Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Sorrow Between Two Loves" by Ellen Lynn

Sorrow Between Two Loves
Ellen Lynn

Dr. Behring was thirty-five when I first knew him five years ago. I was fourteen. When he found me, an orphan, and a D.P., wandering like a lost kitten amongst the others in the German Displaced Persons camp, I was sick in body and spirit. I don't know what it was about me, emaciated, listless, that caught his special pity and made him come back and bring me unexpected treats, but to me he was like a fatherly angel sent to rescue me from the terrible world I had fallen into.

At the beginning, not even his kindness could win any response from me. I was benumbed by the tragedies of my parents' death and my unsheltered, unprotected wanderings. But Dr. Behring was persistent and determined and in a few weeks' time I found myself awakening to a new interest in things about me—as he led the way. Each visit he paid me was the big event in my life in the Camp. The food he brought me not only put a little more flesh over my bones but brightened my spirit.

I first realized how much Dr. Behring meant to me on a Saturday near the end of the afternoon. Visitors had been coming and going all day and the Camp was full of the buzz and hum of excited, talking people. But my one visitor had not come the entire day. The courtyard was rapidly emptying of all outsiders, when it dawned on me that Dr. Behring was not coming at all.

"Oh—no!" I exclaimed involuntarily. My blood froze as my mind filled with the conviction that Dr. Behring was finished with me. He had brought me back to health and his work as a physician was done. I had grown so attached to him in the six months he had come to see me daily, I felt I had a special tie to him. Besides, he always reminded me of my father—both tall, thin, black-haired and blue-eyed—and I had begun to substitute him for the wonderful, handsome father I had lost.

This day was my fifteenth birthday and I had washed my hair till it gleamed like spun gold and tied it back in a horse's tail to look a little more grown-up. But Dr. Behring never came to see. I walked over to a bench and sat alone, trying to keep back the tears that kept welling up in my eyes. "What will become of me?" I thought. "There's no one left to give me some hope..."

"Babette, I've been looking for you!" The sob in my throat turned into a little hysterical laugh as I leaped up and threw my arms around Dr. Behring. "What is it, child? What has happened?" he asked with concern.

Half crying, half laughing, I babbled on: "I thought you were through with me—that you'd never come back again. You made me well, and now you'd go to help other children like me and I'd have no one any more..."

He held me in one arm and with his free hand stroked my hair comfortingly. "No, Babette," he said quietly. "I'm not through with you. I was late because I've been making special arrangements to take you away from this place."

I could hardly believe my ears. He was going to take me out of the camp! My heart was thudding so hard I thought it would burst my body.

"I'm going back to the States," he said, "and I'm taking you with me."

I jumped for joy. "Are you—are you—going to—adopt me?" I asked impetuously.

He looked at me in surprise a moment—and I felt embarrassed—but the he continued: "No, Babette. But I am going to send you to school and take care of you. Would you like that?"

The days before we sailed—shopping for new clothes, eating at restaurants—food I hadn't eaten in years—the wonderful trip on the boat—all was a fairy-tale come true. Bruce—Dr. Behring had told me to call him by his first name—was the kindest and most generous person in the whole world and I loved him dearly. In some of our talks I told him that I would like more than anything else some day to be a nurse and help him in his work so that we could always be together. He patted my hand and assured me that if that were what I wanted I could prepare for nursing some day.

That was five years ago. They were full and happy years. Ever since he had acquired "a family" as he described me, he had engaged a housekeeper to run the apartment for us. Bruce was as wonderful as ever. I'd be so proud going to the theatre, or dancing, with him and feeling all eyes on my handsome, distinguished escort. He was now 40. I was nineteen.

One night at theatre, we were having a smoke during intermission when a stunning woman, accompanied by a young man, came up to Bruce and greeted him familiarly. He introduced me to Mrs. Tarleton and her son, Richard. Richard engaged me in conversation. He was not like the other young men I had occasionally met at school; he was quieter, more poised, charming. I thought how much he reminded me of Bruce, except that he was much younger. As we continued talking I realized that he had a delightful wit and soon I was completely at ease in his company, laughing frequently at his humorous remarks.

As the curtain buzzer sounded in the lobby, he asked, "Do you think Bruce would mind if you and I went somewhere after theatre—he could do the rounds with Mother?" "Oh, no—thank you," I answered quickly.

But Dick's mother interrupted. "Of course, Bruce, we'll let the children go off by themselves. You can take me home."

