My Sunshine (Part I)
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take my
I first heard him hum it when we were on one of our many walks together. The evening was balmy. My neck was moist beneath my collar. And even though I’d had more than my fill of sun those past few summer days--somehow, that made it okay.
I joined in with him the second time around, and he noticed.
“You’ve got a lovely voice,” He said, folding his hands behind his back.
“And you’ve got an odd taste in music, for a boy,” I teased. Perhaps a bit flirtatiously, but that couldn’t be helped. He did that to me.
He was a few paces ahead, and turned around to offer a smile. “It’s not odd. That’s one of my favorite songs. Maybe even my favorite.”
I hurried to catch up with him. He wasn’t one to slow down, even for a girl. I liked that about him. My friends didn’t understand--they called it rude, impolite. I always believed it was his way of showing me he didn’t regard me as different. He walked fast because he knew I was just as capable of it as he.
“I like it too. Not near as much as the new dance music--that’s just plain fun--but I like it a lot.”
“My mother used to sing it to me, when I was little.”
I laughed. “Doesn’t everyone’s mother?”
“Yeah--but mine sang it to me like she meant every word.”
He stopped abruptly. I did, too. He turned to face me and grabbed my hand.
“You know I have to leave in three days, Kay.”
I tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. “Well...yeah.”
“And you’ll write me?”
“Every week. Every day, if you want.”
“What do you want?”
I paused, contemplating. “I guess...I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I mean...” He stepped forward, squeezing my hand tighter than he already was. “I mean, do you want to come back with me?”
The air left my lungs. For a moment, I was completely speechless.
“Come back with you?” I asked at last, breathlessly.
“Come back with me,” He affirmed, a bit more confidently than before.
“And what--” Here, I turned away, stepped back a few paces, still keeping hold of him. “What does that entail, exactly?”
“Marriage; at least by God.”
“You know me.”
“I’d like to think that I do.”
I bit my lip. “I honestly don’t know, Art. It’s a lot to take in.”
“You have a bite of time,” He reminded me, leaning close. “A day or so.”
I nodded. “I’ll think about it.”
“And if you decide not to, Kay, that’s okay. I’ll understand if you do. We’ve only known each other a year--”
“But that doesn’t matter; that’s not what I’m worried about.”
“Then what is it?”
I reached out a hand to brush his brown hair off his forehead. “My family. Going with you would mean leaving them. Overseas, at that. It’s not simple.”
“I know.” He put his hand on my cheek. “I love you. And I’ll respect whatever you decide.”
I paused, drawing a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Somehow, we’d ended up back at the gate that opened onto our farm. In the distance, I could see the barn that held dozens of cows. I’d milked more than my fair share, back in the day. I still did. Living at home meant pitching in, even if I was twenty-two, perfectly capable of going out on my own. Perfectly capable of marrying a man I loved and being with him.
I just couldn’t imagine not waking up every morning to the smell of Papa’s coffee, of not having the luxury of sitting with Mama and reprimanding the younger boys when they did wrong.
“G’night,” I whispered.
“Goodnight, Kay,” He replied in just as quiet a voice. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I made my way back to the house slowly, feet dragging in the tall patches of grass that littered the landscape. As I drew nearer, I could just barely make out the large pond that dominated the north end of the farm, often attracting kangaroos and other Australian wildlife.
Mama came out onto the porch right before I got to the door. She stared at me, placing her hands on her narrow hips.
“Why didn’t you invite him in for a cup of coffee? I just made some fresh.”
“Sorry.” I scratched at my neck. “He had to go.”
“Oh. All right, then. Well--you come on it, have yourself a cup.”
“It’s too hot.”
She smiled fondly at me. “You’ve always been hot-blooded Kay. And my goodness, it is no such thing! There’s practically a chill in the air.”
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re cold-blooded, Mama?”
“Naw. Never in my life have I heard such an absurd thing.” She turned back toward the door. “You just come on inside whenever you’re ready, then.”
I waited until she was gone to let out a breath I’d been holding. That. That was what I would miss. Our easy banter; the lenience of time. If I was leaving, we wouldn’t have that anymore. Many conversations would be through letters.
But I loved him. That was the problem.
And he? He was my sunshine.
