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My Living Doll
I remember the first night I saw her. It was Saturday night and my friends and I were having good time at Boogie’s Jazz Lounge. I was dancing with a neighborhood girl I thought I was in love with and planned to go steady with. We were the center of attention as we performed flips, and splits as a crowd watched. I picked her up for a Charleston flip when I saw it - the navy blue dress. For a moment, I lost my concentration along with my grip. The girl screamed as she fell towards the ground. I tried to grab her, but only managed to catch her left leg and watched as she fell face first against the floor. The whole crowd gasped as they all rushed over towards her. She covered her mouth as blood leaked through her fingers and dripped to the floor. I tried to help her but she pushed me away. She rushed past me as her sisters ushered her off the floor, shaking their heads at me. Others gave me disapproving looks as I sulked towards the bar, watching her leave. Things weren’t looking too bright.
“Is that girl alright?” asked a soft voice. I looked over and my eyes fell on the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen in my life wearing a short navy blue dress that stopped just below the knees. Her short, wavy hair laid a perfect frame to her face. Her painted red lips smiled at me and I smiled back.
“I don’t think it was all that bad.” I said.
“I heard she broke her nose.” She said. “Is that her?” I turned to where she was pointing and sure enough there she was leaving the club with another man. I guess going steady was out of the question now.
“Was she your girl?” she asked me. I shook my head.
“She was just a neighbor who wanted to dance is all.” I answered. We both fell silent as the last song died down. The band took a break and then came roaring back with my favorite Count Basie song. I looked over to her and smiled.
“You wanna dance?” I asked her. Her face scrunched into a disapproving look.
“Will I end up like the last girl?” She asked.
“Believe me, I won’t be able to keep my hands off of you.” I took her hand in mine, guided her onto the dance floor, and lead her into a step. She turned out to be a great dancer and was able to keep up with me. We twisted and turned all night long until we were the last ones on the floor. The band finally stopped playing, but I could tell she didn’t want the night to end.
“You never told me told me your name.” I said as I ushered her towards the door. My friends were at the door threatening to go without me, but I couldn’t let her leave without knowing her name. Her red lips spread into a grin and she said “Mildred. Mildred Taylor.”
A month passed before I saw her again. She had come to my church one Sunday and I was sure to greet her after service. Her cousin told me where she went to school and I took it upon myself to make sure she never walked alone. We began to go out more often and decided to go steady. Most our dates were spent dancing the night away at Boogie’s. Mildred was constantly on my mind and everything around me reminded me of her. She had something I couldn’t find with other girls. I finally figured out what it was one day as we sat outside.
“You remind me of a doll.” I told her. She gave me a curious look and I explained, “Nothing can be as beautiful as you and be real.” I called her Doll from then on.
Mildred and I we were married less than a year later. I got a job at the post office before our first son John was born. Our daughter Helen came a few months before I was drafted to the Navy during World War II. I wrote Mildred everyday, telling her I was still alive and to send love to our children. There were times that I thought I’d never be able to see my family again as I took cover as the enemy’s fire came against us. I cherished every letter I got from her because I never knew if it’d be my last.
Once I was back, I resumed my work as a postman. The Civil Rights movement came along giving Mildred knew found fear. I was charged to work in the tough white neighborhoods and she wanted me to quit my job. She was scared someone would release their hate on me and I’d end up hanging from a tree somewhere, leaving her and the kids alone. I refused to quit, but she understood.
The following years went by more smoothly. I continued working with the post office, and Mildred stayed home with the kids.
As the kids moved out, I was able to retire from my job and travel with my wife. We traveled to most of the states and spent our anniversary in Paris. Though time had taken away our dancing legs we enjoyed our lives together. Life was carefree and easy, but things would soon change for us.
Mildred became sick before my 80th birthday. We’d been battling this fight for a long time, but it seemed as if it were now getting the best of her. She spent a month in the hospital, but I never left her side. I fed and clothed her everyday and hired a nurse to help out when I couldn’t do it alone. But time was quickly running out for her.
I held her hand in mine as I sat beside her bed. She turned towards me and smiled, lining her face with more wrinkles as her almond eyes stared back at me.
“John, do you remember the first time we met?” Her soft voice was now heavy and tired.
I smiled, of course I remembered.
“To think, if you hadn’t broken that girl’s nose we probably would have never met.”
“Of course we would have. There was no way I could have ignored you that night.” She gave me a confused look. “How could I not notice a living doll? You were too beautiful to be real, and you still are.” I said as I kissed her for the last time.