Inter Agency Defense Command Director Steven Leonard Trevor Jr. was sitting at his desk, staring out the bank of windows on the clear spring Washington D.C. morning, when he got the call. The cherry trees in the Capital hadn't begun to bloom yet, but the cold gray slush that dominated the last legs of winter was finally melting, and green buds had begun to appear on the trees that lined the river. He could see men and women in business suits and overcoats walking to and from the office buildings and through the patches of green grass that had only just begun to spring up.
"Steve?" his assistant Corrine's voice came over the intercom, "There's a Mrs. Jacqueline Colby for you on line two."
"Colby?" he asked, trying to place the name.
"She said she and her husband live out in Arlington, something about their house? Should I tell her you're out and take a message?"
"I'm not busy. Go ahead and put her through."
"Mr. Trevor?" came a woman's voice over the tinny speaker and he picked up the handset, leaning back in his leather chair.
"This is Steve Trevor."
"I'm so sorry to bother you, and this might sound terribly odd, but by any chance, was your father also named Steve Trevor?"
"Yes, he was," Steve leaned forward, closer to the phone. "I'm sorry— he passed away several years ago. Did you know my father?"
"Oh, no. No, last fall my husband and I moved to Maywood, to 4210 Lorcom Lane."
"My God, I haven't through of that place in years! I grew up there. We sold after Dad passed away."
"I think we found a journal that I think might belong to your father."
"A journal?" he asked, surprised.
"We found it in the baby's room—I'm sorry, the west bedroom, over the living room?"
"That was my dad's office," he said, closing his eyes and picturing the room. The walls had been painted dark green and the big old mahogany desk that had taken up one whole wall was scarred and battered and beloved. When he was a child, he'd kept his favorite toys hidden in the rolltop desk. His father had spent hours in that office, writing letters, reading reports, and sometimes just reading or staring out the round window to the trees at the edge of the garden. He'd loved to come and sit in his dad's lap when he was small and stare at the medals and citations framed on the walls. "I packed it up myself—"
"It was in a biscuit tin, under the floorboards. We were getting a new floor put in and the workmen found it. There are some photos and letters stuck in it. One of the letters was addressed to Major Trevor at the Pentagon. Nathan—my husband, Nathan had his secretary run the name through the computer, that's how we found you. I hope you don't mind—"
"Mind? Mrs. Colby, it would mean a great deal to me if I could stop by this afternoon and pick it up?"
"I've got to pick up my son from school, but I should be home by four, four thirty. Would that be all right?"
"That would be fantastic. Thank you so much for calling."
"My pleasure. I'll see you this afternoon," she said and then hung up. He replaced the phone in its cradle, his mind racing. Turning in his chair, he opened the top drawer of the credenza and pulled out the leather scrapbook that sat at the bottom. He opened the first page to a newspaper clipping that showed a grainy photo of Wonder Woman and President Roosevelt. The musty smell of the old paper took him right back. He could remember all those afternoons pouring over his father's scrapbooks, listening to his dad tell him stories of working for the G2 during the War and how he and Wonder Woman had foiled the Nazis time and time again.
He tried to keep his mind on his job for the rest of the afternoon, but all he could think about was this unexpected link with his father. He finally gave up, asked Corrine to cancel his afternoon appointments, and went down to the garage to get in his car to try and beat the traffic out to Virginia.
* * *
The house in Maywood had changed since he had sold it in 1976. He paused for a moment, to catalog all the differences before ringing the bell. Pale yellow aluminum siding had replaced the old cracked wooden siding he remembered growing up and an addition had been added on the side where the old kitchen had been. But the cherry trees in the garden were still there, threatening to burst into white and pink blossoms any day. A boy's red and white bicycle with a banana seat and baseball cards stuck between the spokes leaned up against the porch railing and there were white lace curtains handing in the front window instead of the old wooden blinds he remembered. The wooden swing suspended over the porch that swung in the slight breeze was familiar, though. Smiling, he remembered many a summer's evening spent on the swing. With a sigh, he pressed the doorbell and heard a dog bark from the kitchen and footsteps on the stairs.
Jacqueline Colby was a pretty woman in her thirties, her dark hair pulled back in a barrette, and she had a toddler balanced on her hip as she answered the door. The baby had red hair, was chewing on a soft toy, and stared up at him with bright blue eyes.
"Wow. You look just like—I mean, there was a photo in the journal," she said as she opened the screen door and stepped aside so he could enter. "You favor you father really strongly."
"Thank you, I'll take that as a compliment," he grinned, and she showed him to the couch. It was against the same wall their couch had been, but the room was painted a cheery pale blue, no trace of the flowered wallpaper he remembered. A fireplace had been put in and there were comic books and action figures scattered on the floor in front of the hearth. Two GI Joe figures, one missing an arm, were holding a shoebox fort from a Darth Vader that had long since lost his cape and lightsaber and some stormtroopers. Sitting on the coffee table was a rusting biscuit tin adorned with paintings of kids on sleds and . As they sat, a boy of about eight dashed through the living room, a cookie in his mouth and two more clutched in each fist.
"Corey, you'll spoil your supper!" she called after him, exasperated, but the kid-sized footsteps thundered up the stairs and . "You'll have to forgive my son—ever since he figured out he could get into the cupboards by pulling out the lower drawers and scaling the shelves, we've been hard pressed to hide the Oreos from him."
"Smart kid," Steve grinned.
"Too smart," she smiled and leaned forward to pick up the tin and hand it to him. "I'm afraid this was all we found—your dad was smart, putting it in the tin. We had some water damage last spring; that's why we were putting in the new floor. I can't imagine what shape it would be in otherwise."