I married Artimus Treshey on a rainy Wednesday afternoon. The ceremony wasn’t glamorous--not by a long shot. Only the most intimate gathering of our family and friends (the majority of them being mine) was held. But I wore my sister’s gorgeous dress, and had my hair done. Art looked dashing in his military uniform.
Together, we said our I do’s, and were given only a night together to say goodbye. The next morning, he left for his home in America. And I was to follow a short three weeks later.
“Are you sure about this?” Mama must have asked a million times.
I laughed off the inevitable goodbye. “Well, Mama. I’m married now. So I guess I’m pretty sure. It’d be pretty useless backing out at this point.”
She harrumphed and went about her duties, requesting that I, “Please don't be so sassy.” But we usually were to one another, and it was all in fun, so I knew that she must have felt bad about my leaving.
I was her baby, in a way. I had two older siblings, and plenty of younger ones--but I’d come out her carbon copy. We looked similar, and we spoke similarly. In me, she saw herself, and she liked that, and she loved me.
The day came for me to board the boat to Boston along with all the other girls. The whole family accompanied me down to the docks. Papa cried a little into his hat, and Fanny and Mildred carried on about how they’d miss me so. The boys were a bit easier to deal with. I gave each of them a short hug, told them to behave--and by then they’d lost interest. I released them to go and observe a bucket of crabs a little ways off.
Mama shuffled up to me in her quiet way, and grabbed me in a full-on hug. “I’m going to miss you every second, Kathryn,” She whispered in my ear.
“You don’t say?”
She pulled back. “Don’t be smart with me. I’m trying to tell you goodbye.” But she was smiling, and her words were soft.
“It’s just my way of dealing with it,” I confided. “The same as you.”
“Well, it’s unbecoming. Not very womanly.”
“Whoever did I learn it from?”
She laughed, and pulled me close once again. “Send me letters, okay?”
“I’ll be back, before too long. Promise.”
“If you say so.”
I left it at that, waving as I walked the short ways down the pier onto the boarding deck for the boat. As we pulled away from the harbor, everyone called out goodbyes, waving hats and scarves and papers in the air. I didn’t have anything on me, so I decided my purse would suffice. I whipped it around until Mama was just a speck of person floating on the sea.
Then I turned promptly threw up on my shoes.
That was how I spent the next four weeks.
I met him at a dance. I was in the corner with Florence and Debra, too shy to venture out onto the shiny, couple-filled floor on my own. There were times when my own meekness surprised me. It was like I was two different people--at “home” Kay, and “out in the world” Kay. I liked the former best.
There was a tap on my elbow and I turned around, sort of lazily, expecting to find Edith or maybe Samantha there, already prattling about their days. They lived in the city, and though they considered us friends, I wasn’t so sure. They boasted too much.
It wasn’t either of them, thank God. It was a man. Probably here to ask me to dance. But he didn’t. He frowned at me.
“I’m glad I found you.”
I raised my eyebrows. “...Oh?” What was this, a line? I’d heard of boys using those to flirt with girls, but I’d never been subjected to them. Until now.
His eyes darted to my friends, standing behind me. Then he gently grabbed my wrist and pulled me a little ways off, just out of earshot. He didn’t let go.
“You ran off last night before I could ask your name. I had a splendid time with you. I had hoped maybe we could stay in touch.”
Now it made sense. “I’m not her.”
“Who you’re looking for.” I pulled my arm from his grasp, smiling.
“Of course you are. Why are you trying to fool me?”
“Really--I’m not, I swear.”
He peered closer at me, and his eyes twinkled. “Ah, now I see.”
“What do you see?”
“Your eyes. They’re much bluer.”
I smirked at him and stepped back, crossing my arms across my chest. “A sweet talker, aren’t you? You don’t get what you want so you move onto the next best thing.”
“Oh--please don’t be offended.” He took off the brown newsboy cap he was wearing and held it to his chest. I noticed that he wore nice pants and a collared white shirt.
“I’m not,” I replied brusquely.
Kids whooped enthusiastically as a jig-to song came on. He looked over towards the floor where they had begun a series of complicated, somewhat goofy steps. Then he glanced back at me, and without asking, started to pull me towards the dance floor.
“Excuse me!” I protested, as we reached the swirl of bodies. He cut through them effortlessly, toting me right along with him.
