Toronto – August 15, 1944 – Part 1

(Dodging Shells gave you Tommy’s letters to his sister, from the front. Kathy’s letters in response tell of life in wartime Toronto.)

August 15, 1944

Dear Tommy,
…..It’s been such a long time since your last letter! But it warms my heart to know that you guys have to learn a little something about cooking for yourselves. It will make you attractive husband material some day.
…..I was surprised to be invited to Lil’s wedding last month. I don’t see as much of the elevator operators as I used to – socially, at least – since I started working in the office. Lil was the homely one.
…..Lil was so worried that all the other girls would snap up the soldiers when the war ends…I think she was determined to beat us to the punch. When we heard that Eleanor’s fiancé was being shipped home soon, she may have panicked. (He’s been wounded, but he’ll recover and they’ll be able to get that home Eleanor has her heart set on.)
…..It seems that she stuck her hand into the grab bag of men who are still in Toronto, and came up with a widower with flat feet and two small daughters. But he’s a nice enough guy, and his daughters are plain enough to pass as Lil’s daughters too. In fact, I find myself wondering whether he might have been looking very particularly for someone who would be a willing and credible mom for his kids. I realize this is disloyal, but it’s just between you and me…right? And who knows? Maybe it’s exactly the job description she was hoping for.
…..I know I’m on firmer ground when I say that Lil feels she has achieved some kind of triumph in marrying before any of her friends. Perhaps that’s why her guest list extended to yesterday’s casual friends…like me. Since I don’t envy her even a little bit, I was able to wish her the best of luck quite sincerely. Not everybody does. Until you guys get back and every girl here has staked her claim, it’s a turf war…and each girl’s win seems to make all the others feel a loss. It’s not pretty.
…..The wedding, I believe, went much as planned. The bridesmaids were decked out in blatantly hideous yellow celanese frocks with absurd hats mimicking flops from jaundiced cows, allowing the bride to appear to best advantage by contrast. As an added bonus, the day was as hot as hell, and that fabric must have held the heat like a mobile steam bath. The girls were wilting noticeably by the time they hit the church door – they were definitely not going to make Lil look bad.
…..The blushing bride was preceded up the aisle by both of the groom’s sulky daughters. They were all dolled up in pink fluff, with floral wreaths slipping down over their eyes as they dumped fistfuls of scruffy daisy blossoms onto the floor and were the first of many to tromp all over them. I’m sure it was intended to be a great honour. I’m also sure they didn’t see it that way – not at all. Those two are going to be a handful.
…..It was not until after the ceremony, when we were all milling about outside the church in that tedious way you’re obliged to do after weddings, that I noticed a sour-faced old woman in grey crepe. She looked like she’d just bitten into something that had gone bad.
…..“I suppose the girls need someone, now that their mother is gone.” she was explaining, to whoever was close enough to hear, “but I was hoping for better for my boy. Just look at her…flaunting those pearls! I loaned her those pearls, you know.” She was referring to five tiny pearls strung on a flimsy gold chain around the bride’s neck. “And on top of it all, she isn’t even Catholic!”
…..Well, that clarified the fate of the groom’s first wife…at least for me. I have no doubt she cut her own throat with a dull knife, in order to escape the kindnesses of her mother-in-law. Wherever she is now, I’m sure she considers it a better place.
…..Lil has already quit her job. I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more of her.


About Wendy Bertsch

I’m a Canadian author—a pragmatic optimist with rather eclectic interests and a pervasive sense of humour. Toronto born and bred, I live by the lake with a motley array of dogs and a cat, all but myself being of unknown origin, in a comfortable old house filled with books. Over a thousand books. Books in every nook and cranny. And now, since there can never be too many books, I'm writing more. Once More, From the Beginning highlights the women in the bible. It's about time! And believe me, they see things quite differently. And in Dodging Shells, you'll meet the irrepressible Tommy, as he fights his way through Italy in World War II. You'll love Tommy. I do. Next? Well, that's a secret yet. Stay tuned... I recently initiated the fledgling Ocean Highway Books, providing editing, formatting and cover design services to authors wishing to self-publish.
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