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As Time Goes By

by Melody Carlson

In 1942 San Francisco, war has touched every part of the Mulligans’ lives. With their brother killed at Pearl Harbor, their father recovering from tuberculosis, and their eldest sister a nurse in the Army, those at home are left to keep on, wondering if it’s possible to thrive…or only to survive.

Pragmatic Margaret struggles with the gap between the dreams she’d always fostered of married life and the reality of having a husband an ocean away—combined with the concerns for the family store in uncertain times. Colleen has always been considered the superficial sister, but when a chance at her dream of Hollywood makes her second-guess her hopes and tragedy shakes her to her core, her family sees a side of her they never expected. Molly, always the hopeful one, dedicates herself fully to the war effort at home—but can all the optimism in the world guard her against harsh reality? Who can she talk to when troubles come?

Each of the Mulligan sisters must do her part to keep the family going—and each must find her own new place as the world shifts under their feet and time goes by.

Chapter 1

May 1942

After six weeks of training and hard work, Colleen Mulligan finally felt like she could hold her own at the airplane factory. Or almost. It’d helped that she’d been befriended by a well-respected coworker during her first week. Audrey Lyons was not only accomplished at her job, she was big and tall—and tough enough that no one, not even the men, gave her much flack. But she was also bossy. That, Colleen decided, was the price she had to pay for her alliance with Audrey. And when Audrey got the management position in their department, Colleen appreciated their friendship even more.

For the most part, Colleen liked her job. She’d learned a lot about aviation electronics, and working on airplane instrument panels kept her busy enough that the days passed quickly. The pay wasn’t bad either. But sometimes, like this morning when she’d suffered a painful burn from a careless coworker’s soldering iron, Colleen seriously questioned why she’d chosen to be a factory worker…especially when she considered how she could’ve been an officer’s wife instead.

On days like today, it wasn’t hard to imagine living in a naval housing unit in San Diego. Sure, Geoff wouldn’t be there with her, and she would miss her family. But compared to her demanding job at this factory, being a housewife was sounding more and more like a life of leisure. She could envision herself as a stylish sort of housewife, hobnobbing with other officers’ wives, volunteering at the USO from time to time… Perhaps she’d even learn to play bridge.

“What’re you daydreaming about?” Audrey elbowed her as she sat down at the lunch table, causing Colleen’s forearm to throb all over again.

“Ouch!” Colleen scowled as she showed Audrey her bandaged arm. “Take it easy, will you? Some of us are injured.”

Audrey’s pale brows arched. “Well, if your burn is that bad, you should go home.”

“It’s not that bad.” Colleen grimaced as she opened her lunch sack. “But thanks for caring, boss.”

“Let me guess, you’re fantasizing about your fiancé flyer again, aren’t you?” Audrey rolled her eyes dramatically. “Probably romanticizing the idea that while you’re in here building the planes… Lieutenant Lover Boy is out there flying them over the South Pacific, shooting down the Zeros.” She chuckled. “You really should be in the movies, Hollywood.”

Colleen was used to her “Hollywood” nickname by now. Audrey had given it to her on her first day at the plant. All because Colleen had been wearing a pretty silk scarf, dark glasses, and red lipstick when they’d initially met outside the building. Unfortunately, most of the other girls, and some of the men, had picked up on the nickname. So to avoid conflict, Colleen usually just played along. Even now, with her aching arm, she held her chin high as she gave a little up-pat to the back of her head—as if it was a stylish do, instead of a faded blue bandana wrapped around her blonde pin curls. “Thanks, darling. I couldn’t agree more.”

“So I’m right then. You were daydreaming about Lieutenant Lover Boy.”

“Maybe I was….” Colleen smiled coyly. She’d already seen a photo of Audrey’s husband Harry. With his chubby cheeks and receding hairline, handsome he was not. Still she knew Audrey loved him and that was all that mattered. Still, Colleen couldn’t help but singing Geoff’s praises from time to time. “After all, you’ve seen pictures of my guy. You have to admit he’s well worth daydreaming over.” She had no intention of admitting she’d actually been imagining an easier line of work—playing housewife on the San Diego Naval Base. Not to Audrey anyway. It was okay to be teased for being overly glamorous, which seemed a further and further stretch, but she didn’t want to be laughed at for being “weak.” Not in this crowd.

Audrey tipped her head to one side as she noisily chewed a bite of apple. “I wasn’t going to mention this, Hollywood.” She lowered her voice. “But there may be an opportunity for a glamour girl like you.”

“Huh?” Colleen stopped peeling waxed paper from her sandwich. “What do you mean?”

“I mean you should probably come to work looking your best tomorrow.” She pointed to Colleen’s cheek. “And maybe check your face from time to time.”

Colleen grabbed her factory bag, which was really just an old purse big enough to carry her lunch and a few other necessities. She quickly removed a worn compact and examined her image in the mirror. Sure enough, she had several ugly black smears of soot or grease. In her early days of work here, she’d taken more care with her appearance. But it wasn’t long before she realized it was pointless. She didn’t even bother with lipstick anymore. Not with rationing making petroleum products more scarce. She planned to save what she had for more important occasions. Like playing bridge with the officers’ wives.

Colleen peered curiously at Audrey as she used a napkin to wipe the smudge from her cheek. “What are you talking about, anyway? What kind of opportunity?”

“I can’t say.” Audrey glanced around the noisy lunchroom. “Just make sure you look your best tomorrow.” She held up a finger. “But in an appropriate-for-work sort of way, you know?”


