2019


IDA
           I laid on the cold bed, tilting my head to watch the snow fall softly outside the window of the assisted living home. The branches hung heavy with white powder, each snowflake plummeting from the sky silently. One of my fingers twitched involuntarily, the nerves that were still functional picking up on the roughness of the blankets. One of the grandchildren had painted my nails a vibrant red (to match your pictures, they said).

           The cacophony of little children running through the sterile hallways reached my room, and I realized I had forgotten that it was Saturday. Of course, the news droning on the TV in the corner should have clued me in on that, but it had been awhile since I had cared about what was going on.

           Cardboard boxes smashed the door out of the way before bodies did, and the littlest one tried his best to set the box down gently at the foot of my bed. The middle one came in looking disgruntled, then the oldest, carrying the biggest box, which she put on the empty bed in the other half of the room. My daughter came last, swishing her rich brown hair around her scarf and giving me an exasperated look.

           “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!” The children yelled.

           “Merry Christmas to you too,” I laughed.

           “They had a lot of fun in your storage unit,” Scarlett motioned to her kids with a vague movement. “You have a lot of papers and photos in there.”

           “Thank you, Lettie,” my voice was smaller than I thought it would be, and shakier. “How’s Charlie doing? And can you put some of the photos on the shelves? It’s getting very dull in here.”

           “Mom, you know I hate it when you call me that,” Scarlett’s children had jumped at the idea of unpacking and had already torn through the tape. “Charlie’s great. He just got a promotion and he said he’s going to visit soon. You know him, he’s always off doing his own thing... anyways, this thing happened at work and I had to stay late and...”

           I let Scarlett talk, knowing that I couldn’t keep up with her and that it was best to just let her vent. The kids’ joyful jabber filled in the holes of the conversation (or lack thereof), and although there were so many hectic happenings, I felt... peaceful.

           “Grandma, who is this?” the oldest held up an old photo. I was wearing a three-piece suit without the jacket and a burnt red bow tie, standing next to a girl in a frilly, blush pink, classically fifties dress.

           “That’s Charlotte,” I answered, a sad smile playing on my wrinkled face. “You would have loved her.”


LOTTIE
           The frame of the old photo was worn, the squared corners rubbed into round edges and the intricate details lost. As for the photo itself, however, it was obvious that it had been taken care of religiously, no fingerprints presenting themselves on the pearly surface and no speck of dust landing on it without a court marshaling.

           Most people in my family didn’t care to get to know the two girls in the photo. Ian and Issac, my sons, took my words of “we were the best of friends” at face value, and didn’t seem to wonder why I would spend my sleepless nights tracing the frame over and over again. Did they ever think that perhaps that was too much love for a best friend, or had they become accustomed to seeing hugs in public?

           My room at my son’s house was dark, but the slits of light making their way through the blinds was enough for me to make out the curly, light colored dress I wore in the photo. No one in my family had ever cared to wonder why the other girl was wearing a three-piece suit without the jacket and a bowtie at her throat during the height of the fifties, either-- not that they would have wanted to hear the story while their father had been living. Not one had asked her name.

           All the same, I had kept whispering her to myself as I tried to fall asleep each night.

           Ida, Ida, Ida.

           I remembered her every day. I only hope she remembered me too.


IDA
           The children kept unpacking, photos and postcards and letters spilling out all over the room. It was odd to see almost my entire life shoved into cardboard containers and transferred through the ages. They took the remnants of who I was and stuck them to the walls, arranged them artfully on shelves, and opened letters to their first pages.

           The oldest oversaw the youngest’s attempts to use tape while Scarlett took charge of the letter opening-- she tended to know who was writing to me better than the grandchildren did. When the sky had stopped snowing and the boxes held nothing but bits of stray glitter and dust, the children slipped on their coats, exhausted and ready to leave.

           “Bye Grandma, we love you,” they chorused on the way out. Scarlett hesitated at the door, looking at the pile of letters she had left on my nightstand. She came back in and lifted the top one off of the pile.

           “Mom, you might want to read this one,” she said before bending down to give me a hug, and then walked out the door.