"I can't thank you enough for contacting me," Steve said as he pried the lid free. Wrapped in wax paper in the tin was a journal, the brown leather spotted here and there, one corner slightly frayed. Tucked inside were several letters in yellowing envelopes and two black and white photos. The first was a snapshot of his father and mother he'd never seen before. They sat smiling on a bench, the beach behind them, and wind was blowing his mother's hair in her eyes. He lightly ran a finger over his mother's smile, his eyes suddenly smarting. He set the photo on top the tin and then peered at the photo beneath it. It was more worn than the first one, the corners cracked creased. It had been taken in a restaurant and the word "Capital" could be read on the window behind them, backwards so that it could be read from the street. His father was in full uniform and he recognized his Aunt Etta, but sandwiched between them was a dark-haired girl wearing glasses. His father's arm was around her and all three of them were smiling.
Steve couldn't breathe. Flipping the photo over, he saw "May 4, 1945" written in his father's hand on the back. No names. But then, he didn't need names, did he? He knew who she was.
"Mr. Trevor?" Mrs. Colby asked, concerned.
"It's nothing—I just . . . I've never seen this picture before," he said, trying to cover his shock. He tucked the photos back inside the journal and replaced it in the tin. "Mrs. Colby, thank you. I should be going." He stood and she shifted the baby to her other hip as she walked him to the door.
"It was a pleasure, and I hope you enjoy the journal!"
"I'm sure I will," he said absently over his shoulder as he headed down the steps.
* * *
It was getting dark when he pulled into the driveway and at first he was worried that she wasn't home. But lights blazed in the windows, and he could see a figure move across them as he got out of the car. The tin was sitting on the seat beside him and he opened it and took out the journal. He ran his fingers over the binding and took out the photo again to stare at it.
The porch light came on automatically as he got out of his car. There was a motion sensor on the edge of the garage. He rang the bell and waited.
The door swung inwards. "Steve!" she said, surprised to see him, her smile warm and inviting as she held open the door. "This is such a surprise. What brings you all the way out here?" she asked as he stepped inside.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Steve asked as he held out the picture. "Why didn't anyone ever tell me?"
"Oh my God," Etta Niles said as she raised her glasses to her eyes so she could peer at it.
* * *
"Have you read it yet?" she asked as she set the teapot down on a placemat on the kitchen table and reached for two mugs.
"Not yet. I came straight from the old house to here," Steve said as he took the mugs from her and poured two cups of tea. "I couldn't think—I mean, I didn't know what to think. God, I thought I introduced you two at the Christmas party back in '77."
"You did," she said, completely guileless.
"You never told me you'd already met," he countered, and she sighed.
"It wasn't my secret to tell," she said simply.
"The hell it wasn't!"
"Don't you raised your voice to me, young man." She hadn't had occasion to use that tone since her children had grown up and moved out on their own, but she still could use Mother Voice when she had to, and the effects on her godson were much the same as they had been on her own daughters. He was cowed, but there was still fire in his eyes as he took a sip of his tea and set it back down on the table, staring at the photo once again.
"Aunt Etta, come on. I'm not a kid anyone more. I'm not a little boy."
"I changed your diapers, mister. You'll always be a little boy to me," she reminded him. She took the photo from him and peered at it once more, her features softening. "We were so young," she said softly, and for a moment he could see the years fall away like a shroud. "It seems impossible that we were ever that young."
"Did you know?" he asked, and she didn't need to ask him what she'd known.
"No," she said, shaking her head. "Not until . . . not until she'd gone."
"He never talked about her."
"He talked about her all the time!" she laughed as she took sip of her tea.
Steve shook his head. "He talked about Wonder Woman all the time. There's a difference."
She sobered then, staring into the depths of her mug. "Yes. Yes, there was."
"What . . . what was she like?"
"The same as she is now. Except . . . " her brows drew together in a slight frown as she looked for the right words, "there was something about her. She was innocent. I think that was it. A real babe in the woods, really. Everything was new to her, everything. And she believed in other people so strongly. You couldn't help but try and live up to her expectations of you, as crazy as that sounds. She never said a bad word about anybody; she truly believed anyone could change. Could be a better person. No matter what they'd done."
"How did you know each other?"
"We worked together for three years. She was like my kid sister—or maybe my older sister. It's funny. I never had any sisters. She said she had too many. This," she said as she took the photo from him, "was taken at her going away party, actually."
"The War in Europe ended, and she left. We—me and your Dad—we had no idea she'd ever come back. I think . . . Well, who knows. You can't change the past. God, I wish he could have seen her." She blinked rapidly, letting her glasses drop to hang around her neck on a gold chain, and dabbed at her eyes with the edge of a paper napkin. "Read it, Stevie."
"I'm almost afraid to."
"Don't be. Just . . . read it. It'll probably answer all the questions I can't."
* * *
Steve tossed his keys onto the kitchen counter as he came through the door of his condo, the journal and the Wonder Woman scrapbook tucked beneath his arm. He'd stopped by the office to pick it up. He wasn't sure why. Context, he supposed. This was his only context, and suddenly he had a whole new context. It added an edge of unreality to all of it—like he was sleepwalking.
He set them down on the coffee table and went to the liquor cabinet and poured himself a neat Scotch into a cut crystal glass. The message light was flashing on his answering machine, but he ignored it. Sitting down on the sofa, he stared at the journal like it was a snake and would bite him. He leaned forward and took the photos that stuck out between the pages and laid the photo of his parents on the glass table top and brought the snapshot of the three of them closer to the lamp so he could see it in the light.
He ran a fingernail over her smile. He'd seen that smile every morning for two years, and then she was gone. She'd picked up and left, and he'd never really understood why. He wondered if his father had. He wondered so many things . . .
Taking a swallow of the amber liquid, he opened to the first entry. His father's handwriting sprawled across the pages, the ink smudged here and there. His mother had always joked about his dad's handwriting—she called Sherry Williams a saint for putting up with it for so long. Mrs. Williams had worked for his dad right up until he retired in '72. He'd always assumed she'd been his assistant all through the War.
