As the jeep came to a stop in front of a line of rustic looking cottages with sloping metal roofs, I looked at Ramsey. “Is this it?”
He nodded. My expectation of colonial architecture, whitewashed walls and cool tiled interiors was not to be. With a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach I followed Ramsey up the dilapidated stairs to a porch covered in weathered rattan furniture.
“This is our quarters Vinny, at least until we find a place to rent. The driver will get the luggage. Why don’t have a look around? I need to check with the general.” Ramsey patted my arm and headed off.
A sharp musty odor greeted me inside but despite the smell everything looked immaculate. The dark wood floors had been polished to a high shine. Large windows on either side of the front door were opened wide bringing in the scent of flowers. A bamboo couch covered in frayed cushions in greens and reds sat against the right wall, a glass topped coffee table in front of it. Facing the couch on the other side two armchairs sat like lumpy dough, their material torn and stained. This was a major’s quarters? Our tiny house in Texas had been much nicer than this. Maybe I should have remained in Washington, at least until the birth of this child.
Rusty appliances and a chipped porcelain sink greeted me in the kitchen. The cabinets needed to be painted and the linoleum floor had yellowed in areas and curled where it met the wall. The screen door slammed as the driver came in with the luggage, leaving it in the middle of the living room floor and exiting quickly. The jeep was already backing out as I arrived in the living room. Two dark paneled doors led into bedrooms with a bathroom in between. A door led from the bedroom to the covered porch and after placing my bag on the bed, I stepped out, taking a deep breath of the moisture-laden air. Against the porch wall an ancient rusty washing machine languished, with a clothes-line hung between two posts above it. Beyond the row of houses a forest of enormous Dipterocarp trees, interspersed with date palms and banana trees moved in the light breeze. In the dense canopy unseen birds called out in unfamiliar voices.
Pushing the damp hair off my face I turned away from the lush jungle scene. I needed a shower. The taps sputtered with foul-smelling brown water before they ran semi-clear. Before I could stop myself tears were running down my cheeks, sobs bubbling up as I stepped under the thin stream. Luckily by the time Ramsey reappeared, looking hot and irritated, I had washed away my tears and dressed.
“Ramsey, you look as though you could use a shower too.”
“I don’t have time for that. It seems we are to be presented to General MacArthur in exactly one hour.
“What does that mean? Presented?”
“It means the man is a pompous ass, that’s what it means!” he roared.
“Ramsey calm down, Major Dole and his wife will hear you.”
“I don’t really care and it’s too damned hot to close the windows. General Wainwright is trying his best to maintain a good attitude but I can see the strain on his face.”
“What is the meeting about?”
“That’s just it. It isn’t that kind of a meeting. He, I mean MacArthur, is not planning to communicate with us at all. It will be more like some sort of ceremony.”
“Maybe that’s a blessing in disguise.”
“I don’t like being left out of the loop and I’m sure Wainwright is in agreement.”
“Well, try to reserve judgment until after the meeting. Now, at least change your shirt. You look a mess. I hung up your uniforms in the closet there on the right.” I forgot my own troubles as I watched my husband struggle for composure. He was loyal to General Wainwright to a fault but there were other officers higher ranking than himself whom he just couldn’t seem to abide. It would not do his career any good if he didn’t get along with the officers in charge.
“I do hope there’s a cleaning service here because I do not want to be ironing your shirts in this heat.”
“Of course there is,” he muttered. “I wouldn’t expect you to do it. Now where did you say I could find a clean shirt?”
“In the closet--I’ll get it for you. You need to shave.”
Ramsey ran his hand over his face. “I guess you’re right.” He pulled his kit out of the suitcase and went into the bathroom and closed the door. I heard the squeak of the taps.
I opened the door a crack. “I should have warned you about the water. Do you know if they supplied us with any booze?”
“Check the kitchen but I’m sure they did.”
“I’ll make drinks for when you get back.”
“Don’t bother. I’ll be going to the Army-Navy Club after the meeting with Wainwright and the others.”
“When will you be back?”
“No idea.” Ramsey came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist. His face was shaved, his dark hair combed back. Our eyes met but as I started toward him he turned away and began to dress.
“We can go to the officer’s club for dinner later. The driver will take us. I better be going, have to meet General W. at his quarters. We’re leaving from there.”
I watched his retreating back from the kitchen window, heard the driver’s mumbled words. A second later the engine started and the jeep rolled away.
Searching through the cupboards revealed an unopened bottle of gin. Silently thanking whoever had stocked our kitchen I poured a few ounces into a water glass, adding ice and tonic. A wave of loneliness accompanied me to the couch with my drink.
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