Gene smiled sadly, watching her walk to her apartment. Slipping the car into first, he drove away as he wiped his face with his handkerchief.. Smoothing his mussed hair, he lit a cigarette and pulled to the side of the road where he sat for a moment, smoking in silence, feeling ashamed. He had to go back to Judy and make it right. There wasn’t enough time to be estranged. He loved her, foibles and all. He turned the car to Judy’s house. Entering in the house by the kitchen, Gene entered the powder room to wash his face. He dropped his jacked on the kitchen chair and walked into the foyer. The light was on in the living room and he could see Judy asleep on the couch. He walked into the living room, he knelt on the floor next to her; smoothing her hair, he bent and kissed her cheek. She stirred and looked up at him. Her eyes went wide and she gasped. Sliding up to a sitting position, she threw her arms around his neck,
“Oh Gene, I’m so – “
“Shhhhhh, darling, me too, it’s alright.”
Lifting her chin, he kissed her gently as he wrapped her tightly into his and carried her upstairs, tenderly this time. They entered the bedroom and he placed her on the bed and lay next to her; he caressed her face and whispered,
“We don’t have time to fight. I just want to love you.”
“Oh my darling, yes, I don’t want to fight anymore.”
Gene unbuttoned her blouse and kissed her sleep-warmed skin. She smelled so good, and her skin felt even better. Undressing her with great tenderness, he wanted to memorize how she tasted and how she felt beneath his fingers. Judy loosened his tie and pressed her mouth against his throat. He smelled of whiskey and cigarettes, and a faint smell of perfume. Her nostrils widened for a second and she stiffened.
“I went to see Frank at Musso’s,” he whispered, “Judy, I won’t lie, I was angry and there were opportunities, but I turned it down, I wanted to come home to you.”
She hugged him tight, “Thank God.”
“I want to marry you, I won’t ruin what we have.” He kissed her softly, “I love you too much.”
“Oh darling,” she whispered, kissing his ear.
Wrapped in each other’s arms, they tenderly made love for a long time, sharing long kisses and soft sighs. After it was over, he settled down on her, his delicious heaviness making her feel warm
and loved. Burying his head into her neck, he whispered,
“I hate to fight, but I love make up sex.”
She laughed heartily, hugging him tightly. He chuckled in return and they snuggled together in the tangle of sheets. He buried his hand in her hair and stroked the back of her head. Her eyes closed, she whispered to him,
“Thank you for being honest with me.”
“I won’t lie to you Judy. I could have easily not come back, but all I could think of was that I wanted to be with you. Going for a cheap experience wouldn’t have solved anything. I couldn’t do that to us.”
“What happened today?”
Gene rolled so that they were face to face on the pillows; he stroked the side of her face as he told her about Kerry and about the fight with Betsy.
“Kerry has figured out that Daddy won’t be around much and it scares her.” He said softly.
“Oh that poor baby.”
“To be truthful, it scares me a little, too. I have so much to live for. I am doing what I think is right. But the thought of not coming back to you and to my daughter is daunting.”
Judy felt hot tears spring to her eyes and pulled Gene close.
“You will come back, I just know it.”
“Be at the church because I’m marrying you the day I get off the ship.”
Before they knew it, there were only a few days left. They took days off work and spent them together, the remaining few precious hours made every touch, and every glance feel more important. For the first time, Gene brought Kerry around with Judy so that he could maximize his time with them both. He made love to Judy at every chance, sometimes even sneaking into her dressing room between set ups and takes. Judy was often tearful and Gene would just hold her, his own stomach doing flip-flops. This separation would be a huge test and they knew it. Gene knew if it were Betsy waiting for him, there would be less drama (not that she’d be more faithful). Judy placed such a high premium on physical closeness that he was worried about it. In order to maintain equilibrium, he told himself that their connection would trump all. Gene talked to his agent and lawyer. With the lawyer, he talked divorce proceedings, making sure everything was in place for Kerry. With his agent, he wanted to make sure there was work to be had when he got out. His enlistment was for 18 months, with a possible additional six-month hitch. The studio arranged for Gene to get his Navy haircut with Metro photographers in tow. He hated it, but complied. When he walked in with his hair very short, Judy’s eyes filled up; his neck looked tender and white.
“I miss your waves.” She said.
“When I get out, I won’t get a haircut for a year ,” he laughed.
His next to last day home, he took Kerry to the beach. He planned to have Betsy meet him to pick her up. They romped on the beach and every little move she made broke his heart; he would miss so much. Kerry was annoyed that Daddy kept picking her up to hug and kiss her; she made faces at him, making him laugh and cry at the same time. She napped in his arms. He wanted to imprint her little heartbeat on his own.Betsy came at four and picked up Kerry. They leaned against the car and talked.
“I want you to be careful, Gene. Don’t be a hero.” Betsy cautioned.
“I will, Bets. I want to come back to our little girl.” He said.
“She needs her daddy; we may be in a different place, but I do love you and I want you to be safe.”
Gene’s eyes softened. Betsy was a wonderful person, and he was truly sad that things between them didn’t work out. She drove him crazy, but she gave him his beautiful little girl and there was something about her that always touched him deeply. They came together in a deep, tender embrace.
“I will always love you, Betsy.” He kissed her check tenderly, “You’ll always be my little dove.”
Betsy sighed to hear him call her his pet name for her. She pressed her cheek against his sandy shoulder and Gene hugged her tightly.
“Drive safe, okay? I’ll call you tomorrow. I want to talk to the baby for a bit before I go.”
“Okay, sweetie. Be careful.” She squeezed his hand and got into the car. Kerry was settled in and already sleeping in the back.
“Hey, knock ‘em dead in the show…” he smiled tenderly.