It was enchanting to be with Dick. We seemed to laugh all the time we were together. But not in the car in which he drove me home. Central Park, a starry sky, changed our mood. We became very quiet—and suddenly, when we reached my door—Dick kissed me. My pulse beat wildly—and I held him close.

Bruce was waiting for me. "Did you like the Tarletons?" he asked me rather suddenly. "Why, yes," I replied. "They're very nice."

"You had a good opportunity to get to know Dick. What'd you think of him?" Bruce had never before questioned me in that way. I felt uncomfortable and answered briefly, "Yes, he's good-looking—and amusing."

And the it happened—what deep down I felt would happen but never knew for sure whether I wanted it to happen. Bruce kissed me. Not the fatherly goodnight kiss I usually received on my brow—but a lover's kiss on the lips. "I love you, Babette," he whispered huskily. "Surely, you must know. I want to marry you."

With my lips still tingling from Dick's kiss I knew for the first time that my love for Bruce was not the same kind. I was grateful for all he had done for me—and I loved him for his goodness. But my youth answered to Dick's youth. Yet—I would do whatever Bruce wanted.

When we said goodnight it was all arranged. We would be engaged but not be married before a year at least. Compared to Dick he seemed so old. But I owed so much to Bruce.

In my bedroom I lay awake. The image of Dick confronted me. I hated myself for thinking about him. Heretofore the boys I met seemed immature. Bruce's companionship was far preferable to any of theirs. But Dick—there was more to him—something of Bruce, and in addition a spirit of youth that had captivated me in a short evening. But I must put him out of my mind. I was going to be the wife of my rescuer, Dr. Bruce Behring. He had given me back to life, given me happiness and love—I would not let him down.

I wasn't surprised to receive phone calls from Dick, but I always sent the message that I was not at home. He sent me notes, which I tore up. But one day I wrote him briefly to inform him that I was engaged to marry Bruce. I never heard from him again.

It was almost a year later that a phone call came to the apartment while I was at home alone and when I answered it I learned it was Mrs. Tarleton. When I told her Bruce was out of town attending a medical conference she became distraught. I learned then that Dick had been in the army, had been wounded in Korea, and sent home. He was Bruce's patient! (I was startled to realize that Bruce had never mentioned it.) Mrs. Tartleton was worried about the infection in Dick's leg. I gave her the number where Bruce could be reached.

The rest of the day I kept thinking of Dick. "I'm a nurse," I said to myself, "And I'm Bruce's assistant. I can go to see his patient!"

I did not admit to myself that it was Dick I wanted to see again. I had gotten him completely out of my mind—but as a nurse and Dr. Behring's fiance, I wished to call on this young veteran, the son of an old fried.

Dick's eyes were closed when I entered his room at the hospital. An emotion swept over me that I couldn't define—and when his eyelids slowly opened and his smile gleamed on his face, sudden, unexpected tears came to my eyes. He reached out his hands toward me and I clasped them both—"Fancy, seeing you again," he remarked with a droll twinkle in his eyes, but his voice was weak. I sat near him and we talked—for hours.

Upon Bruce's return, I told him about my visit and he had agreed that I might attend Dick as his nurse. I didn't know whether Bruce saw my eyes light up when I received this permission, but he said nothing more.

And so I became Dick's nurse. By the time all danger was passed, Dick and I knew, without words, that we loved each other. Neither of us spoke of it, but I knew I would leave him forever. He knew, as well as I, that Bruce must not be hurt because of our love. I had told him my whole story and we both knew that Bruce must come first. For the first time I bent over and kissed his lips—goodbye. I would ever forget that kiss.

I tried to be happy for Bruce but my love for Dick was a heavy burden weighing on me constantly. Every night I cried myself to sleep. Bruce noticed the black circles under my eyes. He looked at me penetratingly. After he had gone, I threw myself on the sofa and sobbed a long while. Then I felt a hand on my arm. Startled, I looked around. It was Bruce! I wanted to hide, to conceal my tears. But he firmly drew my hands away—and told me to look toward the door.

There stood Dick. He was pale, and leaned on a cane—but his smile shone on his face and he held his arms toward me. With one glance at Bruce who was smiling, and only a moment's hesitation—"Bruce?" I inquired—as he nodded—I ran toward Dick's arms and felt our lips meet. Bruce sighed resignedly. But I knew he was glad of my happiness.

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