Pulp of the Month: Teen Chills and Thrills. Part Three. (True Romance, October 1963)
Here's the final installation of this month's featured article from the October 1963 issue of True Romance.
But before Barry came to Ardmore again, I knew I was in for it. He hadn't been able to make the trip as soon as he expected, so he wrote me. I didn't want to see him. I came to hate him. I'd walk the floor of my room through endless nights, asking myself why I had been such a fool. I'd meet friends and find myself staring into space. I'd stand behind the counter at the laundromat, and not hear what a customer said. I still hoped against hope that maybe I was mistaken. Maybe I wasn't pregnant. And when, I knew there wasn't any more hope, I was positive I was pregnant.
I didn't know where to turn, or what to do. I was afraid my sister would turn me out if she knew. I was afraid to go home to Mom and Dad, and bring them sorrow and suffering. I hated Barry for what he'd done to me. I knew I was just as much to blame. I'd wanted excitement and fun and thrills. I'd been flattered by the attentions of an older man. I'd been tempted and given in to desire, and I was caught. I didn't want Barry. I didn't love him. I knew that now when it was too late!
I saw him once again, but I didn't tell him. We went out and it was a horrid evening. The fun we had together was a thing of the past. Maybe not for him, but it was for me. When he kissed me good night, I almost pushed him away. How could I have ever felt as I did? "Anything the matter, Iris?" he asked.
"What could be?" I asked, laughing, guilty, frightened.
"Be up again soon," he said. I didn't care whether he meant it or not. I never wanted to see him again. Besides, I wouldn't be here. I decided to go home to Mom and Dad, to dump more trouble into their laps. I didn't know whom else I could turn to. At first, I thought about getting rid of the baby but I couldn't go through with it. Not because I wanted to have the baby, but because I was too afraid.
When I reached home, Mom and Dad were so glad to see me, to have me back with them, that I just couldn't tell them. They believed I'd grown tired of the city. I worked hard on the farm, trying to forget what had happened, and yet knowing that there was no forgetting about the coming baby, knowing that the time was drawing near when I'd have to tell them.
The months dragged by and I felt despair, torment, and shame. I was only a little over seventeen, and I felt old. If I could start over. But now it was too late to undo the mess I had made of my life. the thought of what had happened and what was to come haunted my sleep, and made the food I ate stick in my throat. And each hour, each week brought me nearer to the time when I'd have to tell Mom and Dad. I couldn't hide the truth any longer. I found Mom alone one evening in the yard, resting on the bench under the big tree. I dropped down beside her.
"I have something horrible to tell you, Mom. I've been silly and foolish and had -" Then I broke down and the words poured out.
I didn't expect her to take me in her arms but she did. I could feel her trembling, but she was kind to me. I guess there isn't anything greater in the world than mother-love., or the love of a father. I was utterly ashamed because I had been so anxious to get away from them.
"I'll tell your father," she whispered, shaking. "We're to blame. We shouldn't have let you ever go, Iris. We should have kept you here. You're only a child," she sobbed. "We're to blame."
It was my fault. Even a child knows right and wrong. I did, and I'd done wrong. "We'll see that it comes out all right, Iris," she said. "I'll write this Barry."
I knew my parents hoped he'd marry me, but I didn't want to marry Barry. If I had I'd have told him myself. I was full of doubts and fears. What right had I not to give my baby a father - if Barry were willing? What right had I to bring disgrace on my family - if Barry were ready to go through with it? Back and forth, back and forth, like endless footsteps, the questions haunted me until I was too tired to think. I couldn't marry someone I didn't love, live with him the rest of my life. The thought of being Barry's wife frightened me. I'd never loved him! I'd been young and weak, whirled off my feet, excitement-crazy, been tempted and fallen - that wasn't love. But - there were others to think of besides myself - Mom and Dad, the baby.
When Barry came, I watched him as he got out of the car and walked to the door. I heard the bell ring, and I couldn't move. I was still with fear. Mother went down the hall and I heard voices. It was just after mid-day dinner and Dad was still in the house. Then they were coming into the room, and I braced myself. I looked at Barry. He was white and there wasn't any laughter in his eyes now. He stepped over beside me, but he didn't touch me.
"Iris," he said, "I'm sorry. You must have been through hell. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I - couldn't."
""But - oh, kid, I'm sorry. I never meant - I've been a heel. You were so sweet, and I did this to you. We'll get married. I want that, Iris, I do." He took my hand but I drew it away. I was more frightened than ever. I heard Mom's relieved sigh, and Dad's "Good." I was praying, Mom's relieved sigh, and Dad's "Good." I was praying, "Let me love you. It'll all work out then." But when he touched me, I'd felt like ice, full of resentment. I said one word: "No."
Barry stared at me. "You won't marry me?"
Mom ran over and put her arm around me. "Iris, you must."
I looked at her. It was painful to see her face. "I don't love him. He doesn't love me - do you, Barry?" I stared up into his white face.
"No, Iris. But this time I'll do the right thing. You ran away, and I chased you. Oh God, forgive me!"
I hardly heard him. I was fighting so hard to keep to my resolve. I just felt it wasn't the way out, to make that kind of marriage. It would be terrible, horrible for both of us. "Go away," I cried, "please go away."
"If you change your mind - " Barry said.
"I won't change my mind."
"I'll never forgive myself," he said, and turned and went. Mom cried, and Dad's face was set, but they didn't try to make me change my mind, or stop Barry.
