Chapter 21 - This Love of Mine

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June 1942

"I had an idea today," Helen announced at the dinner table. "I thought it would be fun to have a picnic at the pond on Sunday. We could invite Kitty."

"That sounds like fun!" Billy said, his face lighting up.

"I can make us a lunch, and we can swim," she continued, smiling at him. "The weather's been so nice the last few weeks, the water must be warm enough by now."

"This Sunday?" Jonathon asked.

Helen's smile fell. "Is that a problem?"

He had a million things on his plate at work, and a picnic would mean losing an entire day. But it was first time Helen had suggested something like this, and he hated seeing the disappointment in her eyes when she'd been so excited about it a moment ago. "I think I can spare the time," he said. At least he'd have Saturday to try to get as much done as possible.

"Good! It'll be swell to do something all together, like the parties you and Billy used to have before the war. What kind of sandwiches do you like? And what does Kitty like, Billy?"

"We'll eat anything!" Billy said.

"Whatever you make will be fine," Jonathon said. He couldn't help smiling, seeing her so happy about her plans. This would be fun, he decided as he imagined a day of relaxing with her by the water.

"I was wondering, though," she said more quietly. "If we could invite Annie to come too."

Jonathon let out a deep breath, his happiness evaporating. "I thought we talked about this."

"It'll be rude if we don't invite her."

"It won't be rude. She's here because this is her job, one she needs."

"I know that."

"And if she – if we forget that, it could affect her work."

"I don't think she'd do that. She's a very hard worker!" Helen insisted under her breath so Annie wouldn't overhear in the kitchen.

Jonathon let out another sigh. He knew it was a terrible decision to hire Annie in the first place. Why hadn't he gone with his gut instinct? It would have saved him a whole lot of trouble.

"I think–"

"Billy!" Jonathon said, shooting him a glare to let him know he better not continue.

"Please excuse me," Billy muttered, throwing his napkin on the table while he scooted his chair back. "I'm finished."

Helen waited until he'd left the room to speak again. "I can't forget she's my best friend, Johnny."

"I don't expect you to."

Annie poked her head in through the swinging door. "Oh, are you done?" she asked, looking between them.

"Can you give us a few minutes?" Jonathon said.

"Yes, sir."

Helen scowled at her empty dinner plate, and in the silence, Jonathon tried to figure out how to rescue the situation. For the first time in the month they'd been married, Helen was making a real effort to do something for them as a couple. The last thing he wanted was Annie tagging along. He hardly got to spend any time with Helen as it was, and if Annie was there, she'd probably take away all of Helen's attention.

The schedule at the mine had been relentless with orders coming in faster than they could keep up, leaving him exhausted by the end of the day. The precious hours he was able to spend with Helen in the evenings weren't enough and their relationship wasn't progressing. It was frustrating, but what could he do?

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