WHERE THE WOODS WERE
BY: Leslie Siegel
A TIME TRAVEL NOVEL ABOUT THE BIG BANDS OF THE 1940’s!!!!!
This is a story connecting the physical world of reality to the spiritual universe beyond most people’s comprehension. It’s loosely based on a Massachusetts family, the Woods, mainly their two daughters Donna and Gloria, popular big band singers in their heyday. They left behind ageless photos that become one of the many links to them and their illustrious, yet ‘firefly’ past.
Born to early Boston radio stars Robert and Gertrude, both Donna and younger sister Gloria showed musical ability at early ages. Life growing up for them must have been idyllic and carefree, even with the presence of the Great Depression, and World War II looming. Both had voices, talent and looks, at least from what they left behind which was thousands of photos chronicling the different stages of their lives, especially the highpoints, from childhood to budding starlets, to the tragedy of Donna’s early 1947 death at the age of 29! Even their photo jaunts year after year at the same locations around Los Angeles held such significance.
Gloria went on to become a 4-octave singing dynamo voice-over artist in her own right, and was married to Lee, the ailing elderly man who had called a Hollywood trade I worked for as an editorial assistant. He put it simply by saying that Diabetes claimed His Glo in March of 1995. I found that eerie because it was exactly 40 years after her parents passed away in March of 1955, at least from the information uncovered from the photos!
“Perhaps there may be a story for the magazine to write about Gloria and her sister Donna Wood,” Lee prodded hopefully.
By the first 30 seconds of our conversation, I sensed more than a story, something bigger! “The heck with the story, there was more here than that…” my racing mind blared before I did!
But maybe my ‘prequel’ to the Wood Sisters and my true blood-love for the 1940’s must have started when working for and traveling with the songwriter who wrote UNFOREGTTABLE by Nat King Cole. Irv was in his 80’s by the time he and I met, but we traveled all over the world together. He’d written other songs like THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN, PRELUDE TO A KISS, and yes, ME, MYSELF & I … hundreds of other ditties that were famous back then and then, one day out of the blue, the Wood Family dropped into my life!
Let’s start with eldest daughter Donna Wood. Didn’t know her in life, only after her early death at age 29 in April of 1947, as stated above. Born in Arlington, MA April 14, 1917, Donna’s birth marked the 5-year anniversary of Titanic, already a pall set upon a newborn’s first breath. That and the height of World War I always foreshadowed a ‘firefly’ lifespan. I know deep down inside, the moment after laying eyes on that first photograph taken ages ago, that their residue and essences reached out for something missed!
Meeting the Woods in 1997, exactly 50 years after Donna’s passing, started out simple enough. To recap: A phone call from one of her forgotten ailing relatives, a trip to Beverly Hills, being introduced to them ... or at least what they were 50 years almost to the date after Donna died so suddenly, and so young. Suddenly, 6 cardboard boxes of their family mementos sprang into my possession. The photos date as far back as 1865 and range on up to the late 1950's of “Where The Woods Were” -- who Donna and Glo were, and whose loins they were borne from!
In my present, most people seem intrigued with my fascination for the Wood Sisters. Then there are those piqued individuals that question my focus for the Woods, a family I’d never met in life. But I’m always still turning over some stone about this family, and have stumbled across some really great cases, some dead ends, others interesting, many coincidental, but all related to the photos proclaiming Where the Woods Were! (“We are the Woods!”) It seemed easy for them to rebuke my childlike views on what living life was, as well as what was the Great Beyond. But the Wood Sisters represent my child’s fantasy, an adventure into the Unknown after life, or at least a peek at best!
The perky, free-spirited gal knew that the past was wide open for the percolating Wood family spirits springing forth, happy to be remembered, as they wanted to be recalled in the many pictures left behind by them. It's their life and times, and Kate often wondered if they subconsciously thought someone like herself would one day unearth their photos and think of them.
Kate wondered if she were destined to spend her entire lifetime mooning over dead people, dead memories? Was that how it was going to be? Indulging her graveyard quick fix? Sometimes, especially lately, Kate had begun to secretly resent the new sensations and intuitions she was receiving. It was no longer simple gestures and actions people did. Now it encompassed the gestures and actions behind the gestures and actions people did -- What did it mean subconsciously? A simple phrase in a sentence said a certain way was revealing all sorts of innuendoes in Kate's mind. Could it be the new presence of the Woods? But aren’t the Woods passed on?
That thought brings other strange thoughts to light about life and death. In a strange way, I learned from sitting around with Lee (and Irv), that the old seem to revert back to a childlike state. But Glo’s husband never ended up resenting my enthusiasm toward the end of his life as Mr. Unforgettable did.
Flash back to when World War II broke out! Donna and Glo were out here in California filming a movie and singing with the Big Bands in town, going on War Bond tours, meeting Bob Hope, Donna even getting married in the thick of it all, mid-1943! She married the head army band conductor and Colonel! He was no lightweight either, and flew fighter planes on dangerous missions. His name was Lee! That said a lot about Gloria’s fascination when she met her Lee, the Lee I’d been hanging around with of late.
During the time Donna was alive and married, Gloria could have had a thing for her sister’s tall, blond, blue-eyed, handsome hubby. I doubt it was by chance or ironic that 20 years later in 1963, Glo meets her sister-in-laws husband, also named Lee and falls for him (a blond, blue-eyed, cutie in his own right). And then came the controversial Family Blacksheeping it eventually caused, at least from what her later diaries shortly before her death in 1995 stated.
And I’ve never been able to find any trace of Donna’s Lee (believe me, I’ve tried). The only thing that sheds any light on his being was that he once worked for a Beverly Hills newspaper called The Citizen. There was a small, almost miscible article on James Roosevelt, son of the president, who produced POT O’ GOLD, the Jimmy Stewart movie Donna made her debut in. No mention of Donna’s Lee, but the tie-in was there, a small thread of his existence, especially with the information I was going on – small articles, clipped gossip columns, hometown newspaper clippings and obituaries mostly; and of course, the numerous pictures of them posing so handsomely candid.
The question that started burning in Kate's brain was: What would Donna have become if she hadn't of passed away at age 29? Would she have surpassed Gloria's mini-stardom? Some photos reveal a friendly competition between the sisters. They were close, yes, but when Donna died, her sister passed the mark the older woman had achieved from the shots of Gloria at Donna's gravesite in the early 1950's.
And something else was very strange. As mentioned earlier, Gloria ended up married to another Lee, who was blond and blue-eyed. In many pictures, even before the second Lee, you can see that Glo took the same pictures and poses as Donna did with her Lee. Year after year, until her death, there are tons of photos of her and Lee. Those photos were matched by Gloria with a different Lee, years later! Plus, from reading up on the diaries, Gloria mentions how sorry she was for any pain caused to Peggy, her brother’s wife’s sister. She is constantly apologizing throughout the diary for basically stealing away her brother’s wife’s sister’s husband (Lee #2).
But, it was when Katie found a 1943 postcard sent to Gloria Wood at her small apartment - '9328' Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills - that she realized how much of her own past really did parallel the Wood's. For many years, starting in 1983 (exactly 40 years after Gloria), Katie lived at '9328' Beverly Crest Drive, in Beverly Hills! Then she moved to 312 S. Elm Drive, finally ending her 12-year stint at 261 S. Reeves Drive, inner-city Beverly Hills, the two streets on either side of Donna Wood's 132 S. Canon Drive, and just up the street from Gloria's Beverwil house and first 9328 Olympic Blvd. address. And Kate did not miss the play on the number combos with Donna's address and hers on Reeves Drive in Beverly Hills, CA.
This cleared the way for other coincidences. Kate has two older brothers and a younger sister as Donna did, her older brother is Robert, (same name as the Wood's older boy) younger sister is Diane, her mother and family were singers and entertainers like the Woods, and finally, she has an Aunt Gloria. And Donna was given Mercury to possibly jump-start her heart, ridding her body of any virus, just like Katie's Uncle Norman.
But everything done and said, I’m constantly led back to the galore of pictures! It’s first obvious that the Wood Family didn't want to be forgotten, almost as if those musty life-force boxes were meant to fall into my hands because I am the sort of gal that reveries and preserves, making it part of my own cycle, although the Woods are not related to me by blood. I spend many hours going through those (Their) boxes like savoring Godiva Chocolates. They call out to me everyday. They say, “Oh, Kate, you are a true historian, thank you Kate!” Many think I’ve become obsessed (or maybe possessed by) with the Woods --- people who are dead, passed away, classified as ‘almost yesterday’s news’. Maybe that's true, but they are such special entities, and I sense them strongly entwined. I sometimes feel their oddly familiar essences, but blatantly. By the time 5 years had passed, I’d invite it, look for them everywhere, finding them in most obvious places. They manifest themselves (or I allow them --- maybe a bit of both) to become engrained in my life, like a new relationship. It started when I began matching up their photos with present day locations then going to those locations and taking present-day shots (as Gloria did). It is truly fascinating, like stirring up something longing to be let out again in some mystic and photographic way. I mimic the old shots of them, placing myself in the same spots, locations and stances, but 60 years apart. To me, it reflects a bond of sorts, maybe that time is the in the same continuum. Or perhaps doing that set up the time continuum? Who knows? But, I give the picture an effecting pose, while matching the family at Donna's gravestone year after year, mugging it up for the camera. At times it’s an odd space, especially when thinking of them while watching t.v. The channels come alive with their subtle messages, especially Donna and Gloria, whose pictures hang in the bedroom (over the t.v. stand) … And the highlights in their lives, so fleeting, but clear as if they happened but I forgot I was there, almost like I am old and of failing memory, so I remember them, but can’t recall spending time with them, but I did (procured by looking at the pictures). Like when a family member tells you something funny you did as a baby so many times, that you start to vaguely remember it, but can’t quite recall.
As the months passed, Katie arranged numerous snapshots, starting at approximately 1880 and finishing with her own shots taken in 1997 in some of the same locations. She began feeling more confident in labeling names, activities and locations, which for the most part were accurate, as the woman would find out later when she would travel back to then!
In the meantime, a blueprint (lately she had been thinking it had been there her whole life) formed in Katie's mind of Donna's life, times and death when snapshots of the singer's coffin, gravestone and funeral were seen. Although it was a sad occasion, family members smiled, as if they were having a party by the woman's grave. It's evident on their expressions, especially Gloria Wood's, in pictures taken at the site years later.
Obituaries in '47, both from her hometown and Hollywood, stated 29 year old Donna Wood died mysteriously of some sort of heart disorder, but had married a musical conductor, Lee Hackler, (ironically the first name of Gloria's husband), and lived at 132 South Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, California for 7 years until her April 8, 1947, 11:00 p.m. untimely death! For some reason, it was all starting to sound like a story Kate had heard for years and years ... yarns spun by older relatives only visiting once every year. But she felt such kindred feelings radiating in and out of her airspace. Some of it came from within herself, but she could feel an underlying pull toward the Woods beaming their own sort of ghostly grace. She would follow this family and find out all she could, even trying to track down lost relatives.
It’s admitable though; I’m hooked on the Woods. Following their photo paths to the places they were at, then snapping myself in the pictures where they once stood has given me a detective attitude, an almost strange free association connection path leading right to Where The Woods Were and After!
After the photographs were in my possession, I pieced together the birth, life, death and actually became instrumental in the rebirth of them, especially Donna Wood, who got her first start from the once popular big band leader Horace Heidt while stuck in an elevator with him in Boston, around 1936. He saw Donna’s raw talent in that short amount of time and confining space, and eventually had in the campy Jimmy Stewart/Paulette Goddard movie POT O' GOLD lensed in 1941. Heidt easily encouraged United Artists to cast Donna as the silent sister to Goddard’s character (except during a few singing numbers), which they did. It was a hastily put together character bordering on featured extra and budding songbird. There are a few pictures of Donna taken on the set, plus many publicity shots made by the studio. She does a few chorus numbers, but it’s obvious that she was edged out, probably at Goddard’s insistence. I have the shots on the Pot O’ Gold set in my possession, even some negatives. Hunting down those studio photos in the collector shops strung along Hollywood Boulevard and actually finding a few, was a big thrill.
* * *
In March of '97, while working as an editorial assistant at a local Hollywood magazine Katie received a call from an old, ailing man, whose wife Gloria Wood, a 1950's commercial queen and orchestra singer, passed away.
"My wife died a few years ago, and I've got some of her memorabilia," said the quiet, soft-spoken voice. "I think there may be a story here," he added. (Boy, he wasn't kidding!)
"Why don't you give me your number and I'll call you back on it, okay?"
"Okay, that sounds fine." He had boxes of mementos spanning 40 years before World War II. The writer took his phone number, stuffed it away and forgot about it, not realizing that this would be the beginning of a long, strange journey through time and space. It started with that one phone call, reaching across the far reaches of life and death itself!
One day, by chance, she was sitting around the house she shared with her boyfriend TJ in Glendale, California. He resembled a cross between actors Jeff Bridges and Kurt Russell, with naturally curly hair like his girlfriend, people often mistaking them for siblings.
As Kate stared at her boyfriend, something in the back of her mind recalled a certain phone conversation she had with the old timer who had called her a few weeks back about the Woods. It was then, for some reason the woman remembered the old man. "Hey, I almost forgot! This guy called up a few weeks back and said he had some 1940's memorabilia from his wife," she said happily.
She had never taken an interest in that era, usually floating between a throw back from the Sixties to a folksy Janice Joplin look-a-like, but more attractive, of course. The 1940's seemed to reflect what Katie ran away from as a child - feminine glamour. People like Robert Taylor, Vivian Leigh, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were reminders of her own mother, a retired opera singer/concert pianist that could have been the next Female Liberace in her day in the sun as a would-be glamour queen that only teetered on the edge of fame.
"Call him, it might be worth checking out," P.J. coaxed, while strumming a Martin acoustic guitar. His long fingers strummed an even original blues tune with ease.
Katie phoned and spoke with Lee (#2), who invited the couple up to his house in Beverly Hills, on Beverwil Drive, two blocks from where Katie used to live for 12 years.
They drove in P.J.'s ' Chevy truck, taking Coldwater Canyon to Kate's past Beverly Hills stomping grounds.
The old territory loomed before her as P.J.'s lumbering Chevy chugged down Beverly Drive, the sunlight reflecting off the old truck into the green trees lining Kate's old haunt. They passed her ex-landlady's store - Beverly Hills Liquor Castle -
the aging woman's bent, decrepit figure still reigning like a queen in her dusty, florescent-lighted store, unchanged in the years since Katie left the neighborhood. They made their way up to Beverwil Drive to an unassuming 1950's-looking house near Pico Blvd.
"Wow, being back in my old neighbor is so strange," Kate reflected. "It almost feels like another country now," she marveled while gazing out the window at the sunny, bright sidewalks.
"Yes, it must be weird being back, huh? Wonder who lives at your old place on Reeves Drive" P.J. drove up to the curb at Alcott Street and Beverwil.
"I can't believe it's still standing, especially after that Northridge Earthquake. I thought for sure they would condemn it, but in a sad way I kind of miss being around here," said Kate, remembering the nuance of once dwelling in the City of Diamonds, Beverly Hills. People back East would always be gaping at the fact that Katie actually had an apartment there, behind the storefronts of Beverly Hills...
"Oh, please, come on. That place was a hole."
"I know, but I still have happy memories. I did spend 12 years here," she said nostalgically.
She noted all the new stores and restaurants. "Wow, they finally got a Koo-Koo Roo Chicken! And look, they closed down the old Edison building. Vons Market is finally resurfacing their driveway." Life moved on.
In a flash they were standing at the door of the house, ringing the bell.
Lee's Russian companion Marlena greeted them, directing the couple into the garage where an old, thin man, his blue eyes dancing with excitement, sat in a chair just getting ready to light up. It seemed as if the garage doubled as a playroom, and they'd parked their cars on the street just to show them off at one time. It almost had the feel of that 'keepin' up with the Jones' flare of the early 1950's. All that was missing was the white picket fence, which was long gone by 1997!
Quick introductions were made all around. The next thing Kate felt were the Wood Family's essences rising up, as if they'd anchored themselves there, waiting for that opportune moment to spring forth in that musty, hot room. She immediately sensed their restless souls calling out, "Don't' forget us, please don't forget the Woods! Help us not be forgotten!"
"What an interesting family," Kate uttered while sitting down close to the find, beginning to sift through the well-preserved photos.
"Gloria was quite something," said Lee, as he leaned against his walker. The man was definitely ailing, but proceeded to smoke his cig'.
As the old man puffed, Katie could smell the old memories floating up like familiar scents invoking memories. It was then her impatient partner TJ, as if sensing the spiritual vibes, which sometimes could be oppressive, especially if you didn't usually dwell on such things, prompted the girl up 2 hours later. It didn't seem like more than 10 minutes to Katie, so engrossed she was with the photos and items in the boxes the Woods had left behind.
They carried the 6 medium-sized cartons to TJ's antique truck, the old guy following them to the door, walker in hand, observing while lighting up another Marlboro and puffing away, as if not dying of emphysema, which he was. Marlena busied herself in the unorganized kitchen, except for tons of Vons shopping bags stacked neatly by the door. What Katie felt was another presence though --- Gloria Wood and especially from her sister Donna!
As they drove away Katie said, "Maybe we can visit him again! I think he liked us a lot, TJ." She looked at the boxes tied securely with bungee cord. "I feel like we've caught the catch from the middle of the Century!" Clamoring over Coldwater, she looked back at the stuff from another era. "God, I hope it doesn't blow away in those creaky boxes."
"Stop whining, we'll get them back in one piece," said P.J. while puffing on his favorite brand.
Once home, they carried the boxes into their bedroom and placed them around a king-size bed, given to them by an 82-year-old songwriter who wrote Unforgettable, by Nat King Cole. Kate had spent a number of years as his companion, up until meeting P.J. in August of '93, when she made the decision to give that life up with Irv, and very easily too, because Old Man Irving was a Mean Old Fart. The woman was glad to get away from him, even though Irv and P.J. had forged a strong friendship, when she introduced them after the Northridge Earthquake in '94. He also is credited with penning the classic "Throw Mama From The Train", as well as a number of other tunes, but sometimes Kate wanted to throw someone else off that train!
All her concentration during the next few hours focused on her newest find - those Wood Family boxes. Handling the Wood family photos and mementos carefully, as if they were ancient treasures, Katie sifted through mounds of pictures, literally hundreds of snapshots of 'Where the Woods Were'. Little did the lady know then that she'd be whisked into 1941 in just under a year.
Katie's association with Lee became a direct divining rod headed straight for 'Where the Woods Were'. She and P.J. began making pilgrimages up to the Beverwil house in Beverly Hills almost every Sunday. It was the opposite of a Pandora's Box, instead filled with mementos of an era, rather than evil particles, jagged and angry!
The couple had gotten into a pattern of spending hours milling around Gloria Woods' Beverwil house finding precious gems that held so many Wood family memories, as if they were laid out that way for them to discover.
Arlington, MA – 1931
14-year-old Donna Wood lay in bed cringing under the thin blanket. She'd been awakened by a nightmare, the same one over and over. "She's walking in a forest and suddenly feels pressure on her chest. She can't breathe without effort and everyone around her seemed oblivious. Then Donna lies in a white coffin, her whole family standing around her grave. She sees herself in the coffin as a young woman then starts running around trying to get her family's attention as they grieve for the grown-up Donna Wood lying in state. Then everything goes black and silent."
She's softly crying as her mother, Gertrude comes in to comfort her oldest daughter, who was in distress. Donna always tried to hide the fact, but Mother always heard and came to hug and assure.
Dreams were powerful tools in her family and that's why she was concerned with Donna's nightmares. They were coming on more frequently of late, but the doctor had said Gert's daughter might grow out of it eventually. If not, they were ready to administer a sedative to the teen at night.
"Is it the dreams again, Darling?" Asked Gert, full of concern.
Donna turned on her side, tears slipping down her porcelain face. "Yes, mom, it's horrible. I see my death, I see the future, something foreboding and scary."
"What do you mean scary?" Gert sat on the edge of her daughter’s small bed. She always tried saying the word scary in a more soothing, clown like way.
"I see you and Daddy standing around my grave, it's hard to breathe. Then this curly-haired woman is standing by my grave and I'm trying to speak to her but and it's almost like she's just about to respond, and then things get so jumbled and frightening!" Donna reached for her mother's arms, wanting comfort. "Mommy, why do I have to die? I don't want to? Don't let me die, Mommy, please," cried Donna as her mother took the girl in her strong sure arms and hugged her tears away.
Gertrude knew there was something very special about her Donna. As a little girl she could sing, play notes on the piano, and carry a tune with the ease and maturity of a lounge singer. They encouraged Donna to sing and embrace radio. She was even now taking to both mediums with ease. Donna was born April 14, 1917, and the dreams were always with her, even when she was just an infant. Gert could tell right away, could see her baby become flushed and fidgety in sleep, where most children simply shook slightly when they dreamt. It was disheartening, but they dealt with it.
The family resided in a roomy, Arlington, Massachusetts Colonial home that had been with the Wood's since their grandparents came to the United States in the 1880's. Gertrude's hope would be that her daughters would become a singing duo. Gloria, her youngest, was 8, so it was plausible to begin now. And it's okay that her older boy, Bobby wasn't into the music like her girls and Channie, her second oldest son. It was already apparent in dark-haired Donna, and the gifted blond Gloria as well. Her second oldest son had it as well, but not as strongly as her girls.
"And God knows the boys are growing up fast too. It's hard to believe Bob would graduate high school this year, and Chandler would be a Junior already. Donna was a budding, 14-year-old flower," the troubled mother thought. "Lord, how she loved them all, especially her little Gloria. Gert would be there for them, and knew they'd be there for her, or their father Robert. It was unity that guided love that made for stronger morals."
Gert sat there holding her daughter, as the gifted girl drifted off. She kissed Donna's cheek and whispered, "don't worry, everything will be fine." Donna calmed immediately and her mother stroked her daughter's smooth, unblemished forehead and rearranged the bedding. As Gertrude left and gently closed the door, a burst of light shone through the window. An angel appeared whispering as Donna slept, "Dream sweet dreams now, for you will have good times before the dark days of death claim your young delicate soul."
* * *
In the ensuing weeks, that turned into months, Robert Sr., Gertrude Anderson-Wood, Donna and Gloria Wood, as well as brothers Bob and Chandler Wood became as familiar to Kate as her own family and she was finding parallels between them.
Robert and his wife Gertrude were singers on the early Boston radio circuit. They met, married and continued their careers, even after their children were born. Kate didn't really connect with the Wood brothers, and had found Gloria Wood's history interesting, but who she felt a special connection and kinship with was Donna Wood, the sister who died at the age of 29 in '47. Every time she'd run across Donna's picture, something inside of the sensitive girl identified with the good looking brunette whose short life reminded her of a firefly, a rapid spark compared to time and the universe. "Who was she? Why did she die? Where did she live? What were her thoughts? Why did I care?"
But Katie became more obsessed as the days passed. Every picture of Donna Wood brought her closer to the singer's seemingly nurtured, carefree childhood in Massachusetts. She too, like Kate was the first-born daughter, third in line after Channie, Gloria the youngest. All her focus lately was on those Wood photos. Whether it be shots of a beachfront picnic, a nature hike, or maybe those first candid publicity shots when Donna sang with Horace Heidt's band in the 1940's, then landed a film called Pot 'O Gold in 1941, starring Jimmy Stewart, a clunker of-a-feature about a musical band's turmoil to get on a radio show, that Mr. Stewart quoted as 'being the worst film he ever did'. With the coming of World War II, Stewart soon enlisted in the armed forces, claiming not to be in the right frame of mind when agreeing to play the starring role in the movie produced by then-President Roosevelt's son James. Soon after filming of the flick, Stewart, of course, enlisted and went to fight for his country. It would be Donna Wood's film debut playing an extra beside co-starring actress Paulette Goddard as her sister. It was the only film Donna ever appeared in or did, and it's only 45 seconds. Still, to see this woman alive and breathing was such a treat for Katie, after looking at tons of the singer's photos from age 3 up until shortly before her death.
* * *
The summer days turned out to be humid, but clear and bearable, not like most summers in Massachusetts. It was June, 1931. The Great Depression wasn't even in full swing yet and it had already been two years, but Donna never really felt the pinch like they all heard on the radio.
Her father had told His Girl many times, that entertainment and radio would always be a constant medium, especially during bad times. "People need something when the chips are down.
“Even Blue Chips,” quipped Gert.
“They crave something that infuses them with hope and We Woods give it to 'em straight!"
Robert had already sold most of his long-held stocks, including the Blue Chips. He'd come out better than even, and settled his affairs just as the bottom fell out in '29. Later, people marveled over his foresight and wanted to know who his tipster was, and if he knew someone on the Inside. It was baffling to them. Though he'd never admit it in public, it was one of his wife's dreams that led him to sell the stock and cash in, just like in the Bible where Joseph advises the Pharaoh of Egypt.
Presently he owned part of a radio station in Downtown Boston, and was looking into other venues, he sometimes wondered if he was a bit too demanding, possibly expecting too much? The boys were growing up virtually normal, and Bob hadn't shown a great interest in musical entertaining. But his girls and Channie had something special that needed nurturing and direction, which he and Gert would give them.
Robert noticed that his kids had something when the other day he observed Donna orchestrating a photo session with her neighborhood friends. It was how she handled one particular Sour-faced man, a nasty neighbor who was known to dislike children and the clamor they caused and created, that struck Robert like a lightning bolt.
He considered His Donna a regular little director, and Charlie Chaplin couldn't have done better. Robert had a mind, more than once, to write Mr. Chaplin about his thoughts on the movie business in general, how music and movies should mesh. Again, with the establishment of 'Talkies' (and it's a long time coming already), Chaplin would be looking for new, fresh-faced talent, especially young ladies that could sing, and have experience on radio, as well as can talk properly, clearly and with substance. Why it took so long for radio and movies to come as one, is only the Lord's answer. Oh now he was starting to sound like his wife, but let's face it, Baby Peggy is all grown up and more upbeat, musical talent is needed like his Darling Donna and his Little Glo maybe even Chandler.
The next day it was off to the beach, a magical place for Donna. She loved to sit on a sand mound watching the waves breaking shore, holding her breath until they crashed to the beachfront. Her brother Chandler sat beside her in the sand whittling a stick and watching the girls walk by. Once not too long ago, her brother would have been content building sand castles and catching crabs, but now his interest in girls was swimming around his brain, which made him more creative with music.
Donna remembered when they were really young she'd wanted to join her brothers in idle play, but she knew deep down inside then, only being 8, that there was something within that wanted to burst forth in another way, mature feelings for a young child. Her parents understood and encouraged her. Gertrude would stare into her daughter's dark, wide eyes and see an old soul residing there. In a silent moment, Donna would become very serious, saying something profound, more like what an 18-year-old woman would utter. It was uncanny, almost frightening, and it foreshadowed a short life span for the budding woman. Only time would tell. In the meantime, the Wood's would give their family every opportunity in the world to embrace education, music and The Arts. Yes, there would be good times, wonderful times and of course, bad ones as well.
All of a sudden right there on the beach, Donna and her brother went into a duet of present day medleys. By the end of the little music number the beach had become crowded with people listening to the brother and sister duet. At the end, everyone clapped, a few teenage gals swooning like Chan was Rudy Valee.
Bob swam with his father as Gertrude sat on a blanket with 8-year-old Gloria. They seemed the ideal family that day on the beach.
Robert Sr. looked up from body surfing with his oldest. He spotted his wife on the blanket with their youngest and thought how much he loved Gert's ingenuity and strength to keep the family together even during this hard financial time of the Great Depression. They both had strong family ties and loved the radio. He, as well as his wife, saw great things in their girls. Already Gloria was responding to piano notes and would join in with Mama and Donna as they sang standards together in the living room. And lately, Chandler was developing a late bloomer interest in singing too. He would, of course, encourage that.
* * *
Also, with the help of TJ, Kate found "Where the Woods Were' buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, literally blocks from their house, just by studying the 1947 photos of Donna's funeral procession.
"Hey, that place looks familiar...it's Forest Lawn!"
"Isn't it ironic how out of all the graveyards in Los Angeles, it just so happened that you worked at this particular one as an electrician in the mid-1980's," marveled Kate. Not only did P.J. know the terrain, but also the set-up of the place off San Fernando Road, a most interesting coincidence!
"It's no big deal," said P.J.
"The next step is to find those plots. We'll match up some of the shots taken at the Wood gravesite in the latter 1940's and 50's, then head up to Forest Lawn," Kate said excitedly, as if this were some sort of treasure hunt!
"Now don't get all crazy on me now, okay?"
"I won't. Come on, let's go," urged Kate, leading him out the door.
"Man, I wish you were this way with sex!"
Kate ignored the jibe.
They drove the twisting roads of the graveyard searching reference points from the 50-year-old pictures the Woods shot. Something drove Katie onward, pictures in hand, gazing at hundreds of other graves wondering how they had died, and if they were loved enough for someone like her to bother searching for them at all.
Recently, Katie had found out through a family friend that her Grandfather (her mother's father) loved to go to cemeteries, and visited with dead relatives a lot. That intrigued Kate, and got her thinking about the blueprint in the brain theory running through her own mind. It all seemed to fit. Grandpa David owned and operated a comic book publishing company in the 1930's on up until his death in 1969. He had been rumored to be listed in 'Ripley's Believe It Or Not' for strapping a torpedo on his back and swimming underwater to place those things in the line of fire. Kate sometimes fancied him to the first Navy Seals. He could have been a career man, until his wife said no more and also loved flying. Grandfather David was a pretty illustrious character of a guy. Kate was convinced that the reason they never gelled was because she wasn't the first-born son. If she had been, they may of had something, but as it stood, he took a shine to her oldest brother Robert. No matter though, for she had his blueprint fixed in her brain consciously, rather than in her Id! As she searched for the Woods, her thoughts matched the elements and weather.
The day was breezy, swirling clouds moving above, casting billowing shadows on the wide-open, green grass.
From Katie's vantage point, she spotted P.J. making his way around the next hill, head down, prodding casually along, looking for the Wood graves too
It was at that moment the upbeat, high-spirited woman realized they couldn't give up until the graves were found. After one hour, suddenly Kate was magnetically pulled to an open spot, a beautiful view of San Fernando Road sprawling before her, right above the cemetery's Arlington Way. She stopped, gazed at the view of Los Angeles gleaming in the foreground, and then walked right up to 'Where The Woods Were', the Family's final resting place.
If anyone saw the curly-headed, 30 year-old, Janice Joplin look-a-like yelling, "I found them, I've found the Woods," at the top of her lungs, nobody stirred. She sat down and stroked Donna's stone, murmuring, "I've found it, I found them! I found her!" It was like something out of a bad soap opera episode!
P.J. immediately ambled over, quelling the girl's exuberance by hushing her. "Hey, this is a bone yard, not a park," he scolded.
"Look P.J., they're all here! I can't believe it," Kate cried excitedly, actual tears rolling down her cheeks. "I knew we were linked up with them somehow," Kate added.
She began an oral history. "Robert Sr. died in 1955. He was two years younger than his wife Gertrude, who also passed away in '55 at the age of 63. Gloria Wood, of course, died in March of '95, we knew that," said Kate. "The brother's graves are missing for some reason. I wonder where they are, or if they may be alive?"
"Who knows what happened," answered TJ. He sounded a bit freaked, and trying to maintain his control, but he was effected as much as Kate was, but in a different way, of course. Could a part of him be jealous of dead people?
"Doesn't Donna Wood's grave look as fresh as it did in the 1947 black and whites?" Katie bent down for closer inspection and held up the old shots. "In essence, Donna & Gloria Wood have literally lived beside me in their youth and death, and we've never met until those pictures and family history in an old musty garage gathering dust found their way into my life," she said reverently.
"Go figure," added P.J. nonchalantly, which was standard for him.
The couple snapped shots of themselves by the graves, imitating the same poses taken by the Wood's 50 years before, sitting and standing in the foreground, shooting the same landscape that had changed very little in all that time. Maybe someone looking at the couple from afar thought it strange, but to Katie, it was the most exciting find to date.
It was when they'd finished photographing the scene that P.J. all of a sudden became restless, probably noticing Katie's growing attachment to the Wood's, like when they first went over to Lee's house. It was just plain strange, but you knew Katie like he did, you understood.
"Okay, I think it's time to go now," he said, hustling away, literally having to tear his girlfriend from the spot.
"Now that I had found Her, I didn't want to leave Her," cried Katie's mind, but P.J., being a sensitive man, felt the Wood Family spirits dwelling there strongly, and therefore, the jittery guy stood at the top of the road nervously lighting his 4th Merit Ultra Light in 15 minutes. He must have been pretty spooked by it all. Katie, on the other hand, felt rooted, not wanting to leave, and would have rather lingered after taking pictures, but reluctantly left the spot 'Where the Woods Were'.
* * *
The next day a little boy ran up to the Woods, who were sitting on the porch swing, and announced, "Donna's got a bunch of the neighborhood kids dressed up in funny party hats she made! Even Old Man Jones, who never smiles, is ear to ear now!" The boy pointed to a small crowd in the distance, and then quickly high-tailed it back to the commotion.
When word spread about Jones, Donna soon had the whole neighborhood toting parasols and wearing her homemade hats. Robert was soon out in the thick of it, snapping picture after picture, not wanting to lose the moment to time, which thereafter changed the image of the neighborhood. They always had the trusty camera to record posterity. God knows they wouldn't want to forget this. Thank goodness for film. Even Donna's little cousin Virginia was in the thick of it too. She was darling, and sometimes was mistaken for the third sister of the Woods! Even as a baby she was sometimes mistaken for his little daughter Gloria.
The next day, on a whim, Robert had taken the kids up to North Conway on the train, just for the sheer joy of doing it. He snapped pictures on the way. Mr. Wood wore his Sunday's best and a fashionable flat top hat. Donna wore a striped shirt, white slacks, and paten-leather shoes, looking slim and on the verge of puberty. Gloria was there feeling hot and fussy in her traveling suit. Chandler and his brother loved the excitement of riding the train, but Bob would rather be back home swimming at the lake, or rowing in the quiet of the family boat.
On the other hand, Donna enjoyed traveling, especially by train. You could really see the world passing by, could sit back and enjoy the ride. She had dreams of one day growing up and traveling place to place singing for the crowds. The girl would suddenly awaken in the middle of the night feeling like she'd been sleeping on a train. Donna smiled to herself thinking, "My dreams on the Disoriented Express!"
She sat next to her father talking about all sorts of interesting subjects, especially when the conversation drifted to music and the radio after the train had run into some trouble and was sitting on the tracks idle for hours. Dad knew everything there was to know, and even Bob, who usually got moody on these train rides, was listening to his father's yarns about the golden radio days with their mother, even quietly and simply explaining how radio worked. Bob tuned in during this part, loving to hear the specifics of Radio’s inner workings, not just a wooden box with a dial and people’s voices filtering out. And sometimes it was hard for them to imagine their mother a cool, suave singer, but she was and still performed, and was now performing through her children.
But they all knew Donna had It, and pictured her immersed in it
"Be patient, for that time will come to pass too. Follow thy Father's hand and thy Mother's rules, imitate their successes," said a strange inner voice Donna had been hearing of late. It spoke again. "Your time will come Sweet Songbird, Donna Wood."
Yes, Daddy Wood had a vast knowledge of radio and music, and Donna respected that with all her heart. As the train finally rolled along back from North Conway, she remembered the first time her parents took her to church. She stood in the pulpits watching them take center stage before their congregation and God. They sang from their hearts, sounding so beautiful and pure that Donna cried joyfully out of the sheer beauty and overwhelming grace her soul felt. It made the little girl, then only 4, grateful to God that she'd inherited those same talents, and took to them like a bird to chirping.
Donna always felt much older. Especially today, for some reason. Not just because she was traveling with her father and family, all dressed up in a traveling outfit, but because she really was growing up, even when they all munched on maple sugar candies and giggled at the drunk old man stooped over the railing they made funny faces at him.
She hoped they'd get back early. A few of her friends from school were coming by to go hiking early tomorrow morning. It would be Cousin Virginia and Janice, who asked if her brother Todd could join them.
* * *
After doing some quick talking, Katie got P.J. to drive into Beverly Hills, to Gloria's house. She incessantly begged him to stop at 132 S. Canon Drive, Donna's old place, which he reluctantly did, after her over-urgings. They passed Donna's apartment building.
"Wow, it's still here and looks the same as it did in shots taken 60 years ago of Donna, Gloria, Mama and Papa Wood, with Donna's tall, handsome army captain looking somber and handsome in his uniform," said Kate wistfully. "And I noticed something, P.J.," she said holding up a picture of Lee Hackler. "You look a lot like him! The same hair, although Lee's curls are brushed straight back conservatively," she noted, touching P.J.'s adorable curls, him brushing her hand away. "But you both share the same brow and eyes, as well as brooding expressions." It was amazing to Katie as P.J. gunned the engine and barreled down Canon, swearing he "didn't look at all like Lee Hackler", how much he really did!
They drove 4 blocks to the Beverwil house. Gloria's ailing widower's hospital bed was set-up in the living room where parties, jam sessions and neighborhood get-togethers once took precedence.
"Hi Lee," Kate said, going up to his bed, CNN blasting in the background.
"Hello, how are you two doing?" Asked Lee, while struggling to sit up. He reached for his cigarettes, as usual, offering her one. She took it eagerly, finding a strange identifying factor in the gesture, like when she first came to the house and was looking at those pictures. The smell of the smoke renewed her nostalgic Wood wonderings.
"Where's Marlena?" Kate asked Lee.
"She's at school," answered Lee. "She's taking English classes at Beverly Hills High."
"That's great, Lee!" P.J. died his cigarette out in the nearby ashtray.
It was then that Katie causally started walking around the house, seeing as Marlena wasn't around. Sometimes Lee's Russian companion would find Kate searching through boxes and drawers in the Lanai. The plump gal with the varicose veins, sometimes hidden by spandex, would ask Katie what she was doing, so it was good the companion wasn't there this particular day when the girl snooped about.
But the bug had bitten Katie the moment she walked into the house. There wasn't anything of much value, just pictures, clippings, diaries and mementos of the past glory of the Wood family legacy. That's all there was to mark the birth, death and re-birth of them, at least the ones in the pictures. Katie still didn't know if there were living relatives, because Lee never mentioned any yet. She knew in time he would.
Kate looked around, scrutinizing the remnants of the room. It seemed Gloria was the entertainer, as well as an excellent hostess, especially in the story told by the snapshots of family gatherings, Walt Disney functions, road trips and other such excursions captured and frozen on film. It proved beyond a doubt that the Wood's were an active, happy-go-lucky, close-knit family that wasn’t shut out of Donna and Gloria's singing stardom. It was strange and eerie, but Kate could almost hear Gloria singing in that 4-octave range, enabling the 5 foot singer to carry virtually any note with ease and abandon. As she thought about that, Kate spotted an old picture in a frame all dusty and moldy. She picked it up, dusted it off and just barely recognized Rock Hudson with a microphone along with Gloria and others frozen in some high note in this very lanai!
Katie walked in front and snapped several shots of the roadside and exterior by the house. Once inside, she talked Lee into snapping shots of her in the same spots as Gloria was in her 1950's barrage of photos. Outside in the yard, on the patio she and P.J. matched and shot in the same spot that a young vibrant Gloria Wood sitting with her grandfather in 1950. That picture, as well as one from their cemetery trek, was to yield strange unexplainable feminine ghostly images.
Yes, there were two distinct shadowy, ghostly figures. One captured at Gloria's house on the patio of a woman's face staring into the camera on the lower left portion of the picture. Also, at Donna Wood's plot at Forest Lawn - a strange face of a woman between Kate's hands as they rest on either side of Donna's plot, unmistakably well-defined eyes, nose and mouth can be seen with the naked eye. Most she showed were a bit skeptical. Others believed. They even submitted the photos with captions on the World Wide Web, and people as far away as Singapore were clamoring to know all about the Woods. Even an engineering student in India wanted to chat about Donna and Gloria Wood! Who were they? Why hadn't they ever heard of them? And Kate faithfully answered the long-awaited fan mail from people about the subject. Sometimes she pretended to be Donna, or sometimes Gloria, and whatever drove her onward with, had a strong hold.
Was it the Wood Family's spirit calling out, refusing to be forgotten? Calling out their ongoing message of - "Keep our memory alive, please don’t forget us, the Woods!"
The Wood family was big churchgoers, Robert and Gert singing in the choir, as well as other engagements around the Arlington and Boston areas, so there was a religious spiritual feeling to their souls. And souls were laced with electrical current, as well as the Internet.
P.J. and Katie sat out on the patio in the hot sunshine. "It doesn't matter that Donna never achieved movie stardom," said Kate, taking a puff of a Marlboro cigarette Lee offered her when they first arrived that morning. "But if she had 3 blockbuster films under her belt, she would have been known as Lady-James Dean, I just know it!"
"Hey, I hope you aren't taking this Wood thing too far," said TJ. "Don't go nuts on me, okay? And there may be family members alive who won't take kindly to us, you know..."
"I've thought about that, but who cares. We're bringing so much happiness to Lee. He loves how I've embraced the Woods, I just feel it. I feel them too!"
"Just don't get too crazy, okay? Other people connected to this family might not appreciate it," preached TJ. "And you know how high-strung you get! Just be careful and let the Woods have their place, that’s all I’m saying."
Katie brushed his warning away, "Okay, I know, I know. Don't go off on me about it!"
But, she had to agree with P.J., there must be relatives lurking about somewhere. And others, their friends and family may think her a bit “off”, so for now Kate would suffice with the photos of the past.
After gazing closely at each and every picture of the Wood's at least a dozen times over, Kate began feeling even closer to them. So close in fact, that one late evening, her boyfriend heard the lady talking in her sleep distressfully calling the Wood family cat Tommy, whose picture appears in several photos with the Woods. It was the foreboding way Katie called out, when at the same instant she yelled in her sleep for Tommy, there were rapid footsteps outside their bedroom window. (The police term for gun is Tommy) These particular officers were chasing a suspect who ran in the yard and over the fence. The next thing Katie remembered was being jolted awake as P.J. stared at her wide-eyed and looking a bit freaked out himself, but maintaining his cool all the same.
As they sat by the window watching six policemen with Tommy guns drawn searching the yard for the culprit, it seemed as if the Woods essence played a strange role. Finding no one, the cops left, leaving a half-spooked neighborhood back in silence. The couple marveled at the experience and timing of the event, which seemed eerie. After that 'cat' experience, Kate began calling their own feline Tommy instead of his real name of Berlin-Kiddi, but the cat always nipped at her, it's ears twitching at the sound of the name Tommy. Katie also started wondering if the Woods were trying to reach her, since her vibrations dripped of their essences. It would be great if she could travel back in time and meet them. Sometimes the girl fantasized about it, trying to take her mind there, but was usually interrupted by something, causing a connection breakdown.
A few weeks after the police incident, Kate was sleeping in the living room because of P.J.'s snoring when all of a sudden a female arm reached from the darkness, shaking her then dissipating. A few days later, P.J. mentioned that he felt a female arm reach out and rouse him too. Kate told him of her experience, and he wanted to drop the subject entirely, which is what they did.
* * *
As Donna had hoped, they had made it back early, Gert even having dinner ready and hot on the table. A roast, veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy, plus fresh apple cider and all the fixings. The family ate heartily, while talking about the day. They were close and all knew that to get through the Great Depression, differences would have to be put aside, especially sibling rivalry, which shouldn't be left unchecked.
After dinner, Donna stopped by Cousin Virginia's, who had already spoken with the others. They used the phone in the hall to call Janice and had arranged everything from that point.
They giggled when Janice's brother Todd answered the telephone and confirmed everything with them. "Yes, we'll be there at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow," he said.
"Okay, that's great. Hey, Donna wants to talk to you." Virginia handed the phone to her cousin.
"Hi Toad, what's doing?" The pretty girl asked. She'd taken to calling him 'Toad', and he never seemed to mind, figuring Donna meant the nickname to imply he was a Prince Charming waiting for his princess to come and change him back.
"Oh nothing, I just got through listening to Amos & Andy.
"Your dad letting you listen to the radio more?" Asked Donna.
"No, I'm not as lucky like you are, being able to listen anytime, even having more than one radio in your house! Now that's heaven to me. My folks figure that if they gave me a radio of my own, I'd never come down to dinner again!"
"Well, they're probably right," she snipped at him playfully. "My parents know I won't abuse the privileges they set for me. So you going hiking with us tomorrow, or what, Chum?"
"Yes, I already asked my dad, and he said I could. Virginia going to be there?"
Donna didn't answer right away and felt a mixture of jealousy and protectiveness for her cousin. They were close. "Yeah, so what? You taking a shine to her, Toadie-boy?"
"What if I was? You mad?"
"No, not mad, just don't hurt her, okay? She's more than just my cousin, you know, she's my best friend! I look out for her. We look out for each other. She'd be doing the same as I was right now if the tables were turned."
"I wasn't saying anything bad about it, Donna. And we'll be there around 7, okay?"
"Make it 6:00 a.m. so we can get a good start."
"I'll set my alarm."
"Don't be late, or Virginia and I leave without you and your sister!"
"I won't! Tell Virginia I said bye," said Todd.
"Tell her yourself, Lover-Boy, maybe I should put on some romantic stuff in the background!" Donna handed the phone to her friend who stood waiting to talk to her new love.
Donna walked back into the living room and sat on the couch waiting for her cousin to finish with her telephone call. Lately, since he and Virginia started liking each other, Donna's view of the guy had changed. He was going from a runty, mussed-haired kid, to a tall, more reserved boy that she knew was deep inside his 15 year old body.
Finally Virginia swooned into the living room and sat next to Donna looking dreamy. "Hey, your cheeks are really flushed, Virginia, I don't think you want your mom to see you this way, quick, let's go upstairs and put on some light powder to tone you down."
The two tip-toed upstairs, applied the make-up. When the two launched into a cute ditty song, and had gotten the harmonies just right, Aunt Stella told Donna it was time for her to go home.
"My, my, you two were rambunctious this evening," said the still striking woman.
"There's a lot to be rambunctious about, Mom!"
"You girls are just growing up, but I'll tell you something, I've got a mind to talk to your Uncle Earle about seeing if you can join in on Aunt Gert's music lessons.
Virginia couldn't have been happier, and was Donna when she left to return to her own house. She immediately called her cousin up with the news. They sat and talked about boys for a bit, then retired for the evening. Donna said her goodnights to the family and went to bed.
* * *
Hours later, after retiring, Donna still lay awake thinking and drifting. She couldn't wait to see her friends and hoped Toad wouldn't act immature and tease them too much. Maybe she should drop the nickname Toad. Why were boys like that? She drifted into her usual restless sleep dreaming of that same girl with the curly, curly hair.
But, as usual, the sun announced yet another morning out her window and Donna was relieved to see the same bluebird perched on her windowsill, signaling a new day.
In the end, she was glad Todd had come along, because he did most of the picture taking. Her father had let Donna borrow the new camera he'd just bought. She treated it like gold, taking it out carefully from her lunch sack.
"This might be one of the last nature walks we'll take together for awhile," said Donna, walking down the grassy path.
"I guess once we start going to different schools next year, the chances of having the same schedule is at odds," said Janice, while munching on her ham and cheese sandwich, sipping Coca Cola from the bottle.
"I wish you and Toad were going to Arlington," lamented Donna, stealing a sip from the Coke.
"Well, in the meantime, we're all as close as ever," said Virginia, popping a potato stick into her mouth.
As they walked slowly up the well-worn path to a small tree sanctuary at Whitcomb Summit Observation Tower, where they would do a bit of bird watching, no one missed Todd and Virginia holding hands and exchanging a hug once in a while. "Don't think going to separate schools is going to hurt those two, hey?" They laughed lightly.
"My dad said we might see some rare colored birds, because a neighbor had lost his pet parrot, one of those exotic birds from overseas," explained Donna, scanning the horizon with the binoculars she'd also brought.
Todd immediately said, "Donna, your dad is pulling our shoestrings! There aren't any strange colored birds in all of Massachusetts, except the ones in cages and in your brain!" Everyone laughed.
But soon they entered an open copse of trees and heard a bird screeching, then a strange voice say, "Stop in the name of the law!" The group of friends then spotted a small blue and red bird fly to the highest tree, and into its recently forged nest. Its markings were very offbeat and colorful.
"It's from India, I think," explained Donna.
"That's so neat," said Virginia."
"Won't that do something to the ecological chain?" Asked Todd kiddingly.
"I don't think so."
Todd snapped a few shots of the action. It was then Donna remembered the nickname her mother called Dad - 'Woodie', short for the woodpecker bird. Well, it was better than calling him 'Parrot'. Afterwards, when they returned from the hike, Gert invited everyone for dinner. They sat around the table talking about the bird they saw. Then out of the blue, Gloria started teasing her father, how he would look as a bird. Later on that evening, Gert carried the joke further when she compared her husband’s member to a woodpecker bird. They shared a good laugh, settled down, talked for a bit, hugged close and nestled in for the evening.
The house was quiet, except for that mournful train whistle that always seemed to sound it's horn at just the right moment in time.
* * *
Lee finally gave the go ahead for Katie to call Virginia Wood, first cousin and band mate to the Wood sisters. She had finally gotten the number and it was like a key to some mysterious treasure from Gloria's husband Lee, one of many he would procure through the months. Of course by 1997, Virginia was well into her eighties, which was hard for Katie to first fathom because of looking at all the photos of Ginny as a little girl, even as a baby. The first thing the girl asked Ginny was about Lee Hackler, Donna's husband.
"I don't know what happened to Lee. His family was from Kansas. Lord, he was very handsome and stern, focused. Donna had met him on one of her many War Bond tours with the Heidt band. He was, at that time, in the Army Air Corp., but also had the privilege of being his unit's official music conductor," explained the talkative, perky sounding Wood-link. "The couple most probably met at one of the big shows. From there they courted, then shortly married in 1943. He moved in with Donna at her place after the war, worked for the Beverly Hills Citizen in the newspaper's advertising department."
