It was well past two A.M. before Michelle and Tammy finished. Tammy fell asleep almost immediately, one arm around Michelle, her head resting on her breast. Michelle lay there holding Tammy for awhile, staring up at the ceiling, watching the patterns made by the branches of the tree outside as the moonlight cast its shadows into the room.
Finally, Tammy's breathing became slow and regular. Slowly, Michelle moved out from under her, slipped out of the bed, and put on a robe. She gave Tammy a soft kiss on the cheek before stealing out of the room.
She walked into the front hall and opened the closet where she'd left her suitcase. Bending down and opening it, she stared at the brown-wrapped package for several minutes. She was hesitant -- almost nervous. What for, Mishi? she asked herself. What are you afraid of? She had loved Grandmama..and still treasured her memory. Was it the possibility that her diaries might contain things that might change those memories making her hold back? True, Grandmama had told her and Kathie many hair-raising stories...but there were probably a lot more stories that had gone untold...
Finally, Michelle took a deep breath, picked up the package, and walked into the front room. Sitting in the overstuffed wing-backed chair, she flipped on a lamp, opened the package slowly so as not to wake Tammy, and removed the contents. There were two fairly thick three-ring binders. One was labeled:
Personal Diaries of Kathleen Michaela Devereaux Part I, 1912 - 1955
The other binder's cover said the same thing, only the dates were different: 1956-1997. My god, Michelle thought. She kept this up almost to the day she died. There was also a brown envelope with Michelle's name on it. She opened this first. The letter was a xerox copy, which read:
My dearest Grand-daughters,
If you're reading this, it is because I'm dead and gone. Please don't grieve at my passing; one hundred years in this life should be enough for anybody. I've outlived most everyone I 've loved -- although you two, whom I treasure, have brought such joy to my old age.
I'm leaving you these diaries -- one copy for each of you -- because I wanted you girls to know the girl and young woman I was -- very much like you. I also wanted to tell you something of your family. Since I didn't start these journals until I was a teenager, I'll fill you in on some background...
You're descended from a proud old New Orleans family -- I doubt you ever knew that. My own grandfather, Jacques Devereaux, lost most of his wealth after the unpleasantness he referred to as "The War of Northern Aggression" -- that is, the Civil War. His son, Michael Devereaux, left New Orleans during Reconstruction -- that was around 1875 or so -- he was only a teenager at the time. He came to the Northwest and eventually made a fortune in lumber-- lost it -- and made another selling commodities to the railroad. It was modest compared to his first fortune, but it allowed him to live comfortably, if not lavishly -- and marry a firey red-headed Irish woman from Canada named Kathleen Shaughnessy. I was born of that union, the youngest (and only survivng) of three children, on the 15th of May, 1897. I don't remember very much of my childhood -- my brothers both died when I was very young. I remembered being very protected -- almost smothered -- but outside of that, I remember nothing very bad -- or very good of those years. When I was nine, I discovered I loved music -- so Papa bought a piano, and arranged lessons with a very nice German lady. We were in Port Landers by then -- a much different place in those days.
It was about this time I met a little Italian girl in my class at school named Gina Rosselino. You'll run across her later on. We were the dearest of friends for many years.
That brings me to the time I began my diaries. I'll let them speak for me from here on out.
All my love,
12 September, 1997
She swallowed, and opened the first binder. 1912...she'd have been fifteen then, Michelle thought. The first entry was dated 13 April...the day after the Titanic sunk off the coast of Canada, Michelle realized. The entry surprised her at first...
13. April, 1912. Today Papa scolded me for playing the "ragtime" piece Miss Eisenstein gave me. She thought the syn-co-pation would help make my hands become more independant, but Papa told me that its "trashy music" written by "niggers" and played in brothels. Question: what does the word "nigger" mean?
What, indeed, thought Michelle. Racist epithets and prejudice had never been part of her experience, although she knew from her reading that it had once been quite common...and still was, in some places.
She skimmed over the next several entries. The next one that caught her attention was dated almost four years later...
