Hand in hand, the elderly couple strolled alone down the tiled walkways of the shopping mall. Occasionally they would pause in front of a shop window and peer at a depleted Christmas display, then continue on their way. They were in no hurry - time had lost all urgency.
They made their way to the food court where the neon lights and celluloid signs promised cuisines which never quite measured up to their expectations. He steered her toward their usual window and ordered. Coffee - black for him and cream for her - and two raspberry crullers. The girl behind the counter waited impatiently for him to find the leather coin purse in his coat pocket and rummage for the correct amount. The transaction completed, the two decided which table looked cleanest and sat down.
Overhead, the music system crackled and hummed. The traditional Christmas selections were being replaced with tunes more suitable for the upcoming springtime holidays. Valentine’s Day would be next, then Easter. It would soon be a new season of love, flowers, and rebirth.
Behind the muffled echoes, the Andrews Sisters began to sing ...
“I'll be with you in apple blossom time.
“I'll be with you and change your name to mine ...”
The man lowered his steaming cup and winked across the table. The woman responded with a knowing smile. Sharing the same thought, they reached across the table and took each other's hand.
“One day in May, I'll come and say,
“’Happy the bride the sun shines on to - day.’"
The signs and storefronts began melting into a scene painted from their memories. The food pick-up windows collapsed into a row of rectangular portals riveted to the steel siding of a railway passenger car. Somewhere down the tracks, a steam locomotive panted and hissed, eager to be on its way. The tile floor became a passenger platform, filled with tearful women and eager-faced young men. Military uniforms were everywhere. A newsboy could be heard shouting the day's headlines at the top of his lungs. Once again, the world was at war.
Oblivious to the commotion around them, the young couple sat at a corner table in the station's coffee shop. The girl's left hand trembled slightly as she allowed the young soldier to slip a golden band onto her finger. Neither dared mention this could be their last few moments together.
The train whistle sounded two shrill blasts. It was almost time for him to go.
They arose slowly, hoping to lengthen the last seconds of their reluctant goodbye. Then, to her surprise, he motioned for her to wait and rushed toward the station’s main entrance. In less than a minute he was back, out of breath and unable to speak. He extended an open hand to reveal a single apple blossom cupped in his palm. She accepted it, inhaled its fragrance deeply, and tucked it neatly into her flowing hair. The train whistle sounded again, but its final warning was drowned out by the harmonious beating of their hearts.
“Church bells will chime, you will be mine,
“In ap - ple blos-som time.”
The song ended. The couple finished their coffee and wiped the cruller crumbs from the corners of their mouths without taking their eyes off each other. Another day's adventure was over, so they headed for their usual exit hidden in the shadows behind the main escalator. They would return tomorrow, God willing, to peer through store windows and enjoy their time together. They knew they would have to part someday, but only for a little while. And, in heaven, Apple Blossom Time is forever.
"Apple Blossom Time"
Words & Music by Neville Fleeson & Alvert Von Tilzer, 1920
Recorded by The Andrews Sisters, 1941
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