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Fiction

April 10, 1944

My Dear Friend Charles,


How are you? I have not seen you for such a long time. Did you find the hat that I left on your desk? Mr. Watson said you’d be working away the next couple days so I hope you got it. You should have seen the looks the men gave me when I walked in with your hat. They didn’t believe me when I said you’d left it in my car after I’d fetched you home. Ralph Engel said, “I wonder how you got your hands on that?” I felt their eyes all on me.


I tried to drop it by your place on Wednesday, but no one answered when I knocked. Is Mrs. Kocher still keeping house for you, or has your sister moved in?


I hope that you are not working too hard. It must be tiring travelling all the time, but at least you get to go places and see things. I was hoping to get Ed Dotter’s job when he moved, but they gave me all kinds of excuses, saying the travelling life is not suitable, and women can’t work away. So Richard Schlegel got that job (I have been at the company for a whole year longer than he has). I guess that’s just how it goes.


Maybe it was for the best. Mother hasn’t been so good lately. She falls a lot and has a bad case of the nerves. I haven’t been able to go out for an evening since Mother is sick. I have washing to do, cleaning, and other things like baking cakes because we don’t care much for bakers things. I made a chocolate cake on Saturday. It was so rich it fell apart when I took it out of the pan.


If you are not busy, why don’t you come over next Friday?


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


April 24, 1944

My Dear Friend Charles,


Thank you ever so much for stopping by. I know you said that you were just returning the favor for me finding your hat – but flowers! Mother couldn’t stop talking about what a nice young man you are. She thinks I need to settle down before I get any older. I put those pink and yellow carnations in a vase on the coffee table, and they really brighten up the room. We sure need it with Mother feeling worse every day.


I do wish you could come in, Charles. Next time please stay and have a cup of coffee.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


July 7, 1944

My Dear Friend Charles,


How are you doing this week?


We buried Mother at Grandview Cemetery on Saturday. There were not many people at the service, and only a few at the burial. Your Aunt Hattie was there. I had a notion to talk to her about you but she didn’t stay long after. The rain came down in sheets and soaked us through. I dread the thought of rain at a funeral. I sure hope the sun is shining at mine.


The house is so lonesome for me and Father.


On Wednesday he sent me to the Liquor Store here on Hamilton Street to get some whiskey. His back hurts something awful and the whiskey helps. At first they didn’t want to sell me any, but after a lot of wrangling they let me buy a pint.


Charles, I was sure that I saw you walk by with Albert Schneck. I heard he was back from the Army a few weeks past. You were laughing and seemed to be sharing a joke. I don’t believe you saw me wave, did you? You never mentioned Albert before. Are you friends?


A friend,


Dorothy R.


* * *


August 22, 1944

My Dear Friend Charles,


I hope you forgive me for writing a letter like this but I have to tell someone. I have had the blues so terrible the last two weeks that it isn’t funny. I just don’t care about anything.


The moment I get home from work Father hollers at me about different things. He gets cross because I don’t do things the way he wants or the way Mother did. Yesterday I canned 8 pints of red beets and 15 pints of pickled cabbage. It was 9 o’clock when I was wiping up the kitchen floor on my knees. Father said to me, “Well, ain’t you done yet?” When a person works hard the whole day and someone comes along and says that, well, that just hurts. Then, till I had washed and dressed for bed it was 10 o’clock. There I sat.


I do wish I was married and had a good husband and a nice home. Then I would be willing to work hard to keep the place looking nice. Then I would not have to work day and night. Lately I’m just so tired all the time. Some evenings I cry myself to sleep. I guess it is just the nerves.


On Saturday I went down to the Jordan River with my neighbor Edith Musselman. I wore my new swimming suit. I think you would have liked to see it. I do wish I knew how to swim. While we were in the water a man told me he could teach me how to do it in five minutes! I suppose he would have thrown me in, then I could have tried to save myself. I can’t help but wonder if anyone but Father would care if I drowned.


