Chapter 13: Thanksgiving THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1960, MCGINTY RESIDENCE, CHICAGO, IL Beth was ready to go, the next morning when Al called her. He also asked her to bring her packed bags when she came. Al wanted to get the earliest start possible, and he didn't mind sleeping on the pullout couch in the living room. When Beth arrived, there were several other cars parked in front of the McGinty residence. Doris had mentioned that there would be other guests for dinner. Al was waiting for her on the front steps. He was wearing his uniform, as a special favor to Doris, who had specifically asked him to wear it. She waited until she was on the porch with him before asking, "How'd it go last night?" He knew what she meant. "Fine. She went to her room and didn't come out until this morning." Al wore a puzzled frown. "She's been giving me the cold shoulder since." Beth didn't know what to make of it. She was sure she hadn't misread Maureen, and she didn't think Al was lying to her. In light of what Maureen had done, Al wasn't likely to forgive her. Beth nodded, also puzzled. She handed him the keys. "The tank's filled, windows are cleaned, and the oil's checked. The station attendants nearly tripped over themselves to help me." She grinned. "I didn't have the heart to tell them, it was my boyfriend's car." Al smiled, and leaned forward to kiss her, picking up where they had left off the night before, when she heard a polite cough behind her. Beth turned to look as Al said, "You must be the Harpers. Doris told me to keep an eye out for you." The couple who stood on the path looked no older than twenty, and the young woman was obviously pregnant. "Sydney Harper. And this is my wife, Beatrice. I just started working for Mr. McGinty." "Al Calavicci," he replied, extending his hand to the couple. "I went to school with Maureen." He turned to Beth. "And this is Beth Townsend." Pointing out that she was his girlfriend was unnecessary, given the scene that they interrupted. "Where did you park?" Al asked, after the pleasantries were dispensed with. "I didn't see the car pull up." "Hyacinth's driveway." Al shook his head, as he opened the door for them. "I keep telling Don he needs to cut down that hedge, especially since Hyacinth's all alone." The hedge that bordered Don and his neighbor's properties, obscured the view of the anyone standing on his porch. Doris was waiting in the foyer. "Now, we are all here." She took everyone's coats and herded them into the living room for further introductions. Another couple, Harvey and Rose Carmichael, had much in common with the Harpers. Both were young, newly employed, with no family in the area. They had an infant son, Harvey, Jr. Maureen was speaking with another young lady who was introduced to Beth as Hannah Young. She was the new receptionist at the office Maureen worked in. She, too, was new to the area. The last person Beth was introduced to was the elderly, widowed, neighbor lady, Hyacinth Scott. She was the only other person who met Al before that morning. "She's a lovely young lady, Al," Hyacinth said to him. She turned to Beth. "He's been telling me all about you." Beth glanced at Al. That would explain Maureen's behavior. If Al had spent most of the morning talking about her, in Maureen's presence, she was bound to be touchy. Don rounded up the men, and Al reluctantly disappeared into the den. Rose, Beatrice, Maureen, and Hannah fussed over Harvey, Jr. Doris had disappeared into the kitchen. Beth was about to see if she needed any help, but realized that Hyacinth would be all alone. Hyacinth was glad for the company, and talked about her children and grandchildren, none of whom had come home for the holidays in a number of years. This immediately made Beth think about Gran. She was feeling guilty about abandoning her on Thanksgiving Gran had been thrilled, when she learned of Beth's plan, and Beth suspected that she was hoping something came of the relationship with Al. Though Grace Townsend would never pressure her granddaughter into marriage, just for the sake of it, she also did not what her to be alone. Hyacinth talked nearly an hour, when Doris joined them. Both ladies pulled out their crochet. The conversations, lead by Doris, now included the other women. Doris gave out motherly advice to the new, and the expectant, mothers. Then Doris turned her attention to Hannah for awhile. Maureen, Beth observed, avoided speaking to her. She also avoided looking at Beth. Doris made a move to check on dinner. Beth stood up and said, "I'll go