. Here comes this short fat woman in a pink robe, head full of hair curlers cussing a blue streak.”

Grace was laughing and asked, “Why was she cussing.”

She said she was going to kick Lewis’ ass because he had his pointed head peekin’ in her window trying to see her naked, again.”

Larry was laughing hard now.

Who was she, the woman in the pink robe?” Grace asked.

When he could get a breath, he said, “All I know is they call her Fat Faye and apparently it wasn’t the first time Lewis has been caught peeking in her windows. Cecil didn’t want any trouble on the job, so he ran Lewis off and told Ed he might as well get on down the road, too.”

Grace wiped her eyes from laughing. “Yes, trouble always seems to follow those two. I didn’t know that you knew Ed and Lewis.”

He replied, “I’ve known those crazy two about all my life. In fact, I went to school with Lewis, seems like Ed and his parents moved here while I was in elementary school.”

Grace said, “Did you know why Lewis’ head is so small and pointy?”

Larry said, “No, why is it shaped so pointed and small compared to his body, even though he is a skinny little fella?”

Grace was amazed Larry didn’t know.

I was told his head was like that because when he was a baby he drank gas.”

Larry said, “Well that is sad. I just thought he was born crazy.”

She said, “Before I met you, one day I was hanging out with Ruth at her house. Her parents paid Ed to mow the grass. It felt like a hundred degrees outside that day. Anyway, she got to feeling sorry for Ed. He was pouring sweat, sprawled out under the shade tree taking a break. Ruth took him a cold glass of lemonade knowing he had to be thirsty. They were talking and Ed got up his nerve to ask Ruth to go out on a date with him. She told him, not a chance in Hades would she ever go out with him, not even if he had a million dollars and a few other things I won’t repeat.”

With a wide grin on his face he said, “I can imagine Ed had her fired up. Ruth is a firecracker and way out of his league. I heard Ed was sweet on a lady in Landis that won’t give him the time of day. Besides, he ain’t got no steady job and no money to take a woman out. I think he’s going to be stuck with Lewis”

Grace laughed, “You’re probably right about that.”

I’m so tired Grace, are you ready for bed?”

Yes sweetie, I will be in there in a little bit.”

He had to get up at six o’clock in the morning to be on the construction site with Cecil. He realized tomorrow would be another rough day carrying ninety pounds of shingles on his shoulders, up a ladder to finish the roofing job.

Larry went through the house turning out the lights and locking the doors.

Grace went through her usual routine of getting ready for bed, enjoying her warm soak in the tub.

She opened the door of the small bathroom closet to get her new pink rose colored negligee’ off of the wire clothes hanger. It felt as soft as her skin as she rubbed the material between her finger tips.

Working at Betty’s Boutique had its advantages. She got to see all the pretty things that was shipped to Betty’s first, plus she got fifteen percent off on everything she purchased.

Grace slipped the pretty lingerie over her head. Pink was her favorite color and looked stunning against her skin. The front was a halter style and the back scooped low, half way down her spine. The tip of the hem of the garment was a few inches above her knees.

Larry had always complimented her about her shapely legs.

It was hard to believe he would be leaving for Fort Meade in two days. If Grace kept this thought in her mind, she knew she wouldn’t get any sleep tonight. She shook her head as if she was trying to shake the thought from her mind.

Grace removed her hairpins and her hair fell loosely down her shoulders and back. She gently began finger combing it. Looking in the mirror she thought she looked pretty, but different.

Then it occurred to her, this is what being in love looks like…
(to be continued)

Strength, Love and Grace by Lindsey Curtis

Chapter 1
As Grace sat in her chair by the window daydreaming of happier times, a slight smile on her face, she was transported to her youthful years.

Grace had a best friend named Ruth that looked so similar to her, she could easily pass as Grace’s sister. Both were beauties, with olive skin, high cheekbones and raven colored hair. Jackets with shoulder pads, pencil skirts and stiletto heels adorned these sharp dressed ladies. Ben Hur perfume and Tangee make-up were tucked inside their purses, along with cigarettes and matches for a smoke.

Grace and Ruth were putting in their applications for jobs as clerks at the dime store and were also seeking employment as mill workers down the street at the the local Landis cotton mill. Times were hard, jobs were scarce. After putting in their applications for work, Grace and Ruth stopped at the tiny drugstore on Main Street for a Coca~Cola and a cigarette, time to catch up on the latest gossip.

