Saturday, May 30, 2015

Red Roses written by Nedra Littlefield Culp

(This is another one of my mother's fictional short stories, written in the late 1940's.
She wrote a lot of stories dealing with WWII and its effect on relationships.  I am posting this one in connection with Memorial Day, in remembrance of my parents' love story.  This is a picture of her with red roses from my father.  She told him in a letter that red roses were her favorite flowers, and all through my life, I remember him getting her red roses.)

Nedra Littlefield Culp

This is our wedding anniversary and tonight I want to write you to try and tell you of my love for you, my love that is and always will be deep and everlasting.  We have been married for five years, August 5, 1942 to August 5, 1947.

I well remember the night I met you at the station when you came home on your first leave from the Army.  You were cocky and handsome as you stepped off the train.  I watched you proudly, happy that it was I who was waiting for you, I who was engaged to you and who was desperately in love with you.  Then you saw me, and soon I was in your arms, and you kissed me long and hard.

“Let me look at you, Darling,” you said.  “Oh, Honey, you’re even sweeter than I dreamed.”

We stood there holding each other until people began to stare.  We were so deliriously happy that night.

“Let’s get married right away, tomorrow, maybe.”

We were in my apartment and you were holding me close, telling me all of the things I had been longing to hear those many long month.

“Tomorrow, Darling, but you know I’d have to have time to get ready.  A girl just can’t get married on a moment’s notice.”

“She can if she wants to like I want to.”

It took only a few kisses to convince me that there was no need for waiting, and the next day we borrowed your brother’s car and drove to Nevada.  I had always pictured myself floating down the aisle in a misty white gown and a trailing veil, with you in tails, but here we were, a couple of scared kids in front of the Justice of the Peace.  You were in khaki, while I had on a short blue dress and a little white hat.  I carried red roses.  Red roses, which have been the symbol of our love since that day you gave me that single rose.

We had as our witnesses the wife of the Justice of the Peace and his son.  It was soon over and we were back in our car.  You looked at me with that funny little crooked smile of yours.

“You don’t look any different now that you’re Mrs. Ted Russell.  How do you feel?”

“I don’t know yet.  It was over so fast it seems it never happened.”

We found a motel with a Vacancy sign and got a room.  We ate in the restaurant nearby and later danced to the jukebox.  We were deliriously happy that night.

“Are you sorry you couldn’t have a big wedding?” you asked me after we had gone to our room.

“Darling, I was a fool to think that it could matter.  The only thing in this world that has any importance is just you and I and our being together for now and always.”

Then followed 7 days of joy and ecstasy.  We became acquainted with each other all over again.  The days passed in a dream, a dream that had to end too soon. 

You told me you would send for me as soon as you were transferred to your new station.  It was almost unbearable to say goodbye.  I felt I had just found you only to lose you again, but you comforted me, telling me it would only be for a short time.  I remember how you looked as you sat on the edge of the bed.  Your eyes were filled with sleep, your hair tousled and falling over one eye.  I told you you were the most handsome man in the world, and you said I was the most beautiful girl.  Then you told me I must get right out of bed and hurry, as it would soon be train time.

We stood on the platform at the station.  How many times did you kiss me goodbye?  I remember you saying that if we were ever in need of a place to kiss publicly we should remember to go to the railroad station.  You tried to tell funny little jokes and make me laugh and I tried to be brave for you.  I stood by the window where you sat and we talked before the train started to go.  So many things to say and so little time.  Then the train was going down the tracks and I was waving frantically.  I didn’t cry a tear until then.

You wrote me every day and sometimes called me.  I was lost without you.  My heart was a hard lump in my breast and each night I looked at your picture and cried a little.  At that time 2 weeks separation seemed like 2 years.  Then you called me from Louisiana.  Your voice was strong and vibrant across the great distance of space.  You told me I was to come post haste to Meedville, Louisiana.

The next day I quit my job and was on a plane bound for Meedville by 7:00 that night.  I called you at the camp.  You couldn’t come in until the next evening which was Saturday.  In my innocence of Army ways, I had pictured us together every night, but I was soon to be disillusioned.  Your camp was 35 miles from Meedville and you could come in on weekends, that is, if passes were being issued.  I found a room in a hotel and soon we were together again.  So much time to make up; 2 weeks since we had seen one another.  We were so happy that first night.  We talked far into the night.

