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Chapter Three. DORIS stood in front of the mirror, an odd sense of excitement running through her




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  10. CHAPTER 11

DORIS stood in front of the mirror, an odd sense of excitement running through her. She nodded her head, pleased with what she saw. This dress was much better for her than the other

 

 

she had put on first. It made her appear older, somehow more mature, than the other. She was glad it had stopped raining so she could wear it. All her other dresses made her look like a kid.

She looked at the clock on the dresser. He should be here any minute now, she thought as she put on her hat. She had been disappointed when she hadn't seen him at the train, but Jane had explained that he was tied up with getting out the Wilson newsreel and she had accepted it. She had long since become used to the continuous pressures and self-induced deadlines that motion-picture people lived by. She felt better when she was told that he would take her to lunch and would pick her up at the hotel.

There was a knock on the door. "He's here," she thought, and started to run across the large room to the door. Half­way across the room she stopped suddenly. She turned and took a last look into the mirror and then finished her walk to the door slowly. "You're acting like a child," she told herself reprovingly as she put her hand on the knob and turned it slowly. But her heart was pounding away inside her.

It was almost as if someone else were opening the door, not her. She could see herself standing there, waiting. She could see him, the look on his face. The smile that was there when he first saw her. She could see the smile fade away as he looked at her, the look of wonder as it crossed his face, and then the smile reappearing again. Warm and admiring.

He held a bouquet of flowers in his hand. He had been prepared to see her as she had been; he had told himself that she had grown up, but inside him he hadn't believed it. He had been prepared to pick her up and swing her to him and say: "Hello, sweetheart," as he had so many times before, but now he couldn't. He saw her standing in the doorway, then stepping back a little into the room, a tinge of color in her cheeks, her eyes warm and lively with an inner excitement, her lips trembling slightly.

He stepped into the room and gave her the flowers.

She took them silently and their hands touched. It was as if a current had flowed between them, and his fingers tingled with a sense of shock. Their hands clasped and held.

 

 

"Hello, sweetheart," he said, his voice quiet and filled with the wonder he felt.

"Hello, Johnny," she answered. It was the first time she had ever called him by his name without the word "Uncle" before it. She suddenly was aware that their hands were still clasped. She drew her hand back self-consciously, more color flooding into her cheeks. "I better put these in water." Her voice was low.



He watched her intently as she arranged the flowers in a vase. She was partly turned away from him, so that her profile was visible to his gaze. The burnished coppery brunette of her hair shimmering against her fair, faintly flushed face, the eyes deep set and blue, set over high cheekbones, the mouth curved with corners soft, and the thin line of her cheek falling away to a firmly rounded chin.

She turned and saw him watching her. She gave a finishing pat to the flowers. "There, isn't that better?" she asked.

He nodded his head affirmatively. He was confused. He didn't know just how to talk to this suddenly assured young woman he had just met. His voice was puzzled. "I can't believe it. You've—"

She interrupted him with a laugh. "Don't tell me you were going to say how much I've grown. If I hear that once more, I'll scream."

He laughed with her, a little embarrassed at himself. "That's just what I was going to say," he confessed.

"I knew it," she said, walking over to him and standing in front of him looking up at his face. "But I can't understand why people always say it. Time won't stand still for me any more than it will for them. Of course I've grown up. You wouldn't want me to remain a child forever, would you?"

He began to feel better, more comfortable, more at ease. He looked down at her teasingly. "I don't know," he said. "When you were a kid I used to be able to pick you up and swing you in the air and kiss you and call you sweetheart, and you would laugh and we'd both think it a lot of fun. I couldn't do that now."

Her eyes were quickly grave. It was strange how quickly they could change color and grow dark. Her voice was even, though very quiet. "You could still kiss an old friend when you haven't seen her for almost four years."

 

 

He looked down at her for a moment, then bent his head toward bar. She tinned her face toward him. His lips met hers.



