'Caught in the Middle'
A/N- I always thought that in 'The Valdediction' they didn't adequately explain Olivia's absence from her youngest son's graduation. It didn't make sense to me that she wouldn't have found the means to have driven less than 100 miles from DC back home even if it had meant she'd have lost her Red Cross position because that's how important family was to her (and, her absence was barely noted by her family which also made no sense). Here's my (slightly) AU version of what might have transpired:
Well, I made it here- and it only took ten days-just for us to be here for three! I know you were worried about me going all that distance and, (I'll forgive you not wanting to admit it), you no doubt prayed for me but here I am safe and sound. The weather here is lovely and the people are friendly but we won't have any real time to take in the sights. John-Boy would love this spot. A city bigger than Charlottesville in the mountains!
Remember how he got Mary Ellen interested in reading by the book 'Heidi'? And I hope after the War, we can come back here together and I can show you the sights everyone here's telling me about! I just wish I had time to paint here. There's not a bad view in the whole city! As anxious as I am to get back home, I'm still excited about being able to take this very first trip abroad!
You know how much I love you, the children and John-Curtis! Give all of them and Grandma a big hug from me and tell them it won't be long before their Mama sees them again! Extra hugs for Jim-Bob,
After signing it, Olivia carefully placed letter in the envelope along with a postcard then placed the stamps onto the envelope and dropped it into the fancy mailbox just before she walked back to the sidewalk lakefront café where she rejoined her friend Mrs. Ruth Denman in their identical Red Cross uniforms.
"And I thought Stateside rationed coffee was weak, this sh-. .. stuff barely colors the hot water!" Mrs. Ruth Denhan winced as she sipped some of her coffee.
"Considering how far away Switzerland is from any sources, we're lucky to have any at all," Olivia sighed.
"Not to mention, we're lucky to get even a little break from the International Conference. Didn't Sam say the air was clean and the lake & mountains were beautiful here in Geneva? Almost impossible to believe there's a war just a few miles outside," Ruth half-laughed.
" I used to think that about our mountain but the Outside World hasn't spared my children," Olivia replied.
"You sure miss 'em," Ruth sighed as she patted Olivia's hand.
Olivia nodded and sniffed a bit. Ruth took a deep breath.
"Well, tomorrow, we'll redo the plane to Lisbon, zig-zag boat to New York then the train back to Virginia and we'll be back just in time for James Robert's graduation! " Ruth proclaimed.
"I wish I were so sure of that! "Olivia exclaimed.
"Hey, you're the one who keeps stressing faith! "Ruth scoffed.
"Was that a smile that snuck out?" Ruth asked.
"I guess so. But with so many dead, POWs, wounded, refugees and ruined lives from this war, I've almost forgotten how to smile," Olivia sighed.
"But you've made many folks wounded by this war smile- Stateside and now here!" Ruth exclaimed.
"I just can't sit by and let the world fall apart without trying to help as many caught in the middle as I can! Otherwise, I'm useless," Olivia proclaimed.
"Useless? You wouldn't have been invited all the way here if the Genevans didn't consider you a vital cog in their worldwide efforts- and not just cause you room with me!" Ruth half-laughed.
"I almost feel bad about tearing you away from your work when we get home for Jim-Bob's graduation," Olivia sighed.
" You , John and John-Boy told me so much about your huge family, it wouldn't be right if I didn't meet your other six- and Grandma!"Ruth exclaimed.
"They're anxious to meet you, too!" Olivia replied.
"Glad there's someone besides Sam who cares, "Ruth retorted.
" I just wish he had been able to join us but there are too many slopes and too many steps for that wheelchair. Before my polio, I'd never thought about how tough life could be if you couldn't walk steps,"Olivia sighed.
"Don't get too weepy! We've still got another presentation to make then let's hope we get a chance to sleep before it's time for our plane," Ruth exclaimed as she looked at her watch and started picking up her briefcase.
"Vive Les Anglais et Les Americains!" a redhaired teenaged waitress Michelle Dumont proclaimed as she ran out into the street with a serving tray.
"What's the hubbub?" Ruth asked.
" I don't know," Olivia said with trepidation.