The yellowed paper trembled as I picked it up. I had an idea of who it was from. I had not thought of them in a long, long time.
           TO IDA CLARK, FROM LOTTIE WELLS, in sloping, spidery script.

           I looked up on the shelves, to where the children had adorned them with old photographs. The girl in the frilly dress, already grinning like a madman in the varied light, seemed to stretch her smile even further. 

           Lottie. It always came back to her, didn’t it?


LOTTIE
           My son came into my room with a stack of mail.

           “A postcard from Issac, bills, a retirement home trying to get you to go there... and an old letter I found underneath the couch,” he recited. “Any of those interest you?”

           I nodded my head slightly, and he sat down on the edge of the bed, holding each piece of paper up so I could inspect it.

           Postcard. A gesture. Yes.
           Bills. No.

           Retirement. Ian hadn’t even brought it into the room. He knew I would say no.

           Letter. I saw the thick lettering, the even penmanship. To: Lottie Wells, From: Ida Clark.

           Yes.

           Ida had found me again.


1958


IDA
           “Hello and welcome to First National Bank, how may I help you?” I chirped, my voice fake-cheery in the way that people liked to hear when they came to the bank. The girl who had come up to my window smiled as I un-squinted my eyes from their position in my plaster smile, truly seeing her for the first time.

           Cute, shoulder-length blonde ringlets framed her round cheeks, aquamarine eyes glowing as she showed her dimples and pushed an envelope through the slot in the glass.

           “Can you deposit this in my safe?” she asked, her voice as pretty as her face. “It should be under Charlotte Wells.”

           “Of course,” I replied, writing down her name on a paper. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

           I wanted her to say yes, perhaps she needed something to be taken out of her safe. Maybe she wanted to accompany me down to the vaults, if only so I could look at her beautiful features for a few more moments.

           “Not at the moment,” she said, turning slowly on her heel and walking quietly out the bank, a tinge of sadness in her voice-- or was I imagining that? A fabrication of my own emotions and desires, projected onto a girl like her.

           Alas. To the Rainbow Bar later, I suppose.


LOTTIE
           “Hello and welcome to First National Bank, how may I help you?” the bank teller asked, her shining chocolate hair brushed behind her ears and spilling onto her deep red dress, her equally red lips stretching over white teeth as she performed for her position.

           Focus, Lottie, this is no time to think like this. I took a deep breath mentally and smiled back as I walked to her desk and slid an envelope through the opening.

           “Can you deposit this in my safe? It should be under Charlotte Wells,” I requested. The color in the teller’s eyes morphed in shapes and hues with each moment that passed, fighting each other for their own presence in her irises.

           “Of course,” she smiled, writing down my name on a paper. “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

           I wanted to say yes, that perhaps I needed something to be taken out of my safe. But that wouldn’t make sense, since I had just asked her to deposit the envelope, and if I had needed money, wouldn’t I have just kept the envelope? I didn’t want our trivial conversation to end, but it would have to.

           “Not at the moment,” I said, turning slowly on my heel and walking quietly out the bank. The chilled afternoon air hit me with a gust of soft wind and old oak leaves as I turned down the busy city street. I would need a break from today, that was for sure.


IDA
           The Rainbow Bar was a hidden treasure, a place for the unaccepted like me. Everyone would hate us-- if they knew who we really liked. In truth, none of us knew what we needed to know, but we did know we needed each other.

           The sky had decided that that afternoon was the perfect time to dump a fall shower on us, and I hoped that the girl from the bank had managed to save her pretty curls from the rain.

           The pavement outside the old building was wet, but inside, no one’s shoes squeaked. Half bar, half dance hall, the Rainbow was an odd mix of the curios of the ages. Bodies bounced to the music pumping from the jukebox, softly flashing neon lights spraying all colors of visible light on every surface in the place. I worked my way through the crowd to the red vinyl-covered stools. The bartender slid me a glass when she saw me.

           “Rough day today, Ida?” she asked.

           “Rhonda, I have my suit on, do you think today was rough?”

           “Aye, well, that part looks the same as normal,” Rhonda arched her eyebrows. “But you never need a drink this early when you’ve had a good day.”

