Elegant Swan

by June Bradley

An Elegant Swan is a love story set in the time when letter writing was one of the main sources of communication.

Ten years ago, Nancy Smith fell in love with her brother's best friend Lt. Commander Sam Arlington, but their courtship is hindered by her Bipolar sister, Rita and a future senator who thinks Nancy would make the perfect senator's wife. Sam goes out to sea before Nancy learns she is pregnant. With no word from him she gets on with her life.


Chapter One


Smithfield, Virginia, 1965


Lieutenant Commander Sam Arlington looked forward to leaving his duties aboard ship behind. He was spending the weekend with his best friend, Lieutenant Commander Jeremiah Smith, at his family home in Smithfield, Virginia. Jerry was getting married in eight-weeks, and Sam was his best man.

When they arrived at the house and got out of the car, they saw a group of teenagers playing ball in the back yard. Someone yelled, and Sam saw a kid running into the sun trying to catch a fly ball. He didn’t move fast enough, and the next thing he knew, he was sprawled on the ground, caught in a tangle of arms and legs.

This definitely wasn’t the way to start the weekend. Sam discovered the long arms and legs entwined with his belonged to a girl.

“Damn it. Didn’t you see the fly ball coming at you and have enough sense to get out of the way?” her angry voice chided him.

She didn’t give him a chance to answer when he tried to move. The softness of her brown hair brushed his face. Rising on her elbows, sharp bones jabbed him, and her lower body pressed into his. A primitive need raced through him. Hazel eyes flecked with gold searched his face. By the expression in her eyes, she knew exactly what was happening between them.

He had seen smoldering passion before, but nothing like this. His heart split like an atom and flared in all directions at once. His feelings skyrocketed. He hadn’t experienced anything like this. This girl was

 making him feel like a randy teenager as ripples of desire snaked through his body. Embarrassed by his wayward thoughts, he tried to move from under her, but her body melded into his.

“Oh,” was all she said.

The amused voice of his friend, Jerry brought Sam back to reality as he reached down and pulled the girl off him.

“Sam, meet my kid sister, Nancy.”

Sam quickly stood up shaking the grass and dirt from his pants and shirt. It wasn’t a boy or a kid, but a girl probably in her late teens or early twenties. Jerry frowned at his sister’s disheveled appearance.

“Besides plowing into Sam, did you have to smother him too?”

“Jerry!” The girl smiled and flew into his arms. “We weren’t expecting you until tomorrow.” Her voice quivered with excitement as she hugged her brother.

“Take it easy, sis.” Jerry laughed. “We’ll be at the shipyard for the next several months, so they tell us.” He slipped out of her embrace.

Sam let out a sigh of relief, glad she wasn’t Jerry’s bride-to-be. His heart regained its rightful place in his chest. So, this was one of Jerry’s sisters. She was a charmer, and he felt as though he already knew her by what Jerry had told him. She attended a local college in Norfolk, was in her senior year, and very smart. Jerry had spoken often about Nancy, but said little about his older sister, Rita. He’s said she was bipolar and to be careful of her changing moods. One moment she was happy, and the next moment she was depressed and very jealous of her younger sister.

“Oh, Jerry,” Nancy said joyously, and her happiness shown in her smile and bright, shinning eyes.

“It’s good to be home. The man you just berated in such glowing terms is Sam Arlington, my friend and best man.” Jerry turned his grin toward Sam. “As I said before, this is my kid sister, Nancy.”

“I’m not a kid anymore. I’m eighteen and in my last year of college. I’ll graduate in June.” She glared at her brother in mock anger.

Tall and thin, Nancy came to his shoulder, just right for kissing. What made him think of that? Her worn jeans and a tight fitting tank top showed off her slim figure and small firm breasts. He liked what he saw. She was also taking in everything about him. Yet her appraisal didn’t embarrass him. For reasons he didn’t understand, he wanted more than just her approval. She was Jerry’s kid sister and much too young for him. The effect of her nearness aroused feelings in him he didn’t comprehend.

