Dancing With Velvet

Dancing With Velvet by Judy Nickles Page A

Book: Dancing With Velvet by Judy Nickles Read Free Book Online
Authors: Judy Nickles
Tags: General Fiction
caught downtown some afternoon and couldn’t get home.
    The weather finally turned cooler in mid-October, and November brought the first frost of the season. She went to Sterling City for Thanksgiving. It was a quick trip, there and back in one day, because she had to be at work on Friday.
    After work that Friday, with her layaway paid out early, she used some of her savings to buy a new winter coat at Levine’s and wore it to church on Sunday. Mrs. Lowe told her she looked like a blooming rose in the bright red wool.
    The next week seemed to drag. Veda found a new roommate, which eased Celeste’s conscience, and the girls at the store began planning a going-away party for Paula. Mr. Thomas said they could use the employee lounge after work if Celeste would be responsible for locking up.
    She overslept the following Sunday and was almost late to church. She wondered if she was going because it was the thing to do, because she was enjoying her stylish new coat, or because it was simply a habit.
    Just after twelve, as the congregation began to exit the church, she sensed something wasn’t right. Several cars parked along the street had their radios turned on with the volume up louder than necessary. As she walked down Harris, she heard the words Pearl Harbor repeated over and over. Finally she stopped beside one of the cars to listen.
    “What does it mean?” she asked an older man leaning on an open car door.
    “It means we’re at war, little lady.”
    “War? Why?”
    “The Japs finally did it. They bombed our bases at Pearl Harbor.”
    “Where’s that?”
    He spat a brown stream of tobacco juice into the gutter. “Hawaii,” he said. “In the Pacific Ocean. Our boys are floating around in the Pacific Ocean like dead fish.”
    ****
    On Monday, Celeste sat in the office with Mr. Thomas and Marilyn and listened to President Roosevelt ask Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. She thought of Pete and hoped he’d be able to graduate from the university before he was drafted. Then she thought of Ben, hoping Coralee was right about him not having to go. And then she thought of Kent and knew he would.
    ****
    As the country geared up for war, Celeste threw herself into the local efforts by volunteering with the Red Cross on Saturday afternoons. When the small local airport became a bombardier training school, Mrs. Lowe and some of the other ladies in town decided that two bases warranted a Canteen for the servicemen who would be arriving to learn to fly or to drop their bombs with deadly accuracy.
    “We want nice girls, Celeste. Girls who remind the boys of their sisters and girlfriends back home. Girls that the married men, if there are any, can sit and talk to about their wives and children.”
    Celeste recruited Veda, whose brother had enlisted in the Marines the day after Pearl Harbor. “I can’t do anything for Bobby,” Veda said, “but maybe being nice to some of these other boys will help him somehow.”
    “I’m sure anything we can do will help all our boys,” Mrs. Lowe assured her. The day before the doors opened, she called in all the volunteers and laid down the rules.
    “This is their home away from home, so to speak. We’re going to have good food, good conversation, games, dancing, a place for them to write letters, listen to the radio, and read. Anything they need, we’re going to provide if at all possible.
    “What they don’t need—and neither do we as an organization—is any kind of activity that even hints at being improper. I’m not saying that you young ladies might not get interested in a serviceman and want to go out on a date, but you won’t do it from here. You don’t leave the Canteen with a serviceman at any time. He can pick you up at home like a gentleman. If you break the rules, you won’t be allowed back, and that would be a shame. We need all of you. We have to work together to win this war. If you keep that in mind, it shouldn’t be too hard to follow the

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