by S.I. Kishor
John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't, the girl with the rose.
His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind. In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell. With time and effort he located her address. She lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding.
Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like. When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting — 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York. "You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel."
So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen. A young woman was coming toward him, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive. He started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As he moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sailor?" she murmured. Almost uncontrollably he made one step closer to her, and then he saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. He felt as though he were being split in two, so keen was he desire to follow the girl, yet so deep was his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned and upheld his own. And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. He did not hesitate. His fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify him to her. This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which he had been and must ever be grateful. He squared his shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while he spoke he felt choked by the bitterness of his disappointment. "I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"
The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!"
It's not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell's wisdom.
The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive. "Tell me whom you love," Houssaye wrote, "and I will tell you who you are."
The Rose (Rewrite)
By James A. Whitney
"I'm too old to be doing something this silly," I thought to myself while in the taxi. The taxi was heading toward Union Station, where I would meet John Blanchard for the first time.
My interest in John first started when I received a letter from him, approximately four months after the death of my husband. It was April, 1944. The war had claimed my husband. Perhaps that led me find the hope in John's writings, wishing for a new love.
He claimed to have found a book of mine; one that I had only marked notes in. I honestly don't remember ever doing it, but I was willing to accept it. I wrote back. We exchanged several letters. He had been called to fight in the war, and he kept imploring me to write. During the next thirteen months, we grew to know each other through the
mail. I couldn't help but hope that a new romance was budding. Even my friends teased me about him.
About ten months into our correspondence, he requested a photograph. Now, for a 37-year old woman with two children, I didn't look half bad. But I would never compare to the young women that threw themselves at sailors. And I knew it. I made some excuse that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what I looked like. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help but hope.
Three months later, John Blanchard came home. We arranged a meeting in Union Station at 7:00. Since I didn't want to give him a picture, I told him that he would recognize me by the rose in my lapel. As the taxi pulled up to the curb, I placed the rose in my lapel, paid the driver, and left the cab. My first impulse was to turn around, right here and now, and forget this crazy thing. But I pressed on.
It was 7:03 when I first saw John. I recognized him instantly; if the uniform wasn't a giveaway, then the book he was carrying was enough. He was a handsome man, cleancut and fresh from his tour of duty. He reminded me of my husband, and a tear formed in my eye. But he had not yet seen me.
As I began to approach him, a remarkably beautiful girl dressed in an elegant emerald suit passed in front of him and smiled. John looked at her, obvious in his desire. As she walked past, he took a step in her direction, and then finally he saw me. I stood still, looked back at him and smiled. He looked longingly at the young girl as she left the station, and stared for a good three seconds.
Then, finally, he approached me.
"I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard," he said, taking my hand and shaking it, "and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?"
He tried. He really tried to hide the disappointment in his voice, but I could hear it only too well. All of my fears had been realized, and I recognized that it would never work. Holding back my tears, I replied.
"I don't know what this is about," I answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she asked me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she's waiting on the street corner for you. She said it was some kind of test."
That was all the convincing he needed. He thanked me and walked away. After three steps he started to run. After a few seconds, I called out to him.
"John, wait," I said, but it was too late.
I turned around and walked away, crying.
Looking back on it, I sometimes fantasize that I was the young lady. Or that John wasn't so quick to believe that I was. Or that I handled it differently. I wonder where John is; I wonder whether he found the young lady, and what he did when he found out that she wasn't me. Sometimes, I sit and look at the stars, and wonder what might have been.