Disclaimer is in part one.
IT'S A BETTY WENNDERFUL LIFE
"What do you mean I was never born?" Betty asked with a caustic laugh that came out sounding more like a harsh bark in the frozen night air. "I'm thirty-three years old with a husband and three children."
"No, my dear, you aren't because you don't exist. You were never born." The older woman reminded her gently, waving the book she carried in her right hand as if to reinforce the point.
"I'll prove it to you." Betty cried out starting off back down the road at a run.
A few minutes later, she reached the tree where she remembered crashing the car, but it wasn't there.
"Where's my car!" Betty demanded indignantly. "I know I crashed headlong into this tree less than an hour ago."
"I keep trying to tell you, Betty, you got your wish. You were never born. So naturally you couldn't have had a car accident."
Unconsciously, Betty's left hand reached under her coat into her skirt pocket.
"No, Betty. The hair from Barbara's dolly isn't there either."
"How did you know… But it must be there, I stuffed it in there myself." Betty replied frantically jamming her hand into the pocket only to feel nothing in it. "I'm going home, Victor and the kids will be frantic worrying about me." She took off again, slipping and sliding on the icy sidewalks.
When she reached the green and white frame house at number 154 S. River Street, Betty was relieved to see all the lights in the house blazing. Normally, she would have scolded such an extravagant waste of electricity, but she was so happy to see her house, that she hurried up the walk and pounded on the door.
A moment later, it was opened by a strange man who looked at Betty's disheveled form and asked "May I help you, Miss?"
"Who are you and what are you doing in my house?" She tried to peer around him "Where are my husband and my children? Barbara's sick I have to get to her." Betty was nearly shrieking again.
"I'm sorry sir." It was Clara's voice at Betty's side. "We obviously have the wrong house. Sorry to have disturbed you." Gently, she led Betty away down the sidewalk saying to her quietly, "This isn't your house, Betty because you do not exist."
Sobbing now, Betty swung around to face Clara, "I'll take you down to WENN. They're finishing the Christmas Eve show now, they'll remember me." Defiantly, she set off towards downtown Pittsburgh with the older woman following.
When they reached Isabella Street, Betty looked around in surprise and dismay at the raucous music and noise coming from the brightly lit buildings whose neon signs proclaimed them as assorted nightclubs and bars.
"What happened to this place? Where are all the stores and restaurants?" She asked looking around her in obvious confusion. "I was here working less than two hours ago." Reaching out, she grabbed the arm of a woman who was brushing past them. "What happened to this street? Where's radio station WENN?"
"That joint closed down in 1941, after ol' Victor got his-s-self killed in L-London." The statuesque blonde's voice was slurring from the amount of alcohol she had been consuming.
"Celia?" Betty questioned looking into the young woman's blue eyes in astonishment. "What are doing in Pittsburgh. I thought you were out in Hollywood wrapping up your latest picture."
"Hollywood? What have you been drinking lady. What would someone like me be doing in the movies?" She jerked her arm out of Betty's grasp and staggered away.
Betty stared after the young woman in horror. Turning to Clara, she demanded "What happened to her. She left WENN for a career in Hollywood."
"No, she was put out of work along with everyone else, when the station closed down in the spring of 1941. This whole block was turned into nightclubs during the War." Clara replied, waving the book she still carried in her right hand in a wide arc to indicate the whole street around them..
"No, I don't understand how that could be. During the War, we were so busy with the W.E.N.N., after Victor came back from Berlin. And what's that book you keep waving in my face?"
"Oh this, this is one of my favorite novels. 'Little Women'. I hear that Louisa May Alcott is publishing a sequel soon. Victor never came back, Betty. You weren't here waiting for him, so he had no reason to return to Pittsburgh. He was shot and killed by the Nazi's while working undercover in Berlin." Clara told the frightened woman as they stood huddled in a darkened doorway. "Rollie Pruitt closed the station down early in 1941, at the request of the owner, and sold the building."
"But Mr. Pruitt was exposed as a Nazi saboteur by Scott Sherwood when he cracked the secret code." Betty cried out.