I thought about crossing that out, but it’s the truth, and for some reason I just feel I can be honest with you. That you’ll understand.

I hope that some evening soon we can have a chat.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


November 10, 1944

My Dear Friend Charles,


Boy oh boy was I getting a razzing here at the office this week! It started on Monday afternoon and it was still going strong on Wednesday.


Dick Kistler was after me, and Mr. Watson even cut the piece out of the paper and he brought it up and showed it to me. I took it and was going to tear it but Mr. Watson said, “Oh no, don’t do that. I want to keep it for some future date.” Dick told Mr. Watson to save his pennies because they would soon have to buy a wedding present.


I told Dick I didn’t know anything about it and he said, “the Hell you don’t.” He said, “you know still waters run deep.” Mr. Weaver said to Ralph Engle, “oh, so that’s her boyfriend, is it?”


I said yes.


I baked a cake that is called “Husbands Cake” and took it along to the office. Ralph Engle cut 15 pieces out of it. Mr. Watson asked me if this cake had anything to do with Saturday morning.


You should have heard Mr. Walter Seiple give it to me. He said if I would have sat over on my side of the car then you would not have skidded. He also said that I shouldn’t keep you so long that you were all tired out. He also said some other things, you know how Mr. Seiple talks.


Mr. Ross Reinert was after me too, teasing me about the accident. He said that I better make sure after this that you get home safe and that I should stop kissing you while driving. I sure was getting it.


None of these men knows that you haven’t been over for a while. I do wish that you would come over. We are going to have a flank for Thanksgiving if I can get one. It’s too much for me and Father.


I am just so very glad that you are okay.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


December 25, 1944

My Dear Friend Charles,


How was your Christmas? Mine was not so good. I had the blues terrible. I set three places for dinner, hoping you would come like you said. I was looking for you and so was Father.


Later my cousin Edie stopped by with her boy Nelson. He brought his new toy truck. You should have seen Father’s face light up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy. It was like he was a young man again. He even sat on the floor to push the truck with Nelson – and with his bad back.


That was a good couple of hours. But once they left, it was just the two of us. Father went to bed early and left me to clean up. I sat at the table, across from the place I’d set for you, and imagined you were there. I hope that doesn’t sound too strange. I just felt like I needed to talk to you, so I spoke to that empty chair.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


February 14, 1945

My Dear Friend Charles,


I heard you were working in Scranton last week. How was the weather up there? Any snow or rain? It turned out to be a bit warmer here which made it very nice. Did you get my Valentine’s card?


I hope you don’t get cross when I say this, but you are the only one I send these sentimental cards to. If I can’t have you I don’t want anyone else. I mean it. Do you remember when I was working for Mr. Carty and of all the fellows that would come in, I picked you out. I liked you the best. I can’t explain why. I just felt that you were different.


Charles, I need to ask you a question but I can’t write it down. It’s about something I heard at the office. I was the only girl in the elevator at 5 o’clock. The men were joking with me, then one of them said something about you I dare not repeat.


My nerves have been terrible. Please come over on Friday so we can talk about it.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


March 10, 1945

My Dear Friend Charles,


I am in a bad way. Sometimes I think I don’t care to live anymore.


I stopped by your house on Thursday after work, because I thought you said you had the day off. I knocked and knocked but no one answered. I am sure that I saw a shadow behind the curtain. Was that your sister? Why didn’t anyone answer the door?


Please tell me what I’ve done wrong, Charles. Why didn’t you come to talk to me in the office this week? All the girls say that you are trying to keep our relationship secret. I like when they tease, but none of them knows that you haven’t been to my house in weeks, and you haven’t replied to my letters.


When I got home I must have looked a mess because even Father noticed I wasn’t myself. I said that I had just had a tough day at work, that’s all. Then I warmed up some leftovers and we ate. He didn’t even holler at me for spilling the gravy.


Please write back.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


* * *


June 25, 1945

My Dear Friend Charles,


How are you? I saw your Aunt Hattie in town on Saturday. She was buying a baby carriage for your sister. Please will you let me know when the baby comes? I would like to come over and see it.


