Rather than run consecutive weeks for an entire month like last year, there are only two dates slotted this time around: today, and the last Friday in February. If you missed out on signing up for today's fun, but would like to play next month, hop on over to let the lovely Suze know. It's her brainchild, ya know.
WAIT! Hey, not NOW! Read my post first... sheesh.
Since Valentine's Day is only a couple weeks away, I've selected a short story romance that holds a sweet spot in my heart. At least, I consider it a romance. Evidently, the magazine editor didn't agree. Care to enjoy a little background music while you read? The story's title? The Real Thing.
When the doorbell chimed, Mildred looked over at her husband Bennie, but he was still reared back in his recliner, eyes closed, and mouth hanging open. With a sigh, she quieted the blaring TV and dumped her slumbering cat onto the sofa.
It’s probably that sweet Jennifer from Meals on Wheels, she thought, as she grabbed her cane and hobbled to the door.
Jennifer grinned when Mildred opened the door. “Hello, Mrs. Johnson,” she said. “Isn’t it a glorious day?”
Mildred squinted past her to regard the sun-kissed day. “Why, yes,” she agreed with a smile. “I do believe it is.” Then she considered the pretty blonde’s glowing face. “And you, my dear, look especially lovely today.”
Jennifer placed the meals in the usual spot, glanced at the still sleeping Mr. Johnson, and then stuck out her left hand. “That’s because I’m especially happy today!”
Genuine delight illuminated Mildred’s face. “How wonderful!” she exclaimed, as she examined the shiny new engagement ring. “So, when’s the big day?”
“Oh, I can't set a date yet.”
“No?" Mildred said, setting her cane aside and easing herself back onto the sofa. The cat immediately reclaimed her lap, and she automatically stroked his head. “Do you have time to visit, dear?”
Jennifer sat beside her. “Yes, ma’am,” she said. “I do. This is my last stop.” She grinned. “I always save the best for last.”
Dimples danced in Mildred’s cheeks. “Thank you, dear.” Then her face rearranged itself into a more serious expression. “So, why aren’t you ready to set a date, young lady? Cold feet?”
“Not exactly. I just want to be absolutely certain that he’s the one and only true love of my life. You know … the real thing.”
Mildred nodded slowly. Bennie scratched his Buddha belly, burped, and muttered something in his sleep. She looked his way, but his eyes were still closed, so she turned back to Jennifer. “I understand what you’re saying,” she said. “That one and only true love feeling is exciting, dear, but it takes more than a feeling to make a marriage work. It takes commitment and hard work to build the real thing.” She paused to smile. “I’ve been married for more than fifty years. Mind you, it hasn’t always been easy, but if I had it to do all over again, I’d marry that man again in a heartbeat.”
“But did you ever have a one and only true love of your life, Mrs. Johnson?” Jennifer persisted.
Mildred glanced at her husband again before answering. “Absolutely,” she said in a stage whisper. “I met him at the USO in March of 1952.” With a touch of nostalgia in her voice, she added, “I was sure he was my one and only. I certainly wanted him to be.”
Intrigued, Jennifer asked, “Would you mind telling me about him?”
“He was a Marine,” Mildred said, with another quick peek at her husband. “A beautiful man. Tall, with the broadest shoulders I ever saw. Big strong hands, but they were gentle, too. Black wavy hair.” She closed her eyes briefly, picturing the handsome Marine. “And so very kind.” She opened her eyes and smiled. “We danced every dance together.”
“Did you ever see him again?” Jennifer asked.
“Oh, yes. We were together every day after that for the next two weeks. It was a magical time for both of us. He called me Tink.” She smiled, remembering. "Short for Tinkerbell." Then she shook her head. “And then he went to Korea.”
“I’m sorry,” Jennifer said. “That must’ve been hard.”
Mildred nodded. “It was. I wrote him every day, and he wrote me whenever he could.” She sighed. With another quick check on her husband, she whispered, “And I saved every last one of his letters, too. They’re still in a box at the back of my closet.”
“Wow,” Jennifer said. “See? That’s the kind of love I want.”
Bennie opened his eyes and yawned. “What’s all that yammering about?” he asked. “A man can’t hardly catch a nap around this place.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson,” Jennifer said, standing. “Let me just set up your trays before I go.”
“Oh, don’t mind him,” Mildred said with a crinkly smile. “He’s teasing.”
He pushed himself into an upright position, and cocked an eyebrow at her. “You still mooning over that Marine, woman?”
“You were listening!” she scolded. Then, “No more than you moon over that pretty young thing who danced with you all night.”
“Oh, wow,” Jennifer breathed, eyes wide.
“I’ll tell you a secret,” Mildred said. “If you work at it, that one true love of your life can also be the love of your lifetime.”
“HOO-rah!” said her husband. “Semper fi, Tink.”