Valentine's Days, Past and Present

Author's Note:  Written for Germansoulmate, for her pledge to Help_Haiti.



(Setting: Pittsburgh; Valentine’s Day, 2006; POV/Rose O’Keefe)

“Julie, hand me that notebook over there – no, not the blue one – the gray one, that’s it, child. I don’t know what I’d do without you to help me.”

My Mark’s second girl, Julie, named for our Matt’s lost darling, had the best traits of both her parents. She beamed under my approving gaze and leaned up for my kiss before going back to what had to be a boring task for a young, pretty girl like her, sorting pieces of cloth for another of my quilts. But I was telling the truth when I said I’d never be able to manage without her. I could still do the designing and the fine needlework, but the heavier work involved in making a patchwork quilt – that was beyond me now. I really didn’t see how I was ever going to get Jamie’s quilt done, much less Danny’s, unless I gave in and asked my daughters for help.

And that would bring questions I really didn’t care to answer, especially if they saw what I was doing with Danny’s quilt. Better I struggled on as best I could with young Julie’s help and left it to the Lord to send the help I needed when the time came, I decided.

The sound of a slamming door and feet on the stairs told me my Angel boy had arrived.

“Your Uncle Danny is here, lass. Let’s hide this from his view.” I started to bundle the bits of cloth away.

Julie laughed. “How can you tell it’s him? Maybe it’s Jamie, or Joey, or....”

It was my turn to laugh. “No, you won’t be hearing any two of my boys coming up those stairs the same way,” I told her as my Danny came flying into the room.

“Mama! Look at you, working away when it’s Valentine’s Day! You’re supposed to be over at the spa, getting pampered and polished for our big date tonight!”

“You shouldn’t waste your hard-earned money on such silly things as a spa day for an old woman,” I scolded him. He just laughed and hugged me tight, scattering my quilting materials hither and yon. Ah well, the time spent picking them up would be worth it – I’d not pass up a single one of my Angel boy’s hugs, I thought, even though I scolded him for that too. As I looked at his sheepish smile while he bent with Julie to pick up all that he’d caused me to drop, I had to wonder if ever there was a man as beautiful as my Danny. He just glowed with his good health and charm, but besides that, his face really was like that of an Angel, combining all the best of the other’s features. I know that a lot of people thought my fourth boy, John, was the handsomest of my seven sons, but I’d take the warmth of Danny’s beauty over John’s cold perfection anyday. I laughed to myself – such thoughts for a mother to have.

“Well, you seem happy enough,” Danny remarked, folding his legs up like a pretzel to sit on the floor as he used to do as a boy. “For a lady who disapproves of her Valentine’s Day gift and her clumsy Valentine, that is.” His dimples were never so deep as when he was teasing me, I thought. I rapped him on the head with a knitting needle that was close at hand. He yelped and pretended to be hurt. Like anything could hurt him, with all those muscles, I thought proudly.

“I loved my present – and gave the spa day to Mary Frances – Lord knows she could use it more than me, and Liam isn’t ever going to treat her like that!” Danny’s face darkened for a moment before he could get it back to the sweet expression he tries to show his Mama. I shook my finger at him.

“Now don’t you scold me. It was a present to me, wasn’t it?” He nodded reluctantly. “Well, once you gave it to me, it became mine to do with as I wished and I got much more pleasure out of giving it to Mary Frances than I would have had in going there to be poked and prodded by strangers. Of course, that was before I realized that you thought your old Mama wasn’t pretty enough to go out to dinner with you just the way I am.”

Julie giggled at Danny’s expression. I winked at her, which made her laugh all the harder. 

Danny leaned back on his heels and folded his arms over his chest. “Ah, so you’re just having fun at my expense, are you? Of course I think there is no woman can hold a candle to me own sweet Mama. But...if you had said something,” he said sternly, “I would have been happy to get Mary Frances a gift certificate too, so you could go together. Mary Pat too....”

At that, Julie collapsed into laughter onto the floor, and Danny’s attempt at looking stern fell apart, as he joined her.

“You’d have to tie her up first,” Julie gasped.

“No good,” Danny shook his head, the long hair flying. “As soon as they untied her feet and hands to do the mani and pedi she’d book. But it does present a funny mental image, doesn’t it?”

Time to call a stop to their antics, even if I couldn’t completely repress my own smile at the idea of my tomboy setting foot in one of those fancy spas.