“I hope to. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
He watched Betsy drive away. Walking along the parking lot, he looked up and saw lights in the tiny cottage in the cliffs. He smiled; Judy was waiting for him. He jumped into his car and drove to the door. Opening it, he saw Judy standing on the balcony. She had arranged for a dinner to be delivered. There was wine and she had lit some candles to provide a romantic soft glow in their little room. She looked beautiful with her hair pulled back, and dressed in a simple white sundress. She was wearing his pearls. Suddenly feeling emotional, he swallowed hard as he entered the room. Judy heard him and ran to him, folding him into her embrace. They kissed tenderly.
“You’re sandy,” she chuckled.
“Let me take a quick shower. We were building sand castles.” He grinned in reply.
Gene entered the small bath and jumped into the shower. While he washed, Judy entered and left a pair of pajama pants on the back of the toilet. She knew he’d rather be comfortable after taking in so much sun. He left the shower, dried, and pulled on the pajama pants. Bare-chested, he left the bathroom to see Judy was back on the balcony pouring them some wine. Joining her on the deck, he wrapped her up in a big hug.. Judy leaned against his skin, smelling the natural leather/spicy aroma of his skin mixed with Ivory soap. She closed her eyes.. Later in her life, this aroma would come back to her in memory and almost knock her to her knees. She always would associate it with love.
“I saw you with Betsy and Kerry below. I really admire the relationship you’ve established.”
“She’s a great kid, and Betsy is a good mother. That makes it easy, you know?”
“I guess I do, “ She lifted her head from his chest, “I love that you decided for us to spend the night here.”
“I love this place, and I want a happy memory associated with it. Tonight, you and I are going to make happy memories,” he dipped his head and kissed her soft lips, pressing them apart and touching the tip of her tongue with his own, “I want to have a place on the cliffs here one day.”
“We will, darling, we will.”
They broke apart and Gene led her inside. Judy had ordered a roast beef dinner for them. He smiled; she knew how he liked to eat. They sat and Judy picked while Gene ate. She wasn’t very hungry, but he was, as usual, ravenous. His metabolism was so high that he had to eat, but half way through, he stopped and left his chair to drop by Judy’s side.
“Not hungry, huh?
She shook her head. Gene stood and pulled her, taking her out to the balcony. Sitting her down in a chair, he went back to the bag that he’d packed earlier in the day. He reached in and something out. Returning the balcony, he knelt in front of her, and opened a small box. Inside, was a pink diamond ring, cut in the shape of a heart. She gasped.
“It’s not a proper engagement ring, yet, “ he said, his face open and gentle, his eyes shining, “but it’s a promise - of my heart and of my hand.”
Removing the ring, he placed it on her finger. It was perfect as it glinted in the light that came from the bedroom. Judy’s eyes filled as she gazed at her finger. Gene was not a jewelry guy; knowing that he picked this out himself made it even more special.
“Oh my God, Gene, it’s, it’s beautiful!” she exclaimed, her eyes filling with tears.
Reaching for him, Judy thought that the hopeful look in his eyes made him look like a little boy. She smiled and began to cry tears of joy as he leaned into her arms. Holding her face in his hands, he looked at her for a long time as if he was committing her features to memory. Murmuring something Judy couldn’t quite hear, he dipped his mouth to brush softly against her lips. Never pressing harder, his lips traveled over face.
“You’re going to make me cry again.” She whispered softly.
“No more tears tonight, Judy,” he replied, nuzzling her cheek, his fingers still were barely touching her face.
He switched places with her and they settled into the Adirondack chair, Judy curled on Gene’s lap. She tucked her head into the crook of his neck and splayed her hand across his chest, idly fingering the swirls of hair that covered it while he lightly massaged her back. They were quiet, just listening to the sound of the surf. Judy could feel Gene’s heart underneath her hand, beating strong and true. She didn’t trust herself to speak; she knew the tears would come. Every once in a while, he turned his head to plant a kiss on her forehead. Gene was usually never this still unless he was asleep, but tonight he wanted only the sound of the ocean and his girl in his arms. Despite his physical stillness, his mind raced. Would he come back? How would Kerry change? Would Judy be waiting for him? Would his career be waiting for him? As he sat there and thought, he felt Judy relax into a doze. He smiled. Despite her obvious womanly charms, there was a part of Judy that was quite young. She loved to be cuddled and a light touch could make her drop off, just as it could his daughter. Gene smiled and leaned his cheek against forehead. He said his daily silent mantra to have it all work out. Judy shivered as the breeze kicked up, it awoke her and she snuggled deeper into his arms.
“Cold, baby?” he asked
She nodded. Gene helped her get up and they entered the bungalow. Judy closed the doors slightly while Gene took the remains of their dinner into the little kitchenette. By the time he returned, Judy had removed her dress and was waiting for him under the covers. He cocked his head and smiled at her. She couldn’t get over how his Navy haircut made him look so much younger. Returning his smile, she stretched out; seeing how the sheets clung to her curves was incredibly erotic to him. Judy could see his erection grow under the thin cotton of his pajamas. He doffed them quickly and slid in next to her stretching his body over hers and pressed his lips against her ear,
“You’re very sexy, babe.”
“Let me show you how sexy I can be,” she smiled seductively.
The warmth of his skin was heavenly against hers. Their kisses were exploring and passionate as they gently caressed each other. Judy took the lead in their lovemaking. She forgave but had not forgotten how close Gene came to slipping. She wanted to prove to him that no woman would ever excite him the way she could. She used her hands to tease him until he was groaning with pleasure. She kissed his chest, and kissed her way down his body, licking and kissing his shaft until he gasped,
“I want to be inside you, now!”
With one swift move, he pressed her flat against the bed and entered her. Sighing with pleasure as he felt her warmth surround him, he kissed her hungrily and began to make love to her. Judy’s skin was moist and warm; it was intoxicating. Her moans and sighs were like music to him. She could feel him restraining himself to give her as much pleasure as possible. They made love in different positions, slowing to cuddle from time to time to make it last as long as possible. Spooning her, he slowly thrust into her from behind as his fingers caressed her. His touch, combined with soft murmurs of affection, of how good she felt drove her higher and higher until finally, she cried out in in a shuddering climax.
