This story is a companion piece to The Sacrifice
Alison sat on the couch sipping a late cup of morning coffee. Daryl was due over at about eleven or so, which left her enough time to either finish the chapter on Ferber’s latest or start a letter to her baby brother. She chose the latter. As she got up she dislodged the large sleeping red tabby that clung to her thigh; she was glad she was wearing the gaberdine slacks her brother handed ‘up’ to her since she planned on doing some work around the house that morning. She found her pen on the secretary along with some stationary, but moved back to the couch along with the photo album she used as a portable desk.
“Let’s see…what should we tell Gerrie, Wilkie?” The cat raised his head from his already resumed posture of sleep and she swore he was grinning. The name was playful; her parents had always been staunch Republicans and the cat was almost homage to their memory even if she did vote for Roosevelt.
“Hmmm….Dear Gerrie... It’s awfully cold here. I envy you the weather at least. Daryl says it’s positively dreamy there, but we still can’t wait for you to come home. I’m glad at least that you might be able to leave early since Mommy…” Alison was at least glad that she hadn’t started writing; the writing paper absorbed the few tears that fell before she wiped her face with the sleeve of her shirt.
“Why does god do that? She was so young…” Alison looked at the picture of the three of them that sat on the mantel. She and Gerrie had only each other now. Well…Gerrie had Darryl. Maybe she’d find someone, but who’d want to marry a ‘spinster’ at 31 when all the dolls had the boys' attention; even those her own age. She placed the pen on the end table next to the ink bottle and set the album and paper on the coffee table in front of her. The cat took that as a sign and moved over. He half-hopped into her lap and began nudging and treading on her thigh once again; even the gaberdine didn’t protect her this time and she fliched as his claws penetrated both fabric and skin.
“Ow, Wilkie!” She swatted him playfully on the rump and he hopped off the couch and ran into the kitchen with a loud ‘rrrowwww!’ Alison was about the return her attention to Edna and company when a knock came at the door. Daryl wasn’t due over for another hour or so. She rose and went answer the knock. Opening it, she found a very nervous looking man about her age who was holding a telegram in his hand.
“Ma’am?” He tipped his cap politely, but his demeanor remained nervous. She would come to remember the look on his face; sadness beyond his time, she would say.
“Am I at the right place?” He asked with a quiver in his voice. She sensed that this might be his first day on the job. The flap of his pouch was open, and she could see that he likely had a very full day. It wasn’t his first day, but it was the first of too many deliveries just like the telegram he held in his hand.
“For what?” She said, but her smiled seemed to diffuse his nervousness at least enough to continue.
“Oh…I’m sorry. Is this the residence of Mrs. Agnes Jenkins?” Alison’s eyes widened just a bit, and she nodded.”
“Oh…” He looked very surprised, which actually surprised Alison as well. Before he could speak, she interrupted.
“I’m sorry. My mother passed earlier this year. I’m her daugther Alison. Can I help you?
“I’m sorry,” he continued with another exchanged nervous pleasantry.
“I guess…they didn’t tell me what to do if the party….expired”
“Go ahead…what’s your name?”
“Jimmy Falcone, Miss.”
“Go ahead, Jimmy.” His look seemed to indicate a strong reluctance so she nodded and smiled. He didn’t return the look but gazed instead at the piece of paper in his hand. And his eyes welled with tears. He looked up at her and took a deep breath and began to read.
“WUX Washington DC December 10, 1941, Mrs. Agnes D. Jenkins, 1278 Parson Street, Davenport, Iowa.” He paused.
“The Secretary of War desires that I tender his deepest sympathy to you in the loss of your son, Gerald A. Jenkins, Seaman Second Class, Radioman, U.S.S. Downes…” His voice began to crack. Alison put her hand over her mouth and started to sob. Jimmy was completely at a loss, so he did what he knew had to be the only thing he could do. He pulled Alison into a hug and patted her back as she shook in his arms.
“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” He almost would have appeared to be apologizing for his part in the unwanted delivery of the message, but his own tears reflected the sadness he felt for the girl in his arms. After what felt like an eternity to both of them, Alison pulled away.
“I….I have some coffee…would you like some?” Jimmy shook his head reluctantly. At another time and another place; even then he was sorely tempted to place the bag with the remaining telegrams on her front porch and join her.
“I…I have to get going.” He pointed to the pouch. Alison stared at the many messages that peeked out of the pouch and realized she was just one of many that day. She shook her head and her face turned an extremely embarrassed shade of red, wondering why she had made his job so personal to her. She reached out and shook his hand and came away with the telegram which she grasped tightly in a fist.
“Thank you.” She paused and wondered at the awkward and nearly foolish sentiment of her comment until he nodded and half frowned; he knew that she was glad at least that someone cared. He bit his lip as tears began to fall. Nodding once again, he smiled before turning and walking out the front door.
Alison had barely contained herself when she heard another knock. She rushed up and opened it, hoping to find that the kind man had returned, only to find Daryl standing on the porch instead. He smiled as she remained silent. Shaking his head, he stepped inside.
“So, Ali, my dear, what’s up?” She held up the telegram in her hand, crumpled. His look grew puzzled until she said at last.
“Honey….Daryl?” He shook his head no, almost defiant as she finished.
“Gerrie’s gone, Daryl….she’s gone.”
Daryl began to weep, and Alison held him, stroking his hair; wishing she could ease his pain even as her own threatened to tear her heart in two. Her gaze fell upon the mantel once again. Two other pictures adorned the room. One of a young man and a young woman walking down a country road; a greeting card moment of two in love. And a smaller older photo of two girls sitting at a small folding table having their tea with a few stuffed animals. She shook her head at the supreme loss and pulled Daryl closer and cried as hard as she would ever cry. And she would remember...
I'll Be Seeing You
Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
featuring Francis Albert Sinatra
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