“No laughing at someone for having better things to do with her time than worry about her nails, for pity’s sake. She is much too busy taking care of patients, and I am sure they are too thankful for her kind heart and capable hands to worry about whether those hands have a fancy manicure on them.”

Danny and Julie looked properly ashamed. I smiled and nodded to Julie.

“That’s enough work for today, love. Why don’t you run downstairs and get yourself a piece of cake before you go home?”

“I’d like a piece of cake,” Danny said hopefully.

“You can wait for your piece; I want to talk to you for a bit. Go on now, Julie. And thank your Mother for letting you watch Briana for me tonight, a school night and all.”

“It’s no problem at all, Mama Rose. Daddy said he’ll run her back over here in the morning. Have fun tonight. Love you!”

She kissed me and hugged her uncle, who slipped a card into her back pocket. He’s too generous with his nieces and nephews – he’d be broke if I didn’t keep an eye on him! He saw me frowning at him and lifted his hands in an innocent gesture as soon as Julie left the room.

“It was nothing – just a little gift card! A person would think I was living on the edge of poverty to listen to the way you nag me about wasting money.”

“I don’t nag!” I was indignant.

“You do, you’re a terrible nag. I begin to think I’m not your favorite,” he teased, that wicked boy.

I lifted my chin and said, “I don’t have favorites, I love all my children the same.”

He whooped at that, and then he gave me one of his bear crushing hugs. I buried my head against his chest, reveling in how my tiniest baby had grown into this strong, graceful man – so much my rock since my Patrick had passed on. He lifted my chin and looked at me, his green eyes soft.

“Of course you don’t have favorites, Mama, but you’re my favorite girl – and my favorite valentine this year. So tell me truly, why didn’t you want your gift and what would you like in its place? Anything you want, it’s yours.”

I knew that Danny meant it, and no matter what I named, he’d do his best to give it to me. Hadn’t he given up his glamorous life in New York to move back home with Briana and me, since Patrick and Angel were gone? I stroked his cheek lovingly. I wished this child of mine would find happiness.

“What I would like, Angel boy, is to have a lovely night of dinner and dancing, just the two of us. Maybe at the Westin? Did you know your old friend Sam has been playing there? He’s quite a favorite with the ladies. But he tells me he needs to find someone to cover for him two weekends from now. I don’t suppose you know of anyone who could do that, do you?”

“Mama, you are so transparent,” he laughed. “And of course I would do anything for Sam. I’ll cancel our reservations at Maurice’s and take you to the Westin if that is what you’d like better. But you don’t fool me. You’ve got some ulterior motive. What is it?”

“Oh, I can’t tell you that,” I said, tossing my hair and smiling, “it might not work if you know to expect it.”

“I swear, Mama, you’d have been burned at the stake if you’d lived two hundred years ago,” he teased.

“Not a bit of it,” I told him. “My brawny boys would have rescued me before my skirts got scorched. Now, you go down and eat your cake and I’ll see what I can do about making myself pretty enough to be your date.”

“You’re already pretty enough. But maybe you can find something to wear with this?”

Danny pulled a small velvet box from his jacket pocket. Opening it slowly, I found inside a lovely gold locket on a filigree chain – a truly beautiful piece. I opened the locket and clever thing that it was, it opened up to be a three sided locket inside. He’d already placed two pictures – my bonny boy Luke and my beautiful daughter Angel. The third spot was still empty. I looked up, my eyes teary. He knelt next to me, and held me close.

“I left the third spot for Dad, but didn’t know whether you’d want one of him when you got married or one that was more recent or....”

I kissed his head. “It is a beautiful gift and I’ll treasure it. I know just the picture I’m going to put in the third spot.” I snapped it closed. “Now, off with you while I get ready. You don’t want to miss out on your cake, do you?”

Jumping up, he laughingly shook his head. “Horrible thought. Take your time. I’ve got to make a few calls to change our reservations, take my own shower and change, eat half a’re right, I’m the one who should hurry.”

With that, he was gone, as quickly as ever, just like when he was a child. Danny didn’t believe in walking and for the most part, he didn’t run either – my angel boy just unfurled his wings and flew. I patted my book for Danny’s quilt. It was going to be a very special quilt for my special boy. I’d chosen an angel’s wings as an overall theme for the quilt instead of one of the traditional themes. That was my boy, my Angel boy. He was getting discouraged, I knew. Afraid his dream would never come true, but it would. I knew it.