“Don’t stop,” she cried, “don’t stop.”
That drove him crazy and he began to move faster; she could feel his lips pressing down hard on her shoulder. Gene groaned and she felt him begin to shake as his orgasm started. He breathed her
name in her ear as he thrust deeply one more time. After he came, he continued to move, but much more gently, until he finally rested against her body.
Gene stayed spooned against Judy’s back as they fell asleep. When they awoke, they held each other, knowing this would be the last time for a long time. When the time came, Gene rose and dressed in a suit that Judy had thoughtfully brought along. Judy dressed silently, dreading the moment when he had to leave for the bus to the base. Gene had declined the movie star treatment and wanted to ride in like everyone else. They left the little bungalow.
“Don’t drive me to the bus depot. I’ll leave my car at your house (He had already given up the chicken coop, dividing storage between Betsy’s and Judy’s), and take a cab down, ok? “
She nodded and left to go home. Gene would follow. He had to see Kerry once more, which he did, holding his little girl and covering her face with kisses before heading over to Judy’s. When he got there, he called for the cab.. She had his bag ready for him and sat in the living room, shredding her handkerchief between her hands. He sat on the coffee table opposite her and took her shaking hands in his.
“I’ll be back in six weeks, after basic training and it is only San Diego. We’ve been through longer separations; I’ll be home for Christmas, baby.”
“I know, but those times were different. Gene, don’t worry,” she tried to smile, “I’ll be strong for you.”
He smiled tenderly, leaned over and softly kissed lips.Just then, a horn beeped in the drive.
“The cab is here already? Oh, it’s too soon.” She sighed.
They rose and walked to the foyer. He opened the door to let the cabbie know he was there and turned to Judy. They embraced and kissed deeply.
“I love you,” he whispered, “I’ll miss you.”
“I love you, too. I know you hate it, but I want you to write to me, and call me when you can!”
He grinned sweetly, murmuring, “I’ll write, cross my heart.”
She held him tightly to her one last time and released him. He picked up his bag. He smiled at her, but it was a heartbreakingly sad smile. He turned quickly and got into the cab. Judy waved until he pulled out of site, then went into the living room and poured herself a generous slug of vodka. She’d need to be numb to get through today
The next couple of weeks, Judy dragged through her scenes. Vincente tried to cheer her up and began taking her to dinner a few nights a week. Other friends stepped in to keep Judy busy. She
waited for letters and eventually, a brief note came, in which Gene wrote that he missed her terribly and that boot camp was going well. She read it many times, absorbing the words that
closed the letter, “For Always – GK”. She carried the letter in her purse. She slept in his shirt and replayed their last night together over in her mind. She wore his ring and
wrote him back, sounding cheerful, but letting him know that she loved and missed him, too.
For Gene, boot camp was tougher than anything he’d faced so far. While he was in incredible shape, the endless training and the endless drills were brutal; he grew tan in the San Diego sun, but he began to drop weight from the long runs. He became acclimated, but realized that the hierarchy and the bureaucracy of the service went against his basic nature. Gene wanted active duty, but was told that, with Anchors Aweigh being such a hit, he would be put to use in the photographic unit. He was disappointed, but took his orders. When he could sneak phone calls, he called Betsy to talk to Kerry and tried to reach Judy but she was rarely home in the evenings. Gritting his teeth, he wrote a few postcards. He got along well with the guys in his unit and in a perverse way really enjoyed the experience. The weeks flew by. During training, he found out he was to be transferred to Washington. He figured from there he could try to finagle a way to get to the front lines because being a desk jockey was not what he had in mind. Being in battle was a way to keep his anti-establishment though process in check; he didn’t do well with authority figures, but was smart enough to keep his mouth shut.
One day while he was at the PX, he picked up a paper and saw a picture of Judy out at a social function with a number of people, Vincente Minelli being one of them. He was glad to see Judy
looking happy, but it also made him uneasy. As he approached his sixth week of training, he received news that he got 12 hours of furlough. Elated, Gene called Judy and got the housekeeper.
He gave her the message and hung up, feeling quite irritated. I should have called Betsy and asked her to bring down Kerry, he thought, but knew it would be too much for the little girl. He’d get a
longer furlough after training was over, then he’d be able to spend time with her. He walked out of the phone room and lit a cigarette. Joining the rest of his unit for dinner, he picked
at his food. The uneasy feeling remained and he didn’t like it.After dinner, he went back to the barracks and got ready for the next day. After playing and winning a couple of rounds
of cards with the guys, he went back to his bunk, hating the long hours of being stuck with nothing to do. He stared at the ceiling and wondered what Judy was doing.
Judy was out again that evening, with Vincente and a group of friends. Vincente had become a very good friend and she enjoyed his company immensely. He was sweet, unassuming and safe. He made no demands on her and while she noticed his eyes would linger a moment longer than appropriate, they’d done nothing that she thought was an affront to her relationship with Gene. They’d gone to the Cocoanut Grove to listen to music and to dance. She loved to dance, but Gene wouldn’t go out to dance socially, always saying that he felt like he was in a fishbowl, as if people were waiting for him to leap over a table or something. Vincente was able to indulge her and they danced quite often. He made her laugh a lot and she was happy for the diversion. In his own way, Vincente was very protective about Judy, and that attracted her. The evenings out had become a regular practice. After the night wound down, Vincente dropped Judy off at home with a pleasant kiss on her cheek. She entered the house and saw a note on the table. Picking it up, she saw it was a phone message from Gene. Her eyes flew open and she gasped with delight. A leave! Oh why wasn’t she here to take the call? It was too late to call him back, but she’d send a cable, that would get to him in the morning. She called Western Union and gave them the cable
“Tell where and I’ll be there. I love you For always, JG
Gene went through another morning of brutal exercises and spent the day training on the ship. On his way to the photography lab, his CO stopped him.
“Kelly, there’s a cable for you in the communications office.”