24. March, 1916. Danforth and his friend Edmund asked Gina and I to go to the dance this Saturday. They said they'd pick us up and we'd ride in a real motorcar!! Gina was very excited...me, I don't care if I have to walk ten miles, as long as I can go with Danforth.
Danforth...Grandmama had never mentioned him. Her first love?
The entries over the following year seemed to confirm Michelle's suspicion. For several months, the four of them went out to dances and vaudeville shows frequently. Then, early in 1917:
14. February, 1917. Today Danforth gave me his ring and said he was going to ask Papa for my hand in marraige. I don't care what Papa says -- I am going to be Mrs. Danforth Williams III, whether he approves or no!
Strong sentiments for a nineteen-year-old girl in those days. But then, Michelle had known her grandmother to be "full of the devil" when she wanted to be...
7. April, 1917 Our boys are going to war...the papers all announced it today. Danforth and Edmund are going to sign up right away...I know it's the right thing -- like President Wilson says, we're going to make the world safe for democracy. I'm so proud of Danny !
Whoa. This was Grandmama? The same Grandmama who got herself arrested in 1968 for protesting the Vietnam war (of which she had always been proud)? She read on:
12 June, 1917. Danny looked so strong and handsome in his new uniform today when he got back from Fort Warden. I'm so proud of him...but I will miss him terribly while he's off fighting those dreadful Huns.
"Huns..." they used to call the Germans that during the war, Michelle recalled. So unlike Grandmama...but then, that was a much different time. The next entry was completely unexpected.
13 June, 1917. Danforth and I sealed our love last night. Papa even gave him his approval...all he said was "Be gentle with her, son." It was frightening, and wonderful, all at the same time. I'm so glad I could give myself to him before he leaves for France. The memory of our night together will sustain us until he returns.
The entries became sporadic. Then Michelle found an entry that almost shocked her.
31 July, 1917 I'm almost sure of it now...I'm carrying Danforth's child. It's frightening...after all, we're only engaged, not married yet...but I know he'll be thrilled, and we'll be married just as soon as he returns.
Michelle turned the page and three items -- two old, yellowed envelopes and a faded photo -- fell out. The photo was of a very attractive young man in an old army uniform. Must be Danforth, Michelle thought. I wonder what happened...?
It was one of the old letters that answered Michelle's question...her heart skipped a beat when she saw the return addressed marked as "War Department..."
No. 25 A Street
Port Landers, Oregon
21 August, 1917
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Danforth:
We regret to inform you of the death of your son, Cpl. Danforth J. Williams III...
Michelle realized that her eyes were streaming with tears...just as Grandmama's must have. The other letter was from Edmund, written to Gina.
...and Danny didn't even get to see any action...that's the tragedy. It was an accident. A careless, stupid accident caused by one of our own...
Danforth had been killed by "friendly fire..." a training accident gone horribly wrong when somebody missed their aim and fired into a gasoline tank he'd been moving. My god, thought Michelle. His death didn't even have any meaning.
Not surprisingly, there were few entries for awhile after that...only one of any consequence.
25 August, 1917. I lost it...the child Danforth and I made together. Only Gina was with me -- I don't know how I could deal with all this loss without her.
Several months later, Grandmama and her friend Gina had volunteered for the Red Cross as nurses' aides, caring for wounded soldiers coming back from France. Michelle began to see the patriotic and idealistic young girl her grandmother had been gradually turn into the militant pacifist that would get herself arrested in an anti-war rally five decades later...
23 Febraury, 1918. How did we ever see this as "glorious" or "noble?" What in the name of a merciful God is so noble about young men without arms, legs, mangled beyond recognition?
Grandmama Katie -- all of twenty years old -- and her friend Gina moved into their own "flat" about this time. They had planned to go to "finishing school" together, but their war efforts had put those plans on hold. Gina was still planning to marry Edmund after the war. Around the middle of May, 1918, however, Edmund's letters to Gina had stopped coming -- no explanations, no news, no anything. In September, Grandmama ran across a patient who was blind, horribly disfigured, and missing one leg. It was Edmund.