Grace and Ruth were single gals that loved to dance on Saturday nights, after getting all dolled up. After the drugstore break, they were going to walk to Ruth’s house that was near by in the mill village section of Landis.

As Grace and Ruth were sauntering down the sidewalk, idly talking, when they heard a loud car engine soar by. The black Buick came racing back up to them, the brakes squealed as the car came to a halting stop.

Behind the steering wheel sat a good looking man built like a football player with ash blond hair and blue eyes. The guy on the passenger side had dark eyes and light brown hair with a slight build, nothing to write home about.
The big blond guy said, “What are you ladies up to today?”

Grace smiled and said, “We are out hunting for a job.”

The driver of the Buick said, ” I’m Larry and this is my friend, Joe.”

Grace said, “Hey, nice to meet you. My name is Grace and this is my friend, Ruth.”

Larry spoke and said, “Well, Grace if you are looking for a job you can take care of me.”

Grace was speechless, but found Larry charming. She and Ruth felt safe with these two new strangers and accepted the offer to be dropped off at Ruth’s house. Grace thought Larry was handsome and she preferred the strong, blue eyed and blond type. Ruth didn’t feel an attraction for Joe and was in to being single at the time, didn’t want to answer to a man just yet.

Grace and Larry dated for a few months and it wasn’t long before they fell head over heels in love. Grace loved cooking and showing off her skills in the kitchen to her new guy. Larry was more than happy to savor all the delicious meals Grace prepared.

Larry liked showing his girl off, taking Grace out for dinner and dancing. He picked up the phone and dialed the familiar phone number at the house where Grace still lived with her parents, the Baker’s. It rang three times before Grace could grab it.

Grace picked up the phone, “Hello.”

Larry said, “Hello, babe. How are you?”

She said, “I’m doing good, honey. How are you?”

He replied, “I’m doing good, babe. Look, I would like to take you out to dinner and dancing this Saturday night. Does Saturday work for you?”

Grace thought for a moment before she answered, “This Saturday will be fine. What time are you picking me up?”

Six thirty okay with you, Grace?”

That’s perfect. See you then, honey.”

Grace had no idea that her Saturday night date would be so special. Larry had been thinking about getting Grace a diamond and proposing to her. He grabbed his keys and was on his way to Pearl’s Jewelry.

Larry entered the jewelry store and saw an attractive tall lady in her twenties behind the counter. She had auburn hair scooped up off her shoulders with a decorative hair pin to hold her curls. A nice periwinkle dress made her sapphire blue eyes stand out. With a friendly smile she stepped out from behind the counter in high heels that matched her dress.

The lady said, “ Hello, my name is Pearl. What can I help you with today?”

He outstretched his hand to shake Pearl’s hand and said, “I’m looking for a diamond ring so I can propose to my girlfriend in a couple days.”

Pearl asked, “Do you know what style you’re looking for and what size ring she wears?”

He replied, “I know Grace wears a size seven ring, but I have no idea what style. I’ve never bought a girl a ring before, but I know she likes yellow gold.”

Pearl went behind the counter and pulled a large tray of diamond rings out, placing them on top of the glass counter.

I don’t have a lot of different styles, but most of them are set in yellow gold. I have some round, oval, square and pear shapes. Pick out a few you like and we can negotiate on the price.”

Larry looked at all the sparkling stones more confused… He thought this would be easy. Pearl saw the unsure look on his face as he picked up one ring at a time, then returning each one back into the velvet tray.

Pearl spoke up and said, “Okay, would you like me to try some on so that you can see what it would look like on your future wife’s hand? I wear a size seven also and most of the rings come in a size six or seven.”

Larry smiled, “That would be great if you wouldn’t mind.”

Pearl laughed, “I don’t mind at all. I love helping people and I love diamonds, that’s what I’m here for. You know, you are not the first guy that needed a woman’s opinion on which engagement ring to buy their future wife. It takes a woman to know what another woman would want.”

After about thirty minutes of comparing one diamond to the next, Larry picked out a beautiful square shaped diamond set in yellow gold. He settled on a plain gold wedding band for Grace.

Originally he was only going to buy the diamond, but since he planned to marry Grace very soon, he opted to get her wedding band now. Pearl inserted the diamond ring and the gold wedding band into two separate black velvet boxes and dropped them in to a white bag with Pearl’s Jewelry written on the outside of the bag in black old English letters. Larry thanked Pearl and she wished him good luck.

