I tucked a stray strand of hair behind my ear. Why was I so nervous? After all, Tal and I were only friends. Or were we? Was this a date? Did he really think I could be so naïve? No, he wouldn’t do that. Yet, the confusion of last night’s events made me feel stoic…and occasionally nauseous. I had a hard time listening to Tal at the table. I didn’t know why. Everything just seemed out of place.
The meal was nice, but Tal didn’t really talk much. There wasn’t much to say. I couldn’t even begin to think of what he thought of me… rude, arrogant, shy, selfish. The list went on and on. Nevertheless, he remained friendly. There were still so many questions nagging at my heart and chewing on my brain, but I held my tongue.
As we walked back to my house, I couldn’t wrangle in my emotions any longer. “So, where do you go after this?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I guess I haven’t decided.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, with a job like mine, you don’t know where you’re going. The rodeo circuit is all over the place,” he cleared his throat. I was still puzzled, “One day you can be in Texas, and the next rodeo can be in Utah.”
“Oh my,” I mumbled.
“Yep. Rodeo is a tough sport. In my event, all you have to do is grab your saddle and go. Makes life easier. Guess I’ve always liked the travel, too. You can probably call me a gypsy.”
I said nothing.
“What about you?” he questioned.
“Me?” I almost laughed.
“Yeah. What are your plans? What do you do?”
“Well, I have my daughter, Lucy. And I have a job that keeps me on my toes.” I managed no further.
“Like what?” Tal pressed.
“Well…if you must know,” I stuck my chin in the air and straightened my shoulders. “I’m a journalist, or rather, an editor. I work for the St. Louis Chronicle.”
I felt proud. I didn’t know why. I guess it was just the feminist in me saying, “girls can do anything.”
He stifled a laugh. I frowned, offended by his reaction, “What’s so funny? Was it something I said?” I tried to hold back the anger in my voice.
“Oh, nothing.” I scowled. “OK. I just never realized that women could do things like that. I mean, really? All I see is a waitress, secretary, nurse?”
I turned on my heel facing him. He was terribly tall and almost four inches taller than me even wearing heels, but I worked up all the courage in me.
His eyes grew wide as if realizing what he just said. Racism. That’s what it was. How could anyone be so credulous and rude?
“Ruth, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I know it sounded wrong, but that’s not what I was trying to say,” he apologized.
“Then, what were you trying to say, Mr. Livingston?”
“Listen, Ruth-I,” I stopped him before he could continue.
“Ms. Hollister, if you please.”
We didn’t speak. There was nothing to be said. I mean, he had a point. But, of course, women had jobs that didn’t belong at home or a diner. It was 1941 after all; the Depression was over, so anything was possible.
I didn’t want to talk to him, and he didn’t want to talk to me. He walked me to my front door, then he left. And that was that.
I tossed and turned in bed that night. Why was I so restless? Did it have to do with work? No. Did it have to do with the house being a complete mess? Of course, not. Then what was it? Tal.
But, why? I asked myself. It wasn’t like I was attracted to him. We were only friends…or acquaintances after the incident. Then the phone rang. I didn’t want to answer because I knew who it was going to be. Unfortunately, my reflexes reacted before my brain could take action, and I answered the call.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Ms. Hollister?” a deep voice croaked.
“Yes. Who is this?” But I knew who it was.
“Oh. You?” I sounded surprised.
“Listen. I just wanted to apologize for what I said today. It was very impolite.” He stopped but seemed as though he was going to say more.
“Is that all?” I snapped.
“No.” He paused, then continued, “What I meant to say was: I really admire women like you who can take on such a…” he stopped, searching for the right words, “notable job.”
“Thank you.” There was an awkward pause. “Well. Good night,” I stated bluntly.
“Wait!” He nearly yelled.
“Mr. Livingston. It is very late,” I yawned.
“Yes, but. I wondered if you would be willing to give me a second chance?”
A second chance? Impossible. How could I trust this man? Well, I trusted him the night he drove me home.
“You still there?” He asked.
“Yes,” I replied dully.
I paused not sure of what to decide. On the one hand, he seemed trustworthy. On the other, there was a dark side of him that I didn’t like.
I gulped, “Ok.”
The next few months went by without me even noticing. Tal never repeated anything offending. Lucy fell in love with him, and I did too. I wasn’t expecting it, but I felt comfortable around him. And he even encouraged me to get baptized. I was going to church again, and he always joined us. Then, one day, he popped the question.
“Do you have any plans next June?” he asked one day while walking to church.
“No,” I giggled.
“How about we get married?”
I stood dead still. Marriage? It hadn’t even crossed my mind, but I said “yes.”
One thing I couldn’t understand was why he didn’t leave St. Louis. Not exactly full of rough stock and horses. I asked, but he always seemed to veer away from the question.
It was Christmas time, and everything seemed right with the world. I got a promotion for my job. I was now an official, real journalist. I was allowed to write about things of interest. No more housewife columns. The family was all invited to meet my fiancée. It was December 7th, 1941. A great evening. A great party. I got to see my mom after many years. And Tal announced that he found a ranch outside of the city that he could run his cattle. I couldn’t be more thrilled. The kids sat around the radio to listen to Gene Autry’s show. Tal was chatting with my brother and his wife while I was washing dishes with Mom. This was all too good to be true.
Then Lucy cried, “Mommy!”
What now? I walked over to her side as she pouted with her lip.
“What is it, sweetie?”
“The Gene Autry show stopped!”
Stopped, but why? It wasn’t even time for it to end. The sound crackled again, and everybody stood by to listen. A voice spoke in slight alarm. The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Thousands were killed, and ships and armor were gone. Horror swept over my face. I looked at Tal. He and I both knew what was going to happen. Something that would change our lives forever. War.
The picture is of FDR pronouncing war against Japan.
It was found DailyTimes.com with an article written by John Sniffen.