I woke up this morning in the mood for something new. I had known right away what it had to be. So I grabbed my checkbook and began to subtract the debits from my checking account. To assure I had the funds for my mid-week escape. When I wake up in this type of mood, there is no other place that cures what ails me like, Susan's Second-Hand Rose. That store amused me like no other. There were vintage clothing and shoes. I have always loved a good nineteen forties Dress.
It made me happy to dress like an actress in some of my favorite movies. The Egg and I, My Favorite Wife, I remember Mama. Oh, I do love a good nineteen forties movie. I loved wearing a dress that made me feel like Irene Dunne. Sure, I looked nothing like her. I for sure don't speak as she did. I am a country girl from Alabama with straight blond hair. I couldn't pass for the beautiful Irene Dunne if I tried. But I sure feel like her when I am in one of those dresses.
But today, I wasn't interested in those dresses, or Irene Dunne. Today I wanted to find a well-loved book. One that had been read by a sensible woman from the middle of last century. I wanted to fall in love with a man that had caused another woman's heart to flutter in her chest right after the Second World War.
But not just any man. He had to be one of those handsome young men that felt the call to arms. A man that had enlisted with vim and vigor. A man that had written to his family regularly telling them of his love of God and country. A man that had stood up bravely on the shores of Normandy. A man that had loved deeply and was now afraid he would never love like that again.
I knew that he had come from a farming community somewhere in middle America. A man that would come home a little different than when he left. A little wiser, a little jaded and perhaps a little broken. I needed to find this man and mainly I needed to read his story.
Today, I needed to be the woman who saw him as he returned home, a hero. The woman who saw him as the only man she could love. The woman who could acclimate him back to civilian life. The woman who made him able to love again. The woman who made him feel unafraid of loud crashes of thunder and vivid lightning. The woman who made him whole again.
Today, I needed to be that woman. I wanted to read myself into her words and see myself in her clothes, wearing her sturdy shoes. I wanted to read myself in her actions. I needed to be the woman who had sacrificed her own sleep to make sure he was able to sleep through the night again. Today I needed to be the woman who loved that soldier.
I had only been inside the shop for a moment when I was approached by the owner. Susan. She always greeted me with a smile and called me by name, today was no different.
She asked, "Lillian, what are you looking for today? I have several nice dresses that I just acquired."
I shook my head and told her, "Today, I have something else in mind."
I walked to the back wall where the second-hand books were stacked neatly on the floor to ceiling bookcase. I began to cull through the books hoping to find what I needed so desperately.
There were plenty of books on that large oak shelf that were about the war. The hard surfaces faded and the corners curled, but I did not find what I was seeking. I brought over the footstool that Susan kept for short people like me, to reach the higher shelves. I climbed up the first rung. There I was able to see what treasures were housed just above my head.
The faded greens and grays with the occasional pale orange and blood red bindings were a delight for my eyes. My nose was also twitching with excitement at the aroma of those books, some almost one hundred years old. My fingers felt thick with the ages old dust and oil of other people's hands. Yet, I was in heaven. I slid my fingers over every title written on the side panel of each and every book. Then I saw something that made my heart flutter. I took in a deep breath and smiled.
The title was Come Home My Darling by Dorothy Napier, the cover was deep blue and the letters were embossed. My fingers traced over the letters and I pulled it off of the shelf. I did not even step off the stool, I simply opened the book and read.
The train pulled into the station and the soldiers began to cover the cement platform like ants marching in green wool. Men in all manner of military garb stood shoulder to shoulder, duffel bags on their backs and nervous grimaces on their faces. Every eye was shifting back and forth as they looked desperately for familiar faces. One by one the grimaces became smiles when they found there was someone who loved them waiting at the station.
I watched hoping to find the one face that would respond to my smile. I wanted to be there when he came home, his welcoming wife. If he is not on this train, I will be here, for the next, and the next. I will be here to welcome him home. No matter how many smiles I have to muster.
I sighed. Yes, in my hand was the book that had called me here. Here was the woman I needed to read about. I would wait with her on that crowded platform, waiting for him, our hero, to come home. I had found exactly what I needed. I took that blue hardback book to Susan. I paid in a hurry, ready to escape to my own home, to my own bed. To read the second-hand book that had so urgently called to me today, to meet my second-hand hero.