What can I say of the rest of that time until my baby came? Those months that crept toward January and the pain of birth? Months of heartbreak, grief and shame. But there was also the wonderful love of my parents who sheltered and shielded me. I hadn't guessed there was such love, and night after night when I said my prayers I thanked God for their love. Then, before Terry was born, I felt the same kind of love for my child. Passionate, protective, ready to give all. And when I held her in my arms, there in the hospital room I really understood! Flesh of your flesh, blood of your blood. Why, one was able to do anything for one's child! That's why Dad and Mom have done what they've done. I whispered to myself.
When I left the hospital and went home, I had a feeling of sadness, but also pride. I was proud of my parents and the wonderful way they had stood by me. But I was sad because this most beautiful experience of my life, which could have brought my parents great happiness would always be fringed with shame. But Mom and Dad held their heads up and they carried on, making no excuses to anyone. They were crazy about Terry, the little, black-haired darling with eyes like mine.
It took every bit of courage I had to go into town, to face people, but I did it. If Dad and Mom could, well then, I must too. As the months passed, somehow, it grew easier though the pain in my heart was always there. For, of course, there was no future for me. I wanted a home of my own, and I wanted the real love of a man, all the normal sweetness of life. But I'd thrown such beauty away. I would have to accept life now as it was. It's bitter when one is so young to face such a future. But it was the price I had to pay. The love my parents showed me gave me strength.
Then, one March day, over a year later, I went into town with Dad to do some shopping. We were in the general store when Lou Michaels came in. I'd known him when I was in school, though he was older than I was. I'd liked him a little, and he'd seemed to like me. But I hadn't even thought of him for years. He stepped over and held out his hand.
"Hello, Iris," he said, "it's good to see you again."
I took his hand. It was firm and friendly. "It's nice to see you, Lou," I said.
"O've been out of town a lot," he said. "But I'm back to stay, now. I'd like us to get together this evening."
This was the first time I had been asked for a date since I came home. Color rushed to my cheeks. Did he think I was a loose girl; that I'd be ready for "fun?" But his gray eyes were straight and steady, and his lean brown face was kind. "I'd like that, Lou," I said.
"At eight then," he said and smiled.
I had baby Terry in the room with me, when he came in. I had to see his reaction. He picked her up and kissed her, then said hello to Dad and Mom who had come in for a few minutes.
"Cute kid," he said. And my heart turned over. This man was really fine. It was like a dear warmth around me, filling something in my heart.
Fine? Yes, Lou Michaels was fine. I learned that. Not a word about my past, not a covert hint. Maybe he didn't know about my past, I through, although I didn't see how it was possible. In the long spring days that followed, we did a lot of things together when he was free. We'd drive over to the next town for a movie. Some Sundays we'd up up to the nearby lake, taking our lunch or supper, and either swim or drift in a rowboat. If it were in the daytime, Lou insisted we take Terry along, just as though there wasn't a scarlet mark on me and on her, just as if I were a young widow.
i didn't dare believe what might be happening to him. For I knew too well what had happened to me. Real love had come. Quiet and wonderful, yet with an aching thrill, and worse regret for my past. For I couldn't forget. It hadn't been wiped out. The memory hurt more than ever.
Did Lou love me? How could he even think of me as a wife? I'd study his lean, strong face when he wasn't looking, and my heart would cry for him to forget and forgive.
Many nights I cried bitter tears into my pillow. But all I could do was wait. If this priceless thing wasn't to be mine, my punishment seemed more than I could stand. Then, I'd hope Lou wasn't the kind to see a lot of a girl unless he cared. I was torn with a new torment, begging for a chance to live and love. To give my all, heart, soul and body to a man I really loved.
We were up at the lake one Sunday in July. He'd never done anything but hold my hand. We sat on the shore side by side, looking into the flaming sunset. He was close beside me, and I wanted his arms, and I wanted his lips. I wanted him, but it was different, so wonderfully different from the kind of wanting I'd felt for Barry. This was clean and natural, not mere desire.
He leaned toward me. "Iris," he said, and his voice was different than it had ever been, "maybe I shouldn't speak so soon, but I've got to. I've waited and I can't wait any longer." He reached out and took my hand. It was cold in his, for I knew I'd have to speak - of the past. It just couldn't stay hidden, like an ugly world, between us. I'd have to know how he really felt. "I love you," he said gently. "Will you marry me, Iris dear?"
Be Lou's wife! Have a home, have love, a husband! Don't speak of the past, I thought. If he doesn't, don't risk it. Why bring it up? I caught my breath on a choked sob.
"What is it, dear?" Lou asked.
I turned and looked into his clear eyes. I couldn't lie to him. It had to be honest between us - no shadows, no secrets, no hidden doubts. "I love you," I said, simply. His fingers tightened. "But, Lou."
"You know my past?" He nodded, his gaze never flickering. "Can you forgive what I did? Can you forgive the weak, silly girl I was?"
"Forgive? That's a queer word, Iris. It means I'd have to feel better than you to forgive. And I'm not better. Who is? No human being can stand and judge another." My heard was beating fast. "You're good, you're wonderful, Iris, the way you carried on - faced the world and kept your baby. Lots of girls would have hidden and run. I'm crazy about Terry. I'd be proud to give her my name." His fingers were tighter, harder. "Don't you understand that I love you? What has anything else to do with us, dear? I love you."
I lifted my face toward his. I was in his arms. Safe in the arms of a great wonderful love. I had everything now. Everything I'd wanted in my man. I thanked God I had been able to wait for happiness through those months of shame and regret. I thanked God for the support from my parents, and for the love of my baby. But most of all I thanked Him for this answer to my prayers. Surely God had forgiven me, for otherwise I wouldn't have this perfect love of Lou's.
In the midst of my thoughts, Lou kissed me. I knew I would devote the rest of my life to making him happy and deserving that love.