           “Fair point,” I mused. “I suppose I need to stop liking people I see on the streets, then, and narrow my availability list down to the Rainbow.”

            “Ha!” Rhonda laughed. “That’s what you said last time.”

            The song switched on the jukebox-- someone clearly liked Frank Sinatra. If I had to guess, it was probably Marty playing the music, since he intensely wanted to marry the man. Whenever he had a chance to listen to Sinatra’s music, he took it. Rhonda raised her eyebrows at me.

           “Go dance,” she said, uncurling my fingers from around the glass and pushing me away from the counter. I stuck my tongue out at her, but smiled, since I knew that dancing would be better than sitting at the bar wallowing in my own misery.

            Someone on the dance floor waved me over, giggling as I wiggled my bow tie and my body in time with the music. Jane, the most avid dancer at the Rainbow-- I’d once told her she should have gone into theatre, but she had laughed nervously, talking about being too easily spotted.

           “Loosen up,” Jane yelled in my ear, the sonorous strings of Sinatra’s voice trembling through our chests.

           “I’m trying,” I yelled back, accepting Jane’s outstretched hands and spinning her around.

           “Do that spin move you love,” she yelled, breaking the spin. She grinned as I took the edge of the hat I was wearing and twisted it around my head, the rest of my body following it like an orderly line of schoolchildren turning a corner.

           “You have to teach me that someday,” Jane came in close to my ear. I could see the bar behind her head-- Rhonda serving drinks, two girls admiring each other’s attire, and an unfamiliar figure with blonde ringlets cascading over pink-covered shoulders.

           Rhonda pointed out to the dance floor, and the girl turned to see what Rhonda was going on about. Then I saw her face, and I recognized who she was.

           Charlotte Wells. The girl from the bank, here, at the Rainbow.

           She gave me an odd look, like she was shocked that I was here, yet not surprised at the same exact time.

           “I will, don’t worry,” I told Jane, breaking away from the sea of pulsating bodies and starting towards the bar for the second time today.

           The girl from the bank got up from her stool gracefully, meeting me halfway on the edge of the dirty linoleum. Her mouth parted slightly, her eyes still swirling confusedly. I realized then that I didn’t feel anything else going on-- it was just me and the girl.

           You need to talk to her, I thought, my rationalism kicking in for a split second. Ask her for her name, she doesn’t need to know that you remembered it from this afternoon. Okay, I got this.

           “Hi,” I said, trying to shake myself out of my stupor. “What’s your name?”

           “Charlotte Wells,” she replied. “But everyone just calls me Lottie. You work at the bank, don’t you?”

           “I do,” I replied. “Not what I really want to be doing, but it pays decently.”

           “I can tell,” Lottie glanced up and down my body. “I almost didn’t recognize you in the suit.”

           “It was my brother’s,” I admitted. “If you ever need a financier with an eye for the fine, Joseph Clark is who you want to go to.”
           “I’ll keep that in mind,” Lottie’s lips curled into a mirthful smile, while her head tilted quizzically to the right. “What’s your name?”

           “Ida Clark, at your service,” I bowed deeply, gesturing to the side.

           “Well, if you are at my service, is there a possibility that you will be back at the Rainbow? I’ve never seen you here before,” Lottie’s pinked cheeks intensified their blush, which in turn made my face warm.

           “Of course,” I replied, noting the way Lottie’s dusty rose skirts swished around her knees as we conversed. “I normally only come on random days, but if you’re here, then I will be too.”

           Lottie’s big smile was all I needed to see.


LOTTIE
           Looking up at the neon arcs over the doorway, I remembered how much I loved coming to the Rainbow Bar. Even when I had no family to hide anything from, it was nice to have a place where I didn’t have to cover things up for other people.

           When I walked in, I headed straight for the bar. Rhonda always knew what other people needed-- it was part of what made her a permanent fixture at the Rainbow.

           The music changed to a Frank Sinatra song as I reached the bar, my fingertips resting on the slick countertops. It was probably Marty playing the Sinatra songs from the jukebox-- he was practically engaged to the man, at least in his mind.

