“Mom, look.” Mindy pointed across the street.
“Yes. I see it,” June stared at the Olde Book Shoppe. “That’s funny, I don’t remember seeing it when we came into town this morning.”
“Can we go look, please.”
“Sure, why not. We have time.” June looked at her watch, “The train doesn’t leave for another hour. Let’s go.” She took Mindy’s hand, crossed Jackson Boulevard and walked up to the display window of The Olde Book Shoppe. “What beautiful old books. And look at those old toys.”
“Mother, may we go in and look around?” Mindy surveyed the old toys in the display window.
“Well, I suppose we can, for a few minutes. But we can’t buy anything. Please remember that.”
“I will.” As they approached the shop door, it opened. The little bell above the door tinkled.
“Oh, hello there.” came a surprised greeting from an elderly man. “Welcome, please come in and make yourself at home. My name is Morris. Let me know if I can be of any assistance.”
“Thank you, Morris. We were on our way to the train station and saw your beautiful shop. May we browse?”
“Yes, of course.” Morris picked up the bucket of water and moved outside. “I must clean these dirty windows.” He left the door open, set the bucket down and began washing the display windows.
Mindy ran over to the shelves of antique toys. “Oh, Mother, look at these.”
“Yes, dear, I see them.” June walked around the center table, gently touching the old books that lay on the surface. She paused for a moment then moved to the other side of the table where the Old Fairy Tale book lay. She ran her fingers lightly over the surface of the cover, admiring the fine leather binding and the gold filigree trim. A tingle went up her arm as her fingers ran along the edge of the book. She lifted the cover, and began reading the inscription on the flyleaf. Suddenly she stepped back a pace.
“To my loving wife, June Pfingsten-Martin. From your adoring husband, Phillip Martin. Aboard the Titanic, April 14, 1912”
June put her hand to her mouth and murmured, “Oh, my God.”
“What is it, Mother?” Mindy turned toward her mother.
“Nothing dear.” June moved close to the open book and ran her fingers over the inscription. Her memory leapt back to the moment she heard the Titanic had sunk, the endless waiting, then the final news that her husband would not be coming home.
She glanced over at Mindy and wondered if Phillip knew how beautiful the child was that he never got a chance to see. If he had not been detained in London, he would be here with them now. The moment of melancholy at the loss of her husband passed as she watched Mindy.
The birth of their daughter was filled with the joy of having part of Phillip close to her, in spite of the sorrow the financial dilemma she and her baby daughter were plunged into. Her parents, Thelma and George, did not hesitate to take her in, giving her the love and support she needed to go on with her life and that of her baby girl. Her skills as a court stenographer provided enough income to relieve her parents of the day to day needs. It was the loss of independence which weighed heavily on June.
She remembered seeing Phillip Martin for the first time in the courthouse. He had acquired an impeccable reputation for his knowledge and honesty in courtroom dealings. He was young, successful, and an ambitious individual. However, the first time she was appointed by the court to sit as his stenographer in one of his court cases, she noticed his anxiety in dealing with the jury, which endeared him to her.
As was her custom at the end of a court case, June asked, “Mr. Martin, I’ll have my notes transcribed by tomorrow. Where would you like me to send them?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” He smiled. “Haven’t we met before?”
June smiled, “Yes, just now.”
“Sorry.” Phillip blushed. “I’m not very good at this.”
“I thought you did an excellent job. The jury paid close…”
Phillip interrupted, “That’s not what I meant.”
“Oh, it isn’t? What did you mean?” June could hardly keep from smiling.
“Would you have dinner with me, or lunch, or breakfast? Or maybe a picnic somewhere? Take your pick. God, am I as pathetic as I feel.”
“Quite the contrary, Mr. Martin. How about lunch … tomorrow?”
“You mean it?
“Yes, I do mean it. I’ll have the transcription ready for you.”
“That’s great. And it’s Phil, please.”
“All right, Phil…”
The janitor interrupted by beating the gavel on the judge’s bench. “Hey, you two, court is adjourned.” His knowing smile brought June and Phillip back to reality. They laughed and exited the courtroom.
They had lunch together the following day. Soon after, they began seeing each other on a regular basis. They enjoyed each other’s company … when Phil was available which wasn’t that often. When he asked June for her hand in marriage the first time, she refused.
Phil was taken aback, “Why not?”
“Phil, I really like and admire you. It’s just too bad you’re only available twenty minutes at a time.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“When is the last time we’ve spent a weekend together? Let’s see, that would be … never. I’d marry you in a minute. I’m just afraid I would never see that much of you to make that kind of commitment worth it.”
