A Love Story
Updated: Aug 12
Emma Greenberg was dressed for the prom in a lovely pale blue, floor length gown, standing in front of the mirror waiting for her date, anticipating a magical evening ahead of her. After a few more pins to her sandy hair and lipstick to finish her makeup, she descended the stairs, and waited for her date.
“You look lovely, Emma,” her dad, David, said with a giant hug.
“Come here, kiddo. Let’s have a look at ya,” I said with a grin. Emma stepped closer and blushed.
“You don’t all have to make such a fuss,” she said. “It’s just prom.”
“Oh, but we do,” I, her Grandpa Jeff, said and gave her a squeeze.
“Easy, there Pop. You’ll mess her hair,” Emma’s grandma, who was also my wife, said as she walked into the room and brushed her hair off her face, looking into her eyes. “Darling, you are going to be the loveliest girl there, no matter what anyone else says or thinks.”
“I wish mom was here.”
Emma’s dad hugged her. “Me too, kid. Me too.” My son’s wife had died of cancer when Emma was just 13, leaving my wife, myself, and my son to raise their daughter on our own.
“Alright, now. Where is this boy?” I asked. “He needs the approval of the Greenberg men.”
Emma blushed and replied, “Grandpa, he’s a good guy. It’s not like we are dating.”
“No. He’s just my date.”
“Yes, well, I was a young man once and I know what ‘just my date’ means to a young man. Bring him inside and I’ll meet him.”
Emma giggled and nodded as her phone buzzed in her purse.
“Is that him?” David asked.
“Did he just text you to tell you he’s here?”
Emma nodded again.
“So, you mean to tell me that this young man is waiting just outside but doesn’t have the courtesy to come in and greet you?” I asked.
“I guess so...”
I stood from the couch and walked to the door, looking out for a moment before opening it and closing it behind myself. A few minutes later, I returned with Emma’s date—Connor.
“Emma, I believe your date is here to take you to the prom.”
“Hi, Emma,” Connor said, holding out a corsage. “I apologize for not coming in sooner. My manners escaped me.”
Emma bit her lip, trying to hide her smirk. “Good evening, Connor.”
“Now, you two kids have fun. Don’t stay out too late.”
Connor turned to Mr. Greenberg, Emma’s dad. “Curfew, Mr. Greenberg?”
“Eleven. Have fun, Emma.”
It would be expected with such a predictable beginning that all would have continued to progress so well for my darling granddaughter, yet only two hours later Emma returned, heartbroken, dismayed, shattered.
“I hate men!” She shouted and slammed the door closed. Emma stormed into her dad’s house still in her pale blue prom dress, tears dripping from her eyes.
“Emma?” David said, and rushed to his daughter’s rescue. “Emma, what’s the matter?”
If there was one thing that I, Emma’s Grandpa Jeff, was good at, it was helping her to feel better. After the evening she’d just had, there was nothing she needed more.
“Emma, dear. What’s wrong?”
Emma plopped herself onto the couch as she cried. “Guys are the worst! I hate the male species!”
I nodded and crossed my arms, understanding Emma’s upset.
“My dear granddaughter, do understand that this young man who has caused you so much heartbreak tonight will not be the last to win your love nor does he deserve it. There will be more and the one who deserves your love will try hard to keep it.”
Emma grabbed the blanket next to her and wiped her face with it as she said, “Give me hope that the male species isn’t as terrible as what I experienced this evening, Gramps.”
“Alright. That I can do.”
“How? I mean, you’ve always been the picture of what man should be to Grandma, right? Didn’t you meet in high school?”
“You are right that we met when she was in high school…”
“She? But Grandma always made it out to be that you went to high school together.”
“Let me see… where do I start…
“It was September of the year 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, and I had just turned 24...”
“Hey, Jeff, don’t forget to lock the back dock when you leave tonight, alright? I’m heading out. I’ve been here since 5 am.”
“Alright, Mr. Johanssen. I got it covered and the last deliveries for the evening.”
My job that fall was at the local grocery store. I worked on the receiving dock and made deliveries to the neighborhoods to the elderly women and those who made calls for bags. It was a decent job and the pay was just right for my needs. That evening, my store manager left me to close up and make the final deliveries alone, which I didn’t usually do. I ended up thanking him the rest of my insignificant life.
“Sir? Excuse me?”
As I was loading the truck, a young woman entered the storefront and rang the bell for service.
“What do you want?” I asked as I glanced up and continued loading the deliveries.
“Uh, I was just wondering how to be put on the delivery list? My Grandma…”
Needing to leave and knowing there were signs and displays posted about deliveries, I blurted out, “There’s information right there. Leave your name and your call number on that form packet and we’ll send someone to your house.”
She filled out the form and walked away from there feeling very frustrated and rightfully so because I probably should’ve been more help, but I could be a real ass when I wanted to be back then.
I hadn’t known at the time how this woman would soon come to change my life so irrevocably and the next time I saw her, I probably screwed things up even more.