           Rhonda was prying a girl’s fingers off of a glass, urging her to go dance. The girl acquiesced, allowing Rhonda to take her drink and make her way out on the scuffed floor. Something about her seemed familiar- her hair, maybe? Smoothed back into a low bun, it looked like every other working woman’s hair, but there was still something that caught my memory. Definitely not her suit, though-- I hadn’t seen anyone recently with a suit like that. Brown with red tones running through, it complimented the girl’s hair nicely.

           Rhonda grabbed a glass and a bottle as she headed my way.

           “You had a rough day too, eh?” she asked. “Girl over there had a bad one as well.” Rhonda pointed over my shoulder, where the suit girl was spinning around with Jane, a regular on the dance floor. As I saw her face, I realized where I’d seen her before.

           The bank.

           I’m sure Rhonda had a wry expression on her face as I completely forgot about the drink she was pouring. The only thing that I knew was happening was that the bank girl had met my eyes.

           “I will, don’t worry,” I heard her tell the girl she was dancing with, before parting the people on the dance floor and crossing the ocean of bodies to where the dancers thinned.

           I got up from my stool, meeting her halfway on the edge of the dirty linoleum. Now that I was paying more attention, I could see just how much the dark browns of her suit matched her eyes and the red bow tie that she had around her neck highlighted the curve of her lips.

           “Hi,” she said, blinking as if trying to clear her head. “What’s your name?”

           “Charlotte Wells,” I replied, hopefully flirtatiously. Does she not remember the bank? “But everyone just calls me Lottie. You work at the bank, don’t you?”

           “I do,” she replied, ducking her head a bit. “Not what I really want to be doing, but it pays decently.”
           “I can tell, I almost didn’t recognize you in the suit,” I admitted, raking my eyes up and down her tweed-clad body.

           “It was my brother’s,” the bank girl’s cheeks flushed just underneath her cheekbones. Gorgeous. “If you ever need a financier with an eye for the fine, Joseph Clark is who you want to go to.”

           “I’ll keep that in mind,” I laughed. “What’s your name?”

           “Ida Clark, at your service,” she bowed deeply, gesturing to the side.

           “Well, if you are at my service, is there a possibility that you will be back at the Rainbow? I’ve never seen you here before,” I felt my rouged cheeks heat up more than they already had in the warm air inside the bar.

           “Of course,” Ida replied. “I normally only come on random days, but if you’re here, then I will be too.”

           Ida’s browned eyes brought out flecks of reddish gold as I smiled.


IDA
           The Rainbow Bar became a place that I frequented on a regular basis, each time scouring the barstools for any sign of Lottie.

           Sometimes she was there, most times she wasn’t. Rhonda began calling me her ‘lovesick puppy’ due to all of the baleful glancing around I would do. Jane tried to get me to dance with her, and on more than one occasion I turned her down. I did, however, teach her my spin move with all of the extra time I spent at the bar.

           The instances when my puppy eyes paid off were the most amazing days. My stomach would bounce the way Lottie’s curls would bounce, and I swore that my cheeks would be as red as my bow tie. Rhonda would side-eye me, and I would roll mine.

           “Ask her out already,” Rhonda griped.

           “I’ll get there,” I promised. “One day.”

           “Aye, ‘one day’,” Rhonda joked.

           The bell above the bar’s door rang out the arrival of a new person. Rhonda laughed as I faithfully pivoted toward it, and smiled because it was who I wanted it to be. Lottie grinned as she saw me at the bar, taking the stool beside me and accepting the glass Rhonda offered her. She downed half of it in one swallow.

           “It was a rough day at the hospital,” she gave as an explanation. “Want to dance?”

           I led her out to the dance floor, waving at Jane, who winked at me.

           “I have something that might make your day better,” I said. I took a breath. “Would...would you go on a date with me?”
           Lottie gave me her cute, shy smile.

           “I would love to,” she replied.

           “Saturday at seven?”

           “Saturday at seven.”

LOTTIE
           I didn’t go to the Rainbow Bar as often as I had wanted to, but Ida was always there when I did go.

           To me, it was obvious that she liked me; no other person who had ever liked me had been so loyal in my irregular comings to the bar, due to my uncontrollable schedule at the hospital. She was always cordial, yet warm when she talked to me, asked me questions, listening intently as though I held the answers to the universe in my responses.

