From the Relief Society Magazine, February 1944 –
We’re Not So Different
By Christie Lund Coles
Sue Landon lifted a pile of filmy nighties from her cedar chest. They were special nighties that she had been putting away in her trousseau, and they gave off the fragrance of sachet as she lay them, with trembling fingers, in her overnight bag. She could choose one of them later. Now, she must hurry.
Actually, she had plenty of time. Nickey wouldn’t be here for her until eight. Yet, she felt breathless as though she had been running up a steep hill, as though she wanted to be out of this room and this house. Everything was too quiet, she thought too much, and she didn’t want to think … not of anything except Nickey and the way he had looked at her this afternoon. It seemed a long time ago that she had come down the steps of the Parks Building to find him waiting for her in his jalopy, “Asthmatic Sue.”
“Hi!” he greeted her. “Wouldn’t be going my way by any chance?”
“And which way is your way?” she countered, archly.
“Why, my way is your way always,” he assured her, his voice serious all of a sudden, his eyes thoughtful and without the laughter lights she had come to associate with them.
“What’s on your mind?” she asked, handing him her books and climbing in beside him.
“Nothing much. I passed my physical. And I made the air corps.”
“Then, why the glumness? I thought they’d put you in 5-Z. You should be thrilled to death. I am.”
They were driving now and he was making a turn. He did not look at her as he said, softly, “Are you?”
“Of course. Isn’t that what you wanted?’ Then, anxiously, “Nickey, what is it?”
“In about a week from today I’ll be leaving here. I’ll be leaving you. Doesn’t that mean anything to you?”
She looked at him, sharply. “Oh, Nickey, Nickey. You know it does. But we knew it was coming.”
He drove in silence until they reached a quiet street east of the city. Then he stopped the car, turned to her, an urgency in his look and voice that she had never seen there before. He said, “I love you, Sue. You know that, don’t you? I can’t just go away and leave you here … not knowing if I will ever see you again. Not knowing that you are mine.”
“I thought we had talked this over before and decided it was better to wait,” she began slowly. “I thought …”
“Oh, I know what we said, that we were young, that I didn’t want you to be tied to me in case I came back bunged up, that I wouldn’t take a chance on leaving you to raise a child alone. I know it all. But it doesn’t mean anything now. The only thing that means anything is that I’m going and that I love you … I want you.”
“But it takes time to get married … right. There’s the health certificate. There’s seeing the bishop, getting ready.”
“But I don’t want to take time. I want this last week to be ours. We can be married over the line without a health certificate. We can have the fuss later … when I come back. But now, well, there just isn’t time.”
Suddenly his arm was about her, his lips were against her blonde smooth hair, “Sue, Sue darling,” he was whispering. “Please say yes.”
It was like a tidal wave engulfing her, bearing her beyond her depth, making her forget reason. She told him swiftly. “Yes. Yes, Nickey.”
Now, as Sue whirled about to take her cosmetic kit from her dresser drawer, her eyes were drawn to the picture of her mother on the dresser, smiling at her in silence and in gentleness.
For just a moment, she felt sick in the pit of her stomach. Then, lifting her head high, she turned the face before her toward the wall and proceeded quickly to take hose, hankies, perfume, from their particular boxes.
After all, the fact that mother sent dad away without anything but the promise to wait for him didn’t prove anything. Things were different then, people were different, they believed the world would always be the same. But she and Nickey didn’t … they knew how fast things were going, they knew that the world they knew might never survive this … this mess. They had a right to whatever happiness they could snatch from life. They had a right to do things their way. Mother had told her often, “If I couldn’t have it right, I didn’t want it.” And once, Sue had protested, “Yes, but weren’t you being selfish? What about him? He might not have come back …”
“Ah, but he wanted it right, too,” her mother had assured her. “Your father is like that. And if he hadn’t come back … well, memories with a core of bitterness and regret aren’t much better than none.”
“Right!” Who could say what was right now when everything was going so wrong. And there wouldn’t be any regret for Nickey and her. There would only be love and tenderness. A whole week of it.
She closed her eyes and thought of his face, the dark wave in his hair where she would love tangling her fingers, eyes soft and warm as velvet, his mouth … firm but gentle. Everything else was blotted out but the thought of him.