"D-Day! Madames! I heard on the wireless that your troops landed in Normandy five hours ago! The War will be over soon!" Michelle exclaimed.
"War . . .over?" Olivia gulped- not sure if she'd heard the girl right.
" No more Fascist Italy! No more Occupied France! No more NAZI Germany! Everything will be beautiful again!" Ruth exclaimed.
"Beautiful? No, there have too many lives ended and ruined for that to happen. We can cope with the War's damage but never erase it," Olivia sighed.
"Look at the time! We need to be heading back to the conference," Ruth gulped.
"Conference? I don't know how they can keep talking when there's so much work that needs doing even more now than ever," Olivia gulped as they started walking back inside before they heard the speaker shout from the podium.
"Madames et Monsieurs, the news of the past few minutes precludes us from continuing with our conference for the time being. I urge all foreign Red Cross representatives to see about travel arrangements at once!" 50-something Pierre Joubert exclaimed to the shock of the rest of the room.
"Travel arrangements? But that Lisbon return flight's been booked for ages! They can't displace us!" Olivia gasped.
"Something tells me that D-Day may mean more than getting bumped from a flight," Ruth groaned.
"What do you mean?" Olivia asked.
"With all those planes and ships battling it out over D-Day, it may not be safe for our plane to take off tomorrow," Ruth sighed.
It would take a few hours to get transport to the Geneva Airport where they saw a great crowd at the ticket counter.
"We're sorry, but all flights are cancelled for the foreseeable future! " the overwhelmed ticket agent Walburga Klein sighed.
"But we're not going to be flying anywhere near Normandy!" Olivia pleaded.
"I know but the Germ. ..combatants may not be above using any and all planes as target practice and we can't chance the passengers' safety!" 40-something Walburga Klein sighed.
"But my youngest son's graduating high school in . .. " Olivia pleaded.
"Your son's graduation won't matter in the slightest to an anti-aircraft gun targeting your plane!" Frau Klein groaned.
"This is no use, Ruth. We'll need to get to back into town to find a train to take us to Lisbon," Olivia pleaded as they walked away from the ticket counter.
"Olivia Walton! First of all the Swiss border's been sealed so we couldn't leave even if we wanted. Secondly, even if we got out, we're still citizens of Germany's enemy and could be arrested if we set a toe in their occupied territory," Ruth sighed.
"You mean that we're stuck here? For how long?" Olivia asked.
"It could be days. It could be weeks or months. I'm sure we could get the Red Cross to tide us over until we can leave," Ruth consoled.
At that Olivia broke down in tears.
"Olivia, I know it's sad that we'll miss Jim-Bob's graduation but we'll be taken care of until we make it home," Ruth sighed.
"As sad as I am to be missing one of the most important days in my son's life, I know our inconvenience is rather triflin' compared to all these thousands of refugees here in Switzerland who have no home to wait to return to and who have no idea what's happened to any of their friends or family," Olivia resolutely exclaimed.
"You mean. .?" Ruth asked.
"As long as we have to be refugees, we're going to do all we can to help those much worse off than we temporarily are- as I know my children are doing as we speak!" Olivia proclaimed.
Several hours later, Olivia was able to find a shortwave radio operator willing to let John know that she and Ruth were okay but that they wouldn't be able to make it to Jim-Bob's graduation.
"We have our work cut out for us while we're here! Before things get too busy, would you mind telling me what became of Roger Denham?" Olivia asked.
"Never dreamed a few years back, you'd be speaking to much less rooming with a divorcée, did you Olivia Walton?" Ruth laughed.
"I admit I'd have been more judgmental a few years back but you've proven to me that angels with strafed wings can still soar!" Olivia proclaimed.
"Well, we had our good times and a wonderful son came out of it so it wasn't all bad but I'd rather hear how you and John met and married!" Ruth exclaimed.
They would be in Geneva for another month until it was deemed safe enough for the Lisbon plane to take off and they would be in Lisbon two more months until they would be able to secure passage on a Portuguese passenger ship for New York (all the while tirelessly helping the war refugees as best they could).
Meantime, Jim-Bob was quite disheartened at Olivia missing his graduation but when John told him that she was working through her anguish by helping others where she was, Jim-Bob decided that he would do the same in the best way he knew how- by enlisting.