As he walked to the parking lot to his car, he was feeling confident that Grace would say yes to his proposal and love the rings he had just bought her.

Saturday afternoon, after Grace had finished all of her chores, she wanted to take her time getting ready for her date with Larry. After brushing her teeth to they gleamed, she settled down into the big claw footed tub to soak. She dried her skin and slid on her ivory robe. She had her under clothing and nylon stockings laid out on the bed. Grace reached into her closet for the dress she had set her mind on wearing. It was a red clingy sheath that felt like silk on her skin. The belt attached to the dress would accent her waist. High heels were not the best choice to wear dancing, she thought as she buckled the straps of her black high heels around her slim ankles.

Grace stepped in the bathroom for some finishing touches. The house was really quiet because her parents were out visiting relatives and her brothers were off to war. Her only sister, Clara was two years older and had married Vince Christie a year ago.

She relished the peace and serenity of being in the house alone. Grace brushed her hair, applied a coat of black mascara to her lashes and slid red lipstick over her full lips. She clipped pearl earrings on her lobes and looped her matching pearl bracelet on her wrist. The finishing touch was dabbing on her perfume to her pulse points and behind her ears. She looked in the mirror and was pleased with her look.

She heard a car pull in to the driveway and grabbed her black purse. There was a knock at the door and there stood Larry. He had on a navy suit with tiny white vertical pin stripes that complimented his starched white shirt and navy tie. Larry was tall and had a football player’s build.

Grace was smiling as she opened the door

Larry whistled as soon as he saw her.

He said, “My you look sharp, babe. You look beautiful!”

Grace walked toward Larry and embraced him in a hug. She loved the clean smell of his aftershave as she nestled her nose in to his shoulder. Then, pulled slightly away to look in to his eyes and kissed his cheek.

You look very handsome. Let me turn off the lights and I will be ready to go.”

She grabbed her purse, switched off the lights and they were on their way to dinner at a popular steak house in Concord off highway 29 called Harrison’s Fine Food and Wine. It was a short ten mile drive from where Grace lived.

Larry came around and opened Grace’s door and escorted her in to the restaurant. Mister Harrison, the owner greeted them at the door. He was a short stocky man with thin dark hair, dressed in a long sleeve white shirt and black slacks.

Larry, it’s so good to see you and Grace again! Where would you like to sit tonight?”

Larry knew when the weather was nice the restaurant had music and dancing out on the patio.

He said, “A table and chairs near the back patio would be nice if it’s available.”

Right this way, please,” he said and motioned them to follow him.

Larry pulled out Grace’s chair and seated her. Mister Harrison handed them each a menu and told them their waitress Helen would be there to take their orders shortly. Larry and Grace thanked him and started looking at their menus.

Grace was hungry and had not had anything to eat since breakfast.

Their waitress approached their table wearing a white blouse and a black skirt on her thin frame with black low heel pumps. She had her brown hair in a bun and the only trace of make-up on her face was her muted red lipstick.

She said, “I’m Helen and I will be taking care of y’all tonight. Can I start you out with something to drink?

Larry cleared his throat and said,”Could we have two sweet ice teas with lemon, please?”

Yes, sir. I will get your teas now and come back to take your order.”

He said, “Thank you.”

So, what are you going to have, Grace?”

Grace looked up from her menu and said, “The rib eye steak was so good last time, I was thinking, steak, baked potato and salad with oil and vinegar dressing. What about you?”

Larry had butterflies in his stomach because he knew he would be proposing to Grace after dinner.

Sounds good, I think I will have the same.”

Helen brought their sweet teas and took their order.

Grace asked, “How is your mother doing with Arlen and George being away from her and in the Army?”

Larry crinkled his brow and said, “Not so good… She has actually been very nervous since they were shipped off to war. Mama knows the danger they could face on the battle fields. She won’t rest until they are back home and we have no idea when that will be.”

Grace dabbed at her mouth with her linen napkin after taking a drink of her tea and said, “My three brothers enlisted in the Army Air Corp the day after Pearl Harbor was hit. My momma tries to hide how upset she really is, but I can see the worry in her face. I worry about my brothers, too.”