Just as I knew my oldest boy would find happiness again. I picked up my book for Matthew and looked at it again. There it was, the part I’d shared with Julietta when she’d been so worried about her family, how they would manage after she was gone. She was a rare woman, and such a good friend. She loved my Matt with a passion but hers was not a selfish love. She begged me to tell her that Matt would not be alone forever.

“He needs someone to love, Mama Rose,” she’d told me. “He wasn’t made for being with lots of women, like some of his brothers. He needs one woman to love and to love him. I want him to have that again when I’m gone. A woman to love and to laugh with. When she comes along, you need to make sure his brothers don’t let him be afraid to love again.”

Our Julie had a bit of the sight, I think. We’d looked each other in the eye and we hadn’t needed to say any more. We both knew what we didn’t say.


(Flashback to Valentine’s Day, 2000, POV/Rose)

My Matt sat on the floor next to me and cried. All I could do was stroke his thick hair and make soothing noises. My sitting room door was locked – no chance of any of the other children, or worse, Patrick, coming in. Patrick didn’t believe in boys crying. To see a man crying, especially his own eldest, the pride of his heart – it would flabbergast him. His was a silly attitude but I hadn’t been able to change him in over forty years of marriage and I certainly wasn’t going to worry about changing him now.

Matthew was my concern now. The poor boy had been so strong for so long but now, nearly to the end, he was breaking apart and I had to put him back together. Just enough so that he could be the big strong man he needed to be for his poor frail Julie and his little ones, God bless them. Losing their mother, it just wasn’t right, not right at all, and God was going to get an earful from me about this when I got through the pearly gates.

“She's just so thin, Mama, and she’s in pain, and there’s nothing I can do to make her better.”

“But you do, Matt, you do make her better.” I spoke with calm certainty, the voice of his Mama who had never steered him wrong. Not all of my children saw me as wise or even very smart, certainly not all of my girls did, but this child, my firstborn, did. He was special to me in a way that the others would never be because he was the one who suffered through all my girlish uncertainties and mistakes without ever losing faith. In that way, through trial and error, poor boy, he taught me to be a better mother. For him, the serious-eyed, somber boy that he’d been, I’d left behind the silly flirt who’d been the belle of three Counties back home in Ireland, and learned to be a good mother.

After not needing me for so long after being the head of his own family for so many years, (and to be frank, a second, kinder father to his younger brothers for even longer), these last difficult months with Julie’s illness had brought him back to me. He was my baby boy again, needing his mother’s comforting arms. I wished I could do more, take away his pain. But this, at least, I could give him.

“Your Julie needs you so much now, Matt, to be strong for her. She’s been so strong for all of you, and she’s fought so hard, but now, you have to give her permission to let go. Let her know that you’ll take care of those blessed children she’s given you, that you’ll help the little ones remember her, and that the grandbabies will be taught her Italian, and about how special she was. No one wants to be forgotten.”

“Forgotten, oh God, Mama, I can’t live without her,” he cried hoarsely, and I felt as though my heart was going to break right along with his. My tears were falling down my cheeks but I ignored them.

“No, you will not tell her that, Matt. You will tell her you love her and that she is the most beautiful girl in the world...yes, especially now, without her hair and so thin...and you will tell her that you’re going to be fine, missing her yes, but her love has made you strong, not weak, and you’ll love her every day until you see each other again. And you’ll take care of the family you’ve made together. Do you understand me, Matthew Micah O’Keefe?”

He nodded. “She says...she says she wants me to find someone again. Mama, that is impossible. I will never love anyone again.”

I smiled gently and touched his unshaven cheek, where a few tears may have slipped out while he’d had his head down and I rubbed them in with my thumb. No need now to say anything of the future I saw for this gentle son, of the fiercely strong woman I saw in his future, who would bring laughter and joy back into his life. He needed his season to mourn first, and he would mourn as deeply as he loved. My solemn, serious boy. Julie was the love of his boyhood, and he would miss her more than either of us had the words to say.

“Go into my bathroom and wash your face – better yet, I think your brother Danny’s probably got a fresh razor in his. Probably has enough in there to get yourself all freshened up, shaved, even wash your hair and put on a clean shirt – he’s got some in his closet that are big enough for you, he keeps them around for when Jamie needs to be made respectable. This is Valentine’s Day and you have a valentine to look handsome for.”

“But Mama....” He looked weary.

