A Husband For Christmas
by Nancy Pirri
In 1946, Sarah Delaney writes to Santa for a husband for her mom for Christmas. She’s never known her father, who went missing in action during WWII so five-year-old Sarah decides it’s the perfect gift for her mother—a husband, and a daddy for her.
Her mother, Rose Delaney, has been working as a banking accountant—until Jack Campbell, the man who held the position first returns from the war and her boss gives him back his job.
Rose, unhappy about losing her job—and a good paying one for a single parent—begins looking for another position but can’t find one that pays well enough. Jack, feeling guilty since he’s a single guy with no child or wife responsibilities convinces his boss to hire Rose as his secretary. At first, Rose declines due to lower pay, but soon takes up the offer as nothing else is available.
Within weeks, Jack falls in love with Rose, even though she refuses to date men she works with. He has big plans in his life though and pursues her until she eventually accepts his offer of marriage.
Rose can’t deny she’s in love with him also, until she learns the ‘real’ reason he’s looking for a wife.
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Genre: Historical | Holiday Romance
St. Paul Minnesota
Captain Jack Campbell, a schooled architect and accountant, and a medic during the war, honorably discharged from the United States Army, sat on the doctor’s examination table, wondering if his leg would ever heal completely.
Dr. Richardson gave him an answer without Jack having to ask. “The leg’s better than I expected, Jack. But I’m afraid you’ll have a permanent limp for the rest of your life from the lodged shrapnel.”
Jack shrugged. “Guess dancing’s out for me.”
“You’ll be able to manage the ones that count...the slow ones.“ He gave Jack a sly look. “Bet you can’t wait to hold a pretty girl in your arms for a night of dancing. You were gone nearly three years, weren’t you?”
Jack nodded. “Yes, it’s good to be back in familiar territory.”
Dr. Richardson’s smile slipped. “Have you been home yet? Seen your father?”
“No. He doesn’t want to see me. I met my mother for lunch last week, though. She, at least, appreciates the fact I survived the war.”
“He’ll get over you enlisting, sooner or later. Don’t think badly of him. You are, after all, his only child. And now that you’ve returned you can take up the reins of the family business.”
“Father threatened to will the business to a distant cousin, if I enlisted. I’d never wanted to make a career out of the steel business anyway, so I gave him my blessing.”
“Think that’s a wise move?”
“It’s the smartest one I’ve ever made, Doc.”
“So, what are your plans?”
“I’m going to return to LaSalle National Bank as head accountant. Then I’m going to search for a woman willing to be my wife and bless me with children. I’ve seen friends die and know life can be too short.”
The doctor frowned. “I heard you’d made marriage plans before leaving for the war.”
“Things never worked out between Veronica and me.”
He heard bitterness in his voice when he thought about his ex-fiancée. Thought how he’d received letters from friends about how she’d been seen around the city with an old friend of his, Sedrick Hawthrone. She’d never even had the decency to write him a ‘Dear John’ letter while he was in the army but had simply stopped replying to his own.
“Veronica Miller wasn’t your style, son. Bah! Society girls are nothing but spoiled debutantes with no brain inside their pretty little heads. You need a smart woman, one who’s independent and can think for herself; a woman who can be a helpmate, not a noose around your neck. Besides, there are plenty of ladies around who’d be proud to marry a war hero, who also happens to be a millionaire.”
Dryly, Jack said, “I won’t inherit that money until I marry. And if I don’t marry and get my millions, well, it’ll only mean I’ll have to work a while longer at the bank to save up enough money to launch my business. My grandmother and her will—it’s ridiculous.”
“Your granny sure knew how to rile things up when she was alive, but now she’s doing it from the grave, too.” The doctor chuckled. “She was a hell of a gal.”
“If it hadn’t been for my mother wanting me home in one piece, I probably would have stayed in the army, and to hell with those millions. It’s tough being an only child.”
“Yeah, real tough,” the doctor said with a laugh, slapping Jack’s back.
Jack left the doctor’s office and limped down the street to his new model Studebaker, noticing dames of all shapes and sizes sending appreciate glances his way. He had gained twenty pounds of muscle while serving his country, so none of his pre-service clothes fit him. Home for nearly a month, he still hadn’t had a chance to have new clothes made so he still wore his Army uniform.
He started thinking about his long-range business goals and smiled, knowing he was on the right track. Soldiers were getting married every day with the ending of the war, and there was a definite housing shortage. The home-building industry was set to explode, even though his father still felt steel was the clear ticket to success.
