They met on a train right after the second world war. Martha knew in a moment Raymond was the man for her, and believed he felt the same. “Want to see a picture of the girl I plan to marry?” When Raymond asked her that question, her heart stopped beating and she wanted to bolt from the train. But the sketch he withdrew from his pocket looked so much like her that she believed it was, and forgave him its minor inaccuracies. But when Raymond disappeared shortly afterward, leaving behind a photo exactly like the woman in his drawing, Martha realized her mistake. He didn’t feel the same as she did. Her mother had always warned her against trusting romance and the pitter-pattering of the heart, and it was David her mother brought to Martha’s life – a sensible man, a no-nonsense man, one who would never stir romance while providing for a wife and his family. Martha shoved her heartache aside, agreed to marry David, hoping her mother was right. Until twenty one days before the wedding. Raymond left something for her, something that made her wonder if he was back, unmarried, and her heart still his.
“Want to see a picture of the girl I plan to marry?” Raymond’s face appeared, forced its way into my mind—the way he’d looked when I first met him, and the way he looked again when he asked me that question, both of us riding the train into Kansas City for our respective jobs. “Just got back from doing my part for the war,” he said in our very first conversation, and he meant the big war, the Second World War. “I build bridges. Right now I’m working on the Madison Bridge, not far from downtown. I’m building bridges for the city and building a whole new life for myself at the same time.” And then he smiled, looked at me in a way that told me there was so much more to what he’d said than just that he worked and built.
We were the same inside, and I knew it that very moment. Hearing his voice and seeing his expression ignited tiny flames inside me. Flames that had flickered quietly far too long, done little more than lick the surface of my imagination. Until that day. Each time he spoke after that, something in me flared to life and heated me up from within, bringing what Mama called an unladylike glimmer to my eye. A glimmer that was identical to the one I saw in his eyes, but she never knew that. I never talked about Raymond to her. I didn’t dare.
“I love words,” I said back to him that first time we spoke. “I have a secretary job, and sometimes I take dictation. Mr. Arnold, my boss, says I’m good at it.” I didn’t tell him Mama said it wasn’t proper for me to write my own words and stories, and that’s why I just copied everyone else’s. Copied everyone else’s until I met him. After that, my own story erupted in full force. I couldn’t stop it. That’s when it finally began to grow.