The creamy pearls glowed as I carefully pulled them from their box. I fingered each one to be sure the knots held. I watched my reflection in the mirror as I clicked the clasp shut and stepped back to admire the effect. Top to bottom, I was polished and ready. My open-toed satin pumps were vanilla colored, and I knew they’d never again look so clean.
The radio was playing Glenn Miller, and, downstairs, my newly-wed neighbors were out on the swing under the palm tree, toasting each other with grape Nehi. I heard their intimate giggles and smiled. Their love made them silly and young, though they were both well past their thirtieth year. I glanced out the window and saw her pull her filmy shawl close around them both as the island breezes whispered their names.
I went into the kitchenette and opened the ice box door—there it was: the lily David had sent—white as snow and smelling of Hawaii. The cool petals brushed my cheeks with intoxicating perfume as I pinned it to my breast. I sighed, content.
I slipped the satin gloves on, picked up the ivory Bride’s Bible, and headed for the door. The silken snowy fabric of my dress rustled with each step, and the feel of the satin and lace at the hem slid over my legs like cool water. I felt like a bride and looked like a bride, and I was soon going to be a bride.
I picked my way carefully down the steep apartment steps, and, at the bottom, I took a deep breath of the fresh tropical air. I was excited and pleased with myself that I’d chosen to come to Hawaii to meet David before he left for the Philippines. Our hasty decision to wed as war raged had scared me at first, a jinx, I thought, but now, on the brink of being his wife, I had no regrets.
The sun glinted through the palms and washed its pale glow over my face—I felt just the right amount of warmth. I smiled as I neared the chapel. A low hum accompanied me, and I put words and a slow, dreamy rhythm to the sound.
“I only live for your love and your kiss…It's paradise to be near you like this…Because of you my life is now worthwhile…And I can smile…Because of you…”* I sang softly.
The hum grew louder, drowning out the curling surf and the simple Sunday morning sounds. I glanced upward, my eyes pulled to the glint of metal in the sky. I squinted against the December sun and shaded my vision with my satin-gloved hand.
The drone made me feel lazy and I glanced back to the sidewalk, my showy vanilla shoes catching my eye as each step took me nearer to my life as a military wife. “And I can smile…Because of you...” I whispered again.
As the sparkling enameled doors of the chapel where I would wait for David became visible, I looked upward again as a low whine mingled with the buzzing drone, and I glimpsed a few speckles of white dotting the sky over Pearl Harbor. Were they clouds? The dots split and scattered into many pieces, then fell like snowy soap flakes on the ships anchored in the harbor.
I watched from the hilltop as the glistening clean world below me turned to red fire and gray soot and black death. Ashes were pulled upward on the drifting wind and began to fall like sad tears over me. I watched a piece of soot drift slowly, landing with a silent bounce on the top of my ivory shoe. The gray smudge mocked my dreams and tore my future to pieces. I turned my eyes to the ships…and wondered.
“David…” I began to run as the island grew darker, the smell of destruction stinging my eyes and nose. I came as close to the edge of the sea as I could get and sank to the spiky grass to watch a horrible reel of history being made.
With my satin dress and ivory gloves, the silky orchid and creamy shimmering pearls collecting my tears, I knew in my soul that the white outfit of the hope-filled bride would be replaced by the ebony dress, black heavy veils, and despair of grief.
*Song Written by Arthur Hammerstein, Dudley Wilkinson, 1940
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