My name is Justine Scotts. The date is August 16th, 1943. I am 18 years old, with blonde hair and dark brown eyes. The only reason I am not married is the same reason I am waiting at the train station at 5 o’clock in the warm sun. Neal Wright. My sun and stars. Neal turned 21 just before the draft was issued, which lead to him being gone for the past three years. He would have had to stay even longer, if not for the recent turn of events. I received a letter to my home a week ago from a general. It wasn’t particularly for me, but more for Neal’s parents who had become our borders shortly after he left for the battlefield. The letter contained a discharge. Honorable, of course, for injuries attained on the battlefield. The general explained that Neal he been shot twice in the left leg. He was just now able to walk for the first time in weeks and they were ready to send him home. Mr. and Mrs. Wright we’re sobbing, holding each other. But I was thrilled. Not at Neal being injured, but at the thought of him coming back. The letter contained a note from Neal, splattered with dried blood that I quickly overlooked.
Dear loved ones,
I have been hurt. I’m sorry I couldn’t have served my country for a longer period of time, but it seems I’ll be coming home. Watch the 5 o’clock train. I’ll be home soon. Love to all,
And I had dropped everything. I had run to the train station that night. And every night since. The colenal told my parents shortly after I ran out the door that it would take around a week, but I was worried that he would in fact come home sooner than that and have no one waiting for him. Every night, I would go to the train station and wait. Thinking about the day we’d met. It had been such a short time ago, but it seemed so long ago.
I had been attending a church service with my parents, and I had been sent to sunday school. Only a few days before I had gotten my hair trimmed, and it was a bit awkward when pulled into pigtales. Bits and pieces stuck out because of the layers. While we were playing outside, a boy had come up to me and started calling me names. Childish really, but still offensive. Being only 12, I was very emotional, and I had started crying. A couple seconds later, a older boy came over and punched the boy in the face. Patrick went home with a broken nose, Neal went home with blood stains on his shirt, and I went home confused by why one of the older kids would do anything for me.
As I got older, it became painfully obvious that Neal was attracted to me. He walked me home from school when I started going to his school, he brought me flowers, complemented me, and waited. He waited so long. He never fails to mention how long he had to wait. I don’t know hwy it took me so long. It just took a little nudge I guess. I was 15. He had been my best friend for so long. I didn’t think it was odd that he came over to help me with my arithmatic, or that he sat so close. That was just how things had been. I did notice when he leaned over, and pressed his lips against my cheek, and my heart stopped. I am positive it stopped for a milisecond. My face turned bright red and he chuckled. That was the first day I knew I’d fallen for him. Damn him for not doing it sooner. We started courting only a week after that. We hadn’t realized we would be torn apart so soon. We had only been together for a few months before the draft was issued. Our parents both naturally assumed we would grow tired of conversing through letters, but it wasn’t hard on us. We knew so much about each other, that the only thing we had to learn was the romantics of it. And I was the only one who really had to learn that. Neal had always been so good at it.
I was so anxious to see him again, I didn’t mind that he hadn’t come home those first couple nights. I was still just as excited… and when I woke up this morning I just felt it. Today he’s coming home. I finished at work, and ran straight to the train station. I didn’t mind waiting for a couple of hours, because it didn’t deel like that long. The train pulled up to the station, and people poured out, climbed on, yelled, ran, bumped into me. I had to stand on my toes to scan the crowd. Neal is a stunning 6’2, so he shouldn’t be that hard to find, but all I was looking for was the streaked blonde hair and blue eyes. Crystal blue. With flickers of a color so stunning I could swear it was ice. The crowd had emptied from the train, and I still couldn’t see him. I was so sure. And it had been a week. Tears stung my eyes and I sighed. He’d be home soon. I was sure. I studied my shoes, wondering what to do now. If I went home I would have chores to do. And I didn’t want people seeing me now. Asking me questions I didn’t have answers to. Like, how are you? and, have you eaten anything today? or my personal favorite, do you want to talk? Because I had already answered those. In lies, naturally. I said, I’m fine. Yes I’ve eaten. No, I just need some sleep. When all I really wanted to say was, I feel horrid. No, I haven’t eaten in two days because I’m worried sick. And I would love to just talk, but not to you. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I jumped when someone bumped me. Probably just a happy family. When it happened again I straightened up, preparing to head home.
“Miss? Are you okay?” A deep voice asked behind me. I was half in my own mind, but I tried to answer.
“I’m fine thank you.”
“Do you need assistance?” He seemed concerned. I pulled my head out of the clouds.
“Unfortunately none that you can offer me. But thank you greatly.” I placed a sweet smile on my face and brushed away the tears that had fallen. Before I could turn, warm arms wrapped around me, pulling me close.
“Are you sure?” The voice asked again. And for the first time, I heard it. I really paid attention. And I knew where I had heard it before. I knew that voice better than I knew my own. I had first heard it when I was young. That voice had fallen in love with me instantly. That voice had waited for me to realize I was in love for 3 years.
“Neal?” I whispered, not daring to look behind me just incase it was my mind playing games on me. I felt soft lips press against my forehead.