Gene saluted, “Thank you, sir.”
Worried, he ran over to the office and asked the secretary for his telegram. He was worried that something happened to Kerry. He tore it open, breaking into a broad grin as he read it. Sighing happily, he kissed the paper, winked at the secretary, who blushed furiously, dashing out a reply to be sent.
“The Hotel del Coronado at noon Order room service, Mrs. Kelly For always, GK
He handed her the paper and the money for the wire and almost skipped out of the door. He whistled happily the rest of the day, just grinning when his bunkmate complained. When his furlong finally came, Gene rushed onto the bus as soon as they dismissed the unit. When they arrived in town, he waved down a cab and rushed the driver furiously to the hotel. He ran into the lobby and asked for Mrs. Kelly’s room. Grabbing the key, he decided not to wait for the elevator and ran the three floors up to the room. Bursting in, he found Judy waiting by the window, wearing a pink travel suit with a small nosegay pinned to her lapel. She turned as she heard him and smiled the most beautiful smile he’d ever seen. Rushing over, he swept her up in his arms, spinning her around. She smelled glorious and she felt glorious. Putting her back down, he kissed her and hugged her again.
“Babe,” he said softly
“ You’re so tan!” she gasped and covered his face with kisses.
They held each other close; after being apart for so long, they just wanted to relish the feel of one another..
“How are you? Everything going okay?” He held and kissed her hands. She was wearing his ring, he noted with a smile.
“Everything is fine, I’ve been so busy filming with Vincente. Everyone has been keeping me so busy!”
“I know, I couldn’t reach you” he caressed the side of her face, “In fact, I started to feel pretty jealous…”
“Oh Darling,” she giggled, “It’s only Vincente and his crew, and there’s nothing to worry about there.”
Judy snuggled against his chest; having Gene close once more was heavenly. He held her face and began to kiss her, gently probing her tongue with his. They melted together. Caressing her hair,
his lips traveled up to her eyes, then down to her throat. She sighed in satisfaction and returned his kiss with greater ardor. She whispered between kisses,
“I liked registering as Mrs. Kelly.”
“Get used to it. You’ll be doing that for a long time,” he smiled in return.
“Let me see you in your sailor suit.”
Gene rolled his eyes and stood up. He stepped back and turned around. It didn’t look tremendously different than his costume in Anchors Away, but Gene looked very different. His hair was severely short, and he was even more muscular. Always fit, his cheekbones were more prominent and it gave him a tougher look. She could feel how thin his waist had become. Taking her hands, he nodded in the direction of the bed and slowly led to her to it.
“It’s time to neck with a sailor,” he grinned.
Judy giggled and happily went into his arms. Sinking down, they kissed for a long time. Becoming impatient for her, Gene stood up and pulled off his tunic and his t-shirt. She could see that
his muscles were more pronounced, and his ribs were more prominent. He was rawboned; it made him look more masculine than ever. His boyishness was gone.
“Judy,” his voice was quiet.
She looked up at him. The sun flooded into the room behind him. He wiggled his index finger at her, a small smile on his face. It was time. He hadn’t touched her for weeks and wasn’t going to wait anymore. She stood and he reached for the small, mother of pearl buttons on her suit. Unbuttoning them one at a time, He slid his fingers inside the jacket and caressed her skin. She shivered at his touch and her own desire flooded back. Judy slid her hands up Gene’s back, feeling the hardness of his muscles and the delicious warmth that she missed so much. Opening her jacket and he slid his hands inside and pulled her to him as their lips met again. He slid her jacket off and sighed in appreciation. Judy was at her most beautiful. Her skin was luminous, her eyes were opened wide, and sparkling, her lips were moist and inviting. He nipped at her lips and ran his hands slowly over her back and shoulders. He turned her around and hugged her from the back pulling her against his hardness. Covering her shoulder with kisses, he snaked his hands up to caress her full breasts. She moaned softly and sank back against him, letting him explore her. Whispering her name huskily in her ear, he leaned in to kiss and nibble on her earlobe. She reached behind her and placed a hand on him. He pressed against her palm and lowered one hand to the soft curve of her belly and pressing her back against him. Slowly, he unzipped her skirt and helped her step out of it. He ran his hands down her sides, loving how the silk clung to her curves. He leaned in and whispered,
“How’d you like a challenge?”
She turned to look at him over her shoulder, knitting her brows together.
He turned her around and pointed where his passion quite evident. He grinned mischievously.
“Buttons, damn Navy pants.”
She giggled deliciously. Together they undid the buttons before he slid off his pants and scratchy, white cotton standard issue Navy shorts. He gathered the fabric of her slip in his hands and kissed her once before lifting it over her head. He unbuttoned her garter belt and slid down her stockings, kissing her stomach as he pulled them off. Next came her panties. They stood at the foot of the bed pressing against each other. She loved feeling the soft hair of his chest against her breasts again. He lowered her to the bed and they made love as if it were the first time, exploring, caressing and sharing sighs of pleasure. He whispered in her ear,
“My God Judy, you’re as juicy as a peach.”
Gene wanted to drown in her taste, her feel, her beautiful aroma, now musky with her desire for him; Judy reveled in feeling him hard against her and seeing the adoration in his eyes as they
touched. Afterward, nestled in the sheets, damp from perspiration and passion, he buried his face in his favorite spot at the crook of her neck, and sighed contentedly, rubbing her toes with
“I’m a happy man, baby. Thank you for coming”.
She smiled at the ceiling. She loved him so much, it was overpowering. She squeezed his shoulder in reply and they dozed for a little while; Judy woke up, there were only a few hours and she didn’t want to waste a minute.
“Hey sleepyhead, “ she whispered.
Gene stretched and smiled. They kissed tenderly.
“Have you been around town at all?”
“A little,” he answered, “Want to go out?”
“If you’d like,” she stretched, “Do you need to get in the shower?”
“No, I want you on me for as long as I can.”