He said, “You know Grace, I knew if I didn’t enlist, I would have been drafted. I don’t know how I got by not being drafted a year ago. I look forward getting this behind me for several reasons.”

About that time Helen was placing their dinner on the table in front of them. She returned to the kitchen to get their dinner rolls.

Helen set the rolls, butter and A1 sauce in the center of the table and refilled their tea glasses.

She asked, “Is there anything else I could get y”all?”

Larry said,”No, thank you, I think we have everything.”

Helen nodded and left to take care of other customers.

Grace wasn’t going to be upset, she planned to enjoy her delicious dinner. She was already dreading Larry leaving, though.

Helen returned to clear their dishes from their table and to briefly wipe the table down.

She asked, “Would y’all like dessert?”

Larry replied, “Oh, no thank you. Could we have two coffees with cream, please?”

Yes sir, right away.”

Helen returned with two coffees and a pitcher of cream. She laid the bill on Larry’s side of the table. They thanked her and she left to attend other customers.

After stirring cream in to their coffee, Larry was the first to speak.

Grace, after coffee would you like to dance outside on the patio?”

She smiled, “Yes, that would be nice. I know you don’t smoke, but would you mind if I have a cigarette?”

Go right ahead, I don’t mind.”

After drinking their coffee, Grace went to the ladies room to reapply her lipstick, freshen up and have a breath mint. She returned to their table and Larry led her out to the patio where music was playing softly through speakers set up outside. He took her hand and began slow dancing with his love.

Black wrought iron patio tables and chairs were scattered around the cement floor and the center of the patio was empty, just right for ten or more couples to dance.

When the song was over, he walked her to a table and pulled out her chair, carefully pushing her chair closer to the table. Grace sat her purse on the table to her right. Larry sat in the chair opposite of her. He couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful night. The stars were shining bright and the candle on the table created a softness to Grace’s face.

Larry looked at Grace and said, “You know I love you and I wanted to ask you to marry me.”

Grace’s mouth was wide open because she didn’t expect Larry to ask her so soon.

Larry reached in to the pocket of his jacket and pulled out the black velvet box and opened it. He withdrew the shiny diamond ring.

Looking straight in to her eyes he said, “Will you marry me, Grace?”

It took her about a second and she said,”Yes, I will marry you!”

Larry slipped the diamond on her left ring finger. He stood up to go around to her side of the table to hug and kiss her. Grace loved Larry and her new engagement ring. She was thrilled with the thought of marrying Larry and in the future having his children.

The wedding was a simple ceremony in York, South Carolina with a justice of the peace officiating on April 22, 1942. Grace’s best friend Ruth and her new boyfriend Bill rode along because they needed two witnesses. Wearing a tailored white suit and carrying a mixed arrangement of white flowers, Grace looked radiant beside her tall handsome groom wearing a navy suit.

After paying for a furnished apartment, a honeymoon was out of the question. Larry and Grace were happy to just be together.

Larry would soon be off to the US Army. Grace was consumed with worry because not only was her husband off to war, she had three brothers off to war not knowing if they would survive and return home again. Counting her new husband, four of her loves would be off to war… (to be continued)

Strength, Love and Grace by Lindsey Brooks Curtis, writer

Strength, Love and Grace by Lindsey Curtis
Chapter 2

Before Larry was shipped off to the Army base in Fort Meade Maryland, Grace was going to purchase him a gold wedding band to remind him of her love and their vows. They married in such a whirlwind after Larry proposed to her, she didn’t have the time to shop for her beloved’s ring.

Grace had a job at Betty’s Boutique, a store that only carried ladies clothing. She had a savings account at The First National Bank in downtown China Grove for the last five years. Now, she was glad that she had the discipline to put her a little stash of money away on a weekly basis. Grace withdrew the money she needed on her mid morning break while Betty could cover for her.

Tuesday’s at Betty’s Boutique were always slow and Grace was elated that she had gotten…

View original post 2,727 more words

Strength, Love and Grace by Lindsey Curtis
Chapter 2

Before Larry was shipped off to the Army base in Fort Meade Maryland, Grace was going to purchase him a gold wedding band to remind him of her love and their vows. They married in such a whirlwind after Larry proposed to her, she didn’t have the time to shop for her beloved’s ring.

