When Dylan came home, he moved into a bedroom he once shared with his brothers. The bunk beds were still there, but Emil talked about moving them out. The brothers were all back from the war, reunited with wives and sweethearts, looking for jobs or resuming their educations.
Ken and Billy, the two youngest were still at home, but they had their own rooms now. Ken had moved into the larger bedroom once shared by his sisters. Billy had what used to be the older boys’ bedroom. Dylan took the smallest bedroom.
Mary had taken the cribs. Other furniture went to Elsie and her husband. Now if they could just get rid of the bunk beds. Dylan didn’t care about the bunk beds. “It beats sleeping on the ground or in a tent,” he told his dad.
Emil was concerned about his sensitive middle son. He knew the war would have been harder on Dylan than it had been on the others. Life itself was harder for Dylan, and he had never gotten over Elaine. At least he didn’t ask about her. Emil felt the less said about Elaine, the better. He and the other family members were glad she was gone. Though they all hated to see Dylan hurt so much.
“Did Mr. Rinaldi say when I could go back to the mines, Pa?”
“Anytime, as far as Mr. Rinaldi is concerned.”
“Then I’ll start tomorrow. Is that okay?”
“Give yourself some time, son.”
“I gotta work.”
“No, you don’t have to work. You need to heal. You had some bad times in the Army.”
“The others are back, and they have jobs or school and families. I don’t have anything.”
“You have us, and you’ll find the right girl.”
“It ain’t finding a girl and that’s not the problem, Pa. I just keep thinking about some of the things I saw in the war.” He inhaled and tried to keep the tears back. “I saw men die.”
“Dylan, no one should have to see the kind of horror you went through.”
“I thought if I just didn’t have to shoot at someone that I’d be all right.”
“You will be all right,“ Emil promised him.
“I’d go out on the field and there were so many boys dying out there. And sometimes, I would pick one of them up and notice his arm or his foot had been lift behind. I saw one boy who had been shot in the eye and it was hanging like a watch fob on his shirt.”
“You need to forget those things. Put them out of your mind.“ Emil said softly.
Dylan didn’t think he could. He couldn’t even forget Elaine. He found some solace in thinking about Elaine. He thought if only she would love him.
The Ford plant was hiring, and it paid slightly more than Mr. Rinaldi could afford. Dylan decided to apply for a job at the plant, and a week later he was hired as a foreman.
He wanted a family life, but compared to Elaine the other girls looked so plain. If only he hadn’t let her go. He knew she was a tramp. There were lots of stories floating around about her. He hadn’t believed those stories at first, but after that night when he had found her in bed with that other man, he had started to believe. His family had disliked her from the beginning, and he knew his sisters were probably right about her. Still he found himself wanting her.
One night at a bar just outside of town, he saw the youngest Brianka girl. He had always felt sorry for Lisa. She had lost her parents when she was so young, and then that sweet little boy had died when she was supposed to be watching him. He knew she had spent time in Newberry, the state mental hospital, and he had written her weekly letters when she was there.
It had been almost a year since he had written to her. When the band took a break and some quiet filled the room, he walked over to talk to her.
They walked outside. The moon was full. The tavern sat on a highway, but it was surrounded by dark pines on three sides. A picnic table sat on the side of the building. They sat bathed in the moonlight. From inside, they could hear the juke box; Doris Day sang “Sentimental Journey”
“How have you been, Lisa?” he asked.
“I miss your letters. I liked them. I saved them.”
“After I got to Europe, there was less time to write. With the war going on, you don’t get to write many letters. The Army was always afraid we were going to tell the enemy something. All we knew was what he had for supper. And that was never anything good.”
“They would have censored your letters,“ she said. “It must have been hard to keep in touch with your family.”
“I managed to get a few letters off to them. I thought you were living with your brother.”
“I came back here. Vonnie needed me to help out. The Rinaldis are entertaining again, and there’s lots of work.”
He didn’t know if she would talk about her time in Newberry. Some people might not like admitting they had been in a mental hospital. “You didn’t like Detroit?”
“I missed Vonnie; now I miss Jack.”
“You seem better. Brighter. You almost glow.”
She didn’t answer.
“Are you here by yourself?”
“How did you get here?”
“I walked. It’s not far.”
“I’ll drive you home,” he said.
Dylan had never thought about dating Lisa Brianka. She was shy and awkward with just about everyone. She was not movie star beautiful like Elaine or Lucinda Rinaldi. Perhaps she would be prettier if she wore make up or fixed herself up.
