The Return Home
“Hello, Aunt Lil, this is James.”
“Well for Christ’s Sakes James, where are you? I just got word less than a week ago from your mother that you were not killed in action over there in France”
“Yeah, that’s a long story. I’m in Struthers right at the moment and I’ll be up to see you once I get all my car stuff straightened out. I’m on a 30 day furlough and I wanted to see if I can stay with you for a while. I thought I could get my car all ready and then go out and see mom. I might have to take the train due to the gas rationing though.”
“Certainly you can stay here. Will you be here for supper?”
“That’s only a couple hours away so I doubt if I can make it. I was boarding there next to the store as you know and I have to see what happened to my gas rationing sticker as it was set up to be mailed there so I should be along later in the evening.”
“OK James, your Uncle Phil should be home by then and I know he will be anxious to talk to you.”
“Thanks Aunt Lil, I’ll see the both of you later tonight then. Bye now.”
It was still a bit early to head down to Evelyn’s so I went over to the bar and ordered a Royal Crown. The steel mills had let out and quite a few had already made their way in for a drink before going home. As I sat there drinking my soda my thoughts turned to Evelyn and what it would be like seeing here again knowing that she was living there with another man. I had to go there. I needed to get my belongings, especially my gas ration book that I had applied for so long ago. It was 1700 hours and close to the time Evelyn would get home from work so I left the Elmton and drove down Sexton Street to her house. She had just pulled into the driveway as I got there and I drove right in behind her and got out of the car. She must have seen me in her mirror because she got out of her car before going into the garage.
“Jimmy, Oh My God, Jimmy. I can’t believe my eyes.”
She came towards me very quickly with outstretched arms and before I knew it, she had me in her grasp. She was very emotional with happiness and tears at the same time. She was trembling much the same as she had done the night she first told me she was falling in love with me. I was taken totally by surprise as this was not at all what I had anticipated given the fact that she had written me a Dear John letter. She was trying to speak but the excitement of the moment brought only incoherent words. I held her close for a little bit hoping to calm her down and finally she blurted it out……
“Jimmy, You’re Alive.”
By this time, she had broken into full blown tears and I was not sure why she was crying.
“Yes, I’m alive. There were days when I didn’t think I would make it back here but I did.”
Evelyn was still excited but as she began to calm down, the words started to flow more freely.
“I’m just so grateful that you are still alive Jimmy. I wrote you that awful letter and I have regretted it ever since. It was only a few weeks back that I read where you had been killed in action in France. I have not been the same since sending you that letter. It has been on my mind night and day for months now and I can’t tell you how relieved I am to know that you are alive. I still have all your things Jimmy. They are right in your room where you left them the day I drove you to the draft board almost two years ago now.”
“I don’t understand Evelyn, the other guy, what about him?”
“There is no other guy Jimmy.
“There is no other guy?”
“No Jimmy, there is no other guy”
For a minute I was dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say.
“I was not expecting our seeing each other again to be like this Evelyn. All I could envision was another man here with you.”
“Yes, I know. Come in and talk to me. I can fix us some coffee if you like. I feel like I’m going to cry again if I stand here any longer with you holding me like this.”
I followed her up the steps to the back porch and held the screen while she unlocked the door. The kitchen was exactly the same as I had remembered it. My mind turned quickly to memory of that day in the plane just before the crash in Hawick. I had prayed really hard during that mission that I would one day be right here in this kitchen again. Evelyn kicked off her heels as she always did and took them and her purse and set them on the stairway. Then she went to the cupboard and put on an apron and started to make the coffee. It was almost like a step back in time seeing all these things that I had longed for all those many nights in England. She came over to the table and sat down across from me, her beautiful blue eyes fixed on mine.
“Jimmy, I’ve never stopped loving you. Even after you were reported killed, I would sit here alone at the table drinking coffee and think about you. That wonderful night that we danced alone down in the park late at night, the toboggan and the snow angels, that awful blizzard and how nice it was to come home to you that night, the heartache of you having to go off to war and most of all the nights alone in bed with you.”
“Then why did you write the letter?”
“I think it was in August or September of last year....... I hadn’t received a letter from you in over a month so I decided to call your Aunt in Youngstown to see if she had heard from you. She had not had any word either but she gave me your Mother’s phone number so that I could call and see if she had anything recent. I called your mother out in California and she had just recently heard from you which was a relief to me but she wanted to know more about who I was of course and when she found out that I had gone to school with your sister Dorthia, she was very critical of our relationship because of my age. As you well know, this age difference was of concern to me at first as well but even so, I fell in love with you. After talking to your Mom, I about went crazy….she said you were only a young boy……much too young for me. I knew she was right and I went through hell thinking about it. I agonized over it for two weeks and then decided to write you the letter telling you I had found someone else. I know now that I made a mistake by writing you that letter and I would take it back in a heartbeat if I could.”
“I don’t know what to say Evelyn. I must have read that letter at least 100 times not wanting it to be true. I carried it all through France with me but the words ‘another man’ always jumped out at me. When I was in the hospital in Scotland, I met a nurse there. We became friends and at first I thought it was just a flirtation that would go away when I got back to the base but she wanted me to make a commitment to her. I couldn’t do it because of you but later on that year in October, I got the Dear John letter from you. Even then my only thought was to get back home to you. I just could not believe that you had taken up with another man so I put in a request for transfer back to Combat Duty so that I could complete my missions and come home. With any luck at all it would only have taken me about a month to do 15 more missions but luck was not on my side and I got shot down over France. As time wore on, my hopes of getting back home became less and less. When I finally got back to England, they gave me a 7 day pass so that they could get the paper work straightened out because they had me listed as killed in action. I went back to Scotland to see her. I stayed with her for 3 days Evelyn.”
“I’m so sorry for messing things up Jimmy.”
Her eyes started to well up and I watched as a single tear trickled down her cheek, then another. She brought her hand to her face letting the tips of her fingers wipe the tears away before starting to speak again.
“Is there still a chance for us?”
“When my 7 day pass was over and I got back to Molesworth, Master Sergeant Billings told me there wasn’t a chance in hell that I would ever get you back. Even so, I flew my last two missions and came home to see for myself. It’s the first time I ever knew him to be so wrong.”
Hearing me say that, she was up from her chair and into my arms in a matter of seconds. We stood there in each others arms and for the first time in over two years, I knew I was finally home.
It took us both a while for it to sink in but as we stood there kissing each other, I knew more than anything else in the world, that I needed her just as much as she needed me.
“Evelyn, I’ve got to run over to McPhee’s for a minute, I’ll be right back, ok?”
“Yes, I need to call my Aunt Lillian and tell her I won’t be coming up to her place to stay tonight but to expect the both of us tomorrow night for supper.”