"Wow, that's very interesting," egged on Kate. It was the first time she could put an event to a photo, and Lee's face was as clear as if she'd known him herself, which she probably did, or ‘would’!
"My, my, you are bringing me way back! Shall I continue?
"Please do," said Kate, lapping it all up like a can of Alpo to Lassie.
"My husband and I spent time with them in 1942. That's when we married, and ended up going back east though. Lee was good looking, strong and tall, he had a wonderful sense of humor, but there was this very strict and prim side to him, especially in regards to his appearance. He was only a few years older than Donna, but definitely loved that woman more than anything in the world," said Virginia, her voice becoming far away as she went back to those days. Her voice still held that childlike quality, that flare for living. "By the way, I'm very much interested in what you are going to do with all this," she said so suddenly, that it startled Katie with its stark clarity.
"Oh, yes, of course, I have plans. But I'm just enjoying your family like they're my own. I hope you don't mind," said Kate, wanting to hear more about the Wood's past.
"Did I mention that my husband flew 54 missions overseas? He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, and many other medals," said Virginia, talking up her man. "He was a teacher at a high school, and even taught a class in ROTC. He is a wonderful man."
"I'm sure he is," said Kate, noting that fact about the Woods.
"I've taught dancing all of my life, and put on radio and singing shows, and I play piano and organ. And just for the record, I am teaching at the Cerebral Palsy Center."
"You've sure done a lot, Virginia!" It was almost like talking to Donna and Gloria. For the same blueprint in their brains was certainly instilled in Ginny's.
"Yes, we've done it all, really. Dick and I danced together all through 56 years of marriage until the loss of my son. But we still enjoy swinging to music together. We enjoy our grandchildren and daughter-in-law. She's an artist, just like my son was."
"It's almost like her son represents Donna Wood, the same pattern, dying young like that," thought Kate. "It's so sad, and I'm really sorry about that, Virginia. How did he die?"
"It was a brain aneurysm. He was taking medication, had a headache, went to sleep and just never woke up," said the woman sadly. “It was so sudden!”
"Oh, that's terrible. I'm so sorry, Ginny." Katie didn't know what else to say, but secretly wondered where Virginia's son was buried, and if it was accessible.
Months down the line, Ginny would send Kate a picture of she and her son dancing together in 1976. It would be at that moment that Katie would see the resemblance of the boy to her brother Neil. Putting a picture of her brother side by side with Ginny's son procured another parallel! Neil and the boy could have been twins! And to add more mystery to the saga, Ginny's son was adopted. The pictures of the two would speak for themselves, people would believe what they will. Katie knew the truth.
"Yes, but we go on. I've got a lot of things happening," acknowledged the
woman, her perky, young voice all of a sudden sounding stern and forlorn.
"Getting back to Donna and Gloria, I noticed that in many of the pictures there might have been a friendly rivalry between them. You can clearly see their body language, which seemed to be a bit competitive," assumed Kate.
"Yes, there was. Glo was the wildcat, Donna the lovely songbird!" said Virginia, still not seeing the full scope of Kate's Wood love. "But Hackler, oh, he was a wonderful musician, a conductor. They’re so exact, and have to take control. He was the type that laid down the law and expected a clean household and a tip-top wife to come home to," explained Virginia Wood. "He was over protective of my cousin."
"Obviously, Donna adored him, judging from her expressions in the shots," said Kate.
"Our family respected Lee Hackler, especially Uncle Earle," said Virginia, using Donna's father's middle name for some strange reason, rather than Robert.
"Yes, it's clearly written on his face in many of the photos of them together in front of Donna's place and from what you say, Virginia."
Katie had been to the apartment house on Canon Drive a few times and still felt Wood spirits wandering and meandering, still searching out ideal spots to take photos. There's also an attached sadness to the place. Nothing's really changed except the trees around the building had grown triple the size. The walkway, once an azul blue tile, was painted over many times, now an unappealing mauve. After all, it had been over 55 years. Even when Kate did live in that neighborhood for almost 12 years, she never ran across any Wood family visiting that apartment, nor ever noticed Gloria or Lee shopping at the market on Olympic.
Now she felt like she'd known them all along and can draw inspiration and happiness from wondering 'Where the Woods Were'. More and more each day Kate felt what Donna might have felt on certain days and moments.
"Virginia, I've taken a keen interest in the Woods' life in the 1930's and '40's, and I even understand that time a little better just from looking at all those old photos and clippings. I don't know what drives me to continue to take so much interest in your family, rather than putting energy into my own, but, as usual, I feel compelled to wonder about 'Where The Wood Were', and know there is more!"
"It's okay, Dear. Those were golden days. You keep doing what you've been doing. Just know that my husband and I are with you in any way. We thank you for it. And thanks for remembering," said Virginia. "I feel like I've known you all my
life," she added eerily.
After Kate hung up, she had a premonition that something marvelous was going to happen. She knew at that second that once she was in the 1940's and had known Them! She didn't even realize how truly on the mark she was, because the woman had gone back in time, and returned, but had not come to that point yet!
* * *
Eric Anderson, Gert's brother, stopped in while everyone was out to drop off flyers for a singing engagement he was putting together. He knew the Wood's were all going to be there, of course. The first thing on Robert Wood's mind was how Donna and Gloria could figure into this dinner show. Although the Wood sisters were young, sometimes their parents couldn't help themselves, and got so obsessed!
"It's the lure of the music. It does something to the spirit, and Gert says it's something akin to religious, like those pious preachers on the streets of Downtown Arlington. They shout The Word, and condemn damnation. It's the same with music, which drives the soul!" Explained Robert in the same way the preachers got all fired up in town.
Robert asked his wife Gert to speak with Eric to see if Donna and Gloria could do a number at the show, but there was no need to ask, because Gert's brother already mentioned it and she accepted for the girls.
Donna walked around the house starry-eyed, feeling what Virginia felt with Todd, but different, of course. Gloria imitated her older sister's gestures. This indeed would be a platform, a springboard of sorts, to see what the Wood sister's are all about, what they were made of!
A week before the show a new addition was added! Cousin Virginia was the third leg that made them The Glo Vir Don Girls Trio. It happened so naturally, and all three of the girls were definitely naturals.
They launched into rehearsing with Gertrude as their director/manager. She guided them through all the standards of the day and of her time. All 3 girls took to the songs, all 3 matching each other in poise and vocal range, but it was Donna that had that certain sparkling beauty that set her just a cut above the other two. Adding Virginia was a good move as well, because the girl was vibrant, a real beauty, and certainly just as star-dusted as the Wood sisters were. It was a certain sparkle that so many Hollywood hopefuls longed for. And all the girls wore it like a stamp on their foreheads. They possessed a special something, and resembled the prototype of a group who would follow that starry-eyed vision set for them.
As the Wood's entered the small dinner theater in Downtown Orange, the first thing Donna noticed was the smell of heavy cologne and perfume from the many richly dressed patrons dining on the last of their filet mignon and lobster tails.
"Yes, she was nervous, but it was a good nervous. This is what she always dreamt! - Singing for a crowd with her fellow Glo Vir Don's!"
Gertrude came up beside her daughter and stroked her hair lovingly. Mother knew a good thing when she saw it, and the Glo Vir Dons were the first step for Donna. At that moment Donna turned to her mother and said, "We're going to get to the end of that rainbow, where there's a Pot O' Gold!" She said it as if on cue, as everyone took their seats then, when the lights flicked on and off. The show began as usual, with a women's trio singing a Concerto, then a mixed assortment of songs of the day sung by groups of singers, plus some of the newer standards. By the middle of the show, before the intermission, Eric Anderson came out singing in that deep Tenor way that set him apart from the other three men on stage with him. They sang mostly medley-type songs, even some barbershop quartet numbers, which got the older folks excited and on their feet.
After the brief intermission the Glo Vir Dons were introduced. There was a murmur in the crowd of regulars who frequented the dinner club. Some sounded skeptical, mostly the 'groupies' of other performers, but as soon as the lights trained on the trio, those skeptical murmurs turned to amazement as the girls began an uplifting bluesy tune.
The Wood sisters knew this was it. The moment they were led back stage and they quickly donned their costumes, almost vamp style, but with class and poise, they knew this was their destiny. And before their show they'd always say a chant between them -- "Hot spit, we've got secrets, mums the word, we won't tell!" It meant the secrets to success! It meant a lot of things! Now they took the stage together for the first time. The crowd, who were slowly raising the conversation din during the show, soon hushed to a light whisper. It was amazing to see these three girls light up the stage, and singing all sorts of musical selections and light tunes. They warbled lightheartedly and upbeat, even leaning toward gospel, thanks to Robert & Gert's church influence, which was obvious.
By the third song, no one wanted the girls to get off the stage. They ended after a beautiful medley of swing tunes, with Gloria & Virginia hitting the high notes, and 14 year old Donna bringing the house down with a cool rendition of a most-bopping blues tune, sang like the lead in a Broadway show, even though the girl was young. It was assured that no one in that audience would soon forget 'Donna Wood and her Glo Vir Dons'.
Afterward, in the lobby, people came up to the Wood's and praised their performance. "Such potential, such poise, such delivery! And Donna, wow, what a set of chops! She sounds like a grown-up, mature singer. How old did you say they were? Donna's 14? And Gloria is only 9? Virginia 12?"
If Eric Anderson felt any jealousy, he kept a cool mask of it as the stout man took each Glo Vir Don in his arms and swung them around, hugging all of them equally. Many had come up to congratulate him, saying he had a such a voice, not even commenting on the Glo Vir Dons at all, which surprised him about other people's loyalties. Many in society's music circles knew his name, or at least that of his family's, so he had no doubt that the girls would soon be generating a whole new Anderson-Wood scrapbook.
Afterwards they all went to dinner at Tilly's. From the moment the Wood's walked into the restaurant to the second they got up to leave, people kept breezing by their table compliment them, for most had already heard what a smash The Glo-Vir-Dons were, bringing the house down at the old supper club. The girls pulled off a solid performance. In most people's opinion, they're on their way. Even Bobby and Channie got compliments. The Wood family as a whole looked so ideal and centered. Who knew what lucked in their futures.
* * *
One Sunday morning, out of the blue, Lee led P.J. (whom he'd become more friendlier with in the last few month's since March) out back in the yard to an aluminum shed that held more personal items of the Wood family's past. Kate’s masculine side felt like Howard Carter opening Tut's tomb! There were recording machines from the 50's, microphone stands, old books stuffed with family pressed flowers and other mementos. There were even items from another family, The Becthel's, a woman Gloria Wood nicknamed 'Bee', whom she had a close association with in the 60's and up until the older lady's death in 1990 at the age of 92!
There was Donna's diary from before and near her death in 1947, which Kate began reading as soon as she found it in that hot shed. It dawned on Kate that entries written by the ailing singer during her illness coincided with the Roswell alien incident, setting the tone for Kate's fly back in time.
Donna wrote sporadically and furiously for months, abruptly stopping in the beginning of April of '47, presumably when she passed away.
February 21, 1947: Today is the day I try some new treatment. Dr. Bilon examined me and my pressure and blood flow are weak. Went to see Dr. Skepner next door at 6255 Hollywood Blvd. His wife was at the desk. We had a nice visit. We made a date for dinner with his mother and wife. Lee called Dr.Bilon. I guess they talked in length about my condition. Because I got a call the next day. I was disappointed. I was all set up for some good news. There was none, but I'm hanging in there as best as I can. I guess all my antics on the road are coming back to haunt me now.
February 23, 1947: Today is the day of my new appointment with a referral from Dr. Bilon's office, a Dr. Levine at 2:30. Dr. Bilon gave Lee 7 shots for any pain I might experience! Afterwards, we went to visit Aunt Stella, who was home. She took me out for a bite, but it was hard to eat. I was dizzy. They gave me something before I left the doctor's office. God, my arm is sore. You know, as I think back, maybe I shouldn't of used those diet aids, they may have weakened my heart. At least that's the impression I'm getting from the doctor. Who knows at this point? I'm so frustrated, but trying to keep up. Mama and Papa have been staying with us, and they are a blessing.
And, guess what happened yesterday morning! There was a huge explosion over on Pico and Sanborn, some aluminum factory. The whole neighborhood heard it. It's been on the radio all day, and my next door neighbor, the only one with something called television, let us watch it. A few workers were killed and it's really making news. Just wishing to feel better.
February 29, 1947: Today is the date of our income tax board for 1946! Lee picked my parents up at 2:30, went and did shopping and to his bank. We went to Five and Dime store and The Broadway, across the street from Dr. Bilon's office in Hollywood. We went to the appointment, although I'm a bit fatigued. They came over and we actually made it to Webster’s Steak House. Was home at 8:00 p.m. Lee and I actually made love and I didn't feel that fatigued. A man needs the release and so did I. I cherish every moment I get to spend healthy and happy with Lee. He's my life, even in death. I'm being facetious, of course, but I relish to feel good! It' weird, but afterwards, Lee and I had a little argument today. I said I won't take this sick feeling anymore" and he knows it. It got him miffed and brooding, because I think for the first time he realizes our time is short. I didn't mean to hurt him, just want to love. I said, "I can't say anything negative anymore?" and he said, "You do pretty well, and I said you'd like me to be timid and accepting of all this?" Oh, everything seems so petty lately. We finished at 11:30 and went to bed.
Still trying to be upbeat about my declining condition. I can feel it! It's scary, and brings back those dreams I had as a child. It's all coming in picture perfect lately. I'm scared. I've stopped the diet pills, or 'Pep' Pills, as Gloria calls them.
March 5, 1947: Today is the Birthday of Lee, my Darling! His day off. We'll also celebrate his birthday with a drive to Big Bear because, for once, I feel so much better all of a sudden. The doctor said it would be up and down. Lee and I just want to take advantage of my health and live everyday to the fullest. I'm sure if we weathered through World War II, we can certainly weather this too. God is with us. Have my parents staying over. I gave Lee a dinner party at Fog Cutters and sang 'Blue Heaven' for him. I wore an emerald-colored suit. We all had Fillets with sauce and mushrooms and liver, and two barcardis. Delicious! Lee had New York steak. We all had salads. Took our friends home at 12:30. Lee and I went home and listened to the radio together.
Although both of us have our moments and Lee his moods, we do enjoy being together, even when we're doing nothing. Wish I was better. Again, all I want to do is feel well again. I'm really suffering with this ill-health thing. The doctor said it's my heart, and I can put any strain on it. That's very hard for me. I wonder if he also means making love. Oh, how I would miss that. I've also noticed that my dreaming pattern has slowed, which means my medication is affecting it. Maybe now that I'm involved with the Christian Science church, I can find strength in fighting this off. Oh, how I want to live!
My sister Glo is doing so well these days playing with Kay Kaiser. And Horace Heidt stopped in last week, on his way to Santa Barbara with the Musical Knights. I've been missing singing like that. I wish I could just do it one more time, one more whirl. Maybe in my next life, right?
It was February of '97, 50 years later, that Kate began inserting entries of her own on blank pages between Donna's 1947 scribblings. The diary began taking on a new life!
February 21, 1997: Hi I'm Katie, a friend of Lee, Gloria Wood's husband! I found this diary at their house in Beverly Hills. It belonged to Donna Wood before she passed away. Today is my old flame Brad Boyers' birthday. Boy was I crazy about him. Knew him at Salem College in West Virginia. Hard to believe that this day marks almost 19 years after my father died in 1978, committing suicide by swallowing pills and vodka. We came home to find the phone off the hook and my father lying on his bed dressed in full tuxedo. He'd had it all planned out even to the last detail, leaving lengthy, amorous, 'at-peace-with-himself' notes to each of us, including the family attorney.
August 15, 1997: Today is the birthday of me, Katie, plus the anniversary of when I met P.J., just like on Gloria’s birthday when she met Lee! Well, today is my 35th. They gave me a cake and flowers at work, only after an agent over at William Morris Agency sent me flowers. Then, the Film Beat staff reporters got me flowers, as a cake was rolled out into the newsroom, and I found out later that a girl working at my job had said some things. She was mad because she had to pick up the cake. Robert in the library told me via E-mail messages on my computer where I work as an Editorial Assistant. In '47 my mother was sick with polio in Brooklyn, NY.. She told me that on her birthday she heard all the nurses and doctors singing Happy Birthday day from the dining room. She was so ill! My mother was 16 years old then! Donna Wood died, my mother lived.
It's P.J.'s and my 3rd anniversary. P.J. doesn't think it's any biggie. He never was very nostalgic or sentimental, at least not like Donna or Gloria Wood and their husbands - both named Lee! Sad at times, lost moments, unfelt feelings.
Sept. 5th, 1997: Today is the birthday of P.J. This is Kate Siegel writing. That's right, my boyfriend Philip John! He's in Palm Springs right now doing a job for one of my mother's friends - Hope Holiday. It's nice space for me spending more time alone. Came home from work, settled in, cooked a nice little dinner, watched t.v., wrote, did my art and slept. At least P.J. is making money! For some strange reason I've been thinking about 1969 when I was in second grade, hanging out with Roland Dubilier, this German kid who moved back there in 1970. Never saw him again. Now, to this day, I wonder about him. (Note: 11/4/97 --- I found Roland when we got hooked up to the Internet and I looked him up in a German white pages. Found Roland and now we correspond almost daily. He lives in Cologne and is a landscaper, married with two autistic kids. Right now he's vacationing on the North Sea.)
There were more of Donna's Entries in some dates, so that Kate could not
write in there. They were dated a year before her death.
April 14th, 1946: Today is my birthday. It's Lee's day off. Going to Big Bear for a 1 week honeymoon. Lee and I alone at Castaways Hotel for 3 to 5 days! We'll celebrate my birthday there. Went to pick up Mom, Dad and Gloria. Ended at Websters and had porter house steak. They did too. Mine was tender and theirs were tough. Got a cake for my birthday. I opened my presents from everyone. Gloria got me some Blue gloves and a table cloth with matching napkins and two cards and then we had coffee.
Lately I've been feeling a bit tired. I did lose 4 pounds, and have been taking those diet wonder pills everyone in Hollywood has been raving about. But now that I've lost that weight, I stopped taking them, and have been feeling poorly, especially in the morning. Lee has been disappointed more than once lately because I've not felt like making love, nor have the strength for it of late. I've been falling into deep sleeps with no dreaming, and I think maybe I'll go see the specialist again.
A few weeks later, Kate actually found Gloria Wood's diaries in a bedroom drawer, dated 1990-1991, and they were a bit more descriptive due to her old age. She talks candidly about health problems and bowel movement schedules. It was amazing to have found both sister's scribblings.
The next items the couple found were reel to reels of Gloria's commercials on radio and TV. It was eerie listening to them on the two-track recorder she used in the 1950's. It brought them back to a time when cars, cigarettes and beer were the exciting rages of the day!
"Did you know that My Gloria sang the theme song from the Woody Woodpecker cartoon, but was best known for that 'Rice A Roni, San Francisco Treat' commercial. She was the voice of Lady Fish in 'The Incredible Mr. Limpet,' starring Don Knotts." That was one of the longest sentences Lee had said and it was awesome to see the transformation of the guy since Kate and P.J. entered his life.
"I know that she did a stint as doing the noises that Tinkerbell in Walt Disney's Peter Pan did, and dozens of other offbeat background work," acknowledged Kate in appreciation. At that moment Kate was going through the older man's mail. "Yes, I got a rundown of Gloria's voice-over career by all the residual checks she's still receiving. It's amazing, Lee," said Kate, picking up one particular check from Warner Bros., for the movie Showboat. She even sang the voice of the little boy Lucille ball sang with in "Mame", the motion picture. Katie was amazed. Glo did a backgrounds for one of the twins in the Parent Trap, and even babysat for Mike Douglas' (talk show host) twins, because of her association with that particular movie. Blackballing would come much later for Gloria. In fact, Katie had found a video of Glo's performance on ABC's Music Is My Beat, and Glo sang her latest commercial of that day, breaking a taboo in t.v. advertising for 1959, by doing a medley of her past commercials for Miller Beer, Marlboro and Hamms Beer. She even sang the 'Grow, grow, grow' little boy voice her latest bread commercial. What a voice she had. Too bad she broke tradition by singing other sponsor's jingles. Then there was that Bridgett Bardot - Explosive Music album that was plugged with Glo's album, 'Wood By The Fire', plus she sang her racy tune "Hey Bellboy!". Another barrage of unfortunate incidents happened to Glo in 1960, 1969, and 1990 – she broke her foot on those three separate occasions, which spelled disaster for anyone with a Diabetes history like Glo was headed for. Plus, falling down may have contributed to her weight problems she suffered around those times.
* * *
Donna could hardly sleep that night, even after having hot chocolate with the family. Everyone was so happy and jovial, and it was all because of her, Gloria and Cousin Virginia! She was totally elated and didn't want the feeling to pass. Donna compared the feeling to the same way she felt when those waves came crashing against the shore. Could it be exhilaration? "Yes, it must be that!"
Gert and Robert were beaming. Words weren't needed to express the pride they shared in creating such talented offspring. When all the children were put to bed, the couple retired to their large bedroom with the brass bed. Nothing could have broken the spell that fell over them when they shut the big mahogany door. Gert sat in a large love seat brushing her hair, while Robert watched her from their bower, shirtless, only in his boxers. Finally he got up and carried his wife over and tenderly laid her beneath him. They shut out the world, making quiet, intense love, never seeming to tire of each other's company or sharing of bodies. It was their closeness that kept things in order.
After her adequate release, she began thinking that the last thing needed right now was another child. She'd bore 4 already and who knew how long the Depression would last. But once they were making love, her mind did little to quell the desire and passion behind the act. But all of a sudden, her husband, as if knowing, pulled out and released beyond the reach of those magical eggs! Gert sighed with relief and fulfillment and drew him closer to nuzzle on her breasts. They washed and retired for the evening, never noticing Donna up and about in the house as they soon fell fast asleep in each other's arms after quietly enjoying some afterplay.
Donna crept into their bedroom watching them closely. She had a dream and was a little spooked by its clarity. But when she saw her parents sleeping so tenderly, the girl didn't have the heart to wake them. It was about time she dealt with her visions on a mature level. Enough with the baby stuff already! If she wanted to be treated as an adult, and she could most certainly sing like one, then she must act like one. It would take a lot of pretending that she was in control of herself, not afraid, but she was going to be an actress anyway, so what the heck, good practice.
Donna crept back out, checking on her sister again for the third time that evening. She got a strange satisfaction from doing it, a certain motherly flutter.
Gloria was, of course, fast asleep, as were her two brothers. Chandler stirred ever so slightly when Donna lightly blew on his face, but Slumberland seemed to tug harder.
Donna loved when the house was quiet and still. At that moment a mournful train whistle sounded in the distance. Donna especially loved the sound of the train. It made her yearn for wide-open country, chugging along.
She walked through the entire place noticing things for the very first time, and imagining she was someone else looking in on her family after they were sleeping or buried forever, which brought attention back to the dream.
There's a colorful field, a girl with curly hair bent down looking at some graves. Donna came closer and saw it was her family's name on the plots. She even recognized her father's nickname "Woodie" etched in the stone, and her mother's nickname 'Ma' It was scary to look upon her own and something held her back from gazing at it in the dream. Frustration came next. She's screaming and yelling, and suddenly wakes up afraid, because it's not normal, but rather a foreshadowing of images of things to come. Was she talking to that strange inner voice?
Definitely not run-of-the-mill kid dreams, that's for sure. Her friends at school never dreamt like that, nor were theirs as vividly prolific. She tried sharing some of the dreams with her school chums, but they didn't take to it, usually brushing it off. Even Virginia shied away from such talk about Donna Wood's eerie dreams.
Still not being able to sleep, Donna went to the living room and pulled out the family Bible, which she began reading on the large, comfortable sofa. After the Tower of Babel fell, the young girl flipped to the plight of Joseph when he was in Egypt and interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. Finally, Donna fell asleep comforted by Gideon's.
A few hours later Robert Sr. rose and went to the kitchen. On his way in he spotted his daughter sleeping with the Bible beside her open to The Old Testament. She stirred then, but turned over on the plush colonial couch. He went to the closet and pulled out a flannel blanket, gently covering His Girl, kissing her lightly on the forehead. On his way back he put the hall light on the lowest dimmer so his daughter could find her way to the bathroom. And also to fight off any lingering bad dreams. Oh, how he hated those blasted nightmares. The doctor's could only say that it was something Donna might grow out of. If it were treated as a disorder, they'd give her medication to calm her at night. Robert couldn't allow it, and neither would Gert. It would most probably render their Donna of her loving, talented spirit that drove their oldest, plus, how would it effect her performance and singing career? No Laudanum for My Girl. God must have had some reason for her to be that way. As Robert climbed the stairs, thoughts of his daughter's dreaming troubled him. The condition could not be ignored, so the Woods turned to God and their faith to heal their daughter, and get them through the crisis. He prayed she would be okay, and asked God to give them all strength. He also prayed not to favor one child over another, promising to do more with his boys, especially his oldest.
After looking in on his Boys, he returned to the bedroom and closed the door quietly behind him. Gert, as he surmised, was wide-awake, looking at him, knowing his exact thoughts.
"She's sleeping in the living room again," said Gert. "Our daughter had no doubt come in when we had just fallen asleep.
"Gert, why don't you let things be for now," said Robert.
"Soon we're going to have a hard to hard talk with our daughter about privacy after hours. She's 14 and old enough now to understand that we won't tolerate that sort of behavior of sneaking around the house poking noses into business best left in private any longer. When the door is closed it should remain so," said Gert.
"Of course she means no harm, but Donna must sleep through the night in her own bed from now on. We've let her get into a bad habit of depending on our strength, when it was time for the girl to draw from her own," agreed Robert, fluffing his pillows and lying down.
"We'll talk about it in the morning and she would understand and obey," said Gert, turning to flick off the lamp. "Good night my sweet Woodie!"
"Sweet dreams, Ma!" They kissed deeply before turning over to sleep.
Soon a beautiful morning rose bright and clear, birds singing, sunshine trickling in Donna's room. She had went back upstairs around 3:00 a.m., climbing into her own bed. The same bluebird landed on her windowsill every morning. She became used to remaining as still as possible, for that creature was so alert and timid that even though the window was closed, he flew away when she looked up quickly. Soon Donna was up and playing the Songbird herself, humming one of the songs from Uncle Eric's show. The cheerful girl washed then dressed in a simple blue-print calico dress and button down shoes.
After fixing her hair and adding a touch of powder to her cheeks, a dash of perfume, Donna went downstairs to breakfast, her family already seated at the dining room table. Gert was serving eggs with bacon and motioned for her daughter to sit.
There was fresh squeezed orange juice, a tall glass of cold milk, buttered toast and jelly. Donna chewed on a piece of toast and sipped her orange juice, wanting so very badly to taste Dad's coffee. It smelled so wonderful. She would try it one day. Once served, she began eating as conversation drifted to the prospective day ahead.
Bob and Chandler were going to the lake to swim and do some boating. Gert was taking little Gloria, who sat across from Chandler eating oatmeal, for a haircut. So that left Donna to take pictures with Grandpa's camera. In fact, Grandpa was visiting and would love nothing more than to go on a photo excursion with his son-in-law, Shutter-Bug Wood and granddaughter around the same property he courted his now deceased wife, Constance.
Bob sat at the table finishing his country breakfast, wanting so badly to race to the lake where he could be outside. The oldest boy relished the outdoors so much, that he'd always wished to be like the American Indians. There were some left too! He read about it in an outdoors magazine put out by the Sierra Club. Maybe not around here, but they're still out West, which is where the boy had his sights set. The oldest son watched his father fiddle with his latest film gadget. As far back as Bob could remember crawling, he recalled how his father was so bug-eyed about cameras. They still had Grandpa's outdated camera from 1910!
He wasn't a performer, just didn't sing that well, and he'd accepted it. But once in awhile it would have been nice if Mom and Dad paid him as much attention in their hobbies as they were doing for their sister's talents and Channie's interest in a singing career. Bob found himself turning to other family relatives for that support. His Aunt Stella had been telling him to follow his dream to be a forest ranger, just like Donna and Gloria were doing with their singing and performing.
He stared long and hard at his sister Donna sitting across from him picking at her food. She should eat more, that he knew. Once he'd overheard a conversation his parents were having about Donna's dreaming. She was so different from the girls he knew at school. Sometimes he felt a cross between jealously and sadness for his sister, but they got a long very well. She seemed to favor Channie though. He'd noticed when she came into their bedroom in the middle of the night sometimes. He feigned sleep most times, just to observe her.
After breakfast everyone started their day. Gert and Robert took Donna aside and explained about the privacy act that was now in effect.
"As long as the door was closed, you aren't to enter or knock unless it's an extreme emergency, like the house was on fire or you didn't feel well," said Gert evenly.
"Otherwise keep that door shut and mind your privacy. And no more getting up at night and roaming around," added her father sternly.
"You're at an age where it was better to steel yourself, and try going back to sleep," said Gert.
"Of course, if you have to relieve yourself, that's fine."
"If you still can't sleep, you have permission to leave your bedroom light onto read. Take the Bible with you to keep at night."
Donna tried to be accepting, but that little girl part of her felt abandoned and sad. She loved sleeping in her parent's bed, loved the smell, the comfort, the security of lying between them, the enjoyment of their conversations and discussions that sometimes drifted far into the night as she fell asleep again. The girl would sorely miss that. Although she thought her parents a trite harsh, Donna seemed to understand their reasoning, and from then on would respect their wishes. She would adhere and have that acting strength because one day Donna Wood was going to be a famous movie star, that she was sure of. She was also sure her parents were sure.
* * *
It was two months later, Donna's first day at Arlington High School, that her dreaming disorder took a turn for the worse. She had fallen asleep during history class. When the teacher tried to wake her, she began screaming. They said she was zonked when some boys carried her to the nurse's office. Her parents were called and came right away. Gert was at a radio rehearsal and Robert in a board meeting, but they immediately sprung into action when both had received word of the nightmare in class. They rushed to the school as Donna was just getting off the infirmary cot. She looked pale and drawn, but was stable and getting color back in her cheeks. Donna's face lit up when she spotted her parents racing up the steps. She was scared, but knew this would happen due, of course, to yet another vivid vision of her future death.
As soon as word spread in Arlington about Donna Wood, the congregation at their church began a 24-hour prayer vigil, non-stop, all day and night. Gert and Robert, as well as the entire Wood family attended services and sang in their daughter's behalf. By mid-week there was marked improvement in Donna, nothing short of a miracle. The pretty, bright-eyed girl became much closer to God, and began studying His Word more intensely. She attended Sunday school regularly, as well as mass and services, which made her dreams fade by the time she awoke. She began taking long slow walks on the property, even accompanying Bob to his favorite place, the lake, for a boating expedition.
As Bob rowed rhythmically, both brother and sister enjoyed the quiet and solitude the lake lended. They grew up there and were as comfortable as kittens in a litter. Donna was feeling much better, stronger and not so scared to sleep. She must have faith!
Bob asked, "What do you see in those dreams? He was very curious.
Donna tried to recall where her mind went after she slept, and explained that "...everything goes in slow motion until little by little, gray clouds consumed my vision, then I felt myself falling. The next I remembered was waking up in the future looking at my final resting place. Sometimes it's so scary and full of clarity," explained Donna easily.
But specifically Bob wanted to know such thing as - Did her spirit go out of her body? Did she go to heaven, but God said it wasn't time? Bob wondered.
Donna knew the answer. "It's my strong will to live that keeps the Grim Reaper at bay, my youth and strength. But, also a strong faith in the Lord."
"Will you eventually succumb?
"Yes, I will, but not quite yet. Bob, I've grown to accept it for there was not much I can do except keep the faith, know God is alive within me, and try achieving the goals set for myself.
But still, similar questions nagged at her brain lately. It was becoming harder and harder to put them to the back of her mind and get on with the life she envisioned of stardom, singing and making movies, as opposed to making babies, or dying?!?! Something deep down inside Donna knew there was little time in her lifespan, so she started to learn acceptance of her fate. Let it take her where it will, she will fight tooth and nail!
At the thought of making babies, she thought of the conversation with her parents and understood that it had something to do with a private intimacy between man and woman, something that was just dawning on her. Virginia told her about having a crush on Todd, even admitting to exchanging kisses on that bird-walking hike. It had been a private thing between the couple. At the same time, Donna thought about her parents and how close they were. But why was love so hidden and private? Wouldn't their joy in each other be better out in the open? Why all the big secret fuss? She could understand not allowing the boys or Gloria in, but her? What had she done to get shut out, when in the past there were no problems with her sleeping in there? It must have something to do with her age. She was almost 15 and would show them she could obey and respect their wishes.
Katie, TJ and Lee uncovered a record/stereo player from 1956, encased in wood paneling, made by Columbia, with an attachment speaker in excellent shape. Kate picked various bundles of photos of the Wood family and pasted them on the stereo using special art glue that sealed the old photos into a smooth, clear surface.
"It truly shows 'Where the Woods Where', their past jumping out at you in a jumble of highlights," Katie said to TJ. But, before P.J. had a chance to repair the heirloom, sometimes they would hear, or think they'd heard eerie 1940's big band music, maybe Horace Heidt's popular numbers blaring in the middle of the night, but when the light sleeper couple would awaken and walk into the living room, they were met only by silence. It was back to bed until the music started again. Sometimes Kate would have to sleep in the living room to make the music stop playing (and to get away from TJ's snoring). It only happened on certain nights, then not for a long while, suddenly occurring again for no apparent reason. The scientist in Katie told her that it was her own mind playing tricks, but she still loved a good haunting. It became a game to Katie, as she stopped trying to distinguish every sound, usually attributing it to the Woods.
It was when Kate found Donna Wood's bible she read and held close to her before dying 50 years before, that the woman felt another piece of the puzzle falling into place. As she turned the pages of the half-a-century-old Bible, a doctor's prescription fell out. It was dated April 6, 1947, two days before the young singer passed away. The paper was well preserved, modern-looking except for the 5-digit phone number of a medical office at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard. You can barely read the signature of the physician, as well as what the medicine it was, which finally looked as if it may of been a form of hypo-Mercury that in those days they thought would stimulate the heart and kill any virus. In other words, they didn't really know what was wrong with Ms. Wood, and that's the sort of medication they doled out as a last resort!
Soon Kate would be getting off the bus there, on that corner, at that address because her job selling Internet Advertising for the phone company was actually in that same building directly across the street from the old Howard Hughes/Broadway building. It was hard to believe that 6253 still stood on the corner of Vine and Hollywood Blvd. She went in the building and up to the directory, scanning it, looking for Dr. Bilon, the name of the physician who last treated Donna. Amazingly enough, Kate came across a
T. Balal, almost similar to Donna's doc. Could it be yet another coincidence added to the long list growing? How very strange.
What really caught Kate's attention about Donna were the numerous hometown newspaper clippings about her, obviously through some mysterious P.R. ploy in hyped-up fashion. A picture is painted of a woman on the verge of stardom, a 'Cinderella in Hollywood,' engaged to a jeweler to the stars, doing her part for the war effort by going on coast to coast singing tours for radio and live shows, then meeting her future husband in '43 and settling in Beverly Hills, California.
In Donna's own words, "A lot of things have happened to me since I arrived in Hollywood last week. For one thing, I'm in the movies, something I had never imagined even in my wildest dreams!"
There were articles date-lined Hollywood - "Because an elevator stalled in Boston, a motion picture career opened in Hollywood for Donna Wood, 24-year old Boston singer. With no acting experience at all, she finds herself playing the part of Paulette Goddard's sister in "Pot O' Gold," James Roosevelt's first picture for United Artists.
Katie's first inspiration was to take all of it - pictures, dinner theater calling cards, ads, flyers and other such things - and create an impressive collage, which is what the creative woman ended up doing with some of it. She added 2 butterflies to the collage, as well as family photos at the gravesite, the obits written about Donna, including a typewritten poem by her Aunt Stella entitled "A Songbird in Heaven." It hangs on the bedroom wall in a large plastic-covered frame, looking like a piece belonging in a mod museum on Melrose Avenue. The second collage of Gloria's history sits on the fireplace mantel at the Beverwil house. Kate gave it to Lee, who adores it, even though he's ailing.
But Donna's collage holds much more significance for Kate. She gazes at headlines that ring, "Hub Star In Movie Romance! ... Stepping from airplane at East Boston as easily as she stepped into the role of Hollywood's 'Cinderella Girl', pretty Donna Wood of Arlington who reached fame in pictures in a few short months, revealed yesterday that she almost eloped one week after her arrival in the film capital."
"The now glamorous former Arlington High School girl is Donna of 'Donna and her Don Juans' featured with Jimmy Stewart and Paulette Goddard in the soon to be released 'Pot 'o Gold' movie."
"Yesterday at her parent's Arlington home, she recalled that she and Ralph Deitz, Hollywood jeweler, were on their way to buy plane tickets for a Las Vegas elopement when suddenly - like a woman - she changed her mind."
"But it was a change of mind and not of heart," she quickly added, explaining that she was afraid marriage might spoil the chance of her 'Don Juans' to reach the success for which they worked so hard.
"The Don Juans are George Jackson, Eddie Jones and Art Carney, all South Boston boys who sang over Boston radio stations for several years before Hollywood and fame beckoned to them almost overnight success."
"But Ralph and I correspond regularly," she smiled, and added, "Maybe soon there won't be any hitch when we start out to buy those plane tickets again."
"James Roosevelt, son of the President, who produced the 'Pot o' Gold' movie, is probably the most charming man in Hollywood, even more charming than most of the stars - in Donna's opinion."
She said, "He and Romelle Schneider, the nurse who brought him back to health following a serious operation, are really in love and were the most attractive couple on the set during the filming of the feature."
Donna's opinion about Hollywood glamour ... "It's strictly the bunk because all the stars are as nice and as down-to-earth as our next door neighbors."
"The fans glamorize the stars, and Hollywood simply picks up the cue from there on," she said boldly.
And as for her P.R. ploy to propel her into at the regular, Middle Class, American market, articles such as this one appeared to tone down the image ... "Orange relatives of Miss Wood have known of her engagement to Mr. Dietz, who is described in the Purcell story as the 'well known jeweler to Hollywood movie stars,' as well as being a 'handsome, six-foot two athlete.' It is assumed here that the church in which the couple alleged to have become acquainted is a Hollywood Christian Science church, since both Miss Wood and Mr. Dietz are Scientists. Miss Wood is 23 and Mr. Dietz' age is given as 26."
But of course, even the Hollywood of then made a woman's head turn toward the mirror, and sometimes that image didn't suit, so other measures would suffice in the age of no such thing as plastic surgery. Donna may have dabbled in diet pills, a deadly combo with her already weakened heart. She'd pop them on the road mostly to keep her going. It was very strenuous, and most of her friends encouraged it, just to give her that added pep and figure. It might have led to her death, and that was something Katie could not prevent, plus the fact that Donna was a Scientist, and most know what their beliefs in medicine are.
* * *
It was one month into the new school year when the Sadie Hawkins dance was announced. As a joke, Virginia dared Donna to ask Rich Roberts, a new boy in their class. Donna stared over at the cute-as-apple-pie blond boy sitting in the lunchroom eating a sandwich. His nose was buried in the latest Horatio Algers series that boys relished, so he didn't at first notice the pretty, dark-haired beauty standing over his shoulder. When he did, Donna smiled and almost curtsied, but instead looked him square in the eye, introduced herself and asked him to the dance while handing him a fresh milk from her tray, a gesture, a gift.
Richard, a heavy mottled blush spreading on his face and neck, was taken totally off guard. He was shy and quiet, and never in a million years thought a girl like Donna Wood would ask him to the dance, so for a second he was rendered speechless, dumb struck. At first Donna thought he was going to turn her down.
Finally, Rich found his voice and stammered a bit, but gratefully accepting. "Well, ahhhh, ummm, I, I, I guess so. I mean, yes, I'll go!"
He was so bashful, but Donna still sat down beside him. "What are you reading? I love reading too, mostly music sheets and lyrics."
As they talked, he thought to himself that Donna Wood seemed like a gal who would go places. He liked her, wanted to go with her to the dance, get really close, and maybe even hold her hand. It was the beginning of a long friendship that would last way into their twenties, up until Donna left for California in 1940.
The day of the dance arrived quickly. Donna's father would drive the kids. Mrs. Roberts had deposited her son at 6:00 so he could dine with the Woods. Right away Rich felt comfortable, maybe because Bob Jr. was there. They'd known each other since track team in junior high. Now Bob was getting ready to graduate!
"So, Bob, you going to be running track at college?" Asked Rich.
After swallowing his food, Bob answered, "I'm not sure yet, but sure's hell I'm going to get a lot of exercise."
Donna looked over at Rich. A blush went across her cheeks as well as his. Everyone pretended not to notice.
Rich sat tall and proud and exhibited his finest table manners for a boy his age. He was glad Donna had asked him, and still in awe that he was at the Wood dinner table. They had a fine reputation in this town as well as the surrounding Boston area. After all, he was no Douglas Fairbanks, so it was such a shock to him to be asked to the dance. He was sure that Thelma Korn was going to get to him first. But Donna was quicker, thank God.
Of course her Daddy took a ton of photos with their Grandpa's old camera, as well as a brand new one he purchased at the store in town. Donna and Richard posed for photos that were eventually blown up 8 x 10 and added to the growing collection of family mementos that Grandpa and Gert kept in order. They would pass it to one of their daughters, who would preserve it for their own families, and who knows after that!
Once safely deposited at the dance the two strode up the steps of Arlington High and into the gym for the festivities. As soon as they walked in, Virginia and her date Todd came over just as the band went into a Glenn Miller tune. They all stood together by the punch table and it was obvious that Rich couldn't dance or was too shy to ask Donna. So, as usual, the perky, petite gal took the gumshoe during an upbeat Dorsey number to pull him to the dance floor. They danced through the next Benny Goodman song.
Once on the floor they fell in step with the rest of the crowd at Arlington who were doing the Lindy Hop, an original swing dance number that started in the late 1920's. The band was very good, and Donna could imagine her parents standing around critiquing the poor fellows and Rich's dancing as well. She smiled. It was at that moment that Donna looked over in the direction of the band and began a slow saunter in that direction, almost forgetting she was dancing with Rich. The shy, tall, handsome young man followed her lead and danced over with her. Donna, as if entranced, stared wide-eyed at the band as they played a familiar Cab Callaway tune. She was just so taken with the music and wanted to jump on stage, grab the mike and sing right along with the band. The dancing only brought out her deeper, stronger feelings for singing. It was at that moment she recalled her latest dream of being in the spotlight. The lights turned into movie cameras and then she's whisked off on a cloud, but it feels like a train ride. So strange that she would think of it here, but at least it wasn't a nightmare.
Finally, the feeling passed and she turned to Rich, who was about to run and get her some punch to snap her out of it. At first he became alarmed, thinking she was going to pass out like at school, but he could see now she was fine. The band began a slow blues tune that made for closer dancing. They came together then, both a bit sweaty from the past few dance numbers. After doing the Lindy, their hearts were fluttering butterflies. Donna could smell him, a deep musky, yet fragrant outdoorsy smell, almost like her brother Bob, but different all the same. He was wearing some kind of cologne and that added to her feelings of wanting to hold him close and make him come out of that shell he'd built up around him from having an overbearing mother.
As they danced, all of a sudden his shyness left him and he led her toward the outskirts of the dance ring where bolder couples hid in momentary darkness to exchange a kiss or even cop-a-feel. Richard led the way to the dark corners of the room giving Donna a clear signal that he wanted to hold her close and kiss.
"You are so pretty, Donna," said Rich, almost awkwardly. He fought off his shyness like a bad demon as they began slowly, almost haltingly exploring each other's lips. Both were soft and pliant as they lingered there. Finally, they ducked behind a wall where they hugged and kissed, exploring new feelings of growing up. As they kissed, Donna wanted to get closer, needed to experience the feelings. For the slightest fraction of a second she imagined Rich was her father, but quickly repressed it. Richard realized that it took little time to brush his shyness and confusion to the back of his mind. In his nervousness he talked softly to her. "You feel so good, so soft and smell wonderful."
As he slowly drifted his hand to her soft bosom, he marveled at the texture of it through her clothing. He touched her lightly, holding her breast long enough to draw heat from it! But they had to stop, right? Why wasn't she stopping him? As he thought that, she did stop him and whispered in his ear, "I want to sing a few numbers with the band. Will you help me?" As she asked, Donna nuzzled against his cheek, which brought on goose bumps. "We better go before someone sees us." It was she that led him away from the darkness just as their principal was coming down the hallway to the men's room. They had to stifle their giggling when Principal Mack started talking to himself, thinking no one could hear. They shared one more passionate kiss before quietly making their way back to the dance. They had great timing, because a few couples, Virginia and Toad included, were caught by the chaperones and were being written up. The last thing Donna needed was to have her parents know she was making out too, and they wouldn't approve of that! She thought back to the reasons behind them not allowing her into their bedroom at night. She finally understood it all and wanted to experience this thing between man and woman. It seemed forbidden and wrong, but only when taken public. She wanted more than ever to experience it, but only with the blessing of marriage.
"Donna, you sure must be psychic! You are really something," said Rich.
"I'm just in tune with things. I get vibrations, feelings most don't have, especially girls my age. Most kids can't handle it. Sometimes I can't take it," said Donna, thinking of her dreams of late.
"You're different, not like anyone I've ever met," gushed Rich.
"You make me want to be exciting and fun," admitted Donna.
"And God knows I can handle it, and would just sooner hold you and make you feel safe," said Rich.
"I've never had these feelings."
"Oh yeah, I've had crushes on some girls, but nothing like this," breathed Rich, taking a risk and hugging her close to him.
At that moment there was something else she wanted to do.
"Listen, Rich," she said, pulling him closer to her. "I want to sing a few numbers. I feel compelled. It's extremely important to me."
"Okay, Donna, anything you say. The couple made their way back to the band, who were at that moment taking a break out in the alley. They found the manager and musical conductor smoking cigarettes, a cool veil of smoke slowly ebbing into nothingness.
Richard spoke with the orchestra leader, "She's good, and has been practicing for years with her mother, who's a known radio star up in the Boston area." He had to admit that he was a bit nervous, and hoped his voice wouldn’t crack.
"Okay, if it's all right with my manager, then she goes on."
The manager, who hadn't spoken a word, coolly turned to the blond kid and his date, who he'd spotted standing in the wings. He turned to Donna looking down at the petite pixy. "You make quite a picture and fit the bill pretty good, Missy, so I'll agree, that is if it's okay with the rest of the band."
Once the band got word, they gave their okay for the girl do two numbers. "If she stunk, then she was outta' there."
As the stage was geared up to accommodate one more person, the manager had a feeling from the start, when he first saw her staring up from the dance floor, that this one would be a real show stopper. He wished he was getting more for this gig, for his keen intuition said this girl was a gold mine. He could already feel the energy of the crowd as they stood around wondering what was going on. If this Songbird flew, he'd sign her to a band in no time!
Donna hoped she timed it right. Her father was coming back at 10:00 p.m. sharp to check out the band and maybe interview them for his radio program, so she wanted to be on stage when he came in. Her wish was to be granted, thanks to her father's prompt attendance due to working the radio circuit for years, for as soon as she stepped up to the mike and the band leader was introducing her first number, Mr. Wood was walking up the steps of the school with Gert, Channie and Bob.
When the first few notes of Donna's mature, perky voice hit, the Woods knew! Gert was glad her husband had brought his camera. "Oh, I wish Aunt Stella could be here to see this," said Gert of her sister who was babysitting for Little Glo.
They entered the school and raced to the gym, not wanting to miss a drop of their daughter singing on stage with an audience of her peers. It was obvious from the first moment she got on stage that the crowd was excited and wanted to hear her. Most were students in her class who had heard about the dinner club extravaganza. So they were eager to hear for themselves. And Donna did not disappoint them. She belted out two songs, then three, then finally after six songs when her father climbed on stage, thanking the crowd and leading Donna off, to shouts of "more, more, more" fading when the band started an instrumental. Even Cousin Virginia, who felt just a twinge of jealousy, ended up clapping the hardest for her kin.
Donna was sweaty and elated as her parents flanked her on either side, Bob and Rich bringing up the rear, Channie not far behind them. "Donna, you were great," said Rich.
"Didn't she have a nice feel for the band’s music set-up?" Asked Gert
"I'd overheard several of the road crew remarking that Donna Wood had the makings of a star," announced Rich proudly.
Bob was happy for his sister, but felt that usual cross between jealousy and respect for his sister, because he understood wanting recognition for dreams achieved too. He had heard from University of Montana, which had an excellent outdoors program, but he hadn't told his parents and had intercepted the mailman. He would tell them when the time was right.
On their way home Donna chatted freely about the dance, minus that she and Rich had hung in the shadows.
"The music was great and so was the punch," said Donna. "I wished Virginia could have come up and sang, but everything happened so quick.”
“There just wasn't time," added Rich. "The band was much better when Donna was singing.
"Now Donna, you're still at a tender age, and I don't want to spoil things, but your father and I feel that you need more direction and focus, otherwise you'll go on emotion and feeling to sing, rather than the regiment of formal training." Gert had spoken with the sleazy manager, who wanted to, as he put it, "hook Donna up with some musicians, some real hot players!" The older woman turned down the offer, saying her daughter was too young, but maybe in a few years, and I'm sure she'll be flattered.
"But Mama, it was so appealing and fun. I want to sing like that all the time."
"Donna, you mustn't forget the standards by falling into this rash, wild big band thing that's just the latest rage. Stick with the old style for now. There's plenty of time for that other stuff later," coached Gert. The manager had persisted, and she didn't trust him, or any of his kind. She remembered her own career, back in the early Twenties when men like him roamed the small, early radio stations beaming out music. They reminded her of the Hyenas roaming on the outskirts of a Lion’s hunt.