Time to be tough. I sharpened my tone. “Don’t you ‘but Mama’ me. Your Julie will want to see you looking your best, Matt. And so will the children. I know some of them are considered grown-ups but I also know they’re not feeling too grown-up right now. They’ll be looking to you to set an example. You know how Julie is; she loves every holiday and she wouldn’t see her being ill as a reason for Valentine’s Day to be ignored. So it’s up to you to be cheery and make the day as special as you can. Even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing.” I didn’t add – I didn’t need to –  that it was all too likely to be the last Valentine’s Day he and Julie would ever have together.

I softened my voice. “You can come back and we’ll visit any time you need to let down your mask, love. But for now – and until it’s done – you need to be strong outside this room. But your Mama will be right there by your side. I promise.”

He stood up and sighed. “Yes, Mama.” He headed for the door, then paused for a second. “Are you coming by the house tonight?”

“Yes dear, if you’d like me to. Your father and I will stop by with some cake.”

Matt smiled faintly. “Good. Julie loves your cake...and I do too. Thanks, Mama.”

Once he left, I prayed to God, that if he couldn’t see his way clear to healing her, to let Julie’s passing be as easy as possible. On her and on my dear boy.

End of Flashback



I wiped away my tears. Dear Julie. She was a beautiful girl, inside and out. It was a mystery to me how her family could turn their backs on such a daughter as she was. They wouldn’t come to her wedding because they disapproved of her marrying outside of her “own kind.” Her father, some kind of minor mobster, actually sent men to “dissuade the Mick” from marrying his daughter. Patrick and his brothers didn’t take too kindly to that and for a while we were on the verge of a little war between their group and our friends and family. But after that one fight, Julie and Matt spoke to her father and ultimatums were spoken. Julie left home the next day and never saw any of them again.

They didn’t come to the babies’ christenings or graduations, nor to their first granddaughter’s wedding. They didn’t come to see Julie in the hospital after her surgery, nor during any of her subsequent hospitalizations. Her mother was gone by then, dead of the same disease that was taking her and had they warned Julie, maybe her cancer wouldn’t have been so long in being detected. Who would have thought a girl in her thirties would have such far advanced breast cancer? Julie’s dad knew – but he didn’t see fit to tell her. None of her brothers or sisters came to see her as she lay dying, may God forgive them for I can’t.

They came to her funeral though. It is a good thing that my Patrick didn’t see or it may have caused another war. They stood off at a distance at the cemetery, short, burly men in expensive coats, the women all in black furs, sunglasses on so you couldn’t see if they cried. Matt had his arms full with his girls; he didn’t look back. Danny was the one who nudged me and pointed them out. I wondered if they were bothered by Julie being buried in an Episcopal cemetery, or was that just one more thing they held against her, the sweetest girl God ever created.

Perhaps not. Danny took me by the grave the next day and there were tulips on the freshly turned soil. Dozens of yellow tulips, Julie’s favorites. She so looked forward to spring, when the tulips would be everywhere for a few weeks and she loved yellow, such a bright cheerful color. Someone in that benighted family must have remembered. What a shame the lovely flowers hadn’t been brought to her when she was alive. On her last Valentine’s Day, perhaps. When she would have enjoyed them. Not after she was gone, with no one to see but the gravediggers and me.

I’d had Danny take me home.

I put Matt’s book aside and picked up the locket again. I looked at Luke’s picture. Danny had chosen a candid picture of him, so different from the one on the wall downstairs, where he looked so serious in his green beret, his curls all shorn, his dimples barely showing. His soldier mask firmly in place.

Patrick loved that picture. He used to show it to everyone who visited. But this tiny picture that Danny had chosen for his beautiful gift to me showed the son I remembered. Before he ran off to war.

The Luke who looked back from the locket had longer hair, with loose curls that fell down into his eyes, soft, moss green eyes, they were. Like his father’s used to be, oh, so long ago in Ireland. Before work and worries and too many children made him a harder man than he was meant to be. Sometimes I thought maybe it was this place, the States, that had hardened my Pat. But our Mark was as sweet and gentle a man as ever one could be, yet he was a brilliant businessman. So a man could be both.

Luke, poor Luke, he couldn’t be both himself and a soldier, I’d always feared. Thank God, he found such good friends in the Marines. His friend Steven. I knew that Steven always looked after Luke. And then there was Peter. He pretended to be someone else now, but he never fooled me. I wonder that he tried. I never told anyone, of course. Not even Danny. If they wanted the lad to know, they’d have told him themselves, I knew.