           The bell above the bar’s door tinkled as I passed through the entrance. I heard Rhonda laugh, turning toward the sound and seeing who I wanted to see.

           I grinned as I saw Ida at the bar, taking the stool beside her and accepting the glass Rhonda offered me. I downed half of it in one swallow.

           “It was a rough day at the hospital,” I gave as an explanation. “Want to dance?”

           Ida led me out to the dance floor, waving at another girl in a dark dress, who winked conspiratorially at Ida.

           “I have something that might make your day better,” Ida said. She took a breath, her eyelids fluttering closed like a butterfly, her eyelashes the marvelous wings of the beautiful creature. “Would... would you go on a date with me?”

           I smiled, knowing that the flush in my cheeks was getting brighter by the second.

           “I would love to,” I replied.

           “Saturday at seven?”

           “Saturday at seven.”


IDA
           The evening air was cool as I pressed the doorbell on Lottie’s front porch.

           She opened the red door with a wide smile, her dress and curls twisting around her body, stepping out onto the concrete to join me.

           “Hi,” she said breathlessly.

           “Hi,” I said back. “You look beautiful.”

           Lottie’s cheeks pinkened, just as I knew they would, as she mumbled a shy thanks. I offered my arm to her, as a gentleman would, and led her to the car waiting in the driveway.

           “It’s my brother’s car,” I explained. “So if he calls, we’re having a girl’s night out and not a date. Not that I don’t like you, he just doesn’t know and I would prefer to keep it that way.”
           “I completely understand,” Lottie nodded, sliding into the passenger’s seat after I opened her door.

           The roads were less crowded than I expected for the time of day, and we made it to the park in record time. I pulled a picnic basket out of the back, and Lottie refused to let me carry the checkered blanket too, grabbing it and setting it out under a willow tree while I unpacked the basket.

           The sunlight on the park’s lake skipped over the undulating waves as the sun set, wreathing everything in a halo of golden light. Lottie’s spiraling  blonde hair looked almost transparent.

           I looked around. We were the only ones in the park.

           “Can I kiss you?” I asked quietly.

           Lottie’s only answer was her soft lips on mine.


LOTTIE
           With four girls living in the same house and working at the same hospital, visitors were fairly frequent. It also made tempers run high sometimes, so when the doorbell pinged out its familiar sound, I was quite happy to get out. I rushed down the stairwell, running my pinky over my lips at the same time.


I opened the red door with a wide smile, my dress and curls twisting around my body, stepping out onto the concrete to join Ida.

           “Hi,” I said, a combination of running down the stairs and Ida’s beauty making my voice sound breathless.

           “Hi,” she said back. “You look beautiful.”

           I swore that my smile couldn’t get any bigger, but I felt my cheeks hurt more anyways. I took the arm that Ida offered me, and she led me to the car waiting in the driveway.

           “It’s my brother’s car, so if he calls, we’re having a girl’s night out and not a date. Not that I don’t like you, he just doesn’t know and I would prefer to keep it that way.” Ida opened the passenger side door for me to climb into.

           “I completely understand,” I said, nodding my head. I had told my housemates something similar.

           The roads were less crowded than expected for the time of day, and we made it to the park in record time. Ida pulled a picnic basket out of the back, and I refused to let her carry the checkered blanket too, so I grabbed it and set it out under a willow tree while Ida unpacked the basket.

           The sunlight on the park’s lake skipped over the undulating waves as the sun set, wreathing everything in a halo of golden light. The wisps of black-brown hair wafting around Ida’s head burned red in the dying sun.

           Ida looked around. We were the only ones in the park.

           “Can I kiss you?” she asked quietly.
          My only answer was my lips on her sweet ones.


IDA
           Every spare moment of time was spent with Lottie.