But Donna was starting to chomp-at-the-bit, seeking out other influences, which was totally normal for a teenager to be doing.
As usual the family sat in the parlor sipping hot chocolate, and then everyone retired. Donna could barely sit long enough for Gert to take the pins out of her hair and unbutton her gown. Finally, after washing up and saying her prayers aloud, Donna settled in and her mother kissed her and left. For the first time as far she could recall, Donna fell asleep fast, as if a lot of curiosity was satisfied this evening. She was making the step from child to woman. Singing up there really helped her along. This night she dreamt sweet dreams of being in the arms of an army man, tall, blue eyed and handsome. It wasn't Richard Roberts that's for sure.
* * *
Katie also observed a humorous, cynical side to Glo from her expressions. There's a look on the voice-over artist's face that seems to emulate self-satisfaction in that sly, smirk. And later on, Kate read Glo's apology pages to Lee, her husband...
March 7th, 1990
"Lee Darling. I love you with all my heart and soul and body. I don't want anything to happen to you, my Dearest! If anything happened to you now or in the near future, I would die of a broken heart and I wouldn't want to live any longer.
I won't be alive without you. I also love Barbara like a sister and I wish I was as strong when Chandler was here and she now does everything for Steven and family!
I know I'm a burden to you. I'm going to try to walk again, though it will take time and patience.
I'm sorry I left you for so many months, especially when I didn't remember anything I did or said. I love you so much. I know I say it so many times, but I can't stop myself!
I wish you would talk to me and tell me your troubles and the way you really feel healthwise. I want to be here for you like you were for me, all those months!
I'm also very sorry, very sorry, when I bring up your smoking. I know it drives you crazy and you hate when I do, but if I didn't really love you like I do, I wouldn’t say anything, at anytime. It's just that I hear so many bad things about it and what it can do for your health and well being!
I try to shut my mouth about it for I know you hate me doing it, so I'm going to try not to make you unhappy when I mention your smoking. I know now you'll never stop even for me!
I just hope and pray that Dr. Levy can help you and get your strength back and really help you and I do hope he puts weight on you. I would tell him that Ensure makes you get pains in your stomach.
I know you've been through so many operations and your heart attack. If I could take it away, I would, but I can't and I know you've suffered so much, and now your suffering again and your so thin! I'm heart broken, I wish I could be strong for you and say and do all the right things, but I guess I don't know how to be everything you want to be.
In closing, I hope you will understand my feelings for you, but my heart breaks when I see you suffering and I can't do anything about it!
I want to thank you for all you do for me. You’re the only one in the world that cares about what happens to me.
If you have anything to say to me, from your heart, I wish you'd write to me and open your heart to me.
I know you hate for anyone to repeat themselves but I can't help it, for I love you more than life itself!
I will write more after you tell me how you really feel! Your Angel Baby, Gloria (XXXX0000).
PS: I will try to make things easier for you by doing some things for myself and maybe take Meals on Wheels so you won't have to cook for me. I just want you to be with me for a long time and I'll give up Bingo if you're that sick! I don't want you to have to 'go' when you don't want to. I hate to see you sick, I pray to God you will get your strength back and your health back.
My wish is for you to recover and get well and that Dr. Levy can do everything for you so we can live once again. No one really cares for me, only you, so tell me what you want me to do to make you happier!
Again with love, Glo.....
* * *
Kate and her partner built a regular routine of seeing Lee every Sunday. The rail-thin, white-haired, blue-eyed Wood link was paying the woman to plow through his mail, quite a pile of junk advertising, sweepstakes, utility bills, hospital invoices, as well as residual checks for Gloria's appearances and shop-by-mail jewelry Lee bought for Marlena.
Things changed one day when Kate showed up with her friend Kristi. Lee took one look at the brassy, tall, leggy, bleached blond bass-player-chick, and proceeded to write a one-hundred dollar check made out to cash, handing it to Kristi. The girl almost pockets it, until Katie nudged the other woman to 'hand it over', which she did! After that incident, Lee called one day, lamely explaining that someone else was doing his mail and he didn't need Kate’s help. The old guy became distant, usually wanting to talk to P.J. when he phoned.
Kate wrote in Donna's diary –
"Let's face it, Lee changed September 8th, 1996, when I enthusiastically showed up with a cake and card on what would have been Gloria's 74th birthday, and their 33rd anniversary. He took one look at the little cake that said, 'Happy Birthday Gloria, Happy anniversary to Lee And His Sweetie,' got up using the walker, which is something he'd stopped using for a bit when we came into his life, retreating to the bathroom.
After 30 minutes, I finally called out, "Lee?"
"I'm fine, just constipated, that's all," he answered from the Jon.
His tone sounded wounded, haunted and definitely not infused with energy and happiness even in his constant pain of lying in that hospital bed. It was then I realized that I’d dredged up memories that hurt Lee. Finally, he came back, sat down, and fiddled with the t.v., obviously not wanting to look at the now melting cake.
Like his wife of 30 years, who watched the tube 24-hours a day before finally passing away of Diabetes at age 72, Lee carries on that tradition, the t.v. always on, never silent, lest he stop breathing and be silent too!
In all my most selfish-abandonment, I didn't take into account Lee's feelings, because he's all alone now, save for Marlena, his Russian companion who barely spoke English.
* * *
The woman had also found out that Gloria Wood left the Beverwil House to the Motion Picture Television Fund, which catered to old time movie hounds put out-to-pasture. When Lee passes away, The Fund will take the home and property. Lee receives Gloria's pension from them because of her close affiliation with the organization when she was alive and spry. P.J. even tried getting the Fund to make some repairs on the house, especially in the Lanai and on the roof, but ended up doing most of the work for free, which abruptly ended their relationship with the Television & Motion Picture Fund.
But the following Sunday, as usual, they spent another sunny, hot afternoon at the Beverwil house. Lee lies on his hospital bed as Susan the day nurse administers a shot of some painkiller Lee claims is only vitamin B injections. She's full of perk and compassion smiling over at P.J. while doing her thing. Finally, she departs, scolding, "Lee, if you're smoking, which I'm sure you are, move the oxygen tank into the Lanai immediately." She turned to P.J. and said, "Move it for him, will you, Dear."
When the nurse left, Kate put a fresh plastic nodule against her own nostrils, breathing in pure oxygen while reclining on the couch Gloria Wood passed away on. P.J. wheeled the tank into the Lanai, as Susan instructed.
Lee lights up, as does P.J., who is sitting on the other couch across the room. While they puff away, Kate breathes as much O2 as possible.
In between cig breaks, O2 and t.v. commercials, Lee tells about his past, a capsulated history of his wives and times, leading up to when Gloria Wood came to his world. It draws Kate closer to 'Where the Woods Were'.
In Lee own words,
"My First and I had a funny deal. I knew her uncle and that's how we met. She was only, well, … she told me she was only 17. I was in the Navy when her Uncle introduced us one day before my unit sailed out of port. Next thing I know, Beverly followed me to San Diego, so I eventually married her and settled in Los Angeles.
We were together six years until she left me for a bus driver while I was attending Los Angeles University. Had to quit school because we had two kids. At first I didn't know what to do, so went to my mother's place. She was none too happy and wondered what the heck was going on. So I brought them to my sister's place in Ohio. She agreed to take Julie and Lee Jr. in until I returned to L.A. and got myself a profession, which is what I was shooting for. Once I got a job, I could bring the kids back.
My first place was a rented flat Downtown, near the bus depot. It turned out to be a blessing, because I ended up working as a bus driver for Los Angeles Transit Company.
I drove L.A. bus lines for about 5 years, in the early Forties. Whether it was to the beaches, Hollywood, Downtown, I was all over the place. Then I met Peggy, this pleasant and level- headed waitress at a drugstore on Crenshaw and Manchester. She was only 17!
Yes, Crenshaw and Manchester was a turning point for me in more ways than one! It was the end of my bus route, the haven for a cup of 'Joe' at the end of my bus route. Peggy used to ride my line to and from work and school, which turned out positive for both my little ones and myself. By that point, my kids and I graduated to a small 2-bedroom bungalow. I remember thinking then that if my kids didn't like her, then to hell with her. Turns out she passed the test and four months later, when she turned 18, I married her.
Back then we'd take walks down by the racetrack, which isn't there any longer. We'd see people coming and going to the races. It was exciting, a real hustle-bustle, especially for the kids. I made a few bets, won, lost, but had fun most of all. I was never a drinker though, just a once in a while jigger of bourbon and 7. My dad and brothers were the real ' booze hounds'. They drank the hard stuff, whiskey-sours. My mother died in her 90s. Dad was a real ladies man, that's who I took after (laughs).
It was in the Fifties I met a guy named Bill Morris, a used car salesman for Chevrolet. I kept bugging him to let me sell cars and finally got an opening there. Also went to work for a Lincoln dealership in Hollywood, but was with Chevrolet on La Brea for quite a bit. Made good money. Then I came to a point in my life where I needed a change so got into the latest rage of selling insurance. That's how I eventually met Gloria. By then it was 1964.
Peggy’s sister Barbara was married to Gloria's brother Chandler. One evening Peg and I went to a party where I was introduced to Gloria when someone mentioned life insurance. She and I took the bait. And boy, you should have seen the sparks fly when we laid eyes on each other! When we first met, she seriously was contemplating buying insurance. I was selling many types during that time. She asked for my number and called me up the next day. Fire, car, life, even homeowner’s back then. I picked her up and went to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. We stayed until 4 a.m. talking and meeting all the people she knew in the business. We just sat around drinking coffee and the showbiz crowd would sidle up to our table. Gloria would make a big fanfare about introducing me to Bing Crosby, Rock Hudson and even Walt Disney. They all liked her, especially Rock Hudson, who had a secret fantasy to be a singer. He'd come up to the house and they'd disappear in the Lanai and listen to Glo's records (laughs). He thought he could be a regular crooner one day, that's for sure.
But let me backtrack for just a sec' here … I sent her insurance paperwork to our main branch in Nashville, Tennessee. When they sent it back, I called her and we met at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel again. That place became our haunt. We sat at our usual table realizing we were in love, decided right then and there that togetherness is what we wanted.
Next thing, I'm off to Mexico getting a quickie divorce and moving in with Glo! I don't condone what I did, but it was just something. I met her in '64, married her in '66. By the time Glo and I met, my kids were out on their own.
Once things were settled, I moved into her house. We'd go to Vegas where she had singing engagements, and I would sometimes drive her to the studios here … one studio after another. I remember taking her to CBS to do The Lucy Show (laughs). Gloria and Lucille clicked right away, so she did 15 shows. She also sang voice-over for Lucy's screen son in the movie "Mame” when the boy and Lucy did a singing duet together in the film. Glo did a lot of kid voice-overs.
Sometimes Gloria had 6 or 7 singing jobs a day. All she ever did was sing. She wasn't a movie star, or into heavy acting like her sister Donna tried to be. Glo was more of an entertainer. She even sang at President Kennedy's campaign, and you know how Kennedy had a penchant for 'blondes'.
She had a wonderful personality, so wonderful. Once she even took care of the talk show host Mike Douglas' twins while he did a year on the road. She had those kids happy and fun-loving, just like she was their own mother.
My Gloria was a commercial queen. She did thousands of singing commercials, jingles and voice-overs. Rice A Roni was recorded in '62 and they still use it, at least up until recently. Most of her stuff was singing backgrounds. Voice-overs, she did a lot of voice-overs, and even did singing for Marilyn Monroe in "7 Year Itch. She performed a lot in Vegas, did shows and revues and what a woman she was!
She was a good friend with Walt Disney and his bunch. They were very close. Glo sang at his studio in Burbank. and did the voices of Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck's nephews, Hewey, Louie and Dewey as well as singing all those little children voices they had of different characters for Disneyland when it first opened. She could imitate anything or anyone and could hear someone sing then sound like them right on the spot. It was amazing.
One thing I remember was all the poodles she had. She just loved toy poodles!
When Kate began reading Gloria Wood's diary, she came across the number of one of Lee's sons in Utah, and called it. She spoke with his wife, who explained that Peggy, Lee's first wife, fainted on a bus because she was working too hard after giving birth. By the time she awoke, Lee presumed she'd run off and put his kids up for adoption. It was only a communication mishap that occurred, breaking up the marriage, throwing them into other people's arms.
* * *
The day was October 23, 1997. Kate arrived at Beverwil House around 9:45 a.m. Lee left a hastily written note saying they were at the medical center to get his hand checked. His companion Marlena thought it might be broken. Kate sat on the steps in the foggy sunshine flipping through the photo album she'd made of the Woods, feeling a bit down knowing Lee is withdrawing from her more and more lately since the cake incident a month before. "I guess that's how it goes with illness and being old," said Kate aloud.
At 10:00 a.m. she decided on walk to 132 S. Canon Drive, which is a stone's throw from Lee's. She can't get Donna Wood off her mind, especially lately. P.J. was with Irving, the songwriter they knew. Irv isn't well either and was getting yet another blood transfusion later this week because of bone cancer.
Kate walks down Olympic to Canon Drive, passing 9328 Olympic Blvd., Gloria's old apartment in 1943.
It was a hot, humid day while ambling in the frustrating heat over to Donna's place. As she walked down the well-kept street, it was eerily deserted. It seemed a much longer distance than first anticipated to Donna's old building, but the girl trekked on, driven of course, by the thought of another inspirational moment to meditate on "Where the Woods Were".
Kate found it all right, and stood at the doorway of the dwelling where Donna Wood drew her last breath. The die-hard fan walked around the exterior of the place wondering which apartment was the singer's. Walking to the back, it occurred to Les that when she lived on Reeves Drive, an overly friendly neighbor said he knew a place where laundry could be done for free. That was in 1987. It was here at 132 S. Canon that same neighbor hid behind the washing machine and scared the living hell out of Kate one night in the utility room of the Donna's old apartment house. Now she stood there almost ten years later for different reasons.
The woman strode through the building several times, putting her hand on all the doorknobs in the 8 apartments. It seemed crazy, maybe a bit uncouth. But, it was the awe of the whole association there. Thankfully no one, neither tenant nor manager seemed at the moment to be around. Kate would imagine they'd think her a bit touched if she started knocking on doors asking questions about a past tenant dead for 50 years, so she sat out front by the shade of a palm tree right where Donna was standing in photos with her husband and family. She sang Aunt Stella's poem out loud hoping no one would come by thinking she was nuts.
Walking the perimeter of the last apartment building on Earth of Donna's, Kate felt the dead singer's spiritual sadness lingering at not being able to have finished life. For whatever reason God had for Donna Wood, Kate sensed that the woman did not want to leave. It's amazing how someone's life stops dead when they pass-on suddenly. But a part of them lives on, especially when there's tons of pictures of them in their heydays. It becomes this great mystery to be solved by some future person like Kate.
At that moment, Kate started a habit of going back there year after year, until one strange day when she arrived and the doors were flung wide open. She walked inside and upstairs and stood in front of Apt. 6. The door was also flung wide open and plumbers were at work in the bathroom. Kate walked in slowly and realized it was Donna’s apartment because of the two windows. She had shots of Christmas at Donna’s and although the heater was gone, it was the same scheme and placement! It was truly amazing to be standing there in the present. A few more seconds and Kate was backing out and wishing Donna a hello. Kate walked back downstairs in awe.
Just then, an old woman walked by and into the apartment building, disappearing into it. Kate quickly followed and knocked on the door she spotted the lady going into. The older woman answered, staring at Kate curiously, almost suspiciously. "Yes?"
"Hello, my name is Kate Siegel," said the girl a bit nervously. "I'm writing a novel about a woman that lived here in the Forties. Her name was Donna Wood. How long have you been here?"
The graying, petite, wrinkled landlady squinted and put her hand to her head. "Now let me see, I've been here since January of 1947. My sister and I bought the building. Been here ever since."
"Do you remember a couple who lived in this building? Donna and Lee Hackler?" Asked Kate, while reaching into her knapsack and pulling out the Wood photo album. "I have their pictures right here." Kate opened to shots of Lee, Donna and Gloria.
The woman took the album, then said, "I have to get my glasses, hang on." She handed the album back to Kate, not bothering to invite the girl in. Soon she returned with a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. She put them on and gazed half-heartedly at the shots. "No, I don't remember them. Pretty girl though. She looks to be around 25, but I was just too busy flitting here and there, that maybe I just didn't notice them. Sorry."
"Are you sure? I mean, it's sort of important to me," said Kate, taking the album looking at the shots. "They lived right here and moved here in 1941. If you came here in January of 1947, do you remember a sick woman in one of the apartments, maybe an ambulance, or the family or some kind of commotion over there?"
"I'm sorry, Lady, but that's almost 60 years ago, and I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Sometimes when you get as old as me, you can only remember so much. It bogs you down after awhile, so I put it to the back of my mind," she explained.
"Well, thanks anyhow. At least I tried." Kate was about to turn and go down the steps, when the woman seemed to recall something. "Hey, my sister! She'd want to see those pictures. She's bedridden now, but she might remember. Celia's more of a details person than me, but she's in poor health."
Kate felt the Wood spirits lurking around, maybe changing this woman's psychic kinetic energy. "Thanks so much. What's your name?"
"Name's Ruth Jones. I've run this building for over 50 years with my sister," she said. "Now come in and wait in the living room while I talk to her.
"Okay, I will," promised Kate, entering the small abode. There was a cosmic energy flowing here as well, but much different vibes, more along the lines of spiritual essences and memories that ran parallel with the Wood's, especially since they were sisters too and still kicking.
Ruth walked out of the room and into a small bedroom. Kate looked around the apartment at all the family pictures, not much different from the Wood photos, except there were less of them, whereas literally hundreds existed for the other family. Soon Ruth returned and beckoned her inside the little room, where she found a white-haired lady sitting on a well-made bed. She was cramped up from arthritis, but smiled at Kate and motioned her to sit down on the chair. Kate sat down and handed the older woman the album. She turned the pages slowly, gazing intently at the photos of the Woods, more than her sister had.
When Celia came to the specific shot of Lee and Donna, Kate sat close to the lady and pointed out reference points. This woman was much more astute than Ruth was, and acknowledged at least vaguely remembering the Woods.
Finally she spoke, Kate hanging on her every word. "Yes, I faintly remember them. Ruthie and I hadn't been here too long when I did catch sight of them. She was a thin, beautiful girl and he so good looking. Once she came to the balcony up there," reminisced the older sister. "But I could tell then that she wasn't well."
I'm totally blown away," said Kate excitedly.
Then the old lady's mottled face broke into a smile, making her look angelic. "Guess she would of been about 80 by now. A shame, she was such a pretty, up-and-coming woman."
"I'm writing a book about them."
"Sorry, but I don't remember much more, because she passed away soon after we moved in and I was kinda' busy during those days. I can understand Ruth not remembering. She doesn't notice much. Takes a lot to excite her, get her talking, but when you're our age, your time's not wasted trying to take in everything like when you was young, although, Ruthie never did notice much then either." Her face cracked another wide smile.
"But what do you remember?"
"I remember enough to know they were very much in love and she seemed like a nice woman, but I recall her being very sick in the month of March. Now that we're talking about it, I heard her weeping from my window." It was then Celia seemed to go into a trance. She said, "Sometimes I can still hear her crying on a clear, crisp night." The woman suddenly came out of it and laughed loudly, almost crazed.
Ruthie abruptly butt in, "Hey, enough talk about that shit! I don't want the dead talked about in this house, you understand! Enough on all this. Lady, you’ve got to go now!"
Kate rose, heading for the door, "Oh, no problem. I have to leave anyway. It was nice meeting you."
"Nice meeting you too, Kid," said Celia, re-adjusting herself on the bed.
"I'll show you out," said Ruthie.
"Thanks for talking to me. I know it's not easy dredging up the past. I didn't mean to intrude, but I'm driven."
"I can see that clear enough, Missy," said Ruthie. "When you have medical problems, time ain't spent dwelling on when you was young. But I found meeting you interesting. You brought back a lot of fun memories for Celia. I hope it helps your writing."
"Oh, yes, you were of great help, and only brought me closer to my goal of finding out more."
"Well, good luck to you Kate. Nice meeting you. Take care." Ruthie formally closed the door.
Kate walked downstairs and back outside in front of Donna's apartment building. She pulled out Donna's diary notebook and began writing in it:
"As I sat by the entrance, I wondered what had happened to Donna's handsome, blond, blue eyed husband Lee Hackler. Did he move away afterwards? Marry someone else? What happened to him after Donna died? And what about Donna's first fiancé, Ralph Dietz, Jeweler to the stars? And why did I even bother to care? It must be that I was drawn in to this because of my own free spirit and openness to such things, plus I wanted something my own family could never give me. It was also like a private investigator trying to find answers to a big mystery about how and why people disappeared, and where they went. I contemplated all of this on my way back to the Beverwil place.
May 31, 1997: Marlena and I became good friends today. She came home with Lee and at first was a bit standoffish, but warmed to me when I started helping her with English words and sentences. She's only been in this country for 2 years, so it was interesting. It was at that moment that Marlena told me in her broken English that Lee had asked her to marry him! It seems unreal, but wasn't something the Wood spirits took lightly. I doubt it would happen, because I explained to Lee that he may lose his benefits from Gloria if he got hitched to his companion. In the end, I'm sure the idea would be nixed, and only materialized because the old guy missed Gloria. The idea was absolutely ridiculous and only proved Lee's declining condition, plus Marlena's position in that household that held two ghosts, Lee and his Russian companion.
We ended up out back on the patio smoking Capri Cigarettes and talking generally. P.J. returned from Irv Gordon's and had driven Lee's convertible Caddy Seville to the store to get the old guy more cigarettes.
It was today that I asked Lee why he smokes even though he's ailing. He says, "It was the thing to do 60 years ago, fashionable and sociable." Experiencing his first drag at 15, Lee got hooked by all the promoting of the nasty habit back then. "I remember when cigarettes were 3 cents a pack. Gloria did a lot of singing/jingle work for Philip Morris, Marlboro and Camel, but the funny thing is that she never smoked," the old guy joked.
* * *
There is a morbid social fascination that arises in Kate when Lee lights up a cigarette. She wants to join him for the habit of his enjoyment of that cigarette after years of conditioning from commercials, social functions and happy moments of his youth when smoking seemed to bring Lee back to the days when his body was strong and could take the heavy smoke inhalation. Now he was wasting away and there Kate was sharing one with the man, to hell with oral fascination!
The kitchen table is filled with ads and questionnaires ready to be mailed out for points toward prizes from side panels of Marlboro's. Neatly counted and stacked in rubber band holders, they're ready to be sent. Marlena asked Kate to fill out the questionnaire and settles on a snazzy lighter with a leather case.
It was during one of those smoke breaks from the oxygen machine, that Lee called
Cousin Virginia Wood again. She sang with Donna and Gloria when they were teenagers, when they were called the Glo Vir Don Girls - Gloria, Virginia and Donna Wood. Donna's mother Gertrude was their manager and set them up with gigs from her contacts with the Boston radio crowd. She orchestrated a group called The Harmony Sisters in the late 1920's, before The Great Depression and brought live radio shows to the Boston area with her husband Robert Wood.
Now, in 1997, Virginia and her husband live in Panama City, Florida. She possesses that certain sparkle and spunk of her youth. Her husband still lives and the grandchildren are there to spoil, so something still exists for her to keep on living that zest for life. They were all very close. Of Donna she said, "not a more nicer, poised, elegant woman existed. But there's a side to Donna not many know, and I'm sure you want to hear about that," said Virginia.
"Donna and I had a saying that went, 'Hot spit, we've got secrets, okay, mums the word.' It was our calling card. Those girls were fun. Donna was more reserved, Gloria, the wildcat, but boy we had a lot of great times. Things really took off when my cousins moved out here. They worked at a lot of the major recording studios. And Donna was really celebrity crazy, she introduced me to all the them. She almost married a jeweler to the stars."
"She became very glamorous. Everything was very glamorous back then. We wouldn't dream of walking down the street with what I have on now! Oh no, we dressed in Lilly Ann suits, which were my favorites, she was my idol! Wide shoulder pads, and pecklums ... little cinched-in waists, we were all waist cinchers, and our jackets were very fitted, and you took your skirt in until you could feel it on both sides when you walked. You had to feel the skirt. If you didn't' feel it, it was too loose on the bottom. We all wore four inch heels ... Spring-A-Laters. They had no back, four inch heels and just a piece that went across ... and they had a glued in elastic inside so that it held it on to your foot, spring-a-laters."
"In the late Forties it was very Joan Crawford! Big shoulder pads. The bigger the shoulder pads, the better! Oh Yeah, like a football player. I remember when Donna invited us out there for a week. My father said to me, "If they start bombing, I want you to turn right around and come home!' I never forgot that. The only way I could get off the train was to grab some soldier or sailor by the arm. We were traveling during wartime, you couldn't get a reservation! It took us five days. We even beat the President, I think by one day. It took him 6!"
"One of the first things I recall was when Donna took us up to a house on Cahuenga Terrace, a great big white house that Rudolph Valentino built for Pola Negri. That's the first place in Hollywood I got to see. It was a boarding house then. It was where her friend, another actress was living. And a guy named Bernie Williams, who was a songwriter, owned it. He wrote 'Somebody Stole My Gal'. It was just one of the men that wanted to marry Donna. Even Bob Ramsey, head of Republic Studios wanted to. And especially the cowboy actors ... Sunset Carson, Monty Hale..."
Kate was floored talking to someone who knew the Woods when they were alive and kicking. Virginia was all talk, talk, talk, up until Les edged the conversation toward ghostly images of Donna and Gloria on photos. Then the '2nd Wood Link' clamed up, wanting to fly away!
By this time Kate was becoming restless at the Beverwil house. Lee was closing off on her more often than not, and Marlena kept dragging the girl out into the garage for a smoke, having fallen prey to that same morbid fascination as Kate had with cigarettes at Lee's. After the Wood mementos were out of the house, the place had lost its last bit of luster. There was no more treasure at the Beverwil house in Beverly Hills, it had been picked clean, Sutter's Mill dried up, the last find being Gloria's Diabetic blood sugar counter with her last readings still registering, but spelling out 'LES' (537) backward, by the way, a very high reading.
Kate had exhausted every nook and cranny. It was when P.J. mentioned that other people snagged most of the plum items before them, that the house seemed more run down, especially in the Lanai, where Rock Hudson fantasized about Frank Sinatra and Gloria was Mr. Hudson's divining rod straight to a Crooner's bed masked by a desire to sing!
P.J. and Marlena had exchanged some harsh words and it seemed that Kate's partner was becoming bitter that Lee didn't pay for fixing things like before, nor did he really converse with the couple like in the beginning, which is totally normal for a relationship built on dead people. After P.J. and the Russian had their blowout, it was hard to feel comfortable in the house any longer. In other words, this scenario had been played-out in a whirlwind. By that time, animosity was setting in due to the crashed marriage plans that Marlena most probably blamed on the couple. She was starting to resent the whole association and wanted them to stop coming by. The woman started using her influence over Lee to get the man to agree with her somewhat.
Kate and P.J. would stop in, Marlena ignoring the two, Lee pretending to fall asleep in his hospital bed, and the couple simply left after pacing around. Things further soured after Lee's son from his marriage with Beverly, came to visit from Arizona. He didn't have nice things to say about his father and Gloria.
He said, "They were both selfish, always expecting the best from people, especially attention. Towards the end, Gloria became mean, possessive and bitter."
It was around that time Kate was told by a family member that Gloria Wood was eventually blackballed because of a controversial song she sang called 'Bellboy', which did make a small chart passing on the Hit Parade list, but hard nosed t.v. sponsors of that day (1960) did not take the sexual connotation lightly. It was when Gloria appeared on the Larry Findley Show for ABC, when her album 'Wood By The Fire' was coupled with an equally sexually explosive record called 'Behind Bridgett Bardot', a collection of instrumental songs from her movies. After that, music work seemed to dwindle for the singer, so she was resigned to mostly voice-over/commercial work where her face wasn't even seen, forced to live a life of obscurity, which accounted for her bitterness and bad tempered feelings.
Kate sometimes wondered if Donna Wood became the same way at the end of her life. There's an air of mystery about that lady. "Why did she pop into my world now, rather when I was younger? I could have used her as a role model even more back then, and maybe would have better identified with my flamboyant mother, who had a singing history chock full of experience that never bent my way socially," wondered Kate to herself. Then she said out loud, "I can only imagine, from those family photos, what Donna was like. I know I'm pretty darn close to that mark." Soon Kate would be even closer to her mark when time whisks her back to 1941! But as for the negative things rising about the Woods ... no family is perfect. I’m sure even after Donna died, Gloria held that same sense of envy and love, maybe awe. With good you must have bad, lest you don't have the good. Kate accepted everything about them, including the negatives, one being what Gloria and Lee did to his second wife Peggy. Karma isn’t very kind.
* * *
PART II - BACK IN TIME
It was a few weeks after the couple had gone to the Wood graves, that she noticed the first subtle changes in P.J. Kate mused that possibly the Wood Sisters were permeating her living space, thus prodding their influences on her intuition. The pattern began when the woman's good looking, curly, blond musician boyfriend struck up a friendship with the 70 year old niece of famous, well-known brothers who were composers, a singer named Allegra. He had been doing electrical work at Allegra's condo, across the street from where the old songwriter Irving had lived at the esteemed Marie Antoinette Apartments on Wilshire Blvd. in progressive Westwood, California. Irv had passed away, but the building still utilized P.J. as a its trouble-shooting general contractor. It was also within close proximity of Gloria Wood's old place on Beverwil, so Kate thought nothing of it when P.J. mentioned he'd been there after work visiting her husband Lee. She was to find out otherwise.
Whether it be a strong, but long buried feminine hunch or those Wood sisters sending messages from the Great Beyond, Kate kept getting heavy feelings that P.J. was spending newborn quality time with this Allegra woman, more than he was letting on. It was confirmed, like clockwork, when Lee phoned out of the blue one day.
"Say, it's been a long time since I've seen you guys, especially your other half. Where's he been keeping himself lately?"
Kate knew the answer, recalling with pain how P.J. said he'd seen the old guy just yesterday. More subtle hints and intuitions would soon unravel.
The next indications of Kate's suspicions of his meetings with Allegra were further solidified when her partner avoided his telephone, even shutting the ringer off when they were together. But, soon the whole Allegra mystery-story tumbled out as the couple sat on their bed under the collage of Donna Wood, like the Virgin Mary staring down at them, pointing a silent finger at a guilty-looking man.
"Allegra invited me to a wedding and I have to fly up to Carmel with her. We'll be staying over night in separate rooms. We're just friends," he spoke of the 70 year-old singer nervously casual, actually trying to shrug it off, but failing badly.
It was Donna's beautiful angel face, so serene, that kept Kate from screaming rage and distrust more aptly than she did. "I knew it! The story about going fishing was a lie, right?"
"Yes, but I was going to tell you! This whole thing is so weird for me. I've never had a friend like her," P.J. blurted, giving Kate one of Donna Wood's husband's famous boyish glances. "I just didn't know how to exactly break it to you, especially when you flipped out last week about her."
"Why didn't you tell me sooner! It's so upsetting, because all along I knew. You actually lied to me," spouted Kate. "And the only reason I was flipping out was because when I checked your machine there was a message from Allegra saying that you two were on for tonight, and I asked where you were going and you said to your Aunt's place in Carson, which is lying, so I freaked!"
"I don't know why I lied," he said charmingly sheepishly. "It was really hard to tell you. I didn't know how to explain it," he fumbled, hot under the collar. "But you shouldn't have even been listening to my messages. Believe me, I was going to tell you. Do you think I'd just go off to Carmel like that and deliberately hurt you?"
"So you're going then?"
"Come on, don't be like this. It's no big deal," he countered, trying to put his guitar-playing hand on top of hers, a gesture he never used, which told of the impact his friendship with the singer was becoming.
"I can't believe this is happening!" She pulled away from his grasp. The first thing that crossed Kate's mind was, 'What would Donna Wood do in a case like this! Cry, like she felt like doing?' Feelings of betrayal and deceit surfaced, coming out angry and mean. The couple argued, receded, than bickered again, until finally Kate had to accept the fact that P.J. was going off with the woman, even if both of them cried 'platonic'! It may very well be platonic now, but who knew what would happen as things progressed. It only made his friendship with the older woman that much more forbidden, at the same time inviting for both of them, especially Allegra.
It was the Fourth of July, Friday afternoon when P.J.'s phone rang. Kate had turned his phone on earlier that morning after the man left on an electrical job. As it rang, Kate knew who it was - Allegra! She just knew.
The girl picked up the phone calmly. "Hello."
A female voice with the slight hint of hesitation asked, "Is P.J. there?"
"Who's calling?" Kate's heart picked up the beat, knowing even before the woman answered.
"Allegra," she said firmly.
The two women began a conversation that would soon put Kate's fears at ease for the moment as she poured her heart out to the woman who might spiritually be stealing her boyfriend's heart. Kate had to keep reminding herself that this relic was alive, well and breathing, not lying in a cold, dark grave for the past 50 years!
"I'm a writer and singer myself, and I really care for P.J., so what I'm getting at is, what are your intentions? P.J. told me you are a singer too."
"I can totally relate and I respect your frankness and niceness about it, but I assure you that we're just friends. It's totally platonic," said Allegra evenly. "And yes, I'm a singer."
"There was that word again," thought Kate. "It's just hard for me to believe that platonic thing," she plainly stated to the other lady.
"There's nothing sexual between us. He told me he has a girlfriend. Do you live with him?"
"Yes, I've lived with him 4 years."
Again, the slightly British-accented voice hesitated, as if taken off guard again to P.J.'s total situation. "Oh, I see."
As Kate spoke with Allegra she wandered over to the stereo player of Gloria's from 1956. It seemed something was different. She came up to it and gazed at snapshots of the Woods through the Century, noticing a small sign in one particular picture of Donna and her father. It was slightly blurry, but it looked as if it spelled out 'P.J. is OK.'
Were the girl's eyes playing tricks or did her subconscious mind want so badly to believe that statement?
It was hard to be calm when your Little Boy Adonis fits the prototype of needing a woman like Allegra to be his father!
There was also a dark side to P.J., and surely this woman would find out, but maybe that wouldn't happen until a go between the sheets came up! As her imagination ran rampant, Kate continued talking with the older singer, but soon returned to the record player decorated with the Wood family. Kate gazed at the picture again and saw that the lettering was becoming much clearer. She could make out the words 'P.J. is OK.' It was a message from the Woods, letting their mortal fan know that everything would be all right, but to watch out for Allegra.
After her conversation with the older singer, Kate nervously phoned her own mother, a singing star herself back in the Forties and Fifties. Before Kate knew it, her mom was calling up her best friend Tina Louise, Ginger on Gilligan's Island. The actress used to baby-sit for her best friend's children on occasion, due to the fact that Kate's mother and Miss Louise go way back to the mid-1950's when they were roommates in college and performed together. Kate's mother told Tina about this new association. It just so happens that the woman who played 'The Movie Star' was acquainted with Allegra, which surprised Kate and her mother.
"I spoke to Tina today," said Lenore over the phone to her daughter. "She told me this Allegra-woman is obsessed with age and only hangs around with young men!"
"Yes. Now what is your boyfriend doing with that woman? Tina couldn't believe it when I told her. She said you should dump him right away. P.J. has no right to do that to you. It's like a slap in the face," ranted Lenore.
"I know, Mom, but what can I do?"
"You need to get out of there."
"I just can't leave off the bat, you don't understand!"
"Look, you do what you want. You're past 30," said Lenore, wanting to totally control her daughter, maybe entice her to move to Florida where she could be under her mother's thumb like her brothers and sister were.
Kate had become in tune with her own intuition in being able to sense P.J.'s new world, just as he had seemed to of found at least a partial feminine side to himself when he said plainly, "I just want to be loved." That was a sentence he never used, and it's usage now spelled out a very interesting relationship with Allegra indeed. The woman had brought out a small part of him that seemed buried and moldy - sentiment, even if it was slightly self-centered.
At that moment she recalled three weeks ago when P.J. first mentioned his supposed fishing trip. In a flash, Kate's sharpened vibe-feelers, through some sort of phenomena, knew there was no such excursion planned, but something with Allegra that was brewing. She knew that right away from the start. And the sign didn't say 'Allegra is OK', which lends a double message coming from the spiritual Barrier Wood Reef.
On the day P.J. left with the seasoned, classy, wealthy singer, flying first class to Carmel, Kate decided to visit the Woods. As usual, she made her way up to Forest Lawn in Glendale, and found the spot very quickly. For awhile she wandered the place, passing stone after stone, finding two with her first name listed. There were other Donna's and Gloria's peppered throughout, and a ton of Robert's. She even ran across another family named 'Woods', 4 neat spots just like her Wood family with no 's', of course.
As she walked among the dead, Kate imagined P.J. in Carmel with Allegra, who was obsessed with her age and was rumored to like the company of young studs, probably infusing her soul with a strange satisfaction that she's got one over on the mates of those handsome young men. P.J. made very light of his relationship with her, even if there was no sexual activity as they both claimed. It would be obvious that when P.J. and Allegra were seen together, most in that polite society would think they were a couple, which is what bothered Kate the most as she walked through the graveyard and thought of them together. The woman strolled by a huge, oversized headstone ironically inscribed to,
'Our Beloved Allegra'! So very strange! Their whole association was unusual and totally unnerved the already jittery lady.
Kate came up to the Wood plots and sat down, like clockwork, by Donna's. Due to the stress and turmoil with P.J., tears welled up and Kate had a good cry, trying to sort out her emotions about this new development with her man of 4 years. There always seemed to be a slight breeze blowing at that spot and soon those tears dried. The girl then pulled out her diary and began writing in past tense for some strange reason.
July 5, 1997: They're plots were so warm today. The green grass kept sticking me and leaving weird wavy indents on my skin. This whole Allegra/P.J. situation has me very upset so I settled between Robert and Gertrude and shut my eyes, pretending to feel what Donna might of felt when she went into her parents bedroom to be comforted. I had my crying session and spoke with them, but really was speaking with myself, using their essences as a tool to get in touch with my own emotions. It worked, of course.
As I reclined between 'Ma and Woodie', the sun beat down, I all of a sudden felt a cool wind on my face even though the air was still. Opening my eyes and sitting up, a strange feeling passed before it dissipated because I noticed too fast, probably chasing its delicate spirit away. I wasn't spooked, but rather intrigued. There was definitely something there, not just dead bodies in 50 year old graves! I sensed the others who once came to this sight too, but realized no one had in many years. The Woods felt lonely and useless. Their spirits were dormant, that is up until I came into the picture.
After about an hour or so, I had a good solid cry, wiping my tears on Donna's plot and kissing each one in turn, starting with Robert's, on down to Gloria's. I'd come to the conclusion that it was Robert and Donna whom I'd felt closest too. She was 'Daddy's Little Girl', and Gloria was Mom's. Chandler and Bob are not there. I wondered at that second if anyone in the family had trekked to the graves lately, at least on a regular basis like I was doing. Another mystery to solve in "Where the Woods Were".
It was amazing how all of a sudden, after writing down her feelings on paper, she became calm and collected, as if her own spiritual senses locked onto to something that was feeding her strength to overcome the despair of losing a large part of P.J.'s emotional love, what little there was, to Allegra, if she hadn't already. The Wood family's bond reached out because Kate had taken the time to find their graves and remember them, even if it was mostly through imagination and photographs. In Kate's keen, sharp mind, she perceived the Woods as rallying to her side, or at least spurring Kate to use the energy spent on them for good direction.
Then a foggy vision appeared in Kate's mind. What would happen with Allegra and P.J. is obvious now. It would fizzle out, because P.J. would become stifled by the older woman's constant control and domination.
It was when Kate abruptly stood up, lost her balance and fell back down, hitting her head against Donna's stone, that nothing would ever be the same.
* * *
The next thing she knew, blackness enveloped. It looked like stars were shining, but it was still daylight. Basically, Kate was out like a light. When she awoke it felt cooler, fresher and somehow different. She opened her eyes to a cloudy afternoon but something was definitely altered. When she turned around to see the Wood graves, they weren't there! "Perhaps I was in a fog and wandered away from the site, " she wondered. But everything looked the same, except, no, there was something else strange. Kate tried to clear her muddled thoughts. There were missing gravestones she distinctly remembered each time the girl passed by them when visiting the Woods.
Kate began to really look around at that point, noticing how barren of headstones the place was, how certain buildings were just not there. It was definitely Forest Lawn Cemetery though, that much she could tell.
Kate's mind went into a panic when realization took hold. "It couldn't be!" She began racing around looking at the plots that were there, which were dated before 1940, every single one of them! The girl tripped, bruising herself. She felt oppressed, her body going into slight shock over the trip back through time. She even slipped over a few more graves, drawing blood. The woman felt all pins and needles, even feeling nauseous, sick to her stomach.
Trying to compose herself was an understatement, but she did the best under the circumstances and sat on the grass taking gulps of cool air. Kate spotted a faucet by a water shed and headed to it, not noticing a parked car in the road. She drank right from it, pouring water over her skinned knee. The old Packard slowly drove by, its occupants gazing at the distressed lady drinking from that spigot in the graveyard. Kate was wearing the clothes she'd worn that morning, a simple tee shirt with Geronimo, the Apache chief emblazed on it, cut-off shorts, moccasins, even a Indian-bone necklace. She didn't fit with the times, if Kate really was where it seemed like she was.
"Excuse me," yelled Kate to the couple in the car. "Do you know what time it is?"
The old man looked at his watch, then curiously back at Kate. "Almost 2:00."
The woman spoke up, "Are you in trouble?"
A young man's face appeared in the back seat window. The tall, handsome, 1940's dressed guy got out and walked toward Kate. He was young and dashing looking, untouched, almost perfect features, good breeding. At first Kate wanted to dash away, because of the fear inside about where she really could be.
"My grandparents and I thought you might be in distress. Do you need help? Have you been robbed? Hurt?" Concern shone in his even-set, deep blue eyes. The wind blew his dark, wavy hair around.
Kate thought quickly. "I was checking out some of the celebrities buried here for a book on Los Angeles I'm writing. I was searching for Jean Harlowe's grave," explained Kate, remembering that the actress had died years before. "Then this strange man jumped out and chased me. He stole my purse, money, and identification! I fell down, got disoriented and felt dizzy and strange." She staggered, but he caught her in his grip. She smelled the distinct odor of Old Spice and red wine. It was very appealing. When she came to her senses, Kate felt like she did when arriving at summer camp, everything feeling foreign, unfamiliar and stark. What would she say to these people? Where would she go? To Donna's place? To a shelter perhaps? A church?
All she needed to do was sit down and tell these people her situation without seeming to them as going crazy.
She'd already had her cover, the grad student from back East, leaving family and friends, starting a new life here in L.A., writing her first book. She just had to gain this family's confidence, maybe convince them that she really was writing something on life in Los Angeles. "Thanks for your help," the muddled woman said to the man. "I can really use it!"
"I'm Bradford St. John and those are my grandparents, Cliff and Sara St. John."
"My name's Katie. I'm an author writing a book on life in L.A.," she said while Brad led her to the Packard. They shook hands.
"Really, how interesting. Please don't think that we do this sort of thing every day," he said. "It's not often we meet people in a cemetery like this. We actually came here to see my parents," he admitted sadly, saying no more about the subject, which obviously pained him.
They got into the car and drove out of Forest Lawn. Kate quickly filled them in one who she was, what she was trying to achieve and why. It took about 10 minutes of driving for things to be put on the table.
"As I told you, I'm a writer working on a new book about life in Los Angeles," she said trying to put them at ease. "I just came out here blindly, not knowing a soul. That's the best way to make it grow wings and fly," she said.
"Interesting, Kate, I never heard of anyone writing a book like that. It sounds sort of strange, if you ask me," said Grandpa Cliff.
"Land sakes, Cliff, what's so strange about that?" Asked Grandma Sara. She liked this girl Kate immediately. There was a certain part of her that wanted to nurture the granddaughter she never had, and it was odd how the old woman felt about it. Sara wanted to say that everything would be fine now that they'd met, even though she only just met the woman literally minutes earlier!
Grandpa drove down San Fernando Road wondering where this lady wanted to go. "So where to, folks," he spoke up, startling Kate, who was still recovering from her trip through time.
After a healthy silence, Kate finally admitted, "I don't have any place to stay. I don't know anyone out here. So I planned all my funds very carefully until that man stole my purse and satchels with everything I owned in it!"
"Except your knapsack, thank God," said Brad.
"That includes my identification and other daily accruements." She cried, a bit shaken. Can't blame you folks if you dropped me at a shelter. It would probably be more convenient, because I don't have any money, but can fend for myself if the need arose, which was the premise of my story in the first place," she sobbed uncontrollably, mostly due to her trip through time.
They had met the girl for literally a few minutes, so no one spoke up to offer her anything right away. The St. Johns must of been in shock, because all three of them were thinking that if this girl needed a place to stay, then they'd open their home to her. It was only that they didn't know who she was, not usually making it a habit of inviting strangers in to the nucleus of their family, especially making lightning quick decisions. They were a laid back lot.
Kate sensing this, started to tell them about herself. "I'm from New York. My mother is a concert pianist and my dad was a fabric designer, he's passed on. I have two older brothers, who live in Florida. One is a property officer at the Palm Beach County Jail. The other is a bit slow so lives with my other brother. My sister Diane is with a doctor and has a child, divorced from her first husband, a burlesque club manager," Kate explained as casually as she could under the extreme conditions. The St. Johns' eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of their heads.
The woman from the future forged onward, trying to ignore their expressions. "I'm out here trying to make it as a writer. Then there's my mother, she's real character, let me tell you. If they could see me now!" She cried harder, but mostly for show, feigning it.
"Why don't you just call them," suggested Sara, breaking the shaky silence.
"No, not until I get settled here," said Kate. She actually could call her mother, who would be in Flatbush, Brooklyn living the life of a pampered Jewish 11 year old music prodigy. Her brother Norman, who would die of intestinal disease in 1945, after he'd been injected with Mercury, would still be alive too! Imagine if she could actually meet them? What a thought. Kate had landed years before her Uncle Norman died at age 18. Soon afterwards, Kate's mother Lenore would be steeling herself against Polio in an iron lung. But two years later she was out of the house, married, divorced and on the road singing with Eartha and the blackballed black folk singer Josh White, up until Kate's father married the sparky singer in 1956, and they settled in Teaneck New Jersey, then Providence, Rhode Island, and soon New York City, and back to New England where Irwin took his own life in the town of Barrington, R.I.
"Now don't worry darlin', it's going to be okay," said Cliff reassuringly. "And did you say that your sister's ex is a burlesque manger?"
Kate breathed a sigh of relief. "Yes, it's very lucrative. Believe it or now, my sister is well taken care of, not wanting for anything, but that pampered life isn't for me. I see more for myself."
And soon Sara took the weeping girl in her arms and comforted her as they pulled into a coffee shop.
"Is that curly hair natural?" Asked Sara, trying to distract Kate like one might a child. She touched the curls.
"Oh yes, it's a permanent-perm from God!" Said Kate through fresh tears, but perking up when she saw they were parked at a restaurant.
"My, my you look like Shirley Temple with those curls," said Grandpa, lowering his suspicions and accepting Kate finally. He was always a sucker for tears.
Together, looking like they'd never been apart, the 4 headed for the quaint coffee shop. They were seated at a big booth in the back. The St. Johns accepted Kate
un-conditionally, and she would not want to jeopardize her living situation by telling them crazy notions about being from the future.
At that moment her masculine side felt like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future! She couldn't believe it was happening, but as she gazed out the window, it was obviously 1941. It certainly wasn't the Glendale she remembered from one hour ago while agonizing over P.J. flying to Carmel with Allegra. It was funny to think that the older singer would be barely 8 years old in this time zone! My God, what a thought.
And what about what was going on in her time? Would they miss her? Did she really exist while being here in the 1940's? Was time passing normally, or when she eventually went back, would everything be changed? She hoped everything worked out.
When the waiter took their orders, Kate excused herself to the ladies room. Once inside she stared at her reflection in the mirror. The girl was so keyed up over this time traveling that she couldn't relax enough to relieve herself. The girl panicked for a split second, then composed herself just as fast. Kate felt the bump on her forehead where she'd fallen against Donna Wood's plot. It only solidified her story that she was robbed and made it an easier transition for the St. John's to accept her. Things happened for reasons.
She quickly calmed herself and returned to the table. After that, something kicked in and Kate tempered out evenly. She and the St. Johns started talking, becoming very close, the four of them, all at once, as if they'd known each other in another lifetime. Even Brad, who didn't take to strange women easily, felt at ease and happy around Kate. He couldn't explain it, but when he saw the woman drinking water out of that graveyard faucet, her naturally curly brown hair and earthy clothing, he began to become attached to her. It wasn't natural as the minutes ticked by in the car and now in the coffee shop, and he started hearing Kate's voice, the shy man was hooked. He didn't know why or how, but his own male intuition went with it. His grandparents felt the same way, although no one spoke of it, because everyone carries their own guilty fears. And he noticed that even the strangers in the restaurant were staring every now and then at the group, as if some energy ranged around them, all since Kate came into the picture.
When the most delicious strawberry cream cake was served, Grandpa Cliff made an announcement. "While you were in the powder room, we decided that you can stay with us until you finish that book. We've got a decent house over in Beverly Hills on Elm Drive."
"Now it's nothing too fancy, but we all agree that you are charming, and it was only circumstance that dealt you this most unfortunate luck." Grandma Sara put her aged hand on top of Kate's, as if she'd known the woman forever.
"Are you sure it's no trouble?" Asked Kate. She couldn't believe they lived on Elm Drive! Kate had lived on that same street, across from the junior high school in 1986. It would be instantaneously familiar territory, even if she did live there in the future.
"I have a flat over in Hollywood, but spend a lot of time at my grandparents'. Do you have any clothes or a suitcase?"
Kate looked sheepish, "This whole idea about how I'd write the book really is falling apart all around me. Did you guys ever see that movie about the famous director that rides the rails looking for inspiration?"