Their hands met and a flame of sensation ran through him. He clasped her hand longer than he should have, liking the feel of her soft skin against his calloused palm.

“It’s nice to meet you, Sam. I hope I didn’t hurt you. I go all out when I’m playing ball.”

Nancy had an impish grin on her face, and Sam returned her smile. Something was happening between them. He looked directly into her eyes and saw a challenge. He wanted to avoid the feelings already simmering between them. This young lady was dynamite and a charmer. Someday she would break a man’s heart, if she already hadn’t. He was pretty sure he wasn’t ready for that.

Jerry’s other sister, Rita, greeted them at the house. She was a delicate and sophisticated blonde version of Nancy.

“Jerry, we were wondering when you’d get home.”

“I’m here now,” He reached for a hug, and she backed away, holding him at arms length and examining him.

Sam thought it strange Rita didn’t take Jerry in her arms like Nancy did, kissing and hugging him after being away so long.

“My goodness, how you’ve changed,” she said with a note of surprise.

“I’ve been gone over a year, and I’m a man of the world now,” he answered in mock bravado.

“So I see.” Rita shifted her gaze from Jerry and looked past him to Sam for the first time. She gave Sam an inviting smile. “Jerry, please introduce us.”

“Rita, this is my good friend, Sam.” Jerry bowed with a flourish to his sister. “He’s going to be my best man.”

Sam took her hand and felt it tremble as he slowly withdrew his. She was altogether different from Nancy.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Rita,” Sam spoke in a self-assured manner.

Rita was all smoothed and polished, with blonde hair and blue eyes that could light up a man’s heart or cut him cold. He sensed that coldness. Her appreciative look surprised him. Her appraisal wasn’t as obvious as Nancy’s had been, but just as direct. She evidently liked what she saw. She was a lady, and expected to be treated like one. Nancy was a rough-cut stone that needed a lot of polishing before she would shine and could compete with her sister.

“Thank you for inviting me. It’s not often I have the opportunity to spend a weekend in the country.”

“I hope you’ll enjoy your stay.” Rita’s inviting smile oozed with southern hospitality.

* * * *

Nancy leaned against the kitchen counter and watched her sister butter up Sam. Rita would be all over Jerry’s friend before the weekend ended. A new man and her sister brightened up like the dawn on a sunny day. That would leave Nancy would little chance of attracting Sam’s attention.

Rita, at twenty-six, was using her charms to entice Sam. She left Nancy behind when she used her smile and seductive ways. She would definitely let Nancy know in no uncertain terms that Sam was way out of her league.

Used to it by now, Nancy still cursed. Why shouldn’t she have a chance? Once men saw behind Rita’s smiling face, selfish moods, and ways, they generally left. Sam looked like he was worth a wait, and Nancy had the time.

She looked at Rita puzzled by her remark to Sam about staying. “Why shouldn’t he enjoy his stay?” All eyes turned her way.

Rita stared at her sister with impatience. “It’s the polite thing to say when you have guests and want them to feel welcome. Haven’t you learned anything I’ve taught you since mother died?” Her lips drew into a thin, forced smile.

“How could I forget? You keep reminding me,” Nancy answered in a sarcastic voice.

Ignoring her younger sister, Rita again turned to Sam. “I hope we can spend some time together. It would be nice to talk to someone new.”

“Thank you.”

Sam always liked blondes, and this one was a stunner. He wouldn’t mind spending some time with her, but there was a problem, her illness. He’d have to be very careful around her. There was more to her request then wanting to talk. Sam liked a lady who knew her mind. Rita was a very attractive woman, more of what an officer’s wife should be, but he wasn’t looking for a wife or any other kind of relationship.

Sam had loved Dena, his ex-sweetheart, until he received her ‘Dear John letter’ six months ago, informing him she married someone else. Lucky for him, his ship was on a yearlong cruise around the world, and his work and foreign ports kept him busy. He had little time to think about Dena or her letter.

On the other hand, Nancy was young and exciting and would be a lot of fun to be with. She was on her way to becoming a beauty. What choices. He never realized how different sisters could be because he didn’t have any. He caught Nancy watching him and gave her what he thought was a brotherly smile. Yet, earlier this afternoon, he hadn’t felt the least bit brotherly toward her.

