WHEN DARK CLOSES IN
Chapter I, Part I
Newspapers lay scattered across a table in the hotel room. The pages were opened to the stories running daily as one story followed another. On April 30th, 1975, headlines read, “Saigon Falls. U.S. Pulls Out,” “South Vietnamese Army and Marines Flee,“ “Helicopters Scramble to Lift off of Embassy Roof.”
Pictures covered the pages where print allowed space. People were hanging from the helicopter skids, trying to climb aboard the crowded aircraft. Desperate people, frightened for their lives and what was coming. Jennifer read it all. She couldn’t think of anything else when she did. Now, she tried to forget what she had read. She couldn’t. It would be an impossible feat to pretend to enjoy herself tonight. But she would try. She reminded herself she was happy.
It was May 20th, 1975. The war was over. No one had heard from him. No one.
She fluffed and sprayed her chestnut colored hair, applied the last of her makeup, lipstick, then scrutinized herself in the mirror. Looking hard at her reflection, she turned, checking for bulges, or creases in her dress. She looked critically back at her young, five feet, four-inch frame. Twenty eight years old, she worked out daily to keep it fit.
She smoothed the clinging navy blue, silk dress that fell to mid calves. She hoped it would look right with the silver toned, high-heeled sandal shoes. The diamond necklace and earring set Marc had given her for Christmas completed the look. She touched the earrings gently. It reminded her of another night she would never forget, in 1966.
The moon cast a soft glow over the clear night sky looking like royal blue velvet, its stars winking on a still, glassy sea. They stood again on the pier at Puget Sound. Scott took out the envelope inside his shirt pocket.
“I got my orders from the Army.”
She was silent for a few moments.
“Today. I report Monday at Fort Lewis. I’m sorry, Jen. I was hoping we could…make some plans for our future together.”
“We will someday. There will be time…later…when you’re back home. Everything will be alright. You’ll see.” Even as she said it, she didn’t believe it.
He placed his hands behind her head, pulling her closer, wiping the tears and streaks of eye makeup from her face. His thumbs brushed gently over the tiny star-shaped crystal earrings he’d given her a year earlier the weekend of the fourth of July.
“You’re not very convincing you know.”
The following Monday he told his parents and sister goodbye, and Jennifer drove him to the bus station. The mood was somber; the silence worse than a morgue. Just before he boarded the bus, he did an imitation from a line of his favorite actor, Humphrey Bogart in the movie, Casablanca, one they loved watching together, substituting the last word.
“Here’s looking at you, babe.” His kiss was slow, lingering as were her tears, then he pulled away and quickly hopped up onto the departing bus.
“Come back to us.” She whispered to the bus merging out into the flow of traffic, and out of sight. She ran, crying uncontrollably towards the car.
To be continued…
Joyce E. Johnson