"No, can't say that I have seen that one." Grandpa sipped his coffee, eyeing Kate suspiciously for a split second.
"Well, it starred Robert Taylor," Kate said. "That's what gave me the idea. Maybe it's playing at some movie house, we should all see it. It would certainly explain a lot of things."
"I know Robert Taylor, but not that film," said Sara honestly.
Grandpa sipped his coffee a bit more, then eyed the woman strangely again. "How come you decided to do such a fool thing? What's your family think?"
"Can they help you?" Asked Brad.
"Yes, they can, but they live in Florida, near Miami, we're like oil and water and they don't approve of what I do nor how I do it. I've always been a rebel. It's my sister that's the apple of the family's eye. I'm the black sheep."
"Even though your sister's husband was in Burlesque and she's with that doctor, how ironic and sad," said Brad.
"Sure you ain't running from the law? I mean, you don't have any identification, bags or luggage to speak of. We're just a little concerned, that's all. Seems as my wife's taken a shine to you though, so I guess that's a good indicator, but Miss, you've gotta' have something to call your own."
"We have no right to pry," said Sara.
"But it's like you popped into that cemetery out of thin air," added Cliff, not realizing how close to the mark he was in that statement.
"Grandpa, why are you questioning this girl? She's not on trial for God-sakes. She's a victim!" Brad spoke up.
"Well, I just...."
"She already explained. The woman was robbed and the only one running from the law is the bum that got her stuff!" Brad frowned at his grandfather, making his handsome features obscure a bit.
"Now son, don't get up in a dander, I'm just looking out for things," said Cliff.
"Clifford St. John, I'm surprised at you," scolded Sara. "How can you be so suspicious?
"Her story makes sense, Grandpa. I have a good feeling about her, and so does Grandma."
Kate spoke up, "Please, believe me, I know it sounds strange, maybe even mysterious, but it was the only way at that time, that I would be able to write this book. I have tried detaching myself from things and luxuries. But be assured that I come from a good family. We lived in New York City for a long time, then I went to college in West Virginia for a few years."
"West Virginia? What college is there?" Asked Cliff.
"It's a small college called Salem."
"You mean where they burned witches?" Asked Sara, the statement only adding to the confused emotional situation.
"No, that's Salem, Massachusetts." When Kate said Massachusetts, her thoughts flew to the Woods and her excitement grew. "I have a degree in Journalism too."
"Oh, that's wonderful."
Brad stared at the brown haired beauty that was already working her way to his heart. He'd fallen in love with her the moment he spotted the girl. There was something exotic and different about Kate. She was down-to-earth and very intelligent, but there was a little girl side to her that he wanted to take under his wing and protect. He was glad he'd talked his grandparents into putting the girl up at their house, and wished she could stay with him, but that was unethical. He wanted to get to know her, figure out some secret, and could easily look beyond her shabby appearance, wearing pants that were cut strangely showing her knees. There was something just underneath the surface and he swore he'd get to the bottom of it. Brad turned to Kate and said, "You should be an actress! I thought you were when I first saw you."
At first Kate thought he'd meant it because he sensed she was lying, but then Brad smiled and continued, "You've got the look, that's for sure."
The group piled into the Packard and drove toward what would be a bigger downtown using old Route 99. The road was paved, but not tarred. They traveled at a leisurely pace, Kate immediately noticing the surroundings, how the neighborhoods didn't look rundown. There were stretches of open spaces and parks, even a few mini-ranches and farms. Little bungalows dotted the roadside, and there were the beginnings of communities popping up. The girl saw buildings in great art-deco shape here, that in her time were dilapidated. Finally, the 99 turned into the spanking new 110 freeway. Now, in '41, it seemed, very small, not at all menacing. In fact, due to the coming war, in a few months to be exact, it seemed almost deserted. It was 1941, so the population of just under 1,000,000 people from a census book Kate had read back in her time, seemed to be holding their breath, as if waiting for some big event to shake up their lives.
"Bet it's different here than back East where you came from, Kate," spoke up Sara, above the din of the engine. Cliff turned the radio on, some big band tune blaring.
"God, she wouldn't even know the half of that," thought Kate. "It's different in some ways, but mostly the same, except there's less people here," said Kate, truly not lying, because there was less of a population in 1941 than in 1997. It was times like these, since she'd landed here, that Kate would feel a funny panic in the pit of her stomach. What if she was stuck here for the rest of her life? Would it be so bad? What was happening in her time? Did P.J. wonder where she was? Was he still in Carmel with Allegra, maybe even right this second improvising some of her Uncle's standards? She imagined the two sitting by the Ocean, P.J. strumming his Martin, the singer trying to set off some passion, sensing the lack of it in his relationship with Kate. Did time pass there as it did here? Those were questions Kate could only fathom and not answer. Eventually she'd have to tell someone about this.
They conversed easily about a lot of subjects as the car made its way toward Olympic Blvd, traveling west. It was cleaner, the sky bluer, the air crisper. In fact, the sun was so bright due to lack of pollution that Kate had to borrow Brad's sunglasses when he noticed the woman squinting.
Finally, they came to the outskirts of Beverly Hills, actually heading toward Elm Drive, less than two blocks from Donna's apartment, and even her sister Gloria's in a few years. Once Kate did make money in this time, she'd find her own place somewhere around here again, and she told the St. Johns so. "By the way, I'm a fast typist, I won't have trouble finding secretarial work."
Her old neighborhood had not changed much, just less buildings and no high-rises, or Bank of America Building, which was like the beacon of Beverly Hills in 1997. They drove down Elm Drive. Kate's first apartment was standing, and seemed the same as they passed it. There was no Beverly Vista Junior High, but rather an open field that Kate could see children playing stick ball in, such an ironic touch. Cliff pulled into the soon-to-be-familiar small yellow home closer to Olympic Blvd., very close to Gloria Wood's future Beverwil house.
When they finally drove up to a quaint home on Elm Drive, Kate could not get over how close it was to 'Where The Woods Were'. It was also very close to where Kate used to live starting in 1983 until 1994 when she moved to Glendale, right down the street from 'Where The Woods Were'! Kate would be most curious, once she was settled, to explore this area, maybe take some pictures.
Grandpa got out first, opening the door for his wife, Brad doing the same with Kate. The gesture alone, conjured up such a romantic candor. "Thank you, Brad," said Kate, daintily stepping on to the curve. She liked the whole motion, and thought to herself how interesting it was becoming. She had now doubt that this was real. Then again, it could that she was knocked cold and was unconscious, although it feels like a dream, and she knew she was dreaming, and not waking up.
They walked up the paved red brick driveway. Once inside, Kate was taken on an impromptu tour of the place. It boasted 3 bedrooms, living room, Cliff's den, an enclosed porch and quaint yard with roses growing, whose trellis gave a air of privacy. There was even a small wading pool, turned off and covered. Kate's first thoughts were if P.J. were here he'd know how to fix it in 1941. She wondered where he was right now. Was he living in real time, or was it frozen at this exact moment? She'd find out soon. But for now, the girl would make the best of it. She had already managed to get these people to help, had not ended up in a shelter, maybe jailed.
Next she would find a job and start making a 1940's salary. Kate, for a split second, entertained the idea that with the knowledge she possessed, maybe she'd write songs and make them hits before they were hits! If the lady wanted to meet Donna and Gloria Wood, she'd have to do something in the music field. Entertainment was hot and Kate was about to ingrain herself in it here. People were going to have to be made to think that this girl had an uncanny intuition. They must never find out about her time travel secret. She may tell Brad eventually, but not quite yet. First Kate had to adapt to this new and strange place. It was her stomping ground in 1997, but so unfamiliar now. She'd find her way.
Kate had to get a guitar. "I'm sure they have pawn shops in 1941. I'll pick up one soon. I could rule the world," she mused to herself as they climbed the steps to the second floor.
They showed her upstairs. The St. John's master bedroom was quaint and cozy. It was done in beige and had a rocking chair by the window, knitting sitting by it, and a white cage with two love birds in it, a mahogany dresser with pictures of their family on it in silver frames.
The walked down a hallway, then around to the left. "This is your room, Dear," said Sara walking into the cheery looking, bright powder blue bedroom. Already Kate knew where the guest bathroom and other bedrooms were situated. Sara had stopped at the linen closet, got fresh sheets, pillow cases and quilts for Kate. It was simple and plain with a white bedspread and small wooden makeup table that had three drawers to hold clothing. Kate thought about that, and wondered how she would get clothes. Maybe she could cash in on the conversation she'd had with Virginia Wood, talking about the latest rage in fashion during the next few years. Big shoulder pads, the bigger the better! She couldn't wait to buy her first pair of Spring-A-Laters!
It was at that moment that Sara left the room and soon returned with a simple powder blue dress, as if reading Kate's thoughts. Although it was a bit conservative, Kate welcomed it, wanting to shed her dirty clothes of the future. The window was open and lace curtains fluttered in the breeze with the slight scent of jasmine. Kate strolled up top the lace curtains thinking of her father and how he really did invent lace patterns, just not for another 25 years! Gazing intently at the patterns, she used it to her advantage. "These may be my father's patterns! I'm sure of it."
"How do you know," asked Grandpa, the whole family coming up close.
"I know his designs ... flat rose link patterns. In fact, he was working on a new fabric invention called 'fish net' stockings before he died!"
"What's that? Don't think I'd want to wear fish net on my legs," laughed Grandma as she fluffed up the pillow and fixed the bed up.
"It's not fish net stockings literally, it's made of the same stuff stockings are, except the design looks like a fish net. It's going to be the latest rage, you'll see!"
It was then that Kate stopped and noticed the faces of her new family. Their jaws were dropped open like little kids watching a side show. An eerie feeling came over the room, like whatever was controlling time wasn't letting Kate talk about the future freely. It caused a strain and set many molecules in motion, too many, until Sara got up and said she'd get some towels and could Cliff come help. He was rooted the floor, the older, sweet-faced woman having to nudge her husband of 45 years a few times to make him go with her. "We'll see you downstairs, Dear." They left the room, leaving the couple alone.
Brad smiled and said, "Again, don't take offense, but I guess we're trying to figure you out, Kate. We've never met anyone quite like you...Fish net stockings ... wow, where did your father come up with that one? I mean, it sounds like a good idea, but nothing I've ever heard before. Amazing, truly amazing," he marveled, absentmindedly stroking his slender fingers against his clean shaven chin. "We'll have to go to dinner some night soon and you can explain it all to me. When I first saw you, it seemed you needed a friend, and I elected myself for it right then and there!" It looked like he wanted to take her in his arms, but felt too awkward, especially being in his parent's house. So he refrained, backing away slightly, not taking those baby blues off her. It wasn't the right moment, that's for sure.
"My parents are brilliant people," said Kate. She thought, "I could call my father in this time. Let's see, right now he'd be in high school." Kate wished she could tell Brad the real reasons behind her appearance, but knew now wasn't the moment, and would wait until they got to know each other better. She could tell already that they seemed well matched and his grandparents liked her, but the woman was worried about Grandpa Cliff. He'd have to, at least in his own time, accept her. She would earn her keep, and really start writing the book. This was a great opportunity. Kate would ask Brad to take her around town, especially to any 'Where The Wood's Were'. Kate would try to befriend them somehow. She'd been thinking on that for some time and thought the best way to approach it would be to settle in and wait. Kate had a feeling that their paths would cross soon. Right now the woman wouldn't rustle things up and must get these people to relax.
"I'll join my grandparents." Brad turned and left, sensing the lady wanted to have some privacy. "See you downstairs."
Kate went into the bathroom, washed up a bit and changed into the outfit. She had to wear her moccasins and she re-tied her bone necklace on. Her masculine side felt like Bobby Van in the Movie Lost Horizon, the remake she and her family saw at
Radio City Music Hall in New York City in 1974. After she changed into the new attire, the girl actually sang Bobby's tune in the feature ... "Question me an answer bright and clear. Question me an answer. Answer me a question!" She even danced around the room as the actor/singer did in the motion picture. "It's funny, but Bobby Van is alive," she said to herself, while doing the cute little jig Van did in the film. After that she silently stared at the bed that would be hers, and struggled with herself, wondering if sleeping meant waking up back in 1997. Would that be her fate?
Instead she shrugged it off and went downstairs, joining the family in the living room. It was then the woman looked down at herself and thought how the dress really had brightened her up.
Soon they were all chatting and joking around. This was very exciting for her, something really special. She liked the St. Johns, but especially Brad. He sat across from her on the sofa as Sara and Cliff told Kate stories of how they got to Beverly Hills from Arkansas. "I remember when the only people here were Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks," joked Sara. "It's really growing now!"
"Don't forget Harold Lloyd," said Kate, laughing, pretending to hang onto a grandfather clock in their living room.
Everyone cracked up at her antics. Already it was easy to play the role of the offbeat, slightly beatniky 1940's woman.
Kate thought what a neat, cozy, well lived in home it was and could tell Sara was proud to maintain it. The living room had doilies on tables, a colonial brown couch with throw rugs. There was a sewing room off the left of the living room where Kate presumed Sara spent much time in. Kate remembered each room in detail, especially the kitchen, modern by 1940's standards. The place was neat, everything in its place. Beyond the kitchen was Grandpa Cliff's den, and a small enclosed porch, that was Sara's laurel.
Kate never felt more feminine than she did at that moment. It was something about the Forties that brought it out of her, something 1997 could never offer.
"Are you thirsty?" Asked Grandma Sara, already going into action. She poured lemonade into four tall glasses.
The future lady never tasted anything so good. It made her pucker, but had just the right amount of sugar to temper it. Food and drink of the Forties tasted fresher and clearer, like the air -- crispier!
In the last few minutes, Kate had caught both Sara and Cliff staring when they thought she wasn't looking. Brad remained quiet for awhile, probably assessing the young woman too. He must have been observing his new friend. Kate hoped these were not judging people. Once she got into the swing of things in this time, the woman hoped and prayed that this family would settle down. She just had to be accepted as a woman in their time.
Then like clockwork, after her thought, Sara announced, "Now, Honey, from what you explained to us, we realize you have no clothes or funds, so Cliff and I want to extend a small loan to you so you can replenish your wardrobe and extras, okay?"
"You can pay us back when you get settled and get a job, like you said Kate," explained Cliff evenly.
"And when you sell that book," said Brad, winking playfully, easily falling into the role of her biggest fan.
"I can help you there," spoke up Brad. "I'll ask around at my firm, plus I can secure you a typewriter.
Kate was bowled over! "Thank you so much for trusting me and caring enough about my welfare. I could just as easily find a shelter at a church or even go back home."
"Think nothing of it. We have a good feeling about you, and don't mind Cliff, he's naturally suspicious," said Sara getting up. "I have to start dinner."
Before Kate could offer anything, Sara left the living room, and was in the kitchen in record time. Soon the older woman was setting the table and pulling pots from the cupboards. It's what she lived for!
It was then Cliff took his cue and retired into his domain, the den, to have a pre-dinner pipe smoke.
"It's been a long time since my grandparents have had this kind of company. I think my grandma thinks of you as her long lost granddaughter," said Brad.
"Really?" That comment scared Kate a bit, but she could understand.
"Sara will have dinner ready in about an hour. Brad, you staying?" Asked Cliff from his den.
"Yes, I am," said Brad looking over at Kate staring out the picture window. Brad wondered why he was becoming so attached to this lady. He'd been seeing someone at his firm, but when he met Kate, the other woman paled in comparison to Kate's energy and vibrations, even though it had been literally 2 hours since he first set eyes on Kate.
Christine was basic, typical, not boring, but definitely run-of-the-mill. She had been his safe base, but now something had changed. Since he'd come in contact with the curly-headed stranger, Christine faded to the back of his mind. He doubted he'd ever be the same, even if this girl moved out of his life tomorrow. The man vowed to get to know her! Brad's male intuition screamed that he'd better take advantage of her presence, because she may one day be gone forever, as if she never existed! It was a scary thought, and put his male ego in a tailspin. He'd always maintained control over emotional issues, especially women. Those he dated were proper and shy, allowing for his own control over the relationship. Brad had a feeling that he and Kate would make a great match and one day soon maybe even a couple, an item. Brad hoped fate went in that direction, the same fate that drew them together in that cemetery. What a chance encounter. He was glad for it, needed the infusion Then he got a thought. "I'll be right back." He raced down the steps and out the door, before anyone could utter a word, almost like his grandmother did earlier. So, Kate sat in the living room reading the latest Life Magazine, trying to learn a bit more about 'now'!
At that moment Kate's masculine side felt like 'A Man Without A Country'!
About 25 minutes later when Kate felt refreshed and calmer, dinner smells permeated the area. Cliff came back in the living room and got into a deep discussion with Katie about possible oil off the coast of Northern California. They sat in the living room chatting, waiting for dinner to start, Brad returned with a box. "Here, this is for you, Kate," he said handing the box to her. She opened it and found two cotton dresses and one simple brown pants suit, as well as a pair of stockings. "You'll have to shop for your own underthings, because I really didn't want to guess sizes," he said sheepishly, a slight blush rising on his tanned cheeks.
Kate got up and hugged her new friend, thanking him and the St. John's for everything. "I'm not going to forget your kindness."
"Think nothing of it," said Cliff, taking out his pipe and loading it up with cherry tobacco, but not lighting it, out of hidden courtesy.
"There's a small clothes store up on Beverly Drive and I just felt the need to splurge in your behalf. For Beverly Hills, it's pretty inexpensive. All the women around here go there to buy the discounts and bargains.
"I want to try them all on," said Kate, getting up and running upstairs, catching the same fever, again like Sara did prior, when making dinner. In her own time, these clothes would be vintage.
"Brad, that was a very nice thing to do," praised Sara. "Cliff and I will certainly reimburse you."
Bradford held up his hand. "You will do no such thing. It was my idea to have her come here so I don't want a cent. I really wanted to do it for her. You should have seen the expression on the sales clerk's face, it was a riot," said Brad excitedly, like a high school boy's first crush.
"You takin' a shine to her, Brad?" Asked Cliff, now going through the motions of lighting his pipe, but still holding back.
"Maybe," he answered coyly. "And what if I was?"
"Well, what about that Daniels gal?"
"What about her?" That's just it - What about her? "I'm so intrigued with Kate. She's so different and out of this world."
"I think you and our new house guest make a nice couple," said Sara with a twinkle in her eyes.
Brad blushed beet red. "Now Grandma stop it. You are embarrassing me!"
"Sara, stop pestering the lad. We can't help it if he's got a school boy crush on our new house guest."
"I'm sure interested in more than that book she's writing," said Brad.
"Listen you two, please don't press the girl."
"I still say there's something more to what she's saying, so I don't know. But she is special, I'll have to give the gal that," commented Cliff.
"She's down to earth and very natural," said Brad. "I can't wait to get to know her better. In fact, I feel like I've known her before...Anyhow, whatever the facts, I'm glad for her presence."
"Didn't have a stick of makeup on when we found her," added Sara.
"That's what I like about her, Grandpa. She's so natural and earthy. I've never met anyone like her, and I've only known her a few hours."
"The soul knows over and over, Brad," said Sara.
At that moment Kate came back. Six pairs of eyes stared at the girl as she walked down the stairs.
"My, my, now you look even more presentable," said Cliff.
Kate was wearing the brown pants suit. She really looked wonderfully full-figured and just the right about of buxomness. Brad couldn't take his eyes off her.
Before they sat down to dinner, Sara went upstairs and took Kate's clothes to the washing room in the cellar. Before she added them to the old-fashioned washer, she checked the pockets and found something very strange. "Land sakes, what's this?" She said aloud, holding up a color picture of Kate sitting by a grave in the cemetery they'd found her. The picture didn't look like any photo she'd seen, because Sara scrutinized it, wondering at the quality, so clear, so colorful. It was just last year that they had gone to see 'Wizard of Oz' at the Hippodrome and that's what these photos resembled, when Dorothy went to the Land of Oz! The colors were sharp. And another thing she noticed was Kate's clothing in the photos, which was different than what she was attired in. The girl was wearing an American Indian jacket like Davy Crockett's, fringe and all. She checked the front pockets and came up with something even more curious. It was a 25 cent piece, but the date on it didn't seem right. Maybe Kate had it made at an amusement park, because it read 1995, and that wasn't for almost 53 years. Sara's heart did a strange flip-flop. But her 1940's mind wouldn't budge to the fact that Kate could be from the future. To remain sane, she could not believe it, and thought of it only as an illusion or maybe part of that book Kate was intending to write. She'd say nothing about it, and put the picture and money behind a tin jar in the room. She'd slip it back in the pants when the wash was done. Sara was shaken as she climbed the steps and prepared to serve a dinner of lamb chops, peas and potatoes, with gravy and greens.
They sat at the table, talking about all subjects, especially Kate and Brad. It was obvious they were a bit taken with each other. Brad stole glances toward Kate when he thought she wasn't looking. Kate looked his way and always smiled at him warmly. Sara remained unusually quiet throughout the meal, afraid to bring up anything to spoil it. She especially didn't want to tell Cliff what she'd discovered, lest he'd reject Kate thinking the girl was odd, not to mention how he'd be angry with Sara for suggesting such a thing in the first place.
Kate was starting to like Brad St. John. She was growing attached to him and wanted to know him, would like to learn to appreciate him.
Tonight Kate would not stray from her new home in 1941. She'd remain here and get settled, and catch some much needed rest. Then she noticed Sara staring at her curiously. It was as if the older woman wanted to ask her something, but was reluctant, wrestling with something. Maybe she realized something. Kate hoped not. For now the woman was closed mouth. Eventually it would all come out though.
* * *
Katie had been living in the 1940's for a little over five months. It was December 1. She noticed that it was not hard to become accustomed to the new surroundings and pace. She had lived in that neighborhood (Beverly Hills) on and off since 1983, so the transition was that much easier to bear.
Kate noticed she was tuning in to the new atmosphere and sometimes the girl would wake up drenched in a cold sweat, her body's chemicals leveling off. At first she panicked, thinking that illness may be setting in. God forbid she'd get sick here in the past and would have to resort to 1940's medical care!
She also debated with herself for hours, wondering about dropping a hint about Pearl Harbor. Every time Kate tried bringing the subject up, something happened, preventing it. She didn't want to start making comments about things to come in the future, lest people would become suspicious. Other times she'd forget completely about the urgency and would go about her daily grind, which had become a bit more placid and simpler than the life she'd led in 1997. She felt much more feminine here in the past, tapping into a whole new side of herself. Sometimes she got flashbacks of how she arrived here, but even those episodes were fading some.
To most, especially Brad St. John, she was an exotic flower, especially because of that curly hair and retro-deco attitude. He had met her in a cemetery of all places! But it changed his life.
So far all the people in the St. John social circle had for the most part, accepted her. There were only a few women, who obviously had silent dibs on Bradford St. John, that didn't particularly take to the free spirited girl. The rest picked up on her thirst for knowledge about them, their lifestyle and ways, so gave freely of advice, history and commentaries, thinking she'd mention them in a book the girl said she was writing about Los Angeles. This had spurred Kate to actually start a tome on Los Angeles, which the woman had begun rough drafts on an old 1940 model typewriter Sara had given her, although not old compared to her standards. If she became stuck here in the Forties, then Kate would get the book published. If she was sent back to 1997, she'd at least have a manuscript, so in a strange twist she was killing two birds with one stone.
Kate even imagined her book tailored after the readings of Nostradamus, predicting the future of Los Angeles, and it wouldn't be all rosy and serene either! It was at that moment Kate intended to write about the future Los Angeles Riots, earthquakes and what the future L.A. would be like, plus more. Some would eat it up, others shun it.
She'd found work immediately, right up on Beverly Drive for a publicist, no doubt! Ironically, the girl found it through a client of Brad St. John's, a man at the Beverly Hills Citizen, the same newspaper Donna Wood's husband would eventually work at in a few years. Having the job made it easier to track the up-and-coming starlet Donna Wood. Kate had access to all the newspaper clippings and media resources of the day, so it was a match made in heaven when she walked into 228 S. Beverly Drive, which in her time was Larry Parker's Diner, next door to her ex-landlady's store. Beverly Hills Liquor Castle was just an extension of the building Kate now worked in.
She answered the telephone, maintained the front office, mail, plus greeted clients, usually young future actresses and male models sent there by their agents or studio handlers.
It was one afternoon that would prove the most heightened excitement for Kate since coming back in time. She was sitting at the front desk of the storefront office, typing letters, marveling to herself how she was working where Larry Parker's Diner would boom in the 1990's, when none other than Donna Wood walked through the brown doors. Kate looked up and felt her cheeks redden. She tried to say something, but the words would not come! In all her turmoil of getting used to this new cycle, she'd almost forgotten why she was there and the reason stood in front of her that second!
Kate surmised that her forgetfulness was because the trip through time rendered her mind of certain impulse-related memories. She supposed it was some kind of mental safeguard so that her psyche's stamina wouldn't go crazy, would rather accept it. Sometimes the woman would recall the fact that she was in the past. It hit her like a ton of bricks. She'd think about the future, wanting to tell someone, but it was very fleeting and wasn't happening as much of late. In the next second, something would come up to lead her mind away and the thought passed. But this time nothing could stop her reaction and nothing would block out the woman standing at her desk in the flesh and breathing!.
The whole room turned electric, the vibes thick and crazy. Kate felt lightheaded, struggling with her emotions, wanting to blurt out everything, a bundle of nervous energy. Then her mind, in a split second, talked her psyche into thinking maybe this woman only resembled Donna Wood. That calmed her enough to gain decent composure.
"May I help you," she asked in her most calmest voice.
"My agent sent me over for a meeting with June Landers, the publicist.
Kate could only stare, speechless, unable to believe her whole reason for being in the past stood in the flesh right in front of her eyes.
"I've already started shooting a movie called Pot O' Gold with Jimmy Stewart and the band leader Horace Heidt," Donna said excitedly, thinking those two names would spur this woman into reality. She was pretty as a picture, and the first thing Kate remembered was the collage back at her house in Glendale plastered with Donna's clippings and pictures. For the longest time Kate wondered what Donna's speaking voice sounded like. Now she knew. It was silken, with a slight hint of a Massachusetts accent attached, but with refinement and annunciation going way beyond the small town cultured types that landed on Plymouth Rock.
Finally, Kate regained her own husky, Demi Moore voice, a definite plus in 1941, due to actresses like Betty Davis and Lauren Becall. And of course, Joan Crawford! It was difficult, but she stated, "Oh, I read about that in the trades. It's starring Paulette Goddard. A musical comedy about a kid who wants a band to sing on his uncle's radio show. Mr. Smith saves the day again!" Joked Kate.
Donna's eyes lit up at the words. "Wow, you've already heard? How exciting. It's my first movie."
"The studio honchos send us the stuff long before they start shooting. It's all planned in advance," bantered Kate, still not quite believing she was talking to Donna so matter-of-fact. Kate was also glad Donna fell for the explanation of why she knew so much. Working for a publicist was turning out to be a perfect smoke screen. "The special gimmick about this feature is it's being produced by President Roosevelt's son!"
"Yes, I know." Donna immediately liked this curly headed young lady. She was smart and knew what was going on, definitely sharp. There was something vaguely familiar about her too. She couldn't quite place the face, but it was there, something in the recesses of her mind. "What's your name?"
"Kate Seagal. I started working here a few months ago, but it's a total resource of information on the entertainment industry and its rising stars. If I'm not mistaken, you will have a featured credit in this picture. That's wonderful. Actually, I know who you are. I remember Donna and Her Don Juans over at MCA. How's Art Carney doing in the film?"
It was Donna's turn to be speechless. This woman knew a lot about her. That meant the singer was on her way up, hopefully. There was always a fine streak of doubt in Donna's mind for obvious reasons. Your friends here could turn on you with a vengeance, yet, on the other hand, those at the Scientist Church were different, even with their stardom and notoriety. Well, at least clippings about her were circulating around Hollywood. "I'm the same Donna from the Don Juans, but I sing with The Musical Knights now. I think Art is doing quite well for himself, he's holding his own."
Kate was on a roll now! "And if I'm not mistaken, from what I found out, your parents are involved in the Boston radio circuit. At that second Kate remembered the Wood photo album she'd made, lying under the bed, tucked away in her knapsack. She wondered if maybe the best thing to do was hide it, because if anyone stumbled across it, things would be hard to explain away easily as they were now.
"Why yes, they do. You're very crafty in digging up all that stuff about me. How did you find out so much? You must have known I was coming.”
"First off, let me tell June you're here, get you some coffee and you can have a seat, okay?"
"Yes, of course. But we must talk, you and I, okay?"
"But remember," said Kate coyly. "Hot spit, we've got secret, mums the word, I won't tell!" She put her finger to her lips and winked across to Donna, who sat transfixed and shocked, color actually draining from her dainty face when she heard the ditty uttered by her cousin Virginia, reciting it even as children, and before every show they did together.
Kate went into the adjoining office that would one day be Beverly Hills Liquor Castle. June Landers sat at her large brown desk plowing through the latest studio break-downs and info packets sent by the brass of Hollywood for her peruse.
"Hey, you want two invites up to Hedda Hopper’s big bash?" June glanced up.
"Okay. Donna Wood is here," announced Kate formally, liking the sound of it.
June removed her specs and rummaged through a drawer, retrieving her makeup bag. "Stall her until I can put on my face, will you Dear? God, how I hate when they just drop in like this."
"Of course, Mrs. Landers."
"And please don't disturb us, hold all my calls," dictated the older woman, resembling an aging Candice Bergen.
"I will," said Kate. "Would you like some coffee, Ma'am?"
"Yes, make it strong and black this time. No sugar or cream. A bit stiff, okay Dear?"
"Yes, Miss Landers."
Kate exited the office and went to her desk. "Mrs. Landers will be right with you, Donna. I'm going to make coffee now. What do you like in yours?"
"I'd think you'd know that," she answered coyly, a sparkle in her dark eyes!
Both women broke out in light nervous laughter, until Donna turned to the other woman and put her delicate hand on the other's shoulder. Kate immediately noticed the jazzy checkered-designed ring.
"First off, how did you know that saying my cousin and I had? No one really knows that, you do though! It scared me when you said it so easily, so practiced," said the astute Donna. "And you do look familiar, I know your face, that hair. Something about you is close to me. Just can't explain it, but I will. What are you doing later on.? Perhaps we could get together after work"
"I rent a room in a house on Elm Drive. A nice older couple, the St. Johns, live there too," said Kate.
"Wow, I live on Canon Drive!
Kate phrased the next words very carefully. "It is funny, isn't it?" Those were the same words written by Donna on a photograph taken just this year and sent to her family. The woman recalled it from the Wood photo album.
Donna again looked like she was about to faint dead away. Kate had definitely unbalanced this delicate flower. "I can't get over this? You know someone in my family, came in contact with them somehow, right? You did a little checking, maybe a ploy to get my future publicity business, right? Well, you sold me," said the vivacious, petite woman as she walked around the room.
"I'll tell you what, let's discuss it over dinner tonight. I can be an intricate part of the process if your agent decides to go with our agency, I can tell you that," said Kate casually.
"Well, I guess that's fine," Donna agreed, looking up close at Kate's desk. "Why are you sweating, and you're so flushed?"
"To tell you the truth, I'm a big fan of yours."
"I could tell that right off the bat," said Donna, seeming to enjoy the funny way Kate reacted to her presence, almost like the other woman was seeing a ghost.
"So, we'll get together tonight?"
"Yes, meet me at my apartment around seven."
"It's 132 South Canon," said Kate.
"Apartment 1. We'll walk up the street and pick a nice cafe."
It was then June Landers came out of her plush office and greeted Donna Wood. They chatted and went into the office, closing the door behind them, but not before Kate caught the look on June's face. But she still sat there shocked and excited. Who knew it would happen like this? It was almost as if fate and time worked together, and made her fit right with the scheme of things in the past. Was it destiny that she landed this job, or was this Time's way of making her presence more acceptable to her and the Continuum?
Then, just as easily, she went back to typing the letters on the age-old typewriter, marveling at how the situation had fallen into place, everything in focus! But she'd give an arm and leg for an electric typewriter, or even a laptop. At that moment, she'd be at a loss to explain those things away. It went back to why things seemed to be in normalcy and flowing here. Whatever propelled her back in time was making sure things stayed level and even. There was a fine line between upsetting the balance and rearranging the moments! She'd found that out while writing her book on L.A. She would go with the flow, as they said in her future!
1941 – DECEMBER 7TH
The sun was warm for December. There was a slight breeze hovering, making Christmas decorations dotting lamp posts and street shudder like forest trees. Kate's thoughts flew back to the future when she lived in this same neighborhood in the late 1980's. It hadn't changed much, just the people. The 1940's crowd was much nicer than in '97.
It was early morning. Brad had driven to Beverly Hills to jog like always. He was running by the park and saw Kate there strumming her guitar. He had stood silently watching his love, suddenly overcome with some weird emotion he couldn't identify, but it was there, there's no mistaking that! Finally he'd come up to her and there was no stopping their passions any longer.
On the day of Pearl Harbor, Kate and Brad were in the throes of a passionate embrace in the park down the street from the St. John home. It hadn't taken Kate long to become used to his kisses and caresses. At that moment he moved his slender, smooth hands up and down the nape of her neck. The man expertly could raise the passion level with a light flick of his sure, nimble fingers.
Kate finally admitted to herself that Brad St. John was growing on her. She had come to love his ways, his demeanor, his smell, his presence, his soul. She was starting to feel her libido rising, and realized Brad must feel the same, for lately their petting had become almost furious. The girl strummed her guitar again for him, even singing her now familiar standards about Burbank, Beverly Hills and even one about Princess Diana, who wouldn't be born for another 20 years!. It all amused and charmed the usually serious-minded Brad.
"Brad, why don't we go to your place," breathed Kate in his ear. She began nibbling his neck, loving the feel of his smooth, just shaven skin. The woman reached around and grabbed his slim buttocks, wanting to see and feel so much more. Her feelings had come on suddenly, her body chemicals in full swing, and the fact that Brad held himself at bay really turned the woman on.
"Are you sure, Honey? I mean, I don't want you to feel pressured," said Brad pulling her closer to him. He loved to hold her, feeling ample bosom against his chest. Their fire was building each day since they'd met, and it had been only five months.
"The only pressure is being in this park. I want some privacy with you," said Kate, suddenly breaking away from his embrace and getting up a bit frustrated.
At first it sounded shocking, but as the months passed, he had grown more accepting to their storm. People noticed the difference right away. Some shied away from the couple altogether. Kate undersood why. But Brad had been drawn to her right from the start! Somehow their combined electrical current was too much for some in 1941.
Kate got a thought. "Hey, your grandparents went to Big Bear. The house is empty." She put her guitar away in a case.
"I don't know. I'd feel kind of strange," said Brad, placing his well toned arm around her shoulders.
She got a mischievous look. "Oh, come on, Brad. I don't want to drive all the way to Hollywood, making it so planned and on schedule. Let's do something bold and free! They'll never know!" Kate took his hand to her rose colored lips. She'd finally mastered the lipstick arching technique that the girl admired in Donna Wood. In fact, the singer had shown Kate how to do it. "I'm going to be honest with you, Brad. I want you. It's been growing for weeks. Yes, we've kissed and petted, but ... well...."
He turned her toward him and hugged her tightly. "Okay, let's go. But are you sure they won't be coming home?"
"I told you. They went up to Big Bear. They won't be back until tonight."
"Okay," he said, wanting so much not to be labeled a non-progressive prude in her eyes.
They walked to his car, a 1939 Chevy coupe, business-man's 2-door. It was olive with brown trim, yellow pin-stripping, black fenders. The three-speed floor shift ran great. It was sort of cute, made and driven to be enjoyed. They held hands while driving down Beverly Drive, bringing Kate's memory back to 1997, when she and P.J. visited with Gloria's husband, the man who had given Kate all the memorabilia, which helped put the woman where she was now, in the arms of a man who loved her as deeply as Glo's guy loved his counterpart. The ailing guy of '97 would be barely in his twenties now, maybe just starting out as a bus driver for Los Angeles Transit, like he told her almost 60 years from where she was now. Sometimes Kate got an urge to find him to warn the man of losing his first wife because of a communication breakdown, but it would jeopardize him meeting Gloria and the memorabilia. Who knew what would happen!
It didn't take long to pull into the St. John driveway, something that had become familiar to Kate as the months swung by here in the Forties.
Brad looked around, making sure no one was watching them. He knew the neighbors were a nosey lot. Finally they reached the doorstep. Kate put her key in, and soon they were inside.
"You look so nervous, Brad, come on, loosen up will you?" Kate walked into the kitchen and brought out a bottle of brandy and two glasses. She poured each of them a small shot. "This will calm you down."
"It's not you, Hon, it's just that being here puts me in an awkward position," he said, casing the joint, making doubly sure his grandparents weren't around."
"Brad, it's okay, don't feel guilty. Who are we hurting? We're not even doing anything yet." She coaxed him around and they started kissing, the silence only igniting their passions for each other. "Let's go upstairs to my room."
Kate led the way as they climbed the steps, Brad resembling a sheepish little boy about to get caught with his hand in the cookie jar. They entered her room. He always liked smell -- a mixture of jasmine perfume with just a hint of down to earthiness to it. My, how she'd changed from that Little Orphan Annie he'd met in the graveyard, but he looked beyond physical beauty, and truly connected with her soul, even on that day, 5 months past now. Hard to believe.
The woman shut the door and locked it, going over to the dresser. Brad came up behind her, feeling a bit more secure now that they weren't in his grandparents' domain. He was soon entangling himself in her, wrapping his fingers around her curly hair. As she nudged him, tugged at his passion, Brad felt engulfed within her presence and could never fully explain the strange magnetism that existed between them. They ignored it for too long now. Whatever was deemed proper fell away instantly. It was times like this that he felt the woman in his arms was not from this world!
They stood by the bed slowly undressing. Kate came to him pulling a bit awkwardly at his shirt tail and socks. Soon they were in their underwear. Kate turned down the bed, both jumping between the sheets of security. The sun was just now rising, and it cast an orange ray through the blinds. Once under the covers, their bodies took over from there.
Brad had never known such pleasure with a woman. Something clicked and he was glad they hadn't rushed this moment. God knows he'd been fantasizing about it for months now. That was not like him at all.
They stayed in foreplay for almost an hour, until finally they were naked flesh against each other. They kissed, fondled and nipped at each other, teasing one another until something began to flare within. Both were sweaty and slick to the touch. It was as if each delayed and denied the other only raising the passion level, which was starting to do its job.
"I've got to have you," moaned Brad, as he moved on top of her and entered. Both moved together, easily taking on a steady rhythm. They whispered things to each other, cried out and groaned, totally into each other, the rest of the world fading, even the radio they had turned on to block out the noise they knew would seep out during their wonderful union.
Kate hadn't been totally intimate like this since P.J. left for Carmel with Allegra Hirsch. She felt just a twinge of guilt being with another guy, knowing P.J. was in his time at that moment, maybe wondering where she was. It was fleeting though, as she became lost with Brad St. John, memories and hurts of P.J. quickly receding to the recesses of her mind where they would have to stay for now.
Brad's body was near perfect, at least in Kate's eyes. Everything about him was so sculptured and toned. He jogged every morning, stayed in shape. The man held her very close to him even after both reached that ultimate pleasure point and beyond. They still moved in sync.
Both were so engrossed in the act that they failed to hear the first bulletin on the radio. When they were both at their pinnacle of release, the announcement repeated, but the couple still didn't quite hear it again. Finally, after they had both been sated and pleasured, the cool wind blowing through the window drying their bodies, the news flash came again ... "Pearl Harbor has been attacked, stay tuned for a message from the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt...This is not a test, repeat, this is not a test!"
Kate was just lighting up a cigarette when it dawned on her! She'd almost forgotten about Pearl Harbor. Her thought impulses and processes had gone into that mode more frequently for the last three months or so. She'd want to tell someone, but would forget, continuing with her life here in the Forties.
The announcement reminded Kate of her talk with Sara 5 months back, the night she had dinner with Donna Wood. For the first time Kate remembered pleading The 5th, not coming right out and saying the truth, but finally had come clean, especially about the photo album, which held the most mystery and fascination.
Kate told Grandma Sara everything until the old woman held up her hand and said, "Okay, I accept it. I love you like a daughter, you could of been my own!"
"Please don't make me tell you anymore, Sara."
"Just go one with life like nothing is wrong?"
"Yes, just that," answered Kate.
The moment came back starkly clear to Kate when she finally broke down and told Sara...There was a light on in the living room, Sara's white head sitting at the sofa pretending to knit. Kate knew she was waiting up for something, someone. They had to talk.
The woman nervously fitted her key in the door and walked in, pretending not to see Sara, trying to put the woman at ease.
"Hello, Dear," said Sara, putting down her knitting. "Do you think we can sit and talk for a bit?"
"Of course, Sara, just let me go upstairs and change, and get a glass of soda water, okay?"
"That's fine," said Sara. "Bring me one with a dash of lemon juice, will you Dear."
Kate went upstairs and changed, took off her makeup, brushed her teeth and went to the kitchen. She got a glass of her favorite 1940's drink, getting one for Sara, not forgetting to spray it with lemon which was already cut and in the ice box.
Kate sat down right next to the older woman. "What's up?"
"I'll get right to it. I saw the photo album. It has me concerned. What's it all about? Who are you?"
"Sara, what I'm going to tell you is going to shock you, but please hear me out first. I'll do whatever you say, but just let me say my piece and explain." The woman sipped her water for strength.
"Please, explain. I'll listen and won't stop you," Sara said, clasping her delicate, lily-white hands in her lap. "I'm ready."
"Try to remain open-minded." Kate began explaining everything to Sara, leaving nothing out. Sara asked questions and Kate answered them honestly until after about one hour, Sara got the picture. She put her hand to her mouth and looked totally ready to faint. Kate spoke more about things and little by little Sara understood and actually believed the other woman. Kate even went up and brought the photo album down and they both went through it. Future Woman explained everything in great detail and Sara listened with great interest, in total awe and a little bit in fear of it.
"You know what the future holds then. How do you sleep at night?"
"Believe me, at first it wasn't easy, but I'm adjusting."
"So Donna Wood is going to die in 1947. What about us?"
"I don't know, because I've never seen anything about you guys. The first time I ever met or heard about you was in the cemetery where we first met. I had just popped in a few minutes before. I guess you're Father Time's Liaison!"
"My, my, Cliff will never accept this! We can never tell him. I hope to God you weren't planning on telling him or Brad, or anyone else for that matter. If this got out, it would break us all, I know it! People will think the worst, maybe say you're crazy, take you away to the funny farm, maybe us as well."
"Now, Sara, don't panic! I haven't told anyone about it, although sometimes I've had to bite my tongue. I don't plan on letting this get out. What about you, can you keep silent?"
"Yes, but already Cliff is asking me what's the matter. He sees me worrying and stressing about something." Sara fidgeted.
"Well, you've got to get over that and get back to normal. As long as I'm here, we've got to make the best of it. Don't ask me any more questions. Let's just
Let's just move on and pretend we never had this conversation. I've got a lot at stake here too, you know."
"No, I won't tell a soul, Darling. It's just going to take some getting used to. I'm plain scared."
"And you probably know that we're going into World War II, right?"
"Yes, I saw the pictures. Hard to believe. When?"
"In two or three days! The Japanese are going to bomb Pearl Harbor in Hawaii! Please don't say a word. We'll hear it on the radio. FDR is going to make a big speech. And the war will last at least 4 years."
"My Lord," said Sara, putting her hand to her heavily beating heart.
"You've got to get a grip on yourself. You can do it, Sara. Please do it for Brad, if anything else. He's in love with me, and I don't want to hurt him. I could be sent back to my time in a second, so let's make the best of it. Being here in your house has drawn me even closer to the Woods. You guys have become very intimate to my heart. I love you all so much!"
Sara leaned forward and the two women hugged and cried. At that moment Cliff appeared in the doorway. "What the hell are you two women doing up and why are you crying? Are you sick?" Concern showed in his sharp eyes, that usually missed nothing.
"No, Cliff, we're not sick. Kate told me a very sad story about her father and we just started crying. Go back to bed. I'll be up in a second."
"Are you sure everything's all right? Don't hide anything from me!"
"Really, Mr. St. John, we're fine. We just connected, that's all!"
"Well, I prefer you connecting while laughing, not boo-hooing." Cliff left the room and went back upstairs.
"Guess we better turn in. Don't worry, you're secret is safe with me. Just don't keep anything from me. I know what's happening and want to be there for you, Kate. You're special. I knew that the moment we met."
"Thanks. You are the best. Don't worry, you're going to live for long time, okay?"
Both women wiped their tears, hugged and walked up to bed.
Kate lay awake, sort of relieved that Sara knew and wouldn't spill the beans. She would be ready for anything, but she was definitely ready to start Donna Wood's P.R. campaigning.
Sara accepted it because of the love she held for the lady. Mrs. St. John had gone on with life and never brought it up nor snooped again. She was still curious, but had lost her gusto, mostly because of the emotional upheaval caused by the whole subject, which took its toll...
Now they sat up in bed listening to the President's speech. She was relieved Brad was beyond the draft age.
"You know, I think we should get up, get dressed and find out more about what's going on. My grandparents will most probably be home earlier, especially when they hear this."
"Yes, you're right, Brad," agreed Kate, getting up and picking up her clothes. "I'd hate for them to catch us now, especially with news of war." It was then Kate realized she'd not reacted to the news accordingly. All of a sudden she broke down and cried, "Oh, Brad, I can't believe this is happening...My God, war!" The woman cried harder, thinking of the day she'd have to leave this time. It was devastating to dwell on that, so it brought the tears on, Kate simply redirecting it.
Brad came up beside her and cradled Kate in his arms. "Don't worry, we'll get through this. Don't cry, Honey, please don't." He held and rocked her, until they found each other's lips again and re-ignited the fire between them. There was an urgency to the intensely heavy lovemaking this time, like at any minute it would all be over and they'd be lost to one another. It was a scary thought that brought on more tears for Kate as Brad and her did the sexual dance that felt the same in any century! Once again, everything momentarily faded out as the couple became engrossed in only one another.
There was no pretentious chivalry the second time around. They wanted each other plain and simple, both wishing the moment would last longer, but realizing they were bonded body and soul. Nothing, not even the hailing of World War II, could stop their release, which to sex was powerful as the future A-Bomb. As they achieved the ultimate, Kate mused that a mushroom cloud spread around 'Ground Zero', her G-Spot, which wouldn't be discovered for another 15 years!
Finally Brad came to his senses. "Really, Kate, we've got to get moving here." He still held her close and they kissed for a bit longer, relishing in the feelings and emotions swirling. "Why don't we freshen up." He got up, heading to the small bathroom, Kate gazing intensely at his firm backside and taking his cue.
She took a warm washcloth and started rubbing Brad with it as he followed suit, soaping up his hand, running them up and down her body. He thought at that moment how well built Kate was, with shoulders like a man, but beautiful large bosoms. She wasn't fat, and had recently been exercising, sometimes even jogging with him, which toned her. She did have a few more pounds to go, but for the most part was well put together, at least in his opinion.
As they washed, the pair petted like high school kids kissing like mating fish. Obviously, it would be very hard maintaining the polite social space between them when Cliff and Sara were around.
When they dressed and composed themselves, the two went downstairs, still touching each other teasingly. Spurts of their sexual activity came to the surface in the living room while waiting for the older couple and listening to reports on the radio, which were coming in more frequently. Brad chanced one last close embrace and lay on top of her. They petted and rubbed against each other, already missing their naked bodies, longing for their next encounter.
"You feel so good, I could do this all day," said Kate, kissing his chest, grabbing his hand and suckling each finger like a baby.
"Well, we better sober up, my friend! I just know they're on the way back," coaxed Brad.
"They must of heard by now, about the war," affirmed Kate.
"Take my word for it, my grandparents are driving back right now as we speak."
"...and kiss," added Kate, finishing Brad's sentence.
They kissed trying to break the spell over them. "I haven't finished with you yet!" Brad sat up and rubbed her shoulders.
"Oh, neither have I, my Love," said Kate.
Brad put his hands on hers. "The same goes for me. I love you very much. Probably from the moment I saw you that day," he admitted.
"I sensed your feelings when we first met. I left a relationship with a man I'd been living with."
"You lived with someone!"
Kate had forgotten that in 1941, that wasn't the best thing to say. "You must understand, I've been traveling, and haven't spoken with him since I met you."
"How did you meet him?"
"I was introduced to him by my best friend Kristi. He's very talented at wiring and electronics, as well as a musician too. Sometimes we'd be mistaken for brother and sister. It was odd, though, certainly not like what we share," said Kate.
"Were you close?"
"Yes, but not like you and I. That relationship seems foreign and faraway to me now," conceded Kate. "When I came here, he was with an older woman, a singer named Allegra."
"They claimed it was purely friendship," said Kate.
"If I hear that word again, I'm going to scream!" She hugged him tightly in frustration.
"I guess it's all the stress of this war coming up, it's making me nuts.
"You're just more sensitive, I guess," acknowledged Kate, trying to shift things back to him.
"And being with you is like setting off firecrackers at close range," he said.
"I know, it's overwhelming, but so right, at least in my opinion," she said.
"I suppose so," he agreed, losing some of his anger and jealousy over finding out she once had a lover. It only slightly tugged at his ego. "I love you though," he finally said.
"Please, Brad, don't ask me to tell you so much about my past all at once," pleaded Kate. She thought to herself, "Because it's really the future, and I'm in the past."
"I won't do that and certainly don't want to scare you away either," said Brad, kissing her then. "But you must understand that you seem totally unorthodox, very, to be kind, Retro."
"Yes, as you say, I suppose so..."
With that last comment, Sara and Cliff burst through the door, out of breath.
Sara met Kate's eyes knowingly. "It's war," she said, tears streaming down her face.
"Yes," said both in unison.
