The New Day
by Hazel K. Todd
Synopsis: Lynn Marlow a dress designer in Chicago, who is engaged to David Talbot, returns to Springdale, her home town, to visit her Aunt Polly and to find out if she has really forgotten an early love for Johnny Spencer. Johnny had married a southern girl and she had died, leaving two children. Lynn meets the children, and, finally, visits with Johnny, who is bitter and withdrawn. Lynn decides that although she loves David, she must help Johnny to find himself again. She goes with the children to visit a turkey’s nest.
The old turkey was not so anxious for curious onlookers on her private domain as was Peter. She struck her snakelike head out and hissed her displeasure.
“It’s just because you’re different,” Peter explained. “She doesn’t care when Lindy and me look at her.”
“I think we shouldn’t bother her,” Lynn suggested. “She might leave her nest and not come back.”
The nest was hidden in the rocks in the forked roots of an old juniper tree. As they turned to leave, Lindy fell down and cut her knee on a sharp rock.
Lynn picked the sobbing child up in her arms. “Don’t cry, Lindy dear,” she soothed, wiping the tears from her eyes with her handkerchief. “Let’s get away where we won’t bother that grudging old hen and then we can see what’s happened to that poor unfortunate knee, that’s always getting hurt.”
A safe distance from the turkey nest, Lynn sat down on a big rock and began wiping the dirt from the injured knee. There was blood on her dress and a deep cut in the little knee.
“We’d better put something on it,” Peter suggested, patting his sister’s head. “Daddy always puts a bandaid on it when it bleeds.”
“I’m sure that would be a good idea,” Lynn agreed. “Can you take her to the house and fix it up, Peter?”
“Oh, I always get it all messed up. You’d better do it.”
Lynn had a frustrated, helpless feeling, as though she were being dragged into an inevitable pattern of events from which there would be no escape. It was too easy to love these children.
Lindy was clinging onto her with her arms tight around her neck. And Peter was waiting expectantly.
There was but one thing to do. She breathed a little sigh and started after Peter.
In the house Lynn set the little girl on the cupboard by the sink and looked at the cut again. “I am afraid this is too big for a bandaid. Do you have some gauze?”
Peter brought her gauze and a tube of iodine. “Dad always puts this on when we hurts us, even if we cry.”
As soon as Lindy saw the iodine she began to cry again. “I don’t want it! I don’t want it!” she cried and started scooting across the cupboard.
Lynn laid the tube down. “Let your Daddy put some on when he comes home.”
In a few minutes she had the knee all wrapped up and Lindy had ceased her tears.
Lynn lifted her gently to the floor. “I must go now.”
The cuckoo bird from the clock on the wall chirped once, and Lynn looked up, surprised to find it was 11:30.
She hesitated. “Is your father coming home for dinner?”
“No. But he left some sandwiches in the fridge,” Peter said.
Leaving two children alone at dinner time wasn’t right. Lynn pondered thoughtfully a minute. Should she take them home to have dinner with Aunt Polly? That would antagonize Johnny, she was sure, and besides, she was only drawing the children closer to her.
Peter was watching her closely. She couldn’t stand here in this undecided manner. And then the idea came to her. It was far-fetched and unreal, but she seized it quickly.
“Peter,” she said, opening cupboard doors until she had fished out a small pan, “take Lindy and run down by the turkey nest and pick some of the strawberries, will you? They would taste very good with the sandwiches.”
As soon as the children were gone, she went quickly to the telephone and began thumbing through the phone book, until her finger stopped at the hospital number.
She reached for the receiver and then stopped. How could she hope for such a fantastic idea to work! For a second more she hesitated, and then she took the receiver from the hook and repeated the number she had found.
“I would like to speak to Miss MayRee Richins,” she said, and waited while they went to find her, almost wishing they would be unable to do so.
But in a few minutes she heard the cheery “Hello.”
“This is Lynn Marlow, MayRee,” Lynn said, gulping to keep her voice steady.
“Why, Lynn, I heard you were back in Springdale. It is nice of you to call.”
“I am calling about Johnny,” Lynn said.
There was a moment’s silence. And then, “That is a strange thing for you to be calling me about, Lindy Marlow.”
“Oh, MayRee, please try to understand. I have no interest in Johnny … er … that is, I mean I am going to marry someone else.”
She finished lamely, feeling that she had bungled the whole thing.
“Well?” MayRee was still waiting for an explanation.
“Aunt Polly told me you had tried to help Johnny, that you had both tried and he refused to be helped.”
“I am afraid, Lindy, you are the only one who could help Johnny.”
“Would you be willing to try once more? Does it mean anything to you, that you would try?”
Again there was a hesitation and then MayRee said, “What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to come to his house and have dinner with his children.”
There was a gasp, and then MayRee said, “Johnny would annihilate me!”
“Please give it a try, MayRee. Look, I have sent the children after strawberries. There are sandwiches in the fridge. You can fix something to go with it. Tell them something happened and I had to go back to Aunt Polly’s. Could you be here by the time they come back with the berries?”
