The next evening, Randy took Jacquelyn to the Broadwater Beach Supper Club. Jacquelyn wore a navy blue dress with pleats and a beige sweater with gold buttons. With her shoulder-length brown hair and chocolate eyes, she seemed to Randy a more perfect thing than he could have dreamed. They ate, laughed and danced, neither able to manage a move or a sentence or a bite of dinner that did not seem to touch the other deeply. He was a Southern gentleman, modest and thoughtful. In his conversation, worlds opened to Jacquelyn, worlds that seemed limitless for the kindness of his instincts and the promise of his ambition. She was whip-smart and funny, with an appetite for life and an underlying toughness that seemed always on call for whatever destiny might hurl at a young couple.
They dated every night for a week. Every night it was a thunderbolt.
They talked about their lives about his modest upbringing as a fisherman’s son, about her daddy back at the hospital; about her intention to enroll at the University of Alabama, about how he had graduated first in his high school class but was too poor to attend college. Every night, after hours of conversation, it seemed as if their talk had only started.
On their last evening together, the couple walked hand in hand to a gazebo at the end of the hotel pier and watched the moon. He was to return to his home base in Georgia the next day; she was to graduate and return home to Jasper. Randy told Jacquelyn that he had discovered from her mother that she was just 17…too young for a man of 23. She told him that her age didn’t make a whit of difference and stared him down to prove it. Randy asked is he could visit Jacquelyn in Jasper. Jacquelyn game him her phone number – 416. “It’s a small town,” she said, laughing. Then Randy said, “I love you, Jacquelyn”, and she said, “I love you, Randy.” They hugged and Jacquelyn didn’t cry because she already knew they loved each other, so she just kissed the fool out of him and thought about how wonderful life becomes when a person finds her true love.
Just weeks after Jacquelyn’s graduation, Randy got leave to travel from his base at Macon, Georgia, to her hometown. Again, thunderbolts.
The couple danced in Birmingham, dined at the Jackson family’s country club, and best of all, did a whole lot of nothing, because doing nothing was glorious if you did it with the right person. At church, Jacquelyn’s girlfriends gathered early to catch a glimpse of this man and when the couple entered, the girls hung over the pews and stared. One of them later told Jacquelyn that they had gasped when that man escorted her in…that they’d never seen a man as beautiful as Randy, with coal black hair, deep southern tan, and especially those eyes – bright blue, like a topaz – an impossible color on a human being.
One day, Jacquelyn’s mother made a picnic lunch and the couple took it into the woods behind the family house. They talked about their lives and hopes and Randy said that he was certain he’d be shipped overseas soon. He didn’t know how long he’d be gone, and he didn’t expect Jacquelyn to go dateless while at the University. However, he asked her some serious questions – Will you wait for me? Will you marry me when I get home? Jacquelyn told him she would. In that case, Randy said, he would send her a signal to let her know he’d been sent to war – 17 roses because she was 17; one white rose to let her know he had gone.
Less than 2 weeks later, the roses came. Randy had been shipped to England on the Queen Mary. Soon, his letters poured in from overseas, sometimes a dozen a week, each numbered so that Jacquelyn knew which to read first.
To be continued.