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)