"May listen, I love you, and I always
will. Every name you call me I deserve. Everything that's happened
is my fault. We might have had a perfect love, the springtime thing
that's in all the books. I wrecked that. But you and I belong to
each other, I know that." He took her hand. "If you love me, May,
May didn't take her hand away. He thought
he felt a little pressure. The blond hair troubled him very much.
He tried not to see it. "What changed you, Willie? You're different,
really you are."
"I almost died, and I realized all I
regretted was you." He knew it was a good speech, but to himself
he was wondering whether he really wanted her after all. But the
momentum of his emotions was impossible to arrest. May was inside
this creature somewhere and he was going to have May.
She said wearily, "Willie, what do you
want me to do? Come to a college with you on the GI bill and make
chops on the electric grill for you and wash diapers and talk about
books? I'm making two-fifty a week steady."
He leaned to her and kissed her. Her
lips smiled under the kiss. He jumped to his feet, pulled her up,
and kissed her passionately, and this time she responded in the old
way. She leaned back in his arms, and said huskily, "Amazing. That
"Then that's all --"
"Not by a long shot. Sit down beautiful
sailor." She pushed him into his chair and sat, and put her hand
over her eyes. "However, it makes for confusion, a little bit, I'll
say that. Surprises me --"
"Do you love this man Feather you are
"If you call love what we had, those
things don't happen again. And thank God for that, I say."
"You're young. In many ways that's worse."
"You can't kiss two people the way you
just kissed me. You're not in love with him."
"Sex takes up a very small part of the
"It makes the rest of the day worth living."
"You could always talk fast. Be honest,
Willie, what's the point of coming back out of nowhere like this?
It's all dirty and broken and finished. It was wonderful but you
"It isn't all sex. Our minds run the
same way. We're talking just as we always did. Even these painful
things we're saying are alive and worth hearing and exciting, because
we're saying them to each other --"
"I've gotten so I like money."
"Then I'll give you money."
"No, I'll go into business if you really
want it. I can make a go of whatever I put my hand to --"
"I thought you wanted to teach --"
"I do, and I think you're talking through
your hat about money. You're stalling."
May looked bewildered and desperate. "Don't
you know what a horrible beating I took from you? I thought our love
was good and dead. I was glad of it --"
"It's not dead. It's our life, still
She scrutinized his face coldly. "Okay,
since you're being so noble I feel like telling you something. I
don't care if you believe it and I don't intend to change anything.
Just so's you know there are two noble people in this deal. I haven't
slept with Walter. So there's no question of rescuing the poor lost
waif." She grinned sarcastically at his stunned look. "Too much for
you to swallow, no doubt. I told you, I don't care --"
"Christ, May, of course I believe you
"Not that he didn't try. God knows, or
doesn't keep trying in his nice way. But there's a catch. He really
wants to marry me. And he's not a grabbing college boy. Seems he
isn't divorced yet. And I have this coarse Catholic prejudice against
getting into bed with a married man. Nobody else would believe this,
no reason why you should --"
"May, can I see you tonight after the
"No, Walter's having a party --"
"Good God, morning!
"You're still thinking in Navy terms.
What can civilized people do in the afternoon?"
She suddenly laughed aloud, richly and
deeply. "You fool. I said civilized people, not Frenchmen." She looked
at him with a flash of gaiety that had been their way together. "You
know, you're still Willie, after all. You looked so damn forbidding
there for awhile --"
"It was the hair, May. It threw me completely.
You had the most beautiful hair in the world --"
"I know you liked it. It was Walter's
idea. He's cold-blooded about it. He's taken surveys and everything.
The dopes like their singers blond, that's all." She put her hands
to her hair. "Is it really so awful? Do I look like a tramp or something?"
"Sweetheart, my love, stay blond the
rest of your life, I don't even know what you look like, I love you."
"Willie, how did you almost get killed?
He told her the story of the Kamikaze,
watching her eyes. The look in them was familiar. He thought May
was glancing out through the windows of the singer. She was still
"And - and then you wrote that letter?"
