Note: I have revised my novel and renamed it “A Wished-For Love.”
They left the courthouse and crossed the street to Triangle Park. The inquest into Edward’s death had come to an end. The ordeal was over. They sat beneath the Freedom Tree to pass the time before dinner. Marie, on edge for weeks as she waited through the investigation, gave a deep breath and relaxed for the first time since Edward’s assault.
“I am so happy it has ended. I have not slept well since the…since it happened. To put it all behind me is like starting a new chapter in life. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I could fall asleep right here.”
Frank took her hand and raised it to his lips. He kissed her fingers and pressed them to his cheek. The relationship between them had blossomed into romance as Marie relied on Frank for strength and support. For his part, Frank had found in Marie a companion, someone he looked forward to seeing rather than turning inward and seeking the solitude of his own thoughts. He had found himself sharing his life story with Marie after years of keeping his inner life private with the exception of few people, Sam and Susanna chief among those. Marie occupied his thoughts throughout the day, and he found her part of his dreams of the future. Frank was deeply in love with a woman for the first time in his life.
“You can sleep as long as you like, Marie; I’ll be here when you wake.”
“Ohh, thank you, Frank. But I would not have you bored while I sleep like Rip Van Winkle.”
“How do you know I would be bored? I like watching you sleep. You don’t snore, by the way; you are the quietest sleeper I know.”
“You make up for it by snoring enough for four people,” said Sam.
“I don’t snore, I breathe heavy.”
Marie leaned against Frank. “He can snore all he likes, Sam, as long as he is there when I wake.”
They fell silent, a tiny island of quiet surrounded by a multitude of people bustling about their business, oblivious to the nightmarish memories drifting among the four people sitting nearby.
After a few minutes of quiet reflection, George rose and stretched, then spoke thoughtfully to the others. “You know, it’s a good thing Sister Arnalita learned to handle a gun in the war. Had she not, Paul would probably be dead, and Marie, well, you know….” He shook his head as he looked through the trees and out into the city.
Frank pulled his earlobe. “I can’t believe the shot she made. I felt the bullet fly past my ear. Had I moved an inch to the left I wouldn’t be here now.”
Marie leaned forward, looking far away as she remembered the events of the night. “I did not see her until it was over. I saw only the knife in Edward’s hand, and the next moment his body on the floor. Thanks to God Senior Chief Kelly woke when he did. I am so thankful he is okay. It was thoughtful of him to send flowers and apologize for his past behavior.”
“Paul is a changed man,” George said. “He stopped drinking for one thing, and requested reinstatement to flying duties for another. The best part is, his anger is gone.”
“Please tell him I said thank you.”
“You can tell him yourself at the next Chief’s meeting. We’re holding it at Maricel’s next Wednesday, before Frank and Sam fly back to Vietnam.”
“Vietnam? Frank, you did not tell me you are returning to Vietnam. Must you go? How long will you be there?”
“I didn’t want to worry you, Marie, while all of this was going on. You’ve had enough to think about.”
“Yes, but…oh, Frank. When will you return?”
“Sam and I will be there for a week so two other guys can come here for R&R.”
“Oh, Frank. I am afraid for you. What if something happens? What if…no, no. I do not want to think about it. Please be careful, Frank. You too, Sam. I need you. Little Lucy needs you. I do not know what I would do if anything happened to you. Both of you. I love you both so much.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After dinner, Frank and Marie walked along Rizal Avenue toward her bungalow in west Olongapo. At the turn for Marie’s house, Frank gave her a barely perceptible nudge, as if he wanted to turn her toward the market.
“Let’s walk through the market tonight; I feel like hearing people laugh.”
“Okay. I would like that. While we are there, I will buy a fan; it is so hot and the air so still.”
The monsoon, in full force, left the air heavy with oppressive humidity between drenching downpours. The weather didn’t affect the huge, open-air market, though; it would take a typhoon to shutter the crowded stalls and shops. The two often strolled about looking for bargains, picking up knick-knacks, and enjoying the boisterous atmosphere. Everyone welcomed Marie; her friendly, down to earth manner made her a favorite shopper, and Frank too, by association.