He found himself wanting to do something to help her.
Instead of a physical attraction, an emotional communication developed between them. They understood each other’s pain. Few others knew the kind of hurt or the memories that these two had faced. They were sensitive people who somehow fit together. And Lisa gradually lost her awkwardness with Dylan. He stopped thinking about Elaine and his war time memories. Lisa and Dylan seemed to be good for each other.
Both had siblings who worried about them. Vonnie worried that Lisa was emotionally too fragile for a romance that could end abruptly. Dylan’s sisters didn’t want him marrying a girl who had been in a mental institution. His dad thought he needed a stronger woman to care for him.
“What do you think of her?” Mary asked Elsie.
“I would have preferred he marry the other sister. If he was going to marry a Brianka.”
“I’m not sure how I feel about the Briankas. They’re a strange family with a strange history.” Mary frowned, and then she added. “I like the Brianka girls, don’t get me wrong,”
Elsie decided to play the devil’s advocate. “Dylan needs a very understanding wife after all he’s been through. I just don’t think Lisa will work out and…”
“Maybe she will be understanding. She’s been through a lot herself.” Mary was not sold on her brother marrying Lisa Brianka, but would Dylan listen if someone warned him against this marriage? He hadn’t listened the last time.
His sisters had to think this through and be very careful. They did not want another catastrophe like Elaine Dabb.
“My god, that girl was in Newberry. Do you realize we’re welcoming a crazy into our family?” Elsie said after a short silence.
“Who said anything about welcoming?”
“What do you know about Dylan Mynter,” Lucinda asked her dad. They were sitting in the parlor of their home. Lucinda knitted pink scarves for her little girls. Enrico had set aside his newspaper to listen to his daughter’s concerns.
“Dylan Mynter,” Enrico said as he thought out his answer. “He was always a good worker just like his dad. He had some bad war experiences.”
“He was an ambulance driver in the war, right?”
“Yes. And what he saw on the battlefields broke him. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but lots of ex soldiers suffer incredible stress. It happened after the Great War, and it’s happening again.”
“I know I shouldn’t intrude.” Lucinda began.
“But you are going to intrude, aren’t you?”
“You know how broken Lisa is.”
“I thought Newberry fixed her. She doesn’t seem to have nightmares or walk in her sleep anymore.”
“The doctor gives her sleeping pills to prevent it. He was afraid, she’d hurt herself.”
Enrico put his newspaper down. “I know how much you like the Briankas. Vonnie couldn’t be a better servant, but that is what she is. A servant. And her sister helps out around here. Lisa does a good enough job. You have to stop getting so involved with the help. You’ve got two little girls to care for. Isn’t it enough you adopted Brad’s daughter and you’re raising her like she was your own.”
“Father, what else could I do? I love little Carol Ann.” She paused. How could she make her dad understand? “I love Lisa too.”
“Will she continue working here after she marries Dylan?”
“Dylan says he doesn’t want his wife to work.”
“That settles that. Lisa Brianka is no longer your problem. Not that she ever was. You have to stop thinking you can save everyone, Lucinda.” With that he gave his newspaper a small shake and went back to his reading.
Mountain Ridge News, May 14, 1946 Senator Bradley Davies was killed when the private plane he piloted crashed into a Colorado mountain. The senator had just returned from a ski trip.
The article was short. The reporter in charge of listing surviving family members was unsure if Bradley Davies had one daughter or two. Earlier newspaper accounts varied. Was the daughter’s name Carol Ann or Starr? A friend of Lucinda’s said Mrs. Davies had twins. Another friend said Lucinda adopted a second child after the divorce.
The reporter got no help from the senator’s office or from Enrico Rinaldi’s secretary, who said Lucinda had two daughters, and that he was not at liberty to say anymore. The original birth announcement had mentioned just one daughter, Carol Ann.
Whitney Cummings was tall, blond and handsome. He looked like the western star, Rex Allen, but Cummings was better looking and a multi millionaire. He liked Lucinda the minute he laid eyes on her. But he was in Mountain Ridge to see her dad. Lucinda took his coat.
“I hope you don’t mind if I say you look lovely as usual,” he told her as she escorted him to her dad’s office.
She thanked him as she walked beside him. She admired the clean cut of his clothes, and well-barbered hair. He would make a great matinee idol. Still she did not return his compliment.
Her dad rose to greet him when they entered his study. Soon Cummings was seated opposite her father. “I’ll bring us some tea,” Lucinda said.
