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Dom girl meets vanilla boy and shakes up his mundane world.
I had never been up in an airplane before, and the experience was like nothing I'd ever had before. It was exhilarating in one sense, but I was also shaken by the thought of the many things that could have gone wrong.
We were not up there to fight, but to do some reconnaissance, and I wasn't sure what would happen if we had encountered an enemy plane.
We were actually flying over German territory, and I was afraid we would draw the attention of the Germans, who would send a squadron up to take care of us. But, fortunately, we were able to do our business unimpeded.
Another concern was the matter of taking photos from the rear cockpit of an early airplane. I had to take a firm grip on the camera and lean slightly out of the open cockpit to shoot. Sure, I was strapped in, still, it was a terrifying experience.
From up high, however, one could get a real sense of the trench system, and the photos I took were instrumental in giving me and the Army staff the overall picture of the geography of the war.
Nevertheless, I was relieved when we finally landed. I kissed the ground when I disengaged from the plane, much to the amusement of my pilot.
In early June, something happened that drove home the importance of my job. Earlier in the spring, the French had suffered heavy losses in a futile assault near Verdun, and the French troops reached their breaking point.
Thousands of French soldiers had mutinied, and others who were prodded into battle marched to the front bleating in derision, the implication being that they were simply sheep being led to slaughter, which was not far from the truth.
Gen. Pershing heard about the mutiny and pressed to me the importance that something like that must not happen with our troops.
The French mutiny, however, was a manifestation of a wider war-weariness that was finding more and more expression in art and literature, as well as on the streets of Paris. Nearly three years of butchery, with no end in sight, had fostered a bitterness and a coarsening of life that was palpable in Paris, so close to the front.
I, for one, had taken to carrying my trusty pistol with me at all times, even in public. I procured a smaller one for Madeleine, as well, and I took her out to the country south of the city to teach her how to use it, should it become necessary. I was taking no chances with my life, nor that of the woman I loved.
I was working long hours, and traveling quite a lot between Paris and the American Army headquarters, and Madeleine was faithfully keeping house, tending to Marie and helping her father at the bistro, where business had picked up again after a lull shortly after the war began.
Madeleine was a wonderful cook and housekeeper, and she had taken to the role of wife and mother like a duck to water. She was a natural nurturer, a woman who was born to care for others. She had taken care of Marcel during her youth, and she took care of me and our child.
She and her friend Therese had worked out an arrangement where they cared for the other one's baby while they each split time serving at Marcel's. We had also set up a nursery area in the back office at the bistro on occasions when they were both needed.
As a war widow, Therese was entitled to a stipend from the French government, but it wasn't much, since she and her husband had not been married long. Marcel had offered her a job, and she had accepted gratefully.
Having a friend who could look after our child paid off nicely on our second anniversary in June.
I returned from a visit to Pershing's headquarters to be greeted by a smiling Madeleine and the smells of something delicious coming from the kitchen.
"Where is Marie?" I asked after a lengthy kiss.
"She is staying the night with Therese and Rosa," Madeleine said in a seductive tone of voice, referring to her friend's young child, who was already a playmate of our little girl, who was just learning to walk. "We have the house to ourselves. I have something in mind for you."
"Oh?" I exclaimed, with a raised eyebrow.