|Rally of a Purple Heart|
by Brittany Batong
The road west would lead them to each other… Hilde Graham is an independent-spirited waitress living in the heart of early 1940s America. She is sure that she has found true love with a married man, defying convention to be with him. But WWII and a subsequent turbulent marriage challenge her ideals of love, and she is left alone to raise a small son. Determined to find a future free of past mistakes, she travels west on Route 66 to start a new life in postwar California as a single mother.
Patrick West has known only defeat through the horrors of war, time in a German P.O.W. camp, and a failed union. His lonely life is revived when he meets Hilde. Each is uniquely capable of understanding the others’ heart as they fight for a second chance at love—but can they build the trust they need to mend their wounded hearts and find lasting happiness?
He sits on the steps to the County Courthouse, a pink rubber ball in his hand. His chubby, four-year-old hands can make the ball bounce on the step below—that is not the problem. But to catch the ball before it bounces irretrievably down the steps—now that is another issue. He tried once and it rolled down onto the street, and Mr. Spence of the hardware supply store gave him a sound yelling after nearly running over the ball. Huey saw the tires of the truck barely miss the ball, 'cause he was right there in front of it when it almost happened. Then Mr. Howe didn't even say he was sorry for almost running over the ball. Grown-ups sure are funny sometimes.
Now he is unsure whether he should try again. Daddy always says you can't learn anything new unless you practice...but Mommy said to behave while she and Daddy are away; and he doesn't want anyone else to yell at him.
These things always have a way of getting back to Mommy. Anyway, he wasn't supposed to leave Gramma's house at all. But he likes to explore, and figures as long as he doesn't do anything too bad, he'll be able to get back before anyone knows.
He decides to keep the ball safely clutched in his hand while he instead tries to jump from step to step on just one foot. He's seen some of the older girls in town do it before, and he's pretty sure that even though he's younger he can do anything a stupid girl can do. With one hand holding the ball and the other holding his left leg behind him, he starts to give it a try. He makes it down the first eight steps successfully (counting all the way, 'cause Mommy taught him to count to ten already). But then he loses grip of his ball, and it throws him off balance as he tumbles to the bottom of the steps, right in front of Mrs. Muller and Mrs. Simpson.
Mrs. Muller stumbles. “Hugo Brewer, you naughty little boy! You've nearly tripped me.”
Mrs. Simpson is crouching down to help Huey. “Now, Clarissa, you're fine. We need to see if little Huey is okay...Why, Huey, you've scraped your chin!”
Feeling jarred but not wanting to show that to crummy old Mrs. Muller, Huey holds in the tears that are starting to form and stands as tall as his 3-foot figure will allow, chin jutting forward and blond hair shining in the afternoon sun. “It's all right, Miss Simpson. I'm awful sorry about trippin'.”
“Where on earth is your mother?” Mrs. Muller shakes her head. Huey scowls at his interrogator with icy blue eyes. “Gramma said they're here.”
“Well, as if it wasn't bad enough that she's flouting at God's will, she leaves her young son outside to wreak havoc on the town!”
Mrs. Simpson pulls at Mrs. Muller. “Clarissa, don't make a bad situation worse. I'm sure she had little choice, given her people are all the way in De Soto. It probably didn't seem right to have Mrs. Brewer look after him, given the occasion.”
“What's a 'casion?” asks Huey inquisitively of Mrs. Simpson.
Ignoring his question, Mrs. Muller pulls away Mrs. Simpson. “Come now, Nancy. We don't want to be mixed up in any of this business.” With an apologetic look, Mrs. Simpson follows her less sympathetic friend.
Huey watches them go, until he realizes that now his ball is gone completely. Aw, nuts. It must have rolled down into the sewer from the gutter. Darn that old Mrs. Muller and her fussin'. No way Daddy's gonna get him a new one now. He tromps up the stairs and sinks once again onto the top step. There's gotta be some way to get into the sewer. He looks hopefully over at the manhole cover, and then over to the courthouse. Doggone it. Mommy is just now coming out of the courthouse. Huey frowns to himself—he has to get back to Gramma’s before Mommy finds him gone. It’s now or never. He makes a purposeful stride towards the manhole.
He does not know that a pink ball is the second thing he will lose today. He does not know that, inside, his parents are finalizing the papers that will change his life forever. As he looks over at a nearby tree, devising a way to break off one of the branches in order that he may use it as a lever, he does not know that in two week’s time he will never again sit on these steps, never again get yelled at by Mr. Spence, never again have heads shaken at him in this small county seat. And he does not know that this is the last day he will ever spend with his father.