Cliff sat down exhausted mentally. When the news hit, he was struck by the odd way Sara took it, almost like she'd been expecting it.
Kate stared at Sara, hoping the woman wouldn't blow her cover. After a few seconds, she realized Sara wasn't going to jeopardize their confidence and relationship, even though the woman picked up Cliff's questionable vibes. The older woman sat on the couch doing her best to seem stunned as the radio invaded their world, shattering it with more flash bulletins. Brad came up to her and Cliff sat down as well. The radio had been on since early morning when they'd heard the first announcements.
It was at that point that the phone began ringing off the hook. Donna, Gloria Wood, June Landers and even the Wood parents began a barrage of calls to the St. John household. Kate fielded all the calls, spending the most time with Landers and Donna Wood. It seemed to Kate that Sara St. John was coping and keeping things under wraps. Thank God.
But it was the conversation between her and Donna that was eerie, just another event to store away about the fated singer.
"We've been talking at our Christian Science church I belong to in Hollywood, and the Bible makes reference to this event! It's so awful, but God's love and our prayers will get us all through, I just know it," said Donna.
"Isn't that where you met Ralph Dietz?"
"Yes, it is. You must of been reading my mind, because I did meet him at the church. He's a Scientist. Gosh, Kate, you are so lucky Brad isn't the drafting age."
"Yes, I'm relieved, but if I'm not mistaken, Ralph is 26," said Kate.
"Oh, he's quite the athlete, but I don't think they'd take him."
"Because of his flat feet."
In spite of the seriousness of war, Kate laughed.
"Don't get me wrong, Les, this is very devastating. I've been praying all morning. In fact, my church called and wants us down there pronto, would you like to come?"
"As much as I would love to, Donna, I can't. I'm here with the St. John's and, well, you know..."
"I understand. And I hope you don't think I'm insensitive about Ralph's feet."
"No way, I understand. We all deal with it in our own way."
Brad was doing his best to remain indifferent and aloof around Kate, out of respect to his grandparents. It was at that second he started thinking about the death of his own parents when he was 10 years old, in 1921. He had finally told Kate one day. They were all driving in a roadster when it tipped over. His parents were killed when the car went over the canyon and he was somehow thrown clear. Afterwards, as he recovered from his injuries, the St. Johns had been making arrangements to take the boy with them.
One night they talked about the whole affair, then decided to put it all to bed, and start fresh. Cliff told his grandson that there was little else they could do except take direct control of Brad's well-being, which is what they basically did. Life with his grandparents was stricter than when he was with his free-wheeling parents dubbed 'Mules', people that would deliver liquor illegally across state lines. As he grew up, Brad began to see the full picture of his parents. He'd noticed how his mom and dad were into themselves and their world of liquor flasks, fast cars and speakeasy's. It greatly contrasted his grandparents, who seemed more into his universe, at the same time their world becoming his anchor. It was very strange for the boy, but gradually he adapted and became a man. After he'd finally told Kate the whole story, he felt understanding in regards to her traumas. Kate's story about her own father's death was tragic as well, how the man had it all, but committed suicide, the easy way out.
Now a new era was unfolding! World War II was looming full bloom. They were all scared, especially Sara and Kate, for those two knew the outcome of the mess. It was a secret that was eating them both up in many ways inside. They would just have to bear the brunt and keep quiet, it was the only way.
Kate would plunge into public relations, which surely would be booming once the armed forces began initiating and reactivating the USO. It was assured that both Gloria and Donna would be going on tour now, and that meant P.R., media and print interviews to slate, which Kate had become great at through the months. Her electrical current could easily manipulate the studio and entertainment people, especially over the telephone, because she was always one up on them, a step ahead. All she had to do was think of the future as she was talking to them, and usually they'd agree to anything. It was a vibe, a control tool, which worked wonders in this time-frame.
Kate would use anything to boost Donna Wood. She was obsessed all over again, just like when the lady found the pictures in the future. Onward she would go...
* * *
June 1942, thanks to Kate's P.R. skill, Donna Wood propelled into a full tour with the Pot 'O Gold people. Kate had done her part. It was a combo event, meshing radio, live shows and entertaining the troops into a huge band orchestra revue that traveled across the country almost mimicking the Roosevelt Campaign when FDR trekked by train in the same spirit and purpose as these people did now.
They had been told that all their activities were appearing daily in many of the small town newspapers, which hinted that a Wood daughter had made it big. And Kate was saving every last clipping, no matter how small and insignificant it was. She worked with Gertrude Wood putting it all together. Donna and Gloria were amazed at how Kate and their mother saved every scrap. From the moment Donna introduced Kate to her family, Gert and the publicist shared their photo knowledge and put together a detailed family portfolio. It was Kate's rare chance to see the same photos all over again, the new experiences and ideas flowing ever presence. And she simply adored Gert. She seemed so driven, yet so loving and down-to-earth. She could almost be pushy, but couldn't we all? Yes, this was a dream come through for Kate, and she thanked God daily. She wondered if her prayers reached Him differently than in 1997.
Gloria, now 20, rented a small bungalow, 9328 Olympic Blvd. in Beverly Hills. She wanted to be closer to her sister Donna, who lived a few blocks down on Canon Drive, Kate down the street on Elm. A nice close-knit bond developed, reminding the sisters of their friends in Arlington, Mass. Even Virginia Wood and her new husband Dick came down, just as she had told Kate she would back in 1997. Kate was speechless when they met. It was like being tongue-tied at a party when you met your idol. It felt different when Kate met Donna, but all the same, it was riveting and almost sobering. They all mingled well. After awhile it became easy for the girl to become oblivious to the facts.
Glo had always loved this area, and even more now that she had ties here. It certainly wasn't Massachusetts, and never would be, but she believed a piece of Arlington and her family was being planted right now! One day she'd buy a house, live permanently, and ask her parents to stay.
And they'd all gone to the premiere of Pot O' Gold, without much fanfare. Due to the war, it was hard for people to enjoy appearing festive, even if the feature was produced by Roosevelt's son James, and that's why Gloria and Donna started going on the road to entertain the troops. Virginia and Dick were soon leaving via train for back East. They decided to settle there. Ginny would all but give up show biz.
Kate was over Gloria's house one hot summer day, soon after they'd returned from a 3-day engagement at the Coronado Officer's Candidates School in San Diego. The blond singer checked her mailbox and among the utilities was a postcard.
"It's from Chuck, a soldier I'd met on the road up in Denver last year." She sat on the love seat next to Kate. "He's written in pencil."
The postcard read: "Dearest Gloria, been out in the field for a week now and have not ever had my clothes off, not even my shoes or stockings. We are kept busy all the time. The only things we sleep in are tents. It is really rough going. Love Chuck.
"How interesting that you'd develop a friendship with him like this," said Kate, as she sipped on a Coca Cola. It was interesting how good Coke tasted here, so very fresh, but not containing Cocaine as in the 1920's.
"I'll never forget Chuck, he had nice hands," said Gloria. She confided in Kate like a third sister, and was glad Donna had introduced them.
When Gloria recited the postcard, Kate knew exactly who he was because of her own research in the future. And 9328 Beverly Crest Drive in Beverly Hills, would be her address in 1983, 40 years from where she was now.
Kate had brought yet another client to the Landers Agency, much to the delight of June, and had been rewarded in many ways. She was glad the friendship with the Woods was going well for her assistant.
Gloria continued. "I might of gotten a bit carried away with him that night after the performance we gave for 2000 troops getting ready to be sent overseas. Chuck and I got pretty hot and heavy, up until the big moment should have happened, but didn't. He got my top off and was kissing my body. The guy was so gentle that I almost lost all my resolve in that one passionate moment."
"I wonder if Donna ever did the dirty deed with the jeweler she'd almost gotten married to," said Kate, immediately thinking back to her future conversations with Virginia about Donna and her romances.
"What a whirlwind romance that was. To think, my sister could of married that guy! We would have all been set for life with jewelry," marveled Glo.
"Has she introduced you to Lee Hackler yet?"
Gloria nodded indifferently. "Yes, I've met him."
"Recently Donna introduced me to her new love. He's a captain in the U.S. Aircorp."
"Figures it would be someone like that to turn Donna's head," said Gloria.
"Maybe Ralph the jeweler is free to date you now, Glo."
Both laughed, never taking themselves too seriously.
"What about you, Ralph's more your type, Kate," teased Gloria.
"Nah, too materialistic for my tastes," admitted Kate, thinking of the down-to-earth Brad St. John.
"Well, I find Lee Hackler to be a bit stiff for my tastes," said Glo.
"But what I'm happy about is how ecstatic this union has made Donna," said Kate.
"And the fact that my sister seems to be settling down since meeting the dapper Captain Hackler. If he wasn't so stern and proper, I wouldn't have a problem with him. If he bent over in total laughter, he'd probably crack into a million pieces," ribbed Gloria.
"Hey, he's a good conductor, but very anal, which mixes with the type of music he conducts, and he is good looking, sort of dashing."
"More like boring and stuffy," laughed Gloria.
"Right now in these times of war, this guy is the ideal mate for your sister. Donna seems happy, almost elated, but sometimes it masked a deeper yearning, a father figure image," said Kate, her masculine side feeling like Sigmund Freud.
"You are so weird and strange sometimes, Kate. It scares me. That's not a great thing to say, that while she's involved with passion, Donna thinks of our Father!"
"I didn't mean to imply it was bad or dirty, nor was I trashing Donna, it was just an observation. Like Donna has her dreams, I have my observations, okay?"
"Well, it doesn't sit right with me talking about it like that."
"I won't talk about it anymore, Glo. Gee, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. Darn, sometimes I don't know when to shut up."
"Don't sweat it, Kid. We still love ya'." She stared at the phone. "Hey, let's call her." Gloria picked it up, dialing the all-familiar number to her sister's place - 27300. It always rang twice, then Donna picked up, her soothing, silky voice melting the receiver. "Hello..."
"Hi Donna. It's me, Gloria. Kate's here too!"
"Lee just walked in, but you and Kate should come over right away, because he's asked me to marry him, and I'm just nuts at this moment, because I've said yes, of course!
"Hot spit," yelled Kate on cue.
The two sisters chatted for a while, until Lee's booming voice commanded that it was time to shop for a ring!
Gloria said, "She hasn't even spoken to Ma and Woodie, yet, they'll obviously be thrilled at the news that Donna was finally settling in!"
"We're all constantly worried that Donna's pushing herself. She still never gets enough sleep, and those dreams!" Said Kate.
"Her doctor said she needs to slow down or her condition will act up again."
A lot of their crowd had noticed that Donna, of late, looked pale. Kate and Gloria alike were worried about the older sister, who they all but worshipped for different reasons. Gloria since age 6! Kate since 1996! Donna was their rock, but cynically in a hard place. Both women hoped Donna would slow down and take to being a homemaker. She'd certainly live longer, that's for sure, without the worry and stress.
After hanging up the phone, Donna turned to Lee, who was dressed in full uniform, looking so very handsome with his bright blue eyes and curly locks that were always combed back. He was stern, yes, and strict, sure, but there was something about the hunk, a word Kate taught her, when they were alone. He truly loved her, she could tell soon after they'd met. Lee too felt the same pull toward the young up-and-coming singer. Donna was unique. Right away he wanted to know everything about this young, enchanting butterfly, and had seen Pot O' Gold 3 times!
He was brought up in a strict household. The elder Hackler would not stand for much public displays of affection, so Lee became more rigid than most. But Donna knew behind closed doors was a different story. It's not every woman that Lee would show his loving side to. Donna was the first in many years. After knowing her for only 6 months, he'd finally popped the question today.
Now he wanted to lie his gal down and make passionate love, feeling her body against his, protecting her, loving her, kissing her all over for hours. For now he would put these emotions in check, which was easier for him than displaying them!
He took her in his arms and she came willingly. Some people said this man was hard on Donna, and yes, he was, but in the end Lee proved his love. They stared into each other's eyes then met in a long, passionate kiss. Soon they were locked in a fevered embrace, and moved to the couch where they petted and smooched into a moaning want. Donna let him roam his slender hands that probably downed enemy fighter pilots, move over her body. Today she was dressed in shorts and a midriff with no bra. They almost lost control once, and she felt they were losing it again, as he held her close to him. She could hear his strong heart beating, then thought of her dreams about meeting this man and the future.
There were times she wanted to fling herself into Lee's arms and make him ravish her, but whenever she came to the point, she felt it wasn't the right moment. It was almost the right moment that's for sure! Her family values were very strong. And this was different from all the other flings and fly-by-nights she'd experienced. This was love.
Maybe she was old fashioned at heart, but he'd asked for her hand in marriage! Wait until her family got wind of it. She was sure Gloria and Kate were calling them right now with the news. As the usually stern Lee nestled his head against her ear and nibbled like a little boy, she felt the shivers rise up. Her nipples became hard as Lee deftly messaged them through her thin mid-drift, cotton shirt. Oh, how she wanted to be one with this brave soul, but she must stop now before they lost all resolve. She'd never be able to face her parents if they made love before their wedding, even if it did sound a bit prudish, Donna had morals.
And sometimes the diet pills made her feel all giddy and alive. She wanted sex, plain and simple. They did a lot of petting, kissing and feeling. She'd just stop short of the deed, coming to her senses in the nick of time. These pills were starting to rule her a bit. And sometimes she felt heart palpitations and had to sit down and catch her breath. She attributed it all to stress of being on the road, plus meeting Mr. Right. One thing's for sure, she wouldn't let a little black pill rule her resolve when it came to making love.
She had a feeling that her sister Gloria didn't really care about the moral aspect. Donna remembered on the set Pot 'O Gold she was propositioned every other day, but never did anything about it, even though she could have. Yes, she dated a couple of the boys in the band and on the crew, and Jimmy Stewart even took her out to the Brown Derby one night, but left her at the end of their evening with a peck on the cheek. Yes, Kate had hyped it up as something more, but nothing really gelled between Donna and the actor. Maybe that's why she called the man Mr. Stewart.
When Gloria had visited the set, right away a few crew members took to the 5-foot singer, right away inviting her to a few studio parties, sharing a few laughs from what Donna observed. When Ralph came into her life Donna was just finishing a photo session. He was there talking to the photographer about some of the models wearing his designer jewelry. Then Donna met the young, handsome, athletic gentlemen at a party given by one of her friends in the Hollywood Hills. She was swept away with the man. So much so, that the young starlet almost ran off to Vegas on a whim to marry him. At the last minute she broke down, calling her parents, who begged her to reconsider. "Think about the marriage, maybe wait and see how the relationship develops! Please Donna! Please!" They had insisted.
But Kate got a notion to pitch a potential story for the local Arlington newspapers, and the newspaper editor went for it hook, line and sinker, and interviewed Donna, the headlines reading "Hub Singer to wed in Movie Romance," "Stalled Elevator Led To Movie Role" and "Cinderella in Hollywood". Thanks to Kate's energy, more papers had picked up on the story than would have normally, which pleased everyone all around. Kate had even gotten a few more radio interviews locally for Donna, rather than just on the Boston circuit. It was obvious that she was only enhancing the Wood sister's lives.
Looking back, Donna was glad she didn't marry Ralph, or else this handsome officer wouldn't be here kissing her long and fiercely. Captain Hackler may be stern in the eyes of the public, but this man had a hidden ardor that was truly something in Donna's eyes. Her body responded to him with equal love and desire like no other man she'd been with. As far as Donna was concerned Ralph was a distant memory, but a fond one. She was sure he'd meet the right woman one day. Last the singer had heard, he'd been dating a string of contract actresses with MGM.
Finally they composed themselves, just as there was a knock at the door. Lee went into the bedroom while Donna did her best to shape up a bit. Kate and Gloria were at there, all decked out, on their way to The Beverly Hills Hotel to meet a reporter from Variety. When Donna answered the three hugged a long time. They chatted in the hallway as one of the next door neighbors, Mrs. Handley, an assistant to a publicist at Paramount, came out to see what the commotion was about. Kate told her of the impending marriage just as Lee popped his head out and said it was time to leave for the jewelry district downtown. Handley had heard of Kate through her association with June Landers. The two war horses sometimes shared notes.
Gloria bit her tongue, almost jokingly making a rude comment to the couple about maybe seeing Ralph Dietz about a ring. The perky singer didn't know why she deliberately tried to set Lee off like that.
Donna had told her many times that Lee was a different man in private. He was brought up that way, and she should respect it, not ignite it. Donna wished that Gloria could be more like Kate was. It was obvious that Kate respected Lee and gave him his much needed personal space. Not so with Gloria.
They all walked outside chatting lightly. Lee had borrowed an officer's jeep that he and Donna were climbing into at that moment. They were parked outside the building. Gloria's Caddy was down the street a-ways. They all hugged and left for their separate destinations. Gloria had called their parents but there was no answer. They phoned Aunt Stella, so of course, the word was out - "Donna Wood was settling!"
Lee and Donna drove up Beverly Drive to Sunset Blvd., then headed for the old 110 freeway toward Downtown, which was becoming a good place to barter and buy jewelry. Lee preferred going there to the snooty Beverly Hills stores. He could tell that it didn't bother Donna like it might have another woman. She sat beside him enjoying the California breeze in her face even though it messed up her do. And who did Gloria think she was fooling with all the phony poo-pooing? The handsome soldier knew his future sister-in-law was a little jealous and didn't really like him. Well, let her. "Donna deserves so much and I'm going to be the one to give it to her! Thank God Kate Siegel was around," he thought. Lee was grateful to the other sharp thinking woman, for she brought a lot of happiness and excitement into Donna's life, which meant fresh energy, something his Sweet needed right now to get her mind back on track and off those dreams she's having more and more.
Lee stared at their reflections in the rear view mirror, noticing curls coming loose, the Vitalis not doing its job. Maybe Donna's publicist knew of some other brand, for he noticed that she managed her hair the same, sometimes wearing it bone straight, other times in a French braid. They stopped at a red light and he quickly donned his service hat, which did the trick to flatten his hair. To him, his mop seemed so unruly.
Soon they breezed into Downtown and parked by a small jewelry district that popped up in the last few years. Lee predicted that when the war was over, a lot of servicemen would return to loved ones, and they'll want to settle down, buy a ring, get married and have kids. It was hard to fathom that this area would one day be booming as Lee and Donna parked and walked a few blocks.
A strange thing happened as they stopped to cross Hill Street. An L.A. Transit Company Bus tooled by, stopping to pick up passengers right by where Donna and the Captain stood ready to cross. The doors of the bus swung open and the driver of the bus, Gloria's future husband Lee noticed the man in uniform and saluted, Hackler saluting back. It was a fleeting gesture that came over the bus driver when he noticed an attractive girl with the serviceman. She was pretty as a picture!
Aunt Stella got through to Robert and Gertrude. They were very happy and approved of the match. The Captain was stable, so that was a good sign of a solid marriage. They knew he would genuinely provide for their daughter and truly love her for what she was inside, not for her outside glamour and beauty. Her other daughter Gloria had spoken of this man to them, and even though she said he was a might uptight, Gert had dealt with polite society and would soon thaw his outer shell. She knew, and felt right away that Captain Hackler was a decent man with a good heart. God knows what would of happened if she'd married that jeweler. Both parents were relieved. The next five years would be a whirlwind for everyone concerned. Donna would enjoy her last years of health. Soon, by the end of 1946, she felt the pangs of illness seeping in. Somehow, she kept on going.
* * *
Donna lay in bed, both she and Lee now married. It was January of 1943. The ceremony had been really something.
The whole Wood family and an enormous amount of relatives attended, as well as a slew of Hollywood friends, band members and other hanger-ons. It was amazing to see the groupies from Donna's Don Juan days with MCA, still in touch with her. She can thank Katie for that one, because the publicist had made many phone calls gathering everyone together, including the paparazzi. It was in all the papers, bleeding over into the music section and society pages, even making it into Hedda Hoppers column.
For the past few years before she met her husband, even now with the war winding down, Donna had been on lengthy music engagements and various conducting tours, until her health began to suffer, so she decided to settle down in Beverly Hills. Recently Lee had gotten a job with a well known Beverly Hills newspaper - The Beverly Hills Citizen, so things were stable. Kate's P.R. had proven successful, for Donna was still getting calls from her agent about gigs and maybe a new movie offer in the makes. It all hitched on her health now. No good amount of P.R. is going to help her head!
But they had really tied the knot. Lee lay beside her quietly, eyes open, wearing boxer shorts. Donna had donned a modest night gown this evening. Soon Lee put his arm around the petite woman, and they became lost in each other, the magic of chemistry between man and woman taking over quickly.
Lee was a different man in intimacy. He was caring and Donna noticed the stern guy seemed to shed some of that analness, and nibbled her earlobe. She drew closer as he whispered his love, a rare moment indeed. The Captain told her that actions speak louder than words, and usually balked at saying 'I love you, darling'. Whatever the fact was, right at this moment the man was giving himself and opening up to her soul. That's what she loved about him most ... The fact that Lee held back his feelings, like precious gems. But when he gave freely of his emotions, her own soul felt like bursting.
The moment was built up for years and now finally she was becoming a woman. Was 25 years old too late? Should she have gotten this over with years ago with Ralph? She knew the answer as her husband held her beneath him, and they began a slow rhythm, him conducting. They moved together and pleasured each other slowly at first. When both got the fervor in them of the moment, the couple shed their pent-up emotion for each other and shared their bodies until finally Donna felt a building release after a momentary sharp pain, that at first scared her, then it went away. She was chasing that building feeling until she felt a tremendous explosion of emotion and nerve endings. The singer moaned a bit too loud, as Lee picked up the pace, finally having his own release.
Kate and Gloria found it hard to believe that Donna had waited until marriage. Yes, she petted with a lot of boys in her band, even a bit more sometimes with the jeweler, but she'd stuck to her guns about giving up virginity, and felt very strongly about it. And she was glad to have waited, because this moment cannot be topped, not even doing a gig at The Pantages on a Saturday night.
After Lee settled, he rolled away from her, but brought her with him, having her on top of him with a quick flip of his arms. Lee told her in that same whisper how much the man loved her and how good she felt. Donna drew closer, nuzzling against her husband, his chest clear of any hair, his baby face glowing against the moonlight out the window. The smell of Jasmine permeated the air and added to their mood, which was romantic and close. They just held each other under the covers. He didn't say anything to her afterwards, just his actions, as always. Slowly Lee came back down to earth, becoming his formal, uptight self. His type was a brooder as well as a deep thinker. You had to be if you conducted an orchestra. Although his new job didn't have anything to do with conducting, he was ready to devote as much time to accounting as he could now. There was a certain edge to that business, and in many ways paralleled his former profession. His first client, funny enough, would be The Landers Agency. Kate had approached him with the idea of balancing their books, but he also dabbled in slogan writing too. They'd taken on more clients and therefore were making more money, so were in need of a good Advertising Account Executive to sort things out. Kate had already asked June, and she approved.
Finally both slept. All was quiet in the Beverly Hills middle class area nestled between Wilshire Blvd. and Olympic. Soon night turned into morning and the couple stirred. Their bed had just a slight creek to it, but it became comforting to Donna as she lay deep in the covers as her husband rose to take care of his personal needs. It was at that moment Donna turned and looked out the window of their bedroom facing Canon Drive and heard the tapping of a woodpecker! She giggled out loud and flounced out of bed cheerily, opening the window to the morning breeze and the sound of doves cooing.
The milkman was just arriving when Donna tiptoed downstairs to retrieve the morning paper. She picked up her fresh milk, mumbling hello to Mr. Johnson as he continued his route in her small 8-unit apartment building. The neighborhood was semi-upscale. Beautiful palm trees lined the street, but the wide open landscape seemed especially crisp this morning.
Donna returned to their apartment and began percolating coffee and preparing a simple breakfast of grapefruit, hard-boiled eggs and lightly buttered toast. She'd picked up some fresh strawberries down at the market on Beverly Drive and actually bumped into Kate. They were buying the exact same thing! It always amazed her about her publicist and how they were similar, but Kate seemed to be a bit more rebellious, and that sometimes caused slight riffs in their relationship. Both women grew up with a lot of family love, but since both were in the entertainment business and some of the same places, and during the war were involved in it on the same circuit, a slight jadedness arose sometimes between them.
As she boiled the eggs, she thought about how she had slowed her pace now. And the medicine she took to sleep and control the dreaming sometimes made her feel fatigued. Then other times she would just forgot that there was anything wrong at all. When Donna was constantly on the road there was no time to think about such things. But now that she was more stable, not so musically nomadic, she felt the pangs of her ailment more sharply.
Kate suggested she become more involved in the outside activities here in Beverly Hills. Maybe there was a women's club or society, possibly through the local church. In the two years she'd lived here, she was always away or too busy performing to wonder if such things were available to her. Now she could actually entertain the idea of it. The girl laughed to herself as she saw in her mind's eye, sitting around a sewing circle chatting about the local gossip. Lee came in then, and she told him her humorous thoughts. He smiled tightly, his way of acknowledging her during his moments.
Her parents, living in town now for a little over a month, were coming by this morning to take some photos. Gloria and Kate would be there as well. Lee had agreed to put on his uniform one last time for the occasion, then he'd hang it up for good. She was glad he'd found a place at his new job and hoped he didn't mind being a bit curtailed due to her own health. She would do her best to make a happy, orderly home, sickness or no sickness. And she'd grown to like Brad St. John and Kate, and wondered when they'd marry.
Even though Lee lived with her now, their apartment was still neat and cozy. Lee didn't have a lot of mementos or luggage, due to his travels and lifestyle, especially after joining the service. It was a quaint place, with white Venetian blinds formally drawn halfway, Stylish blue curtains hung as well, giving the room a slight masculine appeal. Donna's mother had bought her all the accruements to start a little home, and they hung or were stacked in drawers. Around the room hung plants and ferns bursting forth with life and vigor. A few oil paintings hung of a flower garden and sheep in the meadow. A piano was parked off to the side of the living room, and all around that area hung family pictures and performing shots from around the country. The brown shag rug was coarse, but added to the aura of the place, 2 blocks from the famous Rodeo Drive.
Donna and her sister had decorated it, and Lee approved, one of the few things he liked that was connected with Gloria Wood. He knew the sisters looked out for each other, and so he tolerated her, but if not for Donna's sake, he would have nothing to do with the younger Wood sister. She could be snide and rude, and sometimes blurted out things left better unsaid. Yes, he tolerated, but only for his sweet songbird Donna.
Later that morning they stood outside the apartment building all decked out in evening clothes, yet the sun shined brightly. They took shots of them standing by the place, as well as in each others embrace. Kate seriously could not believe the whole scene. She was re-defining the time fixtures and it was working! Gloria posed by the back of the building, as well as in the entrance. Lee and Donna were shot by Mr. Wood, who still was the ultimate shutter bug.
The Wood daughter's and their doting parents joked and complimented each other. Kate knew Donna's mother and father would always be more than just people who bore two wonderful daughters. They were such an intricate part of the Wood sister's lives. Even now Gloria had already bought the little two bedroom Beverwil house. The elder Wood's were in the process of moving in, Gloria giving up her little bungalow on Olympic. But Donna was satisfied with where she and Lee resided. She just didn't want to move and uproot herself right now. Her husband agreed, only wanting to be with her, love the lady, making her happy and content. He in turn expected the same, and Donna always made sure she relayed that to her husband in her actions as well as her words. It was never any problem for Donna to express her love for Lee, but as usually, he was a bit stiff in that area. Though Donna knew he loved her, sometimes she did wish for a more happy-go-lucky man like her past Dietz character or even Brad St. John. But then men like Ralph tended to stray, becoming bored. At least with Lee, you knew where you stood, usually having to earn his praise by abiding to his ways, which was something Donna had a problem with, especially with the presence of her sister Gloria.
Gloria had a wild streak in her, and even now was getting a tremendous amount of work and attention these days, thanks to Kate's excellent P.R. skills. Donna had recommended her for Kay Kaiser's band, thinking that they both could sing with the orchestra, but Kaiser picked Gloria when he saw her perform the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood. Due to Donna's health, known gossip in music circles, he decided it was best to go with the younger Wood. Her sister was not upset that Gloria was getting work. She just can't believe her poor health prevented the woman from succeeding too. She must go see that new doctor everyone seems to be recommending. Now that she was more stable, Donna would see a specialist. For now she would cater to her husband and try and live a happy life. Maybe she'd try writing some music herself. Or maybe they could write something together. You just never know.
After taking a roll of shots, they all walked up to the Beverwil house, leisurely strolling up Canon, then Olympic to Beverwil. It was at that moment, when they crossed Pico Blvd., that Kate noticed more car activity than she'd ever remembered. This war would be over soon.
Brad spoke. "It's a beautiful house, Glo, modern for this time and age."
"It has all the latest conveniences, ample light," explained Gloria as she fiddled with the shutters and blinds. She showed them the two cheery bedrooms. There was a living room, little dining area, plus a kitchen and garage area.
Kate then suggested, "Gloria, you should build an addition, a lanai for parties and jam sessions."
Everyone stopped in their tracks and stared at Kate strangely.
Finally, Gloria replied, "For now it suits us and I'm not going to change a thing. But thanks for the suggestion, duly noted," said the petite blond singer. "Mom and Dad are already moved in."
"What about your home in Arlington?" Asked Kate.
"There's relatives staying there, watching the place for us," said Robert.
"Besides," spoke up Gert. "I feel more part of the Beverly Hills community than ever. We want to mingle out here more than anything else."
Everyone in the room, including Kate, knew why the Woods were around: Donna's health, which had begun to get a bit worse. They all knew she was not well, anyone could plainly tell. The girl's pallor wasn't up to par and she didn't seem her free spirited, energetic self at all, but the Woods had taught their daughters to always bite the bullet and overcome by God's love, which is how Donna has survived this far.
But now was a time to begin a more aggressive treatment plan. They'd try a new a new specialist, a Doctor Bilon, over in Hollywood. Maybe now they'd find something to help poor ailing Donna Wood.
"We love her so much, and don't want to lose her," prayed Kate one day.
"I agree with anything you want to do, and respect your decisions," said Lee to Robert Wood one evening quietly. "I know you all love your daughter unconditionally."
The Woods were getting on in age, and it was really good how Gloria was taking responsibility in caring for their needs. Lee had to hand it to Gloria, and give her credit for that. Maybe she was growing up too. She was only 21, but Lee always expected maturity out of every woman, and sometimes was hard on them when they couldn't toe the line. He accepted that. Robert Wood was a smart, well-rounded, worldly man, so they could relate and come to conclusions quicker.
"Lee and I agree, let's try a new physician," Donna said.
"As well as inquire into any new treatments or drugs on the medical market, maybe even the black market!" Said Capt. Hackler. "An army buddy of mine who'd flown to Mexico, said that there were some new vitamin treatments going on there. I told him to check it out."
"You just never knew," added Brad.
They took more photos together by the sliding glass door beside the patio. After Gloria gave everyone the grand tour, feeling proud, and picking up the vibe from Lee that he totally approved of what she had done for her parents, they sat in the living. It was amazing, but for the first time she'd felt totally at ease in Lee's presence, not like he was judging her, like usual. It was a milestone for the budding singer. Maybe it was the fact that Donna's health wasn't great and that her parents were getting on in age. Whatever the fact, Gloria felt good doing this for them, especially if doing it meant Lee's acceptance for once. God knows how hard it was to please that one. He was difficult, but when Donna and she were in the garage unpacking some boxes together, and Lee was having coffee with the Woods inside, the elder daughter had told Gloria and Kate of Lee's sexual charms and how wonderful it was for the first time.
"Donna, we can't believe you waited until marriage," kidded Gloria.
"But we believe her," rallied Kate. "Maybe other women wouldn't believe you, but Glo and I do."
"Singing with the Don Juan's surely didn't help in that department," said Gloria.
"Hey, speaking of them, Art Carney is making quite a name for himself in comedy as well as music," pointed out Kate. "At least since he's finished Pot O' Gold."
"I've always thought Carney was and still is a wonderful person and talented performer, but nothing can top touring with my dear husband on his conducting engagements, singing for his band," admitted Donna.
"For a girl with your ailment and fragile health, you've achieved the impossible," said Kate reverently.
Kate recalled when the woman was shooting Pot 'O Gold with Jimmy Stewart. Everyone loved Donna on the set, from the producer James Roosevelt, who was absolutely charmed by Donna, to the set director, who was obviously gay due to his body language and poise, how he looked at good looking men as well as woman, but only felt a jealous rage when he saw one who had something he didn't, like a bracelet or earrings! Donna was in starry-eyed heaven working on the Pot 'O Gold set. She experienced her first taste of stardom, even though she only had a supporting, virtually non-speaking role in the campy film. It would be her ad campaign that Kate had explained to Gloria that day, a hyped up version the 'Cinderella in Hollywood'.
Although Donna Wood barely said two words in the film, the woman was a regular public relations ploy in the making, at least in Kate's opinion. It was the woman's health that stopped everything cold.
"Once Hollywood found out you were in ill health, they shun you like a disease," said Gertrude.
"Well, that's why Donna decided to quit while she was ahead, and she's decided to settle," said Kate.
When Kate and Gloria visited Donna on the set they set the place in motion. Everyone from Jimmy Stewart to the guys in the band used to stand around smiling and chatting with the two pretty women, who could of been potentially famous, especially Kate, who was bubbling with energy. Kate first noticed how others noticed their differences. They drew certain types of men to them. Donna always attracted the dashing, well built, sterner types, producers like Roosevelt Jr., and band leaders such as Horace Heidt, who had a rep for dating a string of beautiful singers.
"Did you know, Glo, that at first Heidt pursued Donna for a date, but she convinced him to let her sing in his band, which he really agreed to," said Kate.
"Yes, I did know that," answered Gloria. "They were, at that time, considered semi-famous on the music circuit."
"Heidt's music sometimes comes off as backward and campy, sort of corny in nature, but that hasn't stopped the man from continuing," said Kate.
"Of course, as soon as the movie was wrapped, he moved right on to touring again once it wrapped," explained Gloria.
"What gusto that guy has," commented Kate. "I spoke with Horace, and he said he'd always remember that movie, the only one he'd make with Donna Wood," said Kate, forgetting for a second that she might of said too much. She thought to herself, "In fact, it was the only movie they'd ever make. To cover her mistake, Kate changed the subject. "And there's a new music movement sweeping the country ... blues mixed with swing. And let's not forget the Beatniks hanging around those dark, smoky coffee houses in New York's Greenwich Village."
"Remember that time we all were on tour in New York a few months back, and stopped in on a dare," said Gloria.
"You and Donna were in and out in record time, not liking the incense nor the bongo drums beating too steady and unchanging."
"Some woman was on stage either loaded or plain nuts, spouting off strange lyrics with no melody. I was transfixed, feeling like we'd entered another domain," said Donna
"And on their way out we laughed together, walking close due to the cold wind blowing through the brownstones," recalled Gloria.
"Remember when we hailed a cab and went back to our hotel?" Asked Donna.
Kate remembered fondly how all three stayed up all night talking 40's girl talk, which the woman from the future found exciting.
It had been the same when Donna was doing the movie. Gloria and Kate came and stayed with Donna at her apartment on Canon. She would never forget it. They had so much fun and shared more than ever. It took a lot of coaxing for Donna to loosen up and tell the girls about her romantic life. She led a very private life, knew Gloria and Kate both had the gift of gab, and might blab to friends and associates, or even band members, because everyone always wondered about Donna and her virtue. It was part of the woman's mystique. But that night, after a slow gin fizz, Donna began telling them about some of her excursions with Ralph, how hard it was to stave off his sexual advances, how handsome he was, and how difficult it was becoming to not feel emotionally wrought by constantly having to tell Ralph that she couldn't possibly make love unless they were married, so he'd talked her into tying the knot in Vegas. They had bought the plane tickets and made reservations at the Flamingo, and Ralph had almost gotten her to that point, which she still refused to do even though he kissed her, hugged her tiny frame, breathed lightly in her ears and drove her pressure up, which was her weakness. It was just too much. Now that Donna thought back to those days, it must of been hard for him, a society jeweler to the stars, to be constantly turned on and turned down flat. After awhile they grew apart, only feeling something when they necked and petted in a dark corner. Always Ralph would get way out of control, his passions on fire for the little lady. And it had something to do with the fact that Donna stuck to her guns and didn't succumb to Ralph's fiery wishes and kisses, so she was like an unattainable butterfly. Ralph the Collector had to have it, but couldn't. The press had first warmed to it, then wrote it off as a fling for the new hub singer who made it big in Hollywood. It was all basically studio hype, mostly Kate's doing, someone who obviously knew the studio ranks and had recommended the dark haired beauty for modeling, acting, singing and hostessing. It really was luck too. It just so happened that the timing was right. "Boy was it ever," thought Kate.
"Of course I developed a school girl crush on Jimmy Stewart," admitted Donna.
"He treated you more like an older brother or uncle than anything else," added Gloria.
"That's fine with me. I felt so comfortable in his presence, especially since he's a big star. I've seen 'Destry Rides Again' a few times, and loved Jimmy's acting and charm," said Donna.
"I never cared for Marlene Dietrich though," said Glo, reacting to it like the she did the beatniks.
"Jimmy was great in Pot O' Gold. So much energy. The guy has a deep soul, and relates well with his peers, and usually treated the script girl to the leading lady like gold," said Kate, thinking of the future, wondering about Lee, Gloria's future husband and his Russian companion Marlena.
"Didn't he take Donna out to dinner at the Brown Derby once or twice?" Asked Glo.
"Yes, he did, but mostly to be seen with a pretty up and coming starlet, like his agent had recommended," explained Kate.
"That's fine with me fine because it gave me good publicity. I thank you, Kate, for arranging the dinner date with Jimmy Stewart," said Donna, turning to the curly headed girl fondly.
"His handlers knew a good thing when they saw it. And now you're playing full on with Horace Heidt and his Musical Knights, and can use as much P.R. as possible to steer you even closer to a better feature!" Said Kate.
Both sisters knew that the Siegel girl was making more happen for the singers than they thought ever possible.
Donna realized her part wasn't a lead, or didn't have many lines, but she'd learn from the experience of being part of a movie on the set. She was in almost every scene with Paulette playing her sister. Jimmy Stewart comes to the rescue and they battle a mean manager and do all sorts of musical numbers. But it was so much fun between scenes.
"I remember that Horace's band members were a lot of fun, kind of feisty and uproarish. They'd crack up the whole set, including Mr. Roosevelt. Once even President Roosevelt came to the set, discreetly of course," recalled Donna. "Everyone was really low key and no one joked around that day as the Roosevelt's including Eleanor sat in tall directors chairs and watched the filming of several scenes we were all in. The First Lady took me aside, complimenting my beauty and poise, as well as my singing.
"God, what did she say to you?" Asked Kate.
"She said, 'Donna, I've had a chance to listen to some of your tapes of the Don Juan's and I liked the beat and song choices, young lady.' I was ready to scream hot spit!"
"I said, 'Why thank you Mrs. Roosevelt! She said, 'Please, call me Eleanor.' What an elegant woman."
Donna told Kate and Gloria that she and Eleanor chatted amiably until a secret service agent silently came up and led her away. Donna was totally in awe of Mrs. Roosevelt, especially when the older woman asked the singer to visit her if she ever was in the Washington area.
But the biggest thrill is when Mama came on the set. Gert attracted her own set of people and really related with most of the older crew, like the sound man, or the guy who ran the boom and gaffing equipment. But as soon as any of them tried to ask her out, she would be up front about being married, and they would saunter off, probably jealous of Woodie.
Then one day Kate came on the set with June Landers with her. Since the war had begun, they had more time to spend idle on the set checking out the conditions and making sure their clients were being treated fair. It was no rumor that sometimes actors were treated poorly on movie sets. With people like FDR dropping by, though, the conditions were very good, the food excellent, the swearing held to a minimum, and the stars more friendlier.
It was also comical to watch Kate trying to chase down Jimmy Stewart, asking him if he needed any extra P.R., that maybe the Landers Agency would be a nice compliment to any public relations he was doing presently.
"Why thank you young lady, but if you want to talk shop, you've got to contact my agent," Jimmy said while sipping a cup of coffee on the set between takes in the film.
The actor seemed distracted and vague, not at all like the usual Stewart personality. It was the war and impending years spent fighting it. Jimmy had, like a lot of middle aged guys on the borderline of being drafted, wanted to serve their country. It was obvious Jimmy Stewart was far away from the script. Even the presence of Paulette Goddard, who Kate pitched as well, but with better success, didn't sway Jimmy's somber mood between takes. He'd usually go straight to his trailer, sometimes taking a few publicity shots with Donna or Paulette, then hiding away, most probably meditating on the beginning of World War II. Making a movie during the war seemed petty and selfish to the seasoned actor. He wanted to be where the action was, on the battle field, or maybe in a plane, or even directing troops.
For now he did what was asked of him on the set, but in a few weeks they would wrap this film and he'd enlist. He had to say one thing, Miss Donna Wood was a real jewel. He hoped she'd go far, and with a publicist behind her like Kate Siegel, the woman had half a chance than if she was doing it solo. He smiled at the two women as they sat on the set going over songs and numbers. He liked them both very much. It's funny, but Kate had read his palm and said he'd live a long life. He believed her right away. Her conviction was there, and he knew she was right. It was eerie, but he knew what Kate told him was correct. What a strange world it was.
* * *
Yes, Donna has wonderful memories of her place, even after Lee moved in. He added an orderly appeal to the apartment, and everyone in the building loved the couple. Even now that Donna was ill, neighbors would drop to casually chat with her, knowing her condition was worsening. Sometimes she would be so out of it, and would vaguely recall Kate dropping by for coffee. Lee sat with the woman in the breakfast area while Donna fell asleep on the couch.
"I'm so stressed about this, Lee. Isn't there anything we can do?" Kate sat sipping coffee, black.
"I'm up in arms about it myself, you know that. There's not many options left except to keep her comfortable," said Lee sadly.
"God, I love her so much," admitted Kate, fighting a feeling to go and stroke Donna's hair as she slept on the couch. "She's practically in a coma, do you have to give her that medicine?"
"Unfortunately, yes, she's got to take it. By this time she's basically dependent on the pills."
Kate had brought her guitar and pulled it out, strumming lightly. She'd taken to practicing the song about Donna and unabashedly sang it for Lee. For some reason, Donna's husband wasn't as stern around the publicist like he was normally, especially since the woman had long ago broken through the barrier with her emotion and enthusiasm. "You know, Les, I'm glad you're around," admitted Lee.
"Thanks, Lee, that makes me feel so good. I just wish there was more I could do."
"All I know is that Brad is a lucky guy. I wish my Donna would be around to see the day you guys marry," said Lee.
Kate felt like crying right then and there, for she knew that when Donna passed away, that was the end of her adventure. Most probably she'll be sent back to her own time. She'd made the best of it, enjoying what she could, pushing the negative thought of returning to '97 to the back of her mind.
After Kate departed, Lee sat on the sofa stroking his Donna's dark hair, ironically what Kate had an impulse to do. He even flipped through an old photo album left by Donna's publicist. Donna half heartedly flipped through it in her good moments of clarity, but soon she would feel the sickness rise up in her and would have to put it down and rest.
It was at that moment that an angel appeared in Donna's mind. It said, "Don't worry, Sweet Songbird, you will not be forgotten. Come with us now, and find peace!"
"But I'm not ready to go yet! What about my loved ones, they'll miss me, they're in tears!" Even her thoughts fought hard for each breath lately. It was extremely frustrating because although her body was weak, her mind wanted to live so badly, she willed her body not to succumb.
It was at that moment of the struggle that she remembered how electric it was when she and her husband performed. During the final months of the war, they toured around to small towns and bases. Donna would be singing, her husband conducting, She marveled at her man standing in his element, while sharing the spotlight with him. It was pure heaven! Afterwards, when the people left and it was quiet in the club, they'd sit together holding each other, sweaty and tired from their marvelous performance.
Then, finally, back to the little motel room, where they'd make love sweetly, quietly, just like she imagined her parents. Donna thought back to her childhood when she questioned intimacy, and almost laughed out loud thinking about how silly it was to do that. As Lee kissed her between her thighs, and buried his head further in, she fell into such a wanton mood. She was always quite reserved about such things, very delicate and proper, and that's why Hackler was drawn to her. She, on the other hand, craved discipline, a father figure, the good Captain fitting the bill, as Kate or her sister would aptly put it.
But life on the road wasn't always happy and good. Lee, being a serious conductor, fell into dark moods, sometimes spreading a strange depression. At those moments, Donna usually went out and took a walk or had a cup of coffee in the dining room. Sometimes Kate would meet her and spend the weekend with them. They'd sit in the small cafeteria and start talking about their fathers. Then Kate would prompt Donna to call Robert Wood collect from the pay phone in the lobby. They'd talk, then he'd put Mama on, and sometimes Aunt Stella would be over. She would talk to both Kate and Donna in depth about things, which felt so good to the younger women.
Kate always thought Donna's Aunt Stella was very with the times. The woman wrote poetry and sang in the church, plus she was the ailing singer's silent mentor, guiding her along. Besides her mother, Aunt Stella was the closest to Donna Wood.
When Aunt Stella came to visit, Donna would recognize the stout looking woman right away, even with the heavy medication. There was something about them both that lended a family closeness that went beyond the physical. Donna even went to go see Aunt Stella's doctor, who was known to be quite good, but he too shook his head, wishing he could do more and had given her the number of another specialist in Boston and wished her luck. Stella had told Donna later on that evening that Dr. Jensen was truly, genuinely sorry he couldn't of been more helpful. Donna supposed she had worked into the doctor's sensitive ego. Many in the medical profession usually brushed off someone with her condition, but at least he'd shown more compassion than the others had.
They had brought her some new medication from Dr. Bilon's office over on Hollywood Blvd. It was Mercurulin 26 c. ampules. The ailing singer was to be given one ampule by hypo as directed.
After the shot was given by a nurse who came and left, Donna began thinking about her life, which flashed sometimes clearer than present day reality. She recalled when she'd settled in to her new life. Kate had done her best to continue publicity, but it had recently become a trickle. Mostly because the music was becoming old hat in the industry. So Donna had gotten involved with the Christian Scientists again, as she had a few years prior, where she'd met Ralph Dietz, the jeweler. No one knew the real truth about him, and she was now just coming to terms with it.
If the truth must be told, than it was Ralph Dietz whom Donna should have married. He was labeled Jeweler to the Stars, and it was easy to imagine him standing there, tall and proud, young and creative, knowing what really pleased a woman. His family had emigrated from oppressive Russia and were at first urged to go to Israel where they could be safe from persecution, but his father had decided to come to the United States. It was a good choice. His father was in great demand as a gem specialist and his family was very educated. Ralph himself was an expert gemologist and could spot a fake a mile away. He’d met Donna through the Christian Science Church in Hollywood, CA, on Highland Avenue and Franklin, two very famous crossroads. He was obsessed with Christian Scientist history. They met, dated and became quite serious. They shared a strong passion and both loved the limelight and music of the day. He knew Donna was capable of doing great things with her singing career.
Finally, he asked her to elope with him to Las Vegas. They’d marry and then carry on their careers, which were both blooming. He was handsome and smart. She was petite and somewhat soft spoken and shy, with just a hint of her Massachusetts accent showing through. His parents didn’t approve of Donna though. She was a gentile and from a white Anglo Saxon protestant background. They wanted their son to marry a girl from their faith. And during those days, it was pretty hot discussion Even now she held her Bible, sometimes getting up the strength to read a few Psalms, mostly comforting ones about excepting God when she got to Heaven. Oh, how the woman wished she could simply live, but that was not to be!
It wouldn't be until a cold, dreary day in March of 1947. Donna's health was slowly but surely deteriorating.
She could barely get up to the bathroom without feeling fatigue from the medicines that had become habit to ingest. Twice Lee had to rush her to the emergency room, and she'd spent a few days in the hospital. Finally, there was little else for them to do.
Through the years Donna had learned to accept this moment, had even subtly hinted it to her close ties. She'd known all along that her life was destined to be short lived. Why, she did not know, but would heed God's will. Suddenly, as the ailing signer lay very still on their bed, a bluebird flew to a nearby branch right outside the window. Donna looked into the bird's darting eyes and knew her time was growing short. That bird brought her back to another time, and many another times too.
She remembered all the trips to the beach her family took, how close they all were, even after the Depression, and they began to pursue careers. The ailing woman thought it strange how her brother Bob went into forestry, and Channie had actually joined in on the Glo Vir Dons, and Mama helped form the sibling trio. Donna wished at that moment that she were back in Arlington, at that roomy old house.
It was hard to believe she'd be leaving them soon. So young, and everyone else, including her grandparents would still be alive when she passed on. What would happen, the lady could only wonder, wait and hope. Donna closed her eyes, something very easy to do of late. For now she'd have her memories, that would get her through. Would they miss her, think of her even years later? Where did those short years go to?
All her life the petite singer can remember only happy moments. Times when she thought the sun would never set, like those hikes they used to take. And especially her father, he would miss her most of all. They were close, always sharing and giving love and respect. If it weren't for her parent's firm hand, the woman doubted she would be this strong by now. Her mother and dad were always an inspiration in everything.
As for her sister Gloria, she wished the woman the best in all things and knew her younger sibling would go on to do great things with her singing. Donna wished she could be around longer.
Lee, poor Lee. "I'm sure he would get along fine once I'm gone, but oh, how he would surely miss me. Why must life be so cruel?" Even now she saw her death in her husband's expression as he sat in a straight back chair reading the newspaper, occasionally glancing up at her worriedly.
Many people had come and gone in the past few days, so many that they'd become a blur, and it actually expended a lot of energy to try and recall who they'd been. Dr. Bilon had sent over two prescriptions and Donna's guessed they were affecting her senses as well. It was becoming increasingly difficult to focus on any one thing very long. It was also hard to believe that just a few short years prior she was able to juggle so much more. It was only in the last few years that she had begun to feel the brunt of her illness. Always she'd been able to put it to the back of her mind and snap out of the fatigue. But now she was older, and for some reason, her heart was being affected now.
