Kay gets a letter from Billy

March 30, 1967

Kay sat slumped on the floor leaning against her bed, clutching the letter Billy wrote the night before he went to boot camp. She missed him so much. He’d left eleven days ago. Eleven awful days.

She’d been on restriction ever since the day she skipped out on her chores. Her parents had banged on her door and screamed some threats through it before they left her alone. She’d been praying they wouldn’t undo the lock and come in to whip her. Wasn’t she getting a bit big to be whipped? They still hit Junior, but now he hit back.

Yeah, what did it matter if she was on restriction? Junior hadn’t been back to the house since the night he punched his dad back. Billy was at boot camp. There wasn’t anything to do, anyway.

Kay went over to her window, opened it and shoved the screen out of the way. She went back to the dresser between the double beds in her room and went way back, under the contents was a half empty pack of Salems and an ashtray. She pulled them out. While she was at it, she put her letter from Billy into the drawer.

Outside her window in the big azalea bushes, she took a deep drag on her cigarette and let her head fall back on the brick wall. Billy said he wanted to marry her. That they would have lots of little little Billy’s and Kay’s. That she would be a good mama She sighed, thinking of Marcus when he had been a baby. Uggh. Good thing Junior had been around because her mom had gone back to sewing at the mill after Marcus was a year old and they had been in charge of him. He’d been more than a handful. Not sure she wanted to think about babies yet.

Billy said he’d cried like a baby after her dad had slammed the door in his face. She hated her parents. Why did they have to be so rude? He was worried she would think he was stupid, but she didn’t. She’d cried too.

Kay’s heart felt broken as she kept remembering the night Billy left. She had cried herself to sleep. She remembered Billy coming to the house to say goodbye right after Junior left. It was a wonder they hadn’t run into each other. Kay heard her dad slam the door in Billy’s face. Her mother screeching, “If you act like a man, you could come over — if you’d call first.”

Kay thought of a few days before Billy left her when he’d said he would love her no matter what the Marines did to him. She promised she would love him too, no matter what happened to him in the Marines or Vietnam. He swore nobody was going to make him stop thinking about her. She couldn’t stop thinking about him.

Taking a final drag off her cigarette, she stubbed it out in her ashtray. She decided to just leave it outside. She’d be back out later. She climbed back in the room, straightened up a bit in the mirror and went out to help her mom with supper.

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