By Pfc. Morris Freedman

little girl yank magazine ww2The little girl sat straight in the chair, her pigtails touching her back as they fell. Her left hand lay palm up in her lap. When food lingered on her lips she gently dabbed it with her napkin. She sat on the outside of the table, facing the mirror, and gravely watched her reflection. Her mother sat against the mirror, opposite the little girl and the technical sergeant.

“It was terribly hot in New York before we left,” her mother was saying, elbow on the table, her mouth picking at a bun, “and I figured it couldn’t be any worse here. And I wanted to get away for the child’s sake. Do you like it her, Belle Ann?”

“Yes, I like Texas,” the little girl replied and nodded her head in a manner suggesting the curtsey she might have made if standing.

“It was nice of you to come, Myra,” the sergeant said. “But you must be lonely, too. What do you do with yourself?”

“Oh, I really don’t do anything. I spend a lot of time with Belle Ann. Do you know, Tom, she remembers you.”

Tom grinned. “You do?” he asked her. The little girl nodded seriously.

“I knew she’d like you. Do you remember high school, Tom? When we walked through the streets and saw all the little children and you used to grin at them and stop and play?”

Tom remembered how Myra used to get impatient. “I’m surprised you remember it,” he said.

“Oh, I’m really a different person, Tom. Being a mother has taught me a lot. And being a wife. You know, I always remembered the things you used to say. You were right about many things. Belle Ann, pay attention to your food and don’t look in the mirror.”

“How do you feel in a strange city, Belle Ann?” the sergeant asked.

“It’s nice,” Belle Ann answered and then hesitated.

“Call me Tom,” the sergeant prompted.

“Tom,” the little girl concluded and turned her smile down to her plate.

“Do you miss New York, Belle Ann?” the sergeant asked.

“You know,” her mother put in, “she has her own play room, and a garden, Tom, and I was thinking of getting her a governess. Are you coming back to New York after you’re out? Are they giving you a discharge?”

“No, I’m not getting a discharge yet. I don’t know exactly when.”

Belle Ann sat studying the ribbons on his blouse. Tom looked closely at Myra. She was looking directly across the table into his eyes. Her hair was still the same blonde color, but not as fluffy as he remembered it. She had the small beginnings of a second chin. Her flesh was not as fresh and firm as before. But, he thought wryly as he caught a look at his own round, lined face in the mirror, he wasn’t far behind her.

He suddenly wondered why he had ever kept up a correspondence with her. They’d always had a teasing, suggestive, half-kidding relationship by mail, even while her husband was alive.

“What are you thinking, Tom?” Myra asked.

“Did you have much trouble coming down?”

“Well, we couldn’t get a drawing room, but we managed to get Pullmans. We would have had to wait to get what we wanted.” She noticed Tom pause in his eating. “We wanted to get out of the city while it was so hot, you see. Didn’t you get a furlough?”

“Well, I was offered one for ten days, but I had barely enough money to get to New York and back, so I didn’t come.”

“That’s a shame, Tom. You should have let me know. If you ever need money. It would have been nice to have you in the house. You could have stayed there, you know.”

The little girl already had finished. She sat with her hands clasped lightly in her lap, following the mirrored conversation.

“Do you have to go back to camp tonight, Tom?” Myra asked. “How late can you stay with us?”

“I have to get back tonight. They have a bed check. But, if you’ll forgive me, Myra, I think I’ll go back right after we finish eating. I don’t feel good and the doctors told me to hurry back if I ever felt anything unusual.”

“Oh,” she said. They finished their dessert, and Myra insisted on paying the check. They walked out of the restaurant with Belle Ann holding his hand. He said good-bye, he’d phone tomorrow.

On the bus he thought to himself that being in the Army sometimes is a convenience. He felt guilty because of the long trip they had made. Tomorrow he would call and say he was shipping. He had a touch of regret as he remembered the little girl.

For Further Reading Check Out:

World War 2 Soldier Stories Part II: More Untold Tales of the Soldiers on the Battlefields of WWII (The Stories of WWII)

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