May 4, 1945, the back of the photo read. The first clipping in his dad's scrapbook was dated April '42.
He began reading.
June 21, 1946
Etta said I should start a journal. She always said her mother kept a diary so she wouldn't lose things. It seemed like a funny way to put it, at the time. But Mrs. Candy raised quite a girl, and so I thought I'd give it the old college try.
Because I've lost things.
It all started when she left. One minute, she was there--and the next, it was like we'd dreamed her. We knew that she was going, but somehow, I didn't expect it to be so sudden. The whole town went crazy, that day. Ticker-tape parades, champagne until sunrise, all of it. Though Charlie Niles and Etta invited me to go out with them that night, I declined. I guess I wasn't in the mood for celebrating.
I went to her apartment, but it was empty. The landlady let me in with a passkey, and then she left and I just stood there for a while. At first, I had the oddest feeling. Like there was something on the tip of my tongue, but it would be gone when I tried to tell anybody about it. And I thought that it would go away. But it didn't. Not for weeks.
The hardest part was coming in to the office the next day, and Phil Blankenship telling me he was already getting a list of girls from the secretarial pool to interview. It just didn't seem real. It didn't seem real for the longest time. Every time I walked into the old D Street offices, I stopped in front of her desk, expecting to see her there. I knew she was gone, but I still expect it. The move helped.
Etta pulled double-duty at first, until we moved over to the Pentagon, and then Private Williams was permanently assigned to my desk. Her husband was still in France--infantry. She's a great girl, really first rate at her job. When I come in, there's always coffee made and she can even read my handwriting--which is surely a test of something.
Etta gave me a copy of the photo from the going away party. Charlie had finally finished the film, and there were three copies--one for each of us. Except we didn't know where to send her copy. She'd gone without even leaving a forwarded address. I found out later that payroll was holding her last check, even. It seemed so... unlike her. She was so efficient, so thorough... My God, there is just an ache when I think of her. But I'm going to tell this story in order, and by God, that's exactly what I'm going to do. I can't lose this too-- not again.
Charlie tried to find her service and personnel records--I'd held the damned things in my hands, I know I did. I remember that much. But they were gone. I don't know how she did it, but she just... slipped away. I kept thinking, we'll mail her the picture--there has to be some kind of address. We finally found one. The Armed Forces Hospital had a carbon on file from the hospital she had worked at in Ohio. It was care of her mother in Akron, and Etta sent it with a letter.
They sent the letter back. They were very sorry, but no one by that name lived there--the house had been auctioned by the bank after the owner's funeral, they were awfully sorry. They'd never even met her, and they'd lived there since before the war.
Carol said she felt the baby kick, today.
July 9, 1946
I can't remember exactly when we first noticed Wonder Woman was gone, too.
As crazy as that sounds, we'd all just gotten used to her appearing just in the nick of time, when we needed her the most. Except, since the Germans surrendered, I guess we hadn't needed her. So we didn't notice she was gone--not at first.
When Charlie Niles popped the question, that was the first time Etta or I even mentioned Wonder Woman. Etta came running into my office to show off the ring, and I congratulated her and Charlie, and we got to talking about how Etta'd had her heart set on Diana being the maid of honor, and I joked that maybe we could get Wonder Woman to stand up for her at her wedding. And then Etta asked me, had I seen Wonder Woman lately? And I realized I hadn't. Not since she got the medal at the White House. No bank robberies foiled, or Nazi spies caught. No newspaper articles, no Wonder Woman sightings. Somehow, with so much going on, we'd all forgotten. And I realized that I hadn't thought of her--not once--in weeks. I felt like such a louse.
Funny thing is, that was the night I met Carol. I didn't realize it then--but she remembers. Heck, she still teases me about it.
Etta was just so happy, and she deserved it too. Etta's a swell gal, and I'd always been fond of her. But I was in such a blue funk, and I didn't want to rain on Etta's parade, so I'd gone back to officers quarters. Matt--Col. Michaels, that is--was there. He talked me into going out with him and Kyle, and I guess I didn't see any harm in it. Kyle brought his girl Nancy along--Nancy was one of those Vassar girls. She joked she'd gone to get her MRS degree, but she and Kyle weren't serious and we all knew it. When she found out Matt and I were along for the ride, she'd called over to a friend's place to have them meet us at the bar.
I wasn't much in the mood for Washington socialites, but I admit, I was in the mood for whiskey. I'd already had a few when the girls showed up, and Nancy introduced us. All I remembered was blonde hair and an easy smile. Carol spent most of the night with Matt, and I don't even remember the name of the girl I danced with. She got bored of my moping pretty darned quick, and left with a Marine if I remember correctly.
Dammit, if I hadn't lost my date to a jar-head, and I didn't care one bit. That's how blue I was. And the funny thing was, or so I thought at the time, it wasn't because Wonder Woman had disappeared. Truth of it was, I missed my secretary more.
I had the mother of all hangovers when I went into work the next day, and I asked Private Williams to hold all my calls until my noon briefing. I shut myself up in my office, and pretended to work. But what I really was doing was writing down everything I could remember about her--every little detail. And I was so shocked at how short the list really was. So many things I thought I knew--like where she was from, who her family was, and most of all, how I actually felt about her. Not a blessed thing.
I'd sworn after Marcia to never ever fall for one of my secretaries ever again. Sworn on a stack of Bibles. But the thing was, I could pretty much guarantee this one hadn't been a Nazi spy.
I can't believe I let her go.
July 22, 1946
It was the photo coming back that got me started. I took a furlough and flew out to Akron. I don't know what I was thinking--but I got directions out to the house from the airport and knocked on the door. I think the couple that lived there opened the door because of the uniform. Not every day an Army Air Corps Major shows up on your front steps. The Wellingtons were nice folks, a little confused by my visit. They remembered posting the letter back to Washington, however.