check, Doris." It was the opening Beth was looking for. On her way to the kitchen, she ran into Al, heading for the downstairs powder room. "Meet me on the back porch in five minutes. I'll get your coat," she said. Al nodded and Beth checked on dinner. She told Doris and the others, "I'm going out back for some air and a cigarette. The turkey should be at least another forty-five minutes." No one noticed that she pulled two coats from the closet, or that she took Al's cap from the telephone stand. Outside, mounted in the middle of the yard, was a porch swing. Someone, Don most likely, had cleared the flagstone path to the swing, and removed the snow from the seat. Al, buttoning his coat, saw what she was looking at and said, "Don and Doris like to come out here everyday and sit on that swing." "Sounds like a good idea. Doris is talking about diaper rashes and blind dates," Beth told him, taking his hand as they cross the yard. "I felt a little left out, though I'm sure Doris wasn't doing it intentionally. After all, I'm not her only guest." "Don and the others starting talking shop, so I know what you mean. Harvey and Sydney did ask a lot of questions, before, about my job." The swing was dry, but Beth was thankful for the length of her coat. They sat in silence, holding hands and swinging, each lost in thought. After a few minutes, she reached over with her free hand and touched his cheek. He jumped, startled. "You were miles away just then," Beth commented, half turning on the seat, facing him. "Not really," he replied, also turning. "I was thinking about you." Beth studied him. "Al, remember the birthday party for JP? Do you remember that I was upset?" "Yes, I do. I've been trying to figure out why since." "Well, you did something that hurt me that night." Al thought hard, with a puzzled frown. "I'm sorry, I don't know what I did," he confessed sincerely. "Did I step on your foot? Did I not compliment you enough on how good you looked it that dress?" Beth had to laugh. "You told me many times how much you loved that dress on me." She turned serious again. "Give up?" He sighed and said, "Whatever it was, I did it unintentionally, and I'm sorry. I won't do it again." Sincere and honest. Beth shook her head. "It was something you did unconsciously. It's a habit, and you have done it over and over again since that night. But I'm okay with it now." Al stared at her more confused, if that was possible, then before. "Flirting," she explained. "You do it so naturally, so innocently even, that you don't always realize it. I've seen you flirt with a variety of women, regardless of the age or marital status." She paused. "But the night of the party, when I saw you with those . . .debutantes, it nearly broke my heart. The only thing that save it, was George, who reminded me that it was nothing but a habit and you would be back by my side in less than ten minutes. He was right." Realization dawned. "Beth, honey," he started to say, but she cut him off, gently. "Don't apologize, Al. Just be more careful, please. I just don't want you actions to misconstrued by a third party, Al. I know, now, it's a habit, but....." She trailed off, and touched his cheek again. "Someone could get the wrong idea," Al supplied, "and blow the whole thing out of proportion. It could get me into trouble and end up hurting you." Beth nodded, and sighed. He understood. "Anyway, I was hurt and couldn't bring myself to--" She stopped, abruptly, realizing what she was about to say. "To what?" Al prompted, gently. She looked into his eyes. "To say that I love you, Al." Al was absolutely still for several seconds. He leaned forward. Just before their lips met, he whispered, "I love you, Beth." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The last of the guests had left. Doris was finishing up in the kitchen, and Don was asleep in the den. Maureen handed Al some sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. "Goodnight," she said to them. She paused on her way up to her room. "Since I won't see you in the morning, I'll say goodbye now. Nice meeting you, Beth." That was the most she had said to either of them all day. All through dinner, she spoke to them only if she needed something passed, and during the card games, only if it was in reference to a turn. Finally alone since before dinner, Beth sat down next to Al on the couch. He slid an arm around her. "I really like this couple, Al. They open their home to others. I'm really glad we came." Al smiled, loosening his tie. "Me, too. I just wish. . ." Beth knew what he meant. Maureen. "I bet Doris