10 September, 1918. When Edmund realized who I was, he begged me not to say anything to Gina...it would be best for her to think him dead. I struggled with this until today...and realized that Gina needs to know.
12 September, 1918. Gina is heartbroken...Edmund refuses to see her, won't even speak to her. God forgive me, but after seeing what was left of poor Edmund, I think it for the best. We have both lost so much in this foolish, hateful war. We stayed up all night, crying and holding each other...what would Gina and I do without one another?
The war finally ended -- Grandmama echoed the first of what would be many strong political opinions she would express during her long life:
12 November, 1918. The newspapers call it "the war to end all wars." President Wilson says his "League of Nations" will be a step toward preventing this sort of nightmare from ever happening again. Small comfort to us who have lost loved ones. I remember when Wilson ran for re-election two years ago -- he promised to keep our country out of it. Another empty promise. Perhaps when we women are allowed to vote in national elections, we can change all that...
The following year, Gina brought home something new...
15 January 1919. It has been horrible, with this influenza...first the war, and now this, as if some vengeful God means to finish us off. Dear Gina! She came into a bit of extra money, so she bought a Victrola and some records...Art Hickman, Jim Europe., the Port Landers Hotel Royale Roof Garden Orchestra, and a new group called "The Original Dixieland Jazz Band." She thought perhaps some ragtime and this new "jazz" would be the thing to cheer us up.
Gina came down with the influenza two weeks later. (Grandmama) Katie stayed by her bedside every minute...
2 February, 1919. I should die if I lose dear Gina...I stay with her constantly, though I know I risk taking ill myself. Perhaps Yanni the Greek down at the greengrocer is right about garlic...though its smell and taste is offensive, I continue eating it. I only hope my beloved Gina will recover soon.
Gina did indeed recover (much to Michelle's relief -- as she read further in her grandmother's diary, she began living all the day-to-day emotions the old girl must have experienced).
The next few years were uneventful. Katie and Gina continued living together in the same flat -- Gina went to work as a secretary for a local "importer" in 1921 (who turned out to be a procurer of illegal bootleg wine and beer -- hence the very generous salary Gina recieved), while Katie enrolled in the Port Landers Normal School (now Port Landers University, where Michelle and Kathie had gone). By 1924, Katie was teaching geography at Port Landers High School. No mention of any new men in their lives, but late in 1924, something happened that changed Katie's life in the most radical way imaginable:
13 October, 1924. Gina and her new beau Rico invited me to go hear the "Battle of the Bands" at the Port Landers Hotel Royale Roof Garden: the Port Landers Rhythm Kings and the colored band, Fletch Hamilton and his Nighthawks that play the "hot African jazz." I wasn't sure I wanted to go at first...
It was unusual in those segregated days to have black musicians play at an establishment like the Port Landers Hotel Royale (which was a run-down "skid-row" establishment now, seventy-five years later) -- everything was so segregated back then, Michelle remembered. But that wasn't the most unusual thing that happened that evening...
15 October 1924. Fletch Hamilton was so charming, for a colored man...actually, he's the first colored person I've ever met. I don't understand why coloreds aren't allowed in so many places. Mr. Hamilton was a perfect gentleman...and (I can't admit this to anyone -- even Gina) he's really quite handsome. He invited Gina and I to come hear his band at the "black and tan" club over in the Middlebury district.
The Middlebury district had been the "black" part of Port Landers for years, dating from the time many Afro-Americans came to work in the shipyards during the First World War. Michelle wasn't sure what a "black and tan" was at first...but as she read the next several entries, it became apparent that it referred to one of the few places where black and white people were allowed to mix -- a sort of "desegregated" nightclub. Katie not only attended every performance of the "Nighthawks" she could get to, but began collecting his records as well.
