The cold March wind whirled the now-fallen oak leaves into vertical tunnels along the gutters in Enid, Oklahoma. Not yet spring and not winter either, March was always the coldest month. The young man hurried down the street, collar up against the wind, one hand in his pants pocket, the other holding onto his gray fedora to keep it from blowing off his head. Glancing up, he saw her waiting to cross at the light, her dark hair blowing in the wind. Her light tan coat seemed not enough. Joining her at the crossing, he tipped his hat to acknowledge the lady in his presence. She smiled, not cautiously, her perfectly straight white teeth framed in bright red lipstick.
“Cold day,” he said.
“Always is this time of year,” she replied. “But invigorating.” She smiled again, a genuinely warm smile.
They crossed the street, angling toward Andy’s Diner. As they approached the door together, he quickly reached to open it for her. They stepped inside to the warmth and aroma of hot coffee and doughnuts. The small diner, obviously popular with the local lunch crowd, was noisy and bustling.
A silver-haired, short, stout man wearing a white apron greeted her with a wink, “Who’s your new beau, Sadie?”
Sadie flashed her broad smile. “Hi, Andy. He’s just someone I picked up on the street corner.” She winked at the stranger, then hugged Andy.
Andy kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll get some menus and be right back.”
The stranger, watching her remove her neck scarf, was quick to notice no ring on her left hand.
He smiled shyly. “Would you do me the pleasure of joining me for lunch?”
“If you don’t think that’s too brash of me.” The twinkle in her eye told him she might not mind even if she did seem brash. She offered her hand. “I’m Sadina Wagner, but everyone calls me Sadie.”
“Sadina. That’s a beautiful and unusual name.”
“Thank you. And you are?”
“Name’s W.E. Walraven. I just got into town a few days ago.”
Hmm. I think I hear a bit of a Southern drawl. She pointed to a booth near the jukebox. “Let’s sit here. It’s kind of reserved for me since I eat lunch here nearly every day.”
Andy returned with menus and two cups of coffee. “Here you go. Hot coffee will take off the chill. Well, Sadie, are you going to introduce me?”
The stranger stuck out his hand. “W.E. Walraven, but everyone calls me Bill.I’m stationed out at Woodring Field, supervising the construction for the new Army Air Corps Basic Flying School. I had a day off and wanted a change of scenery.”
Andy reached for W.E.’s offered hand and winked at Sadie. “I’m Andy Thompson. You’ve seen the best scenery in town already. She’s the prettiest we’ve got around here.”
Sadie smiled gratefully at Andy and squeezed his arm. “By the way, Andy, Rae said she’d run by the dry cleaners after work so you don’t need to bother.”
W.E. reached for the cream, then stirred it in and took a sip of coffee. I totally agree with Andy’s assessment. She’s a beauty alright. But something is appealing beyond the surface. He looked up. “You’re obviously familiar with this place. What’s your recommendation?”
“Anything of Andy’s is good, but if you like chicken ‘n’ dumplings, you’ll not find any better. That’s my favorite.”
“Then chicken ‘n’ dumplings it is.” W.E. handed the menus to Andy, who sauntered away whistling Ain’t She Sweet. W.E. raised one eyebrow as Sadie rolled her eyes in Andy’s direction.
“I’m afraid Andy’s a bit prejudiced in my favor,” she explained, “and I love it! He’s become like a second father to me. Always gentle and kind and treats me like his very own daughter.”
W.E. smiled at her, lifting his coffee cup as a toast in her direction.
She lifted her cup, returning his gaze. His eyes–a startling lime green. Wavy brown hair, arched eyebrows, full lower lip, broad shoulders set over a full chest for someone so slim. I wouldn’t have guessed he’s a soldier since he’s not in uniform. This town is crawling with soldiers. I’m used to their flirtations, but none have flirted with me so genuinely, politely, and graciously. Enjoying this unexpected luncheon date is going to be easy. I might have to give Rae a call at the beauty shop to tell her I might be returning just a bit late from lunch hour.
Breaking the spell, Andy approached with plates piled high and two small bowls of salad.
“Here you go.”
“That was quick.” W.E. inhaled the delicious aroma.
“Freshly made every morning. Take a bite and tell me what you think.” Andy watched with anticipation.
W.E. looked at Sadie a bit self-consciously, then took a bite of dumplings. “You are right, Andy. These are the best dumplings I’ve ever tasted. What’s the secret to their being so light and fluffy?”
“My secret. I can’t tell. I have to keep my favorite customers coming back. I’ll leave it to you to enjoy.” He hurried to the front door to greet more customers.
