They wrote every day, the young flier and his college sweetheart. They had met the summer before through mutual friends in Atlantic City. She went back to school in Philadelphia. He went to Florida, where he learned to fly the fighters and bombers that would take him to Japan.
Dear Billy, I miss you a lot . . .
He gave her a gold bracelet which she wore on her thin wrist. It jangled against the cuff of her cashmere sweater when she wrote to him late at night, while her younger sisters were asleep and dreaming of soldiers and Glenn Miller songs and moonlight sonatas.
On the Motorola, a woman warbled, They're either too old or too young . . .
He asked her to wait for him. They would be married, have babies, live in the suburbs not far from where they both grew up. She would wait.
Every morning, the thin, air-mail envelope arrived. He told her about his flight training, his buddies and how, once he got out of there, he'd be killing the enemy -- not time.
She wrote about her family, how she got extra gas rations because her father was a doctor, how the college dances weren't much fun with all the 4-F boys in horn-rimmed glasses.
Will finish training next week . . . Be home for a few days before I leave. All my love, Billy.
She sat at the dinner table one night, chatting about clothes, the latest nail polish and the fact that she and Billy were not too young to get married.
The phone rang. It was for her. She walked to the small table in the hallway and picked up the black receiver. It was his sister calling. Billy was dead.
"But how? I don't believe it," she screamed. "He's coming home. He's supposed to come home first."
The night before Billy was to leave Florida, he had decided to take a plane up one more time. Nobody knew why -- whether it was a dare, or whether he was drunk. The plane crashed. They didn't know how it happened. It was just an accident.
The next day, her mother gathered all his letters and hid them somewhere. She also went out and bought her daughter the finest red fox chubby jacket to wear to Billy's funeral.
Several years later, she met another soldier and married him. They had four children and lived in a suburb not far from where they had both grown up.
One night, 35 years later, she told her daughter about the flier and the fox jacket and the letters. In the candlelight, she held a glass of champagne as tears streamed down her powdered cheeks. She had never stopped waiting.