Promise Me, Chapter 1

"Every word she [Jo Huddleston] uses paints
a picture of another time--a simpler time."
 -Lillian Duncan, Author of Deadly Communication series

Chapter 1
Copyright 2016 by Jo Huddleston

August 1960 - Morgantown, West Virginia

“Good night, Chet. Good night, David.    And good night for NBC News.” The program signed off with the Texaco Gasoline red star logo across the screen.

In Dean Loreen Fletcher’s apartment, Patrick Fitzgerald sat closest to the television when NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report ended. He stepped to the floor-standing console and turned off the television. He took his time returning to sit on the sofa beside Adriana Montagna. A somber silence settled over the living room and its six occupants, interrupted only by the humming window air conditioner.

Patrick scooted to the front edge of the sofa cushion and rested his forearms on his legs. “I don’t want my first job after graduation to be in Vietnam.”

No one remarked and he continued. “The situation over there worries me. Now Washington announces we’re sending 3,500 soldiers to South Vietnam to help them fight against the communist North Vietnamese. When I graduate from college in December, I hope their mess over there has cooled down some.”

Adriana laid her hand on his back. “Patrick, hush. We don’t want to think about you going overseas.”

“Look, Adriana, while I’m enrolled in college, I have a Student 2-S deferment from the military draft. The minute I graduate, that deferment goes away. I have to think about going overseas.”

Claude Capshaw agreed. “I’m afraid Patrick may be right. Looks like we might possibly be in for some bad things ahead.”

Julie, Claude’s daughter, and Adriana sat on the sofa between Patrick and Robby Montagna. Loreen Fletcher sat near Claude in a nearby armchair. As close as Julie sat beside Robby, you’d think they were newlyweds instead of having been married for several years.

Shock registered on Adriana’s face. “Bad things like what, Mr. Capshaw?”

 “Aw, you know, last year Cuba became a communist state. Also last year, those two American military advisors were killed in a Vietnam guerilla attack—the first casualties among U.S. servicemen.”

Patrick moved backward against the sofa, next to Adriana. He laid his arm on the sofa back, behind her shoulders. “And don’t forget in May this year Russia shot down our U2 pilot Powers with surface-to-air missiles over Soviet airspace. He was on a spy mission to photograph ICBM sites in the Russian towns of, uh, well, I can’t pronounce the names of those towns.”

Robby laughed and reached across Julie and Adriana to jab Patrick’s shoulder. “Hey, you college guy, don’t you speak Russian?”

“No, but the way things are going, I may have to learn.”

Julie looked toward Patrick. “My goodness, Patrick! Don’t talk that way. You surely don’t believe that.”

Claude quickly refuted his daughter. “Patrick might have a point there. With Cuba turning communist, Russia shooting down our pilot, and the mess in Vietnam, things may become a little shaky. And it looks like this continuing Cold War between Russia and us will be with us a while.”

Loreen finally entered the conversation to ask Claude a question. “What is this Cold War, anyway?”

“You shouldn’t worry about it too much, Loreen. Although it is a reality. The U.S. and Russia—capitalism versus communism—have very different beliefs and ideology.”

Claude had Loreen’s attention now. “Does that mean we’ll eventually fight a war with Russian?”

Claude hesitated before answering. How much should he say in the ladies’ presence? “I hope not. Capitalism versus communism’s the basis of an international power struggle between Russia and us. Both countries exploit every opportunity for expansion of their power and control anywhere in the world. With nuclear weapons, we’d better have good people in the White House taking care of that hotline. What do you think, Robby?”

“I agree, Mr. Capshaw. And we’ve got a troublesome and knotty situation in Laos. President Eisenhower said Laos is just the cork in the bottle. He says if we lose Laos to communism it’ll be the beginning of the loss of most of the Far East.”

Claude didn’t like the worry lines etched on everyone’s face. He stood, stretched his six-foot-three frame, and went to stand beside Loreen’s chair.

“Well, now, I guess that’s enough of all this serious talk. Don’t you ladies get upset over all this. Sometimes things have a way of working out. Let’s pray that’ll be the case this time. I say we change the subject.”

Loreen jumped into the lull of discussion. “I’ll second that suggestion. I’ve enjoyed having y’all here for dinner.”

“You ladies sure did serve a mighty fine meal.”

“Thank you, Claude.” Loreen spoke for the three of them. “We’ll have to do this again soon.”

Everyone voiced agreement.

♥  ♥  ♥

Later that evening, Julie and Robby climbed into bed, scooting beneath the covers.

Julie snuggled up to Robby’s side. “Did you notice the real fear on Patrick’s face after dinner when he spoke about Vietnam?”

He drew her closer. “Yeah, I believe he’s pretty upset about it all.”

“What do you think about all the things we discussed at Dean Fletcher’s?”

Robby kissed her. “I don’t like Cuba turning communist, them so close to us, ninety miles south of Florida. It’s kinda scary to think they might have nuclear weapons.”

“What about Vietnam? Should Patrick be so scared?”

“Well, our government did send military advisors over there and two of them have been killed. About five years ago, we agreed to train the South Vietnamese army. So the communist North Vietnam know which side we’re on. It looks like America’s thrown their hat in the ring, ready to fight if need be.”

Julie yawned. “Adriana and Patrick spend a lot of time together these days. Once that other guy at the drugstore showed his true colors, she realized Patrick had been looking out for her welfare all along. Sure, he was a little jealous when she spent time with that guy, but Patrick saw through his scheming personality before Adriana did. She would be devastated if the Army drafted Patrick.”

“Yeah, it’s too bad Patrick has to have that possibility in his future.”

“War is so awful. I can still remember when I was little and we had air raid drills during World War Two.” Julie shuddered. “We had to lower our blackout window shades and turn out all the lights. We heard the drone of airplanes when they flew over to check for any visible lighted houses. We’d sit in the dark until we heard the sirens again, signaling the all-clear before we could turn on the lamps.”

“Yeah, that was sorta spooky. That’s probably why you don’t like to be in the dark now.” Robby hugged her tighter.

“You’re probably right.” She kissed his neck. “I’m so glad we don’t have to worry about you having to go in the Army.”

“We’ll be okay. Being married keeps me out of the draft—they draft unmarried guys first before married guys.” Robby rolled toward Julie and chuckled. “See, married to you is worth something, after all.”

“So, you’re glad you married me so you won’t get drafted?” Julie feigned disappointment and tried to move away.

“No, no, you know I’m kidding you. Come back over here.”

Julie didn’t need much coaxing to return to Robby’s arms. He gathered her near and kissed her eagerly. “I don’t ever want to be separated from you—by the Army or anything else.”

Robby’s kisses still thrilled her the same as when they dated in high school. “Me, either, Robby.”

© 2016 Jo Huddleston
All Rights Reserved

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