Mrs. Wellington insisted I stay for a slice of blueberry pie, and I asked her how long they'd lived in Akron. She said they moved here from Cleveland in '39, to work in the tire plant. They'd been very lucky to get the house. I kept looking around, trying to picture her growing up in this house. Had she sat in the window seat, staring out at the stars? Had she walked along this road to school every day? But the mental images just wouldn't come.
Instead, I saw her at her desk, brows furrowed slightly as she worked, or clever fingers dancing over the keys of the typewriter. When I thought of her, it was always in uniform. That was the funny thing. I'd seen her in civilian attire, of course. Only a handful of times over the past few years--that dress she wore for the Miss GI Dream Girl pageant in '42, then in Argentina she wore a blue dress. I remember how she put that Latin playboy Antonio Cruz primly in his place. I never told her how glad I was of that. Even though I went off for a walk with Lydia Moreno, I remember how glad I was that Diana was keeping her head.
When the pie was eaten, and I got ready to say good-bye, Mr. Wellington shook my hand and suggested I go next door to meet their neighbor, Mrs. Gideon. She was almost 80 years old, and had lived in that house her whole life. If anyone knew what had happened to the family that had lived in this house, it would be Kathryn. I thanked them, and walked next door.
For a great-grandmother, Kathryn Gideon was incredibly spry. She was sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch, shelling peas. Her hands were veined with blue and gnarled, but quick and clever. She asked if I was good news or bad, and I laughed. She said the only thing around these parts that came from the War Department were telegrams. And no good news, in her experience, was ever delivered in a telegram.
She handed me a bowl, and showed me how to shell peas. I asked her about her former neighbors, and she asked me why I was such a busy- body. Old women like her were supposed to be busy-bodies, not grown men. It was a fair question, so I told her the truth--or as much of the truth as I knew at the time.
I had fallen in love with a girl. It was the first time I had even been able to put it into words, and somehow, it was so easy to just come out and say it that summer on the back porch, shelling peas with a complete stranger. I'd fallen for a girl, and she'd disappeared. And now I just had to find her, or I'd go crazy.
She asked me how I'd met her, and I told her we'd worked together at the War Department, and that she'd gone home with her mother and sister after the Germans surrendered. She put the bowl down then, and looked me right in the eye and told me that Majorie Prince was buried out in Glendale Cemetery, next to her husband who'd passed on in 1922, and her son who'd died at Pearl Harbor.
Then she'd asked me to help her up, and she took me inside the house and had me sit down on the sofa in the parlor while she rummaged around upstairs. She came back down with a scrapbook, and opened it to a black and white photograph dated April 10, 1937.
In the photo were several young girls in party dresses, and she pointed to the third from the left. That was Majorie's daughter, she told me and, pointing to the girl next to her, she said that was her own daughter Cassie and the two girls had grown up close as sisters, like two peas in a pod. Was that the girl I'd known?
I stared and stared at the girl in the picture, and then told her no. It wasn't. Sure, they both had dark hair, and light eyes. And the girl in the photo was coltish and tall, but she had not grown up to be the woman I was looking for. So I thanked her kindly, and walked back to my car even more lost and confused than I had been when I got in my plane to fly out there.
August 3, 1946
Here's how I remember meeting Carol--actually remember meeting her, I mean.
We'd been at the Pentagon building for a few months when I was invited to one of those gala dinners. The kind war heroes get invited to so that civilians can gawk at all the fruit salad on their dress uniforms. I usually skip them--I didn't join this man's army to make small talk with Washington's elite. But General Blankenship asked that I go, and I never could turn Phil down. Not after how he's supported me over the years.
So there I was, utterly trapped by three matrons armed with single young daughters they were just dying to introduce me to, nowhere to run. It was as dire a situation as any I'd ever faced, particularly as Mrs. Hoyne seemed to be deaf in one ear, and kept asking me over and over again if I had ever been to Hiltonhead to summer.
Carol swooped down out of nowhere, calling "Steve, darling! I've been looking for you!" and tucking her arm in mine, excused us from the gaggle of hens and whisked me away to the balcony. As confused as I was, I certainly wasn't going to turn down a rescue by such a lovely lady. And she certainly was a knockout. Her blond hair was done up in a French twist, and she had on the prettiest green silk dress. What could I do but thank her?
She laughed and it was a low, throaty kind of laugh that only added to her appeal, telling me Mrs. Hoyne was a terror, and she hated to see one of our most decorated war heroes laid low by a Daughter of the American Revolution like that. She asked me if I'd lost my date for the evening, and I told her I didn't have one. I must have looked like I'd just lost my best friend, then, because she patted me on the arm and told me she was in the same boat. I found that awfully hard to believe, and told her so, and then it was her turn to lose her smile.
She told me her fiancé hadn't made it home from France. Her best friend with the daughter of one of the chairmen of one of the boards of the types of companies who threw shindigs like this, and she had talked her into coming to the party. Nancy was always dragging her out to try and get her to meet someone. Only she didn't much feel like socializing.
I flagged down a waiter, who brought us two flutes of champagne, and we must have stood out there and talked half the night, and by the time it was over I was a little tipsy from all the champagne and I offered to drive her home. But she said she should go back with her roommate, or else people would talk. She gave me a peck on the cheek, and told me to give her a call some time.
September 3, 1946
There was a letter from Cassie Gideon--Cassie O'Reilly, now--waiting for me at the War Department, a few weeks later. I've no doubt that Mrs. Gideon had a hand in it. Private Williams handed it to me with a smile when I arrived at work that day and I sat at my desk, coffee and morning meetings completely forgotten as I tore into the envelope. Cassie hadn't heard from Diana in years, the note said. The last she'd heard, Diana had been engaged to an Air Force engineer named Dan White, and was that helpful?
