As she pushed her way into the apartment, Karen heard the crackle and hiss of a needle hitting a well-worn vinyl record. When she heard the familiar melody, she swore quietly to herself. It must be August 31st. Peggy was sitting at the kitchen table lighting one cigarette from another.
“Hey Mum,” she said. “You okay?”
“There’s my sweet girl,” Peggy slurred. “Come sit with your mother.”
Karen slipped her aching feet out of her shoes, rested her bag on the counter, and sat at the round maple table.
“You look hot,” Peggy said. “You want a coke?”
“Yeah Mum. I’ll get it in a second.”
“This song was playing the night I met your father.”
“I know Mum.”
“I know Mum.”
“I’m gonna get you that coke.”
“I’ll get it Mum. I just want to get off my feet for a minute.”
“Of course you do Sweetie. You work so hard.”
Peggy rose from her chair and crossed the kitchen, humming as she went.
“It was a USO dance,” she began. “The boys were all so handsome in their uniforms. Of course, I was nothing to sneeze at myself. Oh! The figure I had in those days! I wore red a dress. My mother thought it looked cheap. But I thought I looked glamorous.”
She poured more whiskey into her glass and forgot about Karen’s coke. Peggy was lost in the sound of Perry Como’s rich baritone voice.
So, take my heart in sweet surrender,
and tenderly say that I’m,
the one you love and live for,
till the end of time.
Karen sat back in her chair. Her mother relived the story twice a year—the anniversaries of the beginning and ending of her marriage. When she was fifteen, Karen tried to stop her mother from telling the story. Peggy went from nostalgic drunk to bitter rage in a matter of seconds. Since then, Karen just sat and listened. Each year the story grew. The dance was longer. The men more handsome. The dress more glamorous. But the ending to the story didn’t change much. There was love. There was heartbreak. There was a dance ended too soon.
This week, the prompt from The Red Dress Club asked us to go to This Day In Music, and discover what was number 1 on the charts in the United States, England or Australia the day you or your character was born, or any other special day in your/their life. I chose a random day in the forties when I thought Karen’s parents might have met. I came up with Perry Como’s first hit, “Till the End of Time.” If you'd like to read more about Karen, click here.