"Wonderfully Written, Great Characters & Storyline!"
--Amazon 5-Star Review
Thursday, June 19, 1958
When the telephone in the living room rang, Susannah Pollard forced her eyes open from a pleasant deep sleep. A glance at her bedside clock radio told her it was only six in the morning. Who would be calling her this early? Not Edward. He’d left her apartment only a few short hours ago.
Probably a wrong number. After the ringing stopped, she rolled to her other side. However, as she drifted back asleep, the telephone summoned her again. Could her parents be calling from Hickory Valley? Surely not, because they planned to arrive tomorrow. Susannah burrowed deeper into her pillow and smiled once the phone went quiet.
When the telephone beckoned her a third time, she threw back the covers, stomped into the living room, and grabbed the receiver. “Hello!”
“Susannah, I hope I didn’t wake you. I knew you’d be up getting ready to go to work.”
It was Jack, her very recent fiancé until yesterday, when she’d returned his engagement ring at dinner. Obviously, he didn’t know their boss had told her not to return to the firm, deciding their breakup wouldn’t be best for the office environment.
“Yes. I hardly slept at all last night. I’m calling to give you a chance to change your mind. Please say you’ll marry me.”
Susannah exhaled a deep breath, hoping to stay calm. “Jack, I told you last night I loved someone with all my heart before I met you. So, therefore, I don’t have any love left to give you.”
“But I still love you. I want to marry you.”
“You deserve better than what I can offer you.”
“I’ll be happy with whatever you give me.”
“No, Jack, we couldn’t be happy together because I’d be thinking of my first love even when I’d be with you. Soon you’d discover this, and then you’d be unhappy.”
“I wouldn’t be unhappy. I love you enough for the both of us.”
She pressed a palm against her temple to settle the beginning of a headache, but she might as well tell him so he’d hang up. “I’m marrying someone else.”
“What?! You’ve met someone since dinner last night?”
How much should she tell him? “No, Jack, I’m marrying my first love.”
“Did you know that when you returned your ring to me?”
Her thoughts flew to Edward. “I knew I wanted to marry him. He proposed last night after you brought me home. I won’t be at the office anymore. It’s all settled, Jack. I told you last night I’m very fond of you, but I don’t love you. Please don’t call again.”
As she returned the phone to its cradle, she could hear Jack still talking.
Now fully awake, she collapsed onto the couch. She might as well stay up and get started on what she must do. Last night she told Jack she’d cancel all the wedding arrangements. And she also had to return the wedding gifts. So, after showering and dressing in blue jeans for the day, she sat at the small desk in her furnished apartment.
She couldn’t believe it! After making only two telephone calls, Susannah stared at the numbers she’d jotted down on her notepad. And she’d thought breaking off her engagement to Jack yesterday had been difficult!
Just now, on the phone, the florist and bakery had been unreasonable and rude. The wedding is scheduled for Saturday, ma’am. We cannot refund you at this late date, and you still have a balance you owe. Susannah had argued she’d given them enough notice to cancel her orders. We’ve already special-ordered and received the flowers you selected and have them in our cooler.
Next, when she phoned the bakery: The bakery has designed your cake and bought the bride and groom topper...No, ma’am, no refunds, and see that you promptly pay what you owe.
She’d only paid a deposit to the caterer and dreaded calling them. Would they demand payment of the balance even though she no longer needed their services? And what about the reservation for the rehearsal at Jack’s country club? Her bank account was not big enough to handle all this, and as of yesterday, she had no income.
Last evening, Jack mentioned if she incurred expenses when canceling the arrangements, he’d pay for them. But she wouldn’t call on Jack; she didn’t want to be indebted to him. And she’d already told him not to call again. So it would be wiser if they had no contact whatsoever.
Oh! She glanced around her apartment at the gifts placed on every available surface. How did one return wedding presents? She touched the golden oval locket at her throat. Mamaw, how do I get all this done? What am I supposed to do?
Finally, she rested her arms on the desk and laid her head down on them. She gave into her frustration, her blonde hair spilling onto the desk. She didn’t hear the knock at her door. Then, when the second knock sounded louder, she forced herself to answer it.
It was Edward, the man whose marriage proposal she’d accepted last night.
He took her into his arms and pushed the door closed with his foot. “Susannah, are you crying? What’s wrong? Has Jack been here? Did he hurt you?” She shook her head and clung to him. He led her to the couch, where his words calmed her.
“Now, tell me what’s got you so upset.”
“I told Jack yesterday I would cancel the wedding arrangements for Saturday and return all the wedding gifts…the florist and bakery won’t refund my money…I may have to pay for Jack’s country club ballroom—”
“Hey, slow down. Stop and take a deep breath.”
Susannah did as he said, with childlike obedience.
“Now, start again. Tell me what has upset you about canceling everything.”
She stared into his bright brown eyes. He wouldn’t understand—he was a successful lawyer and came from money. He’d never known what it’s like to live from paycheck to paycheck on a secretary’s salary.
“What do you mean? Money?”
Finally, she told him about not getting refunds and still owing money on the wedding instead. “I don’t have enough money to cover everything. Jack said he’d pay if I owed anything. But I don’t want to telephone him. And how am I supposed to return all these wedding presents?”
Edward went to the kitchen and returned with a glass of water. “Here, sip on this and try to relax.”
“Relax? I don’t have a job since yesterday, not much in the bank, and you want me to relax!”
He coaxed her into sipping the water. “Now, we’ll take things one at a time. Do you have a list of all the wedding presents and who gave them?”
“Okay, first, about the wedding gifts—my mother has a personal secretary she occasionally uses to help her with her social appointments. Give me the gift list, and I’ll take it, and these presents to Mother’s secretary. She’ll return them, observing all the required codes of etiquette.”
“You’d do that for me?”
“Of course. Now, concerning the money you need to come up with—don’t call Jack. I’ll take care of the expenses, so don’t concern yourself with money anymore.”
“Oh, no! Edward, you can’t pay for my mistakes.”
“Susannah, when I completed my project in Little Rock and returned to Knoxville last Sunday, I planned to do anything it took to get your forgiveness. I was stupid for choosing my career goals instead of continuing a relationship with you. You’ve incurred these expenses because I left you. If I hadn’t left town, you wouldn’t have dated Jack and become engaged to him. This whole mess is not the result of your mistakes but mine.”
She swiped at a tear. “It is?”
“Yes. And if I hadn’t found you on Monday and you hadn’t forgiven me last night, you’d still be marrying Jack on Saturday. So helping you with your money problems is the least I can do in return for your saying yes when I proposed.”
“Oh, Edward, I never stopped loving you while you were in Little Rock. Thank goodness you got back here when you did.”
He moved toward her across the couch and drew her close. “I never stopped loving you either. You were in my thoughts every day for six months while I was away, and I regretted leaving you.” He gave her a sweet kiss. “Now, let me help you get all these things straightened out.”
Edward pulled a chair from the kitchen to sit next to Susannah at her desk, and soon, she’d finished her telephone calls. Then, looking at her notes and clarifying which businesses needed paying, he made his own list. Finally finishing the tally, he stuffed the paper in a shirt pocket and stood.
“I’ll go take care of these right away. I have some errands I need to run. How about pizza pie at Rathskeller’s this evening?”
“Yes! I’d love that.” She followed him to her door, where he took hold of her shoulders.
“Promise me, you won’t get upset about anything else, and I’ll see you at six-thirty.”
He wrapped her in his arms and kissed her. “I could get used to this. I love you.”
She returned his kiss. “I love you too.”
Copyright 2023 Jo Huddleston