24 November 1924. After the performance, Fletch drove me to the beach...he played his saxophone to me, under the moon, with the waves crashing on the shore...it was so romantic! We sat on the beach talking for hours. He's from Alabama, originally. He's had a difficult life, as so many colored people do in the South. He learned to play the saxophone in the Birmingham Home for Wayward Boys, of all places! When he was eighteen, he went to New Orleans and worked in the barrelhouses in Storyville until it was closed back in '17. After that, he joined up with the Army and actually played in Jim Europe's outfit over in France. To think, I've had recordings of him for years, and never knew it!
The next line almost made Michelle's heart stop.
God help me, but I think I'm falling in love with him.
Michelle herself had once dated an exchange student from Africa in college, briefly (and found him to be completely charming -- until he mentioned the two wives he had waiting for him in Dahomey). One of Kathie's friends from the botany department had married a black man. Nobody had given any of it much thought. Seventy-five years ago, however, it would have been a much different matter...
3 December, 1924. I love Fletcher Hamilton. I love him, and I want to be with him. Last night, he confessed that he shared my feelings...he was married once, shortly before the War ended. She died in the dreadful influenza epidemic the following year, and his sorrow wouldn't allow him to care for anyone else...until now. But what are we to do? I am white, he is colored...but for that, we could be together...but the laws we live under, the society we exist in would deny us our happiness. Can't they see, it is not our outward forms, but our souls that have touched ?
Michelle turned the page, and two old yellowed photos fell out. One was a picture of her grandmother, about twenty-five or twenty-six years old. Hmmm...I do look a lot like her, Michelle thought, studying the photo. Her eyes were darker (Grandmama had had brown eyes, Michelle remembered), but the hair was the same shade, and just as curly as Michelle's (though quite a bit shorter, as was the style back then).
The next photo depicted a handsome, well-dressed black gentleman holding a saxophone. Michelle's heart quickened. On impulse, she held the man's photo up next to that of her grandmother. Suddenly, the dream she'd had a week before came back to her...my god, she thought. She quickly scanned through the next few entries, which confirmed what she already knew...
15 December, 1924. I have no regrets about giving myself to Fletcher...I know now what Desdemona felt for Othello. My beautiful Fletcher, standing over me, shorn of his clothing, looked like nothing so much as a great Moorish warrior...
So...Grandmama's second love had been a black jazz musician. Again, nothing very notable about that for Michelle. But the time for Grandmama was 1924, not 1998.
26 December, 1924. Fletcher says there is a way we can be married...if we leave our country and live in France. The French people are very arrogant in many ways (I should know -- they are my own ancestors), yet it is this very arrogance that allows them to be more open-minded in other ways. Fletcher says it is not at all unusual over there for people of European and African blood to intermarry freely. I must think on this -- I love Fletcher...but can I leave my home, family, friends forever? What about Gina? I've not told her about Fletcher, although I suspect she knows -- but being the dear friend she is, has not said anything about it.
Over the next few months, Katie vacillated between going and staying...going meant she and Fletcher could marry, but she would be leaving everything behind for a strange new land still recovering from the ravages left by four years of a terrible war. On the other hand, if she stayed, she would eventually have to break it off with Fletcher...the strain of keeping the relationship secret was too much to allow it to continue under the present circumstances.
One terrible night in March of 1925, the decision was made for her.
JAZZBO FLETCHER HAMILTON, KILLED IN TRAFFIC ACCIDENT --
As Michelle studied the yellowed old newspaper clipping, she thought, cynically, that the local police would probably not have made much of an effort to find the driver, either. Poor Grandmama, she thought, brushing a tear away from her eye. That hadn't been the worst part of the tragedy...
16 March, 1925. They might have saved him...that's what I heard. He died, not from his injuries, but from the loss of blood. Unfortunately, the nearest hospital was for "white people only." God damn damn damn their filthy souls to hell!!!!
Again, Michelle found tears streaming down her cheeks. How could people have been so hateful and cruel, she thought.
Again, entries in the journal became brief and sporadic. Katie finally told Gina all...
1 May, 1925. Gina is so wonderful, so understanding. She had not been able to understand why it was I have been so melancholy these last six weeks...I finally confessed all to her. She took me in her arms and held me as a wept the tears I have held back for so long...must every man I love be taken from me like this?
