Nora peered at the grey and burly clouds as they scuttled across the heavens. They haloed the city and mirrored the state of her heart that summer day. She smoothed the front of the crisp black dress she’d ironed earlier. Her hand flew to her chest involuntarily to steady the flutter of her heart. Taking a cleansing breath, Nora pushed open the gilded enameled door to the bar and walked through.
“Hello Mrs. Bridger. I heard the news. Is that why you’re late?”
“Yes, the news. I expect everyone has heard…” Nora bit her lip. “My husband didn’t die alone, Mr. O’Connel.”
“I hear he took a lady friend to the asylum with him? Even so, tuberculosis is a terrible way to go.” He raised a quizzical eyebrow.
“I’ll be early next time.” Her chin was still held high, but the corner of her mouth quivered a bit. Somehow she managed to smile grasping the tiny gold cross at her neck without thinking.
“Not a problem. Just concerned a mite about you. Was gettin’ ready to send the Mrs. over to check on ya lass.” His eye twinkled. “We have several orders for the periodicals yer sellin’. All the money is here.” He reached under the counter to retrieve the magazine orders.
Nora heard men whispering at the tables nearby. Her cheeks burned. It would take a long while before she got used to being admired again. Being a widow with children was hard enough to deal with.
The man’s head appeared from under the counter. “I can put the canister back on the counter after you’ve emptied it. I hope this be a help for the wee ones, if you don’t mind me askin’?”
“Oh it’s just swell Mr. O’Connel. We are managing somehow…” Her mouth gaped for a second as she pulled out the bills. Her hand came up to cover her mouth as she fought back the tears. It was three times the orders of the previous month. That money represented food, clothing and a roof over her children’s heads. Her hand trembled as she put the money in her purse, snapping it closed. “The good Lord sees fit to carry us through our sorrow,” Nora smiled. “Will we see you at mass this Sunday?”
“Oh, err, not sure about that. The Mrs. and me boys will be there fer certain…Perhaps next week Ma’m.” He ran a nervous hand through his bangs smoothing the Brylcreem in the process, and then working his fingers through his handlebar mustache.
“God bless you, sir.” She hoped the words were enough to show her gratitude.
“Twas nothing, I assure you ma’am.” He set her canister and the fresh order-pad beside the register. “It’s the least I can do.” He patted the hand she offered in thanks. A tear slipped down a cheek and was swept softly with the hanky she had readied in the other hand. He let go of her hand in time for her to recover.
“Bless you. I’ll light a candle for you tonight.” Nora smiled tremulously. She turned to take her leave overhearing a conversation on her way to the door.
“She is such a looker! Did you see the gams on that beautiful woman, Myles?”
“Yes indeed. I assure you that woman is the one for me.”
“Naw, you don’t want that one, too much baggage. Her husband died right before the Battle of the Bulge—and it wasn’t the war that killed him.”
“Even so, I’ve seen the woman of my dreams and I say she’s still the one I’m going to marry. Mark my words I’ll be here when she stops wearing black. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”
Nora turned towards the voice and nearly fainted! It was man who’d left for the war after they had danced years ago. She thought he’d been killed too. But there he was, the man she had dreamt of marrying, only to be disappointed—marrying another. Myles was alive!
Weak in the knees she turned to the door.
Maybe when she’d set her widow’s black aside his smiling eyes would still be waiting for her. Nora’s cheeks dimpled at the thought. As she left the bar she noticed that the clouds had parted and the sun kissed the earth in all its glory once again. Her heart felt lighter, her purse heavier and now the future seemed to stretch out before her. God had blessed her that day and she was grateful.