Grace had a job at Betty’s Boutique, a store that only carried ladies clothing. She had a savings account at The First National Bank in downtown China Grove for the last five years. Now, she was glad that she had the discipline to put her a little stash of money away on a weekly basis. Grace withdrew the money she needed on her mid morning break while Betty could cover for her.

Tuesday’s at Betty’s Boutique were always slow and Grace was elated that she had gotten off at two o’clock, early enough to take care of all of her errands. She planned to stop by the same jewelry store that her friend Ruth had told her about, Pearl’s Jewelry in Landis.

Entering the jewelry store, she saw a pretty redhead dusting off counters. The lady came around to the front of the counter to greet her.

“Hello, I’m Pearl. Is there something I can help you with today?”

Grace smiled, “Hello, I’m Grace. As a matter of fact, I’m sure you can. I just got married three days ago and everything just happened so fast, I didn’t have time to buy my husband a wedding ring. I was looking for a yellow gold wedding band, fourteen carat and a size twelve.”

“You’re right, I can help you. I have some plain gold bands and some that has some intricate detailing around the exterior of the band. Most are size ten, eleven and twelve.”

Pearl reached down to the middle shelf and pulled out a tray of wedding rings for men. Grace peered at all the bands. Some looked far too dainty for Larry’s large hands and fingers.

Pearl glanced at the rings on Grace’s wedding finger and thought she recognized the engagement ring and wedding band as the rings she had recently sold to a nice guy named Larry.

Pearl had to ask,”Your rings are lovely. Did you marry a guy named, Larry?”

Grace grinned, “Yes, I did. I came by your store because my best friend Ruth recommended your store to me. Do you know my husband?”

“No, I don’t actually know him, but he purchased your rings at my store.”

“Well, he has good taste. I love my rings. And, I think I have found the perfect wedding band for him. I think I like this one.”

Pearl looked at the medium thick band Grace held in her right hand between her two fingers.

She said, “I think you made a nice choice. I like the width you chose, too. Okay, Grace I will put this in a box and bag it up for you. I will give you a receipt just in case it doesn’t fit. I give all my customers fourteen days to return their merchandise and get their money back, or trade it in for another one.”

Gazing down at her wedding rings, Grace said,“Thank you, Pearl. I’m so glad Ruth told me about your wonderful store and that someone recommended your store to my husband because I love my wedding rings.”
Pearl said, “It is better to have good quality gems than a large quantity of gems that look like something from the five and dime. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, Grace.”

“I know what you’re talking about – cut, clarity and carat. My friend Ruth taught me about that. That woman loves jewelry. I’m telling you, she would sell her own mother for a pretty ring.”

At that comment, Pearl and Grace burst out laughing.

As Pearl handed Grace her purchase, she said, “Grace thank you for coming by. I hope Larry likes his ring and come back to see me.”

Grace said, “Thank you, Pearl, I will and I will bring that crazy gal Ruth with me next time. Law, look at the time. I need to have Larry’s supper on the table and I still need to go by the market. Thanks a mill, Pearl! Bye now!”

Still giggling, Pearl said, “You’re welcome! Bye!”

Grace felt better now that she had gotten Larry a wedding ring. She put the few groceries she had bought in the cabinet and the pork chops in the small refrigerator. Grace wanted to relax and have a cigarette before cooking supper. The smoke curled around in the room as she was deep in thought.

Sounds of the kids playing next door echoed through the open kitchen window. They were jumping rope in the road. Little girl squeals and the weight of the old tattered rope whacking the pavement, reminded Grace of her own childhood.

Her cousins on their maternal side, the Hunt’s came down with their parents from Lexington, North Carolina to visit in the spring and summer months. Grace’s parents garden always had a bounty of fruits and vegetables to share with their families and neighbors.

Usually there was some pulling hair before the girl cousins left to go back home. Their cousin Dotty wasn’t nice like her older siblings, she liked to cuss and bully Grace and Clara. Grace had a more passive personality and Clara didn’t mind fighting. Dotty got the worst end of the deal every time she fought Clara.

Grace couldn’t help laughing every time she thought of Clara and Dotty fighting while growing up in the good ole days.

Dotty always took off running to her pappy with a bloody nose or a big bruise somewhere on her body. If she had any sense, she wouldn’t have messed with Clara. It was like Dotty was just asking for a beating and Clara was more than happy to give it to her. Even moving in to adulthood, Dotty Marie Hunt had trouble getting along with people for some reason.

