Chocolate Kisses 2: Pearl Ch. 01bycalibeachgirl©
In the tale, "Chocolate Kisses," the characters of this story, were introduced. That tale related a forbidden romance in Depression Era Los Angeles.
James Ewart, 45, a World War One fighter ace whose children were viciously murdered. His wife, Catherine, committed suicide after becoming pregnant with the murderer's child. Years later, he fell in love with Bethany Rose, a colored woman.
Bethany Rose, 33, a college nursing student who dropped out due to the Depression. She and her Jimmy moved to Hawaii, the only territory beside Alaska where inter-racial marriages could be legally occurring. They have two daughters.
Eliza, Bethany's older sister, 38, married John Franklin, 50, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, and they also moved to Hawaii with her three children from a previous relationship.
Thanks to pawwriter for editing this chapter; to elliot, lynn and pepper for their support...
Chapter 1... Early September, 1941
On the morning of Tuesday, the 2nd, Bethany Rose and Eliza, lifting the hems of their brightly colored sarongs, ran for the shelter of the small market's awning. Even during the dry Hawaiian month of September, the life giving rain splattered the rich volcanic soil and darkened their sandals.
Apprehensively, the two sisters looked down the narrow street toward Waimea Bay. For the last eight months, Popukea on the North Shore had been overrun by sailors. Everywhere they went, groups of sailors were standing around, watching, almost leering at all the women and girls, so exotic after living in small, isolated Southern towns.
Just like every girl or woman over the age of twelve, they were met with appraising looks from every uniformed man walking the streets. The locals knew who the haole women were. It was common knowledge their husbands were very obsessively protective of the two dark sisters and their children.
After that first assault, every woman in the area came to town with at least one male member of her family, usually two, sometimes armed with guns or machetes. Mostly, they didn't come at all.
The sisters went in to buy more sugar and flour for Eliza's fruit pies. Food hoarding had not been officially endorsed but at the beginning of the year the military had already begun to do so. As much as possible, the family didn't use any food set aside for the horrifying times they knew were going to come.
Eliza touched her sister's arm. "Bethany, let's get out of here," she anxiously whispered. "These sailors are giving me the willies and we need to leave."
The 'line to pay' seemed to move as slow as death. The old woman ahead of them hassled over the price of every item she had. Bethany already had her money out when two sailors came to the line and cut ahead of her, forcing her back into Eliza.
One, a tall sandy-haired man with a badly sunburned, peeling face, just laughed... a love, evil laugh and said something to her in a heavy, almost unintelligible Southern drawl.
Shocked, Bethany stepped back again, causing Eliza to drop both bags of flour. Hitting the wooden floor, they split open and a rising cloud of flour coated everything nearby, including both sailors' shoes.
"Look what you done, you dumb..." He walked toward her, his raised fist shaking in anger.
Bethany and Eliza continued to move back from the men, Eliza looking behind her as they tried to walk away.
"C'mere... what'chu gonna do 'bout muh shoes?" The other one stepped forward and grabbed Bethany by the arm, pulling her toward him, twisting her wrist. Her silver coins scattered onto the slippery floor, leaving dusty white trails as they rolled through the flour and under the shelves.
"Let me go! Please! You're hurting me!" She tried to pull away, pushing against the now slippery floor as her foot raised another dust cloud into the air. She took a deep breath to calm down and instantly regretted it as the flour dried her throat. Where was John?
He twisted harder, she screamed and he swung his other hand back to slap her face. Suddenly, a hand grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around; a fist came smashing into his nose. Then, a knee violently lifted him off the floor and the bleeding man collapsed onto the broken flour bags, exploding another white cloud into the air.
His friend cringed and edged cowardly back, seeking to disappear behind a display of Spam. Frantically looking to find a way out the door, he was met by another man's fist, doubling him over onto the tumbling cans and then the flour-covered floor, sending yet another cloud of flour across the floor.
Outside, a crowd had gathered drawn by Bethany Rose's high-pitched scream. Sailors outside started yelling while the mostly silent local crowed waited across the way. The people in the store could hear them as several sailors tried to enter the store but were stopped by a looming figure silhouetted by the sunlight.