He pulled her up and gave her a playful shove toward the bathroom, gathering her clothes and carrying them into the bath for her.She washed up and came out to see Gene putting his
sailor hat on his head. He looked so adorable fixing the crease just so (out of uniform or costume, Gene only wanted to be in a work shirt and dungarees), she giggled and he turned toward
“My handsome sailor.” She said, smiling.
He bowed and approached her. Tucking her arm in his, they left to explore the city. First, they strolled through Balboa Park, receiving occasional glances from other people walking by, but Gene would pull Judy in for a kiss so that their faces were hidden. They laughed like naughty children.
“It’s beautiful here,” she mused as they walked through.
“It sure is, it’s not like Los Angeles at all, is it?”
“No, and I like that.”
After Balboa, they headed back to the hotel for dinner. Judy glanced at the restaurant; Gene told her all he wanted was a steak “this big” and a really good baked potato. Navy grub was awful, and he complained he was getting skinny. She laughed and they set off. They entered the dining room of the hotel and were seated by the window. Gene noticed that the maître d recognized them. He quietly went to the man and slipped him some money. He didn’t want them recognized at all tonight. He wanted a quiet, relaxing dinner and perhaps a drink afterwards before he had to get back. The maître d took the money and agreed. They settled in for dinner. Gene ordered a whiskey and Judy a glass of wine. They held hands over the table.
“What’s next?” she asked.
“Three more weeks of training, a quick furlough and, after that, Washington, DC,” he took her hand across the table; “I want you to come out to see me, as often as you can.”
“I want that, too,” she smiled, “I miss you so much.”
She was relieved that he wouldn’t be going overseas, at least not in the near future. She knew he was probably disappointed, but she was very, very glad. They looked over their menus. Gene ordered a steak and grimaced when Judy ordered a small appetizer.
“Babe, you can eat, you’re so thin.” He cajoled.
“I’m just about fitting into my costumes.” She replied.
“I hate that, you’re beautiful and I hate to see you starve yourself. I think you’ve only eaten one full meal in the entire time I’ve known you!”
“I’m fine, darling, I’m just so excited to see you, I don’t have much of an appetite.”
He tightened his lips, “After we’re married, that nonsense will change.”
She smiled and sipped her wine. She loved when Gene was protective. To make him happy, she ate a buttered roll. The food came and Gene dug into his steak. It was heavenly, and Judy laughed at the sheer look of bliss on his face. He downed his whiskey and sighed.
“I’ve had one lousy beer since I went in. This is nectar of the gods.”
The bartender sent over another one. Judy told him about shooting the Clock and how excited she was to be doing a dramatic role. He was happy for her. She was a wonderful and natural actress. He told her he couldn’t wait to see it. They gazed at each other over their plates, thrilled just to be in the moment, both aware that the minutes were ticking away. They wanted nothing more than to stay with her just one more day. He kissed her hand over the small table. Judy smiled softly and murmured,
“I love you, Gene.”
“I love you, babe.” He whispered.
After dinner, he rose and took her hand. She thought he would want to make love again before leaving, but he guided her to the patio. A band was playing out there and couples were dancing. He guided her to the floor. She was shocked. Gene hated dancing in public, but he took her in her arms and they swayed to “Laura”, a popular song of the day. He held her close and she melted in his embrace. They danced as any other couple would. No theatrics, nothing fancy, just a sailor in love with his beautiful fiancé. They closed their eyes and danced perfectly together. Judy fit into him better than any other lover, any other partner. The singer’s voice was smooth as honey and Judy felt tears building up inside her. She tucked her face into the crook of his neck and let him lead her around the floor. This was how everyday people fell in love, danced and made love. It was perfect. Another slow song played and they stayed on the dance floor. In his way, Gene was making love to Judy, giving her a precious memory to hold her until he returned. He bent his head and kissed her softly. She loved when Gene made love to her, but this moment would stay with her for the rest of her life, the night they could disappear into something beautiful and normal, not touched by studios, war or anything but how they felt about each other. Too soon, the music ended. Gene took Judy’s hand and led her back to their room. They had so little time left. There was a chaise in the suite. They curled on that and held each other, kissing softly.
“I get 48 hours when this is over before I have to go to Washington. I need to see Kerry, but I want us to all be together before I go. OK? It will be easier for you to see me in Washington. I’ll be stationed in town and will have more freedom.” Gene caressed her hair and pressed his lips against her forehead.
Judy nodded and pressed her face against his chest. She would follow him anywhere. He held her to him, not wanting to leave.
“Will you be able to sleep after I leave?” he asked, knowing how Judy was.
“I’ll be fine darling.” She hoped she wasn’t lying.
Gene motioned to her to get up. He stood close and pulled her into him. He covered her face with kisses, and then kissed her mouth hard. She returned his kiss, their tongues meeting. He held her close, sighing hard. He gulped, kissed her forehead once more and stepped away. Then, he turned and gathered her into his arms once more. He kissed her softly.
“Until I see you again. I’ll call you next Friday. Be home.” He smiled.
She nodded, tears glittering in her eyes, “I love you very much, Mr. Kelly.” She whispered.
He smiled that sad smile. Blowing her a kiss, he opened the door and headed down the hall, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand. When Judy got back to Hollywood and her house, she was drained. After Gene left she cried for an hour. She tried to sleep, but stared at the ceiling. She could still feel his mouth on hers, the feeling of dancing in his arms and she remembered how warm his skin felt when he made love to her. Being without him made her feel weak, and all the strength she built up while he was gone had left her. She called out sick and stayed home Monday, then Tuesday, and again on Wednesday. Vincente came over that night.
“Judy?” he called out as he knocked on the door.
She answered, looking wretched.
“I’m sorry you’re not feeling well.” as he stepped into the door.”
He had brought her some soup from the canteen. When she saw it was from MGM, she refused it. They sat in the living room on opposite ends of the couch.
“I’m sorry Vincente, the weekend with Gene took more out of me than I thought it would.”
