It wasn’t a bad life. She kept reminding herself of that whenever she’d get down, wondering if she’d spend her whole life alone. “Mary, have you ever been in love?”
“Good Lord, child, what woman hasn’t? Probably fell in love half dozen times before I turned twenty-one.” The woman grabbed two more bowls and stooped to place them in the kennels.
Melody continued to fill the bowls, trying to recall if she ever been in love. There were a few boys she’d liked in high school, but they’d never even noticed her. She went out with Kevin about a dozen times, but wasn’t too heartbroken when he dumped her for someone else. At the time, she wondered why she wasn’t more upset. Probably already knew they just didn’t click.
“Did any of the men really mean anything to you?” She realized she was prying, but she had so little to base her knowledge of love on. Only movies, songs and books, which she knew were all fiction, painting life as people would like it to be. The families she stayed with seldom modeled loving behavior, usually just the opposite.
The Collins kept her the longest. She’d never saw an affectionate gesture between the two of them. With that kind of modeling, she’d figured she’d be better off with a dog than a man.
Using the kennel bars to pull herself up, Mary rested against one of the larger kennels while a large dog with some obvious traces of Great Dane licked her hand. Her brow knitted as her eyes flicked upward, remembering. “There was one man who held my heart.”
“What happened?” This was about as close to love as Melody had ever been. She discounted her roommate’s experience. All her roommate ever wanted to do was to get married. She’d finally convinced a man to marry her. They never struck her as a love-dovey couple. Despite the fact that Linda bought matching outfits for them to wear on their honeymoon.
Mary blinked a few times, and cleared her throat. She whispered the words, making Melody draw closer to hear. “I told him to go. Turned him loose. I didn’t need any service boy making me into a young widow.”
Tears ran down her withered cheeks. Mary used the back of her hand to wipe them away.
It didn’t take a mind reader to see the memories made her friend sad. “Did you love him?”
It was hard for her to grasp actually loving someone then casting them away like a pair of worn out shoes.
Inhaling deeply, Mary shook her head. “People always think the young don’t know their own minds and hearts. Feel like they need guidance in the ways of the world. My mother was no exception. Vietnam War had just started up. My Roy was going for a tour of duty. I understood this is what he did, even though I was frightened about him being in harm’s way.”
Melody guided Mary to a chair. The suddenly robust woman had taken on a decidedly fragile air. It made her wonder if the robustness was just Mary’s tough act. “Did he cheat on you? Why did you break up?”
Mary coughed and worked hard to clear her throat. Recognizing her struggle, Melody located a bottle of water in the staff fridge for her. The woman took a few sips, and then threw her a grateful smile. “Thanks sweetie. It’s hard to believe that fifty years have passed since I told my only love that I did not love him.”