Gina wound up having her own problems...it seemed that Rico had not told her everything about his business. She learned more than she wanted to know one night. She had been in bed with him when Federal Agents burst in, handcuffed them, and hauled both of them, still half-dressed, to jail.
23 July, 1925. I posted bail for Gina...chances are, she will recieve no more than probabtion. Rico, on the other hand, faces the gallows...or, at the very least, life imprisonment.
Not only had Rico been a "gin-runner," he had been a "hit-man" as well...and one of those "hits" had been on a certain black jazz saxophonist who had taken out a loan in order to pay off some pressing debts...and who was rumored to be having a love affair with a white woman.
13 August 1925. How cruel is fate! That Gina's love should have been responsible for the death of mine...of course, Frederico Spinelli was responsible for the deaths of many. When he killed Germans in the War, he was a hero...now he's a murderer. Poor Gina! Now we are both alone...with only each other for comfort.
At the trial, Rico claimed he only meant to injure Fletch Hamilton, as well as some of his other victims. Nonetheless, he was swiftly convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. Meanwhile, Katie and Gina, bound together even more by their losses, were clinging to each other more and more each day...
3 September 1925. Neither Gina nor I could stop weeping last night. Fletcher is gone, and Rico, who killed him, is to die at the gallows for his crimes. All we could do is hold one another...as neither of us could bear to be alone in our pain, we passed the night together in Gina's bed...it was a comfort.
Is this going where I think it is? Michelle thought to herself.
On the next page was another photograph -- of a dark complected woman with short dark hair and light-colored eyes. She had one foot on the running board of an automobile, and had a "Mona-Lisa" smile as she looked out from under her hat. My god! thought Michelle. That's --
Again, her thoughts went back to the dreams she'd had the week before. Suddenly, she knew everything...
15 September 1925. Last night, I allowed Gina to kiss me --or she allowed me to kiss her -- I'm not sure. It seems our tragedies have brought us closer together than I could ever have imagined. We are together now every spare moment, and have shared her bed every night for almost a fortnight. Last night, I awoke around midnight to find poor Gina sobbing -- I naturally put my arms around her and held her. Before long, I, too was weeping. It went on for an hour. Finally, she turned and thanked me...then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, we kissed each other -- full on the mouth.
I don't understand what is happeing between Gina and I -- but neither will I fight it.
30 September, 1925. Gina and I have become -- how else can I put it? Sweethearts...lovers...I don't believe either of us expected this, but it has happened. Ever since the first night we kissed, it has gone a little further between us each night. Then, last night, we took off our clothes and spent hours kissing, caressing and pleasuring one another like lovers...
I wonder if this runs in the family, Michelle wondered to herself. Now I really wish Grandmama were here to talk to...
In any event, it was an odd comfort to know that she had not been the first Devereaux woman to wind up in such a relationship.
30 October, 1925. For a month now, Gina and I have been lovers, sharing our bodies with each other as well as our hearts and souls. I know some would call it "unnatural" -- and there are words for women like us. But this doesn't feel wrong to me, not in the least. For, after all, Gina and I have loved one another since we were schoolgirls...
Of course. To Katie, this new physical -- sexual -- aspect of her relationship with Gina was but an extension of a love and a bond they had already shared for many years. That's what's different, thought Michelle. Grandmama and her friend Gina had known and loved each other all their lives...whereas, Tammy...
Tammy had essentially been someone that, for all intents and purposes, she'd "picked up" in a bar. The moment the thought crossed Michelle's mind, she regretted having it. My god! It sounds so cheap to think of it that way, she chided herself. I do love her...so what if we've only known each other for three weeks? Sometimes, that's all it takes...right?
Still, Michelle couldn't help but feel a twinge of envy for Katie's and Gina's relationship...built on a lifetime bond...briefly, she thought yet again of that beautiful summer with Kathie (and your still-unresolved feelings, right, Mishi?) Fiercely, she dismissed those thoughts from her mind and read on.