Bethany was pulled back by Eliza who was now yelling something. Bethany couldn't understand what her sister was saying. The sharp burn in her wrist was overriding everything else.
She couldn't believe all this was happening... happening to her.
The sailor, who had attacked Bethany Rose, foolishly tried to stand up. John knocked him down again with a kick to the groin; this time, he stayed down, curled up in pain and crying like a stuck pig.
"John!" Eliza cried. "Oh, John, thank God."
John looked at the man cowering on the floor. "Get up again and I swear to God I'll kill you, you son of a bitch.
"Liza, put some ice on her wrist and wrap it up so it stays cool. Go on, girls, and keep that arm up, Bethany." Although Bethany had studied to be a nurse, the pain overwhelmed her; she forgot the most basic simple part of First Aid.
There was a huge roar outside and two burly SPs dressed in white pushed their wsay in. "What's going on here?" the bigger one asked, tapping his dark baton onto his left hand. He looked around the small market covered in flour and instinctively waved his hand through the still floating white dust.
He saw two sailors moaning on the floor and two civilians standing over them looking to kill. Who was that old man? Somehow, he felt he should know.
John looked over. "Glad the Shore Patrol finally decided to show up. Just taking out the trash, Master at Arms. Maybe you can help me?" John nudged the bleeding man with his boot.
"All right, all right... quit joking around. What happened?" He looked warily at the two sisters. Aside from being covered in flour dust, they were nicely dressed, not at all what he would have expected of two colored women, especially in a nowhere town in Hawaii.
He knew the local customs in Hawaii were very different from Fresno but it still took a conscious effort to work within its far different boundaries. All these people, here...so different... too different.
"This piece-of-shit, here, and that one over there, aren't worthy of the uniform. He was manhandling my sister-in-law and I took offense with his attitude and actions. He had no right to touch her and he's damn lucky you two showed up. I was about to take him out the back and kick his goddamn redneck ass all the way back to the mainland."
The SP looked at John, with his so gray, thinning hair and age lines on his face and hands. "How old are you, anyway?"
"Fifty. I was at..." he paused, "in the Great War, Belleau Wood."
"Jesus Christ... OK, we'll take these guys in. What's your name?"
"John Franklin, Sergeant John Franklin, USMC. I was assistant supervisor for the CCC reforestation project here in the territory until just a while ago."
"No more money, so it all got shut down. Listen, I need to look after my wife and sister-in-law."
It was at that point that he fully understood the meaning of John's words. A white man related to... married to? a colored woman? Jesus Christ! He shook his head in disbelief. What kind of insane place was this?
"How do I get in touch with you, Sergeant?" Once a Marine, the SP knew, always a Marine. He begrudgingly gave the old man his due, but that was another war in another time. Any future war, he thought, would never be fought hand to hand. Never...
"Just ask for the Ewart-Franklin place; we're up that first road off Kamehameha. Everybody knows us... not these two assholes, though.
"I doubt he'll forget us, now." John turned away and went to the sisters standing next to the freezer. Bethany had a yellow cloth full of crushed ice wrapped around her arm and was licking a root beer Popsicle that Hoshito, the store owner, had given her.
"Damn, I should have kicked that guy's ass more before those Shore Patrol guys showed up." He turned to his friend that had kept the door closed on the crowd. "Thanks, Lee; I guess I'll see you tomorrow, at the house...
"Well, Bethany, let's get you home. Jim is going to be so angry, I'm not sure I can face him."
"It's all right, John, you couldn't have known." Bethany tried her best to calm him down. She knew when her husband discovered what had happened, even the might of the United States Navy would not be able to protect those two men from his retribution. One thing she had learned, married to Jim all these ten years, was that he took nothing from anybody, anymore... not since Catherine's sad death.
"That's the problem, honey, I should have known." John knew it was going to be a long, hard afternoon waiting for Jim to return from Pearl Harbor. While he knew he wasn't afraid of Jim... he was. Watching the two sisters was the only thing he had to do today and he failed badly. He glanced at his watch, wondering how his best friend was going to react.
As they were leaving, Hoshito said he would send the food up to their house, no charge. He decided to add a pound of Hershey's kisses to the box. He locked the store and went to find a broom, muttering something in Japanese.