“You really love him?” he asked.
“We plan on marrying when he gets out of the service.” She said tonelessly, playing with the diamond ring on her finger.
“I hope it works out,” Vincente said, his voice neutral, “it must be hard for you.”
“Yes.” She leaned forward, picked up a cigarette and lit it before he could produce a lighter.
“Judy, I really need you on set tomorrow, do you think you can make it?”
“I will, Vincente. Now please, I need to go to sleep.”
After that, Vincente took extra care with Judy on set and she responded to it. They resumed their nights out. Judy could tell that Vincente was attracted to her and made her feel better. She gave a marvelous performance on the film and she blossomed under Vincente’s attention. They spent more time together and Judy became more productive. The studio took notice as well.
Basic was over and Gene was ready to get home. He and Judy had talked a few times and he couldn’t wait to see her. The plan was that he would go up and see Kerry on Christmas Day and then on
Christmas night, he’d head over to Judy’s to stay until it was time for him to take the train to the east coast. He finished packing and broke with his unit to grab the bus back up to
Hollywood. He smiled at the twinkling lights along Hollywood Boulevard. When they arrived, he grabbed a cab and went to Betsy’s house, decorated festively for the holiday. Carrying his
duffle and some presents, he went into the house, dumped his duffle in the entry and called out that he was there. Kerry came charging into the room on chubby legs, yelling, “Daddy!” Gene
scooped her up and covered her face with kisses. Betsy followed close behind. He smiled at her, she looked lovely in a loose skirt and a blouse.
“How are you Betsy? Merry Christmas. ”
“Merry Christmas, Gene. Kerry has been beside herself all day waiting for you.” She smiled.
Kerry began to squirm and told her father she wanted to go into the yard to show him her new puppy and her new toys. Gene looked over his shoulder at Betsy. He mouthed “puppy?” She raised her eyebrows and nodded. Kerry pulled Gene to the back of the house and out the door. For the next couple of hours, they played in the backyard with the small brown puppy that Kerry named Rufus. They played on the swings and lay back in the grass and picked out pictures in the clouds. Gene’s heart broke wide open when it came to his daughter. He hugged her to him and reluctantly carried her in for a nap when she began to yawn and rub her eyes. Kerry made him sit with her until she fell asleep. He came down and sat with Betsy on the front porch. They sat quietly for a while until Gene finally spoke,
“Did the play go well?”
She smiled, “It did. I got another part. We’re in rehearsals. It’s a good one.”
“Good, I’m glad. Everything worked out; is everything else ok?” his voice was tentative.
She laughed; she knew what he was asking. She reached out and placed a hand on his arm.
“Everything is fine, Gene. How is Judy?”
“Good, good. I guess at some point we’re going to have to,,,” He made a circular gesture to indicate move forward, “When we know what’s happening with this hitch and everything.”
“When do you leave for Washington?” she asked.
“Monday morning.” He twisted his sailor hat in his hands and looked down. He told Betsy he hoped she was happy, it was important to him. He told her that she was a marvelous mother and Kerry was such a beautiful little girl. His voice was soft and almost a little contrite. She knew he wanted to leave at some point to go see Judy but leaving Kerry was tearing him up. Patting him on the shoulder she told him to go see Judy. He could come back later and get Kerry. Gene looked at Betsy, then back down and pursed his lips. Then he sat up and smiled.
“I want to go up and wait, I want to be there when Kerry wakes up.”
Gene leaned over and kissed Betsy on the cheek. He got up and went up to his daughter’s room. Pausing to pick up a book he had seen on the table, he sat in a rocking chair and luxuriated in just reading something that wasn’t war related. He was buried in the book, when he saw a curly head pop up and a little voice that said, “Daddy?” Picking up his daughter, they sat together on the rocking chair, playing hand games and snuggling; the phone rang downstairs. He heard Betsy answer it and speak quietly into the receiver; a few minutes later, he saw her enter the room with a serious look on her face. Rising from his chair, he sat Kerry on the floor and met Betsy in the doorway.
“Your C.O. is on the phone.”
Gene went downstairs and took the call in the kitchen.
“Kelly, your orders have been changed. They want you in DC on Monday. That means you’ll have to fly out tonight in order to land Sunday.”
Gene closed his eyes. Judy. He pressed his lips hard together and leaned his head against the door jam.
“Kelly, are you there?”
“Yessir, I understand sir.”
“You are to report to Los Angeles AFB at 1800 hours.”
“Yessir, thank you,sir. I’ll be there.”
Gene hung up the phone. That was less than two hours away. He punched the door jam. There’d be no time to see Judy. Running a hand over his eyes, he dug out a cigarette and parked it in the corner of his mouth.
“Betsy, is it possible to get a drink?”
Betsy entered the kitchen; she was dressed to go friends for Christmas dinner, “What’s wrong?”
“I have to leave in a few minutes. I have to be in DC by tomorrow. They’re flying a bunch of us out tonight.” His voice sounded strangled.
“Oh Gene I’m sorry.The liquor is in the bar, as usual, help yourself.” She hugged him to her and felt the tension in his body; she kissed his cheek tenderly.
“Take care of yourself. Beulah, Gene needs to make a call, why don’t you check on Kerry?”
Gene looked at his wife with a new appreciation. She may have been childish, silly, romantic and hopeless about the practical aspects of life, but sometimes she was so perceptive, she astounded him.
“Thank you, Betsy.”
Gene went to the bar and poured a very healthy whiskey. He drained half, lit another cigarette and dialed Judy’s house from the phone in the bar. The phone rang.
The voice was Vincente’s. Gene hung up the phone. He picked it back up and called a cab to take him to the Air Force Base.He drained the whiskey and poured another shot. He smoked another cigarette and then went to kiss his daughter good-bye. He walked quickly to the cab before he could hear her cry because it would make him cry, and if he were to start, he was afraid he wouldn’t stop.