The delicate woman thought back to her band days with the Don Juans. They'd had management and put out some stuff on the MCA label. It was so exciting. But most of all, she enjoyed the thrill of performing. Her mind drifted to those band days. And the diet pills the doctor gave her may of aggravated things, but she'd been bopping.
Donna's management had put her with a trio of good looking crooners, labeling them Donna and Her Don Juans. It was so fun working with them. And then one of the guys had to leave the band so they got this guy named Art Carney, who was one of the most hilarious men she'd ever met. Although he was a singer, he had a strange comical timing that coincided with his vocals. Usually he'd shine at the after-parties, telling jokes and yarns and acting generally goofy and fun. He'd cornered her one day back stage and tried to steal a kiss, maybe more. Donna was taken off guard by that action and let him at least get closer than she'd let most. But it was obvious there was chemistry. He, at first to Donna, was a bit too wiry for her tastes, and he wasn't serious enough. But as far as singing with him, it clicked and they melded. That's as far as it went in her mind.
Yes, now she can admit that it was she who developed a secret crush and fell prey to Carney's charm. 25 year old Donna started wishing he'd ask her out for dinner and dancing. She was told Art was actually a great dancer, so her sister Gloria had said.
Donna always loved to look up at the club marquee, especially when she started singing with Horace Heidt And His Musical Knights. Then after her first film was released - Pot 'O Gold with Jimmy Stewart, Heidt cashed in on the popularity of the music and added "His Pot 'O Gold Stars". A tremendous show, plus 7 big time acts! 2 big bands, 2 1/2 hour shows, plenty of seats, one day only ... Saturday, March 29th at the Lowell Auditorium. They did 2 shows. There was Saturday, the matinee at 3:00 p.m., .40 cents and .65 cents, mail orders filled! Kate had made sure to hype up those shows too. Thanks God for that woman, she did her job well, even for Heidt's quick fix shows.
Buck Privates with Bud Abbot and Lou Costello was playing right across the street from the club, as well as This Thing Called Love with Rosaline Russell and Melvyn Douglas. Back then it was only .15 cents. Usually the club was situated right across the street from the movie district, and that captured crowds as they left the theater, or caught one of the musical matinees before dinner and a show. Kate had hired kids to run all over town and hand out flyers, and that really helped things.
Strawberry Blonde with James Cagney and Olivia DeHavilland drew in big crowds after they left the theater, and the teenagers were seeing Monster and the Girl with Ellen Drew, as well as "The Devil Commands" with Boris Karloff.
Donna remembered all the obscure films and plays of that day. Fred McMurray and Madeleine Carroll in a play called 'Virginia', with the Orrin Tucker Orchestra, Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly, with Leo Gorcey in Flying Wild. And even Humphrey Bogard and Ida Lupo in 'High Sierra'. She didn't quite understand why all this was coming to her with such clarity and detail now, years later. Usually her life was so hustle-bustle that there was little time for details. Now details were all she could cling on to at that moment.
It was when they were playing a few of the resort hotels when the war broke out, soon after making Pot O' Gold, that Donna began touring for the USO, something that was an added activity besides playing the other gigs at smaller venues. "The secret to success," Horace Heidt believed, "was to play out and get seen by as many people as possible!"
Things got really kicking when Gloria joined her sister and they played in the same band together for awhile. Donna got to know her sister on a whole other level after touring for 6 months across the country, and Kate Siegel became an intricate part of the process as well as a close friend too around that time.
With the two Wood sisters singing in the same venue, that meant more crowds, the majority being the eager troops. The girls even got a chance to sit and chat with Bob Hope, whose 'handlers' recognized an excellent photo opportunity, thanks again to their publicist Kate. And although they'd not appeared with Bob Hope, they had met him briefly on his way up to Fort Hood. Kate made sure photos were taken of the sisters on either side of Bob as he flipped through a Hollywood Reporter and Variety. The man had a certain flair that the three women liked.
"He could be your best friend within minutes, especially if he knew you were doing your part for the war effort, and if you were a pretty face!" Donna remembered the amazing feelings felt while sitting next to the legendary entertainer. It was electric. The next thing Donna remembered is seeing his pudgy hand rest on her younger sister Gloria's leg. Kate didn't miss it either, from across the small compartment. Hope wished them well and they parted as comrades.
Later on in the darkened hotel suite they shared, as usual, all three women laid awake in their beds talking about the experience. Gloria couldn't get over how the electricity flowed between her and Bob. She told them that his hand was warm and secure. "I really didn't mind it at all when he rested it there."
The simple gesture had the girl's tongues wagging and wondering at the power women could have over men like that.
It was then that Donna took the opportunity to tell the other women, whom beside her mother, she considered closest, about what happened between she and Art Carney. She recalled it fondly. They were both at a party, and as soon they found out their might be something between them. Kate paid special attention to this, not wanting to forget a word of it. She had decided to come out and meet the girls on tour, just to make sure all was going well, which it was. Well, here she was, almost one year into the past, and already hanging around with the Wood sisters and making P.R. happen for them. It was totally elating lying there with both woman, and listening to their stories.
Donna told them, "It was when he broke the ice by saying, 'I'm going to stick to you like glue'. He said it in rehearsals, when he would sidle up me and sing closer. I found him to be a talkative, funny man filled with this ballsy energy, like a brand new kitten," admitted Donna. She felt attracted to his lankiness and rubber-faced smile. On the way home they stopped up on Mullholland Drive and began a simple petting ritual which turned into a night cap at her place on Canon. Art lived at a bachelor pad, sharing the rent with a few other 'Fellas'. There'd be no privacy there, so they went to Donna's place in Beverly Hills.
It reeked of a one night stand, and at the last minute, like she would do to Ralph , she said, "Art, no offense to you, but maybe since we're in the same band, it might end up causing undue stress."
His young eyes saw only Donna, imagining them quickly undressing and slipping under the blankets in Donna's bedroom. But, alas, that was not to happen. The brunette beauty stuck to her virtues and let it go no further between them.
As Art Carney drove back to his apartment near Fairfax Avenue and Norton Street, he fantasized more about what could have been between the brunette beauty and himself.
They'd start the ritual of love making, inhibitions falling aside, sheer lust taking over. He was a gentle lover, and would have taken his time with her. Only through the technique-of-the-tease would he have had that wildcat singer, and she, by the end of the evening, would have been begging him to do the dance.
When Art was at Fairfax and Third, they were making passionate, unabridged love. Although they were virtual strangers, Donna Wood had brought them closer in spirit. Afterwards they would of laid in each others arms, Art smoking a Lucky Strike. They talked about the music business, people, gossiped a bit, and finally began composing themselves. Art, without a word, probably would of gotten up and collected his clothes. Donna may have asked if he wanted to take a shower, and he complied, loving the smell of her shampoo. As he pulled into the driveway of his apartment building, the future comic promised he'd always remember his time with a Songbird.
Meanwhile, in reality, Donna sat in her apartment listening to the radio. She had sensed what was on Art's mind, but could not help being attracted to the man. He was good spirited and had a tremendous amount of energy to spend. But something inside her said 'wait' someone in the future is destined, not him'.
As the little voice would ring true, months later Art and Donna would part. It would end up to be nothing more than an infatuation between them. Art eventually weaned away from the Heidt crew soon after landing a bit part in Pot O' Gold. While Donna followed the Pot O' Gold cast on the road for the radio cash show, Carney left to pursue comedy, then eventually T.V. Of course, almost 12 years later he would be a t.v. star on The Honeymooners, with Jackie Gleason, playing sidekick Norton, the next door neighbor.
* * *
April 8, 1947, 11:00 p.m.
"She's gone, my God, my sister is gone," cried Gloria. She stood by Donna's bedside still holding Donna's limp, delicate hand. Gloria cried loudly, as did Gertrude and even Robert. They bent low and kissed Donna's face and hands. Kate felt like she was trespassing, but she had as much right to be here as any family member. The Woods recognized this.
"God, I'll miss her," cried Lee Hackler from across the room. The man couldn't bear to approach the bed.
"My Baby, oh, my poor Baby," cried Gert, shaking with grief.
Brad St. John was sitting in the hallway of the apartment building waiting to hear. It was late evening, a bit of a chill in the air. He sat there feeling cold and sad. Kate and Donna had forged a deep friendship. Finally, after a time, Kate came downstairs and told Brad that Donna had passed away and an ambulance was called.
A few neighbors in the building stuck their heads out of their apartments. And as if on cue, the two older women Kate had talked to in the future, who managed the building, poked their young, fresh, curious, bird-like faces out of the window.
Instinctively, Kate called out to them - "Celia, Ruth! It's so sad, I just can't believe it!" Kate ran up to the two frightened women who didn't know her at all.
"How do you know my name?" Asked a youthful Ruth, still holding that same suspicious body language as when Kate came up to their doorstep in 1997, asking questions about this very event going on now in 1947.
"The Hacklers, who lives in this building told me," said Katie, remembering that these sisters took over as owners only three months back. The women relaxed a bit as Kate pointed upstairs, where all the commotion was going on.
Would they remember it now, if she went back to her time and knocked on their door? She would try an experiment. "I know this is going to sound very strange to you, but my name is Katie, and if we ever meet again in the future, please try very hard to recall this moment, okay?"
"What are you talking about, Lady?" A young, wiry Celia stepped closer to the open door, sticking her head all the way out. "What's happening upstairs?"
"A young woman died! Her name was Donna Wood."
"You say the Hackler's gave us our names?" Ruthie pulled the door open further, so as to get a good look at the curly haired woman, all spiffed up and ready to take off at 11:30 p.m. There was something about her that was just not quite right, didn't fit into the present picture.
Just then, Brad came up to them, wondering what significance these women had with Kate. She knew their names, but he'd never been formally introduced. A thought came into the man's head that maybe it had something to do with Kate's book on Los Angeles. Yes, that's it. Maybe she'd run into these ladies in her research. That would explain it. It would seem that his lover had a hard time emotionally dealing with Donna's death. He would help her out of this one.
He walked up to them, turned the woman toward him and held her close, thinking how short life was, especially in light of Donna's passing, which in itself was not quite right. Why would a healthy, active woman all of a sudden become ill from bad dreams? "Let's go for a drive, Honey," coaxed Brad. "Please, Ladies, she's under a tremendous amount of stress at this moment. I don't know what's going on, except that her best friend is dead. So if you'll excuse us, I'm going to take leave."
"No problem, Mister. We don't even know this lady, nor the other one really. We just took over here about two months back," said Celia, eyeing the handsome man coyly. He was a looker, that's for sure.
"Take care of her, she needs something right now," said Ruthie, closing the door abruptly, just like in the future.
Kate obliged her man of the past and let the guy lead her away. He opened the car door and Kate got in, the two driving off toward Coldwater Canyon as an ambulance pulled up.
So many changes had taken place since Kate had first entered this time. It was April of 1947. She'd been living in the past for 6 years, making friends with people who were dead in her time, made love with a man who was old enough to theoretically be her grandfather, but here she was driving down a darkened road with him, hardly able to contain herself. It was like Love itself that she felt like now. It was painful, woeful and wonderful all at the same time. Time! How she was beginning to resent that word.
They stopped at a small dirt parking lot, immediately embracing, kissing up a storm, finally wrestling themselves out of the car with two blankets. The two walked into the bushes and found a copse of trees. They laid the first blanket down then the other one over each other. It didn't take long for the heat within them to rise. Brad kissed her neck and face, while she unbuttoned his pants and shirt. Both, as usual, became totally lost in one another.
Kate boldly pulled at her shirt, making it come half way down her shoulders, revealing a pointy styled bra. Brad fumbled with the snaps, finally getting it off, revealing the woman's large breasts. He suckled them slowly, deftly, with pleasure, especially when Kate moaned her own acceptance of his lips there. Donna was dead now, but suddenly, his body took over and he became very passionate.
It actually turned out to be quite a healthy thing to do, and enhanced his feelings, being able to bring this woman pleasure. His thoughts flew to marriage. His grandparents didn't understand why they hadn't tied the knot. Kate wouldn't, no matter how hard Brad coaxed and asked her. She was very reluctant. After awhile, he didn't care, because she was in his life and they had made love non-stop for almost 7 years. She never became pregnant, and had told him that she couldn't get pregnant. All the same he worried about this. What if they did become with child? Would she still refuse to marry him? Hard to say. She was a rebel, so different from any woman he'd met or dated. But one thing for sure, Brad St. John loved her.
They were both now naked under the blankets. He mounted her and entered. Oh how good she felt as he moved in and out, reveling in the pleasure rising, especially because of being outdoors like they were. It was so wanton and bold. They moved together, in unison, due to the fact they'd been doing the love dance for six years now. Something was different this time, there was an urgency more apparent, like it would be one of the last times. Brad couldn't bring himself to believe it. Kate was believing it, knowing that Donna's funeral would be the tails-end to her travels in the Forties. She sensed it. Soon, the woman would be whisked back to her own time. Now that was a scary thought, especially since she was having her release and Brad was getting his own soon after. She put the thought from her mind, wrapping her legs around her man as he moved faster and faster, forgetting where they were.
As usual, afterwards they lay in each others arms, talking quietly, Kate puffing on a Lucky Strike, Brad sometimes sharing a few hits with her. At that moment, the woman wanted to tell Brad everything. She was leaving anyway, so what harm could it bring? Something prevented her from spilling the time travel beans, so instead she nestled her curly head against his chest and listened to the thumping heart, bringing her thoughts back to Donna.
"It's amazing how when you and I are together, time seems to fade out."
"Yes, but then it's back to reality, until the next time." Brad took a puff of the Lucky, handing it back to her.
"Do you think Donna's really in a better place now?"
"I would like to think so," he answered distractedly playing with Kate's hair "I'm just so shocked at her age."
"Makes you sit up and think about your mortality," said Kate, taking one last hefty drag from the cigarette and putting it out in on the grass. She turned and lay on her back, looking at the stars that were so much brighter in 1947, than 1997. Yes, she'd become used to this easy-going time. Even during the height of the war, she felt on top of the world and special. Donna was right, she would have made a great actress in this time. The things she'd talked to people about, the conversations, the chatter, the insight the woman had, everything about her contributed to Kate's status now.
At first Kate had thought that since she'd known all along that Donna would pass-on, the shock of the singer's death wouldn't be so great. She had been wrong, though. The grief was like a heavy stone pointed back to 1997, which meant leaving Brad St. John. As Kate looked up to the bright stars, she thought back to the highlights of her stay here.
When the St. John's had first found her, how odd she felt, but how quickly she re-adjusted to the plight, which turned into anything but! She and Brad clicked right off the bat. Then she'd landed a job at the June Landers Agency, which directly linked her up with the right channels to bond with Donna Wood. Kate had known all along that the Wood family would like her and bring her right into their fold. But the St. John's had beaten them to the punch.
As Brad gently massaged her on the blanket, stopping every now and then to plant a light kiss on her back, Kate didn't want to leave. Would her return be as easy to accept as when she'd first arrived here? It would be different, but she would have to make it an easy transition. God, she would miss these people. Even now tears began rolling down her face at the thought of leaving. Brad noticed, but attributed it to the sadness over Donna's demise. Partly it was that, but really, today marked the death of Kate's 1940's time travel adventure. She would be mentally preparing for her own funeral rites soon.
Thoughts of the first early years she'd spent here flooded her head as Brad began rubbing lower and lower until his hand went boldly for her inside thigh. She'd actually taken the prudish nature out of the man. "What would he of been like if I'd never come? And what's going to happen to him when I leave? Will time here revert back to when she first arrived? Was time that bendable?" She would think that he'd have some recollection of her when she left, maybe in a dream. Suddenly she could bear the sadness no longer, and reached up for her man. Kate began crying hysterically, losing control a bit, but Brad was right with her, and held her closely, not letting her go.
"Don't cry, Honey, it's okay."
"It's just that I loved Donna so much, and I hardly had time to get to know her," said Kate between wracking sobs.
"But you knew her for almost 7 years at least. That counts for something."
"You don't understand, Brad. You'll never understand and I can never truly tell you everything."
"What do you mean?"
"Just everything." Kate thought of Sara and how all these years the woman had not said a word after their little talk years back now. Cliff had never been the wiser and neither had anyone, including Brad. They realized she was different somehow, but not from another time. Sara proved her loyalty and stamina, plus her ability to steel herself against that temptation to blab.
"There are certain things I just can't explain to you right now."
"What are you talking about?"
Kate sobbed freely, pounding the grass angrily. "It's just not fair, it's not!" Her hoarse voice echoed down the road, only the crickets hearing her.
"We're together, and that's all that counts now."
Kate cried harder, wanting to get it all out at once. "Oh, Brad, please hold me, hold me!"
Brad, as usual, obliged her. "Hon, listen, I want to marry you!"
"No, now's not the time to talk about this, I told you, we can't."
"But why? Is there some deep dark secret you're keeping from me," he asked, his own anger on the rise.
"Okay, to be honest with you, yes, there is a deep dark secret I'm keeping from you, Brad," she spat out.
"I demand to know what it is. It can't be all that bad, really!"
"I've been debating whether to tell you all these years."
"Are you ill?"
"No, it's nothing like that, really, I would of told you by now."
"What then? What is keeping you from getting married? If it's the fact that you are Jewish and I'm Catholic, then...."
"Oh Lord, no Brad, it's nothing like that."
"Tell me, please. I deserve an explanation!"
Kate stared longingly at her lover of almost 7 years, wanting so much to stay in this time with him. So many memories flooded her senses that she almost collapsed from the emotional impact of it. My God, she didn't want to leave, she just didn't, wasn't ready, not willing. How could the winds of time be so cruel? Is this her punishment for defying the scheme of the universe and actually traveling back in time? "You'll think I'm crazy, I just know it. Or maybe you'll be hurt that I never leveled with you from the start, like I should of, but couldn't!"
"You are confusing me. Is it that guy P.J. you told me about, your last boyfriend perhaps? Are you going back to him after 7 years with me?"
Kate tried to take Brad into her arms, but he brushed her away. "Brad, listen. Calm down, I'll explain everything. There's still time."
Brad stared at Kate intently, waiting for an explanation, giving her the benefit of the doubt, since he loved her so much.
"Okay, how do I begin?" Kate looked up at the stars, Brad did the same, waiting patiently for her to explain. He would, of course, be open-minded.
"Please just be honest with me, Kate. I want to hear the whole story, and I won't interrupt you either, so go ahead."
"Brad, when you first saw me in the cemetery, I wasn't robbed. I woke up there, and didn't know how I'd gotten there, except that I'd go to that place a lot before. I hit my head on a plot, it was Donna Wood's plot. In fact, her whole family is going to be buried there!"
The man paled, even under the dim light of the moon. "What are you saying? That's madness, Girl!"
"Listen to me! I live right by that place. In a house with P.J. At least that's how it went until I got to the graveyard, got hit on the head and woke up right before you found me."
"So, what are you saying?"
"I also know things and events before they happen," admitted Kate, forging ahead with her confession even if it meant losing his love and respect. "Brad, I'm not from this time, I'm from the future ... 1997 to be exact."
Brad didn't react right away to her words.
"I said I'm from the future, not from this time. Yes, it sounds crazy, but true. I have a photo album back home and I'll show you. That will clarify a lot of things."
"You expect me to believe that? You are joking. I think you've taken your book adventure a bit too far. Remember, Robert Taylor is an actor playing that role you covet so much. I know that's what you're doing so as to psyche you up for writing it, right?"
"No, I'm telling you the true. I was born in 1961! My father and mother are children now."
"Then everything you said was a sham? A lie?"
"No, all I told you about my family is true, I swear! It's just that it won't happen for another 20 years or so."
Brad humored her by asking, "So what's it like in the future?"
"Well, there's more luxuries and electronic items like VCR's."
"What's a VCR?"
"It plays images back that you film yourself instantly. And in just a year or so you will be introduced to something called Television! You can watch shows and movies in the comfort of your own home. There's this little box with a screen like in the movies, except it's much smaller and you have a selection of channels to choose from. You'll love it, especially Cliff and Sara. Wait and see. If you can, try and remember what I said. I'm not sure that when I return to the future, that you will remember me, or if I'll just pop out of here. It should happen during Donna's funeral, or maybe afterwards, I'm not sure."
"This is unreal. I can't believe you are going through such great lengths to get out of marrying me. Are you that afraid of losing someone close to you. I assure you I'm in good health, Honey. And I know you are as well."
"You think I'm making this up? I'm not, Brad, I assure you of that," said Kate bitterly. "I knew you wouldn't believe me. Just wait and see. I just hope you remember me when I have to go." Kate began crying again.
Brad held her, not wanting to fight on a night like this, especially after they'd made love so tenderly and furiously at the same time. He had to admit, she was acting different tonight, there was almost an urgency to her during the act. It scared the hell out of him how she was either deteriorating, or more aptly put 'losing it', or perhaps she was telling the truth. Could this woman be from the future, or was her imagination rampantly out of control? Maybe the death of the Wood woman made Kate have these delusions. It's hard to say, but for the moment, he'd pretend to believe her. "Yes, I do believe you're from the future, but it's hard to accept," said Brad, holding her very close, listening to her ragged breathing from crying. He looked at her and noticed her puffy, dark-circled eyes. This was hard on everyone. Even his grandparents had become a bit recluse, probably thinking of their own short mortality.
"You've got to believe me, Brad. I'm not letting my imagination run away with me. I have proof, and if you'll give me a chance, I can show you. You'll understand then. Just agree to at least look at the photo album, and be objective."
"I've been objective all along, my Dear. Please don't push me. I believe your story, isn't that enough! Look, we're all tortured tonight, so let's make the best of it. Just know I love you more than anything and I only want to be with you. I wouldn't care if you were from the Moon!"
After that statement the two embraced, fell on the blankets and started the lovemaking process all over again, deep into the night, into the early a.m. hours. They kissed and hugged, held each other close, cried on each other's shoulders, rubbed and nudged one another as well. Finally, morning light started appearing and the two drove back to Beverly Hills, stopping by Donna's place, speaking with family and friends there, then continuing on the St. John house. When they walked in, Sara and Cliff were up. His grandparents had gotten used to him and Kate being together and didn't question him. Sara especially had learned to keep her mouth tight. She'd never told, and never would, that is, unless Kate said otherwise.
The couple freshened up and went to her room. Kate wanted to show him some things, her proof of the time travel tale.
Kate shed her clothing and showered. Afterwards she put on a simple cotton flowered dress and dainty slippers. She sat on her bed gathering her evidence, putting the photo album out. Finally there of a light knock at her door. "Come in," she whispered.
Brad entered cautiously, still resembling the little boy with his fingers in the cookie jar. He wore a white golf shirt, loose fitting khakis and smelled like fresh shaving cream. He was something.
She began showing him everything, and halfway through, after flipping through the album two times, Brad was starting to be swayed to her time travel concept. It made perfect sense, especially after looking at her mounds of evidence. He couldn't believe it! There were Donna’s funeral pictures, her grave, even 50 years later where Kate stands in the foreground wearing different clothes than when they found her. It was astonishing and very hard to believe, but here it was. "Does anyone else know about this, and don't lie to me."
"Yes, Sara knows, but please don't tell her I told you, let me do that."
"How long has she known?"
"Pretty soon after I arrived. She was cleaning my room and ran across the photo album. She finally confronted me, almost had a heart attack, so I had to explain. It was the only way to calm her down. I made her swear not to tell a soul, especially you!"
"I don't know why you kept something like this from me for so long. What you are saying is that at any moment you'll pop away, out of my life, like you were never here. I can't believe God would allow that. You belong with me, Kate!"
"Yes, I know, Brad. I feel the same. But life is life and the bottom line with God is, you can't mess nor manipulate what he created. We have freewill, and sometimes tap into forces beyond our control. It's obvious I'm going back soon. I feel it."
"Maybe if we pray. Surely God wouldn't separate us, would he?" He looked like a small boy whose teddy bear was snatched away suddenly.
"I don't know. Honestly, I really don't," said Kate, grabbing his hand, almost afraid she'd disappear right then and there.
"Kate, your story is totally believable to me now. I'm sorry I ever doubted you in the first place. I'm just in shock, that's all. Wow, from the future!"
"Yes, I'm from the future, and there's nothing I can do about it. This has been very hard for me. Do you think I want to leave? Do you think I want to go back to a man that showed me such little affection and sentimentality?"
"What on Earth? How could any man want to do that to you?"
"Sometimes he's not a very nice person, and gradually, in the months that led up to my trip here, I'd been feeling very sad and lonely," admitted Kate, on the verge of crying again.
"I can't believe such a thing. My delicate flower. How could you of stayed with that man so long, especially if you were unhappy?"
"It really wasn't up until he met that famous composer's favorite niece, Allegra, that my feelings became much stronger."
"What famous composer? A songwriter? Is he still alive?"
"For some strange reason, I can't recall his name, but Allegra is only 10 years old in this time. Well, in my time, she's this 60 year old hip lady whom P.J. was working for as an electrician. They became friendly and in fact, on the day I arrived here, when you found me in the cemetery, P.J. had flown off to Carmel, California with her first class, saying that the singer had invited him to a wedding as a friend! So I went up to the cemetery in all my misery, went to the Wood family site and ended up falling down and knocking myself out. Next thing I knew, it's 1941."
Brad looked on the verge of having an emotional fit, mostly from what Kate said about her past boyfriend. This P.J. seemed like not the right type for his Kate. If only he could meet the man, he'd knock some sense into the jerk. "If he did all that to you, Kate, then for one thing he's selfish, and for another, he doesn't love you!"
"In a strange way, Brad, he does love me! It was just so hard for him to show it, sort of like Lee Hackler is, but more immature. Well, at least I've been gone for 7 years, and in that time, you've taught me to like myself and not feel insecure, nor used it against me, like P.J. did."
"So what about him and this lady he's with?"
"I don't know. They do share something, a special friendship. I talked to her once or twice and she assured me it was only platonic."
"Sure, right, don't bet on it, Kid," said Brad. "If it's platonic, than chances are P.J. is playing his cards on the fact that to lay low with her is the best policy, but at the same time, I'm sure this woman picked up the fact that you two were having problems, communication breakdown, whatever," said Brad.
Kate lit up a cigarette and puffed lightly. Brad shared a few drags, as usual. How he loved her, and didn't want to lose this woman, especially now that he knew what kind of man she'd been with. Brad didn't understand why God would send her back. She belonged here, not in 1997, where no one appreciates her, they all take advantage. He could only imagine how crumpled Kate had become living with this P.J. character. One day, he knew she'd probably pull away from that one, that is, if she was sent back. It was amazing how he was starting to except it, his mind already analyzing how he can combat the inevitable.
"I know this sounds strange, but I wish there was a way we could write to each other when you go, Kate."
"Sorry, but the only way would have to be our spiritual essences. I'm going to miss you so much, Brad," she reached over to him and he joined her on the bed. They held each other closely, kissing lightly.
"Now that I know about this P.J. person, I want to look at his picture again!" Brad reached over for the album and flipped through it. "This album grows on you. It's like I know these people, even though I've only looked twice." He quickly flipped to a few pictures of P.J.
"He is good looking chap."
"And it's not all bad, Brad. We've had a lot of fun times too. But sometimes he's emotionally more like my brother than boyfriend. In fact, a lot of the times we're mistaken for siblings. I remember my next door neighbor came up to me and asked if my handsome brother was single!"
"That in itself, that he looked and acted like a brother is a cop-out. He's probably lazy about his affection and doesn't usually make an effort to try," deducted Brad easily.
"Now, Brad, don't get me wrong, there were times he was passionate and romantic."
"Far and in-between, I'm sure. Enough to give himself a quick fix and keep you around, no doubt. And admit it, I'm a much better lover than he is or was!"
"You are both different people!"
"But if you had your choice, you'd pick me, right!"
"What do you think? If I could stay, I would. And I don't even know what's going to happen once I get back. I don't know if it will be the same time, or seven years later there, which would make it 2004!
"My God, that sounds so far reaching. I just can't imagine it. It's hard enough trying to imagine some of the things you told me about already. That VCR concept is something, really. And Television sounds lucrative.
"Please, Brad, hold me, will you, just hold me and don't let go. Maybe if you hold on tight enough, we both can go back in time, or you can hold me back from going forward again!"
There was a light knock at the door.
"It's Sara, may I come in?"
"Of course, Grandma."
Sara meekly opened the door and took a peek before entering. She still hadn't gotten used to the fact that Brad stayed here sometimes. But she'd adjusted, knowing full well who and where Kate was from.
"Sara, sit down. I just wanted you to know that I told Brad. He knows I'm from the future, because any day now I'm going back."
Sara looked very shocked and sat down shakily. "It's been bottled up in me for years, and I never did tell a soul, right Brad, I never told you did I?
"No, you didn't."
The three sat in silence for a bit, then started laying the cards on the table. All three felt for each other, loved one another and didn't want to be parted from them.
"Sara, you've been like a true grandmother to me, and I feel we're linked."
The three sat very close together on the bed, all knowing the details to Kate's story. The three cried together and even prayed to their God, asking for his guidance and comfort, especially if he chose to send Kate back to her own time.
* * *
It was a hazy morning as they laid Donna Wood to rest. Everything looked eerie and strange to Kate, as if her very being was in some sort of strange limbo between the times. It made her recall something that happened to her back in 1974. Her family was attending a wedding in Connecticut and during the reception Kate all of a sudden felt disconnected, as if she were watching things outside her body. The 13 year old became very frightened and ran to her own father, explaining to him how she felt.
Mr. Siegel sat his Girl down, calmed her with soothing words and cool water. That's how the woman felt right at this moment, as she stood with both families, and Donna's pearl white coffin was lowered into a narrow, 6 foot hole in the ground, minus the presence of her soothing father.
Of course someone was snapping photo after photo, and Kate floated in her non-reality, thinking about those very same photos in her album. Would she actually appear in the pictures when she went back to her own time? She wondered, and was about to find out shortly. Something was preventing her from going into her pack and retrieving the photo album, so she remained stiff, looking ahead, wearing emotional blinders, trying to calm her spirit.
Brad held Kate's hand very tightly, not wanting to lose this woman. He kept casting feeble glances, trying to at least half smile at her, but he couldn't mask his own grief over the irony of this moment. Two women whom he'd grown to love were leaving him today!
April 9, 1947...he'll never forget the pain and anguish. His Love had told him that maybe there was a chance of meeting when she got to 1997! My God, it sounded so absurd! This just couldn't be! He tried to stop the tears from rolling, and remained stiff, at attention, as Lee Hackler was doing.
Everyone was there, Robert, Gert, Bob, Channie, Gloria, Eric Anderson, Lee, Grandpa, Aunt Stella and her husband, and of course the St. Johns, plus the publicist Katie. Gloria thought that Kate looked very pale, not just from sadness. It was something else she just couldn't put her finger on. The girl looked as if this was her own bon voyage. She even had that knapsack with her and it looked stuffed with things. What on Earth? Maybe Donna's death had affected her more than Glo had thought. They all knew Donna was not well, knew she was dying. Even her sister realized it, and at a very early age. That's what was behind all the dreams and foreshadowing she was having. That always scared the younger sister, made her want to not talk about it, bring it up, or even acknowledge there was a problem.
Gloria knew one thing for sure...That Dr. Bilon had something to do with Donna's death. She was going to check into that. Lee had saved the last prescription the doctor on Hollywood Blvd. given Donna. From the looks of it, something was not quite right. When things died down a bit, and she wasn't so sad, Gloria would check into this guy with the Medical Association. For now she would grieve. How she would miss her older sister!
The priest stood at the head of the crowd reading from Donna's own Christian Scientist Bible. Soon he stopped and introduced Kate to the crowd, saying she wanted to read two excerpts. Obviously the man was not happy about it, and made it a point in his body language.
The crowd of families parted and let her come to the front. Kate still felt out of context and detached, plus a bit nervous and sad about a lot of things. But, on shaky knees and sweating underarms, that annoying little itch she'd always get between her bosoms, the girl made it to the podium, took the Bible from the priest and began reciting the Raising of Lazarus and when Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Some in the crowd were bewildered, wondering if maybe Kate was a bit macabre, but they respected things and heard it through. Some didn't even pay attention to the woman reading the Bible, actually taking the spotlight from their Dear Departed Donna Wood! Finally, even feeling more out-of-it, Kate handed the book back
to the Father, and walked back into the crowd, into Brad's waiting, strong arms.
Afterwards everyone milled around for a bit, taking more photos that Kate knew very well. She never interfered with the process of how these people lived, but only enhanced it, and manipulated it just ever so slightly, as not to destroy the delicate balance, only tip it momentarily, then force it back into its right shape, like a blacksmith and his horse shoes.
How she would miss it here, but something way to the back of her brain really was anxious to get back to '97. It would be interesting, except for the fact of having to leave Brad St. John. And Sara was her closest family tie.
And she hadn't ever called her parents here in the past because that was against the flow of things. People such as Einstein were right about their theories, as well as Shirley Maclaine, and the guy who interpreted paradoxes. It was a mixture of all those things, just that separate people discovered different parts of it.
Einstein, of course, had his Theory of Relativity, Shirley had the body-spirit breaking from each other momentarily, then there was the paradoxes, rules that could not be broken, or would cause big problems, and would have eventually propelled the woman forward much sooner than she wanted to go. Telling Brad and Sara about her time travel weakened the force behind her arrival here in the 1940's, so she couldn't control her move forward again.
As Kate tried to be part of the pictures near the church, she all of a sudden fainted dead away! Black clouds surrounded her, and she opened her eyes wide, just making out a foggy blue sky, pulling at her, trying to rouse her toward her own time. The old time, actually Katie's new time, slowly passed away before her eyes right at Donna' Wood's funeral. Then suddenly everyone at the procession in 1947 turned as if startled, all facing away from Katie. In that split second, when everyone turned because of a strange noise in the distance, the woman's body dissipated and was sent forward to her own time.
Where's Kate? Everyone began searching for the woman who at one moment was lying on the grass unconscious, then they turned for a second and she was gone. A frantic search was made. The St. Johns were in turmoil, but Sara and Brad knew the truth, only playing along.
"Where the hell did she get to?" Cliff frantically walked around yet another hill in the half full graveyard.
"Maybe she caught a cab back to the house," suggested Aunt Stella.
"It's very strange," added Gloria. "Kate didn't look to good when I saw her, right before she fainted.
Cliff held Sara in his arm, walking with her, guiding her to the car. They all waited there at the car for almost an hour, but Kate never showed up. It was like when they first met the woman, how she seemed to have popped in out of thin air. Sara cried on her grandson's shoulder, knowing full well what had transpired. Kate was gone, back to the future. The woman had once told Sara that in the future there was an actual movie about the topic. It was a trilogy, and from what Kate told the older lady, it seemed almost impossible, especially the plot. God, how she would miss both Donna and Kate. It was a double whammy for them all. The Woods hung around as long as they possibly could. Everyone started breaking down and crying on each other. Soon it was hazy from tears and gloom, rather than the elements.
"Goddamn it, where did she get to?" Cliff was on the verge of a breakdown himself, but contained as best as he could under the circumstances. It was bad enough that Sara was out of control emotionally. The woman was acting like Donna was her own, and that Kate was dead too! It was getting hard to console so much. He wished he was back in his den, closed away from everyone. He spotted Lee Hackler off to the side on his own, and walked over to the other man. Together they walked and chatted, finally deciding that they'd go to Cliff's den and close themselves off for a bit.
"Where do you think Kate is?" Lee searched even as they got into their cars.
"I don't know," said Gert. "My feet are killing me!"
"If we go back, and she's not there, I'm calling the police," said Gloria.
"Calm down everyone, I'm sure there's a logical explanation," said Robert Wood as he too got into his car.
"Like we thought, maybe the woman caught a cab and wanted to be alone," said Aunt Stella. "God knows she's been through hell."
"I just don't like the feel of this at all," spoke up Cliff.
"I agree with Cliff," said Hackler. "Some things strange about Kate, especially lately."
"Have to agree with you there," said Cliff.
Sara and Brad were silent, biting their tongues.
Finally it was just the main Wood family, that being Gert, Robert, Aunt Stella, Gloria and Bob. The St. Johns eventually piled into the car, Lee going with them, saying he wanted to spend some time with Cliff for a bit, but he'd walk up to the house later on. That was fine with the Woods. They needed some space.
"Listen, as soon as you hear anything, please call us," said Gloria. Her makeup was a bit smeared and the lipstick dull.
They all left the silent graveyard, heading back to Beverly Hills where they would never see Kate again.
Days passed, the police were called, but no clues could be found as to where the woman had gone to. The police suggested that maybe the girl was wayward, maybe running from the law. Brad said they'd known the girl for at least 7 years. But once the whole story came out about how the St. John's met Kate, everything made sense, at least in the authorities minds. An open and shut case to them. It had been a ruse to write that book, and maybe soon Kate would come back, because she always wanted to do that Robert Taylor thing.
Weeks turned into months, which turned into years, and finally Kate's presence became a distant, faded memory to everyone, except Brad, who never met anyone else like her. He never married, and ended up living with his grandparents until their deaths in the early Fifties. He had them buried next to the Woods, and went to the sight quite frequently. His grandfather, after a few years, began to believe the stories people said about Kate, and became very bitter toward the end, as did most who had known Kate. Only Brad and Sara remained aloof from all that bad vibe stuff. Kate had taught him that phase - bad vibes. It almost sound like a musical instrument out of tune.
And he and Sara had even driven over to the address in Glendale that Kate said she lived in, but she wasn't living there yet, obviously. The house was there, like she said, but it wouldn't be until he was at least 83 before he could be reunited with his Love. By then he was sure he wouldn't be able to find a pot to piss in by then. It was tragic.
Before Sara's death, both had gone up to the graveyard and talked about the experience. It was almost 7 years after Kate and Donna had gone away. Grandson and Grandmother sat together by the graves talking about both women. They'd heard that the Wood parents were not well, and stared at the bare plots where Robert and Gert would be buried. They'd studied the pictures Kate had shown them, both in the future and past.
It was so disheartening to have lost her, but knowing she was still alive in the future. His heart used to burn with jealousy when he imagined her back with P.J. But another part of him learned to accept his loss and deal with it, by basically pushing it to the back of his brain. He also prayed that her boyfriend would be kind and understanding. Maybe her trip here would instill the man with more romantic notions. At least she could find some happiness back there. He knew at that moment that one day they would meet again, but he would be old, maybe on the verge of death, living his years out as a recluse in a retirement home! God, he couldn't imagine it.
He'd taken to visiting with prostitutes, couldn't bare the thought of meeting someone, only to lose them. So he satisfied his needs as the feelings arose, which wasn't that often. The ladies of the evening only sated his physical pain of missing his Lover of 7 years. How time flew. He was already in his late forties. It was 1954, and another war was being fought over in Korea, but Gloria didn't go on tour there. In fact, it was not like
World War II at all. There were no bands playing tribute to the boys in blue, nor too much USO activity.
And as for Lee Hackler ... Donna's husband ... Poor Lee Hackler sitting alone at 132 S. Canon Drive. He was devastated by Donna's death. But remarkably, met another woman 1 year later in 1948, and remarried. Lois was Donna's age, and had done a stint in silent movies, playing extras, up until her last film where she was picked out of a crowd to co-star in one of the last silent movies made before talkies. It was a western.
It was around the end of December of 1948 when she happened to meet Lee Hackler on her way up to Kern County where she had a small house. Lois decided to do something worthwhile with her grandfather's bonds bought after World War I. She'd cashed them in, invested in real estate and made a small fortune. Lois finally bought the house in Kern County.
The wiry woman stopped for supplies and groceries , stopping at a sundry store. The handsome Hackler had been visiting his Air Corp. pals nearby. For some strange reason they clicked. Over coffee and donuts, Lee told her all about Donna and the Woods, as well as how hard it had been for him to get over the singer.
Lois picked up right away how Lee was. He was an uptight man filled with grief and she wanted to immediately take him in her arms like a little boy and soothe his sad heart, which is what eventually happened. Lee was living at Donna's apartment, but had recently gotten up the notion to start looking for other digs. Most of Donna's things and mementos were up at the Beverwil house, safely put away and preserved. He couldn't bare to look at any of that stuff. Only when he was alone would he break down and cry. He prayed he didn't weep too loud so that the quiet neighbors would hear him grieve for his dear, sweet, departed Songbird Donna Wood!
She was a good wife with the best of intentions. So sweet, so full of life, if only she hadn't of died so suddenly, unexpectedly. They said her heart finally gave out, but they didn't really know why. In the end, nothing could save her, either medicine or spiritual, and he'd accepted this. The ailing singer had made sure that before passing on, Lee knew that she'd accepted her early death, and it was okay if he met someone else after she was gone. It was only natural and expected. A man like Lee needed a woman, especially one who was talented and intense.
Lois seemed to fit the right prototype. She was like Donna in some ways though, just a bit more country and less showbiz oriented. The woman could cook, that's for sure! He had wanted to get away from this place in Beverly Hills for a long time, had already quit his job at the Citizen, and was packing up the last of his things, which were, as usual, quite sparse. What purpose was there to keep such things of people who were no longer around? It only pained his heart. Oh, how he missed his Donna! Sometimes in the middle of the night he'd hear her laughter when her parents used to come by and take photos around their apartment or that voice humming in the pantry, but as soon as he was fully awake, the spirit would flee, very shy and quick. Then one night, whatever it was, lingered when Lee awoke bright-eyed. He saw a shadow, fleeting as it was, whisk through their bedroom. It was as if this entity was trying to playfully spook him to leave. God knows he'd been reluctant and had always been a quiet, brooding man, and could live in gloom for a greater part of the year, though this time he saw the spiritual essence, knew it was time to move on. Then suddenly, like Florence Nightingale, Lois had come into his life, and he'd accepted his first wife's death.
Soon Lois and Lee married and moved into the Kern County house where they had two sons and settled down to a normal life. Lee never forgot Donna and the Woods, but never contacted them after his first year with Lois. It was too painful to speak with them. There's was nothing there for him now. He settled down to a quiet, formal life and ended up becoming a CPA, sometimes even teaching music theory at a local high school. Besides, accounting was a lot like reading music for him. Lee enjoyed the exactness of both. Eventually, he did pass away in 1990, and his wife now resides at a senior center in Sacramento.
Brad heard that Lee Hackler was still living with Lois up in Kern County, and had stayed in contact with the Woods for many years, especially during the holidays.
And then something strange happened! Brad was over Gloria's house on Beverwil when they started making out like high schoolers. They didn't know what came over them, and for awhile explored each other, languishing in the feeling of passion flowing. For Brad, since he knew Glo, and who was close to Kate at one time, this moment captured the old feelings of lost passions he'd experienced, except in need. This was need, but also curiosity. Soon they parted, embarrassed and coy. Brad felt slightly guilty knowing Kate still lived in time out there, and Gloria didn't have a clue. It wasn't like she was in Donna Wood's situation. They talked a bit, then Brad simply left.
After he did go, Gloria thought about what just happened, and felt strangely elated. His lips felt smooth, his tongue unblemished, like so many of the men she'd dated. Brad St. John still held a certain innocence, and was so boyish and cute, like a lost puppy. But Glo had felt the man pull away suddenly, obviously thinking about his old flame who left town. No one ever did find out what happened, and soon it was all but forgotten, or in Brad's case, shuffled to the back of the man's mind.
After Donna's death, Gloria went on to become the foremost background voice artist around, especially with the opening of the new Disney park. Walt Disney himself hand picked the people who would have a direct part in the opening and maintaining of the standards of his entertainment theme sanctuary. Mr. Disney had a special task for Gloria, a woman who could invent 100 voices, all different, all unique in their own right.
When several attractions opened, Gloria's voice was heard as little boys, or sweet voiced songbirds directing people here or there, even actual Disney characters such as Peter Pan's Tinkerbell. Television had boomed and took off in the early Fifties, and Gloria wished sometimes that Donna were alive to be part of it. She would of taken to t.v., and maybe be starring in her own show, who knows. And Gloria constantly wondered about Kate. Where was she? Why did she leave? She missed her old friend and publicist! Even after all these years, the singer still dwelled and lamented over the disappearance of the woman on the day of Donna Wood's funeral. She still retained June Landers for things, but that lady was getting on in age and was starting to be known as the out-to-pasture publicist. It was almost as if when Kate left, June lost something as well, not just an assistant and a client. Something fundamentally part of the woman, that got attached when she met Kate was lost forever.
Even the neighborhood was changing. More restaurants were popping up, more people moving in, things happening. It was almost the end of '54. Glo's career was really flying, especially when she started cutting records and doing more t.v. commercials. It became quite lucrative. She was starting to enjoy and become accustomed to the bit of notoriety she was getting from her work. Gigging with a band, doing a few voice-overs, appearing at functions became a way of life for her for many years to come, up until the late Sixties.
By 1956, Gloria was appearing daily at Disneyland, as special attraction and guest of Walt Disney himself. It was really a fantasy and very overwhelming for the shy, soft spoken Wood Gal. When she cut the Woody Woodpecker theme song, that put the woman over the top.
Probably the most memorable event that year was when Gloria appeared with Fess Parker, Daniel Boone on t.v., who had hundreds of fans all over the country. It was a nice up for her, seeing as both her parents had passed away within months of each other. It was a blessing in a way, because one would not survive long without the other. So many people in her life gone. But so many met too. She continued her career in both singing and voice over work, as well as entertaining in many mediums.
Lately her lanai at the house was usually packed with musician, singers and mikes. She was always entertaining people, having parties, jam sessions and pot luck days. Everyone loved to be at her Beverwil house off Pico Blvd., in the heart of Beverly Hills, where everything always buzzed of something. And Kate was right about building the lanai. That was a bit strange, now that Glo thought back to that time, years back.
It was weird also, that sometimes she would feel Kate's presence. She couldn't quite define what it was, but she, at times, felt the other woman standing there in the lanai, the living room, by the fire mantel, and out on the patio. It was frightening and uneasy. What bothered Gloria was the fact that she didn't even think of her sister as much as she had thoughts of Kate, maybe due to the fact that the other woman had died and one had disappeared into thin air without a trace.
And she also felt that Brad St. John knew more than he was letting on to. A woman had intuitions about such things, and Gloria's was in full swing. She would like to corner him one day, but he never got close to her again after the kissing incident. Shame. He was still very handsome, made a good living and had his own life, things Gloria respected in a man. She rarely, if ever, saw him with any women, and sometimes wondered if maybe he'd gone to the other realm, maybe liking his own kind as company. Some side of her doubted it. Hard to say.
And Sara seemed a bit delicate of late, so Glo didn't want to bother the woman with her suspicions. She even tried tracking Kate down by using her new contacts in the industry, but it was to no avail, nobody had seen, heard or known of the woman who is gone without any warning or trace.
Gloria became obsessed, almost like Kate became obsessed in the future when she found the Wood memorabilia. The singer wrote down Kate's last name - Siegel, and began calling New York listings that she obtained from an agent friend in Manhattan. He sent her three different ones, and the lady began sifting through them searching for any reference to Siegel, or Kate. There were many listed in the New York City area. At least 50 or so. It was when she hit New Jersey listings, that she came upon one that matched - Irwin and L. Siegel, Teaneck, New Jersey, Kate's parents.
The woman dialed, strangely nervous, her blood pressure increasing. It rang twice. A woman's voice picked up. "Hello."
"Yes, my name is Gloria Wood, I'm calling you from Beverly Hills, California," said Gloria. "I was wondering if you knew of someone named Kate Siegel? She's a friend of mine who disappeared and we're searching for her.
It was a time before Lenore answered the strange question. "Well, no, I don't recall any Kate Siegel, no. Let me ask my husband...." Lenore yelled to her newly married man. "Honey, have you any relatives named Kate?"
Irwin, who was on his way out the door with some buddies to golf, answered, "No, I don't think so."
"No, sorry. Is there anything else?"
"Well, is your husband involved in the textiles industry?" Asked Gloria curiously.
"Why yes, he is. How did you know that?" Lenore was very surprised.
"Kate told me, and my whole family. In fact, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the woman said she was your daughter!"
"What? You're kidding, right?"
"I wish I were, Lady. But it's true. What do you make of it?"
"My husband and I have only recently married, and we certainly don't have any children yet, but we're working on it. What else did this woman tell you?"
"She said you were a concert pianist/opera singer."
There was total shocked silence for a moment. "Yes, I am," said the stunned Lenore. "I've toned down since marrying, but yes, I'm what she said. But how? Is someone playing a cruel joke and why?..."
"I don't know, Mrs. Siegel, but it's very, very strange. She was engaged to my friend Brad St. John, and was extremely friendly with my sister Donna."
"It's starting to sound like one of those soap operas on t.v.," said Lenore, already getting distracted by all the creepiness.
"I'm afraid it's more than that! I'm going to get to the bottom of it, and would it be okay if I called you back to let you know?"
"I'd rather you didn't. I don't know what's going on, I've never heard of a Kate Siegel, and please don't call here any more, okay?"
"But, you don't understand, I...."
"Now I don't want to be rude, but I think what you are talking is jibberish, and I don't want any part of it."
"Well, thank you any way. Sorry to have bothered you."
"Well, Dear I do hope you find him."
Gloria hung up, feeling frustrated and bothered. It was strange that the woman fit the personality that Kate described of her mother. But this lady is only just now married. What was going on? She had to find out this instant. She called Brad St. John. No answer, damn. She called the St. John's household on Elm. Cliff answered, and usually clamed up. Sara was ailing, so wouldn't usually come to the phone, Cliff usually covering for her, saying she was asleep or in her sewing room knitting.
This time he put Sara on. "Hello," said the older woman feebly.
"Sara, it's me, Gloria Wood?"
"Yes, Gloria, how are you, Dear?" Asked the woman, immediately masking her emotions, trying to brighten up.
"Fine. I'm okay. Listen I have to talk to you. Can I come over?"
"Well, I'm not that well these days."
"I understand, but this is really important, Mrs. St. John. Please at least allow me a few minutes to talk."
"Okay, come by next Tuesday, at 3:00 p.m."