Jerry noticed the coolness between his sisters and changed the subject. “Where’s Dad?”

“He’s in the library with Tom,” Rita announced.

Sam saw Rita perk up at the mention of her father’s guest. Was Tom a close friend? Rita sounded excited, and he wondered if he would be invading Tom’s territory if he asked her out?

“Tom arrived while you were out playing ball. You know he comes often to ask Dad’s advice, and he’s still here.” Rita was cool to her sister. “They’re huddled in Dad’s office discussing strategy for Tom’s campaign.”

Nancy turned to Sam to explain. “Tom’s a family friend running for the State Senate and Dad is helping him with his campaign.”

“I don’t know why you and Tom don’t hit it off,” Rita said. “He has a bright future ahead of him, and he’ll be an important man someday.”

“Right now, Tom is more interested in politics than any woman,” Nancy replied.

Sam and Jerry listened to the discussion between the sisters.

“How can you say that?” Rita demanded, coming to Tom’s defense. He likes you very much, and he always wants to take you places.”

“I keep telling him I’m not interested,” Nancy said. “I only want to be friends and politics isn’t my cup of tea. You like all the glitz and glamour of politics, and you’re better suited for that kind of life. You’d make him a better trophy wife.”

“I don’t like your remark about being a trophy wife. Tom and I would work together.” Rita declared with a saccharin sweet smile.

“Hey, break it up, girls. We have company.” Jerry’s frown showed he wasn’t happy with his sisters bickering in front of Sam.

Rita gave Sam an inviting smile. “See you later.” She turned and left the room.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” Nancy apologized. “I shouldn’t let my irritation with Rita show. She’s always on my back about something. No matter what it is, I never measure up.”

“I understand. My cousin and I had problems too.”

So, Nancy and her sister had these occasional differences of opinion. Evidently, Nancy only wanted to be friends with this Tom person while Rita wanted more. It made for an interesting situation.

Sam and Jerry went down the hall to Jerry’s father’s office. The door was closed and Jerry knocked.

“Come in,” came a strong reply.

Jerry opened the door and entered with Sam and Nancy behind him.

“Jerry!” Mr. Smith got out of his chair and came to greet and embrace his son.

Edward Smith was tall with gray hair. He was a retired Navy Captain and from what Jerry had told Sam, he spent his retirement dabbling in local real estate and was a history buff.

“It’s so good to have you home, son.”

“I’m glad to be home, Dad.” Jerry pulled away from his father. “Dad, this is my good friend and best man, Sam Arlington.”

Mr. Smith shook Sam’s hand. “It’s good to meet you, Sam. I’m glad Jerry has a good friend and brought you home to meet us.”

Sam’s hand buckled under the strength of the older man’s grip, before he released it. “Thank you, sir. It’s good to get off the ship for a change after our long cruise.”

Nancy gave her father a peck on the cheek and spoke softly to the man standing next to him. “Hi, Tom.”

“Hello, darling.” His words were possessive and challenging.

Sam saw Nancy wince. He guessed she wasn’t happy seeing Tom and have him calling her ‘darling.’

“This is Tom Brewster, the son of an old family friend,” Jerry’s dad said. “Tom is a lawyer and running for the State Senate in the next election. He’s one of our town’s up and coming politicians.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Tom.” Sam saw the shrewdness in the other man’s eyes as they shook hands.

The first thought that came to Sam’s mind was what an arrogant bastard this man was. He could see why Nancy wasn’t interested in him. He would be right at home in politics.

“It’s always nice to meet Jerry’s friends when he brings them home. Of course, he can’t be around as much as we’d like him to be. Enjoy your stay, Sam. It’s nice country here.”

“I’m sure I will,” Sam replied. Instantly he knew he could never be friends with this man. Tom looked at Sam with an insincere smile on his face while he sized up the competition.