“No, I want you to stay. Lucinda,” her father said. “What we have to talk about concerns you too.”
“I’ll just be a minute getting the tea. Vonnie made some lovely cakes.”
“Vonnie can bring them in. Please sit Lucinda.”
Lucinda made herself comfortable on the couch behind Cummings. The visitor swiveled in his chair. “Mrs. Davies, please sit here at the desk with us. I love nothing better than the view of a beautiful woman.”
“Please call me Lucinda” she said. She didn’t want to explain that she had changed her last name back to that of her father’s name. She wanted nothing from Brad. And now that he was dead, her lawyers were dealing with the estate, and confused about the presence of two daughters, when the senator’s office had announced the birth of just one. The will said nothing about either daughter.
“I knew your late husband,” Whitney said. “In fact, I visited your home in Washington once or twice. I don’t think you remember me, but I remember that you were without a doubt the loveliest hostess in Washington.”
“I remember,” Lucinda said simply. She didn’t want to be reminded of Brad. She didn’t want condolences for the death of a man she despised. She simply nodded and waited for her father to begin his business.
“I have your offer for the mine,” Enrico said simply. “It is very generous. You know of course, most of the ore has run out. We’ve reached a level where it is no longer profitable to keep digging.”
“So, I understand,” Whitney agreed.
“May I then ask why your generous offer to purchase the mine?”
“Tourism. We can offer mine tours. Just the top levels, of course.”
“People would go on tours of an iron ore mine?”
“Absolutely. We can sell souvenirs. I even thought about turning Almasy House into a bed and breakfast.”
Lucinda glanced at her father. Clearly he did not think the mines would bring tourism. People came north for the forests, the hunting, the fishing and the boating.
Cummings recognized their skepticism and was undeterred. “I assure you the tourists come up north each summer anyway. They spend money. Mine tours would also be popular with engineering students. In fact, we could train engineers right here. You have a unique community including some of the deepest mines in the world.”
Lucinda and her father were silent. A knock came on the door; a moment later Vonnie served tea and small carrot cakes. She had perfected the recipe.
After Vonnie left, Whitney continued. “A submarine would be crushed at the depths of some of those mines. Some are flooded. Chapin Pit, for instance looks more like a lake than a mine pit.”
“Chapin Pit? No one knows how deep it is,” Enrico explained. “Emil Mynter, my engineer, had two of his sons dive down there. They did not reach the bottom, and they were down there as long as their tanks and their comfort level allowed.”
Cummings wasn’t interested in detail. “We could make this the biggest tourist town in Michigan, if not in the entire country. Imagine if we rigged a water gusher to Chapin pit. We could shine colored lights around it. Have midnight tours around the pit. Only we will call it a lake, of course.”
Lucinda and her dad stayed politely unimpressed. Others had tried to turn Mountain Ridge into a tourist attraction. While the area had summer and even fall and winter visitors, Northern Michigan tourism had not caught on yet.
“I can’t guarantee any of those ideas will work,” Enrico said after a minute.
“But my offer still stands. You take the money. If my scheme fails, then I have a used up mine.”
“What about the workers?” Lucinda asked. “What will happen to them?”
“Tourism offers jobs. I would hire your workers first. At most they would be unemployed for a few months. But most likely I can put them right to work. I’m going to need builders almost right away.”
“We’re accepting your offer.” Enrico decided.
“Father, shouldn’t we think about this?”
The two men rose to shake hands. Whitney promised he could have the check ready within the hour.
“Let’s meet with the lawyers tomorrow,“ Enrico said. “We can close then.” He rose to escort his guest to the door.
Whitney turned to Lucinda. “How about a celebratory dinner? Just you and me tonight at my hotel dining room.”
Lucinda looked surprised. She didn’t know what to say.
“I realize you’re in mourning for your husband,” he said gently.
“It’s not that,” Lucinda said. “Brad and I were separated for years before he died. It’s just that we have to think about the miners and their families.”
“We can talk about that tonight.”
“All right,” she said finally.
“I’ll send a car for you,” Whitney promised.
Whitney donated over $100,000 for a relief fund that would provide free clothing and food for the families whose breadwinners would be out of work for a short duration. Whatever was left over would go for medical care and retirement funds.
His lawyers did a good job of setting up the fund and in closing the sale of Enrico’s mines.
Lucinda discovered Whitney was interested in more than the welfare of those miners. He was still curious about her. “If I might ask if you ever plan to move back to Washington?”
