Barbara..copied from short story thread
by, 02-13-2008 at 08:41 AM (1820 Views)
I posted this on the Short Story Sharing thread several months ago but I wanted to keep the shorts together so my grandkids could find the easier.
If you've read this already, sorry, just skip it. (I'm still working on it.)
Barbara looked out the window at the dusty Army base watching for her husband to arrive. He had been in Korea for 6 months and was due home today. The small housing unit she and her three girls occupied was spic and span, the two older girls were all bathed and dressed in new dresses she had sewn. The baby, only 4 months old, was dressed in the hand me down gown that her two older sisters had worn. Barbara had taken care with her hair and dress. She had been so lonely here, no friends, no family. But now her husband was coming home and things would be better.
Barbara had moved from her beautifully quaint hometown in Germany to this God forsaken land of mosquitoes and dust. Where were the old buildings and the trees? What were the people of this new land thinking when they cut down the forest to make farmland? All was not bad here though. There was so much food. Anything one could possibly want was at the grocery stores. Everyone had backyard gardens that grew the most beautiful vegetables. And everyone shared! No hording. There was plenty for everyone.
Barbara had come to the U.S. as a new bride. She had met her husband just after the war while he was stationed in Germany. Her first husband had been killed in the War, leaving her with a child to raise. Hunger and poverty was still a way of life in Germany and she was lucky to find a husband to take her and her child away from it all.
Now she lived in the middle of nowhere, she knew no one, and she was lonely.
Gene’s family was not the accepting people he had led her to believe they were. There was still a great amount of hostility toward the German people because of the War. The year she had spent with his family was one of the worse she had ever endured. Everyone made fun of her hunger and her accent. The ways she had been taught to keep house and take care of her babies was different and considered wrong. She was an outsider, compared to all other women in the family and always lacking.
Before he was shipped to Korea, Gene had moved them to an Army base in Texas. The housing would be cheaper and the medical care for her upcoming childbirth would be better. There would be more help from other Army wives. Barbara was glad for the move, thinking anywhere would be better than the Mississippi Delta where they had been living. But the dust and desolation was the same in Texas as in Arkansas. She was hoping that they would find a better area of the country to live and raise their children when Gene was discharged.
The last year had been hard for them both. Just 6 months ago Gene had buried his twin brother while on leave from the Korean War. Hal was killed the same day Gene had arrived at the same base Hal was stationed. Angry and hurt, Gene had lashed out at her and his family before and after the funeral service. The last days of his leave had been filled with drink and hurtful fights. Hopefully, the anger and drinking had subsided while he had been away. It was the prayer she had prayed everyday since he had been gone.
He was home! Happy to see his girls and to be home from War, no sign of anger was visible. And there was no sign of drink either. Now they would finally start their life together. Feeling safe in his arms again, Barbara was happy for the first time since he had shipped out. She and the girls prepared a celebration for his homecoming. The dinner she fixed was all she had hoped for. Everything turned out perfect. The girls were so excited to have Daddy home. Everyone was happy, laughing, hugging and just generally in a wonderful mood.
As she readied the girls for bed, she hummed a lullaby from her youth and laughed at everything they did. Brushing their hair, washing their faces, and putting their gowns on them was not a chore tonight, but a pleasure. Tonight, after the children were asleep, she would be with her husband for the first time in half a year. Love poured out of her like a fountain, making her feel giddy. As Rose, the oldest, said her prayers her Daddy watched from the doorway. “God bless my sisters, God bless my Mommy, and God bless my Daddy and thank you for bringing him home to us. Oh, and God bless Uncle Peck for helping us while Daddy was gone. Amen”
Barbara felt the air change immediately; her imagination surely. Gene grew quiet, saying nothing else while Barbara finished getting the girls to bed and the baby to sleep. Tension was in the air, but she didn’t know why. What was wrong? What had changed so suddenly?
Barbara made coffee and served Gene a piece of the cake she had made for his homecoming. But coffee wasn’t what Gene was thirsty for. Where the bottle came from Barbara didn’t know. It must have been in his bag. By the time she carried the tray with coffee and cake into the living room, he seemed to be well on his way to being drunk.