"Scott Sherwood was never in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania either Betty. He only came here after hearing Victor rave about you in a London pub, but since you were never born, he never heard Victor talk about you. I believe Mr. Sherwood is currently residing in a Guatemalan jail. Some kind of banana oil con I believe."
"But what about everybody else? Eugenia, Gertie, Mackie?" Betty asked looking around her as if she expected them to appear as she said their names. "And Hilary and Jeff? What happened to them."
"Well, lets see." Clara pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Some of them still live here. Would you like to see how their lives turned out since you weren't around to know them?"
"Yes, please, Clara." The younger woman replied fearfully.
"Okay, hang on tight." The angel in training replied grabbing Betty's hand. A split second later, they were standing in front of a run down hotel in a dingy part of the waterfront district.
"Who lives here?"
"Mackie Bloom and Gertrude Reese both live here now. Gertie is the night desk clerk and her room goes with the job. Mackie hasn't been able to work since the station closed down. He tried to kill himself early in 1943."
Betty peered in the grimy front window and saw WENN's receptionist slumped behind the counter at the far end of the lobby. Her head was in her hands and her once bright red hair was now a lank mass of graying strands.
"I can't stand this anymore. Take me to see Hilary and Jeff." Betty demanded turning away and covering her face with her hands.
"As you wish." Clara replied and another second later, they were standing in front of a large brightly lit theatre. The marquee across the front of the building read in bright neon Miss Hilary Booth in The Rivals.
"Well, Hilary doesn't appear to have done too bad. In fact, she seems to be very successful." Betty said waving her hands around to take in the glittering scene around them. "She and Jeff must be very happy."
"Oh, she's not with Jeff Singer. They never got back together because you weren't there to help. Jeff took off for parts unknown after the station closed down and no one's ever heard from him again."
"But she and Jeff were so much in love." Betty said sadly.
"But you weren't there to referee their fights and push them together again. When he came back from London, Hilary threw him out of the station."
"Eugenia?" Betty asked softly, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"After the station closed down, she went back to Altoona. She lives with her sister now, and has never married."
"I don't understand. How could my not being born make everything so different?" Betty asked confusedly still looking at the changed neighborhood around her. "I'm not very important."
"Its amazing how one person's life touches so many others, isn't it." Clara replied. "You may not think that anything you ever did was so very important, but you were the leader of all of these people. They looked to you for advice and assistance and love. You were very important to them, and they in turn became very important to others."
"Oh please, Clara I can't stand this anymore. I want things to go back to be the way they used to be. Please make me alive again." Betty pleaded reaching out and grabbing the angel's hands.
"But what about all your problems, all the reasons you hated your life to begin with?" The old woman asked gently.
"I don't care what happens to me. I just want my husband and children and friends back. They're the most important things to me and I can't stand the thought that they're gone. Please." Betty cried out then twisted away and ran down the snowy street.
She kept going until she reached the little park by the rivers again and sinking down on a snow covered bench, lifted her face towards heaven and cried out, "I want to live again! Please God let me live again!"
Suddenly, there was a noise behind her and turning around, she spied a tall form coming towards her slipping a little in the snow and slush. It was Victor, and as soon as he reached her side, he wrapped his arms around her and crushed her tightly against his chest.
"I thought we'd never find you, Betty." He told his wife in a voice heavy with relief. "We've been all over Pittsburgh looking for you. I don't know what made me think to come here, but a little voice told me that maybe you'd be here."
"Oh, Victor." Was all Betty could say as she savored the feeling of her husband's strong arms around her in the cold darkness. "Who's staying with the children?" She asked looking up as the thought occurred to her that if Victor had been out looking for her, their kids might be at home alone.
"Gertie came over to watch them. Everyone else, Mackie, Maple, Mr. Foley and I have been scouring the city trying to find you. No matter what happens, Betty, we can work it out together."
"Lets go home, Victor. I want to see our children, I missed them so." Betty said as they began to walk out of the park and back towards the road.
A few minutes later, they came upon the car smashed against the tree right where Betty had left it earlier that evening.
"Oh look," she said joyfully. "Our car's here."