Phil was crestfallen as the realization of what June said began to sink in. He apologized for his behavior and promised to change. And he did change. They spent more long weekends then June thought possible, traveling to the Dells in Wisconsin which was his favorite. She was satisfied just spending a whole day with him along the shores of Lake Michigan. He changed so much that she soon discovered she was pregnant. “Now we’ll have to get married.” She was depressed. Phil was overjoyed at the prospect of being a father.
“Yes, of course, the sooner the better. I’ll take you to Europe for our honeymoon.” The deadpan expression on June’s face stopped him short. “June, I’m sorry.” He got down on one knee, “Will you marry me, June Pfingsten? What’s your middle name?”
“Alice.” She grinned from ear to ear.
“Okay, June Alice Pfingsten, will you marry me? Will you be my wife?”
She contained her smile, “Where’s the engagement ring?”
“Oh, my God, I don’t have one.”
June grabbed some tall grass and wove herself a band and gave it to Phil. “Here.” She laughed. He almost cried.
“OK, once more, please.” She smiled.
“June Alice Pfingsten, will you marry me?” He held the grass ring up.
“Yes, Phillip Martin, I will marry you.”
Phil slipped the grass ring on her finger and kissed his bride to be.
June looked down at the open book with Phil’s handwriting so close to her. She thought of the grass ring she carried with her in a small silk bag, hidden in her purse. If she had only known she would never see him again. She sat down and held back the tears she did not want Mindy to see. She ran her fingers over the inscription in the book as her memory went back to the wedding, and then they were sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, heading for a Grand Tour of Europe.
The tinkling bell over the door woke June from her daydream as Morris closed the shop door.
“Morris,” June called to him.
“Yes, my dear, how can I help?” Morris moved to the center table.
“This book, where did you get it?” She somehow felt safe looking into those crystal blue eyes peering at her over the gold-rimmed glasses perched on the end of his nose.
“Now let’s see, where did I get that book?” He scratched his head, then his face lit up, “Oh, yes, I remember. There was a warehouse sale. I purchased a crate with many books. This must have been one of them. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I see.” June’s countenance fell.
“My dear, what is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I have, Morris, I truly have.”
“I don’t understand. Did this book trouble you?”
“Oh, no, quite the opposite. I found it very comforting.” June smiled.
“In what way may I ask?” Morris clasped his hands in front of him and waited.
“The inscription on the flyleaf is in the hand of my late husband, Phillip Martin.”
Morris moved around the table and read the inscription. “Indeed it is. It’s a miracle it survived. He probably gave it to one of the passengers in a lifeboat. It must have been left behind on the Carpathia and placed in the crate of items I purchased. How very interesting that it has found its way into your hands.”
“Yes, that must be what happened.” June touched the flyleaf again and caressed her husband’s signature.
“Well, then, this book rightfully belongs to you.” Morris broke into a grin.
“Oh, no, it doesn’t. It belongs to you.” June stepped back.
“My dear, this is a bookshop. Everything in it is for sale.”
“I’m afraid I couldn’t afford to buy it.”
“It’s not expensive, my dear. I wish you would take it.”
“It’s been very difficult for me since my husband passed away. I’m afraid I have no available money for such a luxury.”
“That’s nonsense, this book belongs to you. Your husband bought it for you. The stories within the book were meant for you and your daughter.”
“He knew I was with child, but he never saw her.” June brushed a tear from her cheek.
“I’m sure he has seen her many times.” Morris smiled warmly at June.
She looked up in surprise. “What do you mean?”
“The veil between this world and the next is very thin. Love has a way of opening a window now and again. I’m relatively certain your husband has been keeping an eye on you and your daughter. This book is a good example. Here it is and here you are.”
June paused a moment. “I’m sorry, Morris. It’s impossible.” June was embarrassed.
“No, it is not impossible. I want you to take the book. If and when you do have the money you can pay for it. And there is no hurry. You would make me very happy if you would take it.”
June did not know what to say. Her desire for the book was evident.
“Here, let’s place the book into its protective cover, then you and your daughter can be on your way to the train station.”
“Oh, Morris, I don’t know.” Her voice began to tremble.
“There is nothing to be said. It’s settled. Here’s the book, now be on your way.” Morris opened the door of the shop.
“Thank you, Morris, and I will repay you.”
“I know you will … have a pleasant trip home.” He waved to them as they walked toward the Canal Street Bridge, then smiled and rubbed his hands together in satisfaction.
The train gave a little jolt as it pulled away from the station. June and Mindy settled back in their seats, Mindy held on to the fairy tale book with a great sense of ownership. “Mother, may we look inside now?”
“I don’t see why not.” June took the book and pulled the fairy tale book from its protective cover. She opened the book to the flyleaf with the inscription from her husband and paused.
“Mother?” Mindy was waiting.