Perhaps he was right, but Jack had never had the interest his father had in the steel mining business. He also recalled how his father would be gone for weeks at a time, running his business, traveling and selling, leaving Jack and his mother alone. Jack had long ago decided he’d work no more than nine to five at his business and spend the rest of his time surrounded by his lovely, loving wife and children.
At twenty-nine, he was ready to find the right woman to marry and settle down to a normal work schedule, unlike his father. A sweet, compliant, pretty woman with a sensible head on her shoulders would be a good companion for him; one who cared more for him more than society events. A woman who wouldn’t mind keeping a home and caring for children and having him be the provider; fulfilling his needs would be enough for his wife.
* * *
Rose Delaney sat in her boss’s office, fingers twisting the corner of her handkerchief, wet with her tears.
“Mrs. Delaney,” Mr. Jorgenson said carefully, “a woman’s place is in the home, unless there’s a war on. You were fully aware of the fact you’d lose your job once Jack Campbell returned from active duty.”
Disappointment settled deep inside Rose but somehow, she managed to keep her voice calm. “What am I supposed to do? I’ve a child at home to support, and no husband.”
“I’m so sorry,” he murmured.
Rose didn’t think he sounded a bit sorry though she saw color flood his cheeks. He continued, “LaSalle National Bank promised our men they’d be given their jobs back upon their return from the service, and you were informed about this when you took the job. Jack Campbell’s a decorated war hero and is ready to return to work now that his injuries have healed. His position’s the one you currently occupy.”
“Is he married?” she daringly asked.
The benign smile he’d given her he replaced with a scowl. “I don’t see why it’s any concern of yours,” he said, picking up a stack of papers from his desk and shuffling them.
“I do,” Rose said, leaning toward him. “You see, I could understand him needing this job if he were married and had a family to support. If he’s only responsible for himself, then I can’t see why he can’t find a job elsewhere and leave this one to me.”
He rose from his chair and came around to the front of his desk. Taking her elbow in a light grasp he pulled her gently from her seat and walked her to the door. “I’m sorry. Your last day is the sixteenth of the month. I’ve a meeting in a few minutes. Perhaps we can find another position for you. Let me think on it.”
In her office, she sank into the chair behind her desk. Her hand shook as she tried smoothing out her frizzy hair. What would she do now? How would she support herself and Sarah, her four-year old daughter? Then hope filled her. Perhaps Mr. Jorgenson could find another position for her, one that hopefully paid as well as her current job. She could only hope.
Her husband, Timothy, had been listed as missing in action, assumed to have died at Pearl Harbor, leaving her pregnant and jobless. Other than her neighborhood soda fountain waitress job she’d held as a teenager she hadn’t worked upon graduating from high school. She’d attended business college for two years and studied accounting. But then she and Timothy had married. They’d spent just one night together—their wedding night, before he left for active duty. Six weeks later Rose discovered she was expecting a baby. Timothy never knew about the pregnancy, nor ever saw his daughter.
Rose’s business college certificate was the reason she’d managed to secure a well-paying job at LaSalle National once America became involved in the war. The bank had been desperately seeking a head accountant and had been delighted to hire her—even if she’d been four months pregnant at the time. Now, with the return of a local war hero, they apparently had no qualms about letting her go.
Rose received a small widow’s pension but that was all. Her home was a modest one-story with a quaint, enclosed front porch, which required many repairs she couldn’t afford. Now she was faced with the dilemma of keeping up the mortgage without a decent paying job.
The next morning, after a neighbor with a child Sarah’s age picked her up in the family car to take Sarah to school as they did each school day, she dressed for work in one of three suits she’d purchased upon her hiring at LaSalle Bank. She felt extremely blessed that Sarah had been deemed with advanced intelligence and had been able to start kindergarten school a year earlier.
She pulled a navy serge suit from her closet. The jacket was double-breasted with well-padded shoulders, the skirt pencil-thin, emphasizing her trim figure. Her starched white blouse contrasted dramatically with the suit. She pinned a sapphire and diamond broach to one lapel, a wedding gift from Timothy, and stared at her reflection in the mirror positioned on the wall behind her dressing table.
Depression settled over her. She didn’t feel like venturing outdoors where it had been raining for two days but knew she must. She still had her job and two weeks of pay coming. Quickly, she pulled on her raincoat, grabbed her umbrella from its stand then locked the front door.