I found myself a job.  We soon found that a Private’s pay doesn’t stretch far.  I found a room in a cheap rooming house and that became our heaven, our nest of love and joy.  Weekends were wonderful.  I’d rush home from work, get freshened up for you and soon you’d be there.  After awhile we would go out and get something to eat, as we had no cooking privileges in our room.  I used to tell you of the wonderful meals I would cook for you when we had a place of our own.  You said all that could wait, just so we had each other now.  We would come back to our room and listen to the radio and drink soft drinks.  We didn’t have any money to spend on entertainment, but we had all the entertainment we wanted to be together for two whole evenings a week.  You taught me to play cards; to play poker.  Those were wonderful evenings together and our little room seemed like paradise on earth.

We had been married 3 months when your outfit went on maneuvers.  You were gone 6 weeks.  During that time I found out that we were to have a baby.  I was happy, very happy, but worried and scared.  Then you were back and called me to tell me that you were on your way into town.  I was delirious. I rushed down the stairs to hurry and get ready for you.  I guess I rushed too fast.  I caught my foot on a rough spot on the stair, and hurtled downward.  There was a terrible blinding flash of pain and then I remembered nothing until I heard your dear voice.  You were standing beside me looking scared and helpless.  I was in a hospital.

“Our baby,” I asked, “is it all right?”

“No Darling.  There won’t be any baby.”

It didn’t seem possible.  I had just found out about it.  I broke down completely then and they told you you must leave. 

You were so good to me then, so sweet and tender and loving.  You got a 3-day pass and spent every moment possible by my side.  We were sad about the baby, but knew there was lots of time for others.

You were transferred again, this time to Texas.  I followed you as soon as possible and we had a similar room there.  We didn’t mind.  We could have found happiness anywhere.  You were a perfect love and a perfect husband.  Sometimes I used to wonder if I were dreaming, if it could be possible for any two people to be so completely happy.  Then I remember the one thing we did not talk about; the fact that soon you would be going overseas.

We would lie in bed at night and dream about our future.  We were going to have a large family, possibly 3 boys and 3 girls.  You thought that we should wait until after the war to have them now, though.  We decided that you should go on with your interrupted education.  You had only two years before you would have your degree in engineering.  I said I would work part time to help out.  Then we planned our little home, a small white cottage with a green roof and green shutters.  We were both tired of city dwelling and wanted to have an acre or two out in the country where we could have flowers and vegetables and maybe some berries.  Those were lovely dreams we had.

Before long we knew that the time would soon be there.  The invasion was imminent in Europe and there were many rumors around camp.  We knew that it couldn’t be too long and so we tried desperately to make every moment count, to live each moment together to the full, to drink in the joy of being together before you went away.

It was Saturday night and we had been married 6 months.  I dressed especially for you that night.  I wore the green dress you loved so well, the one which you said, quite plainly, showed off my shape.  I fixed my hair the way you liked it best and waited for you to come.  I could tell by your face when you came that something was wrong, but you denied it.  You brought me red roses.  I held them to my breast, buried my face in them and drank in their beauty.  You said we would go to Dalli’s for supper to celebrate.  Dalli’s was the most exclusive restaurant in town.

“Did you enjoy your food, Sweetheart?” you asked me.

“It was marvelous.  You are a very thoughtful and considerate husband.”

“I should be considerate of anyone so lovely as you.  Six months darling, it doesn’t seem like we’ve been married that long does it?  But I suppose time always goes fast when you’re happy.  I am so happy with you, my darling.  So very, very happy.”

We were very gay that night.  We danced until 2:00 in the morning and then walked the long way home.  We stopped at Joe’s Place and had hamburgers.  It was just like when we were in school together and had just enough money left for a hamburger after a show.

We were in bed and you held me tight, your hands caressing me.

“Darling, there’s something I have to tell you.”

