In This Together
After World War II steals her only son and sickness takes her husband, Dottie Kyle begins cooking and cleaning at the local boarding house. The job and small town life allow her to slip into a predictable routine, but her daughters and grandchildren live far away, and loneliness is Dottie's constant companion when she's not working.
Al Jensen, Dottie's long-time neighbor, has merely existed since his wife died. Al passes his time working for his son at the town's hardware store. However, he still copes with tragic memories of serving in WWI. Being with Dottie makes him happy, and their friendship grows until, for him, love has replaced friendship.
When Dottie's daughter has health issues, will Al’s strength and servant's heart be enough to win Dottie's love and affection? Can Dottie's love for her family enable her to face her fear of crowds and enclosed spaces and travel halfway across the country to help the daughter who so desperately needs her?
Proud of her…Al? He kept hold of her elbow as if he owned her arm.
Dottie didn’t know what to make of his statement. Parents were proud of their children for earning good grades or doing what was right. But she couldn’t quite conceive of Al being proud of her. He must have sensed her dilemma.
“You’re not the type to confront people, and that’s a good quality. But this time, you let loose—stepped beyond what you’d normally consider doing. I don’t often do that myself, so I know how much courage it takes.”
The “I’m proud of you” part of Al’s admission still swarmed her mind. “Courage?”
“Yes, courage. People don’t realize how much of it they have until they use it. Everyone thinks it only counts in battle, but everyday courage like what you showed inspires me.”
She had no idea what to say. Which, as Mama used to say, indicated the perfect time to say nothing.
Al gestured like an orator behind a podium. “Most of all, I’m excited for George. If he and Henrietta keep hitting it off, who knows what might happen? Wouldn’t it burn Helene if George ended up living in the oldest, most respectable house in town?”
Dottie chuckled. “You’re a born matchmaker, Al. I never would have pictured you this way.”
“Me neither. But it’s kind of fun, don’t you think?”
Dottie pulled her collar up against a brisk breeze. Before they got to Third Street, sleety rain slashed at their faces. “The only thing is, George would have to hear about Henrietta’s gallbladder till he’s in the grave.”
Al laughed out loud. A few minutes farther on, he motioned to the right. “Turn in here.”
“Here” turned out to be Almira’s Café. Dottie pushed back her dripping hair. “I must look a sight.”
Al grinned, a raindrop balanced on the tip of his nose. “Me too, but who cares? How about I treat you to a California hamburger? Otherwise, it’s dumplings for the third night in a row.”
“You’re going to go broke, Al Jensen.”
“Nope. Del owes me for a lot of hours at the store. Even though I’ve only been working mornings the past couple of weeks, I rack up the hours. Besides, we’ve got something to celebrate.”
“Del pays you?” She could have sworn Al told her he volunteered at the hardware.
He made a Stan Laurel face. “No, but it sounded good. Del’s still making monthly payments on the store, though, and will be for a good long time.”
He helped her with her coat. “What a sudden storm. Hope it lets up by the time we’re ready to go.” He handed her a menu from behind the chrome napkin holder.
“I meant it. I’m indebted to you. What’s something you would really, really like? Somewhere you’d like to go, maybe?”
The falling star and her wish to see Cora and the children flashed through Dottie’s mind. That scene out in the starry back yard replayed, her hands raised to the heavens and her heart open to surprises. But she tore her eyes away from Al’s to stare at the menu.
Putting out a Gideon’s fleece for divine guidance was one thing, but wishing on a falling star an entirely different matter. And admitting to Al what she had done? Not on your life.