Sadie set her fork down and dabbed at the corners of her mouth. Cocking her head at an angle, she continued. “You don’t look like a Bill. What does W.E. stand for?”
“William…and the E will remain a mystery.”
“In that case, I’ll call you W.E. It sounds sort of sophisticated.”
W.E. laughed. “Sophisticated, huh? How about if I call you Sadina. It would be a shame to shorten that beautiful name.”
She smiled coyly and continued. “Exactly what do you do out on the base?”
“We’re just in the preliminary stages of planning. The U.S. Army Corps is assigned to build a flight school out at Woodring Field. I’m here to work on the plans for housing…barracks and office buildings.” Then changing the subject before giving out more information than he should, he asked, “Do you like movies?”
“Oh, yes,” Sadie replied. “Next to dancing, that’s one of my favorite things to do on the weekend.”
Over Andy’s complimentary homemade chocolate ice cream cones, W.E. ventured, “So, you like to dance?”
“Does the bear pee in the woods?” Sadie quipped.
W.E. threw back his head and laughed. He liked her boldness, her sense of humor, the intensity in her hazel eyes, and her broad red smile.
Sadie searched in her purse and pulled out a nickel. Then jumped up and headed for the jukebox. Returning, she matched her steps to Chattanooga Choo Choo.
“I love this song.” She swayed a bit in the booth and snapped her fingers to the tune.
“One of my favorites, too.”
“Have you been to Jake’s Place?” Sadie asked.
“Yeh, it’s where we…my friends and I…hang out on Saturday night. You’re welcome to join us. Most of the time, we only have the jukebox for dancing, but once in a while, Mac, the owner of the place, hires a local band and charges a small cover charge.”
“Either way sounds great! I’ve been itchin’ to dance; it’s been a while. I’d love to join you, that is if your friends don’t mind.”
“The more, the merrier! Right now, I’m sorry, I need to get back to work.”
W.E. stood and offered his hand to help her from the booth. “Thanks for taking pity on a stranger. I’m delighted you agreed to have lunch with me.”
“Me, too.” Sadie squeezed his hand, then let W.E. help her with her coat. “See you Saturday.”
W.E. opened the door for her and watched her walk down the street. He pulled his fedora on a bit tighter and walked the opposite direction to his car.
Saturday found W.E. shining his green-gray 1939 Ford Coupe Deluxe until he could see his reflection in the paint. Meticulous in his grooming, he showered and stood looking in the mirror in his small barracks room. I would have preferred to ask Sadina for a date, but guess I’d better feel out the situation. As pretty as she is, she probably already has a beau or two.
Parting his hair on the left, he pressed the edge of his hand into the top of his fine but ample hair, deepening the natural wave. He put on his slacks, tucked in his white shirt, adjusted his tie, shined and slipped into his favorite dancing shoes, all the while checking his watch every ten minutes. A final splash of his favorite Old Spice cologne, and he was out the door. He drove the two miles to the edge of town. Sadina gave me easy-to-follow directions, but it seems obvious with this stream of cars that this must be a popular place on Saturday night.
Jake’s Place was a large rambling converted wooden warehouse with a bright red neon sign flashing the word Dancing. As W.E. pulled into the parking lot, he could hear through the open windows the big-band swing music blaring from the jukebox. Once inside, he saw couples already swirling and twirling to the popular Taking a Chance on Love. With thumbs tucked into the corners of his pockets, W.E. glanced around, wondering if Sadie had arrived.
Hearing the familiar perky voice, W.E. turned just as her hand found its way through the crook of his arm.
Sadie smiled up at him. “I’m glad you made it. Come on over, and I’ll introduce you.”
He followed her to her table of friends who raised their glasses to him, hailing him with invitations to Sit down and have a beer. As W.E. scooted into the red vinyl circular booth beside Sadie, he wondered if she was here with one of the two guys sitting there, or if she was just one of the three gals who made up a group of friends.
Before he could wonder any further, Sadie jumped up, saying, “Oh, it’s Bugle Boy—my favorite swing. Come dance with me.” She grabbed W.E.’s hand, tugging him toward the dance floor.
W.E., confident in his jitterbug, swung her around, watching her beautiful smile, and delighting in the fact that she was the best dance partner he had ever encountered. He challenged her with his fast footwork, but she proved up to the task. He couldn’t help but notice the curve of her legs above slender ankles as she twirled around in her full, navy blue dress.
