Every Time (an entry from Ralph's journal)
by Laura Mason

Each night, when we walk back to the hospital, there's such pain in saying goodbye to him.

Sometimes I think it was cruel that we began as we cannot continue. That night, safe in Laurie's house, it was so incredible to fall asleep with him in my arms, and wake to feel him touching me. To see him looking at me, so solemn and changed -- yet the same Laurie, in all the best ways, too.

I'm rambling.

When I try to write about him, about what this chance means to me, I'm like an undisciplined boy. Perhaps I'm wrong to even try to capture all I'm thinking and feeling. Shouldn't I just enjoy it all, while it lasts? It can't go on forever, I know that. This kind of happiness... Well, it's not likely to stay. We aren't meant to be so joyful.

He'll realize, sooner or later... Laurie can have anyone and anything he wants. He doesn't see that yet, he doesn't recognize his power. But some day he'll come into his own, and I'm not conceited enough to believe I'll be all his heart desires when the day comes that he knows his own mind. One day his c.o. will wake up and claim what's already his. Or Laurie's eyes will be opened and he'll really see me -- not the 19-year-old boy he idolized for some reason. No, he'll see me as I am now, damaged goods in so many ways, and he'll know he can do better.

He's already seen hints of it; I've seen his disappointment in me when I make careless, catty remarks. Oh, that hurt look -- it makes me try harder, try to be what he believes me to be, though I never was that combination of book-hero and omniscient leader he dreamed up. Yet, for him, I wish I were all those things, and more.

But I was writing about our nights, and the way it feels to let him go off to that horrid ward, to sleep alone. To think about his Andrew? Perhaps. Is that sinking in my heart only base jealousy? No, it's not that. Not only that.

I see nothing and no one but Laurie when we're together; he's all I want to see. But when he's gone, I realize there are other people on the street, soldiers and sailors out with their girls, or the convalescents with their families. I watch them, openly embracing in doorways, holding hands as they walk. And there's the real jealousy, the pain that eats at my soul.

We can't kiss each other good night, not there in public. We merely make promises for the morrow with our eyes, while our lips move with those hearty, meaningless yet oh-so-manly expressions.

I've never been bothered by the necessities of life before. Things are as they are, and I've always just accepted them. But Laurie makes me wish for more --

Oh, he makes me long for so much. A world where what we are doesn't matter, but simpler things, too. More time together, for instance, instead of the constant pull of duty. And more ways to show what I feel, too. I'd need the rest of my life and the words of a poet -- a dozen poets. And the privacy to show him everything he's given me, for the words alone wouldn't be enough. But surely there should be words, better words than those I find here. Words Laurie deserves to hear.

Or perhaps that's a selfish thought, and my words and feelings would only burden him. It's probably better that I keep this record, this rambling and embarrassingly open journal, to pour out my feelings.

I shouldn't add to Laurie's worries -- he doesn't need more guilt. When the day I'm dreading comes, and he sees his way clear to his boy or someone else even more worthy of him, Laurie will still hesitate, out of concern for me. It's part of his goodness, what makes him so special -- how he feels for everyone. Even those who've let him down.

God, no one else would have been so accommodating for that mother of his, would they? He walked her down the aisle to that bloody old bore -- and she didn't even realize what she was doing to him. Well, I suppose I can at least give him that much, acknowledge when I'm letting him down and accept the responsibility for my many faults. He deserves ... Laurie deserves everything good in life, really. More than any man is guaranteed in our war-torn world.

I've got to stop this maundering and head to the hospital. He'll be ready soon, waiting for me. I don't want to lose a moment of the time we can have together now. It's too precious to waste on tomorrow and what-ifs. I love the way his face lights up when he spots me in the crowd -- that shy smile, so devastatingly beautiful. He doesn't seem to have a clue about his own power, usually, but sometimes when we're alone here and he's feeling playful, he wields that smile like a crusader with his sword, leaving devastation behind.

He's already changing, growing into himself, isn't he? And I'm so lucky to be witnessing it. Lucky to be the one he confides in about those confusing days after I was gone, while he was feeling his way to manhood. His trust makes me proud, when so much I've done shames me.

I don't know what to do with this happiness, except resolve to do better and pour my love onto him. But he's still uncomfortable, still sure that the "right" thing would be some noble, self-sacrificing abstinence. So I babble here and not to him, letting our bodies speak instead during our nights together in this awful room, behind the blackout curtains. Is it possible to love him without burdening him? I'm not sure, but I can't stop loving him. Knowing what to do with my feelings, what is best for him -- that's the difficult part.

 

Feedback?

Return to the Mary Renault fiction page