For a split second a sense of shock ran through him. In­voluntarily his arms went around her waist and drew her to him. Her arms went around his neck, holding his face close to her. He could taste the wine of her warmth flowing through her body to her lips and coming to him. He could smell the faint exciting young perfume of her hair in his nostrils. He looked at her face; her eyes had closed.

The thoughts ran through his mind like lightning: "This is crazy. Wait a minute, Johnny, she may look like a woman, but she's only a kid going to school away from home for the first time. A romantic kid. Don't be a fool, Johnny!"

He drew back suddenly. She buried her face against his shoulder. For a moment he let his hand run along the side of her face and then across her hair. They stood there silently for a moment; then he spoke. His voice was as grave as hers had been. "You have grown up, sweetheart. You're too big to play games with."

She looked up at him, her eyes suddenly dancing, her voice so young. A smile curved her lips. "Have I, Johnny?"

He nodded, his face still grave. He didn't speak; his mind was still trying to answer his own shocked question: "What's happened to me?"

She walked across the room to pick up her coat. When she turned back to him, there was something inside her that was singing. "He loves me, he loves me, even if he doesn't know it yet!" Aloud she said: "Where are we going for lunch, Johnny? I'm starved."

 

He sat there idling over his coffee, strangely reluctant to finish it and bring this luncheon to an end. They had been there almost two hours and yet it seemed to him only a few minutes. For the first time he had been able to talk about pictures to a girl who had felt the same about them as he did. He finished telling her about how the Wilson reel had worked out.

She had listened quietly and attentively as he spoke. She could feel the urgency and intensity in him as he spoke about motion pictures. What they had done up to now, what they were capable of doing in the future. This would have been shop talk to many, but it was home talk to her.

 

 

It was every­day language and living because she had heard so much of it in her own home.

But she had thought her own thoughts too. Of how he looked, the color of his hair and eyes, the shape of his face, the wide generous mouth and determined chin. The length of his body and the power of his stride. The strength in his arms as they had held her.

She was glad she had not been wrong. She had always loved him, and now she knew he loved her. It would take time for him to become aware of it. He had to accept her as grown up first, but she was willing to wait. An unknown warm content­ment seeped through her as she listened to his voice. It would even be fun to watch him become aware of it. A shadow of a smile crossed her lips as she thought about it. He was so good to love.

He finished his coffee and put down the cup. A rueful smile crossed his face as he took out his watch and looked at it. "I've got to be getting back to the office," he said; "I haven't spent so much time at lunch since we opened it."



She smiled back at him. "You should do it more often. It isn't good to always work so hard."

He began to get up. "It isn't often I find I can stay away from it so long. But today I didn't even feel like going back." Pie lit a cigarette. "I don't know why," he added reflectively.

She smiled at him. "I know why," she thought happily. She rose from her chair. "There are days like that. Days that you don't feel like doing anything," she said.

He put her coat across her shoulders. "I'll walk you back to the hotel," he said.

They passed the news-stand on the corner. The papers bore headlines: "Wilson Inaugurated! Pledges Peace!"

She turned to him, her voice serious. "Do you think he will keep his word, Johnny?"

He looked at her, surprised at the gravity in her tone. "I think he'll try his darndest, sweetheart. Why?"

"Papa is very unhappy about it. He still has relatives in Germany, you know. And there is that picture that Joe wants him to make."

"I know about it," he answered. "We spoke this morning. He's going to do it."

 

 

They walked a few more steps before she answered. He could see she was thinking. At last she sighed. "Then he's made up his mind."

Johnny nodded.

"I'm glad," she said simply. "At least he won't be tortured by all these doubts any more."

"That's right," Johnny said.

They had walked another few steps before another thought struck her. She stopped and faced him. "But if there is a war, Johnny, will you have to go?"

He looked at her, startled. He hadn't thought about it. "I suppose so," he said as first reaction; then: "That is, I don't know." He laughed quickly. "But there's no use in thinking about it now. When the time comes we'll know soon enough."

She didn't answer. She took his arm and silently they walked the rest of the way back to the hotel.

 


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