James Morgan never really believed in love. That is, until he laid eyes on Deborah Walker at the local soda fountain. He surprises himself by inviting her out for an impromptu night on the town, and she shocks him even more by agreeing. As the night progresses, the two share their past histories and secret dreams, and James realizes that she is the perfect woman for him. The only problem is that he ships off to Korea the next morning. Fulfilling his duty is non-negotiable to James, even if fighting for his country will ultimately break both of their hearts.
Deborah promises to wait for him, but two years is a long time to put her life on hold, especially for a man she only knew for one day. When Rip Rockwell returns from the war and James does not, Rip proposes marriage to Deborah. She agrees and they build a beautiful life together until his death fifty years later. Through it all, though, she can never quite forget her first love. She retires to Abilene, expecting to live out the rest of her days in peace. So imagine her surprise when James Morgan moves in next door…
Both lived lives full of love. Both lost their loves too early. Can James and Deborah form a new life together while cherishing their memories of those that still live in their hearts?
James raked his toes through the cleanly cut grass. Was this the last time he’d ever enjoy this sensation? Even if he came out of it with his life, he’d be a changed man. Better to enjoy the simple pleasures while he still could.
A powder blue Cadillac pulled into the driveway next door.
Tommy Morrison climbed out of the driver’s seat and swooped around to open the passenger side door for his lady friend, Diana. His face lit up when he spied James watching.
“Why, hello, James. Sure is a pretty day, in’t it?”
James smiled and nodded, unable to tear his eyes away as Tommy and Diana kissed right in the driveway for all of the neighborhood to see. He watched as Tommy whispered into her ear, and Diana kicked back her heel in that classic gesture of a woman in love.
It was Tommy’s last day of freedom as well. He too would ship off in the morning to answer his country’s call. Seemed he’d chosen a very different way to spend the evening.
Love was not something he believed in. Freedom though, now that was the real deal. And malted milk shakes in cool metal glasses—oh, how he’d miss those. Luckily, the local soda fountain was only a short walk into town. He’d have his fill, then return for his last comfortable night at home in his own bed, that’s what he’d do.
So he sprang to his feet and headed into town, making sure to pay especially close attention to how the birds chirped from the trees and how the shiny copper of an abandoned penny glistened in the sun, how freedom hung in the air like a fine perfume. He’d miss his country, but he’d also do anything to protect it from the Communist threat.
James pushed open the door to the soda shop, and a tiny bell jingled to greet him. “The usual,” he called back into the kitchen. “Plus add an order of French fries, will ya?”
He sat down at the bar to await his meal, his feet jiggling beneath him as they tip-tapped on the checkered linoleum floor.
Then the doorbells jingled again, and the most beautiful woman James had ever seen walked into the shop. The setting sun cast a warm glow on her skin and her eyes glistened even brighter than the copper of that penny. They were a darker shade of the same color, too. Her skirt swished around her calves as she made her way over to the counter and sat down beside James.
Maybe love was every bit as powerful as freedom after all.
Deborah felt the young soldier’s eyes fix on her the moment she entered the soda shop. Normally, she’d blush and try to get away, but the sign of his crisply pressed uniform hinted at a boy about to deploy in the fight for her liberties, and she knew better than to deny him the simple pleasure of looking at her, if that’s what he wanted to do.
Besides, he wasn’t so bad on the eyes himself, with the high apples of his cheeks and strong, angular jawline. He looked strong all over, from his jaw to his biceps, right down to the stern but welcoming expression he wore on his young, handsome face.
“The name’s Morgan, Airman First Class.” He stuck his hand out toward her in greeting.
“I’m Deborah. Thank you for serving, Morgan.” She smiled sweetly then buried her face in the menu.
“Actually, you should call me James, seeing as it’s my first name and all. Care to let me treat you to a malted milk? It would be an honor and a pleasure.”
She took a moment to size him up. Deciding he was harmless, she answered with “Strawberry, thank you.”
“Hey, that’s what I like too. In fact, mine only just came out from back. Take it.” He slid the chilly confection her way, and she graciously accepted.
“When do you ship off?” she asked, sucking in a mouthful of the delicious treat as she waited for his answer.
“So this is your last night stateside?”
He glanced toward the counter for a moment, then fixed his gaze on her with burning intensity.
“Come out on the town with me, Deborah. Let’s make a night to remember.”
Deborah smiled and stammered to buy herself some time. She’d only just turned seventeen, and she’d never gone steady with a boy before. But James wasn’t asking to go steady. He was just inviting her out for a wholesome night of fun. Who was she to deny him this small pleasure when he was willing to give so much to keep his fellow Americans safe and free?
James tapped his foot on the floor. A nervous twitch? His lips set in a straight line, and she could tell he was forcing himself to keep his mouth shut and let her answer when she felt good and ready.
Well, heck, he seemed like a nice enough fellow. What could one night hurt?
“Okay,” she said at last. “Let’s hit the town.”