“Mr. Johanssen, I’ve got a new delivery I gotta fill,” i said the next day when I checked for delivery requests.
“Great. Give whoever it is the new customer discount and no delivery fee special too,” he said as he kept his focus on his work. Mr, Johanssen was always very focused in his work, which benefitted me because I was not.
I went back to the loading docks and finished filling orders; beginning with the mystery girl’s. I wanted to be sure that I got to her house first. After having a cigarette break and loading back on a few cold ones, I loaded the truck and took off.
“564 Wagner Ave,” I said over and over until I found the small blue house tucked away from the road inside the tree line. It was a perfect little house with a small front porch that sat two rockers and a potted planter of yellow daisies on the side. To the left of the house was a large garage. I parked on the street and knocked on the front door. After waiting five or so minutes and receiving no answer, I left the bag inside the storm door with a note.
Sorry we missed you. Hope everything is to your satisfaction.
Please call 555- 3344 if you have any questions. Johanssen Grocery
-Delivery by Jeff”
After I made my way back to the store, I was greeted only a short while later by Miss Gregory as I was loading cartons onto shelves.
“Excuse me,” she said and waited for my reply as I grunted and heaved a few heavy boxes. Wiping my brow, I turned to her and said, “Yeah?”
“You forgot the milk.”
“We don’t got any.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and tapped her foot. “It’s have any. And what are you saying? There’s milk right there on your refrigerator shelf. What do you mean you don’t have any?”
I waved my finger for her to follow me and turned to walk away, pulling her order slip from the drawer behind the register.
“Look,” I said and placed the order checklist down on the counter. “You check off boxed milk not refrigerated milk. We don’t got any.”
“Look lady, do you want the refrigerated milk in place of the other or did you just come here to tell me how to talk?”
“The milk, please.”
I nodded and walked away to get the milk and noticed her begin to wander the store. As she walked and browsed, I watched and my eyes caught the slightest attention to her beauty, but I also noticed she was a few years younger than I was, so I didn’t dwell too long on her face nor her figure, especially once she knocked a jar of pickles off the shelf.
“Jeepers! I’m awfully sorry,” she said backing away from the mess.
“I know I put pickles in your grocery bag that I just delivered to your place. Why don’t you just take this milk and get out?”
She took the milk and said, “I’m so sorry.”
I wasn’t too sure because I didn’t witness it, and she never said it for sure, but I think she left with tears in her eyes. I mean, could you blame her? I wouldn’t.
It might’ve been a few days later; after Mr Johanssen fired me for being rude to the daughter of one of the richest men in town—How the hell was I supposed to know? I delivered groceries to practically a shack—and after I found a new job at a warehouse on the other side of town near where I rented a house, I saw that girl again getting out of the high school one afternoon while I was walking home from my shift.
She was with a group of girls laughing and talking across the street from me and I just walked and puffed my smoke thinking not really anything of her except about how she made me lose my job.
When we got to the long bridge on the far end of town close to where my apartment was, I was surprised to see her still walking in that direction, actually, because the people—men mostly—could be a little rough. I only figured she was heading toward the little blue house, possibly the fairgrounds.
“Hey! Leave me alone!”
When I heard yelling and screaming and the girls started scattering in all directions, I tossed down my smoke and looked up to see two young men grabbing for the girls’ bags and one guy holding Miss Gregory against the brick bridge.
“Damnit. Why do these things happen to me?”
I hurried across the street and tapped the first young man on the shoulder.
“Let her go,” I said and saw the other girls running away, clutching their bags.
The other young man said from behind me, “You don’t want to pick a fight with us.”
“Don’t I, now?”
I turned around and grabbed him by the throat, realizing he couldn’t be any older than 16 or 17. Using his body weight against the other teen, I pushed him against the wall, banging their heads together, which released their grip on the girl.
“Thank you,” she said and fell forward, flinging her arms around me. “I felt terrified.”
After leaving her arms there for just a moment to enjoy how nice she smelled—like the daisies on the porch of her blue house but also like jasmine and honeysuckle—I removed her arms.
“You were in distress.”
“Do you make it a point to help a lady in distress?”
“You dropped your shades,” she said as she straightened her dress and fixed up her hair.
The stupidest thing about me was that I stood there in awe of her beauty as she repinned her hair and balanced my shades between her teeth, even still, I walked away from her. Everything about my mind and soul found this girl beautiful—her sandy hair, pink lips, and aqua eyes—granted, she was far too young for me and I knew it— but there was something about her that I liked. Maybe I even like that she was off limits; she definitely wouldn’t have been the first off limits girl I’d chased in my years, though, admittedly, she would’ve been the richest. Yet, I turned and walked away and left her standing there. Did I glance over my shoulder a few times and see if she was watching me as I pulled a new smoke out of my pocket? Sure did. Was she? Thankfully. However, for whatever reason inside my dark-haired, oil-laden head, this was not the part of the story that led to my brightest decision.