She stubbed out her cigarette in the clear glass ash tray and went to the kitchen sink to wash her hands to prepare supper.

Grace rinsed the pork chops off and blotted them with paper towels before dusting them with flour and a few shakes of salt and pepper. The oil in the frying pan was sizzling at just the right temperature.

She placed them in the black iron skillet to brown, covering them with a metal lid to tenderize, then turning them with a spatula. The fresh green beans her mother had canned from last summer, simmered in a pot with a little bit of fat back grease for flavor. The cubed potatoes were tender enough to whisk in butter, cream, salt and pepper. If Larry wanted dessert, Grace had homemade applesauce her mother had also canned.

Grace was setting the table when she heard an old pick-up pull in to the dirt driveway. It was Cecil Larson, Larry’s cousin dropping him off. He had been helping Cecil on some construction jobs before he left for the Army.

Grace struck a match and was lighting two white tapered candles that sat atop the the small metal table as Larry walked through the front door. He look very tired and sweaty, but was glad to be home to his wife.

Larry grinned, “Hey babe! I smell something good, what did you fix that smells so good?”

Grace was smiling because her man was finally home. “Pork chops, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, rolls and applesauce for dessert.”

Larry blew Grace a kiss. “Babe, I’m so dirty, can I get a quick shower before supper? I won’t be too long.”

She said, “Sure, babe. I picked up some Coca~Colas at the store. Would you like Coke or tea?”

“A Coke would be good,” he said.

Grace was humming as she set napkins, salt, pepper and some butter in a light blue butter dish on the table. She couldn’t wait to surprise him after supper with his wedding ring she had bought him.

Larry walked in to the small kitchen, freshly showered and had changed in to a light green cotton tee shirt and casual tan pants. Grace still had on her yellow polka dotted dress and low heeled white pumps she had worn to work at the boutique that morning. Larry loved seeing his wife in her pretty dresses.

She made their plates and placed them on the table. There was only two metal chairs around the metal table in the modest kitchen, but it was clean. The mixed flowers in a milky glass vase sat on the window sill, smelling sweet and like spring.

Larry sat across the table from Grace devouring the delicious meal she had prepared.

Larry buttered his roll and said, “Babe, this meal is so good, it would make a hound dog break it’s chain!”

Grace laughed, “I’m glad you are enjoying it sweetie. It didn’t take that long to prepare. After we eat, I will wash dishes and we can spend some time together in the living room.”

“That sounds good, babe. Cecil had to stop for gas and I picked up a newspaper I’d like to scan through.”

“Okay, Larry, it won’t take me long. Relax and I will be in there shortly.”

Grace quickly put away the food in the refrigerator, washed and dried the dishes and silverware. She rinsed her dish rag under the faucet to wipe down the table, counters and stove.

She reached behind the Morton salt box and grabbed the black box that contained the gold band. Grace cupped her hand around it before stepping in to the sparsely decorated living room. It only held a brown sofa, matching chair, coffee table and a tall metal lamp with an ivory shade, thin as parchment paper that had seen better days.

When Larry saw Grace, he folded his newspaper and laid it to the side.

Larry smiled and said, “Come and sit beside me, babe. How was your day?”

Grace sat close beside him, “I had a pretty good day. Betty closed the boutique a little early. Tuesday’s business is always slow.”

Larry squinted his eyes as the last rays of sun came through the slats of the venetian blinds.

“So what did you do after you got off work? Did you stop by to see Ruth?”

Grace’s lips curved in t a big smile. “No, I went and picked you up a little surprise.”

Larry was smiling now. “Well, you didn’t have to do that, but since you did, what did you get me?”

Grace opened her right hand that revealed a black velvet box just like the one her engagement ring and wedding band came in that Larry had given her.

She said, “Look, I felt terrible not having a wedding band to give you when we got married… Ruth told me about that new little jewelry store called Pearl’s Jewelry. I met the owner, Pearl and she’s real nice and sells great quality jewelry, too.” As she said this, she twirled her wedding rings around on her left ring finger.

Larry laughed and said, “Yes, I met Pearl when I went to buy your rings. And she is a really nice lady. She was very helpful and I’m sure she could tell I didn’t know anything about jewelry.”

Grace opened the box and took out the shiny gold band and placed it on Larry’s left ring finger.

Larry was totally surprised and looked at how perfect the band fit and how shiny it was. She could tell he was pleased.

