Sadly, she didn't even know the soldier's name so she could write his family.
Grace Palmer and her baby daughter, Katie, had been living in England for one year. Grace's parents, Audrey and Preston, felt sending her far away from America was the only way to preserve their family's dignity.
After all, Grace had disgraced her family. At the tender age of sixteen, she was compromised by a married literature professor. Grace had often babysat for his children. He and his wife were living apart and he would bring Joey and Amy by the Palmer house for Grace to watch over them. She enjoyed the children, playing cards and helping them with their homework.
Grace's parents were staying for a weekend at their summer home. Grace had other plans so she was at home by herself for the first time. Once the children had dinner and a bath their Dad usually picked them up. Grace was still free to go to a movie or a WAV dance for war veterans. She was so excited that danger never entered her mind. Certainly not any danger from the quiet well mannered Bruce Maxwell.
That night the children were busy playing a game and their Dad told them he and Grace were going upstairs to spend some grown up time together. He warned them not to bother him. Grace wanted to question him but didn't want to frighten the children. He had always treated her with respect.
Grace was the only one that called it rape. He locked the door and blocked it with a chair. He was moving so fast she didn't have time to scream. Then putting his hand over her mouth, he assured her to be quiet or he would kill her. He flashed a pocket knife and demonstrated how it would cut through the vessels in her neck.. He put a sock in her mouth. Her heart was beating so fast and her chest felt like it would explode. Then he tied her to the posts of her own "Princess Bed" that left rope burns in her flesh. He tore off her panties. He inserted himself into her with brutal force. It felt like her insides were being lacerated. She tried to block out what was happening but the pain was too much.
She had been saving herself for love. It should have been her invitation to someone she could share a life with. She had still been innocent enough to believe in those kinds of dreams. Her parents never acted very loving with her. They were stingy with hugs and never voiced any words of love.
She wasn't worthy of a special love or God wouldn't have let this happen to her. The hot tears ran silently down her cheeks. They were tears of confusion, pain and anger. After the invasion was over, he took his pocket knife and traced it over the tender flesh on her neck. She knew he would kill her right then because she could identify him. Why shouldn't he? He broke the flesh and she felt the sticky warm blood running down her neck. Would it take long to die?
Then he once again verbally threatened to kill her if she told anyone. He left.
She heard him talking to his children. She got up and locked her bedroom door. When she heard the front door close she put on her robe and quietly went though the house locking all the doors.
How could this man rape her with his children in the other room, then pick them up and drive home? What a horrible father! She almost felt it was her obligation to let his wife know. But she couldn't. No one must know.
She sat in a tub of warm water yet she shook so much her teeth chattered. She cried for her young ruined body and damaged soul.
' How could she ever explain it to a man she wanted to marry? Who would want a girl with "spoiled goods"?'
The very thought of another man touching her there made her ill as she watched the unholy blood mix with pure soapy water.
It never occurred to her to call the police. She didn't want anyone to know this horrible act had happened to her. It wasn't talked about in polite circles where her parents belonged. She washed all the bedding and her clothes.
The rest of the weekend she stayed on the sofa under a quilt trying to read. Actually she was reliving the scene over and over. She told no one. When her mother returned she assumed Grace was ill.
She dropped out of school, took a secretarial job and contributed to her parents' house by paying rent. She walked, talked, and lived in shame.
Then she missed two menstrual periods. She knew.
"Mother, I think I am in the family way," she cried silent tears.
Her mother's face was stone cold. She slapped Grace so hard her forehead hit the fireplace hearth. Grace felt the blood running down the side of her face. There is no love in this house of secrets and no joy.
"No one needs to know," her parents said.
Mom said, "I have watched you and your wicked ways. You entice men with short skirts, tight clothes, and flirtatious ways. Satan lives in you."
There was an Aunt Rosalind in England that agreed to take her in. "She must earn her keep by cleaning, cooking and taking care of me. Understood?"
This vile secret resulted in the birth of an angel, her lovely daughter, Katie.