The sisters walked out of the store back into the warm September rain, a fitting end to their shopping trip: dirty, damp and sore...
It was late morning by the time they reached home in the hills above Popukea and anxiously waited for Jim to return from Pearl Harbor.
Following Bethany's directions, Eliza and John were able to wrap a new cloth bandage filled with ice around her wrist and then established a sling around her neck. She looked into the mirror and grimaced as her arm shifted.
Jim was going to be so angry, she realized. There had already been enough problems in Popukea between residents and the military interlopers, including several accusations of rape... as far as anyone knew, the Navy had done nothing about it, further angering the Hawaiians, including the Ewarts and the Franklins, as Hawaiian as any haole could ever be.
All afternoon, the sisters were sitting in the kitchen, waiting for the inevitable.
"Oh, this is going to be miserable," said Bethany. "I don't know if I'll be able to help you with the work."
"Oh, no, you don't, sister. You're not getting out of it that easy. As a matter of fact, I bet you've been faking the whole thing." Eliza started to laugh, trying to diffuse the tension they all felt. "I'll let you set the table, how's that? You can do it one dish at a time."
They all looked at the wall clock... tick... tick... tick.
"Seriously, though, Jimmy is going to be so angry. It's a good thing he wasn't there. You saw what John did... imagine what Jimmy would have done. Those sailors would be dead right now and Jimmy would have a lot of trouble on his hands."
Bethany looked at her sister and nodded her head.
Early afternoon came and went; lunch was eaten in silence... and then the noise of Jim's '29 Chevrolet preceded his arrival from Honolulu by about fifteen seconds. Getting out, he expected his wife to be greeting him as she had done every time he had to leave without her.
"Bethany Rose! Where are my chocolate kisses?"
He approached the back veranda and was met by Eliza who was nervously wringing her hands as she started to speak. Her actions only worried him more. "Jimmy, there's been a little accident... she's all right; just a little sprained wrist is all."
"What?!!! Where is she, Liza?" Not waiting for an answer, he hurried into the house, calling for his wife and was waylaid by John. He put his hands on Jim's shoulders, trying to slow him down.
"All right, what happened, John?"
"Whoa, slow down, Jim. Bethany's OK. She's in the kitchen. We had a little incident down at the store. It's all... my... fault, Jim. I can't tell you how sorry I am." He looked at the floor, crestfallen.
Quickly, John gave a very vague rendition of what happened emphasizing his fault for not watching the two sisters more carefully. He didn't even mention his actions, he was so embarrassed.
He remembered that day at the beach near El Segundo. Jim discussed the two sisters with him and warned him never to hurt Eliza... and his carelessness today let Bethany get hurt... so much worse...
Bethany was sitting at the kitchen table, calmly drinking lemonade, waiting for the explosion she knew wasn't coming. He didn't think that way... he was much more dangerous than that.
She started to rise as he came into the large open room but he caught her before she could and knelt on the floor next to her chair.
"Bethany, baby, how are you feeling?" He hugged her carefully, wary of her bandaged arm.
"I'll be OK, just a few weeks, is all... Did John tell you?" She could feel him shaking. She used to think he was paranoid about the family's safety and would remind him they weren't in Los Angeles anymore. After all this time, he finally was right.
"Yeah... I'm sorry I wasn't there." He was kissing his wife, so frightened that he almost lost her. After Catherine and his daughters, he knew he couldn't live through that again... he just couldn't. He touched the white flower in her hair, gently brushing her tightly, curled hair.
"Well, John was and damn, that guy didn't even have a chance."
"What do you mean? The guy didn't even have a chance? What guy? John didn't say anything about a guy. What happened, Bethany? Tell me from the beginning."
Jim went to get a glass and carefully poured himself some lemonade, his hands shaking in frustration. He sat down to listen to his wife as she told him what had actually transpired in the store. Every so often, he looked at John standing in the other room talking with Eliza.
John noticed Jim's attention and his face reddened. Eventually, he went outside, seeking to escape his brother-in-law's irritated look and walked out to the relative privacy of the citrus orchard.
When early evening finally arrived, they were sitting on the veranda, holding hands and watching the sun sink on the horizon. "Guess I should have gone with you," Bethany Rose said, quietly. "Please, just take me to bed and make love to me."