As they walked past a display of cheap costume jewelry, a saleswoman caught Marie by a wrist and pulled her into the stall. She reached for a golden ring on a display table and quickly placed it on Marie’s finger.
Her eyes fairly twinkled as she looked first to Frank, then to Marie. “Now you got ring, you marry him. Yes? You marry him.”
Marie, blushing, hung her head and clucked her tongue. “Oh, you.”
“Well, if she would like me to ask her….”
“Oh, you are so funny. You are embarrassing me. Stop it now!” Her smile betrayed her; she had never worn such a glowing smile. She peered at Frank from beneath her brows. Her ponytail gave her an impish look, one that never failed to move Frank.
He moved now, kneeling on one knee as the saleslady shushed nearby shoppers and opened the curtain at the back of her stall. People began to gather. Marie watched amazed as George, Paul, and Chaplain Michael appeared from behind the stall and stood next to Frank. She stared in wonder as Sisters Arnalita, Annabelle, Aileen, and Mary Ann came from the next booth and gathered next to her. Sam entered carrying Little Lucy and stood next to Frank. Marie stared at the people around her.
“Frank, what are you doing? Why are all these people here?”
“Shhh. Little Lucy.” He held his hand out to the little girl who came forward and placed her hand in his. She carried a bouquet of flowers nearly as tall as she, and wore her best clothes, picked out at the Navy Exchange with Sam by her side. She beamed proudly and reached into a pocket – careful not to drop the flowers – and withdrew a black silk pouch. She handed it to Frank who kissed her cheek and opened the pouch. He turned it up and a sparkling ring fell into his hand.
He reached for Marie and took her hands.
“Marie. I knew love only as a family feeling before I met you. I didn’t know loneliness until we were apart. I didn’t know what it meant to be a man until you leaned on my shoulder and I put my arm around you. I don’t want to live another day without you. I love you, Marie. May I spend the rest of my life with you? Will you marry me, Marie?”
Marie covered her mouth with her hands and choked back tears. “Oh, Frank. Oh, Frank. Yes. Yes, Frank, I will marry you.”
The crowd cheered and clapped until the saleslady shushed them again.
“Wait, wait, there is more, there is more.” She pressed her hands together as in prayer as Frank placed the sparkling ring on Marie’s right hand.
“This ring belonged to Susanna, Marie. Sam once told me that if anything ever happened to him he wanted you to have it, so that he and Susanna would remain a part of our lives forever. But things moved so fast for us that Sam wanted you to have it now. You would have loved Susanna, Marie.”
Sam stepped forward and took Marie’s hands. “Susanna would have loved you, Marie. You and she are so much alike, I….” He stopped, overcome by emotion.
Marie pressed a hand to his cheek and gazed into his eyes. She kissed his cheek and said “Sam. No one could have said nicer words to me. I feel like I know Susanna through the words and memories of those whose lives she touched. I know she was a wonderful person, Samuel.”
Hearing his full name spoken by Marie brought a lump to Sam’s throat. Not only did Marie possess an unpretentious beauty similar to Susanna’s, her voice had the same quality that made his name seem breathed rather than spoken.
“Frank told you, didn’t he?” His voice choked with emotion as he spoke.
“May I call you Samuel, Samuel?”
“You must always call me Samuel, Marie.”
Marie touched his hand gently, then turned as Frank touched a finger to the golden ring the saleslady had slid onto her left hand.
“This ring is my promise to you. I will love you forever, Marie.” He removed the golden ring and slipped it onto the finger with Susanna’s ring.
“And these,” he said, as Sam lifted Little Lucy onto Frank’s shoulder, “are the papers that will allow us to adopt Little Lucy as you said we should.” Marie gazed at the papers, clasped her hand to her cheek, held the other out so she could gaze at the ring, then looked at her little family.
“Oh, Frank. Oh, Little Lucy. Oh, Sam. Thank you, dear, dear, Samuel. I am so happy.”