It had not been an easy war. Then again, what war is ever easy? Albert Neely never lost his bravery, though, or his sense of purpose.
“This will help rid the world of evil,” he said after every difficult battle. “Plus I know that I have my beautiful Beatrice waiting for me back home. That’s enough to keep me going.”
Ah yes, the beautiful Beatrice. Albert and Beatrice had been sweethearts all throughout high school. Their respective parents had joked about the two of them one day getting married, but the love birds refused to entertain the thought themselves until Albert finished college. However, World War II broke out before Albert even stepped foot onto a campus.
“Marry me,” he said to Beatrice the night before he was due to ship out. “Knowing I have you waiting for me back home will give me something to live for.”
Beatrice said yes, and then tearfully said goodbye to her betrothed. Would Albert come back alive? When would she see him next? How would he fare? His letters home were the only insight into his world.
“I think of you every single day,” he wrote in a letter dated June 7, 1943. “I miss your beauty, your sweetness, your laughter, and our talks. I am doing well otherwise. It’s lonely over here and it’s about to get even lonelier. Do you remember Tony Marino from high school? He’s in my unit, but not for much longer. He injured his foot the other day, nothing life threatening thank God, but serious enough to earn him a medical discharge. He should be home by the time this letter arrives and I’ve asked him to check in on you to make sure that you’re okay. With any luck, this war will be over soon and I’ll be able to see for myself. All my love, Albert.”
The war eventually ended and Albert returned home. After a tender reunion with his own family, Albert headed out the following day to Beatrice’s family home.
“Beatrice!” he shouted as he walked into his future in-laws’ home. “It’s me, Albert! I made it back alive! Are you home?”
Someone was home alright, the sound of footsteps told him that. It was a pair of footsteps actually. Footsteps belonging to Beatrice…and Tony.
“Beatrice, my love! I’ve waited so long for this moment!” he said as he picked her up off the floor and twirled her around in his arms. “And I see that Tony’s doing his job, making sure you’re okay. Come here and shake my hand, friend!”
Only instead of reaching out to shake his friend’s hand, Tony raised his hand and ran it through his hair, letting out a big sigh in the process. The kind of sigh that said, “Well this is awkward.” It was when he lowered his hand that Albert saw something he wasn’t expecting to see…a ring on Tony’s wedding finger.
“Tony, are you married?! Well isn’t that something! Beatrice, isn’t that something?” he asked of his love. It was at that moment Albert caught sight of something else….a ring on Beatrice’s wedding finger.
“Albert, we need to talk,” Beatrice said. “Come with me into the kitchen. Tony, you go upstairs to our room and see if the baby needs anything.”
“What’s going on Bea?” Albert asked.
Beatrice and Tony were married, that’s what was going on. Tony had honoured his friend’s request and checked up on Beatrice upon his return. He enjoyed the visit so much, he returned again and again for more visits. Soon they had not only fallen in love, they were in the family way and married immediately.
“I don’t understand,” an obviously upset Albert said. “How could you? And with my best friend?”
“Neither one of us meant for this to happen, it just did,” Beatrice offered as an explanation.
“Surely you had to have known I’d be home one day.”
“About that. I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t make it back,” she said.
“What?! You wanted me to be killed? Why would you want such a thing?”
“Not having to tell you I married your best friend would have made things so much easier for me.”
“Well excuse me for living!” Albert angrily said.
“Now Albert, don’t be like that. Tony never gets angry like that.”
“Tony’s good at getting gout, though. Did he tell you that’s why he got sent home?”
“I think you should leave Albert,” Beatrice said.
Albert left, wondering how he could have been so foolish. Wondering if all women were like Beatrice.