He said, “I love it, Grace, this is really a nice ring. Thank you, babe. I love you.”

She was beaming because she could tell Larry really liked his ring. “I’m glad you like it, I thought you would. You’re welcome, honey.”

Larry leaned over and pulled Grace to him embracing her in his arms and gave her a long kiss. She hugged and kissed him back, feeling loved and appreciated.

They settled back on the sofa, Grace cuddled up to Larry and laid her head on his shoulder.

“So how did your day with Cecil work out today?”

“Well, it was a pretty good day until Ed Williams and his crazy sidekick Lewis Smith wandered down to the job site. Ed had on his five cent badge that says Sheriff on it pinned to his shirt. Somebody needs to put a leash on Ed and Lewis, they are so aggravating. It didn’t take long for one of them to cause trouble as usual. Here comes this short fat woman in a pink robe, head full of hair curlers cussing a blue streak.”

Grace was laughing and asked, “Why was she cussing.”

“She said she was going to kick Lewis’ ass because he had his pointed head peekin’ in her window trying to see her naked, again.”

Larry was laughing hard now.

“Who was she, the woman in the pink robe?” Grace asked.

When he could get a breath, he said, “All I know is they call her Fat Faye and apparently it wasn’t the first time Lewis has been caught peeking in her windows. Cecil didn’t want any trouble on the job, so he ran Lewis off and told Ed he might as well get on down the road, too.”

Grace wiped her eyes from laughing. “Yes, trouble always seems to follow those two. I didn’t know that you knew Ed and Lewis.”

He replied, “I’ve known those crazy two about all my life. In fact, I went to school with Lewis, seems like Ed and his parents moved here while I was in elementary school.”

Grace said, “Did you know why Lewis’ head is so small and pointy?”

Larry said, “No, why is it shaped so pointed and small compared to his body, even though he is a skinny little fella?”

Grace was amazed Larry didn’t know.

“I was told his head was like that because when he was a baby he drank gas.”

Larry said, “Well that is sad. I just thought he was born crazy.”

She said, “Before I met you, one day I was hanging out with Ruth at her house. Her parents paid Ed to mow the grass. It felt like a hundred degrees outside that day. Anyway, she got to feeling sorry for Ed. He was pouring sweat, sprawled out under the shade tree taking a break. Ruth took him a cold glass of lemonade knowing he had to be thirsty. They were talking and Ed got up his nerve to ask Ruth to go out on a date with him. She told him, not a chance in Hades would she ever go out with him, not even if he had a million dollars and a few other things I won’t repeat.”

With a wide grin on his face he said, “I can imagine Ed had her fired up. Ruth is a firecracker and way out of his league. I heard Ed was sweet on a lady in Landis that won’t give him the time of day. Besides, he ain’t got no steady job and no money to take a woman out. I think he’s going to be stuck with Lewis”

Grace laughed, “You’re probably right about that.”

“I’m so tired Grace, are you ready for bed?”

“Yes sweetie, I will be in there in a little bit.”

He had to get up at six o’clock in the morning to be on the construction site with Cecil. He realized tomorrow would be another rough day carrying ninety pounds of shingles up a ladder to finish the roofing job.

Larry went through the house turning out the lights and locking the doors.

Grace went through her usual routine of getting ready for bed, enjoying her warm soak in the tub.

She opened the door of the small bathroom closet to get her new pink rose colored negligee’ off of the wire clothes hanger. It felt as soft as her skin as she rubbed the material between her finger tips.

Working at Betty’s Boutique had its advantages. She got to see all the pretty things that was shipped to Betty’s first, plus she got fifteen percent off on everything she purchased.

Grace slipped the pretty lingerie over her head. Pink was her favorite color and looked stunning against her skin. The front was a halter style and the back scooped low, half way down her spine. The tip of the hem of the garment was a few inches above her knees.

Larry had always complimented her about her shapely legs.

It was hard to believe he would be leaving for Fort Meade in two days. If Grace kept this thought in her mind, she knew she wouldn’t get any sleep tonight. She shook her head as if she was trying to shake the thought from her mind.

Grace removed her hairpins and her hair fell loosely down her shoulders and back. She gently began finger combing it. Looking in the mirror she thought she looked pretty, but different.

Then it occurred to her, this is what being in love looks like…
(to be continued)