Dan White was an engineer who'd been transferred to Venezuela back in the winter of '42. In fact, he'd arrived there the same week my Angel had brought me back to Civilization, or so my hospital records say. I called the embassy in Caracas, trying to track him down. I still had some contacts, and it wasn't too hard to finally locate him. He and his wife had been relocated since the War ended. According to the Air Force, Daniel and Diana White were now living right in my own back yard. They had rented a house in Baltimore two months ago.
I drove out there that week-end, the snapshot Etta had taken of us tucked into my overcoat pocket. It was a wooden frame house, just the sort of house I imagine a couple moves into when they're thinking of starting a family, actually. I have that on good authority. When I rang the bell, a tall, sandy-haired man answered the door with a smile.
I told him I'd been brought into the Armed Forces Hospital back in '42, when his wife had been assigned there, and I was hoping she might be able to help me out. I can't really blame the guy for looking skeptical, then. Heck, if I'd been in his shoes, and some strange Joe showed up at my door asking after my wife with some three year old sob story, I'd have slammed the door right in my face.
But he didn't slam the door. He held open the screen door for me, and offered me a seat on the sofa. White walked back through the narrow corridor to the kitchen. I heard muffled voices then; his and a woman's voice in hushed tones. I couldn't help it. My heart was in my throat when I heard a woman's footstep on the hardwood floor.
Of course I knew it wasn't her. I knew that before I even rang the bell. It was only for a second that I imagined her walking through that door like she'd never gone. It was only a second, though. One of those foolish daydreams you have that you can't help, and your heart breaks all over again when you're brought back to reality.
Diana White was almost as tall, and she wore her dark hair curled so that it just brushed the shoulders of her dress. She didn't wear glasses. I think she saw the uniform first. It was something that changed in her bearing. She may not have been in the Navy long, but even three years out she stood at attention. I suddenly wished that I'd come in civilian attire. She asked how she could help me, her husband standing beside her with that classic "you hurt her; I kill you" look that I understand all too well, having worn it a time or two myself. I told her I'd been brought in May 1942 to the hospital. She looked puzzled--after all, there had been dozens of men and women in the Ward. How could she pick out just one? Then I told her I'd been brought in by Wonder Woman.
She turned white as a sheet at that. "Oh my God," she'd said. "Oh my God, you're him," and Dan White just looked from his wife to me and back again, confused. But she understood. I could see it in her eyes. I knew, then. Somehow, all the pieces started sliding into place and all the things I'd known before but never said all clicked. But what I didn't understand was how it had all happened. I think--I mean, I didn't dare to dream the why. But this was all about the how.
I tried to ask her if she could tell me something--anything, but she shook her head, spooked, saying she was very sorry. But she couldn't talk to me about it. "I think it's time for you to go," Dan White said then, his face dark as a thundercloud, and what could I do? I thanked them and picked up my hat. But before I walked through the door, I looked back over my shoulder and met Mrs. White's eyes.
"She's gone, you know," I said. "She left. She left me."
September 7, 1946
Just spent the last hour with Carol and her mother. Mrs. Nelson has this crazy idea we should name the baby Alphonse, after her late husband, if it's a boy. Carol and I talked about it, and pretty much agreed no kid should have to go through life with a name like Alphonse, for Pete's sake, and even her dad had gone by "Jack" his whole life, on account of he hated the name. But we couldn't think of a way to let her mom down easy. I think her mom is still sore that we eloped, thus cheating her out of the huge white wedding, so she's just gone to town on the whole grand-child thing. She's been over to the apartment every other night since she got into town, fixing dinners and taking Carol out to go shopping.
Alphonse. So help me, if this keeps up, we're just gonna name the kid Steve Jr. just to get people off our backs. If it's a girl, Carol likes Anne, and Etta says she wishes her folks had gone with something like Anne. Was it any wonder, with a name like "Etta Candy" that she'd gone and joined the Army? Poor kid. She and Charlie moved out to Arlington last month, into a brand new house. She said me and Carol should look into it--there's a real building boom out there, and they're practically handing houses to GIs. I told her we'd think about it. The apartment isn't any place to raise a kid anyway.
Carol's gotten to the point where she's just ready to pop, even though she still has another two months to go. It's funny--while writing all this down, living it all over again, somehow I feel closer to Carol than ever. I know that sounds nuts, but she understands. At least, I'm pretty sure she does.
When I got back from the White's place in Maryland, there was a message from Carol waiting for me. I called her back, and boy did she lit into me. She wasn't the type of girl to sit by a phone and wait for a man to call, she said, so she'd taken the initiative. She hoped that wasn't too forward of her, but I just laughed and said I liked forward girls just fine. I don't know why I said it--but it felt true, too. We made a lunch date for the next day, and I was surprised when I realized I was actually looking forward to it. I guess that it just goes to show that the capacity of the human heart is infinite.
September 9, 1946
It was about a week later that she came to the Pentagon. I'd been in a meeting with General Blankenship all afternoon and when I got back to my office, and Private Williams told me that there was a woman waiting in my office for me. I asked how long she'd been waiting, and Williams told me she'd been here about an hour. She'd asked if she'd wanted some coffee, or maybe to wait in the commissary, but she said she'd wanted to wait. I stepped through the door, and Diana White turned to face me. I told Williams to cancel my afternoon meetings, and I closed the door. I even pulled down the wooden blinds before I sat down behind my desk.
She'd been crying, she told me. She'd missed all the excitement because she'd been outside in the alley between the hospital and the coffee shop next door. It was the craziest thing, she'd said, but she'd heard a girl's voice had asked her what was wrong and she looked up and saw a woman in a red white and blue bathing suit in the alley with her. She'd never seen anything so bizarre, but something about the girl's kindness made her just spill the whole story right there.