"Didn't you want to take it all back
in the morning?"
"Here I am, May. I even tried to phone
you from Pearl Harbor --"
"It feels funny to hear you call me May.
I'm getting used to Marie."
"I got this for my colossal heroism." He
pulled the Bronze Star out of his pocket, opened the box, and showed
it to her. May's eyes gleamed in admiration. "Here take it."
"Who, me? Don't be crazy."
"I want you to have it. That's the only
good I'll ever get out of it --"
"No, Willie, no --"
"Not now. Put it away. I don't know,
maybe another time - it's - Thanks, but put it in your pocket."
He did, and they looked at each other.
She said after a while, "You don't know what I'm thinking."
"I hope for the best."
"We might try for another kiss. As long
as you're a hero." She stood, pushed aside his coat, and clung to
him, kissing hard. With her face against his shoulder she said faintly, "I
always did think I would like to have your kids - before. I - I don't
feel that way about Walter, it's different-- Willie, this thing would
need an iron lung and - and then I don't know - you'd never forget
Walter - neither would I - honestly, you're being hard on me. I was
all back in one piece until an hour ago--"
"Were you happy?"
"Happy? Happy is when you don't have
a broken leg, so far as I know." She began to cry.
"I swear you're wrong, May--"
She pushed herself away from him suddenly
and pulled a mirror out her coat pocket. "God, if Walter sees me
in this condition, things will really start popping." She began to
work hurriedly at her make-up. "Willie, you devil, you've never been
anything but trouble for me, you're my haunt." Powder flew in little
clouds from the puff. "Imagine you wanting to raise the kids Catholic!
That's the point in the letter where I started to cry - it was so
absurd, talking about the kids. What kids? . . . Look at those
eyes. Burnt holes--" Some musicians came strolling through the curtains
on the stage. May glanced at them over her shoulder. Her smile faded
and her face set in a businesslike look. She put her make-up away.
Willie said quickly, "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Oh, sure, why not? I'll have lunch with
you. But I have to make records at three-thirty."
"And tomorrow night?"
"Willie, don't start pressing me. And
don't start building things in your head. This talking has gone all
wrong - I feel drunk - it proves nothing.- Look, do me a favor and
wipe off that lipstick.- "She looked uneasily at the musicians again.
He stepped to her side and said in a
low voice, "I love you. We'll be happy. Not comfortable. Happy. Not
two-fifty a week. Happy. Happy in love."
"So you say. I'll see you tomorrow."
Willie said, "I also like your eyes and
your face and your voice and your mouth. I don't want to leave you.
Make it breakfast instead of lunch, breakfast at 7 o'clock. I'll
check into this hotel so I can be within a few floors of you--"
"No, not breakfast. Don't check in. Don't
be crazy. The war's over, there's time, all kinds of time. Willie,
get that look off your face, and go away, for God's sake, I still
have to work--" She turned away abruptly, trembling, and walked toward
the stage, hugging her coat about her.
The door opened and Walter Feather came
in. "Hi, Lieutenant. If you want to see the Navy parade, it's coming
down Fifth Avenue now. You can hear the drums in the street."
They faced each other for a moment, and
there was something in the bandleader's face that unaccountably reminded
Willie of Tom Keefer - the mocking condescension perhaps, or perhaps
a softness under the brightness. He felt encouraged. He had matched
"Thanks, Feather. I guess I'll go have
a look at it." He glanced at the stage. May was watching them, holding
a sheet of music. He gestured good-by to her, and she barely nodded.
He went out into the street.
Brass-band music was echoing down the
side-streets. He hurried to Fifth Avenue, worked to the front of
the crowd, and watched the Navy's blue ranks marching by. The music
made him straighten up in his heavy bridge coat. But he felt no regret
at being on the sidelines. His mind was full of the fight that lay
ahead. He was going to make May his wife. He did not know what manner
of life they could find together, he did not even know whether they
would be happy, and he did not care now. He was going to make May
Torn paper was flying in the air over
the victorious marchers; and now then a scrap drifted down and brushed
the face of the last captain of the Caine.