Title The Girl from the USO
Author Barbara Rebbeck
Genre Suspense/Historical Fiction/Romance
Publisher The Wild Rose Press
When USO volunteer and nursing student Millie Beaubien meets WWII Royal Air Force pilot Edward Owen in Detroit, she’s convinced she’s found her very own larger than life hero. Intoxicated by their whirlwind courtship and her growing obsession with him, she ignores all warning signs that he is not what he appears to be. Comparing her beloved yet mercurial Edward to the heroes in her favorite books and films of the day, Millie looks forward to being mistress of Sand Castles Hall, a great Cornwall estate akin to the fictional Manderley in Rebecca. But when she arrives in England, Millie must sort fact from fiction and abandon all delusions, hers and her blue-eyed pilot’s. Will she be able to save herself from being destroyed by what she thought was love?
Monday evening I sat across from Gary in the restaurant at Hudson’s. I had finished the blue scarf on duty today, tying up the ends. A light February snow fell outside the department store as window dressers changed the mannequins from winter wools to spring dresses, the hems up this year to save cloth as a wartime measure. The Motion Picture Awards were on the radio tonight. Edward’s purloined proposal seemed to me an omen that Rebecca would capture the statue for best Picture.
“How’s Edward?” Gary asked, slicing into his pot pie. “Word is the squadron is pulling out soon. Destination unknown.”
“Destination known to me,” I repeated, savoring the rich chicken gravy.
“What do you mean?” Gary looked alarmed as though he expected bad news, his dark eyes searching mine.
“Our destinations are one and the same,” I said, putting down my fork, ready to tell the truth. The restaurant buzzed with ladies in their hats, some with children, well-behaved in order to earn their ice cream clown desserts, another specialty of the house. “I’m going with Edward to Florida, Pensacola, to be exact.
“You can’t. This will kill Mom and Dad.” He put down his fork, too, his pie half-eaten, the gravy congealing on the Limoges china. He was ready for battle.
“You can’t change my mind,” I said, prepared to stand my ground.
He looked at me, tearing up. “Please, Mumu, don’t throw it all away.”
“I’m not throwing anything away. I’m just taking a new path.” My voice had a certain desperation to it. I so needed Gary to understand and accept this decision.
“You’ve known this mad for one month. Four weeks. Thirty days.” He had begun his objections. I did not correct the thirty days to twenty-eight. That would not serve my cause. Why was everyone insistent on giving me a math lesson on months of the year?
“My mind is made up. Edward is flying with his squadron. He has bought me a ticket for the train to Pensacola from Detroit.” I countered with my best argument.
“He thinks of everything, doesn’t he? And what about marriage? I bet he hasn’t thought about that.” He was angry and protective now.
“Please, lower your voice,” I urged. “You’re wrong. He has proposed.”
“What, no ring?” Gary asked, reaching for my left hand across the table. “I thought he’d go for the thirty-five-cent ring that matches that cheap brooch. The Lux Flake special.”
“How can you be so cruel?” I said, tears beginning to slide down my cheeks. “I thought you liked him.”
Chastened, he pulled his hand back from mine, reached into his jacket pocket, and took a handkerchief, and slowly stroked the tears away from my face.
“Don’t cry, Mumu. Don’t cry,” he soothed me, his voice in a rhythmic lullaby. “How can I help? What can I do? Besides punch Edward in the face?”
“He hasn’t had time to buy me a ring. Instead he’s given me this,” I said, reaching into my pocketbook. I opened a small satiny pouch and dumped a compact out onto the table between us.
Gary picked it up and said, “Not just any compact.”
No. it wasn’t. It was an RAF silver compact with its wings and logo on it. Per ardua ad astra. “Through adversity to the stars,” I translated for Gary. “Edward and I will get there, but not without struggle.”
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Barbara Rebbeck holds degrees in French and English and teaching Gifted and Talented children. She taught writing for many years to both kids and adults. She was Director of the Oakland Writing Project and also President of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE). She began seriously writing when she retired, freeing up all those hours spent reading and conferencing student work. In 2015 she published her YA novel, NOLA Gals. She has worked in schools with it and the novel has been added to the curriculum in several schools. She was writer-in-residence for Beverly Hills Academy Middle School in Michigan for five years. In December 2020, she published her adult suspense novel, The Girl from the USO with The Wild Rose Press. Barb grew up in Michigan hearing stories of her British dad and American mom’s whirlwind courtship and marriage during WWII. She used their meeting as the basis for her novel although the two relationships follow very different paths. The novel has been chosen as a selection for the Midwest USO book clubs in several states. Barb is currently Program Chair for the Detroit Working Writers (DWW). She is also a member of Michigan Sisters in Crime and their national group, Sisters in Crime. Barb lives in Royal Oak, Michigan with her patient cat, Gracie. She is working on a sequel to The Girl from the USO.
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