“Darling, don’t you suppose that I know you by now?  Don’t you know that I know what’s been troubling you tonight?  You got your orders didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I didn’t want you to know tonight, not on our wedding anniversary.  We’ll have tomorrow together and then that will be all.”

“What do you mean that will be all?  This is only a brief interlude in our lives.  We have years ahead of us.  Darling, we’ll see the day when we’re sitting on the porch of our little white house with the green roof and green shutters and holding hands and up will walk a little girl or boy and it will be our grandchild.  Don’t you know that?”  I was trying to console you.  Trying to pretend that I was brave about it.

“Jean, I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but I feel that I can’t leave you, that if I do we’ll be apart forever.  Oh, forgive me for saying that, I don’t know what I’m saying.  I’m so upset.  Now don’t cry, Darling, please don’t cry.”  You tried to comfort me.  You kissed me and caressed me and told me of your love and how you would miss me so, but the time would pass swiftly and soon we would be together again.  I soon ceased crying and went to sleep in your arms.

We went to Church the next day and prayed together for your safety and speedy return.  Then we walked in the Park and talked.  The wind was cold and bitter that day but we didn’t mind.  We sat on a park bench and watched the pigeons.  We were alone in the Universe.  A boy and a girl who were terribly in love and who were trying to live those last few hours to the full.

Goodbye was heart-rending.  You looked at me long and hard and there were tears in your eyes.  Then we clung together for that one last time.  When you were gone all of the tears that had been building up in me tore loose like water over a dam.

I returned home to California and was soon writing you at an APO number.  V-mail letters.  At first I heard nothing from you.  I tried not to worry and then one day I got dozens of letters, one for almost every day you had been away.  I sorted them according to dates and read them hungrily.  You were lonesome, you missed me, you loved me, you played poked with the fellows, you missed me.  You got seasick, terribly seasick, you missed me terribly, you loved me.  What beautiful letters they were.  I treasured each of them individually.

Could an existence on letters be called complete?  I think not, but how fortunate we were able to keep in contact that way.  You sent me linens from Ireland.  You wrote me fascinating letters about Ireland, Scotland and England told me of the interesting people you met.  You always made friends readily wherever you went. 

June 6, 1944 and the invasion of Normandy.  Were you in it?  I and millions of mothers, wives and sweethearts waited and wondered.  The newspapers and radio told of the fighting and my heart was sick and sore.  Then one day I returned home from work and set about preparing something to eat.  There had been nothing in the mailbox from you and I was filled with melancholia.  The doorbell rang.  It was Western Union.  My heart was filled with terror.

The War Department regrets to inform you……..

Wounded in action.  Oh, thank God, thank God!  Wounded and not killed, but how seriously?  How was I to know?  I had no one to turn to, no one to comfort me.  I prayed long and hard that night and God did hear my prayer for soon I had a letter from you, written in a strange hand, but your words, your sentiments.  I cried when I read it.  I cried until the page was blurred and the words almost indistinguishable.  You had been hit by a mortar shell, but it was not a serious injury.  It had not received attention in time and had become quite badly infected but was progressing rapidly.  You were in a hospital in England and a nurse was writing this letter.  It was your right arm that was hit.

I received many letters in the handwriting of that nurse, and then your own dear handwriting again, shaky, but all your own.  You recovered soon and were sent back to combat.

Those were anxious days, days of waiting while the troops pushed steadily ahead to Berlin.  Oh, there were setbacks, of course, but at long last it was over and the news was flashed around the world that the Germans were beaten, crushed completely.  Now you could be home.  It couldn’t be much longer now.  Your letters were regular now and promised of your early return.  It was spring, a new and glorious spring which foretold a new life for us when we would be together always, without war and continents between us.

Then your letters changed.  I didn’t know it then, but in looking them over now I can readily see it.  I was stunned when you said that you had volunteered to stay over for the army of occupation.  I couldn’t believe that it could be so.  You gave as your reason that you thought there was a job to be done and that there was no purpose in winning the war if our nation could not secure the peace.  All very noble of you, but I didn’t feel noble, I was a woman who had been without her man for 3 years and I wanted you with me.  I read your letter over and over trying to read between the lines, to discern your motive for this.  It was impossible for me to understand.