At half-past-six, on Wednesday the 3rd, the noisy racket made by the old Chevrolet was heard as it struggled up the hill.
"He's got to get a new car or at least a new engine. I can hear him coming a mile away. At least, he's home," and then, she heard another car, a newer car. Instead of the expected 'I'm home,' there was an animated conversation, from the sound of their voices, between her husband and at least two others, a man and a woman.
"Sorry I'm late." He kissed Bethany and sat down next to her. "Hey, babe... I missed you and I've only been gone for a few hours. What am I going to do if it's longer?
"I'd like to introduce Lieutenant Commander Philip Hendricks and Lieutenant Anne Kearny. They're staying for dinner."
There was a mad scramble to set two more places on the table just as Eliza was bringing out the food. Bethany knew something was happening. Not quite sure what, but naval officers had never come to the office before.
Even with two guests, dinner was a quieter event than usual.
By nine o'clock that night, all the children were either asleep or in their rooms and Jim stood up.
"Well, I guess you girls have been wondering just why our two guests are with us tonight.
"Bethany... Eliza... John and I..."
"Hey, no you don't... don't drag me into this!"
Jim smiled at his brother-in-law. "As I was saying, John and I haven't been quite forthcoming about what we've been doing."
Whatever he was doing... he said it was 'consulting,' but what could he possibly have that the Navy wanted? This was so confusing, she thought.
He nodded toward the two officers at the table. "Bethany, I've been working in the Office of Naval Intelligence since 1937."
Bethany's glass hit the floor and shattered.
The room was deathly still; thinking Jim and Bethany should be alone, Eliza started to leave but John's strong right hand held her back. He leaned over and whispered to her, a surprised look on grew on her face and she sat down on the sofa facing the sea.
Ignoring what Eliza had done and only looking at Bethany, Jim continued. "I'm sorry that you, well, both of you... well, I have to say something, now, because things are going downhill fast and you both need to know what's going on before it gets out of hand and it's too late for explanations." He gestured at their guests standing off to one side.
"But... how? Why? What's going on, Jimmy?"
Both women were confused, Eliza more than Bethany. Except for that one night on the porch with the Klan and again at the market, John was always the 'quiet man.' Jim was the 'lively one' once Bethany Rose brought him back to life following the murders.
Maybe, she realized, too quiet; suddenly she remembered he had told the Shore Patrol he was at Belleau Wood and caught her breath.
The next day, she found a history book in Jim's den, read about it and cried for the rest of the afternoon. "Oh, my God," she gasped, knowing it was so, so horribly true.
Since Jim had arrived with his guests, his whole demeanor had changed. He sat straighter, was quieter and his usual silly, happy grin was missing.
Bethany could see his love for her, but there was also a newly discovered hardness that frightened her. Something had changed within him.
Jim nodded to the naval officer.
"Thank you, again, Mrs. Franklin, for this wonderful dinner. We know we just showed up but Commander Ewart said to come tonight."
Bethany Rose's mind raced... "Commander?" What was going on? Oh, Jesus, he wasn't working for the Navy... he was IN the Navy! Her spirits deflated as she began to recognize all the implications.
By midnight, the two sisters had a good idea of what their husbands were doing without knowing exactly what they were doing.
"How on earth did you ever become part of Naval Intelligence? I don't understand." Bethany looked at her husband... her husband who had kept such a secret all these many years.
"It's a strange story... Honey, I swear to God, I'm sorry I had to keep it hidden from you but that was one of the conditions I... we had to live with."
Before he could continue, she spoke. "But, Jimmy, six years? I'm really hurt. I... I'll talk to you later." She got up, left the living room and went to their bedroom, closing the door behind her.
Damn it! he thought. He had wanted to tell her from the beginning what was happening but couldn't. He didn't even want the job but when they showed him what was happening, he couldn't turn it down. He had family to care for. However hard it was for colored people in the United States, the Japanese would be infinitely worse if they succeeded in controlling the Pacific.
The others quietly went to their own rooms, leaving him alone.
He waited almost half-an-hour and then went to the locked door. "Bethany, please let me in. I can explain. It's not what it looks like..." he said, knocking softly on the door. God, he thought, did he actually say that?
"Go away, Jimmy, just go away."