It rained often in the fall in the Midwest, and on this cool morning torrents of rain fell from the sky, pounding the sidewalk and streets. As Rose stood on the corner a few blocks from her house, waiting for the streetcar to take her to work downtown St. Paul, a shiny, deep blue Studebaker screamed past her. Rose caught her breath as ice-cold water splashed up into her face, soaked her feet and plastered her seamed silk stockings to her legs.
The force of the wind made her struggle to keep the umbrella over her head. Once she was certain the umbrella was stable, she dug inside her pocket, found a damp handkerchief and swiped the water from her cheeks, trying not to disturb her makeup; trying not to bawl like a baby.
She heard the shriek of a car’s wheels braking and looked up in time to see the Studebaker barreling toward her, in reverse. She jumped back from the curb, ready to flee when a man’s solicitous deep voice called out to her.
“Sorry about that, miss! I didn’t see you on the corner until the last minute. Can I give you a lift somewhere?”
Rose moved closer to the curb, bent down and peered at the man through the window he’d cranked open. His light brown hair was cut severely short on the sides, but long on top, his eyes deep blue and merry. His smile was wide, and flashing white teeth caught her attention. She was half-tempted to accept a ride but knew she couldn’t. He was a stranger—a stranger who’d drenched her from head to toe, her raincoat and umbrella having afforded her little protection.
She heard rumbling and looked up to see the streetcar arriving. Brakes screeched as the vehicle came to a grinding halt behind the Studebaker. The streetcar driver honked at the man to move but he didn’t budge.
“Come on! You’re soaking wet,” he shouted.
Rose’s eyes widened on the passenger door he’d swung open. She shook her head as a nervous feeling sent prickles up her spine. It was broad daylight so she shouldn’t be frightened. But there was something about the man’s confidence and tone of voice that made her uneasy. Just the little he’d said led her to believe he was the type who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“Yes, I’m wet, thanks to you!” she finally got the nerve to shout as she continued to back away. She ran for the streetcar, tore up the steps and found a seat right behind the driver.
“You okay, miss?” the driver asked as he peered at her in his mirror. “Was that guy pestering you?”
“I’m fine,” Rose replied, her cheeks heating up.
The man had bothered her. He’d just made her aware of the fact she was, indeed, still a woman. Nearly five years had passed since Timothy left, and she hadn’t had a single date since then. But then, other than young boys and elderly gentlemen, there hadn’t been many eligible men around during the war years, not that she’d gone looking. To her mind she was still married—until Timothy’s death could be proved.
She arrived at her destination, stepped off the streetcar and walked briskly up the street toward the bank building built of red brick and eight stories high. She took the stairs to the third floor, stopped in the ladies’ room to check her makeup and comb her hair, which was hopeless. Her honey-blonde colored hair, which she’d painstakingly pin-curled to make it smoother was now an unruly mass of frizz surrounding her face. Her makeup was streaky and some of it had bled onto the once pristine white collar of her blouse. She groaned when she turned, glanced down at one leg and saw the run in her stocking. Hopefully, she still had an extra pair in her desk drawer.
Rose did the best she could with her appearance, then headed for her office. “Hello, Marianne,” she said as she passed the receptionist.
The young woman’s eyes widened. “What happened to you, Mrs. Delaney?”
As Rose moved toward her office, she said, “Let’s just say I had an encounter with a Studebaker. Okay?”
“Uh, sure. Say, Mr. Jorgenson said you should come straight to his office.”
“Let him know I’ll be in shortly.”
Marianne protested, “Oh, but he doesn’t want you to go to your office until you’ve seen him first!”
Coming to an abrupt halt, Rose narrowed her eyes on Marianne. “Don’t tell me he’s cleared my things out already.”
“Um, no, not yet, but...”
“Good, then my extra stockings should still be in my desk. Ring him and tell him I’ll be there in five minutes.”
She ignored Marianne’s stammering, opened her door and came to an abrupt halt with a gasp. Her chair was turned to face the bank of windows overlooking the city. She saw a pair of chocolate brown pants legs crossed, oxford shoes on feet settled against the windowsill—shoes she guessed that likely cost more than a week’s salary; then she heard a man’s deep, laughing voice as he talked with someone on thetelephone.
He must have heard her enter as he pulled his legs down and swiveled around to face her. She stared in wide-eyed amazement into a pair of astonished, laughing blue eyes—familiar eyes.