Katie and Gina continued their relationship through the winter and on into the spring of 1926. They stopped going out to the "speaks" and dance halls as they had done, spending many a chilly evening in front of the fire sipping tea (or hot mulled [bootleg] wine, when they could get it) reading poetry to each other, playing card games, or just talking -- and nearly every night wrapped in each other's arms, making love.
16 April, 1926. I fear I must let Gina go, soon. More and more, she speaks of her desire for a child...and her childbearing years are quickly passing. God help me -- I love Gina so much, and there is nothing on earth I would not do for her or give her if it were in my power. Sadly, a child is the one thing I cannot give her...
That would be a problem, Michelle thought. Nowadays, there were ways around that...back then, however...
As the spring turned into summer, Katie started convincing Gina to go out to the "speaks" again, as well as dances and parties. Gina reluctantly "went along" with it at first...and said nothing when Katie became more aggressive in her efforts to meet men. Gradually, little by little, their physical relationship waned over the summer. By the fall of that year, Gina was with a new beau, and (at least outwardly) seemed pleased with the situation. She and Katie never talked about what had transpired between them the previous fall and winter.
13 September, 1926. It is so good to see dear Gina happy with her new beau, Hubert. Perhaps there will be a future for them, including the child she so desperately wants. I miss her terribly -- and the special love we shared -- but this is for the best.
Sometimes love expresses itself as sacrifice." Michelle couldn't quite remember where she had heard that, as she wiped a tear from her eye and swallowed the lump in her throat. But it was true. And Grandmama had made the biggest sacrifice. How she must have loved her, Michelle thought.
Eventually, Gina and Hubert did marry...and Gina had a beautiful son in 1930, followed by a daughter two years later. I wonder if they're still around, Michelle thought. I wonder if Gina is still alive... improbable...but there was a slim chance. I would love to meet her, Michelle thought.
After Gina moved out of the flat that she and Katie had shared for so many years, Katie began "living dangerously." She resigned from her teaching post just before the Christmas holidays of 1926, and began her own "gin-running" operation. Two of her lovers had been taken from her violently; although Grandmama had essentially walked away from the third, the result was the same...it was as if Katie had ceased to care about life. These were the stories Grandmama had told Michelle and Kathie when they were younger...her "wild days" as a bootlegger. By night, she frequented the "speaks," rolling her stockings down and dancing the "Charleston," the "Shimmy" and the "Black Bottom" -- and by day, ran her new "business," smuggling illegal whiskey, wine and beer down from Canada (her Shaughnessy relatives were of considerable help in this). She never killed anyone (gangsters such as ran rampant in Chicago and New York were rare in the Northwest), but had learned to use a gun and had been forced to fire it on more than one occaision.
For the next five years, Kathleen Devereaux lived two steps ahead of the law. She took a fair number of lovers -- all rather casual -- during that period, none of whom she wrote about in any detail. By the time the Volstead Act was repealed in 1932, Grandmama Katie had amassed a small fortune. With a combination of savvy investments, frugality and sheer luck, she was able to survive the bleak years of the Great Depression in a fair degree of comfort.
By 1937, Katie was forty years of age. She had kept in touch with Gina, although with her husband and children, it was impossible to share the closeness they'd once had. One evening, Gina invited Katie to a family dinner. One of Gina's cousins from Sicily had come for a visit...
23 August 1937. Pietro is so charming...and so wise for his years. Despite his awkwardness with the English language, I find we communicate wonderfully. Tomorrow night, Gina, Hubert, Pietro and I are going to the Palace Room of the Port Landers Hotel Royale to hear the "swing band" led by that brilliant young clarinet player, Benny Goodman...
Katie and Pietro were married a year later. (As it turned out, Katie was a good ten years older than her new husband -- she found this out by accident -- but he never asked about it, and Katie never told him.)
September 9, 1939. Once again, the drums of war are beating in Europe. Will they never learn?
Katie, the memories of the Great War twenty years before still painful in her heart and mind, watched in horror as the events of the next two years unfolded.