In London there were Nurse Midwives that lived with the Nuns. They were wonderful young women that charged only what you could pay.How could a beautiful miracle have come from such a evil act? Katie was a gift from God. Grace knew that God had heard her prayers and given her another chance. Grace now felt cleansed.
Her parents sent back all her mail and pictures of Katie unopened. She could almost understand the shunning of a daughter but to show no caring or interest in their grandchild was hard to imagine. She would never subject Katie to that. Better she not know she has grandparents and a father. She would not let them damage her little soul with feelings of unworthiness and shame.
Meanwhile, the war raged at the doorsteps of England. There were air raids all the time. After a while one almost got used to it. People continued shopping, going to church, having guests and living their lives.
So, this dark land of constant rain and war was home. Her Aunt Rosalind was very old and the family home was falling apart. Grace was a blessing for Rosalind. Grace called for workers to fix the house up. Rosalind loved the baby but Grace had to find a teenager to care for Katie and even watch over her Aunt who was becoming frail.
Dancing was one of the most popular hobbies during the war and from 1942 onwards British dance halls were filled with American soldiers. American soldiers were better dressed and better paid than the British troops. This meant that they could afford to be generous with the cigarettes, sweets, chewing gum and stockings that they brought over to England with them.
Soon Grace had a job entertaining by working in a dance hall. After all, she was young, attractive and American, a real find for the owners. She was to dance for money from five in the evening until midnight. If the men wanted something extra, there were rooms and the owners kept twenty five percent. Grace made it clear this wasn't going to be part of her job but they hired her anyway.
It was only her second month and she enjoyed dancing as long as the men didn't paw her. She told them the rules and they tried but didn't push. She was a beauty and they wanted to be with her. It might be their last night with a lovely sweet smelling female.
What a wonderful last memory, they all thought.
She needed the money badly to pay for food and the sitter who spent the night. Grace wasn't trained for a skill; dancing for dollars didn't require talent. Men told her about their plans after the war was over and the women waiting at home for them. She genuinely listened and they were generous, tipping her extra for the "talk therapy."
Then there were the regulars, ugly old men with booze on their breath. The bouncers usually kicked them out if they made any lewd moves.
It was a rainy miserable night and he was her twentieth or thirtieth customer. She had lost count a while ago. Her feet hurt and her head ached. At this point, she didn't care if she ever danced again.
She was trying to concentrate on this young soldier. He looked about fourteen, blonde buzz cut with piercing blue eyes. Good looking in his pressed uniform, full of energy and patriotic love of country. He talked of duty, his parents on a farm in Kansas, and the girl waiting for him. He was sweet and a good enough dancer that as he twirled her around she laughed, throwing her head back enjoying their youth and the joy of bodies pressing close. Suddenly he kissed her with gentle pressure and she felt like a young girl at her high school prom. She thought how fortunate his girlfriend at home was. Perhaps there was hope for her as he stroked her cheek,
"Some man is very lucky!"
Suddenly, a frightening storm was raging and her mind was at home on Katie. Aunt Rosalind was so weak and hard of hearing. Grace had a bad feeling. If her Aunt fell, would Julie know what to do? It was a comfort Julie's parents lived only a block away so that had always been a comfort.
Then the air raid sirens went off. In a matter of seconds, Grace was thrown into a wall. There was a heavy weight on top of her. She was alive but in incredible pain, her right leg was twisted under her. She pushed to get the weight off her.
She screamed for help. Between thunder, yelling and general chaos, there was no one to hear. Finally she was able to shift the weight. She cried for the intense pain she was in and why did people have to kill each other anyway? The boy she had been dancing with was the weight. His blue eyes, minutes ago were so full of promise and life, were open but vacant. Her tears fell on his handsome face.
She cried for her Aunt and Katie and the girl that was waiting for this young man. Their dreams were now shattered. Sadly, she didn't even know his name so she could write his family. He had thanked her for listening.
What kind of a world had she brought a sweet helpless child into?
By Kathie Stehr
Edited Sept 2013