WHEN DARK CLOSES IN
1966 – Clear Creek, WA.
Scott boarded the southbound bus, and turned around to find her waving. He smiled, found a seat, and the bus pulled out, headed for Fort Lewis. He promised to write. She could only pray his letters would never stop, that he would return to her, and the child he knew nothing about.
There could not be a hole anywhere on earth deeper, or greater than the one she felt in her heart as she made the lonely drive home in his 1965 Ford Mustang. Even with a window down the scent of his sweat mixed with his after shave and soap he used when he showered lingered. She caressed the black, leather upholstered bucket seats. She knew how much he loved this car, spending hours buffing and polishing it after a wash. She would call his father and have him pick it up. One day at a time: it was all she could do, and hope for the year to pass quickly.
But, there was something she could not put off any longer, so locked it and reluctantly went inside where she knew her parents waited. They sat at the kitchen table in their usual place, reading the newspaper over their coffee. It was around the kitchen table where they had their family sessions, laughed, and talked about their day. This time an awkward silence filled the room, as if a pall of doom had followed her inside making its home there, uninvited.
“I’m very sorry, dear. I know Scott’s leaving has been a sad and difficult thing for you, but perhaps, when you return to school things will be easier then, and you can meet up with some friends there.” Erin said.
“I’m not returning to school in the fall.” Jennifer said, pointedly.
Her father’s head shot up, his facial expression always an easy barometer to read. His broad, bent shoulders stiffened, as he straightened in his chair. Jennifer did not look forward to this.
“What kind of nonsense is that? You’re going back to school. I won’t allow you to quit school, and mope around here over that boy.”
“I’m not going back, daddy. Not now. I need to tell you both something. About why I can’t. I’m…Scott and I… I mean, I am going to have a baby. I’m pregnant.”
Her words fell on them like the mammoth trees felled in the Olympic National forests where her father managed the logging camps. He could determine the exact angle and position as each was felled to the ground. But, he could not determine her fate. Right or wrong, alone or with their help, she would make her own way. Another long pause.
Erin McAlister found her voice. “Have you been to a doctor? How far along are you?” she asked.
“Yes, I saw the doctor. I’m three months.”
“Does Scott know?” Erin asked.
“No. I didn’t tell him. I’m not going to. Until he returns home. I don’t want anyone else to. I don’t want his family to know, because they will think it their duty to tell him. He has enough to deal with just being over there in that war.” The days of holding back tears, the stress: all of it was gone now, as she unleashed it all.
“Mom, could you get me some water. I feel…light headed.”
Erin got up, and brought her some water and a cold compress.
“Jenny. Jenny. What have you gone, and done?” Her father slowly shook his head. “Does anyone else know about this?”
“Dana does. I told her when I found out. I just wanted to share it with someone that… would understand.”
“How can a girl like that ‘understand?’ Someone who has no morals of her own.” Jim said, his Scotch-Irish brogue more noticeable when angry.
“Jim. That’s enough. Maybe she wasn’t taught the things we have taught Jenny, so what else would you expect? It is rather sad they let her do all the things she was allowed to do. She lives the way she wants.”
“Which is why our Jenny should not be hanging around with the girl.”
“Jim! Stop that kind of talk. You don’t know…”
“Daddy. I’m tired of you calling Scott, ‘that boy,’ and Dana, ‘that girl.’ They’re my friends. I love Scott. We plan to be married… when he comes home.” She cried into the wet compress, shoulders shaking.
“Jenny, it will be alright. Your father is just trying to be…”
“Sensible. Someone needs to be. I hope you have gone to confession, talked with the priest.” her father said.
“No. I don’t need a priest. They hide behind their confessional like an imposter as if afraid, or too ashamed of you to even look at your face, and tell you what you need to hear.”
“Jenny! That’s enough. You cannot speak that way. It’s…” Jim spat the angry words back.
“What? Disrespectful? Are they hiding from our shame? Or theirs? Aren’t they guilty of sin, too? Isn’t it God we should confess to, and ask for help?”
“God knows we can use his help.” Erin said, quietly.
Jennifer walked upstairs to her room. She picked up her rosary beads sitting on the night stand. As a child she was taught to practice the good Catholic rites of faith. A confession when she did things that were wrong, regular attendance at Mass, bowing and saying her prayers before the Virgin Mary. It all seems so pointless, so empty now.
She looked out into a clear night sky from her upstairs bedroom window. The moon was out, and the stars looked like shiny crystals scattered about. She wasn’t into astrology like some, but she found them more comforting than rosary beads.
She fingered the tiny diamond ear studs she wore. Scot had given them to her the night they watched the sky explode in every shape and color, bursting through the dark void on July 4th, over Puget Sound.
She went to bed, but slept little.
To be continued
Joyce E. Johnson (2013)