"We'll have to call someone to tow it in the morning." Victor said after inspecting the damage and seeing that it would be impossible to drive it home. "If we hurry, we can catch a trolley."
They did and within half an hour, were walking up the front sidewalk to their little green and white house. As they reached the top step, the front door flew open and three little bundles of energy and happiness flew at them.
"Mommy, your home!" Vicki screamed out in delight as she wrapped her arms tightly around Betty's neck. "We were so scared when you left."
"Oh darling, I promise I'll never do anything like that again. Mommy missed you too. I missed you three something awful." Betty told her oldest daughter as she carried her into the house.
"Guess what Mommy." Barbara called out happily curled up in her father's arms, "I don't have a cold anymore. I feel all better now."
"No runny nose or sniffles?" Betty asked her youngest daughter.
Shaking her head, Barbara said "Nothing, Mommy."
Setting Vicki down on the stairs, Betty turned to face a pair of worried eyes attached to the face of the woman standing in the living room doorway. Gertie quickly moved forward and took Betty in a warm embrace.
"Betty, dear, we were so worried about you tonight. Why didn't you come to me if you have a problem. You know I'll help in anyway that I can."
"That goes for us too, Betty." A new voice said from behind her. She turned again and saw Mackie standing there by the door with Maple right behind him.
"Yeh, sweetie" Maple said pushing forward to stand next to Betty. "If you two need money, just ask."
"We've already taken up a small collection." Mackie told Betty and Victor reaching into his coat pocket and bringing out a wad of bills. "Everybody at the station contributed something. Even Hilary, once she heard that you two might lose the house."
Just then, the telephone rang, and Gertie from force of habit, reached out and picked it up. Her face broke into a broad smile as she exclaimed "Celia! How are things out there in sunny Hollywood?"
Putting her hand over the mouthpiece, she said unnecessarily to the room at large "Its Celia calling from California."
"What was that again, Celia. You will? Oh that's wonderful, Betty and Victor will be so happy. You'll wire it right away. Merry Christmas to you and the kids too." Gertie hung up the telephone and said happily, "That was Celia, apparently Eugenia called her and said that you two might lose everything. So she's sending a wire transfer of one thousand dollars right away tonight. Said its her way of saying thanks for everything you two have done to help her get to where she is today."
Betty just stood there, tears streaming down her cheeks as she contemplated the generosity of all of her friends. Barbara looking up and seeing the tears asked "Mommy, are you sad again?"
Betty scooped up her little girl and hugging her tight, said "No baby, mommy's not sad. I'm so very, very happy. I never realized just what good friends we have."
"Why don't we go into the living room and celebrate with some eggnog and cookies." Victor suggested taking off his coat and herding his two older children plus his niece and nephew towards the large room off the left side of the hallway.
Before everyone could move very far though, their was a knock on the front door again and Maple, who was closest, opened it. A young couple stood there heavily bundled and snow covered but were immediately greeted with a shout of recognition by Anne Marie and Joey.
"Mommy! Daddy!" Shrieked two voices at once as they rushed across the room to throw themselves into the waiting arms of their parents. The next few minutes was bedlam again as Tom and Sarah were greeted and hugged and introduced to everybody.
"We're sorry to arrive without calling first, but we missed the kids something awful and we've been driving since yesterday to get here before Christmas." Tom said apologetically as he helped his wife out of her heavy coat.
"Sarah, you're walking again!" Betty exclaimed noticing for the first time that her sister was moving across the floor using only a cane for balance.
"I know, isn't it marvelous. I've been practicing for weeks to discard those crutches and the Doctor says that I should be able to stop using the cane in another month or so." Sarah replied smiling from ear to ear.
As soon as they were all seated in the living room, and Gertie had passed around cups of eggnog and Vicki had made the rounds with a large plate of Christmas cookies, Mackie suggested a toast.
"Merry Christmas to all our friends and family, and especially to Betty who has long been the driving force and the guiding light behind WENN."
"To Betty!" Everyone cried out as they all raised glasses in agreement.
"This calls for some music." Maple called out a minute later and sitting down at the old upright piano began playing a rollicking version of Jingle Bells as everybody began to sing along.
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh…"