You still wrote me regularly.  My heart was heavy but my eyes were dry.  I had cried so much it seemed I could never cry again.  You sent me perfume from Paris where you spent a leave.  You sent me souvenir pictures from Berlin.  You told me of the old castle where you were quartered.  You said you were seeing a lot of the country and getting a liberal education in the German way of life.

Our third wedding anniversary came and the florist delivered red roses.  Our fourth anniversary came and more red roses.  I knew that something was wrong by this time.  Your letters were noticeably changed by now, but I kept hoping, always hoping.

And now our fifth wedding anniversary.  I didn’t receive the red roses, but I did receive your letter.  Yes, my darling, I can’t believe that you planned it this way, but it came today, August 5, 1947.

She laid down her pen.  She was a lovely girl of about 25 years of age and she sat before a desk in a small apartment.  She was dressed in a blue negligee and looked very lovely with her hair falling softly about her shoulders.  She read what she had written, gave a short laugh and folded it together and slowly tore it into miniature pieces and dropped them one by one into a wastebasket.  Then she picked up a letter that lay on the desk and read it through again.

“Jean Dear, I know I should have done this long ago, but I was a coward.  How can I say what I have to say without hurting you?  If I only could know that you have changed too, it would not be so difficult.  I’ll come right to the point. I’ve fallen in love with a girl in Berlin.  I want to marry her and I want you to divorce me.  I hope this isn’t going to hurt too much, but we were apart for so long and she was here close by.  But I am not going to make excuses, I feel too much like a heel anyway, and I do love her very much.  I hope you will be willing to divorce me, and I know how fair about everything you have always been.  Please let me hear from you soon.  Forgive me.  May God bless you. Ted.”

She took this letter and slowly tore it into bits where it fell, slowly into the wastebasket where the other letter lay.

The End.


Chocolat - French for Chocolate. I adored chocolate from a young age when I had to sneak in the cupboard to find where my mother had hidden the Nestle's Chocolate Chips. Having read about the famous chocolat shoppes in Paris, when I finally got there I was determined to try a chocolate from every Paris shoppe. I invite you to share my adventures in creating, in travel, and in life.


  1. YOu can't leave me hanging like this..
    I had tears readng this and because he was so wonderful I never expected the end..
    How very fortunate you are to have these letters♥
    Take care..It is so 1940's...

  2. Riveting, love that you are sharing!

  3. What an ending! Ugh! I always remember Mother getting red roses in a long box every wedding anniversary when we were growing up. She was quite a writer, and all these many years we didn't know it. Love this one.

  4. The way she writes about love is so beautiful! Such a sweet love story until that ending, my goodness. What a treasure to have these stories of your mother's!

  5. Wait! ! What??? So Ted Russell was your Mom's first husband?? I'm so confused!
    Riveting read!

  6. Wow, that ending was a zinger! You are so lucky to have her short stories :) What a creative mind.

  7. No it is fiction. Yes the ending surprises you bi thought that made it an extra good read.

  8. Wow, what a story, Jacqueline! Didn't see that end coming!

  9. What a good read! She was such a talented writer, especially in romances! I remember reading another story of hers and I loved it! love this story even with the sad ending.:)

  10. What a romantic and yet tragic story! I loved reading it and feeling her same emotions of romance, the excitement of receiving letters, how hard it is to da goodbye! And bam, surprise ending, sad!!! Such a talent your mom had!

  11. Wow! What a great story! Good thing that was just fiction and that grandpa was a much better man than good ol' Ted was!

  12. Wow! What a great story.... I would love to read more of hers. So wonderful that you have these. Although the ending made me very sad... I want to hear more haha! Thank you for sharing!!

  13. Great story! Your mother was a talented writer. . .and I love that era of history. Thank you for sharing this!

  14. Your mother was such a talented romantic writer. I was totally surprised by the ending. She pulled me in with her description to every detail. I love romance novels. Now I see where you get your gift of writing from. I know you and your family treasure all of her writings along with your memories. Hugs, KS

  15. I was so caught up in this story oh my goodness!! Thank you so much for sharing your mom's talent. Great ready!


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