(Reading time 5 minutes)
It was prom night, June 1941. All elements were just right for love. Jan and Charley, were long time high school sweethearts. The back seat of a 1937 Chevy convertible was irresistible by the beach, in the moonlight. The inevitable happened. Jan became pregnant. They accepted the situation and started planning a wedding for a time after Charlie got a full time job and it was affordable. Meanwhile, Jan got a job in a local clothing mill. Charlie did odd jobs for small wages. Jan left her very religiously strict family’s home. She and Charlie moved in with his Aunt Minnie, to her big rooming house in Camden, Maine. Aunt Minnie, sweet thing, was Charley’s only living relative.
On Dec 7, 1941, war was declared with Japan. Charley was high on the list to be drafted, 18 years old and unemployed. He joined the Marines to avoid the draft for the Army. Jan was now alone but in a loving home with dear Aunt Minnie, who would have adopted her, pregnant and all.
The baby was born February 1942. A beautiful little girl who she named Carley after her father Charlie. Jan and Charlie wrote daily. One day the mail stopped. Weeks later, a letter came to Charley’s aunt, his next of kin. Charley was killed in action. Everyone was devastated. The war went on. After a couple years, Carla started asking questions. “Mommy, do I have a Daddy?” Jan had to make up a story. She said, “Yes, your Daddy is a Marine and will be home after his tour of duty in the service, when the war is over.”
One day, Jan walked by a photography shop, which was going out of business. The owner was drafted. He put a lot of old studio pictures out on the curb for trash. In the trash was a picture of a handsome tall Marine in full blues. Jan retrieved the picture, took it home and told Carley it was a picture of her Daddy. She intended to make up a story later about Daddy missing in action. Meanwhile, this picture would take the place of the missing Marine. Carley idolized the picture image of her Daddy, and every night would talk to him and pray for his return. It was a daily ritual and Jan would make up stories of his heroism and his love for the both of them. She re-read old letters to Carley from Daddy. Carley hugged and kissed the picture every night.
One Saturday, Jan took Carley to the town diner for lunch. Jan was reading the menu. Carley was watching the people entering the diner. All of a sudden, Carley jumped up and screamed, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy”, ran from the table and leaped into the arms of a tall handsome Marine in full blues. The Marine was dumbfounded, but he picked up her, hugger her like old home week and played along. He could see Jan, who was horrified, and knew something was happening. The Marine went to the table and feigned delight to see Jan as if she were an old friend. Carley was filled with joy. The Marine sat next to Jan taking her hand, kissing her. He assured her, not to worry, we can talk about this later. Meanwhile, let’s all have lunch. He was the very same Marine in the picture discarded by the local photographer closing up shop.
After they took Carley home for her noon nap, Jan and Max sat on Aunt Minnie’s front porch. Jan bared her soul. The Marine understood, sympathized and related that he too had an unhappy break up in his love life.
In the interest of “Short Story Brevity”, I will finish this story in my forthcoming novel, but I must tell you the happy ending: Jan and Max the Marine, quickly became very close. They dated daily and fell in love. They got married within weeks. They explained to Carley that the out of order, normal sequence of things, with Mommies and Daddies, was because of the war. The war was now over, and she was what they called “a love child”.
At the wedding, 4-year-old Carley was the flower girl, gaily walking behind the Bride and Groom, joyfully sprinkling flowers along the way, in the aisle. Little Carley was bursting with delight, telling all those attending along as she passed by “This is my Mommy and Daddy. I am a love child. Would you like a flower?”