When the song ended, Sadie turned to leave the dance floor, but W.E. pulled her to him at the first few strains of Frank Sinatra singing Fools Rush In. Pulling her close, cheek-to-cheek, W.E. felt his heart beating as her full breasts caressed his chest. His right arm was around her narrow waist as they waltzed in perfect sync. W.E. had enjoyed some fair dance partners, but never had he felt so comfortable, so in step, and not only with his feet.
Sadina is more than just a beauty, and I am determined to spend as much time with her as she will allow. I’ll do my darndest to keep her on the dance floor for the rest of the evening.
Sadie let W.E. hold her close as the band finished the evening with Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
W.E., in his Southerly-charm dialect, asked, “May I carry you home?”
Sadie threw back her head and laughed. “If you have a car, I’ll be glad to have you drive me. But it would be a ways to carry me.” She didn’t mean to make fun of him, but when he blushed, she quickly added, “Sure, I’ll just tell my friends I have a ride.”
W.E. walked Sadie to his car, opened the door for her, and was pleased when she slid halfway across the seat. He walked around and slid in beside her.
Touching the smooth dashboard, she wondered if this was his car or one he borrowed for the evening. Sadie knew cars. She loved the shiny greenish-silver of the two-door Ford Coupe Deluxe, the curving lines, the softness of the buff-brown fabric seats.
“This is a beautiful car. Have you had it long?”
“Only a couple of months. Glad you like it, but it’s not the one I have my heart set on. My next car will be an Oldsmobile—a Custom Cruiser 98—as soon as I’ve saved up to pay cash for it.”
Sadie was smitten with W.E.’s Southern gentlemanly ways, his lime-green eyes, his wavy light brown hair, how he treated her with such tenderness, how he shared his dreams and ambitions, but especially with the way he danced.
“Turn left at the next corner, last house on the right,” Sadie directed him.
W.E. pulled up in front of the house. Walking Sadie to the door, he couldn’t help noticing the beautiful Georgian house. “Nice place. Big house for a single lady.”
“Oh, it’s not mine,” Sadie readily offered. “I just board here with Rae and Andy Thompson. You met Andy—the owner of the diner? I work as a receptionist and manicurist for Rae in her beauty shop. They’re like family. Rae also owns the El Sombrero—a Mexican restaurant in town. I help there in the evenings when she needs me. It’s a wonderful place. You should try it sometime.”
W.E. winked at her. “Maybe you could try it with me? How about Wednesday evening for dinner? That is…if you don’t have other plans.”
Sadie looked away for a brief moment, then back at W.E. “There is nothing I would like better than to have dinner with you. Eight o’clock would be perfect unless you want to go dancing afterward. Then we’d better make it seven.”
W.E. grinned. Not only is she beautiful, but she has an air of self-confidence, a lack of shyness that I find irresistible. “Seven is even better. See you then.” He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you for an enchanting evening, Sadina.” With that, he turned and walked toward his car.
Sadie called out, “Oh, W.E.”
He stopped, turned, and resisted the urge to run back, grab her in his arms, and kiss her tempting mouth. He resisted mightily. “Yes?”
“I had a wonderful evening, W.E. You’re an excellent dancer.” Sadie stood poised as if expecting something more. “Would you like to come in for a spell?”
W.E., wanting more than anything to extend his time with her, tipped his hat and said, “I’m mighty tempted, but I have to be back on base by curfew. I’ll see you on Wednesday.” He turned and waved as he got into his car and sped off.
Sadie sat down on the porch swing, her heart fluttering. Lights are still on in the living room. Rae is probably still up, no doubt wanting to hear a blow by blow of my evening. I don’t mind, but I want a little more time to revel in the wonderment of what I’ve been feeling all evening.
She enjoyed the attention of plenty of beaus through high school in Western Kansas. Enid is full of good-looking soldiers. As arrogant as it might sound, I can just about have my pick. But there is something about W.E. Maybe it’s the cologne. Or his lime-green eyes. Or that deep wave in his hair. Or maybe because he is a good dancer. His sincerity as well as his shy but confident manner. Perhaps it is all of that. He is a true Southern gentleman. W.E.—yes, someone I want to get to know better. Wednesday seems a long way off.
As predicted, Rae was in her buttery yellow silk lounging pajamas, feet up on the sofa, reading her latest Vogue magazine. Rae reminded Sadie of a movie star of the era—a Jane Russell with all the chutzpah of Mae West. She was voluptuous in body and flamboyant in style. Her red hair, usually in a chignon, now fell to her shoulders.
Rae put down her magazine as Sadie entered and patted the sofa. “Sit and tell me all about your evening. I want to hear every detail.”
Sadie smiled, sitting back with a sigh. “Rae, I’ve never felt this way before. But I think I’ve met the man of my dreams.”