For the next two months, Gene threw himself into his work at the photography unit; he also threw himself into drinking with fellow officers in DC. Women were plentiful, but he wasn’t interested. When he poured himself back into his bed at the Forrestal, memories overtook him. Judy hadn’t even waited three weeks to replace him with Vincente; he felt as though his heart was torn from his body. She had taken it and just tossed it away. After the two months, the pain hadn’t subsided; he decided sex would help him forget her – if only for a little while. He went for icy blondes because they were the opposite of Judy. He had no trouble making them melt for him, but he felt nothing for them. The sex was mechanical, merely a preference to satisfying himself. The month after that, he and Betsy began to talk again. They still shared a rapport and they still cared deeply each other. Besides, Kerry was getting bigger and noticed the separation more and more. He found himself looking forward to talking to her again. The romantic silliness of their early years together was long gone, but there was a tender understanding.
One busy morning, Gene had a meeting at the Defense Department where he was discussing a film about battle fatigue. It was a lovely day, so he decided to walk back to his office; stopping in a drugstore to pick up some coffee, he bought a newspaper and sat at the counter to wait. His eyes fell to a small article; Judy had married Vincente Minelli yesterday. For a moment, he felt as if he couldn’t breathe. He gulped the coffee and lit a cigarette with shaking fingers, closing his eyes as he took a deep drag. Judy, he whispered to himself. Forcing himself to read the column, he stared at the grainy photo that accompanies the piece. Judy and Vincent stood together; a huge bouquet of flowers dwarfed her. Mayer was standing on one side of her and Vincente stood on the other.Gene grimaced. He was beginning to get it, but he could also see that Vincente looked at Judy dreamily; it was the same way he looked at her.His next reaction was disbelief. Vincente? Of all people? Suddenly, he had a searing headache. He knew and liked Vincente, but he also had his suspicions about him.
Eventually, he got up, paid for the coffee and the paper then returned to his office. The rest of the day went in a blur; nothing registered. All he could think of was that last day with Judy and feel a red blaze of anger. When the day wrapped, a couple of officers poked their heads in and invited Gene out for drinks. Wanting to blot out the day, he joined them, getting steadily drunk; finally, he decided to prowl. No blondes tonight, he thought. I want a redhead. At the end of the bar, he saw a gorgeous redhead with full red, lips. She looked like a sophisticated version of Judy. Approaching her, it didn’t take long for him to talk her into heading back to her apartment. They snuck into her bedroom (she had roommates) and fell onto her bed, kissing furiously. Groaning with pleasure, he pulled of her clothes; she was a knock out, with high, firm breasts and a light sprinkling of freckles across her chest. He was surprised at how much she aroused him. Removing his clothes, they sank onto the bed and began to have sex. Showing no tenderness, just a vehement appetite, he devoured her, trying to replace the vision of Judy in his head with the woman who was fondling him. He kissed her hard as he ran his fingers through her red pubic hair to stroke her. Her moans excited him; hard as a rock, he opened her thighs and entered her. She enjoyed his rough approach; he thrust deep and fast, only wanting his own climax. The bourbon pounded in his head and he felt woozy from the booze and the moist desire of the woman under him. Groaning, his climax built; she wrapped her long legs around him and he exploded. He rolled off her and almost immediately fell asleep. The woman reached for his dog tags and read them. Her eyes widened when she saw whom she’d just slept with. The redhead was asleep when he awoke. It was 1AM. He moved quietly around the bedroom, grabbing his clothes, and dressing. He carried his shoes as he snuck out of the apartment. The Forrestal was close by.. His flat mate was asleep in his room. Gene remained in the public part of the suite; he poured another bourbon and picked up the phone. With shaking hands, he dialed.
Judy was sitting on the loveseat in the sitting room area in her bedroom. It was after 10, late enough for movie people to be in bed. She was reading a script and grabbed the phone on the first ring. She was speaking softly so that she wouldn’t wake Vincente, who was already in bed.
“Congratulations.” Gene could feel his lip curl into a sneer.
“Gene,” she whispered, “Why are you calling me?”
“I just had to wish the bride well,” he said, taking a deep drink.
Judy sighed and closed her eyes. She was afraid of this call coming. From the time she said, “I do”, she knew he’d see it and she feared the call that she knew would come. She could hear the pain in his voice and it cut her deeply.
“I –I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, it just happened so fast.” Judy wrapped the cord around her finger and tried to keep her voice under control.
“So fast I hadn’t even left California yet.” He said quietly, “Were you seeing him when we met in San Diego?”
“No!” her voice rose, then dropped again to a whisper, “But it did start soon after; Gene, we were just friends, and the studio kept encouraging us to go out because it was good publicity for St. Louis. I was so upset when I came back from San Diego and Vincente was so supportive – “
“That you just couldn’t help but fall in love with him.” Gene finished her sentence
“Something like that,” she said sadly. Her heart was breaking. How could she tell Gene that she never stopped loving him,? She had never planned on this happening.
“Gene, Vincente was so good to me, and I was so grateful that when – “
“Did Mayer have something to do with this?” he asked.
Judy was silent. Gene removed the phone from his ear and laid his head back against the chair cushion. When would they stay out of her business? His anger flared; he raised his drink and held the cool glass against his forehead. Placing the phone back to his ear he said,
“I suppose Vincent was more appropriate than me?”
Judy sighed, “Vincente wasn’t married.” She said in a miserable voice.
Judy knew she couldn’t avoid this conversation forever; she’d have to tell the man she loved more than anything that she married someone else. She just wished it wasn’t happening with her husband asleep in the other room. Feeling his pain through the receiver like an electric current, her lower lip trembled as she tried to keep back the tears. Gene could hear her breathing in measured tones. He knew she was upset, but he didn’t care; his pain and his anger were too great. It filled him like huge balloon. He felt like he was going to explode.
“And public image is everything.”
“It wasn’t like that, you were going away and things between you and Betsy weren’t settled. After Joe….”