“This is my home,” she replied.
“May I be frank with you?” He sipped his coffee and watched her carefully.
“Of course,” she answered suddenly nervous.
“We all have secrets,” he said.
Where was this leading? Did he know about her relationship with Jack Brianka? Did he know she was Black?
She sat thoughtfully. When several moments had passed, and he had said no more, she simply said, “Yes, I suppose we do all have secrets.”
“No one need know about the girls,” he said.
He laughed. “My darling, I don’t know what other secrets you hold. But I was talking about your daughters. They clearly are not twins. They don’t even look like sisters.”
She was slightly relieved. But what did he know about the girls, or about her marriage?
“It is a private matter,” she said. How dare he think he was privy to her personal information. But then again all her secrets were personal. She was a Negro woman with an ex convict lover. And then there was her disastrous marriage and the two girls who were three months apart in age. She could not possibly be the biological mother of both. She could not even give them both birthday parties.
“Secret affairs are not unusual in Washington,” Whitney went on.
“What are you saying?” she asked.
“Carol is clearly Brad’s child. I can see it in her features. Starr is yours. It’s decent of you to raise your husband’s love child.”
She stared at her plate.
“There were rumors,” he said. Washington is a small town where some secrets are hard to keep.” After a minute, he added, “I didn’t mean to be rude. I’d like to keep seeing you.” She blinked away a tear, and she said, “I don’t know about that.”
He raised his glass, “Here’s to the future,” he said.
Dylan told Lisa he wanted a wife and a family.
“Everyone should have a family.” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do without Vonnie and Jack.”
“Don’t you want a husband and kids?”
They were seated in his car at the edge of town waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks to begin. They had gotten there early and watched as other cars pulled up and took their places. Some drivers and their passengers listened to the music on the car radios. Somewhere close by Frankie Laine sang, “A Little on the Lonely Side.”
“Lisa, we’ve both been through some hard times. I think we’re different than most others. I think we feel things on a different level.”
She nodded. How could she tell him how she felt, that there are things she couldn’t forget, that she kept feeling the hurt over and over. She tried to explain.
“I know what that’s like,” he admitted. “There are things I saw on the battlefields that keep popping up in my mind. I can’t forget them.”
“But the drugs don’t help. Sure they make me forget, but I think I am supposed to remember.”
“Lisa, maybe we could get married. We could maybe help each other cope better with the things that have happened to us.”
She moved her head up and down.
“You have to say ‘yes’ you can’t just bob your head,” he laughed. “Will you marry me?”
The Mynters sat in the kitchen at Emil’s house. Mary had been tabulating rows of figures. She gave her dad the results. “We still have some coins and jewelry to cash in. Certainly money was not an issue in the family.
“We can give Dylan a big wedding.”
“Mary looked at her dad over her glasses. “He’s marrying a Brianka.”
“No one will come to the wedding. You know what people think of the Briankas.”
“No, I don’t. What do people think?”
“The brother’s a jailbird. No way he can come to the wedding if we hold it here. He’s not allowed in the Upper Peninsula. Vonnie Cheney had a kid out of wedlock. And Lisa spent some time in Newberry. Dad, what will people think?”
“I don’t care what people think. This Lisa seems like a nice enough girl.”
“You don’t go to Newberry unless you’re crazy. And they didn’t release her. Her brother, the jailbird, got her out because he disagreed with some treatment.”
“Let’s be charitable. And stop referring to her brother as the jailbird. Lot’s of people think he was innocent and railroaded.”
“Dad,” Mary said, “Jack Brianka is mobbed up. He’s a member of the Detroit mob. Everyone knows that. And we can’t let Dylan get involved with anything like that.”
“I don’t believe it,” Emil said.
“Believe it. He’s got a mansion in Detroit and a new car every year.”
“You can’t believe everything people tell you. And people gossip about us too. They think I robbed Fort Knox or something. They know I got more money than I let on.”
“It’s nobody’s business,” Elsie said.
Mary didn’t feel like arguing. “It will be a small wedding. This is Dylan’s second marriage after all. And this Lisa is very shy. She won’t feel comfortable around too many people. We might be pushing her comfort level with just our family. You’ve got ten kids, you know, Pa.”
Emil agreed. He didn’t think the Briankas would want a large wedding. From what he had heard of Lisa, she could not handle the stress well. But that didn’t mean she would not make a good wife. Did it?