December 7, 1941. Only two days ago I discovered I was carrying Pietro's child. Today, on the radio we heard of the dreadful raid on Hawaii by the Japanese. I love my husband, and until today, I was thrilled that we were to have a child together...but now, I'm not sure I should have this child at all. Our country cannot possibly stay out of the war now...once again, "civilization" is tearing itself apart. What sort of world is that to bring a child into?
Besides that, thought Michelle, forty-four was old for a woman to be having a first child, especially back then.
17 January, 1942. Pietro and Hubert have enlisted together in the Army Air Corps. Gina came over today, in tears...dear God, its 1917 all over again. I still haven't told Pete about our child...and now that he's going to a place from whence he may not return, I wonder if I should tell him at all.
Pietro thought it especially important for him to join up...the U.S. was at war with Italy as well -- his native country -- and Pietro had hated Mussolini with a deep passion.
Katie finally broke down and told her husband about the child their last night together before he shipped out for England.
12 February, 1942. Pete was thrilled that we are to be parents (he suspected...I am starting to "show"). He says it will give him that "extra" incentive to come home to us.
Pietro Rosselino and Hubert Bergen served together on a bomber crew...a B-17 called "Miss Behavin'." A photo of Hubert, Pietro and the crew in front of their plane was between the next pages. The name was painted on the side, as well as a characature of a curvaceous, scantily-clad young woman. Boy, thought Michelle, shaking her head. They'd never get away with that today. Was it her imagination, or did "Miss Behavin" bear a slight resemblance to her Grandmama Katie?
Katie moved in with Gina and her two children, Billy and little Kate. Eventually, the two women, like so many others. went to work for the war effort at the Port Landers Naval Shipyard.
The months dragged on. Katie's pregnancy was a difficult one, due to her age. With Gina's help, she fought hard to carry it to term. Letters arrived from their husbands every week...chatty, cheerful...giving no hint of the terror they surely must have faced nearly every day...
23 June 1942
Life is good...yesterday we go to London and see that new movie with Humphrey Bogart, "Casablanca." Afterward, some of our English friends took us to a "pub" and showed us darts. The birra they drink here, it is good. But warm...since I come to America, I learn to like mi birra a la fresca...
Even after almost five years of married life in America, he still had trouble with his English.
In July, Katie became a mother.
25 July, 1942. They wracked me being born...I was afraid I would surely die. But Pete and I are now the parents of two beautiful baby girls...
Two? thought Michelle. Twins?
...for twin girls, they are as different as night and day. The eldest (by two hours) takes after her mother -- she is loud, brassy and bold. I think she will be a redhead. The younger is dark like her father...she looks very much like Gina (who stayed with me every minute of my labor).
The older of the two girls was named for a popular song, and the sister was named for Katie's Uncle Patrick. Lorraine Rosselino, thought Michelle. My mother. Strange, she thought, that as she had read the journal entries, she'd failed to make the connection. And Aunt Patrice. But how is it we all go by "Devereaux" now? It was also strange that Michelle had never quite realized that her mother and Aunt Patrice had been born twins. It hadn't really been a secret, she realized -- it's just that the subject had never really come up. Perhaps if they'd been identical twins, it might have been different...
In fact, come to think of it, Grandmama had never really spoken of their grandfather at all.
The "Miss Behavin" was shot down over Germany in October of 1942...on their forty-eighth mission. No survivors were ever found.
Katie and her two babies continued living with Gina and her children after the war ended. Around this time, she changed her last name back to Devereaux...
...since every man I have ever loved has abandoned me -- I shall abandon them. Katie Devereaux I began this life -- Katie Devereaux I shall remain. My daughters as well.
Michelle could read the bitterness between the lines...true, it wasn't fair -- her men had died (all violently), not willingly "abandoned" her. I suppose the result is the same, Michelle thought. Ye gods...I can't even imagine what it must be like to lose someone that way...
Katie never remarried, and neither did Gina. They and the children continued to live in the same house on Dalle Street in Port Landers until around 1950. Billy Rosselino had been attending classes at Port Landers City College (formerly Port City Normal School) for two years by then...and little Kate (Grandmama's namesake) was graduating from high school and thinking of getting married. Since there would only be four of them now -- Katie, Gina, and the twins -- Gina decided to sell the Dalle Street house and move to a smaller house in Riverton Katie had purchased.