"Yes, that'll be fine," said Gloria, jotting it in her book.
Cliff took the phone. "Gloria, she said fine."
They hung up.
Gloria sat in her lanai alone that day, trying to think things out. It was at that moment she felt Kate's presence again, in the lanai, walking around, looking through things. She couldn't understand it all, then fleetingly thought of her older sister's dreams and foreboddings. It was scary and unsettling, as usual. As usual, Gloria attributed it to the way Kate skipped out on them all. It was just too strange for words, too boggling for emotions. You just had to move on and fend for yourself and those around you left behind.
That following Tuesday, before Gloria could meet Sara, her phone rang. It was Cliff, he was choked up and whining.
"What's up, Cliff? What's wrong?"
"It's Sara, Honey, she's, well, she's, gone!"
"Gone, you mean she's ... she's... dead?"
Cliff lost it then. "Yes!" He cried man tears.
Gloria went right over there, even meeting up with Brad on her way inside the house. An ambulance was there, as well as the police, but for the most part, things were calm.
"Listen, Brad, we've got to talk. I have questions for you. I know this is a hard time, but I really, really need to sit down with you and discuss some things, please!" Ranted Gloria, sound to herself like a newscaster chasing a stubborn story. She gave her best begging expression, and now that her hair was blond, she used it to her advantage. It may not be curly like Kate's, but it did the trick.
"I know you do. I've got to tend to things here first, then we'll talk, I promise. At least give me that much, okay?"
"You got it, Kid. Listen, is there anything you need me to do?"
"No, really, you've been very nice, and I appreciate it. I'll be with Cliff. We saw this coming. My grandfather told me you had a lunch date with her today."
"Yes, I did. I feel so bad about all this. She sounded so feeble and sick over the phone. I should of known better."
"Don't blame yourself. She'd been ailing for a long time."
Cliff was talking with the police, giving them details. Brad walked over to the man that had raised him, and they embraced. Gloria stood off to the side, sad and sick. She walked over to the men and embraced Grandpa St. John fondly.
"Thanks for coming, Gloria, I appreciate it a lot. She was so dear, so, so loving and brave. I just wish that Kate could of been here for her. There was something about that gal that gave my Sara energy and that fun loving way even more," said Cliff.
"We'll miss her, Grandpa, you know that. And yes, Kate too." He wanted to tell his friend and Cliff the truth about Kate, but couldn't bring himself to even begin the tale. Yes, a tale it was. And it would remain buried. Donna Wood, Kate Siegel and now, Sara St. John. Sometimes life was cruel and unfeeling, but that was the way of things.
They would all have to go on with things, just like anything else. Brad thought of Kate again, for the ump-teenth time, and wondered, as always, what was going on in her world of 1997. Did she reunite with P.J.? What's happening with him and the famous composer's favorite niece Allegra? Oh, how he missed her, wanted to feel her again, hear her laugh, talk, anything! After she left, Brad had all but given up on God and religion, shrugging them off like Kate was taken from his grasp. He especially missed hearing her sing and play guitar. Why should he pray now? What was the purpose? His life was set, and knowing Kate changed it! How could there be a Almighty Being? If it was so great, than why did it let this happen? And now Gloria had questions, no doubt about Kate and her disappearance. He couldn't tell Gloria, it would really upset the balance of things too much to be ignored by the cosmic time awareness, things Kate had discussed with him before she was hurled back forward in this world. One thing the girl said was that Gloria Wood should not find out too much. It would really mess up things. Brad knew Kate was right, and would do his best to cover up for it. He would use Kate's book thing, but in the end, he might have to say they fought and Kate was devastated, anything to throw the little lady off the track. And if somehow Gloria was already on the track and couldn't be thrown off, well, he'd done his best. It wouldn't come from his lips, that's for sure.
Soon, after many months, Gloria settled into her new life. She almost married her manager Eddie, but it was annulled a few months later. The woman started enjoying some notoriety, began appearing on variety t.v. shows during the Fifties and on into the early Sixties. After cutting an instant fad hit, 'Hey Bellboy', where she sang most of the instruments of the number, Gloria was hot for the moment. Later on, she slowed down, mostly doing voice over commercial work, as well as singing for various known celebrities like Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe.
But Glo never forgot Kate, and basically put the woman to the back of her mind. As her career winded down, she settled into a routine of engagements and personal appearances, then finally met her true love Lee in 1964. Gloria always thought that Kate would of really enjoyed Lee, even making some strange psychic mention of the two Lee's! Yes, she had fond memories, but such a heartbreaking loss that day.
Brad St. John hadn't contacted her for a long time, so she began meeting new people, and even signed with a new agency for P.R. We must go on. And she did.
Finally, after going back and forth, Sara came out with the whole story of years back when she snooped in Kate's room...She was telling it on her death bed to anyone who would listen, trying to get it off her chest.
Sara's curiosity got the best of her after cleaning Kate's room every single day and seeing that knapsack. The older lady did something so opposite of her personality that it shocked her with it's clarity. She crept into Kate's bedroom. By this time the woman had decorated the place with pictures of art and even some American Indian things too. What especially piqued Sara's interest was that album she'd seen. She'd been dying to take a look, and hadn't been able to get it out of her head. The back pack was sitting under the bed and Sara wasted no time in retrieving it with the intention of only briefly looking at it, just to see what this girl's family looked like. She was sure Kate was busy working and settling into a new routine, and eventually would show them anyhow, but that cat's curiosity overcame her resolve.
She pretended to be dusting the tabletop by the bed. Then Sara went down on her hand and knees to dust under the bed, but instead pulled up the black backpack with the letters MTV written on it. Sara wondered what the letters meant. She felt all of a sudden strange, feeling a peculiar current, like something was trying to distract her, prevent her from opening the bag by making her mind think of something else that needed doing at that second, but she overcame it and opened the pack. For some odd reason her heart started doing a pitter-patter that she'd never known since being a teenager. She opened the plastic flap, a unfamiliar static energy emanating from it. Sara ignored that and pulled out the album.
Her last saintly thought was that she'd hate for Kate to find out she was snooping and wouldn't like to loose the sweet, energetic girl if she decided to leave. The phrase 'Curiosity Killed The Cat' flashed in her mind as she contemplated putting it back and going about her business like a good landlady and friend should.
She sat back, wiped her sweaty brow and gazed at the photo album, reading side panel, which sounded normal enough. "Wood Family album as compiled by Kate K. Siegel, no relation except in spirit." She scanned the family members names, and noticed the dates which were way ahead. It said that Donna Wood was born in 1917, which was feasible. But next to that date is her death - 1947, six years from now! How could that be? Surely Kate was just guessing as to the deaths, right?
She started looking through the pages. Each picture was labeled with a date and inscription. Sara began turning the pages slowly gazing at each photo. The dates made sense up until Sara saw a shot of Gertrude Wood dated 1949! "Now that must be a mistake. Maybe the 4 was really a sloppily written 3," muttered Sara aloud.
The older lady also noticed that there weren't any pictures of Kate's family, just the Woods. It was very offbeat and peculiar. How could such an album create so much emotion? It was uncanny, scary and at the same time inviting and fascinating for the lady.
Sara began shaking emotionally when she spotted other shots labeled years ahead. She became very frightened, not believing what she saw, but there it was in black and white! She kept looking at shots of the Woods spanning further and further into the future, and could tell that the people in the shots were aging at each later shot. Could it be a magic trick? A gag? A publicity stunt maybe? She had no idea. From what she'd learned of Kate, with the woman's idealistic and creative mind, maybe the girl had discovered some new art form and was a genius at retouching photos like these, because even the album itself felt foreign.
As Grandma Sara went through the album, she began to understand why Kate felt this enchantment for the Woods. Not that Kate ever mentioned it, but Sara sensed it somehow. In fact, Kate had asked them a few times in passing about the Woods and if the name sounded familiar. Sara had always believed in togetherness and unity for the family unit, and, and it was obvious this family held the same values. At least these pictures, what ever they were, held a good feeling. She kept thinking more and more about her own family as she turned the pages of the strange album of the Woods, so painstakingly put together. Even the plastic holding the pictures seemed like nothing Sara had ever seen or felt on photograph album covers.
When she came to shots of Donna Wood on the set of Pot O' Gold, she gasped when she read the captions - 'Donna Wood, left, promoting Pot O' Gold Movie, 1941; Still shot scene on set of Pot O' Gold movie, Jimmy Stewart is left, back row, Paulette Goddard, farther left of Jimmy is Donna Wood, 1941; Production staff on Pot O' Gold tour, after show break down, note Tums advertisement clock.' To Sara's knowledge and as far as Kate had told them, Pot 'O Gold was almost finished and was going into something called post-production. It was then she noticed the pictures of the soldiers, groups of them. It looked as if Donna was in those pictures singing in the foreground with her band, playing for thousands of armed forces personnel. "This must be a joke? A studio facade? Maybe a new movie being shot, one of those Buster Crabbe features, like Flash Gordon. Sara at that point became very distressed. Should she continue? Slowly the older woman turned the next few pages which race into the mid 1940's. She stopped and lingered at shots taken
Christmas, 1946, before Donna Wood dies, if what the caption says was true.
Grandma Sara, in all her life, couldn't get over what she saw. She turned to shots of Donna, her family and husband, taken at 132 S. Canon Drive, right up the street! When Sara thought she'd seen it all, the woman turned to a series of photos taken at the cemetery they met Kate in. There were shots of the place in 1947, and in 1997, but what could that mean? These people, to Sara's knowledge were still alive, but she was looking at pictures of their resting place and they were already lying in it. Then she thought of the firest plot they'd seen, but put it back in Kate's hiding place.
"My Lord, what should I do?" After flipping through a few more shots of Kate in the future at the cemetery, Sara slammed the album shut, hastily putting it back, placing it under the bed again. She got up, knees creaking loudly, for the first time bringing to light her own age and mortality, and it was truly unnerving. Never before had she come across something like this. What should she do? What would Cliff say? Sara knew she could never tell him! Suddenly she felt fleetingly oppressive.
The older lady, usually exuding poise and grace, fled from the room like a scared young child, racing to their bedroom, flouncing herself on the bed, crying into the pillow, hoping her husband didn't hear out in the garden. She cried for lost youth, her childhood, family and the future, which she knew Kate had knowledge of far beyond all of them, including the woman's precious Woods. That album had conjured up a strong tragic feeling of how fragile and fleeting life was. But soon, within minutes, Sara regained her calm demeanor. She washed her face, re-fixed her bun and went downstairs to the kitchen, occupying her time until Kate got home. She had so many questions.
* * *
As Kate hurtled back to the present - 1997, she had a flicker of a memory...It took over making her trip back not so war torn...
She recalled back at the Landers Agency, Kate sat at her desk, long finished with the letters and work. The woman was straining to hear what was going on in June's office with Donna Wood. She had definitely gotten Donna's attention today with her subtle, but bulls-eyed hints, and hoped the singer didn't say anything about it to June.
It wouldn't be the first time that had happened with other clients in route to meeting with Mrs. Landers, War Horse of P.R., Old Iron Pants, so they said.
It was almost comical how Kate got into the same sort of trouble when she worked in the future for a particular company. Eventually they'd fired her for talking too much, and getting off the track of the reception position duties. It had been her downfall, and she hoped it wouldn't happen here especially. But this was different. She had the upper hand and knew the future, so had a slight edge over June Landers. The older lady picked up on it, or she would of been gone long ago. Still, Old Iron Pants ran the show.
Finally, after much nail biting, both women emerged from the office. Kate pretended to type an envelope, and was glad she'd adapted so well to the manual typewriter, so outwardly it looked as if her whole concentration was absorbed in that task. June's vibe was cool when Donna left as the older woman walked up to her assistant's desk. "So, what's happened between you and Miss Wood?"
Kate looked up guiltily, her face blushing brightly, attesting to her nervousness about the issue. "What do you mean?"
It only piqued June Landers' interest. "Well, she said you were very nice, but seemed to have a lot of information on her far beyond the normal P.R. procedures in reviewing potential clients. This has me very concerned. You know the rules, no fraternizing with my potential clients!"
"But she's not officially a client yet," said Kate steadily, suddenly staring June down and facing things squarely.
"Now don't go pulling that double standard with me, I'm your boss, remember? You're a dynamite lady, Les, but I'd appreciate it if you'd contain yourself in the future. No mowing in on the clients. It makes us look divided, and I actually could lose her now that you've struck up some sort of outside friendship. It's just bad business, that's all. Like a surgeon taking you out to dinner the night before he's going to take your gall bladder out!"
"Isn't that just a bit extreme, June? I'm sure she's all set to go with us," Kate said, trying to override the other woman's controlling ways with her steady, even, know-it-all Demi Moore voice. "Really, she's going to sign with us, I know it."
"Oh, I'm positive she wants to go with us, but maybe your little meeting before our little pow-wow could change her initial attitude when she gets back to her agent and he senses something. Those agents can smell a take-overt, you know."
"I'm sorry, really I am," said Kate humbly, all the while making ample eye contact.
"But, you're bright and sharp, Miss Siegel, and to tell the truth, if Miss Donna Wood doesn't sign with us, I can afford to lose her. She's a good singer, but as far as acting, nah, she doesn't cut it in my opinion. Of course, that's my opinion. Anyhow, don't sweat it Kid, okay? You've brought a lot of new business through the doors in the last few weeks, so I'm not going to count this one against you." With that comment June left the office, on her way to lunch and an afternoon appointment over at MGM. She had already decided that if Donna Wood signed with Landers, she'd let Kate handle the Wood account.
Kate had the whole office to herself and loved it! She'd gathered her bearings and really thought out what was happening and utilized that knowledge well. She was in a good working situation, home life leveling off too. It hadn't taken the St. Johns long to become used to her comings and goings, and Brad had taken her out a lot. That guy was special. He'd accepted her ways so easily, that sometimes Kate wanted to tell him the whole story about her presence. In the end it would probably hurt him that she'd hidden it.
And lately Les had been getting strange vibes from Grandma Sara. The woman had cooled in the conversation area and remained observant of Kate rather than the usual. That alarmed Kate, and got her thinking that maybe the older woman snooped in her room and found the photo album. That is what Kate sensed, just like in the future when her boyfriend struck up the friendship with the singer Allegra, the same strong feelings she picked up from Sara's body language and electric current. It was eerie how people were mostly the same in any time, even in 1941!
At that moment Kate was greatly relieved that she hadn't spilled the beans about World War II breaking with the invasion of Pearl Harbor, only 4 or 5 days away. But if Sara had indeed looked through the Wood album, her keen old eyes would not have missed the shots of Gloria and Donna Wood's career and beyond, all the way up to 1997!
But Kate felt Sara's aura withdrawing lately, as if confused, and Kate didn't really like the lonely feelings it yielded, but supposed that was normal, and would most probably pass when they talked. At least before the war broke. There was little time, actually, so Kate would take it up with Sara when she got home.
It was then that the phone rang. Right away Kate knew who it was! Donna Wood! She picked up the receiver of the 1940's, bulky telephone. "Landers Agency, Kate speaking."
"Hi, it's Donna! I realized in my flurry to leave your office that we didn't' really solidify our plans. Are we still on for dinner tonight?"
"Sure," Kate said, trying to contain some of her excitement. It was obvious that Donna felt the same electricity. It would be an interesting evening.
Kate would have to put the talk off with Sara until later on, or tomorrow. This was a milestone for her. Meeting Donna Wood on the woman's own turf. She would be relaxed, vivacious, calm, demure and radiant in her own limelight. If Donna were a man, Kate would of gotten a whole make-over plus other charming things, but the best thing to do was to be herself and try not to get carried away. Although, since coming to 1941, and in the last few months, Kate had donned makeup and perfume of the times and really looked quite smashing.
To pass time, she ended up cleaning out the filing cabinets in the supply room. It was a treasure-trove for her, and brought back sharp memories of the future when she had first found the boxes of the Wood memorabilia back at Lee's place. It was then she thought of the old ailing guy who'd first opened a door to the Woods for her. Now he would be just coming to Los Angeles and driving the bus lines.
There were dozens of 8 x 10's, Forties style, of hopeful starlets betting on a little P.R. to launch their studio film careers. They were all so fleeting, like passing comets, parts breaking off and falling back down to Earth. It was pretty much the same as in 1997 though. Kate had worked for publicists before, had run into the same habits and problems with them as in her time. Again, she was learning that people were pretty basic in any century or time. As she sifted through the photos, the focused woman noted that these starlets shared a sameness, even Donna Wood, who had that trademark 1940's, style to her face and posture, just a passing firefly and Haley's Comet. Sometimes it was sad to think that she actually knew how Donna would end up.
In the last drawer, way to the back, hidden among papers and resumes, Kate found June Landers' own press kit from 1915, when the older lady was 25 and trying to break into the silent film genre. There were several shots of June dressed in early show dresses smiling into the camera, even a sullen looking woman with too much white face makeup and pancake. June was a beautiful woman, and a residue of what she was still resides. She's a well put-together woman of the Forties, and probably would do just fine in the future, even as a publicist, for she had that special insight to what would make you or break you! Kate picked up on it when when June mentioned she wasn't so impressed with Donna Wood. The woman doesn't realize how close to the mark she was with that statement. Because, Donna Wood didn't really make a big impact, mostly because of the release of the movie hit at the beginning of World War II, and the music she did was considered backward and corny by the end of the War, people's taste going a bit more bluesy and progressive, rather than arranged and jazzed. America needed soemthing more to feed the 'crying out' movement, not the 1920's rah-rah back in the regressive prohibition days, more retro style. Crooner acts like Frank Sinatra began their tirade, as well as other groups began dominating the charts and clubs.
Kate had found Vivian Leigh's publicity portfolio, probably worth a fortune in 1997. It was simple, Leigh landed 'Gone With The Wind' from the direct contents of this satchel! It would take a little bit more money than Miss Wood may of wanted to invest, but soon she would meet her future husband Lee Hackler, and he may figure in better as far as funds to launch that Wood rocket!
That got Kate thinking that her presence in the past might be able to alter what was for Donna Wood! Perhaps her handlers didn't send the singer to the Landers Agency, but now that Kate figured in, the energy was shifting. Was it possible to change the flow? Would it be beneficial? Maybe she could save Donna Wood from obscurity. Les realized preventing Donna's demise would, most probably, not work, but she could boost the woman up a rung before the lady passed on. Kate would give it her best shot. Then maybe when she returned to the future, Donna Wood's clippings would tell a different story!
Finally, quitting time arrived promptly at 5:00 p.m. Kate tidied up the office and closed for the day, remembering this time to put out the watchman's clock. It was humorous when she thought how they did things here. The woman had taken all the modern conveniences of the 90's for grranted while she was there, but never again. From now on Kate appreciated even the smallest luxury.
Now it was off to Donna Wood's place. Kate was very excited about the new prospects. She had the world at her finger tips, but chose to help Donna Wood into oblivion as a legacy. She was going to make sure the girl was hyped even more.
For the first time Kate actually craved a cigarette. She'd given up the social habit since arriving a few months back, but now that the lady was adjusting, her body calming, she wanted a cigarette. There was a small liquor store down the street from Canon. Kate stopped in and bought her first pack of cigarettes, a whole 11 cents! She held back a smirk while paying the old gent sitting behind a counter with no bulletproof windows or hidden guns behind the counter.
She continued on to Donna's, stopping in front of the place she'd gone to in the future at least a dozen times in '97. At that moment Les couldn't believe it, that she was actually standing there, and ready to go to apt. 1 on the first floor -- Donna's place! Finally Kate walked inside and to the right. She put her hand on the doorknob, remembering all the times she'd visited and put her hand on that same knob back in her own future time. How strange it was to be able to knock, and Donna would be expecting Kate this time, although the writer had no doubt the spirit of Miss Wood expected her there in the future visits. Maybe Donna would want to take a few photos and Kate would check her negatives again in the future, someday maybe finding herself in some of them, which would mean time could/had changed!
The woman from the future knocked lightly, Donna coming to the door right away. It swung open and her cute face appeared. "Hi, come on in."
Kate walked in trying to remain placid, but it was hard. Her knees shook, legs feeling rubbery. She had to relieve herself and couldn't wait to see Donna's bathroom and rustle through the woman's medicine cabinet.
"Would you like something to drink?" Donna smiled brightly. She had applied a bit of extra makeup, and wanted to make a positive impression with this bright lady.
"What do you have?" Asked Kate.
"How about iced tea?"
"That's fine," the woman said, feeling nervous, Kate asked, "Mind if I smoke?"
"No not at all. A lot of the musicians in my band smoke, so I'm used to it. I don't smoke though, never liked it." Donna went to the kitchen. "By the way, have a seat."
"Thanks," said Kate, walking over to the mantle and seeing pictures of the Woods adorning everywhere. "How are your parents?" She lit up a cigarette.
Donna yelled from the kitchen, "Oh, fine! Their coming out shortly. So is my sister Gloria. She's only 18, but you should hear her sing."
"I know," Kate slipped out. She took many puffs until the lightheaded buzz relaxed her a bit.
Donna came back in with two glasses of chilled tea. "What do you know?"
"I know..., ummm, that you have a sister. Actually, I know your parents are involved in radio and you've been on the cover of Radio Life, 1936! With the right P.R., you could really cause a stir. The Landers Agency can work wonders!"
"Is this a pitch meeting or what?" Donna pouted. Kate noticed how the other woman had done her lipstick, painstakingly arching it, which accented her face and natural beauty, like the girl next door look without the blond hair and blue eyes.
Ignoring her protests, Kate asked, "Can I see your portfolio?"
Any up-and-coming starlet couldn't resist that temptation, and Donna took the bait on cue. She reached into the closet and retrieved a large leather satchel that turned into a photo album. She joined Kate on the couch. As the two hunched over the large photo resume, and Donna turned the pages explaining the shots, Kate could smell the other woman's sweet perfume and odor. It was like the scent of honeysuckle and feminine chemistry, plus Kate picked up the smell of Donna's lipstick and makeup. Even the scent of the fabric on Donna's simple fitting dress had an aroma of Kate's idea of the Forties- woman scent!
They both seemed to take to one another, wanting to get to know the other better. And Donna still felt that odd sensation of familiarity with this energetic, upbeat woman with the naturally curly hair. What she would give for Kate's hair. It was all curl, but not fluffed up, fake curls, these were real. She'd seen no one with this type of style nor Kate's mannerisms, which seemed very retro in Donna's personal opinion. "Kate, you would make an excellent actress. Did you ever think about going into that?" Asked Donna. "Oh, what do I really know about things anyway," blurted out Donna, almost seeming embarrassed.
"Hey, you belt them out and woo them, you're right. I have a secret fantasy about it, but I'm much better on the phone. I'm too nervous and too aware of my own emotions and self," answered Kate honestly.
"Well, you know what I think, Kate, I sense you'd make an excellent publicist for me, and I already want to work with you. So when I had my meeting with June Landers, the old gal seemed a bit put off when I mentioned having spoken to you.
"I was afraid of that."
"But I have no doubt that you are an invaluable tool for June Landers, so the older woman would survive and get over it. It would only be a bruised ego, all P.R. people were like that, right?"
"Not me though," said Kate.
"No not you, of course not."
With their separate thoughts, they conversed very easily, and soon Kate's nervousness turned to awe, then to a bond with Donna Wood. She knew the other woman thought the same, and the two had forged as soon as they met. Miss Wood sensed something in their friendship, that was to change a lot of things for her, she knew it! It was a gut intuition and the singer couldn't wait for Gloria to meet this woman. And for some reason Donna couldn't wait to tell her father about Kate He would want to meet her, she was sure of that. There was something exotic about her, as if she didn't really belong here at all. Where did anyone really belong? For now she'd get to know this woman. Inner sense said it was a good career move for her.
After looking through the portfolio the two headed out to dinner at a little cafe on Canon Drive where they dined on chicken salads and spritz water. Since coming to the 1940's Kate had found a taste for the old fashioned seltzer brew. It was all part of her feminine side that had tumbled out when she first arrived. As the two sat there, a lot of people gave them second glances, wondering who they were. The energy surrounding them was electric and both women felt eyes upon them as they sat at a choice table in the middle of patrons throwing up side glances and pretended indifference.
Kate had grown fond of seltzer water in those weird spray bottles. She'd taken to buying a few of them at a time and storing them in the St. Johns' ice box. One night, soon after she'd moved into the house, the girl had sampled everything from pickles to chicken! It was amazing how good the food tasted, how much fresher and sharper the sustenance was in the 40's. The veggies, especially celery, were so much more crispier.
And even though she made a typical 1940's salary, she marveled at how cheap everything was, things like meats and makeup. It was just so fascinating to be part of it all. Even the chicken salad they ate tasted special to Kate, her first meal with Donna Wood!
During breaks in their conversation at the small table amid the richly dressed folks of Beverly Hills, Kate sometimes felt like blurting the whole time travel thing out, just to get it in the open. It was nagging at her brain, but she could easily put it to the back of her mind, and had already sensed that Grandma Sara had found the Wood album, so she would make it a point to speak with the older woman as soon as she returned home from dinner. That was essential!
It was so wonderful to be sitting there with Donna Wood. Kate thought back to the future when she once lived in the same neighborhood! How she would of loved to tell Donna that the elegant cafe they dined in was a beauty salon with a fading picture of future actor Tony Curtis in their window. Donna wouldn't even know who he was. In fact, Mr. Curtis would probably be just breaking into show biz himself around now.
"I'm sure you're enjoying working with Jimmy Stewart, Donna," said Kate, sipping generously from her seltzer water cup.
"Oh yes, I'm am. I've seen 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington', and I'm really ecstatic making a film with him!"
"I understand he's a bachelor. Hey, Donna, you never know."
"Oh, I don't think so," said Donna blushing lightly. "He's a bit older than I am."
"He's only 39," coaxed Kate, secretly testing the waters of time to see if it was movable.
"Well, I sort of consider that old," Donna admitted. "I've always seen myself with a much younger man, but I could be wrong. Sometimes I have dreams about a military man."
"Dreams mean a lot to you, don't they?" Said Kate carefully.
"Yes, they do. In fact, that's where I recall seeing you, in my dreams sometimes. You're the woman from the cemetery! What's the significance of that, Kate? And don't deny it!"
Goose bumps rose on Kate. "What do you want me to say? Maybe I was meant to cross paths with you," she countered, trying to throw Donna off a bit. She didn't want the woman guessing she was from the future, which got her thinking about Sara again. Les was a bit worried about the older lady, and must talk to her immediately! "Well, the St. John's and I met at a cemetery. I went initially to see old movie star graves, like Jean Harlowe for a book I'm writing."
Donna seemed to accept that statement. "My mother and I always had that intuitive nature, especially in dreams. I listen to them, and somehow, there's more to it," said Donna, sipping the last of her water with lemon.. "So, I've been thinking, Les. I want you to do P.R. for me. I called my agent and he'll call June."
"That's great. And I had a feeling when June left the office this afternoon that she wants me to do it. She's a nice person, and has a ton of heart," said Kate.
"Yes, I sensed that. Just don't worry, okay, Kid? You really are something special and Landers isn't going to let you slip through her fingers because of me. As I said, you should go into acting."
Kate blushed. "Well, thanks, but not really. I'm a writer."
"Well, I think you'd make a fine actress. You're built right, especially in the chest, and that hair is to die for!" Donna reached out and touched Kate's blond curls.
Just then two well dressed gentlemen walked by and stopped at their table. "Ladies, we hope were not intruding, but you two are total knock-outs," gushed a young, blond, blue-eyed guy dressed in a dark grey suit.
His partner, decked out in a black and white pinstripe get-up said, "We've been watching you girls most of the evening. Don't mean to be forward, but are you attached? We'd love to take you both out sometime. My name's Lorne Greene and this is my partner, John McGraph. We're doing a stint over at the Pantages Theater, a rave musical!"
"Nice to meet you, Lorne," said Kate extending her hand demurely, like she'd seen those girls do it in the old movies."
The future star of the T.V. series 'Bonanza' took Kate's hand and gallantly kissed it. "What do you girls do for a living?" Asked John, sidling up to Donna's side, trying to match off and establish his territory with the brunette.
"I'm a publicist and this is my newest client. A singer/actress named Donna Wood," Kate proclaimed. "That's right, Donna Wood! She's doing a movie with Jimmy Stewart."
"Really, what's the title?" John seemed very impressed.
"Pot O' Gold," said Donna, taking the slack of the P.R. ploy. "I'm surprised you gents haven't heard of it yet. It's in all the trades and we've been shooting for weeks! I'm so excited."
"And James Roosevelt, son of our President, is producing it," announced Kate, way before it would of gotten in the papers, because it was announced after Pearl Harbor and therefore fell within the shadow of World War II, making the impact belittled more so. At that moment, Kate knew she could at least alter the flow of time, not the events. She could hype up Donna more than necessary, so that it manipulated the currents. It was amazing how simple it really was, just as though she stayed in the borders of time. She couldn't change monumentious events in people's lives, but she would alter the flow of the other outside forces, so that certain smaller occurrences would be allowed to happen. Just as long as the fabric of time isn't upset too much, you could change things slightly. If only Kate could save Donna's life. There was really no way. Then Kate thought about Sara, sensed the woman sitting home patiently waiting, mulling over everything she saw in the album, wondering what Kate would say, how she would take it. This evening was coming to a close very nicely as the two men sat at the table smoking Lucky Strikes. They were amazed to find Kate smoked, and that seemed to bring out her rebel ways.
It was obvious that Lorne Greene was vying for Kate's full attention. John, of course, was immersed in Donna, until out of the blue the perky, petite singer said point blank ... "I'm seeing someone, a jeweler named Ralph Dietz. I'm sorry."
John soon lost his enthusiasm and wandered toward the bar mumbling to Lorne that he'd see him over there later. Then soon Greene drifted away with a 'good-bye, I'll call ya'.
"Whew, Donna, you sure know how to clear a room," said Kate exasperated. "I'm glad though. Those guys were like vultures!" A few times Kate wanted to tell Lorne what would become of the actor. She remembered him in Battle Star Galactica.
Then she mused about how she'd started to read his palm, thinking that was an excellent way to tell him the future, without revealing she was from there. So she read his palm and predicted the inevitable, and Lorne really seemed amazed.
"It must be our energies combined, Les. And the way you read his palm! My Lord, it seemed as if you really believed what you were telling him" said Donna, smiling brightly at the other woman. "I'm beginning to like you more and more Miss Siegel!" She lifted her tea glass, now all ice. "To us, a new friendship forged in Beverly Hills!"
Kate echoed the sentiments and drank the rest of hers. Kate wanted to pay for the meal, but Donna insisted on picking up the check. It was worth it, because the meal was so pleasant. One of the most wonderful meals, short of the ones she spent with family, that she ever had.
The two woman walked slowly back to their places. As they said their good-byes at Donna's, Kate became strangely jealous of the singer's future husband Lee. It passed quickly as the two hugged, kissed and parted, promising to call soon. Kate went on to her own abode.
* * *
PART III - BACK IN 1997 - August 31, 1997
Kate had been back in her own time now for a little under a month. It was August 31, 1997, the day she'd meet Allegra, after much speculation and a few frantic phone conversations with the singer. All along the lady had insisted that the friendship she shared with P.J. was purely just that - strictly friendship, officially platonic. P.J. had pleaded the same, even more so. But still, the time traveling woman was very nervous that day, and it was hotter than hot out too.
Finally, the time arrived, and all the finagling Kate tried to make happen, didn't, so she just had to accept the fact that P.J. was friends with Allegra. It was a mixture of jealousy, resentment and pure feminine measures that made Kate say and do things contrary to what she should of done.
She had never remembered it being so blistering in the past like it was here, and attributed it to the shifting of the elements and the Earth's rotation. There wasn't as much human factors such as pollution and car exhaust back in the Forties. As she and P.J. drove into the lot of the cafe, Kate had a flash back of when she returned to the present, at that same cemetery...
The 'Time Travelin' Woman' had been smart enough to bring along her old clothing - the Geronimo tee-shirt and shorts and ran to the ladies room at Forest Lawn to quickly dress in her regular 90's clothing, folding the mourning dress straight from the Forties intact and alive with energy. The girl cried, actually letting her tears fall upon the relic she held in her hand. She sniffed the clothing and noticed that it didn't smell fresh, but more like mothballs and mustiness. How strange it would smell that way.
Once she'd returned, Kate felt dazed, disoriented, hazy, and simply sat by the Wood site, which now included the St. Johns as well, minus Brad, which meant he was still alive. She'd find him one day. The girl walked out of the place, caught the #94 down San Fernando, and headed back to her house in Glendale she shared with P.J.
The closer she walked to the abode, the weirder she felt being back in 1997. It was as if she had changed from it, become more feminine, found something, lost something, but learned a thing or two in the interim. Even as she walked on the bus, most of the male passengers stared long and hard at the strange girl. It made Kate feel better knowing something was different about her stature. Well, of course something was different! She'd been living as a well paid, well known publicist in the Forties. Her status was different, the way she carried herself. Would that be positive for her now? She wondered if her next job would benefit from the experience! She hoped it would as she walked up her driveway and into her house she'd not set foot in for a long while. Would P.J. notice? Probably not at first. He wasn't even home from Carmel with Allegra yet.
All that seemed so petty now, as she showered, and tried to acclimate herself to her new surroundings. Once out of the bathroom and sitting on the bed, Kate turned on the television, feeling awkward, misplaced and awed all at once, because she'd not seen t.v. in years! It was strange to be able to have the world at your fingertips. How out of place she felt now. She longed for the past, and her second family, the St. Johns.
But most of all, she missed Brad so much. It was so hard, and what they all must of thought when she disappeared in a flash of an eyelid. God, how traumatic that must of been for them all, standing there paying their last rites to Donna, and then Kate soon afterwards. It was totally inverted and, as Brad had said, 'boggled the mind'!
Of course, after much time alone, she started to accept things and even resigned herself to the fate of things. P.J. had returned home, and instead of fighting, they'd reunited, the man noticing something different about his girlfriend the moment he walked into the house. Even her smell was different and he couldn't quite place it, but it wasn't exactly offensive. She seemed more girlish, or feminine, and for the first time he'd noticed her natural beauty, even though the woman wasn't wearing makeup. She dressed different too. It was more like a woman. He couldn't explain it, but whatever it was, it sure was strange and not all together bad.
As far as P.J. was concerned, the wedding trip to Carmel with Allegra was just as pals, nothing more. Or as Allegra put it, 'brother-sister-like'. He didn't understand why Kate had to be so stubborn and unreasonable with this. There was nothing happening sexually, and that's the way he liked it anyhow. Why were they making such a big deal out of him? Why would a woman like Allegra even want to hang around with him? But he was drawn to the older woman for some strange reason, very impressed with her, and mostly impressed wondering why she would want him around her in the first place.
He could understand why Kate would react this way if Allegra was a young, hot, sexy someone, which he claimed had approached him of late and in the past. And speaking of the past, he'd noticed right away Kate's new dress mode. It was almost like out of the 1940's, or something akin to it. He wondered one day when he'd chanced into the closet, looking for his favorite jeans, when he came upon the new clothes, why they looked like she'd gotten them at the thrift store and had them dry cleaned almost brand new. Was her obsession with Donna Wood taking over her actions? He'd felt ghostly spirits himself many times since Kate had started dabbling in this Wood stuff, making collages and picto-graphs as well as slapping dozens of photos on the old stereo Lee had given him for some work months back.
And he was becoming very upset with her reaction to his friendship with Allegra. In his own mind, he thought Kate was being very immature and stupid. Yes, it was different, but she had nothing to worry about because he'd told her many times that he wasn't that sort of guy. Girls had done it to him, and he knew how it felt. Why can't he ever have a decent friend without someone getting bent out of shape over it.
She'd asked him in the last few weeks if Allegra, he and she could meet for maybe an hour or so, put her mind at ease. He'd been reluctant to do this, and feared that Kate would embarrass him or something like that.
A few days after his Carmel trip, Allegra called, Kate picking up the phone. "Hello."
"Hello, is P.J. there."
"Allegra, hi, it's me, Kate."
"Well, hello, Dear. I do hope you're still not upset about Carmel. We would of included you, but please understand, it was last minute and all," said Allegra, sounding honest.
"It's okay, Allegra, really, I'm not upset over that. I still don't know your intentions though."
"But didn't P.J. tell you we had separate rooms, and he was there as my friend?"
"Of course he did, but well, maybe it's because I've not met you as of yet. And I'm not a nut, or crazed, or anything. As I told you, Tina Louise baby-sat me as a little girl, and I'm writing a book too."
"A book, oh good for you. Well, we will get together soon, I promise. And please tell P.J. I called."
"I will, and thanks for talking to me."
"Thanks for being understanding and nice about it, Dear."
Kate sat in P.J.'s car thinking also about how a month later her man left for another wedding in Mississippi, driving there alone. By this time, Kate had already secured a job for Lexi International, a high class telemarketing firm in the heart of Hollywood. The first thing Kate noticed was that the background looked familiar to her. She'd seen them in the Wood photo album where Robert and Gert stood in front of the Vine Theater and Donna's doctor was a few blocks from that photo, just down the street, across from the Taft Building, next door to the Broadway Building, Howard Hughes' offices in the early 1930's-40's. But Kate worked on the fifth floor across from there, selling Internet advertising for the phone company. From her desk cubicle she had a view of the Broadway, the building itself strange, the elevators slow in coming, and always traveling up to the ninth floor before picking up passengers on the 4th and 5th. They said that Howard Hughes had set them like that on purpose, so he wouldn't have to wait for the elevator. It was also rumored that a woman fell into an elevator shaft and was killed, or something like that. It only added to Kate's Wood trip and made everything seem that much more mysterious, especially in regards to the Wood photos at that spot, and the fact that Donna's physician, the last one to treat her, was once in the same building she worked in.
A lot of the folks who worked at Lexi became immediately fascinated with Kate's fascination over the Woods. Some said the ghostly images were just what they were - 'ghostly images of the family women, of course.' Kate had unleashed something there. She also seemed to have a keen sense of what life was like back then. It was often strange when others at the job heard the spirited, talkative woman spouting off about the Wood sisters in the middle of when you're trying to make a sale for Pacific Bell on the Internet version of the Yellow Pages. The girl was a whiz at making a sale, and it irked some people.
The place Kate worked at was destined for her. So close to Donna Wood again next to her pharmacy and Dr. Bilon's office in 1947. As she made numerous phone calls through the computer, the girl thought about her life in the past. Brad and her had gone for medication for Donna when Lee couldn't leave, and no one was available. It was eerie to be working right across from the place now back in the present.
Between Donna Wood, the old building Kate worked in, and the strange coincidences happening daily, and the special interest of a guy at her job named Ed, who not only resembled P.J., but even Lee Hackler, Donna's husband. It was eerie and strange. But even that fueled the story, which was turning into a wonderful novel, as each day passed now that Kate was back in her own time.
The girl had even began telling a few people there about the P.J.-Allegra friendship and circumstances. Most had said she should get away from that, and go on her own, but they didn't understand the bond she felt with P.J., especially since she'd returned from the past. She showed everyone the pictures of the past, went on and on about Donna Wood and her mysterious death and all the strange things that happened to her with the ghostly things.
Kate had talked Harry, a gay actor (extra work, no doubt), into taking pictures of her standing in the same position that the Woods stood, the same theater still standing there over 50 years later. They also took a few shots by Donna's doctor's office. Kate of course, made friends with the older black security guard in the still functioning building. She even scanned the rooster in and spotted a Bilal, almost sounding like Bilon. So strange.
The guard had taken a keen interest in it all, a break in the routine of his shift there. At that moment, as Kate showed the man pictures from the Wood album, the elevator lights in the building went out mysteriously.
"This is where all the big stars used to come for their SAG physicals and insurance exams," said the guard as he waved a doctor in, warning him about the darkened elevator, the only elevator running at that moment. At the same time he balanced the photo album in his hands, and jotted something into his daily log. "Hey, this is very interesting. I believe you've got something here, Girl."
"Yeah, sure you do. Better make sure it's copyrighted, 'cause chances are this is a gold mine you've discovered," he predicted, looking closely at a particular picture of the Woods in front of Donna's apartment building. "Hey," he said, looking much closer, and back at Kate. "This girl in the picture looks a lot like you!"
"Oh, come on, Mister. No way," said Kate, waving him away.
"Man, you do look like her," he insisted, pointing at the photo that Kate had forgotten to remove."
She just smiled and pretended to shrug it off. But he was right. The woman had noticed that the same effect on her chemical make-up was taking place here as when she was in the past. Certain memory impulses didn't kick in, or were sluggish. She didn't remember the fact that maybe her delicate manipulations she orchestrated in the past would change things in the future slightly as well. Again, not tipping the balance to make paradoxes, but just push the scales a bit, enough to change the path, but not the instance.
"Well, I have to get going now. This was really cool. I'll show you the pictures when I get them back, okay?"
"Thanks, and it was fun. Hope I was helpful."
Kate left the building lobby and headed back up to her job where she was one of the best sellers in the place. And due to the closeness again of the Woods, and her dwelling mind on them, other strange things happened at her job. For many weeks she'd noticed a very large man, balding, gray and menacing. They never spoke for months, until one day when he came up to her and said, "I used to go to high school with you in Barrington, Rhode Island!"
Kate had remembered those days well. It was a taunting, teasing, terror time for her, on the majority then, back in the late 1970's when her family relocated from New York City to the small New England town. She was incessantly picked on by most of the town teases and bullies. It was awful, and heart rendering for the child, and certainly not the childhood Donna Wood led, so it was natural that Kate would gravitate toward the dead singer.
The man was quite the opposite of what he was. What did he become? My God, so fat, large and mean looking, a drinker for sure. Kate knew he'd delayed coming up to her because she basically looked the same, except her hair was longer and she was more feminine. He was a big, blob, yech. How strange time and life circumstance was. When you could manipulate things, a lot of other instances happen and came your way. You are open to so many new things when the spiritual side of yourself reaches out and acknowledged the Earthly forces such as ghosts and essences.
It even bled over into other areas of Kate's life, like the appearances of people like Allegra, the singer, even now preparing a CD of her Uncle's music and numerous hits. Still, Kate was wary of the woman, was even a bit afraid of her and the influences she had. A guy like P.J. would easily fall for the charms of a true 'mother', a lady playing the role of father for her own son. Kate sensed a lot of tragedy in this woman's life, a lot of hurdles leaped and made. She was still unsettled even though she'd spent years in the Forties. Nothing quells the insecure feelings that rise up. And once Kate had come back, she'd stayed with P.J., soon adjusting to the man's moods and swings. He'd noticed her change and actually seemed turned on by it. He was a different good looking than Brad St. John, a different personality altogether. He was stubborn, more self centered, therefore more attractive ruggedly, if anything. Kate had also realized that P.J.'s behavior was because of a head injury he suffered at age 8, that put him in a coma for almost a week. Kate had deducted that P.J.'s brain had been jarred, and therefore the man learned to rewire certain impulses. That would explain his sometimes off-the-scale kinkiness. Porno movies, sex aids, even the liquid drug dubbed 'Locker Room' for it's organism inducing properties.
She had to make the best of it, seeing as Brad was at least 83 years old now. It had taken her more time than she'd expected to become accustom to the change, so she'd delayed seeing Brad. The woman knew where he was, and how to get to him, but hadn't had the courage to call or contact him. He must be bitter by now, a astringent old grouch, no doubt.
Then suddenly, out of the blue, Allegra began a barrage of calls to P.J. asking to get together with Kate and him for an hour soon. P.J. was leaving for Mississippi and said when he got back they'd plan it for sure. In the meantime, he left town again for two weeks. It actually gave the girl time to get used to things, and she was glad for the space and went up to the Woods/St. John site, placing flowers on their plots. How sad it was to have actually know these people for a split second according to time. Again, P.J. was away at a wedding, and she was alone up on the hill above Arlington Way at Forest Lawn.
Then the day arrive finally, when they were waiting for the singer. Kate was brushed from all her flooding memories, by the appearance of Allegra, driving a emerald green Lexus. They entered the small cafe, a place you would usually have a full fledged lunch in, but Kate ending up sipping nervously on sparkling water, P.J. drinking is trademark coffee, he affectionately labeled "spat juice".
Kate could tell Allegra was upright and territorial, first by the way she chose the table, asking us, but not agreeing. We sat at a window seat, the sun making its slow pace across it. The waiter came over expecting us to order food. I had only the sparkling water, P.J. his spat juice, Allegra nothing, attesting to her uncomfortable demeanor, which showed in her body language and posture.
Kate wished she wasn't so nervous, her own hands shaking too. When the server brought the drinks, Kate could barely sip without quaking. It was so oppressive, especially now that the sun was heating up her shoulder, sweat pouring down her armpit.
After what seemed hours, they all relaxed, Allegra seeming to lose her paranoid self consciousness and Kate finally could sip her water.
Most of the conversation leaned on the death of Princess Diana, saving the animals, and how alternative music was brainless, which got Kate thinking about when she actually called the local alternative radio station, whining on the air about P.J. and Allegra, even mentioning that the lady that played 'The Movie Star' in that old kiddy series of the Sixties, was offhandedly involved. Kate was comforted by the fact that the morning show was at 5:30 a. m., so most probably, the wrong parties had not heard. But, a few people at Kate's job heard it, though, and excitedly ran up to her a few days later, and said they had caught it, which truly elated Kate, especially the fact that the next morning, the deejays were asking on the air for the girl that knew Ginger on the old sitcom.
Now, Kate didn't have a chance to mention the Tina association to Allegra, because the conversation never went in that direction, probably due to Alegra's experienced control over things and, of course, P.J.'s iron hand, which had a tight hold. Kate got first hand experience on it when she attempted to slyly bring it by mentioning that her own mother is an opera singer. Alegra's face went blank, as if she didn't hear, and P.J.'s leg hit against Kate's, in his iron hand way.
Kate knew that if she and Allegra were alone, they would of really bonded better. P.J. was a hindrance, and only caused to alienate the women, because of his nonchalant attitude! Why were his eyes all of a sudden more bluer, more sparkling? Was It because of Alegra's adoration? Or, Kate's own strong, clipped, nervous vibe of competition?
Even the man's hair looked curlier, brownish ringlets, his shirt matching. Kate pretended she was looking at P.J. through Alegra's eyes-- young, sweet, mumbling, lovable, totally oblivious to his own handsomeness, an inert innocence that became more apparent as to the reasons behind Alegra's adoration for P.J. Either Kate's boyfriend of 4 years pretended his innocence for the sake of Allegra enjoying it, for maybe he was that. It was confusing, all this new analyzing in regards to P.J. and her. The whole P.J.-Allegra thing only caused too much anxiety and energy to be drawn into why it was happening, why it was such a strain for Kate! Did this happen to everyday couples?--Kate thought not!
Finally, they did chat amicable and Allegra even told Kate she liked her, that the younger woman was really down to earth. Kate, as well, complemented the woman many times.
The waiter came back a few times expecting them to order something, but just as quickly left, coming back to verbally tell us how much we owed. This day had been flitting in and out of reality, especially since Kate was still was adjusting to her new time period. She, even later as they sat in Alegra's Lexus listening to those old tunes, missed her 1940's friends terribly, and felt so alone, like this woman was a vulture after the only familiar thing Kate knew.
Kate was back and yes, after a few delays and false starts, the three finally sat at the small cafe on the outskirts of Bel Air. Kate knew they'd all be right on time, both driving into the small boiling hot parking lot off Beverly Glen.
Even when Kate sat in Alegra's Lexus, she noticed it smelled all woman – fresh leather, expansive perfume and the pricey scarf smell from Saks Fifth Avenue! Allegra sat in the front seat eyeing Kate, sizing the other woman up. After the first song, a tune about a family photo album Allegra holds as dear to her as Kate held the Woods, the feelings of territory and nervousness were all but vanished, probably signaling the end of this fiasco, to the relief of both ladies. They chatted lightly about the death of Princess Diana again. A few times, between the various numbers on the tape player of Allegra singing live, Kate caught those adoring, quick, glances the older woman was throwing at P.J. Then there were moments when it looked like Allegra wanted to break down and cry. Kate could barely stand it in the hot car that Allegra kept switching the air conditioner on and off in. Her hands were shaking. She was nervous, as was the other woman. That much Kate could tell.
One thing was obvious, Allegra really seemed to adore P.J. for some strange reason. She found him totally appealing and treated him sweetly, which sometimes irritated Kate. A few times in the conversation, Allegra said, "I'd like your 'friend' to listen to my songs in my car."
And even after Kate met Allegra, P.J. was going back over to the woman's condo once he dropped his girlfriend off, to spend some time with the singer. Kate sat biting her nails and stressing out as the hours ticked way past 10:00 p.m. She found Allegra to be nice enough, but there was an underlying current flowing, something akin to a motherly Opedius Rex complex going on there. She and P.J. were clicking, and sometimes Kate felt left out, even though Allegra gave her ample eye contact and compliments.
Kate's trip through time had left the woman with an uncanny sense of a fine-tuned intuition, able to pick up vibes, or even auras, and placement of them. She saw this woman's aura and it was bright and romantic. Kate sensed that Allegra had dibs on P.J. like the women in the Forties, thinking they had dibs on her Brad, who she missed even more so. P.J. was hanging around more with Allegra, nothing changing in that regard. Kate had tried several times to manipulate and mentally block the relationship, but unfortunately, the cards still fell where she'd predicted they would. Allegra had a slight emotional hold on P.J., and that's that. Nothing Kate did, no monkey wrench taking hold. She had met the woman, and they had done their parts. Now she thought of something Allegra had said, "If it isn't broken, let it go free." That could be applied to anything, as the three walked to the Lexus parked in the small lot.
P.J. became restless in the Alegra's hot car, and wanted out, but, as usual, things started to lean over to the spiritual essences when Allegra rewound the tape of her songs, replaying a song about a family's photo album. Out of all the standards written by her uncle, sung by her, the one playing now was the most mysterious and ironic to Kate.