“Have you ever done the jig before?” He asked, when we’d found a less-crowded space. With longing, I craned my neck in search of my earlier spot next to Florence and Debra. They were nowhere to be found. They weren’t coming to save me from this odd man.
“Fine,” I spat, facing him full-on. “And yes--I can do the jig.”
He looked amused at my sudden change in tone, which only sufficed to anger me. “All right, then. The girl from last night; I tried to show her how to jig. And she couldn’t to save her life.”
My body was already moving to the beat. Up went my legs, to the side. I spun around, keeping eye contact with him the whole time. He tried to keep up, but it was with poor effort. Eventually he just gave up and watched me.
His intense gaze should have made “out-in-the-world” Kay uncomfortable, but it didn’t. It felt incredibly freeing. My heart was pounding in my chest as I whipped my head from side to side, shaking my shoulders.
The song seemed to end too soon, and everyone clapped, him loudest.
“Wow,” He said, over and over again, slapping his hands together with fervor. “Wow.”
I smiled at him and promptly took off across the floor, in search of my friends. There was a moment of delayed reaction on his part, and then he was chasing me, apologizing to people as he bumped into them.
I made it out of the sea of people and whipped my head around wildly, searching. There! Florence and Debra were in the corner, chatting and sipping punch. I raised my hand to wave at them, hoping they’d see me and come relieve me of my duty to socialize with this guy.
But then the worst happened: Samantha, making her way to them. I saw Florence stiffen and frown. Debra forced a smile. No way was I going over there, now.
That’s when he caught up with me, breathless. He touched my elbow.
“You chased me.”
“I...had to...” He panted. “I didn’t last night and look what it cost me.”
I jerked my chin up defiantly. “What’re you saying?”
“That you were worth running after.” He stuck his hand out. “My name’s Art.”
I stared at it a moment before taking it firmly in my own. “Kathryn. Kay for short.”
We didn’t let go.
I didn’t see him.
I clutched my purse to my chest, heart pounding, as I searched. But he wasn’t here. He wasn’t over there, among the men awaiting their wives, and he wasn’t chatting at the ticket window, and he wasn’t helping unload my bags--he just wasn’t there.
“Ma’am?” A deep voice asked. I looked at the man staring at me. He was outfitted in overalls and a straw hat.
“Yes?” I asked, finding my voice. It trembled a little.
I hadn’t counted on it being like this. Not at all. I didn’t know this place--and I didn’t know these people. Their accents were strange, and their words were thick.
“You look awful lost. Is your husband not here?”
I clutched my purse tighter. “How did you know?”
“Just had a feeling. How ‘bout I drive you to ‘em? You know his address?”
I did, but I didn’t want to hand it out to complete strangers. Then again, Art wasn’t here, for whatever reason, and I needed to go home.
For a moment, I contemplated turning around and getting right back on that train. But thoughts washed over me: another month-long journey overseas, filled with sickness. The shame of telling my parents that I couldn’t do it; that I saw the big, wide world and I wasn’t ready to be a part of it. But worst: the feeling that if I did, I’d have let Art down.
“527, Baker Street,” I recited. “In Trent.”
“You don’t say?” He looked closer. “Are you Art’s bride?”
“Uh...yes. Yes, I am.”
“Oh, so good t’meet ya. I’m Clarence Bens.” He shook my hand. “A friend of your husband’s. We were good friends in school.”
“Are you picking up your wife too, Mr. Bens?”
“Everyone calls me Benny.”
“...Benny?” I amended.
“Naw, just getting a ticket for tomorrow’s train. Got to do some traveling. I farm, see, and I have to go get some seed in the big city.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“Not really. But I’m heading your way and I’d be glad to take you.”
I hesitated. “Are you sure?”
He nodded. His head was shiny, I noticed. And he wore glasses. “Positive! Just come with me and we’ll get you home righ’ t’away.”
So I did. Together, we located my bags in the cargo area of the train and made our way to his car, a rusted-out light-blue pickup truck. He put my bags in the back for me and let me climb up front. I sank down into the faded seats, leaning my head against the headrest and staring outside as he turned on the ignition and pulled away from the depot.