           I learned that she loved Sinatra-- just not when Marty played it constantly. She loved her job as a nurse because she loved helping people get better, and she loved the way I danced, carelessly and freely, spinning my way to her heart. We spent a fair amount of time at the Rainbow Bar-- one time, Rhonda had brought her camera with her, and the photo she took of Lottie and I was stuck on my apartment wall-- and I would walk Lottie home from the bar every night, making sure she was okay through the rougher parts of town with their back alleys and sewer rats. That late at night, the only people out were those who were very drunk, and being able to hold Lottie’s hand through those streets was a wonderful occasion.

           After years of begging my brother to let me be a financier at his firm, he had finally relented. Lottie and I had gone to the bar to celebrate, and now, under the midnight moon, we were passing through the old section of town, where the streets were rarely traveled due to potholes, and half of the lights were out; the other half were all yellow and the plastic casing was cracked.

           “Do you work tomorrow morning?” I asked her, pausing at the mouth of an alley.

           “No.”

           “Good,” I said, pulling her into the empty alley. Lottie giggled.

           I pushed her back against the alley’s brick wall, feeling her kitten-soft hair between my fingers. Her smile flitted across her face as I leaned in towards her, feather-soft skin touching silk flesh.

           A dog barked in the dim streetlight, and a heavy voice yelled at it to stop. Sirens wailed across the city, ebbing and flowing from loud to soft. Footsteps and muffled voices sounded on the concrete sidewalks.

           “What was that,” Lottie whispered.

           “It was nothing,” I whispered back, making our noses touch.

            Then there was a beam of light outside the alley.

           Our bodies sprung apart, hands grabbing at each other as we ducked behind a dumpster farther down the alley. The flashlight swept over the alley, reflecting back to illuminate the shiny badge the man wore proudly on his lapel.

           “Eh,” the policeman grunted. “Probably just a stray cat.”

           “That was close,” I loosed the breath I hadn’t known I was holding. “That was real close.”

           Lottie nodded, her clear eyes still wide and scared, her face bloodless. I moved to take her hand, to comfort her the way we both needed to and--

           “We can’t-- we can’t do this,” Lottie said, gently pushing me away from her. She wouldn’t look me in the eyes, tiny droplets of water slipping down her cheeks.
           I knew what she meant. She could lose everything, and so could I. I would lose the possibility of getting a real job with my brother’s financing firm, and any credibility I would have in any sort of social transaction would be destroyed.

           “You-- you need to be successful. I can’t let you bring yourself to rubble because of me,” she continued.

           “You won’t--” I tried to rebut her, but she paused me with her hand.

           “I will,” her voice was emphatic. “Ida, you need to be successful. You have too much talent in your mind to let it be destroyed. We can’t-- we can’t be together if we want us to get to where we both know we want to be.”

           Lottie’s pretty-in-pink lips twisted into a rueful smile.

           “Goodbye, Ida,” she whispered. “I loved you.”

           Loved. Past tense. Stretching my hand toward her as she left, wanting to make it present tense instead.

LOTTIE
           Ida filled my life, going to the drive-in, the diners, and of course the Rainbow Bar. She would walk me back from the bar each time we went, because she said that her “masculine attire” would “protect her more”. While I didn’t disagree with her, I also didn’t completely agree with her. A woman wearing a three-piece suit-- and not “properly” at that-- wasn’t the most celebrated thing. She said it would also help her earn a place at her brother’s side-- I was adamant that it would never help me get my medical degree. Rhonda had taken a photo of Ida and I at the bar one day, and its new home was next to my bedside, reminding me every day of the strength she had.

           Ida had received news that she had waited years for, so to congratulate her, I suggested that we go to the bar. Since then, the sun had set, and the crumbling brick and mortar of the older parts of town shone in the shadows as Ida and I walked hand in hand down the fractured sidewalk.

           “Do you work tomorrow morning?” Ida asked me, stopping in front of a streetlight, illuminating an adjacent alley.

           “No.”

           “Good.”

           Ida guided me into the alley as I laughed quietly, gently backing me against the cooling brick, one hand sliding into my ringlets and cupping the back of my head. The corners of my mouth turned upward for a micro-moment, my breath catching in my lungs as she leaned in and kissed me.

           A dog barked in the dim streetlight, and a heavy voice yelled at it to stop. Sirens wailed across the city, ebbing and flowing from loud to soft. Footsteps and muffled voices sounded on the concrete sidewalks.

