Dorothy Parker's "The Lovely Leave" is another short story by an American author included in Wave Me Goodbye. I read one of Parker's stories earlier this year, which piqued my curiosity about her, so I'm glad to have a chance to read yet another of her stories. I always have good intentions to read more when I encounter an author I like, but it seems like good intentions aren't always enough and it's only luck when I actually do read something else. Dorothy Parker is known for her witty wisecracks and was part of the famous Algonquin Hotel Round Table. Parker's first husband was posted to Europe during WWI and their marriage ended in divorce after years of separation. Her second marriage was also a casualty of war, this time WWII, though apparently they remarried years later. It's obvious she wrote from experience.
"The Lovely Leave", published in 1943, was one of the last stories Dorothy Parker wrote. It's another WWII story with a domestic setting, probably New York City. The stress of having a husband in the military is obvious on young wife, Mimi McVicker. Her husband, Steve, calls one day out of the blue announcing he has an unexpected 24 hour leave coming. The call is difficult, reminding her just how hard the separation is and how she tries to forget it, but looking at the "horrid " telephone after she hangs up it all comes back to her that she really can't forget. As she talked to her husband she hears the excitement of male voices in the background, which makes her feel all the more lonely and alone and perhaps forgotten as well.
The time spent together on her husband's last leave was uncomfortable. Mimi struggled with a shyness that came out of nowhere when faced with this "dashing stranger in strange, dashing garments." The time slipped by with a feeling of artificialness. When finally the shyness left her, their time together was nearly over and she found herself counting down the moments until he left. This time she vows there will be no shy feelings, that all will be normal once again now that she's gotten past the new feelings of a aviator husband that seems so foreign to her.
She plans and prepares, buying a new black dress and a nightgown of soft chiffon patterned with tiny bouquets. She makes sure she has Steve's favorite food and drinks on hand determined for the leave to be as normal as possible. Once again she's overcome with the same outrageous shyness and things go down hill from there. The leave has been revoked and her husband has only an hour to spend with her before he must catch a train back. You can tell Steve loves Mimi and trusts her, but she's overwhelmed with the feeling of being alone in the same old life, while her husband is with new people in a new exciting life. Parker portrays this little slice of life with all its difficulties well. It always has to be hard for the one left behind to hold things together--how hard this must have been for women during the war years. And not marriages must have held up, certainly Parker's didn't.
Next up in the anthology is Elizabeth Bowen's "Mysterious Kor", which I hope to write about as I hear it is one of her most famous short stories. And I still think this is an excellent short story collection!