They were married during the war, in Santa Barbara, after Mass one morning in the old Mission church. Teddy was solemn; he took the Mass very seriously. Yvette, in a veiled hat and an ivory dress that wasn't a gown, was distracted by the idea that she was in California, without her father there to give her away, and she was about to change her life and her name. "I, Yvette Grenier, take you, Theodore Santerre..." It all sounded formal and strange, as if someone else were saying the words, until she realized with surprise that it was her.
It was a quick wedding so Teddy could ship out, but they went two days later to a dance at the beach club, where she met Teddy's commanding officer at the bar.
"You can't leave this girl so soon," the officer said, looking at Yvette. She was wearing the ivory dress she was married in, because it had taken a long time to make it, and she wasn't going to wear it just once. It suited her, she knewit set off her slimness and the way her dark hair curled under at her shouldersand she blushed at how the officer looked at her.
Teddy said, "Sir?"
The officer laughed, and shook Teddy's hand again, and said congratulations on the wedding, and then Teddy was able to smile.
They both thought the CO was only joking, but he wasn't. He assigned Teddy to a squadron training at home, so he could stay a few months with Yvette. The Marine Corps put the new couple up at the Biltmore with the rest of the officersthe guests had all fled inland, afraid of bombingand they went to cocktails and tea dances, and were together every night. By the time Teddy left to fight the Japanese, Yvette was pregnant with Margot.
She didn't tell her family about the baby right away. They were back in Canada, too expensive to call, and she didn't want to hear what they would say. Her father and brothers had said she was crazy to marry that flyboyhe was an American, even if he had a Canadian name, and he didn't speak French. They would be poor as sin on his military pay, and then Teddy would just get himself killed and leave her stranded in California with nothingor worse, with a baby. Yvette thought they were being unfair. She couldn't please her father unless she stayed at home forever, and she couldn't do that.
With Teddy out in the Pacific, fighting in the war, she tried to read Hitler's hateful little book, to make sense of it. But the book made her angry, and she didn't see how the Japanese fit in, so she put it away. She was happiest when Teddy came home on leave, and they could go dancing and then stay up all night, in bed in the little rented apartment she'd moved to from the Biltmore. Teddy joked that sex made her talkative, instead of sleepy like normal people, but he would listen anyway, watching her and smiling in the dark. Sometimes he would kiss her in midsentence, as she told him everything she'd stored up while he was away.
And then the war was finally over, and Teddy was home for good. Little Margot was two, and the new baby, Clarissa, was almost one. Teddy took a job selling airplane parts for North American, and built a house in Hermosa Beach with a veteran's loan. When he couldn't stand the baby's crying, he pushed the bassinet out to the service porch and steered Yvette back to bed.
With a place of their own, they could invite people to it, and Yvette learned to cook for a houseful: John Wayne eggs and Bloody Marys for brunch. She made herself new dresses, and they had dancing right in the house. Cocktails started at five and the dancing went on till two or three in the morning, when Yvette would find herself singing "Those Wedding Bells Are Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine."
Teddy didn't like to let her out of his sight, at the parties, but that was just because they'd spent so much time apart. Yvette was happy. Teddy stayed in the Reserves so he could fly once a month, and he loved those weekends in the planes. And the extra money was useful, with the girls growing out of their clothes as fast as Yvette could sew them.
From Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy. Copyright Maile Meloy 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher, Scribner.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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