“So, Brother Peck has been here to help you while I was gone?” he asked quietly.
“Yes, he and Dolly came twice while you were gone. They stayed the night both times. He did some work on the car and Dolly just visited with me and the girls. It was nice to see them. They have always treated me well.” Barbara replied. In her mind she was wondering, what could be wrong about that? Uncle Peck was Gene’s older brother. He and his wife had driven to Texas to check on Barbara and the girls twice in the time Gene was overseas. How could that be upsetting to Gene? Surely, in this country, brothers looked after each others families when they were unable to do so themselves?
She could tell Gene was angry, but didn’t know what he was angry about. Nervousness caused Barbara to chatter on about anything and everything. Trying to stay busy and figure things out, she tidied up the small living room as she chattered. Gene just looked at her and drank from his bottle.
Finally she could stand it no more. She sat on the sofa and took his hand. “What is the matter, Dear? Has something upset you?”
“Why would I be upset? Is there something I should be upset about? Did something happen while I was gone that would upset me?” he snarled.
“No! Nothing has happened. I’ve missed you and the girls have missed you. Now that you’re home Linda will be able to get to know her father. Donna is the one I worry about. She is so quiet since you’ve been away. Now she will come out of her shell and be the little girl she was before you had to leave.”
“Their Uncle Peck seems to have made an impression on them. Did he make an impression on you?”
Tears welled in her eyes. He hadn’t changed. He was angry at the world and at her. She had done nothing but love him, give him children, take care of his home. And he was angry. What could she do? How could she make things the way they were before his brother was killed, when they were first married? Barbara stood and picked up the tray with his untouched coffee and started toward the kitchen. Why had it turned out this way?
Gene stood up and started toward her. The air was charged and Barbara felt raw fear even though she knew she had done nothing wrong. Her last thought was “please don’t let him hurt my babies”.
Rose woke to the sound of something breaking and a cry. She wasn’t worried because her Daddy was home and he would take care of anything bad. She had missed him so much when he was gone. Now that he was home they would have so much fun, like when he was on leave from his job in the Army. They would go to the zoo and play in the park everyday now. Thinking about all the fun allowed her to drift back to sleep even though she could hear her mother crying. Her Mother cried most nights so it was something she was used to hearing. But she didn’t have to go to her tonight. Her Daddy would take care of the tears.
Sometime in the night Rose was awakened by her Daddy. He smelled funny. His eyes were bright and strange looking. “Wake up Rose, we are going somewhere.”
“To see Granny. Come on now, get up and get dressed. Call me when you’re dressed and I’ll come carry you. Get you sister up and help her get dressed too. Now hurry!”
Rose dressed and woke Donna and helped her get dressed too. She could hear the baby crying and wondered why her Mother didn’t pick her up and comfort her like she always did. Sleepy and confused, Rose did as she was told, then sat and waited for her Daddy to come.
Rose never saw her Mother again. Years later she could recall just flashes of the last night she was with her Mother; the sound of a crash, a scream, broken furniture, a broken lamp in the living room floor, her daddy carrying her and her sisters to the car. She remembered a braided rug that covered the faded tile in the living room. It was rolled up, like her mother rolled it up when she cleaned the floor. Her Daddy carried it to the car and put it in the trunk just before he drove away from the little apartment where they had lived. She remembered her Daddy taking them to his mother’s house, her Granny, and leaving them. He left the same night that he dropped them off and was gone for a very long time.
On and off through the years he would drop by to visit for a few hours and one time he even brought a new wife to meet the girls. But he never stayed long enough for Rose to ask about her mother. Besides, she was afraid to ask, afraid he would get that scary look in his eyes again. Granny always said that she ran off with another Army man, but Rose knew that this wasn’t true. Her Mother would never leave without her and her sisters.
Years later, Gene showed up in the middle of the night and loaded the girls up and took them to California. They didn’t even get to say goodbye to their friends at school. They were there one day, gone the next. Kind of like their mother.