She'd only been in the Navy for a year--since her brother had died. She'd been a nurse in Ohio and volunteered. She and Dan met when she'd been transferred to Washington. It had been love at first sight, and they'd become engaged on a few weeks before he'd gotten the news that his company was transferring him to Venezuela. She didn't make enough at the hospital for the trip, and he wouldn't have been able to buy her passage for weeks and weeks. He had left the night before, and she hadn't been able to concentrate on her work at all. She kept turning into waterworks. So she'd escaped outside.
I was riveted. She told me that Wonder Woman had asked her her name, and told her that she understood how she felt. That she'd traveled a very long way for love. I tried not to move, not to breathe when she said that, but she must have seen my face. But she went right on with her story. There, in that alley, they'd struck a deal. Wonder Woman would find a way to get the money so Diana could go to South America to be with her fiancé, and then she could assume her identity in Washington and work at the hospital as a nurse. It had been crazy-- insane. But it seemed like a dream come true. An impossible dream come true.
She'd given her her spare uniform to wear, and she took her back to her barracks at the base, which was empty because all the girls were working. They'd spent hours over cups of tea made on her hotplate, as Diana Prince had told Wonder Woman every detail of her job at the hospital, everything she could think she'd need to know, to pass herself off as a Lieutenant in the Navy Nurse's corps. She'd been terrified--but excited too. It had seemed like a game, then. Never mind that impersonating an officer was a crime--heck, they both could have ended up in jail. But all she'd cared about was seeing Dan again, and all Wonder Woman cared about, she said, was sticking close to her wounded Major. She'd gone in the morning and swapped shifts with another girl, and when Lt. Prince arrived that afternoon, well-- all that mattered was that a Lt. Prince arrived that afternoon. No one would know it wasn't the same one who'd worked swing and graveyard for the last three months, now would they?
The next night, Wonder Woman had met Lt. Prince with a bag full of money. Literally. She'd told her all about how she'd met a man named Ashley Norman, and she'd gone up on stage and done her "bullets and bracelets" trick, and would this be enough? She laughed then, as she remembered. Enough? Heck, she said, she could have gone around the world on all the money in that bag. Where did this girl come from, that they didn't have money?
An island, I said--only I didn't know how I knew that, then. Just that I did. An island far away.
So she'd taken out just enough to cover the air ticket to South America, and given the rest back. She told Wonder Woman she'd have to get some clothes besides the nurse's uniform, and she should take a flat because all the girls in the barracks would know straight away that she wasn't Military, but she'd be able to fool everybody in no time. After all, girls were joining up all over--there were WAVE recruiting posters all over the hospital.
That was the last she'd ever seen of her, she said. She'd packed her bags and gotten on a plane that night. Dan had never known. She'd told him it was an inheritance from some uncle, and he'd never known any different. That was why she hadn't been able to tell him at the house. Because she'd never even told Dan. She was driven, now, to tell me, because if she was gone--then it was safe. Because if I'd felt the same way about her that she'd felt about me, well . . . It was safe to tell me, wasn't it?
I didn't know what to say. I guess I didn't have to say anything-- Diana White had had this secret bottled up inside her for over three years, and this was the first time she'd ever told a living soul.
I told her it was safe. I thanked her--for everything. If it hadn't been for her, I didn't know how things would have been different. She smiled then, and looked so relieved. She's said it was so thrilling, the first time she'd ever seen Wonder Woman's picture in the paper. That somehow, it made her feel good. If she'd helped in even the tiniest part, then it made her feel like she'd done something important with her life. And I understood just what she meant.
It was crazy to think, but if Wonder Woman really had stayed here because of me, then I guess maybe somehow I'd been a part of something bigger than myself. That whatever had passed between us, even the missed opportunities and broken hearts on both sides might have been somehow worth it. That we'd helped win the War despite ourselves, if that makes sense. Of course, I couldn't help but wonder that, if the war had gone on for another year, I might have married Diana instead of Carol. I can't imagine it. I mean, I know we've only been married since April, but when I wake up next to my wife and see her sleeping next to me, her hair spread across the pillow, I can't imagine waking up next to any other woman. Yet at the same time, I think a part of me will always wonder what it would have been like to wake up with Diana in my arms.
October 2, 1946
Etta and Charlie got married at Christmas. Her whole family came up, even her uncle from Texas I'd always thought was a myth. I took Carol- -we'd been going out for about three months at that point. Charlie Niles looked like the happiest guy in the world, I remember. He just lit up when Etta's dad walked her down the aisle. General Blankenship was there too--I think Phil had always kinda of thought of Etta as a surrogate daughter, since he had never settled down. Charlie's brother Sam was best man, and one of Etta's cousins was maid of honor. But when we danced at the reception, Etta told me she still wished Diana could have stood up at her wedding. We'd had a bit of champagne, and she asked me right out if I she was crazy for thinking it, but Diana had been Wonder Woman, hadn't she? Just flat out asked me, and I didn't even try and deny it, and we just kept on dancing.
It was three of us, then, that knew. One that loved her, one that missed her, and one that had never even known her--just given her a name.
Etta's wedding was really the beginning, I think. Before, I'd just thought of Carol as a swell gal to go out with, but after, I realized I was looking forward to talking with her every night. Telling her about my day, and listening to her tell me about hers. It had been a long time since I'd had that. She was just so easy to talk to, to be with. We doubled with Matt sometimes, but most of the time, it was just us. She was a terrible cook--I remember the first time she tried to make us a candle lit dinner for two. If the Italian place down the street hadn't been open, we would have starved. I didn't care that she couldn't cook--that fact that she'd tried was enough. She went out with Phil and Etta and Charlie and I a few times, and I think Phil was impressed with her grasp of politics. I was just impressed by her, period.
But best of all, she made me laugh. I loved her for that most, I think.