The battle lines for the Smith women’s’ attentions were drawn. Tom would be in for a surprise when he learned Sam was interested in Rita and not Nancy, or so he thought.

This afternoon’s closeness with Nancy had to be some kind of a fluke. Tom looked at Nancy as if she was a chocolate sundae waiting to be devoured. Sam wondered if Tom realized how obvious he was in his feelings for the girl.

A few minutes later, Nancy spoke. “Sorry to break up this family gathering, but I have to leave.”

“You’re leaving already?” Tom protested.

Nancy turned and smiled at everyone. “I have some homework to finish.” She went over, gave her father a hug and a kiss, and left the room.

Tom had the smooth look of a politician wanting to talk, while assessing the fatness of his constituents’ wallets and from his expression crossed Sam off his list in every way.

Sam had the feeling Tom didn’t like having competition for the Smith women. The look he gave him was more of a warning to stay away from what he considered his. Tom was in for a big surprise. From where Sam stood, he had the choice of two beautiful women. Rita was delicate and eager for his attention while Nancy was holding back. What man could resist such delightful ladies when they were being displayed for his pleasure?

Sam realized Jerry and his father were watching the invisible battle waging between the two men. Their expressions were amused. Jerry knew Sam’s interest in politics, but Tom didn’t.

Jerry grinned. “Tom, are you finally making a run for the State Senate?”

“Yes, I have the backing I need.” He was animated.

“How long will you be in dry dock, son?” Edward said, changing the subject.

“Six to nine months. It depends on the war. Sam and I are both expecting orders.”

“I see,” a frown crossed Edward’s face. He sat down and invited the men to join him.

“It looks like the girls are still disagreeing with each other,” Jerry observed.

“It’s more like a war zone since Rita returned home. You know how she likes everything to be in perfect order and not a hair out of place, especially if she’s in one of her moods,” Edward explained. “She was never as easy going as Nancy. They’re as opposite as night and day. Nancy is always happy and content no matter what.”

That wasn’t how Sam had perceived Rita, but he had just met her. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d been wrong about a beautiful woman.

“Rita gave Sam a nice warm welcome.” Jerry remarked with a hint of amusement.

“Glad to hear that. She isn’t too friendly with the new people she meets,” Edward replied.

“What happens when you and Ruth decide to marry?” Jerry said.

A thoughtful expression crossed Edward’s face. “When we do, we hope Rita will accept Joe Hoskins proposal and marry him. He’s been hanging around since she came home. However, you never know with your sister. She’s up one day and down the next. Sometimes, if you just look at her crossways, she flies off the handle.”

“Joe Hoskins?” Jerry said. “Didn’t they go together for a while?”

“Yes, before she met and went away with that guy, Jason who was into all that weird stuff. She thought she was in love with him. It wasn’t long before he threw her out. She was in pretty bad shape and was stranded in Boston when we learned of her whereabouts. “

“He must have been a real low life.” Jerry said.

“He was. We had to go to Boston and bring her home. Thank goodness, they hadn’t married. Bedsides, the drugs he’d been feeding her and her mental state sent her spiraling out of control. She’s never gotten over the fact he left her for someone else. We had to put her in a rehab center for awhile to help get her back to a somewhat normal condition,” Edward told them.

“She never learns, does she?” Jerry shook his head.

“It’s a good thing they weren’t married or it would have been one hell of a mess,” Edward replied. “Joe’s so in love with her, he would do anything for her. He’s a contractor and doing well.”

Jerry appeared surprised at what his father reported. “Rita should have married Joe.”

“Sorry, about this family discussion, Sam,” Edward said. “We’re glad to have you for the weekend. With Jerry’s wedding coming up, maybe we’ll see you more often. Anything you want or need, just ask any one of us or Mattie, our housekeeper and cook. She’s around most of the time. We’re very informal here, so make your self comfortable.”

“Thank you, sir.” Sam already felt himself relaxing.

“I hope you’ll excuse Tom and me for awhile longer. We have some business to finish.”

Tom had pretended to be busy, but Sam hadn’t missed any of Tom’s actions.

"Elegant Swan" by June Bradley


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