In the early glow of the quiet morning when the weight of yesterday grows lighter, and the heart sings like a bird on a spring morning, Deanna rushes to meet her husband. In the sunlight, in all its brilliance, she arrives to the comfort and the shelter of his arms.
Deanna awakens from the dream. The sun filters through almost bare limbs, spreading its warmth upon the smooth sycamore tree. No, she would never again feel Conrad’s embrace. His airplane had crashed half a world away from their home in Hampton, Virginia. The big plane, exploding on take-off, disintegrated in a ball of flame, taking with it Deanna’s entire world. She survived the shock of instant widowhood, but she would never again think of the Solomon Islands without feeling a stab through her heart. She and Conrad had planned to celebrate their anniversary later that year in those islands. Instead, he had died there.
Still sleepy, Deanna makes her way to the window and opens the blinds to another cool morning, with the March wind stirring the sycamore leaves. She thinks of Mitchell Merrick as she has each day since they met a few months ago.
Why does she think of him? She’s not in love with him and never will be, yet she’s fascinated by him. He’s returning to Hampton this evening and she agreed to meet him at the airport.
In her youth, Deanna had many suitors. That period of her life had been exciting and full of carefree, happy moments that still existed in memories she could recall as quickly as the snap of her fingers.
One such memory was of Hayden. He had volunteered for the Air Force, attended Officers’ Training School then went into pilot training. He came home on leave just out of cadets, and Deanna suspected that with only a little encouragement from her, Hayden would propose and offer her an exciting, yet comfortable life as a military wife; but she had not cared that much for him, and whatever feeling she had for him eventually dissipated.
William was the next man who interested her. He would have given her the world, as he had inherited the Fieldcrest millions from his childless uncle. But William was simply not her type. He was madly in love with her, and she enjoyed his attention for a brief time, but money alone was not what she was seeking. William without money would have been nobody, so she bid him farewell at the first opportunity.
After that, she met Conrad Eastman, an airline pilot. She liked everything about him except his given name—a trivial matter. Within months, she was deeply in love with him. They were married seventeen glorious years before death tragically claimed him––a year and a half ago.
After the funeral, Deanna considered returning to Bandera, Texas, but there was nothing back home for her, so she remained in the house she had shared with Conrad the last five years of his life. They had no children, and to keep busy she began volunteering at the local hospital. That’s where she met Mitchell.
Mitchell was not a pretty sight when she first saw him being wheeled into the emergency by the paramedics. He was bloody and bruised. He had been in a fight and from all indications he was the loser. Not only that, when he opened his mouth to speak, blood spattered from his lip. His slurred speech revealed a further story. He was detestably drunk.
After the doctor sutured the gashes on Mitchell’s lip and forehead, an orderly wheeled him into a room. Deanna brought ice water for the pitcher on the table, and she offered words of encouragement.
“I’m Deanna,” she said as she straightened his pillow.
“Hi,” he said in a weak voice. He looked at her intently. “One of us must be in Heaven and it sure don’t feel like me.”
Me neither, she wanted to say, but instead she said, “There. You should rest comfortably now, Mr. Merrick.”
“Call me Mitchell,” he said. His eyelids closed then quickly opened, and slowly closed again. His head dropped toward the edge of the pillow and he began to breathe easier.
Smiling, Deanna adjusted the blanket about him and left the room. There was something about Mitchell Merrick that she liked. It wasn’t his looks for he was terribly
disheveled now. The blood had been cleaned from his jet-black hair, but his lips were bruised and swollen, his lower lip a tattoo of stitches. They would leave a small scar, she thought, but it would not detract from the man’s otherwise strong features. He was handsome, despite his scruffy appearance.
Several emotions swirled within her, until a faint excitement emerged, similar to when she first met Conrad. Don’t be silly, she warned herself. Mitchell Merrick is probably a worthless, no-account drunk. And she wanted nothing to do with a drunk.
The March wind settled down, but for hours, her thoughts circled within her mind. She glanced at the clock. Mitchell’s plane would arrive in half an hour. He had asked her to meet him; that was a little unusual, as they were not committed to each other in any way. Although she could find no fault with him, other than his drinking, she wasn’t sure how she should feel towards him.
He had told her he was trying to stop drinking. That pleased her, although she couldn’t put it into words why. Perhaps she admired him for it. Often, it takes a medical reason for someone like Mitchell to stop drinking. But he had no family to urge him to quit, and she presumed the women he chose to keep company with rather liked the wild, carefree way that he lived.
She had met some of his friends recently and felt a tinge of jealousy. Why? Mitchell Merrick meant absolutely nothing to her, and he never would. Besides, who was he, really? From the two dates they had, both pleasant and ordinary, she learned he was writing a novel and had come to Hampton to research the setting. He had rented a cabin on Buckroe Beach. Other than that, she knew nothing about his background. Still, she thought of him constantly.
She bathed then selected a lavender skirt and white blouse to wear. Mitchell would notice; that was one of the important things about him, how intensely he paid attention to her.
Must be because he’s a writer, she thought. She studied herself in the mirror as she carefully arranged her accessories. Wonder what he sees in me? I’m not as attractive as he seems to think.
Mitchell had been away for almost a month. She sat patiently in the airport lounge area, surrounded by a crowd of people, some of them noisy, restless children. Flight 962 was due to land shortly.
Minutes later, the passengers were streaming through the concourse, greeted by hugs, kisses, and exclamations of delight. How shall I greet him? Deanna wondered.
Through the crowd, she saw him, briefcase in hand, his dark hair neatly groomed. He smiled as his eyes found hers. Their strides quickened toward each other and soon his arms were around her. She felt a gentleness, then strength, and comfort. She leaned her head against his shoulder and returned his embrace. There was an immediate connection.
She wanted to tell Mitchell Merrick that with that gesture, all the feelings she thought she had buried with Conrad had been reawakened. But she didn’t need to say anything, for his lips found hers and words were unnecessary.
Tomorrow the sun would shed its warmth upon new leaves, filter through bare limbs where only velvet buds brush against sycamore bark, as the weight of yesterday grows lighter . . . in the quiet of the morning . . . and in the twilight.
cCopyright, 2006, Freeda Baker Nichols
This story first appeared in the Spring 2008 Issue of Calliope,
A Writer’s Workshop by Mail