Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tender Return

Ever been inspired by old photographs?  While looking through a shoebox of old snapshots I got from my mother, I was particularly struck by pictures of her and my father before they met and others right after they married.  In some, my dad looked like a gangster, but in his naval uniform, taken in the early 40's, he looked every bit the part of a movie star in one of the many Hollywood film's about the era.  My mother, in her floral dress, platform shoes, dark red lipstick and hair-styled for the time, could have been his co-star. 

I've always adored those movies where the hero goes off to war and the heroine waits for his return, patient, missing him, and wondering if he'll come back to her.  I can't think of a more romantic time in history.

 Looking at images of my parents about they time they discovered one another was the impetus for my novella, Tender Return.  Here's a sample for you:


Why won’t Meagan Murphy’s father allow her to date anyone in uniform?  His rule flies out the window when she meets Ryan Cullen at the local USO.  Time is short before his unit ships overseas, and there’s only one gift she can offer to help him remember their last night together—her virginity.  Will Ryan return and ask her father’s permission to marry… or are all those nightly radio newscasts warning her to prepare for the worst?


Texas, March 1943

Meagan Murphy tapped her toe beneath the food-laden table despite the fact she’d been hunched over it for hours, dishing out portions at the weekly USO dance. Preferring to find a partner and have a little fun, she methodically spooned mashed potatoes onto passing plates and eyed the “jitterbuggers” on the floor.
“Can I have some gravy, please?” A deep voice drew her attention.
The eyes she looked into were darker than the sauce he requested, and his perfectly formed lips curved into a dimpled smile. She cleared her throat and picked up the ladle. “Say when.”
“How about right after I polish off this chow.”
“Excuse me?” She cocked a brow.
“You said, say when. I thought you were inviting me to dance.” He winked.
There was something about him -- different from the other GIs. She’d found flirting a common occurrence here and ignored it, but this brazen specimen piqued her interest. Still, she didn’t dare encourage him. “I meant tell me how much gravy you want on your potatoes.” She drizzled juice over his plate.
“When!” He smiled then dabbed at a spot of gravy on the plate’s edge. “About that dance…” He licked his finger clean.
The fellow behind him cast an impatient stare at her.
“You’re holding up the line,” she said, feeling her cheeks heat. She grew tired of the mingling food aromas.
“Tell me your name, and I’ll move along.”
“Meagan. Now scoot. You’re going to get us both into trouble.” She glanced across the room to where her father sat. She hated when he dropped in. His presence was such a damper on the evening. He forbade her to show anything more than polite attention to men in uniform.
“Name’s Ryan Cullen.” He moved onto the bread basket. “I’ll look for you when you’re done.”
Managing a weak smile, she wondered how to avoid him and an embarrassing explanation then waved across the room to her mother and younger sister, Martha. They sat next to her father along the far wall. Thomas Murphy, a local councilman, felt it his civic duty to visit once a month to show his support of the USO and their mission. Meagan felt sorry for her sister, who fidgeted and looked bored to tears. It wouldn’t be any different were she older, because Daddy only supported the troops to the extent that they stayed away from his daughters.
Meagan sighed. So much for dancing with Ryan Cullen. At least tonight. Hopefully, he’d come next week when her father stayed home and listened to his infernal radio. She nibbled her lip and wondered if Ryan danced as good as he looked, but an annoying fly buzzed too close to the food and interrupted her thoughts. She swatted at it and planted her hand firmly in the remaining mashed potatoes. Her immediate hope was that no one saw, and she gasped when she spied a dead insect beneath her palm.
Luckily, her replacement showed up with a fresh bowl. “Time to take over,” she said.
“Thank goodness. My feet are screaming. See you next week.” Meagan quickly transferred her dish to the cart behind the table, removed her apron, and cast it into a box. She rubbed the small of her back and shrugged her tired shoulders.
“Ready to dance?”
She jumped at Ryan’s voice. “I…I can’t -- ”
“Can’t believe your good fortune? Can’t wait to dance with me?” He took her hand.
She was about to address his arrogance when her sister scurried over and elbowed her in the side. “Meg, Daddy says it’s time to go. You know you aren’t supposed to talk to strangers.” Martha twirled a braid and flashed a grin at Ryan.
Meagan withdrew her hand from Ryan’s as if a flame burned her palm then stooped until her face was inches away from her sibling’s. “Really, why don’t you act your age? You’re thirteen, not five,” she whispered.
She straightened and turned her attention back to Ryan. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. Maybe we can have that dance another time.” She lowered her lashes then grabbed her sister’s arm and yanked her toward where their parents waited. “Honestly, why do you insist on embarrassing me?”
Martha pulled free. “You liked him. I could tell. And if you don’t be nice to me, I’m gonna tell Daddy you promised to dance with that fellow.”

You can find this and my other work available on Amazon.

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