My Luke should have been a poet. Or he could have been a priest. I smiled to myself at that thought. Not a celibate priest, but an Episcopal priest doesn’t have to be celibate. Perhaps that life would have been too quiet for him. He was an adventurer. Still, when he was young, to see him standing over a basket of laundry on a Saturday night, that tall, strong figure of a man, folding the tiny pants and shirts so carefully, putting the little ones in their baths and tucking them into bed for me – you’d think, here was a man born to be a father.

And then he married that she-witch. Whatever could he have been thinking? He wasn’t using his head, that’s for sure. He was so hurt when I wouldn’t give him his quilt, but he tried to hide it with his joking ways. I told him, right out to his face with that harlot behind him smiling, thinking she got her way. I said, “Luke, you’ll get your quilt when you settle down with your real life-mate.”

He had frowned at me and turned away then. It was the first time that Patrick had become completely furious at me over one of the boys. The next time was Danny, of course, and I gave in, apologizing to Luke and to that Brenda. Said I was feeling poorly with the change and could they forgive an old woman? Luke got his quilt and his bride was happy, but he knew. He knew that she wasn’t the right one for him. I knew the moment I met Peter Linton that he was going to be the love of Luke’s life, but I also knew that the companion of Luke’s life was Steven Redraven and his real quilt reflected that. Not every love has to be sexual. That was the one I’d never gotten the chance to give him.

To see Luke that one time Peter visited with him and Steven – I’d never seen the boy so happy. I’d seen him joking and wild and in all sorts of moods, but the same type of quiet happiness I’d seen his brothers’ find with their wives? Only that one time. I loved Luke dearly but we were never as close as I was with the others. He and John...I sighed. My lost boys. I’d failed them as much as I’d failed Angel. No...Angel failed herself, Patrick and I just didn’t do enough to stop her. But the two boys who were perhaps most like me and least like Patrick were the ones I’d been the least close to. They didn’t come to me when they hurt and I suspected that they didn’t turn to God either. Luke at least had his loyal friends. I wasn’t quite sure what John had. Lord knew it wasn’t his wife.

I sighed and picked up John’s quilt book. I’d whipped up a fake quilt for Brenda, the wife I knew wouldn’t last long in Luke’s life. I didn’t think Michelle and John’s marriage would last, they were both far too young, but it was his duty to marry her; he’d gotten her pregnant. And as soon as I met her, strong-willed, fierce chit of a girl that she was, I knew for certain that for all her failings, and she had many, Michelle Riley loved my son with everything she had in her.

John’s second wife, Carol, wasn’t worth even a sham quilt. I had one of my worst Valentine’s Days ever, the day he told me he was going to marry her. I held his dark green book to my chest as I closed my eyes and relived that terrible argument.



(Flashback Valentine’s Day, 1996; POV/Mama Rose)

“This is a nice surprise, John. Lunch out with a handsome man! Although I’d hoped you might have young Johnny with you. I don’t get to see him nearly enough. Michelle keeps him close to herself these days.”

John didn’t meet my eyes and I didn’t think a man of his brilliance needed to concentrate quite that much on unfolding his napkin and placing it on his lap so I sat back in my seat and folded my hands before saying, “Well, what is it?”

He looked up, finally meeting my eyes with his own looking completely emotionless. He didn’t fool me. I knew him well enough to know that he was never so upset as when he did that iceman imitation of his. He had two modes, this son. Icy coldness and fiery hot temper. I said as much to Mary Kate once and she’d commented that he must run hot some other times as well or he wouldn’t get in trouble with women so much. I’d sharply reprimanded her but privately I had to admit there was probably some truth in what she said.

Her comment was in my mind now as John briskly told me, “I’ll be having a more formal arrangement with Mickey with respect to visitation soon, since that will work better, now that I’m....”

He paused. Watching him as closely as I was, I could see the faint tinge rise in his sharp cheekbones.

“If it is bad enough to make a man like you blush, it must be bad indeed,” I said, my tone as dry as I could make it. In truth, I was worried. What had the foolish boy done now? The affair with his secretary was bad enough but surely he knew that Michelle thought he walked on water? She’d forgive him if he only....

“The divorce is being finalized. I’m marrying Carol in April. I’d appreciate it if you and Father would show your support to her.”

I couldn’t think of words to say. I just stared at him. Our golden boy. Top of his class in every school he ever attended, even after he became a father while still in college. Too handsome for his own good perhaps, but Michelle had been good for him, brought him down to earth. Made him laugh at himself even, although he still worked far too hard to be a success as a lawyer. Which he was. He just wasn’t a success as a husband or father.