“Do you know of anyone else who could hold you this way?” It was a rhetorical question really, we both knew that I couldn’t move on. I was stuck, almost as much with him as he was with me. I felt my knees cave a bit, and he held me up easily. “God, I’ve missed you.” He whispered, pressing his forehead to the top of my head. I felt my breath hitch, and the tears stream down my face.
“You’re okay. I was so worried, but now you’re okay.” I sobbed. He turned me around slowly, and I pressed my face into his uniform. I could feel my feet leave the ground as he picked me up. Not in an extravagant way, he only place his arms around my waist and lifted, holding me like I weighed no more than the little girl I was.
“I want to go home.” He murmured in my ear. I nodded, sniffling.
“Let’s go then.” We didn’t move. Because even if we were so ready to share our happiness, we weren’t as eager to share this perfection. If time were a person, wandering around on the train station platform, it would not find us. It might have brushed against us, but we were away, stuck in a bubble void of time and space. Unfindable by man or greater being. After a while I felt a breeze and shivered, and Neal’s arms tightened around me before placing me softly down.
“I think I’m in love with you.” He whispered, gazing down at me. I bit my lip and nodded.
“I think I might love you back.” I whispered. He laughed, a sound I had been dying to hear, and took my hand. I started babbling about how long it had been, his parents, my parents, anything I could think of. I started leading him towards the exit when I realized he wasn’t moving. “Are you alright?” I asked, squeezing his hand. He shook his head and looked away.
“I think I need to take a break.” He pointed at the bench and we sat down.
“Oh! Right, I’m sorry…” I stammered, “I forgot about your…” I bit my lip.
“Its alright gorgeous. I’m just a bit tired.” He murmured, stroking my cheek. I frowned and he explained. “When I was shot it destroyed a large piece of the bone. They were able to set it, but it’ll never be the same. I can’t run, I can barely walk.” He sighed, and I just sat there. We stared at each other for a few minutes. It wasn’t odd, or uncomfortable. It was farmiliar and sweet.
“You know it doesn’t matter t me.” I said finally.
“I was hoping it would.” Neal smirked. I grabbed his small suitcase and he held my hand. We we’re quite the pair, walking down main street with our arms locked together, his other hand using an ugly cane to support most of his weight, and me struggling to stay upright while holding his case. We walked through town back to the house, where no one was waiting outside. They hadn’t waited like I did once in the week since we’d gotten the letter. I helped Neal get up the steps, ignoring his furrowed brow. I tried to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, and told myself I would have to get used to it, but it was hard to picture him like this. Unable to run, or play baseball. Barely able to get up the steps. His face was pale white, and I could see he was exhausted. I banged three times on the door, as hard as I could. After a minute, it flung open.
“God girl, you think you’d know- oh. Oh my lor!! He’s home!” My mother screeched, ushering us inside. Mr. and Mrs. Wright, (who insisted I call them Robert and Patty) came barreling into the room with wide grins on their faces. Neal was buried under a squirming mound of parents in seconds. And I let them be. I didn’t stray too far, watching Neal for any sign that he was in pain. It scared me, the thought of him hurting and not telling me, but I knew already that he would try to protect me from his pain. I caught him staring at me throughout dinner and the rest of the evening. When we were ready to go sleep, I offered to help him get settled into the guest bedroom, carrying his bag for him. I walked in and set it down on the bed, listening to him come in and softly close the door.
“My mother’s going to have a hissy fit.” I whispered, spinning around. He smirked, and brushed a strand of hair out of my face. “I’m serious.” I warned him. But I wasn’t, and he knew it. His lips met my own with a warm forcefulness, and I let my eyes flutter closed. God I had missed this. Our lips moving rapidly against each other, his hand stroking my hair. I stood on my toes, reaching up and wrapping my arms around his neck. I leaned into the kiss, pressing against him. I heard a a sharp intake of breath and he cussed against my lips before pushing me away softly and half falling onto the bed. “I’m sorry.” I whispered, sitting next to him and gripping his hand.
“Its alright Jus, its not your fault. It’s just this damn leg.” He glanced up at me, as if checking to see if I was offended by his language.
“You’re okay? Are you sure? I want to help.” I frowned, staring at his eyes. He nodded, focusing on his breathing.
“Jus… I’m not going to tell my parents what happened. Its obvious they’ll see it, but I won’t let them dwell on it. I’m going to need your help more than anyone else’s to keep my pain from them.” His voice was hoarse. I bit my lip.
“You’re too kind. Trying to save everyone else.”
“I know, Llove. I know.
“I love you.” I whisper. He looked up at me.
“You’re a gift from God.” He leans forward and presses his lips against my cheek, lingering for a second longer than is ‘proper’. “Help me up?” He asks finally. I nod and stand, pulling him up with me. He held out his arm and I looped it with my own. Using me and his cane for balance, he walked me to the door. I opened it and stood barely outside.
“Good night beautiful. I’ll see you in the morning.” He kissed the top of my head and closed the door. I listened to him struggle back to the bed with tears in my eyes. He was home. Actually home. My bedroom was on the other side of the house, and I had to go down a flight of stairs and through two halls to get to it. All the boards were creaky, and I expected someone to come out and tell me to be quiet, or repremand me for being with him alone. But no one did. And that night, I slept well.