It wasn't even a month in Bend and already I felt as if my new life would be a good thing for me. My belly was growing large and there was no fear in letting it show; or in doing the necessary and silly things a woman does when she is going to have a baby. Mary and I were obsessed with making little clothes. I told her my strong sense that it was going to be a boy. She completely believed it too, so we spent our free time designing and making tiny outfits, sewing blankets, and diapers. We planned out the baby's wardrobe for his first six months. We took to calling him Little Charlie. We also made maternity dresses for me. I felt so happy. I'd never expected to find a place where I would be as welcome as any respectable woman. Of course, Mary and Frank didn't know the truth. I didn't think I could ever tell Mary that Charlie was illegitimate, the product of an affair with a married man. In fact, I stopped letting myself believe it too. Instead, I took to the fiction. I just switched the timeframe. My husband had died in the war. That part was true as was his cause of death, an infection from a wound. He had died in 1943, but I started to convince myself it was two years later, in 1945. Mary introduced me to everyone in town and when her friends would come over to drink lemonade and gossip, I'd sit with them on her brocade couch. I'd watch her eyes as she listened to this or that about one of the ladies in town whom this group didn't particularly like. Most of the out of favor were wealthy wives of men in the timber industry, women who had recently moved to Bend and not grown up there. It wasn't as if Mary had been raised in Bend. Frank had, but Mary was so much a part of everything that it didn't matter. Besides, she was a farmer's wife, which gave her legitimacy with the other women who resided in the area. They all knew my baby was a soldier's baby and they'd shower me with attention. They would take my wedding band and hang it over my belly tied to a piece of fishing line. They'd all stand around me as if I were a thanksgiving turkey they were dressing. Then they'd watch as the ring spun in this direction or that. One would announce their prediction about the baby's sex. "A boy. Definitely."
"No, Lenore, you have it backwards, if it spins right it's a girl."
Then Mary would interrupt them both. "Eve and I both know it's a boy. It's settled. That baby in there is little Charlie."
"Oh you can't know that." Susan said waving her hand in the air.
"It'd better be. We've made him an entire layette. Besides just look at her hair, so glossy and healthy. It's a boy."
"That's an old wives tale." Then we'd all start laughing because everyone's predictions were based on wives tales.
I had all but forgotten Jeff Lambert. He didn't matter any more. Everything that had happened had led me to my new life. A part of me feared it would end; everything else I'd loved had been taken from me and with each loss more of me died. But, then with a baby growing inside of me --a baby that was mine-- I felt renewed. My own child couldn't be taken from me. Perhaps the larger imperative in my life had caused the memories of Jeff to fade. Of course, I still sometimes thought of the strongest impressions: desiring him, falling under his seduction. I remembered his power over me, his affection then sudden coldness. In leaving I had taken my life back, hadn't I? I'd stopped giving in to him. I'd left with dignity. I belonged in Bend.
Mary and I had grown so close. I had wanted so many times to confide in Mary, to tell her the truth. I tried.
One time we were alone together in the kitchen. "What is it, Eve? What are you thinking?" She had a softness in her voice that I grew to love. Pie dough and flower all over the farm table. Mary was an impeccable housekeeper but a terribly messy cook. I wiped my hands on my apron and sat down on the wooden chair. I mustered the courage. She took a seat on the chair next to me.
"You can tell me anything."
"I want to, but I'm afraid to."
She took my hand in hers. Her skin was soft and warm. I took in a breath and started. "I feel as if I'm a terrible person."
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Exuberance Is Beauty (Book 1)Historical Fiction
(Featured Story 2016 & 2017) Oregon, 1940s: Eve Miller, a young war widow, rebels against the ordinariness of womanhood in the post-war era. Eve is enlightened as she succumbs to the sensual temptation of an adulterous affair. In its aftermath, Eve...