“Yes, of course.” She placed the book between them as they began turning the pages, admiring the many stories and illustrations. Midway through the book, they turned a page and found a folded slip of paper tucked near the binding.
“Oh, look.” Mindy pulled the paper out and handed it to her mother.
As June unfolded the piece of paper, her breath caught as she realized it was stationery from Phillip’s law office. There were only three things written, which didn’t make much sense, and they were in Phillip’s handwriting.
FTS BX39 Evan
It was evidently of some importance to Phillip. Why else would he have placed it in this book? She would show it to her father when they got home. Perhaps he would understand what it meant.
June and Mindy arrived in Arlington Heights and walked a few blocks south to her parent’s home at 440 South Evergreen.
“June, how lovely. Where did you find it?” Thelma, June’s mother admired the protective covering.
“In an old bookshop on Jackson Boulevard near the train station.” She withdrew the book from its protective covering and laid it on the kitchen table.
“It must have cost a fortune. Look at the exquisite details, and the parchment pages.” Thelma looked up at her daughter.
“I didn’t pay for it, Mother.”
“You didn’t steal it, I hope.” She laughed.
“Oh, Mother, please. Can you imagine me ever doing something like that? The store owner told me to take it and pay for it when I could, and that there was no hurry. When you see inside, you’ll understand why I accepted his offer.” June opened the cover to the flyleaf. “Look.”
“Oh, my God.” Thelma looked up at June, “What does this mean?”
“I’m not sure. Where’s Dad?”
“Out in the garage.” They heard him scrap his shoes on the sidewalk outside the back door. “Here he comes.” Thelma examined the flyleaf page more closed.
The screen door at the side of the house slammed shut as George walked up the stairs into the kitchen. “George, how many times have I asked you not to let the screen door slam?”
“Sorry, dear.” George kissed his wife on her forehead. “Hi, Junie.” He kissed June on the cheek. “What’s this?” He saw the fairy tale book.
June handed the slip of paper to her father, “Does this mean anything to you?”
George took the paper, looked at it, and then at June, “This is Phil’s law firm. Is it his handwriting?”
“Yes. Does it mean anything?”
George sat down at the table and mumbled, “FTS BX39 Evan. The BX39 probably means Box 39, wait a minute, the Evan could be short for Evanston, and the FTS could mean … Thelma, would you get the phone book, please.
George thumbed through the yellow pages and stopped. He looked up at June. “The FTS could mean First Trust and Savings. Did you know about this?” George looked at June.
“No, I didn’t.”
“This note could mean there’s a safety deposit box. Let’s pay the First Trust and Savings a little visit tomorrow. You’ll probably need identification for Phil and yourself in order to get at the box.
The vault attendant set Box 39 down in front of June and departed.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” George was impatient to discover the contents of the box.
“You do it, Dad, I’m too nervous.” June sat back in her chair.
George opened the box, pulled the top document out and began reading, then began to laugh, “Dad?”
George looked at his daughter, “Your financial problems are over, sweetie.”
“What are you talking about?”
“This is a life insurance policy for two hundred thousand dollars, with a double indemnity clause.”
“In case of accidental death the insurance policy doubles in value. This policy is worth four hundred thousand bucks.”
“Oh, my God.” June took the document and began to peruse it while George emptied the contents onto the table.
“And look at this. Two stacks of hundred dollar bills. There must be twenty thousand dollars right here.” June was wide-eyed with astonishment.
George chuckled. “The other documents appear to be investments of some kind. We’ll need a lawyer to handle these.”
“Yes, a lawyer, of course. One of his old law partners.”
“That’s the ticket, I’ll give them a call tomorrow. Holy jumpin’ Jehoshaphat. This is a miracle.” George thumbed through all of the documents, giggling occasionally.
June sat up and looked at her father, “There is something I need to do first.” She looked at the stack of hundred dollar bills. “I need to pay for the book I brought home yesterday. Instead of going home, would you mind taking me into Chicago first?”
“Sure. sweetie, of course. Let’s go.”
Forty-five minutes later, George turned onto Jackson Boulevard and drove toward the train station.
“It’s right along here. Wait, stop here.” June looked in all directions. “There’s the ladies apparel shop. The bookshop should be right here, but it’s not.”
“Are you sure this is the right spot? The right street?”
“Yes, Dad, Mindy and I were here yesterday. It was here, I know it.” June looked out of the car window at the blank wall of the parking structure.
“Well, it’s not there now. What would you like to do?”
“Go home, I guess. There’s nothing else I can do. I don’t understand, it was here yesterday.”
As George pulled into traffic, June looked back to make sure she had not made a mistake, then whispered to herself, “Thank you, Morris, God bless you.”