It was hard to believe that the song was about finding a photo album and singing of the pictures, some dating back to the turn of the century, just like Kate's Wood picture book was!
"I've taken my uncle's songs and have rearranged, as well as updated them," said Allegra, as we sat in her hot Lexus in the parking lot.
"Allegra, I am so impressed with your voice and your heart. I'm so glad I met you finally. It's a good thing, because why be worried? It's so stressful, we should not put ourselves through it, right?" But Kate felt even more stressed out, now knowing this woman, seeing her in the flesh, feeling her essence.
"No, you're right. It's not healthy to conduct your life like that, especially if it's not good feelings," stated Allegra, giving Kate full eye contact.
Kate looked into Alegra's deep, hazel-colored orbs, trying to find any negative vibes, and only saw and felt slight feelings of feminine stirrings. It was then that Kate wondered if Donna was alive, would these two like each other? What could of Donna done if she was in the same predicament as Kate was now? Who was to say what would happen in the future, if even Donna was alive. And, if the Wood sister were alive now, maybe she would be sitting in a woman's luxury car with P.J. and Kate, making her moves on the handsome, boyish, almost shy, mumbling, soft spoken guy.
Kate hoped she'd understand where Allegra was coming from. There was a time when women like her ruled their domain with an iron hand. If she wasn't a member of a famous family, where would Allegra be now? The conversation drifted only to petty issues such as what happens now, after Princess Diana is claimed dead. Kate wished she could talk to the other woman more about her own mother, who really is an opera singer!
Every time Kate wanted to talk about her past, P.J. would usually give her a dirty side glance, so as the woman would not mention anything out of line, especially if it embarrassed her boyfriend. There might of been two reasons why he played this game...1, because he didn't want to lose control over the friendship, and 2, he probably didn't want to have Allegra think anything different than what he's told her.
And the woman wanted to very badly to tell them both about her trip through time, but it wasn't the right time or place, and besides, Allegra would think Kate was trying to rip the attention away from P.J., plus that she was crazy…
Kate had learned an invaluable lesson from her trip to the past. She had learned very simply that eventually people got to you in their own time. The days of when Kate was out of control, are buried in her brain. she had learned that if you could put a strange air about yourself in the universe, than you could put that same feeling into any situation. Maybe Kate was simply being over dramatic, and only trying to get fire for the novel she was writing. She made big deals out of everything, no matter how trite it may have sounded. A lot of experiences that Kate was part of became the basis for her survival on the 1997 realm.
During the whole listening session in the Lexus sweat dripped down Kate's legs. Her nervous tendencies did not allow her the luxury of enjoying such a calmness and in control manner, as she would have normally if she was back in the Forties.
It was so nerve wracking to know that the woman sitting in the front seat next to P.J. with Kate in the back, was as nervous as she was. The other lady held herself closed off, attesting to the fact that she was slightly threatened by the curly haired, big bosomed and down-to-earth, natural, woman. She must have felt guilty, because her expressions betrayed her adoration for P.J. Kate could feel that, which made her very uptight and wishing this meeting could have ended before Allegra invited the girl and P.J. to listen to her tape in the car.
And it was all going normally enough, up until the photo album song that Allegra seemed particularly fond of.
"Don't you think it's interesting, a song about a family photo album!" Stated Kate. Although it wasn't the Woods, it lended a keen kinderence to the subject for Kate. It was Alegra's uncle's, and their family's. She sung deeply and with heart, pouring out her feelings about a certain picture book, shots of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and even Gene Kelly all in the same shot with her aunt and uncle. It was truly amazing to Kate, sounding almost parallel with her own novel, minus the fact that Allegra actually lived in those days, not traveling back in time like Kate had.
Finally the event ended, Allegra driving away in her car and the two of them driving back to Glendale. With that out of the way, Kate could now focus her full attention on her meeting with Brad St. John. Once she saw him, Kate felt she could put a cap on the whole affair and move on, maybe write a book and come to conclusions with P.J.
Everything had altered ... Kate's thinking, intuition, even her sex life with P.J. seemed more energized with him finally paying her some attention and respect during the act. Once they had even stayed up all night and most of the morning talking, laughing, getting kinky, Kate even doing a few things that surprised her. She owed it all to her time travel experience, which left her very sharp and alive, something their relationship really needed.
And meeting Allegra helped Kate see P.J. through another woman's eyes, so that may have contributed to their new found attributes. Kate would simply go with the flow.
* * *
It was a downpour that Sunday, almost 2 months since Kate arrived back from 1947, after spending almost 7 years there. It was time for the girl to meet Brad St. John. P.J. had been gone most of the day, meeting with Allegra and another couple for a dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, ironically the same location that Lee and Gloria Wood met and fell in love.
Kate hadn't let the relationship between the two get to her of late. P.J. seemed to have gained a smidgen of respect and understanding for the female species through his relationship with Allegra, and for that Kate was grateful, but she still sensed a feeling of guilt on P.J.'s part. Rather than waste energy trying to analyze and identify it, she'd chosen to let it go entirely, and let the cards fall as they may.
The girl bundled up and held the golf umbrella, with its brightly colored shades of red and white, and headed for the bus stop. She caught the #92 downtown, and struck up a conversation with an older woman sitting next to her. The lady wore a vinyl raincoat, but brought Kate back to the past. She was comforted by the presence of the woman. Afterwards the girl made her way to the Metro Rail Subway, traveling underground, all the way to Wilshire and Western, then catching the #320 past Donna Wood's apartment on Canon, passed Gloria's house, passed Beverly Hills, just before Rancho Park. She got off and easily found the plain looking building on the corner of Beverly Glen and Pico Blvd. Although it was a busy section, there was a certain quiet, richly demeanor about the spot. She walked through the electric doors and up to a small information area, where an older man sat doing paper work. The place smelled old, but sterile and fresh, even the scent of freshly cut flowers staining the air.
"Can I help you?" Asked the man.
"Yes, I'm looking for Brad St. John. I was told he stays here," said Kate.
"Who are you, family?"
"Yes, I guess you could say that."
"Brad don't get any visitors, so that's why I'm asking."
"Well, is he here?"
"He's always here, Lady. The question is, does he want to see you?"
"I should say so," she answered, a bit ruffled.
"Well, how are you related?"
"We're old family friends, isn't that enough?"
"Okay, calm down, calm down," said the man, even though Kate was quite in control. "I'll call him now." The man picked up a telephone and dialed. It rang a few times. "Hello, Mr. St. John?...This is Manny Johnson downstairs, there's a lady here to see you....Yeah, that's right, a lady, young, pretty too," said Johnson, whose thick New York accent only enhanced what was about to happen. "She said you know her and would want to see her...What's her name? I didn't ask..." He turned to Kate. "Hey, what's your name?"
"She said her name's Kate....Hello? Mr. St. John, are you there? Hello?...Yes, that's right....Okay, thanks, and sorry to bother you with this...." He hung up.
"Does he want to see me?"
"Of course he does, but it took the guy a second to remember. He's almost 84 years old for God’s sake! He's on the second floor, room 311, to the right of the hallway."
"Thank you, Manny," said Kate, already making her way to the stairs.
She walked up one flight and turned the corner to his room. Once in front of his door, she hesitated, then knocked lightly, expecting the worst. She knocked again, very lightly, feminine, so as not to scare him back. After about 30 seconds, the door slowly opened. It was dim inside.
"Come in Kate," said a gravely, but firm voice.
Kate entered the room, her heart doing flip-flops and irregular dips. A single candle was burning, the only light in the room, the drapes drawn. Brad sat in a chair in the corner of the room by his single bed. There was a dresser and another table and some chairs, with the fridge and small stove. Pictures hung on the wall of the past, of course, Kate spotting a small framed one of herself back in 1944, right after the war ended.
As her eyes became adjusted to the light, she saw Brad clearly. Yes, he was old, so godly old! It was hard to believe it was him and took getting used to. It looked as if the man spiffed himself up, showered, shaved and wore a crisp polo shirt and slacks, his gray hair brushed back, as if he was expecting her this day.
"Hello, Brad, is it really you?" Kate sat down on the bed across from him.
"Yes, it's me all right! I knew this time would come, I'd been dreading it, looking forward to it, marking it on my brain. Now that it's here, I can hardly accept it," he said slowly, but with conviction.
"Oh, Brad," said Kate, leaning over and touching his wrist, which was full of blemishes and age spots. "I'm so sorry for all this, really, it wasn't my fault," she sobbed.
"Now, now, don't fret, Honey," he answered evenly, sounding like the young Brad she'd lain with so many times in the past.
"What happened after I left? Did you tell them?"
"No, I never did tell them, I'm sorry, but something made me not want to. It was strange, Kate. Of course, you know what happened, or could guess, right?"
Kate nodded, wanting him to talk.
"Well, as you can expect, they were all devastated and even called in a private investigator when the police couldn't locate or pin you down. Some called you a wayward, believing you'd conned my grandparents out of money and board.”
“But I was there 7 years! How could they think that?
“Well, Sara and I tried to smooth things over. It was really hard! Remember you told me that there’s something with remembering the future because the time continuum screwed everything up?”
“Yes, I do! I’ll just bet that was it, or at least part of the problem.”
“Sometimes I wanted to blurt the whole damn thing out, to shut them up, but I never did. Do you blame me? They'd probably of locked me up, maybe all of us, who knows," said Brad, thinking that it had been too long since he'd had a conversation with that many sentences in it. Again, Kate was bringing something special out of him. He’d fought that fogginess that overcame him even when he was younger. It was only recently that age really factored in.”
"I know, that's what I figured. I've been back now for 2 months. To me, it was just last week! I didn't want to contact you until I was ready, Brad. I know it won't ever be the same between us again, but I had to see you, touch you," she blurted, reaching out and stroking his aged face. His eyes were still strikingly blue, and there was a sense of that youthful innocence in the man, even at his age now.
"It took me a long, long time to get over your loss," he said honestly, welcoming her embrace, some of the shyness leaving him now that she was really there with him. "God knows I tried everything to convince the folks that said you was bad news. And I prayed that you'd be sent back, by some miracle. Unfortunately, it never happened, and it doused a bit of my religious furor with God, but I've grudgingly accepted it all. Just never married, nor really went out afterward, stuck to myself, with my grandparents."
"What happened after they passed away?"
"I did what I had to do, still worked at the firm, made a living, occasionally, if not often enough, got plastered!"
"You got bombed?"
"Yes, and so what? You weren't there, I was alone, and to tell the truth, it made some of the hurt of the loss of you less sharp, more dull," he said bitterly. "Sometimes Gloria Wood and I would talk about it for hours on end, and I'd skit in and out of the fact of where you went. She had a hunch I knew more than I was letting on, but it was just too complicated back then. Her mind wouldn't have comprehended it. My mind isn't so comprehensible lately either. But you, being still sharp as a stick, can recall it all, and I want to hear it all," he said, almost beggingly.
"Oh, yes, I'll tell you everything." At first Kate thought he’d sunk so low as to really block her out, but that was not to be the case.
"Are you still with that guy P.J.?" Brad asked cautiously.
"Yes, I am, and it hasn't been that bad since I came back. I met the singer Allegra," she said.
"And what was that outcome?" He remembered her telling him about it all about 60 years ago.
"Well, as you can expect, I was nervous, so was she, but it ended interesting. The woman showed me a tape of her music and in one song she sings about a family photo album.
“Ha, ha, only you, Kate…”
“It was eerie. By the way, I work in Hollywood, right across the street from Donna Wood's doctor. Remember when we went to get her medication two days before she died?" "Not really, Honey. Maybe as you explain to me, I'll start recalling. I just want to listen to you. God, it's great to see you. You look the same!"
"Well, you're right. It's only been two months since I left there. I'm the same as then. Sorry to see you're not, but that's expected, right?"
"You bet, Hon. My life was long, and I'm grateful for being able to see you again. But there is a part of me ... well, I think you understand, I’m a bit set in my ways. I tried to uphold everything we held dear, and in the end, only those that truly loved you there believed it. Unfortunately, June Landers wasn't one of them, that much I remember. She was embittered about the whole thing. I tried calling her a few times to explain, but she wouldn't have none of that. Eventually she retired and died, I guess."
"That's sad, I didn't' have time to explain to her. God, what she must of thought. The trust that she surmised was broken between us. I wish it could have been different circumstances," said Kate, feeling let down about the whole affair. It could have been so much more simplier to have been allowed to stay in the past. She would have been good! She wouldn’t have said anything to anyone and would have lived her life there with gusto! But, in a strange way she should feel blessed to have lived two lives at least.
"Guess that if you go back in time, that's great, but something is going to suffer by it," acknowledged Brad, reading her thought as easily now as back in their day.
"It's a delicate balance, Brad, really. I'm now just learning that."
"You've been through hell too, but I'm glad to hear things are well with you."
"What ever happened to your friendship with the Woods and Gloria?" Asked Kate, slowly edging closer to her past lover.
"Well, after awhile we drifted from each other. I met other people, and it was hard, because you weren't there, and everyone had to live up to your legacy, and when I was with Gloria, I always felt your ghost lingering, maybe in the future too, who knows? Glo was my friend for a few years, but afterwards, she moved on, and you know the rest ... She met that other Lee and married him, right?"
"Yes, that's right, Brad. She married Lee and died in 1995. That's how I got all the Wood memorabilia in the first place. In fact, Lee is still alive and living in that house. Wish I could put you in contact with him, but I just don't know at this point."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, since I've come back, some things are slightly altered, like my friendship with him. It's like he doesn't know or remember me, nor does his companion. It has something to do with the time travel and how I changed time slightly," explained Kate. “Hard as I tried, I just couldn’t resist doing certain impusive things back there. Things that cost me certain time frames here in the present!”
"Don't knock yourself out, I don't want to meet anyone at this point in my life. You have to understand, it's better to put a lot of that crap to bed for good, that's how I lived this long, and you will too, I know it."
"I'm totally stressed about it, and it's been really eating me up inside. Please Brad, I don't care about your age or wrinkles, I just want to feel you in my arms again. We can pretend it's 50 years ago, up on Mullholland Drive, remember?" Kate fell into the man's now frail bony arms, but she didn't care.
"Do you know how many times I've driven up there in 50 years?" Brad again welcomed her embrace and held her lightly, feeling a bit awkward and out of practice, plus the fact that Kate was 50 years younger. Hard to believe it was really her. How long had he hoped for this, prayed that maybe by some miracle, she'd return to him, maybe a few years after 1947, but no, it was not to be. Time had cheated them both.
Suddenly, their embrace turned into a kiss, old man, young woman. But for Kate, it was far, far different than her kisses with the once alive Irving Gordon, whom she traveled with all over the world and had to sometimes become intimate with. It was always out of duty, and not real love. This situation with Brad was very special. They embraced, held each other tenderly, nothing more, nothing less. They began to kiss deeply, all of a sudden forgetting their vast age difference. Brad even, for a split second, forgot he was 84 years old. He was back in the good old days when he and Kate would spend hours milling around his grandparent's home, then go on some sort of strange Wood scavenger hunt. He'd obliged her, driving the girl all over town. It was fun, and her being back with him didn't hurt so much, because new memories surfaced, making the old man smile with pleasure and wonderment. He took advantage of the situation and held the girl tightly, kissing her with a bit more force than Kate thought he still could muster. There was that feeling between them, rising up, frothy and wanton. But this time it was Brad that stopped them, saying, "No, Honey, this ain't right anymore. I feel it, but it just isn't quite my cup of tea now. I don't have long on this Earth, and I'd rather spend it another way. Please understand, it's not you. I know you understand things more than most," he said sadly.
"I still love you, and don't want us to lose touch just because you're old," said Kate, not letting him push her away. "We can at least see each other once in a blue moon, maybe have lunch, stroll in the park down the street here..."
"No, no, I can't now. Please, the best thing is to part now, and forever hold our peace!" Brad turned away from her, trying to untangle himself and stand up. "I think our visit is over, Hon. Go on home now, this is your time, you are one of the lucky eggs, I'll say that much," he said solemnly.
"I don't want it to end this way," she pleaded.
"It ended when you went away in '47, and it's took me years after that to get you out of my system. It's not like Lee Hackler and Donna, Les! He met another woman after Donna died! It's not the same thing. Please," he cried. "Just go now. Enjoy everything in life, you've got a ways to go, my Darlin’." He reached out for her, taking her in his arms one more time. They kissed deeply, uncaring of his now rickety body. Kate held him tightly and didn't want to let go. He laid his once strong, but now feeble hand on her bosom, letting it linger.
"It's so hard, Brad," she said, tears flowing easily, as the woman held his hand on top of his, that lightly brushed her breast.
"I know, sweet thing, I know. Just muster up and head on, Little Flower, okay? At least you are still alive, unlike our beautiful Donna Wood, who couldn't be around to enjoy things. But in a funny way, you made it possible for her to be here, at least now in spirit. I feel her beside us, like I've never felt her before. That scares me, so let's just part as it was. A puff of smoke, memories linger and the soul lives on," he said, reluctantly removing his hand.
"I think I do understand. Maybe I'll come visit again, okay?"
"Fine, that'll be fine," he said, not really wanting it so.
"Good-bye then, until ‘Then’," she said, sounding to herself very prolific.
"Farewell," he said, risking one more tight, close hug. They parted then, and she left his room, closing the door behind him. He was silent, staring at the closed door, then he cried like a child, grieving all over again.
After visiting Brad, Kate tried calling Lee a few times, but noticed that every time she thought of Lee, Gloria's husband, something prevented her from following through and calling the still ailing gent. Either when she phoned he wasn't in, or she'd forget it and do another task. It was strange. Once she'd actually gotten to the point of dialing and when he got on the phone the man didn't even recognize her voice. She got frightened and hung up the phone, thinking maybe her trip back in time made him not meet her in this time frame. Very weird, but something had to fall by the wayside.
It marked a certain point achieved, coming to a head with the Woods. She'd taken it to the limit, now it was time to close the book and start anew. And she had to work out her relationship with P.J., come to terms with certain aspects of it. Even now she'd been able to turn the tables on the negatives, and work some of the turmoil out of it. Kate was convinced that his friendship with Allegra would eventually die down, especially when the singer got a full taste of P.J.'s fly-off-the-handle anger and temper.
One thing was for sure, Kate was about to tell P.J. the whole situation, even her trip through time. It was the only way to truly test their trust and respect for each other. He would be skeptical, that's for sure. But she had nothing to lose by this point anyhow, so she was going for it.
It would not be until that evening, when P.J. returned from his friend Ronnie's place in Burbank. As soon as he walked in the door, Kate pounced and sat the man down. Of course, at first, P.J. was a bit freaked out, thinking this was the end of it for sure, that Kate was going to drop the bomb of break-up. But he was wrong. What she had to say was very strange and totally out of this world.
"Was she losing her mind? What was happening? Was her brain fried?" Thought P.J. His girlfriend was telling him that she'd been living back in the 1940's for 7 years, and was whisked back to here during Donna Wood's funeral. "What is that crap?" The man didn't know what the problem was, and it certainly couldn't all be attributed to his friendship with Allegra! Was it a game Kate was playing? Maybe playing with his mind, like some of the other girls he dated ended up doing at a certain point in their relationship.
"You mean to tell me, that when I went to Carmel with Allegra, you went up to the cemetery, fell down against a grave stone, waking up in 1941? You expect me to believe that? I can't. Sorry, Chick, but I think your brain is turning to kah-kah! Man, Girl, get it together. I don't want to be around this," he said, on a verge of shouting, but containing himself, because he secretly half believed her. The guy had noticed a change in the Kate since that time --- The clothes, mannerisms and attitude. He'd also gotten a look at the Wood album, and things looked a bit out of whack.
It was then that Kate produced a few pictures she'd hidden for months, since returning. It was photos of the Woods with Kate right in the thick of it with them, and it wasn't enhanced on the computer either, P.J. could tell that right away!
"Wow, check it out, it looks like you, Les," said P.J., changing his tune. "You must of brought these to some scanning place, right?"
Kate shook her head solemnly. "No, P.J., I didn't, and I'll swear on a stack of Bibles, if that what it takes to convince you!"
"You don't have to go that far, geez," he answered, staring intently at the shots, 5 of them in different locations with the Woods, and some guy Kate said was Brad St. John, her boyfriend in the past. She'd filled him in very well.
"So, what do you think? Am I nuts?"
"Nuts, yes, you're crazy as a loon, but it sounds like there's a lot of truth to your story, but chances are your mind played tricks on you, maybe. These pictures, if they're real, are fantastic, so did you enhance them somewhere, just tell me the truth, okay, because if this is a joke, than it's not funny anymore, and I 'm getting sick of it all," he said angrily. He sat down on their bed and lit up a cigarette wrestling with his mind about it. At the same time he gazed at the shots with Kate in them. She was even wearing the same clothes style as the others in the shots and they had their arms around each other.
"I know this is hard for you to digest, but I actually went to visit Brad St. John!" Kate exclaimed.
"He's alive? God, the guy must be over 80!"
"Yes, he is, 84 to be exact," said Kate. "He could verify this all for you, if that's what you want.
"Is he more like Irv or that old boo-boo Freddie Goodman, Benny Goodman's older brother?" Asked P.J., speaking of the songwriter and another old fossil Kate had dug up when working at her job with the magazine. Freddie claimed that his family gypped him out of Benny's fortune and lied about the legendary musician in their book about him, calling him a blatant racist, which wasn't true.
"He's not like either of them. Brad was very nice and innocent, but sort of quiet, and passionate," Kate said, immediately getting lost in the past. It was like she was in a trance.
"Hey, hey, Les, snap out of it, will you!" P.J. snapped his fingers and shook her lightly.
"Sorry, I just get that way, and it's probably part of the process of my body getting used to it here again. Really, P.J., it was like no other experience on Earth. I loved every minute of it. It was an adventure and I'm finishing a book on it. You'll see. Just give me time to prove more things to you. I want to ease you into it, so you don't freak on me, okay?"
"Whatever, I guess. Just don't tell anyone, they'll think your crazy," P.J. said, his half believing turning into 75%.
"I know, I know, and I've told no one, but Brad."
"So what was it like seeing the guy after 50 years," said P.J., testing the waters.
"Strange, very bizarre, and at times creepy," said Kate. "We talked, and at first he couldn't believe I was there, but finally he broke down and actually cried. He doesn't want me to come back, he knows I'm telling the truth, and that it really happened. I may contact him again, especially if you doubt me as time goes on. He'll vouch, he owes me anyhow."
"Just don't talk about this in public, okay? I don't want people thinking stuff," said P.J.
"I won't, so stop badgering me about it," countered Kate.
"And once you finish the book, I think it's time you put this Donna Wood thing behind you, maybe start writing another book, a whole different subject. Sometimes I get so sick of hearing about the Woods," admitted P.J.
"I'll never forget it, and I can't just put it all aside. You don't know, you weren't even there," said Kate. "You were in Carmel with Allegra, remember?" Kate said almost smugly. "Maybe if you were here instead of with her, than I would of never even went to the graveyard that day."
"Hey, don't bring Allegra into this! It's not her fault you've gone nutso," countered P.J., easily getting mad about things. "I think a lot of your stress is worrying for nothing about her and I! I've told you so many times that she's my friend and nothing more. God, what is with you?"
"Nothing's with me, P.J. It's just that I think because of your association with her, I've noticed some sort of change in you, a slight feminine calmness, I don't know. Your friendship with her is unsettling and hard for me to accept, even though I did meet her!"
"So you met her, and you know there's nothing going on, what gives?" Asked P.J. "And how do you think I feel, having to hear all this time travel hocus-pocus, you telling me that some 84 year old man was your boyfriend back then."
"P.J., why don't you see that she wants you, more than most women like her would want someone like you. And that bothers me. Also, the fact that she said I was your friend twice. At least Brad is sensible, knowing his age restraints, living in his own world, not galavanting around trying to pretend he's 30 again, like Allegra."
"Big friggin' deal, so what! I shouldn't feel guilty because I'm friends with the woman. At least she's real and not some strange escape fantasy like maybe your Brad St. John is. Come on, Les, are you losing your mind? I know you got those pictures enhanced and are just trying to get me back for my friendship with Allegra!"
"I'm not, really! You've got to believe me on this time travel thing. I was there and can prove it!"
"I don't think I want to hear anymore of this right now. I'm going to get some cigarettes, and when I come back, you have better be in a better state of mind!"
P.J. got up and left the house, driving to 7-11. As he drove, the man was in a bit of turmoil. Why was Kate acting this way? Was his relationship with Allegra really making his girlfriend go coo-coo? What was it with her? It wasn't like he was having sex with the older lady, but he’d noticed lately that Allegra was becoming more aggressive with him. The thing is that is ‘did’ bother him. He couldn't help it if Allegra liked his company. And the man never had a friend like her, especially one who was classy and from a well-known song-writing family of composers. He truly cared about Kate, and hoped she'd snap out of things. Loyalty was never a question throughout their years together, and the way she acted now only served to push him away, maybe even more into Alegra’s arms. Damn it, he did have a conscience, you know! Kate better shape up, or he's shipping out!
When he returned, Kate was playing her guitar, singing that Donna Wood song she loved so much. It seemed like this whole thing was getting just a bit out of hand. He came in and sat on the bed, opening yet another pack of Merits, lighting one up after searching high and low for a Bic.
She finished the song, turned and looked P.J. square in the eyes. "Make love to me," she said simply, an image of Brad St. John popping up in her mind. Oh, how she missed those encounters.
For a split second it looked as if the man's face changed, then all of a sudden they tenderly embraced, hugging awkwardly, then began undressing formally. There was not much pretense in their lovemaking. It was usually applying lubrication and getting at it. But once they were doing it, things were intense in Kate’s mind, with thoughts of Brad St. John running all over TJ’s image, which sometimes came off as anal and insensitive. One thing, as always, Kate did achieve release, as did P.J., just a lot longer than it took Brad, and there weren't any preliminaries involved, like petting, kissing and bringing the passion level up a bit. It was just, 'get it while you can!'
Kate stared up at her boyfriend as he moved with her in unison. She thought of Allegra, of Brad, of Brad and Allegra together naked, of P.J. naked with the singer, and finally she and a stranger, resembling a male version of Donna Wood. God, was she really crazy, being effected by strange forces, maybe electro-magnetic fields? Finally, P.J. achieved his ultimate feeling, quickly pulling out and chuckling, like he always did afterwards. The woman didn't really have the urge to smoke a cigarette when they were done, like she'd done many times with Brad, even though TJ was a heavy smoker.
There were good things about her and P.J, she thought to herself while in the bathroom cleaning up. She believed him when he said he was loyal, they did share a lot of fun moments. It was just so different than her 7 years back in time, where men treated her more importantly, not so full of indifference, taking her for granted, making it hard for Kate to gain any added security about herself. It was just such a shame that her relationship with TJ was missing those key elements that made her feel like a real woman. Where was the romance and passion? She compared it to a good tan. If you basked in the sun every single day, the tan is kept up, but if you start skipping or working days, than the tan slowly fades more quickly than it took you to get it.
When P.J. fell asleep, Kate, on a whim dashed out the door and down the street. She then called a cab, which came in record time. Then it was up to the cemetery! In a matter of 20 minutes she'd landed at the Wood site, kneeling by Donna, immediately crying her eyes out.
Since she'd returned from the past, her acute sense of inner action was so fine tuned, that she was starting to pick up the vibes that P.J. and her were drifting apart, yet they stayed together out of habit maybe? It might be better to start thinking about breaking away from him, contemplate getting her own place on the other side of town, maybe far away from this spot.
She mused to herself, imagining P.J. running to Allegra for sympathy. The woman noticed a change in the man's pattern about 1 month after she'd returned. He seemed so amorous for a solid week, then he'd play indifferent until their sexual pressure set in, so Kate succumbed to that, easily falling into a routine of lots of sexual activity, then P.J. would suddenly pull away, maybe during the woman's cycle, then nothing, then a mad dash back to what it was before it dribbled down to a stall again. A vicious cycle that would drive even the most stoic to despair! But there was a silver lining in there somewhere.
Kate sat by the Woods crying, talking out loud about her plight and problems, when suddenly a shadow fell over her. She turned, and there stood Brad St. John, a little out of breath, but there all the same.
"My God, Brad!" Kate jumped up too quickly, making her unsteady. Remarkably, the old man caught her in his embrace nimbly, which surprised the girl, reminding them both of the day back in '41 when they'd met!
"Hey, now, Honey, steady there," he said, righting her, then backing off a bit.
"What are you doing here?"
"You forget that I used to come to this place a lot too, especially after you came back here to this time." Brad, who was a bit winded, but maintaining, couldn't believe he was standing there himself! It had been at least 40 years since he'd come up with Gloria and some show biz pals she was with. "I'll tell you, it's been a long time indeed," he said, turning to the graves solemnly.
"How did you get up here?" Kate drew closer to him, wanting to erase some of the distance between them.
"Took a cab," he said almost sheepishly.
So there they were, 50 years later, once again reunited. But time had robbed them both of a future together. They embraced lightly, even nuzzled a bit, before gazing into one another's eyes.
Kate couldn't get over it. There he was, yes, a bit older, but it was her Brad! He'd endured half a century for this moment, at the end of his life. He wore a powder blue polo shirt and white slacks, and tennis shoes. Brad wore a black fedora, somehow preserved through the years lovingly. It made him seem younger, giving him a Henry Miller look, certainly not an 84 year old! Due to spending literally years with Irv Gordon, the old songwriter, Mr. Unforgettable himself, Kate could easily see through the age and years, the once robust body now a bit flaccid.
"This is so weird, because I took a cab up here too!"
"Where's P.J.?" Asked the old man looking around. He couldn't believe she was here, at this exact moment, and half expected her strapping boyfriend to pop out from behind a grave stone.
"No, P.J. isn't here. I don't think he suspects I'm here."
Brad smiled then. "Hot spit, we've got secrets, mums the word," he said, breaking into a most breathtaking, handsome smile, showing he still had all his own teeth.
Kate came into his embrace again. They kissed a bit more beyond the pecking stage. After all, he was still a man, and she a woman. Brad felt like he stepped into a heated tub, where at first it's too scorching, then your body adjusts and you have to add more hot water. Already his arms moved of their own volition, taking the young woman in his arms. For so long he'd denied himself because it wasn't Kate in his embrace. He'd built a shell around himself, shut his heart away, and it was still stubborn in showing itself, like on Groundhog Day, signaling another 6 weeks of a cold hard winter, except in his case, almost 6 decades.
It was becoming harder to resist falling into each other again, which was about to happen at that moment, except suddenly P.J. came out of nowhere, walking up to the graves and couple standing there.
Kate was stark shocked and frozen, not able to move a muscle. Her face drained of color. Brad too was rooted to the spot, all of a sudden feeling a strange sheepish, startled emotion. At first P.J. just stood there staring at the two, who hadn't even let go of each other.
"You've give me so much crap about Allegra, and here you are pretty much overdoing what you think I'm up to. What the hell is going on?" P.J. was partly angry, but felt something else akin to curiosity, because Kate had told him about her crazy time travel theory, and he was convinced that his girlfriend was out of her mind. Now here's some old man, obviously that guy Brad she'd mentioned, standing at the Wood graves hugging and kissing. Ten years ago, this situation would be Greek to P.J., but because of Kate's ways, he wasn't as aghast.
Kate walked up to her boyfriend, facing off with him. "It's a bit different, P.J. I was with Brad back in 1941, for 7 years, as I told you. You weren't around then."
"I think you've lost your marbles, and I don't want any part of this!" He turned to Brad, who was still rendered speechless. The energy between Kate and P.J. was astounding. It caused things to actually stir and almost speed up. That's why Brad was so stationary. He was in awe, and for the very first time felt an old feeling coming back into him.
"Young man, I wish you treated her with more respect, she cares, you know," said the old man, finally finding his raspy voice. "I love her, and always will, no denying that any longer. You've got to accept the fact that I exist and what she says really happened! I'm living proof!"
"Man, I can't get over all this. It's too hard to believe. In fact, I don't know what to believe," said P.J.
"I don't know how or why it happened, but all I can say it that is must of been some phenomena, where the forces of time and relativity, and my own electrical current meshed and I was sent back," said Kate, trying to calm both men. She didn't want Brad to suffer a heart attack, right there in the cemetery beside Donna Wood's grave. How ironic that would be.
"P.J., I don't really know you, but I can say I've seen your picture a few times, have heard what Kate's told me and truly know she loves you, despite all your outbursts and harsh mental abuse. And I know she had every intention of staying with you. I certainly didn't come to this place with the intention of meeting with her. You know she came to see me, and I told her to go on with her life, that I'm at the end of mine."
"Yeah, I know how she is," P.J. agreed, losing some of his aggressive stance now that things were calming, mostly due to Brad's quiet repose and demeanor.
Kate spoke up. "Really P.J., I didn't come thinking Brad would be here. I was going to take his advice too. But there's no stopping me when I get the urge to visit the Woods. It's a part of me here and back then, but I do agree that it is time to move on, so P.J., if you don't mind, I'm going to stay with you, that is, if you'll have me," said Kate. She faced Brad. "And, you, listen up. I'm not going to pretend you never existed because you think your life is over. I refuse to lose our friendship. That was 50 years ago, and frankly, you're just a bit too mature for me now," she said, breaking into a smile, the same one he'd fallen in love with over 50 years ago. He felt an odd fleeting flutter, then a strain of regret, knowing that if they had grown old together, there's was no doubt the star-crossed couple would still be together to this day, just as Virginia Wood and her husband Dick are, at least from what Kate had told him about Donna's favorite cousin.
P.J. took out a cigarette, lit it and puffed on it thoughtfully. He didn't know what to say, and wasn't used to dealing with things like this. Why couldn't he ever have a normal relationship with a normal girl? Even his friendship with Allegra was strange sometimes.
"What gets me is how unreal this all is," said Kate. "Just because I answered a telephone call from Lee, Gloria's husband, all this happened. Sometimes I lay awake at night and can't get over it, and feel as you do Brad, like those times were ages and ages ago. It's like since it happened 50 years ago, my memories of those days became as fragmented as if I was 80 years old, some sort of chemical breakdown that happened inside my head!"
"It's amazing how it makes sense, huh P.J.?" Brad asked the handsome guy.
"Yes, it's amazing and really out there. But I'm starting to believe you guys. I can understand it, really I do," said P.J. "When you were back there, Kate, did you try and look up Irv?"
"It was weird, because every time I tried to contact someone, something always happened to prevent it."
"Did you know that Gloria Wood called your mother?"
"No, you're kidding, Brad." Kate was in shock. "What happened?"
"Well, from what she told me, your mother was shocked to find out that she had a daughter seeing as she'd just recently married. I think it was frightening for your mother."
"Wow, what Gloria must of felt."
"She really was upset," said Brad, immediately thinking back 40 years to when he'd kissed the blond singer. He turned and stared at her grave, the plot not even matching that of her sister's and parent's stones. It was a plain, dull brown and didn't even have a nickname chiseled in, as the others did. Whomever had buried the singer, didn't go all out on a decent stone for some strange reason. And where were her brothers? "You know what," said Brad, suddenly turning bright-eyed. "I always wondered where her brothers are buried? I noticed they've never been here."
"I don't know really," said Kate. "I've asked Virginia and Lee, but they don't know either."
"Lee is a really great guy. Did Kate tell you that we used to hang around there a lot. He's sick though. And I can't stand his Russian companion," said P.J.
"Ever since they had an argument months ago, we haven't felt comfortable going there at all anymore," said Kate.
"What pissed you off about the girl?" Asked Brad.
"She started ordering me around, and got really slap happy.
"That woman had the nerve to hit P.J. square on his butt," said Kate
"And that really made me dislike the bitch!"
"It was the way she did it. I didn't like going over there after that. We felt uneasy and unwelcome. But the onset of that wasn't really Marlena. On Gloria's birthday and what would of been their 33rd wedding anniversary, I brought Lee this little cake and tried to celebrate with him, but the guy seemed withdrawn after that," explained Kate.
"Of course he'd seem that way. They tried to do that to me where I live, thinking it would be down right fun, maybe cheer me up some. Fact is, all it really served was to make me really boiling mad that those folks would want to dredge up the past and think about lost loves and dead souls. When you're old like Lee and I, you don't want to waste too much energy on that. I'm sure he appreciated it and all, but really, Honey...." Brad stopped in mid-sentence, immediately meeting P.J.'s unreadable gaze. For a split second he felt a jealousness arise, but repressed it. "I'm sure you had his best interests in mind, but you went about it totally wrong."
"Don't sweat it, Pops. I think we understand," said P.J., sensing the man's feelings, and moving closer to Kate, his solid territory.
"P.J., what ever she and I had, it's so fleeting now," said Brad, sensing the younger man's establishment of boundaries.
"We just want to maintain a friendship, just like you claim with Allegra! Totally platonic, right?"
"Okay, that's fair enough. Maybe now you'll believe me when I say there's nothing like that between her and I," said P.J. "And don't get sarcastic, Kate."
"I'll have to agree with P.J. on that one, but in your case, I don't think that Allegra woman is totally out for just a quaint, platonic friendship. I know how her type is, and its not me, I can assure you," said Brad.
"I always tell Kate that if Allegra pulls something like trying to get me in bed that I'm out the door!"
"Well, that's comforting," quipped Kate, still not losing her sarcastic tone.
"It's true," defended P.J.
"I'm sure you mean it, young man, but try and see it Kate's way. Allegra is a threat to something, I'm sure."
"I don't see what the deal is with this lady, who is only my friend," vindicated P.J.
"You don't really see what you have here, do you, P.J.?" Asked Brad, sadly shaking his head. "Kate's the best woman a man could have! Why upset her like this? Do you think it's really worth it? Can't you see how sad Les has been about Allegra?"
"Come on, Les, are you really that bad about a simple friendship?" Asked P.J. earnestly.
"I'm very stressed out about her, even though I met the lady," admitted Kate.
"Look, I know what I have, mister, and really, I hope she realizes what she's got in a guy like me too!"
"Oh, come on, P.J., I know what I have, and we've gone over this before. I'm not happy about your friendship with Allegra. Ever since you met her, I noticed how you are constantly telling half truths about the woman, not mentioning her name for days, then not showing up until late evening sometimes, acting very cagey. Frankly, I'm sick of it all, and it's making me ill!"
"Only you can make yourself ill, don't blame me or Allegra," said P.J.
"Now, you two, come on. If P.J. wants to continue with this woman, there's no stopping that. But the repercussions could be devastating to you both. My life is over now, so I can make judgments. I'm sure Allegra is very nice and classy, but did you ever stop to think just how bad it is hurting your girlfriend? I know, because I've known her longer than you, P.J.," said Brad smiling widely again, showing off his chops proudly, as well as the fact that he truly did have three years up on the young P.J.
Kate was proud of Brad, and that he defended her still. She was also disappointed in P.J., except for the fact that the man had shown up here like he did. It was unsettling and almost rude of him. What made him come?
"Kate can do what she wants. If she's that unhappy than she knows where the door is to leave," stated P.J. matter-of-fact.
"Sure, that's all good and great of you to point out, but don't talk like a person who shrugs things off, because inside you hurt like the rest of us."
"And are just as vulnerable," added Kate.
"Well, if you want to go, then go. I wouldn't stop you," said P.J. adamantly.
"Why did you come up here anyhow?" asked Kate.
"I don't know. Woke up, saw you weren't around, and figured you'd be up here, but didn't realize you were with your old boyfriend," said P.J., almost amused by his last comment. "I do care about you too, and I know what I have," he reiterated again.
The three stood there silently, when a sudden breeze rose. It didn't stop there! The breeze all of a sudden contained itself around the Wood/St. John plots. Then the wind turned into a funnel, and engulfed them and the area. It was a cold air funnel and made everybody's ears pop. Nothing else except that area was effected, and the three were totally stunned. The wind got faster and faster until the they had to cover their ears, as the breeze turned sharp. What was going on? This was so strange for them. But it wasn't an evil wind, nor cutting or jagged, but rather had a feminine crassness about it, almost as if the Wood/St. John spirits were intervening.
"What's happening," cried Kate, falling against Brad, as the two tumbled down, entangled limbs and all. Suddenly everything went dark and in slow motion.
Kate saw P.J. run over and try and help she and Brad up, as the cutting wind started dissipating. There was also a strange odor, like musty perfume and hair tonic.
"Do you smell that?" Asked P.J. "My God, what the hell is going on?”"
It was at that moment that TJ faded into nothing and a miracle happened! Kate and Brad were thrust back to the 1940’s. Brad whispered Kate’s name, and she hoped that when she turned around that it was be a young Brad! She first looked around searching with her eyes for P.J., but no sign of the man could be found. There were less plots like the first time Kate went back in time and had met Brad. This time they heard a honk, and both turned toward the car where the St. Johns were impatient to leave! Brad and Kate looked at each other and smiled brightly. They both were young, and they were both back in their timeframe! It was an awesome feeling to be standing together, hands locked, eyes staring intently.
By some Devine intervention, they were given another chance. P.J. wasn’t even born yet, and neither of them cared what he thought, because he could not reach them now even if he called out the whole police force in Los Angeles!
"Oh Brad,” said Kate, shaking with emotion. "Maybe it was the Woods or maybe even God!"
"Or the St. John's," said Brad, a bit rattled from the experience, but somehow needles and pins full of a strange new energy! They were together, and it was like bumping into an old college friend.
"Man, I'm out of this place!" Brad started toward the car.
"Hey, old timer, I need a lift back to Beverly Hills?"
"Do you think ‘what’s his name’ would mind?
“He has a name, you know," said Kate.
"It's okay, that doesn’t matter now, I've heard worse,” joked Brad.
“Sure, I'll take you up on that lift," she said.
They got into the car and drove out of Forest Lawn, both of them still shaken from the ghostly wind experience. It seemed as if it only happened to them, or else other people would be rattled as well, which they weren't. Everyone they could spot in close proximity looked normal and serene as Cliff literally floored the familiar old car hightailing it out of the place, as if scared out.
The ride home was interesting for all of them. It started with Kate reminiscing with Brad about how they met years before. She began a barrage of memory lane days, and even Sara was fascinated with the clarity of it all. Brad too, was intrigued and barely remembered yesterday, that is up until Kate came back into his world after 50 years. Had it really been 50 years? It was hard to fathom as they drove evenly down San Fernando Road.
In the time it took to get over Coldwater, a familiar route to Kate when she had visited Lee every Sunday. But now she gelled nicely with the St. Johns.
Kate sat next to Brad, their arms around each other. "Maybe we can visit Lee sometime, but it's all coming together as to why we might not be able to," said Kate. "It has something to do with our trip back. The time continuum never lets anyone overstep the boundaries of relativity."
"Like something has to fall out to happen in the past, right?" Asked Brad.
"Yes, something like that."
"That sounds like pretty wild talk," piped up Cliff.
"If I hadn't of been there, I wouldn't have believed it,” said Kate cryptically.
“What happened?" Asked Sara.
Brad answered, "It sounds crazy and outrageous, but it's true, true, blue, I assure you I’m plain in love with Kate like time stopped ticking. I feel like an old man," said Brad really feeling some new hardihood since they landed back in the 1940’s.
They drove into Beverly Hills, passing 9328 Beverly Crest Drive, Kate's first abode in California back in 1983.
"Gloria used to live at 9328 Olympic Blvd. in 1943, isn't that interesting?" Kate said.
"Yes, very," said Brad.
"Can't argue with you there, Kate," added Brad, as he lit up a cigarette. "But this sure is bizarre!"
“What on Earth are you two talking about back there?” Asked Sara.
"And I hate to be the one to tell you this, Kate, but I think what happened to us back there was a message from our Dearly Departed. They gently coaxed us away. I don't think you should continue going back there, at least not for a bit," whispered Brad so his grandparents couldn’t hear. Then he spoke up saying, “We’re just kidding around with each other!”
"Okay, I'll go with that. I felt you guys were," said Cliff relieved.
Brad whispered almost seductively, "Yes, and frankly, I was scared out of my wits. You shouldn't be playing around with that stuff, really!"
Kate played along and whispered back, "You're right, but I feel so close to them, and don't want to let go," said Kate, who actually liked going up there, but after today would curtail it somewhat. The time had come. "I'm convinced in what you're both saying," agreed Kate.
Finally, after awhile, they pulled up to the Elm Drive house. Of course Brad wanted to kiss Kate square on the lips, but he was reluctant because of his grandparent’s presence. It had been over 50 years since he’d seen them. Cliff sensed it and nodded that it was okay and both he and Sara left the car and entered the house.
"I will never lose touch with you again!" Brad reached over and kissed Kate on the cheek gingerly at first, then hugged her closely and finally they started kissing more in unison, not awkwardly when they thought that time was cruel and nonchalant. His whole life was over then, and what had they achieved? At last he could be with his true love and was even in a book she was writing about the experience, a science fiction novel, which 50 years ago would have shocked him, but now only served to amuse the man, especially now that he’s had a second chance, and Kate wasn’t going to be whisked away from him again.. Life was an amazing thing and he planned on staying with her indefinitely not keeping to his first vow when she'd visited him at the retirement home just a few days before. The guy had a few good years left then, but now could enjoy her all over again and he would.
Brad waved once at Sara and Cliff looking through the window.
Kate flashed back to when she had to readjust to being back in 1997. Her job location, on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Vine, in Donna's old doctor's building, beside the old Howard Hughes Broadway building, actually brought her right back to the past, but not like really being in the past like she was again with Brad.
Metro Rail construction began, and they closed off the streets to begin the tasks of digging huge tunnels for the subways to travel on, that Kate began to feel an eerie presence. By that time, she didn't dismiss it as another coincidence. There was also the fact that the small adjoining building to Donna's doctor's building was her pharmacy, Skepner's Sick Supplies, in 1947, now shuttered, closed and locked up tight, not even allowing a glimpse inside. Then one day out of the blue, some Subway workers were using it momentarily as a pipe cutting room, even letting Kate roam inside the old fashioned closed drugstore. It definitely had not been used in many, many years, and had even been a bank at one time, but now only a shell of when Kate visited this place over 50 years ago frantically waiting for Donna's medicine! It was so intense standing in that dank, darkened hull, the ground littered with pipe fillings and scraps. The two Mexican's laughed at Kate walking around as if she was familiar with the now deteriorating place. Why did it seem that the lady had been here, even before it was a bank.
Tears formed in Kate's eyes at the sharp memories filtering through her brain. She was dressed to the nine's the day her and Brad had raced over here to get the medicine. It was so sad, but life went on.
Soon she left, thanking the two men. As she walked across the street and bumped into one of her co-workers, Kate turned and pointed to the building, that was mysteriously closed up again, as if it was a muse. It was hard to believe that once the building was thriving, but now all that lingered was a specter. It was so melancholy and at the same time reflective.
The very next day, as Kate exited the #180 bus on Hollywood Blvd., one of the Mexican's from inside Donna's pharmacy came up and handed her a woman's hair pin with mother of pearl ensconced in the grooves. It looked as if it was an antique, and was tarnished.
"I found this after you left yesterday," said the stout man, wearing work clothes and the standard orange vest and Metro Rail hard hat. "Miguel and I decided that if you were back in the 1940's, this would of been yours. Especially the way you walked around that place, as if you were there. I am very astute about such things and could tell you were special then and now!" The man said strangely, especially the 'then and now' part, which blew Kate away.
"Thanks so much," said Kate, staring at the barrette in awe. It even looked like it might of belonged to Donna, and they found it where the Wood once went!
"Do you think it's old?"
"I'm sure it is, but definitely from the late 1940's."
"Ahh, what do I know?" Replied the man. "We just got such a kick out of you yesterday, sort of a break from the normal stuff. And we got to thinking about what you told us about that lady Donna Wood."
"Yes. I think you really got something there. Keep writing, 'cause you got some great ideas. Maybe you could put this part in the story too," he suggested.
"Oh, I plan to," said Kate, holding the barrette up, then adding it to her own scalp.
"Well, I gotta' get to work here. See ya' around. If I find anything else I'll make sure to find you, okay?"
As Kate walked to her job on Vine, passing huge groups of construction crews changing shifts, she understood how time and essence sometimes worked hand and hand, and considered herself lucky that she'd experienced everything, retaining enough to etch out a story. There was definitely something there, that's for sure. She'd gotten that from many different perspectives and opinions. Even now she can't think of how to end this novel. Each new experience in her real life kept weaving its way into the novel. Maybe it's never-ending, she thought while crossing the street back to her job, occasionally touching the gift. The woman wouldn't be surprised if she actually knew the person who the piece belonged to. Ever since her adventure began with a phone call from an old man inquiring about his wife's family's mementos, nothing could be dismissed as normal again.
She tried to work out her relationship with P.J., but still saw Brad St. John in her true mind’s eye.
Life was kind these days, and Kate always thanks God for her interesting sidetrack in her lifetime. Who knew how many other family's like the Woods existed out there, ripe for the taking of a fortunate soul who is blessed with a new old soul. It was really a once in a lifetime event and being in the 1940’s was an event in itself. Kate realized that she was in the right place at the right time, even if the girl did come back in time, and chose living in the past. In a cruel way she was no better than P.J. in some ways in that she had been insensitive to her old boyfriend. But unlike P.J., Kate was deeply troubled by what she did. She would always remember this saga for the rest of her life, thinking how short and fleeting things were. "Our freewill and God's destiny pointers led the way for me," and hopefully she'd eventually be none the wiser for it all.
Already, as the months passed, Kate was moving forward because of her trip backwards again. She felt graced and special, and could meet any challenge squarely. And although P.J.’s ghost was now haunting her in some small ways, Kate felt more mature and able to accept it, let it go and move onward.
She knew as time passed, that those feelings would fizzle. Maybe even one day she wouldn’t even remember P.J.’s handsome face. And it did, but not until November of 1950, when Brad came home and asked if they could Kate had been thinking of her past, brushed it off when Brad presented her with a diamond ring. Her last words before they came together in a fiery, passion soaked kiss were, “I’ve truly found out where the Woods were, and I’m so glad you are here too!”
* * *