           “What was that,” I whispered.
           “It was nothing,” Ida whispered back, touching noses with me.

           Then there was a beam of light outside the alley.

           Our bodies sprung apart, hands grabbing at each other as we ducked behind a dumpster farther down the alley. The flashlight swept over the alley, reflecting back to illuminate the shiny badge the man wore proudly on his lapel.

           “Eh,” the policeman grunted. “Probably just a stray cat.”

           “That was close,” Ida released the breath she had been holding. “That was real close.”

           I nodded, still shaken. In that moment, I saw my life, my future, destroyed. No nursing, no job, no house, no money, no love. All of it gone, because of a simple desire, and I realized that neither of us would survive. Ida reached a hand out--

           “We can’t-- we can’t do this,” I said, gently pushing Ida away from me. She deserved better, and had so many more dreams than she could do in a full lifetime. “You-- you need to be successful. I can’t let you bring yourself to rubble because of me.”

           “You won’t--” Ida started. I held up my hand again.

           “I will,” I argued. “Ida, you need to be successful. You have too much talent in your mind to let it be destroyed. We can’t-- we can’t be together if we want us to get to where we both know we want to be.”

           I gave her a wistful smile.

           “Goodbye, Ida,” my heart mourned. “I loved you.”

           I thought I saw her reach for me as my heels clicked out of the alley.


2019


Dear Ida,                                                                                                                                                                                  6/7/72
           I thought you would want to know that after all these years, I got my doctorate in medicine. The hospital I used to work at closed, but there’s a new one down on West Street that just opened up, and its main goal is to work with orphaned children, so I’m thinking of applying for a job there.
           When I think of the happiest times of my life, I think of you. Remember when we used to go to the creek every Sunday with Marty and his boy, and we would tease Marty about his old obsession with Frank Sinatra? And then we would have a picnic by the water, always being quiet, just in case something happened? You would pick me up and swing me around, and I’d complain about my dress coming up, but you would tell me to wear a suit like you, and I’d refuse, telling you that I could never look as good in a suit as you did? But then you’d do your spin move you were so fond of, and somehow I’d be kissing you.

           Why couldn’t we just say it? Both of us? It was clear that we loved each other, that we weren’t happy with what we decided. Why didn’t we see it then? Why did we have to let the other think that this was what was best for us?

           Not a day goes by that I don’t wish that I had said something, that I hope that you will see that this is all an act, all a facade meant to make other people happy, but not you, and definitely not myself. They say now that the 1950s was an era of hyper-conformism, and looking back on those times, I can see the efforts we made to hide ourselves from society. I think that they’re right. Had we grown up in a different, more modern age, would this have happened to us?

           I like to think that it wouldn’t have, but thinking that doesn’t get us anywhere. Perhaps in our next lives we will find each other again, and we can live the life together that we never had.


           Love you lots,
           Lottie



Dear Lottie,                                                                                                                                                                               6.7.72
           Joseph had to close his financing company last month. I’ve been searching for new jobs, but no one seems to want to hire an older suit-wearing woman, even though the times have changed dramatically and it isn’t as much social taboo.

            It’s in those times that I remember all of the times you would come in to the bank to put something in your vault. They are the happiest memories that I have, and I wish I could travel
back and bring us both home.

           You have always known that I will suffer anything with a smile on my face if it made you happy. Why then, did you let me suffer if it did not make you happy? Why did we say that we would be more successful and happier in society if we were not together? Why did we not realize that neither of us were happy? I wonder if perhaps my eagerness to make you happy played some part in that. I hope that is the case, for the other options make me more lonely than I care to admit.

          I wish I hadn’t played my part so well. I wish you could’ve seen the way I was hurting, and I wish I had seen the distance with which you played your part as well. My husband and I separated recently. There were no ill feelings, just instances where we felt the other didn’t love them. I’m surprised it took him this long to figure out that I had never loved him.

           I hope that when we grow older and die, we can see each other again.
           With all my love, Ida

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​​With All My Love, Ida

​By: Lauren Hentz

​​​

East Fork:

A Journal of the Arts​​