“She’s pregnant, isn’t she?” I didn’t have to say who I meant. That secretary, Carol. He could be so dumb, this brilliant son of mine.

He flushed again but his demeanor stayed cold. “That really is not your concern, Mother.”

“I think it is, son. You do know, they can do something, women like Carol, to end a pregnancy....”

He slammed his hand down on the table. People turned to look but then, seeing just a handsome well-dressed man with his elderly mother, they must have decided the sound of clashing cutlery came from the kitchen and turned back to their own concerns. I wished I could turn elsewhere too.

“I cannot believe you of all people would suggest such a thing,” he hissed at me, his voice dripping with venom. “Did you ever think that perhaps you should have terminated one of your many pregnancies, that all those children was ridiculous, an impossible burden for your husband, for your body, not to mention your sanity? How dare you question whether I should allow a pregnancy to continue?”

“The difference is that all of my babies were wanted, and in the sanctity of marriage. I didn’t go after some other woman’s man and get pregnant by him like a....”

“Do not say it, Mother.” We stared at each other across the table. It was probably just as well that the waiter came up then to take our orders. After he left, John had regained his composure, though his temper simmered. Mine did too. This son really was very like me and we both were barely holding back comments that would be even crueler than the ones we’d regrettably said already.

“I would appreciate it if you would invite Carol and her parents to dinner – I’ll pay for it of course – at a restaurant of your choosing, to meet the family. Just my older brothers and sisters should be sufficient, and Mary Pat since she lives with you, I see no reason to overwhelm them with the entire....”

“Overly large O’Keefe family,” I interrupted to finish the sentence for him.

He simply raised an eyebrow and said, “Yes, exactly. Carol has two sisters to invite, I will make sure my assistant gives you the names and addresses. She’ll be available to assist with the arrangements.”

“I hope this assistant is more...reliable...than the last or Carol could find herself in quite a predicament. Without a husband even before the first babe is born.”

John took a deep breath. “Mother, I know you are disappointed in me and I cannot agree with you more. My actions have been deplorable. But, such comments reflect poorly on all of us if they are made in front of Carol’s family, so I must ask if I can expect them to continue?”

“And if they do?”

“Then I will have to, regrettably, explain to the Simmons that my mother is not well enough to entertain but sends her regrets. I will ask Mary Kate to be the hostess instead. If she refuses, I will have to do without.”

“You could always ask Angel. She has no standards.”

“Is that it then? Am I also being disowned also?”

I looked into the face of my handsome son and wondered how it had come to this. He was braced for my answer. I clenched the table. Suddenly, he reached out.

“Mama. If I could do something to make this situation better, don’t you think I would do it? Do you think I want to lose Mickey? And losing her, I know I’m losing Johnny. Two weekends a month, that’s what I’ll get. But, there is another child I have to think of. And though you said it, I cannot believe you’d want me to tell Carol to have an abortion. Never would you tell me to do that. This child who is on the way is my responsibility, and Carol wants marriage. So, I will marry her. I would like your support but I am marrying her with or without it. Dad would support me but not if you don’t. He does what you tell him, as always. And for what it’s worth, as a married man with a family, the courts would look more kindly on visitation, which Mickey is fighting right now.”

He took a deep breath. “I have never asked you for anything, Mama. But, I’m asking now. Not for my sake, but for Johnny’s and the new baby on the way. Can you please be civil to Carol and attend the wedding?”

I nodded my head tightly. I think they called this detente. The rest of the lunch tasted like sawdust. I believe they served the same dish at that wedding.

End of Flashback



I woke to a gentle shaking. I opened my eyes to see Danny kneeling by my side, all dressed in a lovely suit, his hair tied back, looking his handsomest.

“Oh, I must have dozed off for a few minutes! What time is it? I must rush! Look at you! Too handsome to take your old mother out!”

He laughed. “Never could be such a thing. I changed the time of our reservation. You have plenty of time. Go ahead, put on your pretty dancing shoes and comb your hair and we’ll be ready.”

As if! I got up and headed off to find a dress that would do the ballroom justice. I tossed my hair as I said, “Just be sure you’ve got your dancing shoes on! I plan on dancing all night!”

He laughed. “That’s my girl!”

I smiled as I went to get ready, my locket clutched in my hand. I knew what picture I’d be putting in the last spot, that of my Angel boy. At least no wife would ever take my place in his affections. A tall, hazel-eyed man, perhaps, but that, somehow, I could live with. After all, dreams were made to come true. If not at first, then...well...someday. For all my boys.

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