He chattered as he drove, saving me from the awkwardness of trying to make conversation. He told me he’d lived on the outskirts of Trent pretty much all his life, that he’d taken over his father’s farming business when he got too old to do it anymore. He lived alone--no wife, no children. He said it got lonely that way, but he had good friends for company.
“Where’re you from?” He finally asked, the question I’d been anticipating.
“Australia,” I said, smiling faintly as I heard my accent come through the word.
“You don’t say?”
“What’s it like, over there?”
It took me a moment to come up with the right word.
Art was on his way out the door when Benny pulled into the driveway of my now-home. I didn’t see it--just him. I was out the car and in his arms in a matter of seconds.
“Kay!” He said, putting his hand on my hair. He held me close. “I’m so sorry. Your train was late--so I came home to get some rest, and I just woke up and saw the time.”
“It’s fine,” I whispered, tucking my head into his neck. “I’m here, now.”
He pulled back to look at me. “You’re beautiful, you know that?”
I laughed. “Right.” I’d been on a train for four hours. I was exhausted and sweaty and about as un-beautiful as you could get.
“Who gave you a ride?” He asked, still staring at me.
I smiled. “Your friend. Clarence Bens.”
He furrowed his brow. That’s when I heard the truck start up and back out of the driveway. I turned around to wave my thanks at Benny, and he waved back. Then he was gone.
My bags sat on the curb, and I walked forward to retrieve them. Art seemed to shake himself out of whatever reverie he was in and picked the both of them up before I had a chance to.
The house was a cute, two-bedroom ranch with white siding. There was a large, friendly tree in the front yard. I took in the blue shutters, the slightly faded paint.
“Do you like it?” Art asked, almost nervously.
“It’s perfect,” I declared, and I meant it.
He held the door open for me, despite the load he carried. I stepped down into a garage of sorts. The walls were piled high with papers and other things. Tools hung from a makeshift carrier on the ceiling. I had the sudden image of a hammer crashing down on my head, and I flinched.
“Those--” I said, pointing to the tools. “Need to be brought down.”
“Making yourself at home already, are you?”
This time I took the liberty of opening the second door that led into the house.
“I might as well.”
It opened into a kitchen, a bit small--white cabinets, white countertops, white refrigerator. Even the floor was white. A table was pushed off to the side, and the cheery yellow chairs it boasted did a lot to brighten the area.
The living room was furnished heavily, in all varying shades of blue. I ran my hand over a pristine couch that must have been brand-new.
“I hope you like that,” Art said from behind me. “I picked it out for you.”
I sank down in its softness and instantly felt the urge to sleep. “It’s great. Thank you.”
He disappeared into a small hallway with my bags and returned a moment later, sitting beside me. I moved to rest my head in his lap.
“Kay?” He said, after a moment.
“Mm?” I mumbled drowsily.
“I wasn’t going to...I mean...I wasn’t planning on telling you this because I didn’t want to upset you. But then I started thinking and thought--maybe it’s a God thing.”
“What?” I asked, rolling on my back to look at him.
He smoothed my hair back. “I don’t know Clarence Bens. I’ve never heard that name before in my life.”
I sat up with sudden urgency. “What? He acted as if he knew you. He said you two were friends in school. He told me to call him Benny.”
“I honestly don’t know him.”
I felt a bit ill. “Then what? Was he trying to kidnap me?”
“What?” Art laughed. “No--no. He brought you here in one piece, didn’t he?”
“He told me all about his farm outside of Trent.”
“Kay,” He said, then stopped. “I mean--I’m familiar with this place. I know all the farmers who live here, and they know me. There’s no Clarence that farms.”
I felt goosebumps rise on my arms. “But he was real. I saw him.”
“So did I.”
“So who was he?”
“Maybe an angel. Sent by God.”
I shook my head. “Definitely not, Art. An angel wouldn’t look like that.”
“How would you know? You’re my angel, but you aren’t heavenly all the time. In fact, when I first met you, I was rather shocked by your bluntness.”
I laughed. “And I thought you were weird.”
“Yet look where we are now.”
“I’m exhausted.” I lay back down. “I’m just not going to worry about it.”
I closed my eyes and felt fatigue wash over me.
Then came his voice, ever so quietly, singing to me.
“...my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey.”
I fell asleep, like that. To a lullaby.