...Lorraine and Patrice will be starting school this year...I think it will be better for them to grow up in a small town. Port Landers has changed so much since the war...and not for the better. I'm glad Gina will continue to live with us. I would worry about her being alone, now that her children are grown -- and I would have had great difficulty raising my two girls by myself. It won't be quite the same as having their father -- but at least they'll have a loving family.
The 1950's brought yet another war...and more loss.
30 October 1951. We recieved the telegram today about Billy. My poor Gina is inconsolable...
Billy had been drafted into the Army and sent to Korea in 1951. Little Kate, heartbroken from the loss of her brother, withdrew from college and came to Riverton to stay with her mother and her "Aunt" Katie for awhile...
3 November, 1951. My poor Gina is devestated, as well as my little namesake. Why is it that men think only of violence and bloodshed?
7 November, 1951. I passed by Gina's room late last night and heard her sobbing. I went in, sat down with her, and held her. There was nothing I could do....
Ironically, though not unexpectedly, Katie and Gina began to turn to each other in the same way they had over twenty-five years earlier...
30 November, 1951. I don't know what people would think if they knew about Gina and I. No doubt they would laugh at us, curse us, condemn us...they might try to take my daughters away. Why? Children need a loving home, and we give them that...and more.
Unfortunately, one person did find out...
5 January, 1952. Dear God...little Kate walked in on us last evening...as Gina and I were in her bedroom...we were sitting on the bed, and I was holding her, comforting her as I have had to do so often these last few months. Little Kate had probably heard her mother crying and came up to see what the matter was. She walked in just as we were kissing one another.
Little Kate was hysterical...she packed a bag that night and left. Gina never saw her daughter again...
Some time after that incident, Gina became ill...
27 March, 1952. I cannot name the sickness that Gina has...the doctors say she has but a year...perhaps two at the most.
Gina lived for almost three years after that. By 1955, she was in such pain, Grandmama could not bear it any longer...
2 February, 1955. They will call me a murderess if it is ever discovered what I am about to do...but what I do, I do out of love...
Oh...my...god...Michelle almost dropped the notebook as her heart nearly stopped beating. Again, her eyes blurred with tears.
Katie could not bear to see Gina suffer any longer. One night, she kissed her gently, then placed a pillow over her face until she her breathing stopped...
4 Februrary, 1955. Goodbye, my dearest friend...companion...lover... there will be an emptiness within me that nothing will ever fill again.
"Oh, Grandmama..." whispered Michelle. She began to cry softly.
Michelle looked up to find Tammy standing there. She sat next to her, putting an arm around her. "Mija, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
"Oh Tammy," Michelle said, sobbing. Tammy just held her for a long time, stroking her hair, rocking back and forth slowly.
Finally, Michelle recovered a bit. Sniffing, she said, "I -- I started reading my grandmother's diary -- th-the one she left me..."
Tammy nodded. "It upset you?"
Michelle shook her head slowly. "It -- it's not that...it's just...oh, Tammy...Grandmama lost almost everyone she ever loved!" With that, she burst into tears again.
Tammy held her for a long time. Finally, she looked out the window...the first faint streaks of dawn were starting to appear over the eastern hills.
"Mija, why don't you come back to bed for awhile? Come on...you're so tired...it'll be better after you've slept."
Michelle nodded, too drained to protest. They started toward the bedroom. Then, Michelle stopped and took Tammy in her arms.
She looked into Tammy's eyes and said, "You -- you won't ever leave me, will you?"
Tammy smiled gently, kissed Michelle on the lips and replied, "I love you, mija. Now, por favor -- come sleep, now."
Michelle smiled sadly and nodded.
Michelle dropped off almost the instant she lay her head on the pillow. Tammy slipped an arm around her from and held her close, and the two slept like that until the morning sun streamed into the bedroom a few hours email@example.com