“It’s the craziest thing I ever heard of.”
“But you will do it?”
“I guess he can’t do more than send me home.”
As she walked along through the clover to Aunt Polly’s, Lynn felt strangely relieved, and yet, almost guilty toward the children who had so quickly come to trust her. Farther on across the meadow she turned to look back at the house, and saw the car stop at the picket gate. As she watched MayRee’s trim figure step from the car, she remembered, with an odd sort of feeling, the few jealous pangs she had felt for this girl in those long ago years. She turned back again, with a half smile, and quickened her footsteps to Aunt Polly’s.
All afternoon she debated with herself whether to call David or whether to wait to see what happened to MayRee.
And then Johnny came.
He stood at the door and demanded that she come with him.
“Why, of course I will, Johnny,” she said. “I’m so glad you called.”
Aunt Polly came forward a little shakily. “Johnny,” she said, “it is so good to have you come. Please sit down a minute.”
But he didn’t sit down. He just stood there in the door a hundred miles away, and waited.
In the car he kept his eyes straight ahead on the road, and he made no movement toward her and said no word. A half dozen times Lynn planned a way to begin, like “Johnny, you have such lovely children,” or “Johnny, couldn’t we just talk calmly?” or “Johnny, it is so good to see you again.” But the chasm was too deep between them. She was sure anything she said would be the wrong thing.
By the time he stopped the car before the drug store, she had given up saying anything. I’ll just have to wait, she thought.
She followed while he led her to their booth and they sat opposite each other.
Mr. Jensen stared at them in astonishment and rubbed his chin nervously with his hand.
“We want strawberry sodas,” Johnny said calmly, “with pink straws.”
He looked sternly at Mr. Jensen who seemed to be petrified for the moment. “Did you hear?”
Mr. Jensen jumped then. “Oh, sure, two strawberry sodas.”
Lynn looked at her soda thoughtfully. I may as well begin somewhere, she thought.
“Johnny, it’s almost like old times,” she said. “I mean, drinking sodas like this.”
“Only it isn’t like old times,” he said bitterly, looking at her keenly.
“Why, Johnny, I …” She gazed into his strained face. “No, I guess it isn’t, is it?”
She dropped her eyes wearily into her lap. There is no way to reach him, she thought.
He was leaning forward toward her across the table. A lock of his dark hair falling over his forehead.
“It can never be like old times, can it, Lynn?”
And suddenly she realized he was asking her to go back to the old relationship.
She looked at him sadly. Her heart ached for him. “No, Johnny,” she said, “it can never be just like old times.”
“Then why did you come back? Why did you come to my home?”
“I came back – not of my own choosing – but because I had to know.”
He looked at her a while then, almost in utter weariness.
“Well, now that you know, I will thank you to leave me alone, you and MayRee and everyone else.”
“But Johnny, we would all like to help you. Your children, you can’t do this to them.”
He had risen from the table.
“Johnny,” she said in a last effort tor each him. “Oh, don’t you see, nothing is hopeless. True, we can never go back to the past. It wouldn’t be what we wanted anyway. We must always go on. This is a new day with new promises, new …”
“Come on,” he said, “I will take you home.”
She looked at him sadly. “No, Johnny. Mr. Jensen will take me home,” she said.
He turned then, and walked out into the spring evening.
She looked at Mr. Jensen, standing helplessly before her.
He shook his head sadly and fumbled with the napkin on the table.
“It’s no use,” she said. and then, “Do you mind if I call David before we go?”
“No, Lindy,” he said. “I’ll just wait here.”
He sat down at the table and drummed aimlessly on it with his fingers.
It was wonderful to hear David’s voice again. It seemed like half a lifetime since she had last heard it. And the eagerness with which he said her name brought new peace.
“Oh, David,” she said with tears suddenly coming, “I want so much for you to come and get me! Please leave tonight!”
And then all the past heartaches and joys, all the years she had lived, all the problems she had experienced, came to her assistance and she was able to give to David the assurance of her love, pure and sweet in its entirety; save only one heartache which remained for the man she had been unable to free from bondage of the past.
She found Aunt Polly waiting on the red couch.
“I just called David,” Lynn said. “I am going home tomorrow.”
Aunt Polly nodded her head slowly.
“I — I think I will go to bed,” Lynn said then. “I will need to get up early and pack.”
“Yes,” Aunt Polly said, laying down her apron on the chair. Then she came over and kissed Lynn on the forehead as she used to do when she was a little girl. “It has been wonderful to have you even for a week.”
“But Aunt Polly, I’ll come back often now.”
Aunt Polly was gone, then, leaving her standing with the tears falling softly down her cheeks.
She picked up the checkered apron from the chair, held it to her face, wiped her tears on it, and then cried new ones quietly into its folds. “Dear, dear Aunt Polly,” she whispered.