The first three years of our marriage went smoothly. Art went on leave for the last time, and the war promptly ended. I met a fellow Australian World War Two war bride, and we promptly became friends. Janice was a lot braver than I was, and she took me around town, introducing me to people she’d met.
With her aid, I began to build my life in Trent. I chatted with girls my age, inviting them over for tea. We went shopping together. Art took on some odd jobs until he found a more steady position. We paid the bills every month. Life was good.
But then there came the day that I went to the doctor, and he told me once and for all that it wasn’t going to happen. I slugged my way home and stayed in bed the rest of the day.
Art came into the house around five, calling my name. I was too scared to reply. I knew he had questions, and I’d have to answer them. He found me, lying by myself, and sat down beside me.
“Do you feel okay?” He asked, checking my forehead for a temperature.
“No,” I said, and the first of the tears began to run down my cheeks.
“Hey, hey,” He soothed, leaning close. “What’s wrong? What is it?”
“I...can’t,” I said at last, hoping he’d understand.
He did. He didn’t make me spell it out for him.
“Oh, Kay,” He whispered.
That made me cry harder. “I know I-I let you down. I don’t ex-expect you to want to b-be with me when I’m like--” By then my throat had closed up, and I could speak no more.
“You seem to be more upset about it than I am,” He said.
I looked at him. He really didn’t look sad about it. Just worried for me.
I began to hiccup as I spit out a few more words.
“But that...means...no son.”
“I don’t care about that, Kay.”
“No one to carry on your name.”
“Listen to me.” He grabbed my hand, and I knew at once he was serious. “I’m not one of those men who need a legacy. I have you, Kay. That’s more than I could have ever hoped for.”
“Don’t l-lie to me like-like that, Art,” I choked out.
“Don’t be so dramatic.”
That brought me up short. The tears ceased, and I glared at him in anger.
“You don’t know what it’s like to feel this helpless.”
“I don’t see how that makes you helpless.”
“I wanted to have kids.”
“And you will. Just maybe not in the way you’d hoped.”
“What does that mean?”
“Kay.” He touched my cheek. “This isn’t the end, okay? We’ve barely started our life together. A baby doesn’t determine your worth.”
The tears welled up again, threatening to spill over.
“Then what does, Art?”
“You, silly.” He poked my arm playfully. “You’re smart, and you’re kind, and you’re bold, and you’re so beautiful. No one should want anything else.”
“I do. I want a lot of things.”
He laughed. “I know you do. And that’s why I love you.”
I allowed myself to be hugged by him and cried into his shirt. When all my tears were exhausted, I stood and promptly went into the bathroom to shower the day away. When I came out, dinner was on the table.
So I sat down in one of those cheerful yellow chairs. I ate my toasted cheese. I moved on.
Our local Christian Church became somewhat of a second home for me. We attended twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Occasionally I taught the Sunday school class. And even more occasionally, I sang for the congregation.
We put in prayer requests. We prayed for others. I gossiped in the pews with Janice and listened intently to our pastor’s sermons.
Life got good again. That’s when Art decided to open his own restaurant.
“You’re kidding...right?” I asked when he told me.
He shook his head. “No, I’m not. It’s what I want to do.”
“And how’re you going to do that?”
He smiled. “I have some savings put away.”
“For your retirement.”
“Kay, I can do this. I know I can.”
“Of course you can do it.” I frowned at him. “But you can’t be sure it’ll be a success.”
“I have a feeling,” he said in earnest. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”
“Yet this is the first I’ve heard.”
He leaned in to give me a quick kiss. “Come look at my business plan. I made a write-up of all the reasons why this would work. Please?”
I sighed. “Fine.”
He had everything written out neatly on a yellow legal pad. Art had always been good at managing his finances. I studied the numbers and listened to him as he laid it all out.
“I feel like I’m your business partner,” I said with a laugh.
“You are. You’re my everything-partner.”
I tilted my head at him. “I love you.”
“And I’m going to take that as a yes?”
I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Do it.”
“And I love you, too.”
“Ha-ha. You waited until I’d let you have your way before you said it back.”
He ignored this, just made a beeline for the phone. “I’ve got to call Seth.”
I watched him with shining eyes. He was ambitious, that was for sure.
I was lucky to have him.