The trombones slid over the notes the Glenn Miller band had made famous, and the sweet cool air carried the tune across the lake where David and I walked. He guided me to a bench where the moon shone down like a spotlight.
I fingered the soft pearls on the necklace David had given me for graduation.
“When do you leave?” I asked softly.
“Day after tomorrow. I’ve got to be at the depot by 7:00. We’ll take the train to Fort Bragg from there.”
His deep, chocolate brown eyes met mine, and he looked at me so intently, I could hardly stand to look back. He took my hand and slowly kissed the back of it. I saw him smile as he pulled his lips away.
“I plan to marry you in two years, Katherine,” he said quietly.
“And I plan on coming to visit at Christmas if I get my leave,” he continued.
“Even if you have to hitch-hike, right?” I laughed.
“You know it, Kathy.”
I turned my head toward the pavilion. The band was playing String of Pearls, * and through the windows, I could see our friends inside, swinging to the tempo. David tapped his foot in time to the music and suddenly pulled me up. We danced the song out and then laughed at our silliness as we headed back to join the others.
Later, upstairs in my bedroom, I sat by the window that overlooked our front yard. The breeze billowed the voile curtains against my cheeks, and the late summer crickets chirped a tune in the night. My Bible lay open in my lap, but I hadn’t read it. I was thinking about my life and what it would be like being married to David. I could imagine our little house with a fence, maybe an apple orchard, two children, and David.
My plans made me smile, but when I remembered where he was headed, my smile faltered. I opened my Bible to the Psalms and read the chapters, one after another until I could barely see the words any more. I went to sleep with tears drying on my cheeks and God’s promises resting in my heart.
“David! Where’re you calling from?”
“You know I can’t tell you that, Fraulein,” he hinted with a laugh.
“I miss you, David”
“…miss you, too, Kath-“
“I can’t hear you, David…there’s too much static…”
“I said…you, too! I’ll be home for Christm…”
My heart sank when I realized the line had gone dead, but the surprise of hearing his voice, all the way from Germany, brought a smile to my lips.
Christmas was only two weeks away now, and I’d see him again. I helped my family string the lights on the tree while we listened to the news on the radio.
“Yesterday, heavy fighting along the Mosel River claimed many American lives,” the announcer intoned. Mother looked quickly at Daddy, and he got up and shut the radio off.
“I feel like Christmas carols tonight,” he said heartily. “Mother, why don’t you get the book out, and we’ll all sing together?”
That was just like dear Daddy, but my heart was aching.
That night, I poured my fears out to God. I begged Him to have mercy on David and me. “Don’t let it be David, God,” I cried.
The next few days, I shopped and baked as usual. The news from Germany grew bleaker, and I kept my Bible opened to Psalm 23. My family tried their best to cheer me, but I felt a desolation and sorrow that I couldn’t shake.
Christmas Eve came and we attended candlelight services with our neighbors and friends. The war that raged in Europe and the Pacific pulled our spirits down; the service was subdued. Two families were already grieving their sons, and I didn’t want to look at them. I couldn’t be reminded.
Fat lazy snowflakes fell as we walked home from church, and the lights shining from the houses along Main felt warm and inviting, but tears stung my eyes. When we came to our house, a uniformed man sat with his duffel bag on the front steps.
“David!” I cried as I ran to him.
He hugged me to his chest as his laugh covered my sorrow like a balm.
“Kath, Oh, Kath,” he whispered.
I’ll never forget that Christmas of 1943. It was the last time I saw my sweet David.
Word Count: 744
*String of Pearls, Words and Music by Eddie Le Lange and Jerry Gray, Recorded by Glenn Miller, 1942
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