After a moment, she knelt to clip the locks on her bag, thinking, as she did so, how simple it had been to tell Mother that this was a house party at his sister’s place down south where she had been before. Yes, it had been surprisingly simple considering that she had never lied to Mom before.
It was not simple, though, to walk out of the house, kiss her and Dad good-by casually, while she knew that she would never return here as the little girl she had been to them.
But the night was something dreamed up … silver and cool, and shadowy and fragrant. the ride through the country was something to remember always. Nickey understood, for he drew her against his shoulder to say, “Gee. honey, nature certainly gave us a nice setting.” And then, after a moment, “You’re not sorry?”
“No,” she whispered, hoarsely, “no … are you?”
“I suppose not,” he answered a little absently and she wondered briefly about his words, would have questioned them but a young fawn ran across the road and their attention was drawn from themselves. When he spoke again it was to say, “Nice night for a wedding.”
Her brief laughter tinkled the air as she sighed, “You can say that again.”
Pulling her ear playfully, he asked, “How about this – I love you?”
“Oh, that? Well, you can leave that record running … Sunday, Monday, and always.”
They drove on in silence. There was only the whish of the tires going over the cement, faster and faster …
When she was inside the rather shabby little hotel room which he had taken so that she might freshen up, she took off her hat and gloves, set her bag on the bench and automatically opened it. She was conscious of the fierce thudding of her heart as she did so, conscious of her hands being icy cold though there was perspiration on them.
Her fingers touched the folds of softness within. As she did so, she had the queer sensation that there was someone in the room with her, standing beside her. But it was only imagination, she assured herself … childish, stupid imagination. It was her mind playing ricks. But no, it couldn’t be. It was more than that. It was something else, something … she knew. It was the sachet. Mignonette. It had brought her mother into the room because it was as much associated with her as her smile or her touch. One of her first recollections of momsie was that sweet, lovely fragrance.
And oh, the thousand and one memories that had been made more unforgettable by that scent, warm and alive. One day, in particular, came back to her now. The day the two of them had gone into the attic and Mom had told her about her wedding. She had taken her wedding dress out of the tissue paper, had shaken the yards and yards of white satin before her, telling her laughingly, “This is for you when you marry. It took weeks of sewing and planning to make it into this thing of perfection.”
Sue had stared entranced, wrapped round by the sweetness of the sachet perfume. “Oh, it’s lovely. Tell me about your wedding. It must have been elegant.”
Her mother’s gentle, dark eyes were misted and had a faraway look in them as she told her about the sacred rites – the feeling of exaltation and pure joy she had known. She told her about the reception later, the gifts, the music, the friends. “There is nothing in a lifetime like it. Nothing.”
Sue had sniffed the air, saying, “That scent will remind me of you … and of this day … forever.”
Mom had squeezed her, saying, “Then I shall put bags and bags of it in all your things so that when you are married and gone from me you can’t possibly forget …”
All in a moment, Sue didn’t want to be here, sneaking, lying, shutting her mother and her father out. she wanted them here. Wanted to see the little laugh lines around her mother’s eyes, the deeper lines about her mouth that spoke of sorrows borne, of troubles overcome, temptations, too, maybe. Temptations to be hasty, to hurt those who loved her. Once she had said to Sue, “Whatever happens to you, try to remember that the same thing might have happened to me, or might happen to your child. We’re not so different.”
Getting up, she switched off the light and walked to the window. The moon was whiter now and the stars shimmered against the sky. How many years they had shone down like this. How many thousands of years. How could she and Nickey have supposed that there wouldn’t be time enough, or that waiting or each other would be a waste …
When she opened the door to Nickey’s knock, her plaid coat was thrown across her shoulders again, her felt hat in her icy fingers.
“All set, hon?” he asked, smiling.
She shook her head. “I’m sorry, Nickey, dear. But I can’t go through with it. Oh, Nickey darling, you’ll think I’m silly, but some day my daughter is going to ask me about my wedding, is going to ask to see my wedding dress.” She wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t bear being married by a justice of the peace.”
He put his hands on her shoulders and she felt the fingers press through her coat into her flesh, as he said, hoarsely, “Gee, I don’t know what to say, but I think … I think you’ve got something there. Only you should say our daughter.”
As he picked up her bag, his eyes had their old familiar twinkle. He said, “Remind me that tomorrow I’ve got to see a bishop about a marriage.”