will set her alarm and have breakfast on the table for us." "You'd win." "Is there anyway to stop her?" "Knock her senseless." "Al!" "Just so she'd sleep to noon," he replied, innocently. They were quiet for a moment. "When did you first realized that you loved me?" Al asked suddenly. "You mean, when did I first admit it to myself? I think I was in love with you almost from the beginning, but it wasn't until August that I admitted it to anyone. And you?" "The same. I told George how I felt about you, that morning he took you to breakfast." Beth looked up at him, startled. "I told him, at breakfast." They were quiet again. Beth was beginning to feel sleepy. She rested her head on his shoulder, and closed her eyes. She was close to sleep when Al spoke again. "I know why you didn't say anything sooner, but you haven't asked me why I hadn't." Beth smiled. "You're afraid of your past, like me." "You know me so well," he murmured. "Most women would have gone off the deep end, because of what I did, but not you." She lifted her head to look at him. "Al, you never denied your behavior, and I knew those things about you before we even met. Yes, some would say I'm being too tolerant. If we love each other, we have to learn to work through our differences." He was silent, thoughtful. Beth continued. "Al, I know what you want from me. I know that you what me to sleep with you. You've never actually come out and asked me, but I know that's what your intentions are." She paused, searching his face for a denial. Finding none, she continued. "You've accepted my hesitation without rejecting me, and you've been so patient. So many men out there wouldn't be as accommodating." He studied her face, understanding. "I've always believed that both partners had to be willing. It wouldn't be much fun, you know," he said in a low voice, "if you weren't comfortable with it." From the look in his eyes, there was no way Beth could mistake his meaning. She felt herself blush. "It's not to say that I don't want to," she started to say. "I know, Beth," he said, gently. She stifled a yawn. Reluctantly, she stood up. He didn't try to stop her. "I think I should turn in." Beth looked back down at Al. "Since you're doing the driving, why don't you sleep in the guest room?" Al looked up at her, amazed. In light of the conversation they just had, Beth realized how that sounded. "Alone." He chuckled. "Something told me that's what you meant." Al looked at the couch and then back up at her. "No. I'll be fine." Beth leaned down and kissed him. "Good night, Al." "Remember, 0500 hours sharp." "See if you can talk some sense into Doris before she goes to bed." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * It wasn't fair. Maureen sat on her window seat and listened to the guest room door close. Last night, Maureen had looked out the window and had witnessed the parting kiss between Al and Beth. She also spied them kissing on the swing in the backyard. She had tried to convince herself that she had been mistaken in August. >From the moment Maureen set eyes on the couple, she could no longer deny that Al was in love with that nurse. The way he looked at her, the way he talked about her, the way he said her name. It set Maureen's teeth on edge. But he wasn't sleeping with her. She was sure of that. If he was, why the separate rooms? Why was he sleeping on the couch, while she spent the night in the guest room? This confused Maureen. It was obvious that Beth wasn't immune to his charm, and she knew Al well enough to know that he wanted Beth. Everything had worked out in their favor, and they weren't acting upon it. This was Al, after all. Maureen had expected him to leave last night, and instead he stayed with them. And this evening, well, if he didn't go with Beth the night before when they had complete privacy, it wasn't likely that he was with her now. For someone obviously in love, he was acting as if he and Beth were nothing more than good friends. Beth. Maureen couldn't see anything special about her. Oh, she had a nice porcelain complexion, beautiful brown eyes, and a warm friendly smile, but she wasn't what Maureen considered a great beauty. Some might say she was pretty or lovely, maybe even wholesome or sweet. What Al saw in her, she'd never know. Al could've been hers, should've been hers, if he had stayed in Chicago like she wanted. Instead, he had to be stubborn and insisted on attending Annapolis. She tried to reason with him, but he wouldn't hear of it. *And now some Georgia peach has stolen him,* she thought bitterly. It just wasn't fair.