“They couldn’t have their sweetheart rolling around with another married man.” He spat between clenched teeth.
“Vincente has been very good for me. I’m not taking those damned pills anymore, I’m eating well now and….”
“That’s a bullshit reason and you know it.”
“It’s not! I’m feeling very good right now!”
“It was the right thing to do! For once, I did the right thing –“
“It’s neat, nice and safe. Put Judy in her place and keep her out of trouble.” Gene’s voice was low, raw, and ragged, cutting to her core, “We can’t have Judy being a problem now, can we? It costs too much money to have Judy be a problem.”
“Gene you’re not being fair. Please, “she implored.
“What’s fair? To throw away what two people feel for each other? How is that fair?”
Gene’s voice began to rise; Judy hoped it didn’t travel to the bedroom.
“Do you love him?”
“He’s been very kind to me.” She said quietly.
“That’s not what I asked; I asked if you love him. If you do, I will hang up this phone and never bother you again. Tell me the truth, Judy. They can’t force you to stay married. Come to Washington.“
“Gene, I’m pregnant.”
She could hear the sharp intake of his breath. It was the nail; she knew it. Gene wouldn’t press her now. He wouldn’t come between. She knew that he wouldn’t take her away from Vincente; children were too important. The realization made her sad. She covered her eyes with her hand. The phone went silent. She could hear him breathing and imagined how stricken he must look.
“Gene?” Judy whispered.
“Oh Judy” his voice was so soft, she could barely hear him, “I wish with all my heart that baby was mine.”
Big tears began to slide down her face.When the doctor told her she was pregnant, Judy had wished that, too. She couldn’t tell Gene that after she found out she had gone to their little cottage, lay on the bed and cried for the entire afternoon. Judy had wanted a baby for so long and more importantly, she wanted Gene’s baby. She loved Vincente in her own way, but it was more affection based in gratitude than in the passionate, soul baring love she felt for Gene. She couldn’t tell Gene that while she was thrilled to be pregnant, she felt incredibly guilty, too. It was, Judy felt, the ultimate betrayal. She could never go back to him now, and that realization had torn her in two. Through the phone, Judy could hear ice clink against his glass. Her news laid him out flat; she wanted to say something, but what could she say? Neither one could break the silence. They just sat there, listening to each other breathing. That tiny connection comforted and killed her at the same time; after what seemed like hours, Gene finally spoke. His voice was quiet and she could hear the effects of the bourbon.
“I – I’m happy for you. It’s what you always wanted. Take care of yourself, honey. I hope it all works out. What I want most is for you to be happy”
“Oh darling,” she sobbed.
“I’ll stay away, but,” She heard him sigh, and his voice grew rough, “I won’t stop loving you. I can’t."
With that, the connection went dead. She was still holding the phone to her ear, afraid to let it go. She whispered, tears pouring down her face,
“I love you, too Gene. I will always love you.”
Judy reentered the bedroom and silently climbed into bed. Wiping her eyes, she sighed; the tears were still evident in her voice. She pressed her face into the pillow so that Vincente
wouldn’t hear her cry. He had his back to her, but he wasn’t asleep. He heard every word.
The next morning, Gene was in no condition to go into the office. Even though it was a light day, he knew he couldn’t manage it; his head was pounding. After he’d hung up from Judy he finished the bottle of bourbon and fell into bed fully dressed. When he awoke he could smell the cigarettes, the booze and the woman from the previous night. He groaned, went into the bathroom and was sick. His roommate knocked on the door,
“You okay Kelly?”
“Bad oysters,” Gene groaned, “I’m not going in today, I’ll report to the infirmary.”
“Nah, thanks though.”’
He ran the shower hot and scrubbed away the previous night. Toweling off after the shower, he brushed his teeth and saw the woman’s scratches on his shoulder. He dropped his shoulders and shook his head. Gene rinsed his mouth, took some aspirin and, after removing his ribbons, dropped his clothes into the laundry bag; walking back to his bedroom, he fell back into bed. Sleeping badly, he dreamt of Judy. He could hear her, but couldn’t find her; he dreamt he was making love to her, but she kept turning into different women. Shaking himself awake, he made coffee and something to eat, it made him feel a little better. Settling down into a chair with a cigarette, he winced when the phone rang. He picked it up, cursing because he forgot to call the office. It was Betsy.
“Hi Gene, I called the office and they said you were out sick,”
Gene looked up and mouthed thank you to the ceiling. His roomie had covered for him, “yeah, I’m a little under the weather today. What’s up?”
“Well, Frank called me and he was concerned, he heard you weren’t doing well.”
Frank? Did he call Frank last night? No, he Judy must have called Frank and in turn, he must have called Betsy.
“I just have a bug. I’ll be okay. Say Betsy? I’ve been thinking about us.”
“What have you been thinking?”
Gene knew that Judy’s marriage was in all of the papers, so he had to play it casually.
“I really miss Kerry. I have some free time next weekend. Why don’t you bring the baby back east? I’d love to show you both around Washington. The weather’s beautiful; it’s the best time to be here before the humidity sinks in.”
“Are you sure it’s because of Kerry?” Betsy was no dummy.
Gene went quiet for a moment; eventually, he said,
“I won’t lie, it was a shocker, but that ended a while ago. I miss my daughter, and I’d like to see you, too. I can set up a place for you at the Mayflower. What do you say, Betsy?”
“Ok. I will come, but on one condition.”
“Shoot.” He sipped his coffee.
“No reunion, just a visit.”
Betsy was going to make Gene work for it. Her own relationship was just for fun, and she was feeling nostalgic for Gene, but not the way things used to be and not to soothe a heartbroken
“Promise. It’s all about Kerry.”
Gene dug a pack of cigarettes out of the sideboard. He went to the windows and opened them, letting in the fresh, fragrant spring air. He knew he could win Betsy over in time. It wouldn’t be the same, it wouldn’t be what he really wanted: but as he lit his cigarette he thought, maybe it was time for him to do the right thing, too.
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