By Alice Morrey Bailey
Alyn and Judith were checking the stock in the huge hat bins and in the alterations room – Judith with a pencil and tablet; Alyn counting.
“Well have to order more of these ‘Casuals,’” said Judith. “They go like hot cakes to the college trade. I want to get all this done.”
“That has been your battle cry for weeks,” observed Alyn. “Truly, Judith, when are you going to slack up?”
“Well, I’m about through; everything is in shipshape order. Lottie is so helpless about stock, and there are so many ways to lose money – overstocking, understocking, wrong buying. I’d like to do the next buying for her. That would tide her over until I get back. I’m afraid, however, that I can’t. I’ve saved enough for this last month of rest, and I owe it to both myself and the baby. Besides, Ivy, in spite of Lottie’s fears, is bursting for her chance to do the buying.”
“When is rest going to begin for you? John is worried about you. He says he has never heard of a woman working – drudging, he calls it – at a time like this. He’d like to call out the American Medical Association, or someone.”
“I know it isn’t wise; Theo wouldn’t have had it so. We had some savings, but oxygen, special nurses, and all the other expenses during Theo’s illness … Oh, I would gladly have spent ten times the amount,” she added quickly, lest Alyn think her begrudging of the care Theo had had. “I’ll get by nicely; I’m going to finish the week out, no more. I have some last-minute shopping and a little sewing to do. Tell that nice John of yours not to worry. Goodness, many women work at housework right up to the last day.”
It was not going to seem the same place without Judith. There would be no more of the chummy lunches, ducking out the back way and into Boone’s dairy lunch where they had found a cozy booth. There would be no more talking excitedly over the newest book: “I think it oughtn’t to end that way.” “But it must, Judith. Psychologically that is the only way for it to end.” “Oh, I suppose so, but I still like the good, old-fashioned happy endings, no matter how romantic and far-fetched they are.”
Poor Judith. It was, of course, because life had dealt with her as it had that she liked happy endings. Alyn was more relieved than she knew that Judith’s rest was to begin soon. The girl had an ethereal look; the corners of her mouth and eyes moved in a way that betrayed a physical weakness that Judith would not have admitted, and the blue veins pulsed under the white skin of her neck. John asked daily about her. He would be relieved, too.
So absorbed in Judith’s problems was Alyn that she thought less and less of her own. John and she seemed to get along better. He didn’t irritate her so much, perhaps because their common interest in Judith gave them a subject of conversation upon which they agreed. But sometimes Alyn woke in the night and lay thinking until her clenched hands broke out in perspiration, until an odd sensation came over her, as if she were rising, suspended in the air. At those times a feeling of futility swept over her to such a degree that it was almost unbearable. Time seemed to sweep in upon her, to rush by her. She felt that she and John were getting nowhere. Often she slipped out of bed, careful not to waken John, and paced back and forth noiselessly on the thick carpet, or went to the living room and sank herself in a deep chair, trying to read in the little pool of light that the lamp made. She tried, through sheer force of will, to stop thinking.
“John,” she said one night, “wake up. I can’t bear it.”
“What is it, sweet?” John said, instantly awake. But when she went to tell him, the whole thing was gone; there were no words to express her feelings. Her problem was so intangible!
John saw her difficulty and tried to draw her out.
“Was it a nightmare, darling?” he asked in concern.
“No. Not that.”
“Has Lottie …”
“No. John, what is life for?” It was awful to be unsure about something that she ought to have settled for herself at least twenty years ago. “Birth, life, marriage, death – what do they all mean? Generation after generation this has gone on. it seems so endless, so futile.”
“There!” said John. “You have asked a question, honey, that wise men have asked since the beginning of time. Some find one answer, some another.”
At least there was comfort in the fact that John didn’t think the question silly.
“The Bible should give the answer,” John’s voice rumbled on, a little fuzzy from sleep.
John had a nice voice, thought Alyn, remembering back. John’s voice was the first introduction she had had to him. The Country Club dance, it had been, and crowded to the rafters. She had heard Bea McIntyre – Bea Benson then – was there with a new man, but Alyn hadn’t seen him. “My dear, mining!” the small explanatory word had gone around. Then some of the younger generation had decided suddenly to leave the dance and go elsewhere, to a quaint farm someone had discovered, for chicken.
It had seemed such a delicious, mad thing to do, with all the dowagers gossiping on the sidelines: “In my day girls didn’t go unchaperoned.” Of course, there weren’t enough cars. Bea and her escort were already in their car, and Alyn was looking about for a place to sit when John had pulled her into the car beside him. In the badinage that followed, John had answered only her remarks. Bea had been furious, but it had done her no good. From that time on John had devoted himself entirely to Alyn. Throughout the years he had not changed. “But I have,” thought Alyn.