October 15, 1946
I don't remember when the dreams started. I've had them, off and on, since she left. I always figured that it was my subconscious trying to tell me what I already knew. I know that sounds like head shrinker nonsense, but it's the only thing that makes sense to me. In the dream, we're surrounded by cherry trees. Except I think they might be apple trees. But the white and pink petals are the same, so I'm never sure. They're falling down all around us like snow. Her hair is loose, down--even thought I never saw her wear it that way, not once. Except I had, hadn't I? I had and I've never thought about it, but I dream about it. She's dancing in the blossoms, and she's not wearing any shoes. She's dancing barefoot, and smiling, and we're together. But then I wake up alone. And every night, I tried to hang on to the dream, go back to sleep and slip back in. But it never worked.
I don't wake up alone any longer. The first time, I remember there was a terrible storm and the rain was half frozen. I worried it would be like one of those ice storms I remembered from when I was a kid. Where you'd hear the branches snapping like gunshots under the weight of the ice. It was just miserable and bleak and Carol and I got caught out in it on our way back from some fancy shindig out in Maryland. The car just wasn't going to make it back to town. We found a bed and breakfast, and pretended we were newlyweds. It felt like it, actually. I offered to take the chair, but I think we both knew that wasn't going to happen. But it would have, if she'd wanted me to. And I would have. Because I was crazy about her. I really was.
When I woke up from the dream, it was pitch black outside--and for a minute I couldn't tell where I was. I know that most of the time, you wake up from a dream and it just slips right out of your mind. Gone, just like that. But I can still remember that night. The dream that night had been different. It had started out the same, but then it had changed. Maybe it was the storm--for some reason, I always seem to think about her more when it rains. Or maybe it was just being with Carol. But I dreamt that we'd made love. And when I woke up, it was as if I'd lost her all over again. I felt like I was going to die- -just for a second there, I really did. And then Carol rolled over, and whispered in my ear, asking me what was wrong.
People do stupid things, in the dark, in the middle of the night. I was just damned lucky. I asked her to tell me about the man she'd loved, and how'd she'd been able to go on. She was silent for a long minute--probably trying to suss out why I was asking. Then she told me about her fiancé who'd died. She and Mike--that was her fiancé's name, Mike--she and Mike had been together since they were sweet sixteen and it had just about killed her when she'd got the news his transport had crashed. I remember asking questions, and she answered them. Sometimes her voice would get rough, and I couldn't see in the dark, but I can guess that she was getting misty.
I told her about Diana. Told her just about everything, everything that I could tell her. As we lay there, side by side, only our arms and shoulders touching underneath the blanket, I told her all about realizing too late that I'd loved her. She listened to the whole story and the only thing she asked me was why I hadn't gone after her, to tell her how I'd felt. I told her the truth, then. I would have. I'd have been on a plane in a minute, except that I couldn't. Diana was gone, and she wasn't coming back, and I couldn't go after her because I didn't know where she'd gone.
I expected her to be upset, or angry, or accuse me of using her . . . It would have been fair, though not true. But fair. I don't know what the hell I was thinking, but there was something about her--something that made me want to tell her everything flat out, brass tacks. But I held that one thing back, because it wasn't my secret to tell.
I know it sounds nuts. But losing the first woman I think I'd ever really loved made me realize how precious love is. I'd be a fool to throw it away again. The worst kind of fool. I loved Carol. I never would have gone to bed with her if I hadn't. I think, maybe, once it wouldn't have mattered to me. But it mattered. Whatever else that had happened, that much had changed.
October 31, 1946
We moved into the house in Maywood a few weeks ago. Carol's mother helped out--she insisted on setting up the baby's room herself. She's staying in the guestroom downstairs until the baby is born. I'm sitting in my "office", the tiny corner bedroom that faces the garden. I've got a brand new desk--a wedding present from Phil. And Carol got my medals framed and they're hanging on the wall.
We've asked Etta and Charlie to be the godparents. It was funny-- before the wedding, Etta'd always called me "Sir" but after that, it; always just been "Steve." Even though I'd always said that there was no rank around the office, I never called Private Williams "Sherry." But from then on, Etta is just Etta, and I'm just Steve. And no one else really understands the secret that was between us. I don't think Etta has even told Charlie--I don't know if I could tell Carol. I mean, I told her about Wonder Woman. Hell, she even gave me a scrapbook to put all the newspaper clippings into for my birthday. One of those big leather bound jobs, and we actually spent an afternoon puttering around the apartment with a pot of glue, putting it together. She had a million questions--who in Washington didn't? After all, Wonder Woman was fast approaching mythic status, especially now that she'd disappeared.
I think Carol wondered for a while, but she understands. I think that's part of the reason I fell in love with her. She wasn't jealous of a memory. She didn't try to pry it out of me, or eclipse it. She said once she understood that it was a part of me, and how could she not love every part of me? How could I not a love a woman who said something like that and meant it? Really meant it--not just saying it. That's Carol. She's bold as brass, and says just what she means, and I wouldn't have her any other way. I really wouldn't.
November 19, 1946
It just seems amazing to me that Carol and I could create anything so amazing as this little pink, wrinkled guy we've named Steven Leonard Trevor, Jr. Actually, that was my fault. I was so distracted when I filled out the paperwork, I put my name in the wrong blank. I'm sure Mrs. Nelson thinks I did it on purpose--Carol's playing peacemaker now. The delivery was hard--for a while there, I was afraid I'd lose them both, and that scared the hell out of me.
My God, he's perfect, from the tiny fingernails to the wisps of blond hair on top his head. His eyes are blue, like his mother's--though the Doctor said they might change. He said all babies eyes are blue. I'd never known that before. I get the feeling that this little guy's going to teach me a heck of a lot of stuff I didn't know before.