Why weren’t you in the office last week? I didn’t want to let on with the girls that I didn’t know where you were, so I pretended it was a personal matter. But Dot Schneider gave me a funny look. We have worked together long enough that she can read me like a book. What would she think if she knew that we have had no real relations?


Do you remember last summer when John Miller had that hotdog roast and you said to me that you liked my dress? It was the new one I’d gone especially to Philadelphia to buy. The white jersey with embroidered eyelets. Father scolded when he found out I’d bought it. You said it looked nice on me. Were you just saying that to be polite? All the girls were with their fellows, and for a few hours at least I thought maybe you were my fellow.


Charles, I have something for you which I cannot send through the mail. Please come over on Friday and get it. You will have to knock because our doorbell isn’t working.


A friend,

Dorothy R.


***


November 9, 1945

My Dear Friend Charles,


We had some snow today. This evening it was very icy. The brick pavements were like glass.


Mr. Watson came to my desk this afternoon and asked to see me in his office. He asked me about Father, and how I was doing since Mother’s death. I thought that was funny, since it’s been over a year since she passed. Soon he started asking me about you, and did I know your whereabouts.


Charles, do you know how much I wanted to say, “Yes, he’s staying with me. All this time he’s been at my house. Eating my meals. Helping me with the housework. Taking me to the movies. Laughing with me. Holding my hand on the porch.” It hurts even to think of it.


Instead I just stayed quiet. 


Then he asked me something strange. He said, “Dorothy, is Albert Schneck an acquaintance of yours?”


Why would he ask me about Albert Schneck? I told him that I barely knew Albert, except that his mother used to be friendly with mine, so I’d hear about him now and then – how he enlisted in the Army but got injured early on, convalesced and was discharged. That was all.


He stood and stared at me for what felt like a long time, until I got up and said, “I think it’s time I went home, Mr. Watson. The snow’s getting heavy. If I wait any longer I won’t be able to see a thing.” And I left.


They say you’ve been let go. Of course there have been rumors around the office. The girls are nice enough to leave me alone. Even Dot Schneider has kept her mouth shut. There’s already another man at your desk – a Mr. William Hamilton – who’s just like the others. I've told Father that you’ve taken another job. His memory is not so good these days anyway.


Charles, I want you to know that there are no hard feelings. I’ve had a good many crying spells, but even after all this I’m not sorry I cared for you.


Father is calling. He wants me to get started making supper. It seems a waste to cook a whole chicken for just the two of us, but at least it will last.


A friend,

Dorothy R.

October 22, 2020 14:23

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7 comments

Conor Thackray
12:20 Oct 29, 2020

I very much enjoyed the writing style. I learned so much about the characters and the premise through just a single voice I felt like I could see them myself. Very intelligent. Nice work!

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Tom .
12:27 Oct 24, 2020

This is a really clever interpretation of the brief. I really enjoyed this. I loved the time and period you set it in. Well done.

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Julie Frederick
15:55 Oct 24, 2020

Thank you for taking the time to comment! This is based on some actual letters. It is only the tip of the iceberg...

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Tom .
17:09 Oct 24, 2020

I look forward to more then

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Tom .
17:53 Oct 24, 2020

I know why this has affected me so much. I had a spinster aunt, who lived at this time in Lancashire UK. By 40 she was almost completely blind. It is her voice I hear in the letters. She would have been in her twenties during the war. She lived independently right into her 90s. In her late 80s a gentleman friend who was only company, proposed marriage. She refused him because me and my father always suspected she had an unrequited love from her youth.

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Julie Frederick
18:14 Oct 24, 2020

So many unanswered questions, right? I love that your aunt was proposed to in her eighties. That in itself would make a good prompt! I have some letters addressed to a great uncle whom I never met which are endlessly fascinating. I want to do more with them but to do it properly will require a lot of research.

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Tom .
19:17 Oct 24, 2020

Maybe we know both parties... Haha

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