I've lost so many things. But I've gained so much. I hope that wherever Diana is, she understands. I think she would. I think that's maybe part of why she left--but I guess I'll never know for sure. But I wish I could share my happiness with her, let her know how profound an impact knowing her has had on my life. I think that's maybe why Etta suggested I start this thing in the first place. To get it all down on paper, and straight in my own head. Because this way I can let go of the sorrows, and only keep the joy.
* * *
The phone rang, waking her out of a sound sleep. She fumbled in the dark until her hand closed on the receiver and raised it to her ear.
"Why did she leave?" the voice on the other end asked, and Etta rubbed sleep from her eyes and peered at the clock radio. The LED display read 1:17am.
"You'd have to ask her that."
* * *
Steve glanced at the scribbled directions as he turned the rental car onto the tree-lined street. It had taken him longer than he'd expected to get to Sherman Oaks, even on a Saturday with next to no traffic. He hadn't had to deal with the LA freeways in a long time, and he'd forgotten how hard it could be to find his way out of the airport.
He'd called the field office only to learn that she'd left the IADC six months earlier to take a job with Interpol. That surprised him— none of his friends at Interpol had ever let on his former associate was now one of their top field agents. He supposed she must work undercover a great deal. He also wondered if IRAC had had a hand in it—the Cray handled all the personnel records, and he realized with a start that she must have tampered with the computer to falsify her records. It wasn't as easy in this day and age to get a government job when you were nothing but an elaborate fiction.
He tried to bury his anger, but it had accompanied him all through the long flight. He wasn't sure who he was really angry with.: Diana, for lying to both of them, himself for letting her go, or his father for loving any woman other than his mother. He figured it was probably all three. But that didn't change the way he felt. He pulled up to a parking spot, and killed the engine, staring at the ranch house across the street. The blinds were drawn, so he couldn't tell if she was inside. He supposed the only way to find out was to get out of the car and ring the bell.
The journal sat on the passenger seat. He picked it up, not sure why he was taking it with him. He'd stayed up half the night, reading and rereading the handwritten entries, trying to understand. Trying to put himself in his dad's shoes, and imagine what he would have done. If he'd have done anything different.
It always startled him, when he saw a photo of his dad from back then. How much he took after him. It was as if there was no trace of his mother in him—although his dad has always said he got his temperament from her, that and he'd inherited her strength. Even at the end, when he was in the hospital, his father had told him with tears in his eyes that the best part of him had come alive when he'd met his mother, and would live on in him.
His father had loved Diana.
Diana Prince had spent three years by his side, just as she'd spent two years by his, looking out for him, saving his life countless times. Did she see his father when she looked at him? Did she really see him at all? For that matter, had he ever really seen her? He was just as bad as his dad had been—blind, and stupid. Stupid and careless and they'd both lost her, in the end. But if Major General Steve Trevor hadn't, then Steve Trevor Jr. wouldn't be here today.
He got out of the car, journal in hand, and jogged across the shady street to the front door. The house was small and comfortable, with a Spanish tile roof, and a compact car sat in the driveway, a straw sun hat sitting on the dash. He could have called ahead. He probably should have. But he didn't know what to say, so instead, he'd just gone on instinct. Flying by the seat of his pants, as his dad would say. He pressed the bell, and heard an answering buzzer inside. He waited, finger poised to press it again, when he heard footsteps and the door swung inwards.
Her light eyes widened when she saw him. She wasn't wearing her glasses—truth was, she hadn't worn them much back in Washington, either. But her dark hair was loose and fell in soft waves over her shoulders. She was wearing slacks and a blouse that looked like it might have been silk, and she looked all of maybe twenty four years old.
She recovered first, smiling broadly and opening the door she drew him into a hug. "It's good to see you! I wasn't expecting—"
"Did you love him?" he blurted out, and when she drew back she looked puzzled and confused. He fumbled with the journal, and drew out the picture, which he handed to her and asked her again, "Did you love my father?"
Time ground to a halt. As they stood in the entryway of her house, sounds of birds and cars and neighborhood kids filtering in through the open door, she stared at the photo, her lips parted in surprise and unshed tears shining in her eyes.
"Steve, I—" she began and then stopped again, wiping at one eye impatiently. "Yes," she said. "I loved him."
There. It was said. Time started up again, and he stepped the rest of the way inside and closed the door. She stared down at the photo and then handed it back to him.
She went to the hall closet. Reaching up on tip-toe, she took down a biscuit tin from the back of the shelf. Steve blinked. It wasn't the same as the one his father had had, but he was struck by a similar feeling of dŽjˆ vu as he followed her to the couch and sat down beside her as she removed the lid. Nestled inside were letters and newspaper clippings, and she reached beneath them and took out a photo in a simple silver frame. Behind the glass, his father smiled, his arm around her, with Etta on the other side.
"Etta gave this to me," she said softly. "It was her copy. Charlie— her husband Charlie, though they weren't married then. Not yet— Charlie got three copies made, she told me. One for Steve, one for her, and one for me. This was her copy. She said she didn't know what had happened to the other two."
Steve opened up the journal, and took out the creased and faded photo and an envelope stuff with cardboard liner. The address on the front was in Akron Ohio, and the phrase "Return to Sender" was scribbled across it in red pen. Inside, wrapped in tissue paper, was a photograph. He handed it to her, and he saw her hands were shaking as she unwrapped it and held it side by side with his father's worn copy.
"He kept it. He kept them both," Steve said quietly.
"How did you . . . ?" she began, completely mystified.
"It's Dad's," he said, handing her the journal. "I didn't even know about it until yesterday. I think . . . " he took a deep breath, "I think he'd want you to read it. I think I want you to read it. To know . . . To know how he felt. To understand. And then, maybe, I dunno . . . we could talk? About him?"
"I'd like that," she said, and reached out to take his hand and give it a squeeze. "I'd like that very much."
Then she opened up the journal and began to read.