Audrey pointed at Colleen’s sore arm. “Is that burn pretty bad?”

“Not really. Just painful. The nurse said it probably won’t leave a scar.”

“Wear long sleeves tomorrow.”

“Right, boss.”

“I heard it was Bernice who did it.” Audrey narrowed her eyes slightly.

“That’s right.”

“Was it really an accident?” she whispered.

Colleen shrugged. She had her own suspicions but wasn’t about to voice them—not even to Audrey. She knew enough about factory politics to know it was usually best not to get involved. She also knew Bernice Wagner’s father was in management.

“Well, rumor has it that Bernice has been jealous of you. And it’s not work related.”

Colleen shrugged again, then took a bite of her liverwurst sandwich.

“It started out as soon as you were hired.” Audrey chuckled. “You knocked her down from the top honors as the factory glamour girl. At least, she thought she was.”

“Bernice is a very pretty girl,” Colleen said brightly.

“Well, you better keep your eyes wide open,” Audrey warned. “A burn on the arm is one thing, but if Bernice ever waves that soldering gun in your face, you better make a run for it, Hollywood.”

Colleen forced a smile as she swallowed. “I’ll keep that in mind.” The truth was the same thought had occurred to her in the infirmary today. Bernice was probably a girl to watch out for. Just one more reason Geoff’s proposal was growing more and more tempting. Colleen wondered when his next leave was due.

Margaret Hammond rejoiced when she finally started to fill out the maternity clothes she had meticulously begun sewing shortly after she discovered she was “in the family way.” Mam and Colleen had teased her for donning the new garments so early in her pregnancy, but Margaret had simply felt more comfortable in them. Especially at work. The loose cotton dresses might not be stylish enough for Colleen’s tastes, but they suited Margaret just fine. They didn’t even look too bad with her grocer’s apron on top of them. And several of her customers had inquired as to where she’d gotten them, making her wonder if there might be a future in sewing maternity dresses for sale.

Naturally, she always made sure that her wedding ring was clearly visible for the sake of her more curious customers. Not that anyone had questioned her pregnancy or her marriage to Brian. But some were aware that the couple had barely been married before the bridegroom shipped out. But that wasn’t so unusual these days. And now with Brian so far away, she felt exceedingly grateful to be carrying his child. She was also glad to be nearly five months into her pregnancy, with a nicely rounded middle to show off. She knew some women went into hiding during their pregnancies. But she had no intention of doing anything like that. Like she kept telling everyone, she planned to manage the grocery store right up until the baby came. “And then I’ll put him to work stacking canned goods like building blocks,” she liked to joke with her customers.

“Look how big I am already,” Margaret bragged to Mam and her sisters that evening. As usual, they were gathered in the kitchen after the workday, everyone helping to prepare dinner. She patted her swollen midsection, which always seemed to be larger by the end of the day. “I’ll bet it’s going to be a boy. A big boy too.”

“Sit down,” Mam insisted. “Take a load off your feet, Mary Margaret.”

“That’s right.” Molly pulled out a kitchen chair for her. “According to Bridget’s nursing textbook, an expectant mother shouldn’t be standing all day.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Margaret assured them as she sat down. “I feel more energetic than ever.”

“That’s fortunate.” Mam filled the teapot with hot water. “We’ve been so busy since Goto’s Grocery shut down.”

“That’s for sure,” Margaret agreed. “I think sales have nearly doubled this past month. Although I must admit, it’s sad to imagine the Goto family in an internment camp.” She sighed. “They were nice people. And I miss Natsuko. I find it hard to believe they could’ve been a threat to our country.”

“Except that they are Japanese,” Mam said soberly.

“We discussed the internment camps in social studies this week,” Molly added. “We decided that, even if it’s unfair for some of the Japanese—the ones who have severed all ties to Japan and really consider themselves to be Americans—they may actually be safer in a camp. So many people hate them…simply because they are of Japanese descent.” She paused from peeling a potato. “That would be like hating us because of something that’s going on in Ireland. Even though we had nothing to do with it.”

Mam let out a weary sigh. “I’m afraid that happens too…sometimes. Unfortunately, it is the way of the world. More than ever when we are at war.”

Margaret knew this conversation could go either direction. But she was determined to keep it as positive as possible. “Anyway,” she said in a light tone, “I just really think pregnancy agrees with me. I hope that Brian and I have at least eight children. I mean, after the war ends.”

“Eight babies?” Mam exclaimed. “You may reconsider after you give birth to your first one.”

“Aren’t you sad to lose your figure?” Colleen set a cup of steaming tea in front of Margaret, staring at her with a perplexed expression. “I sure would be.” She stood up straight, striking a pose that showed off her own perfect shape.

Margaret considered this. “To be honest, I was a little concerned about that…at first. But I must say, it was a huge relief to stop wearing that confounded girdle.” They all laughed. “I can understand why mothers let their figures go.”

“Well then.” Mam sounded slightly wounded.

“Present company excluded,” Margaret reassured her. “You’ve managed to keep your figure, Mam. Even after five children. You’re truly an inspiration.”

“Thank you.” Mam patted Margaret on the head.

The four females continued to chatter and joke as they prepared a simple dinner, finally setting it on the kitchen table. They’d taken to eating all their meals in here these past several months. Besides being easier and cozier, it made it less obvious that some family members were missing. But as Margaret looked around the table, she couldn’t help but miss them and long for their return. Although her older brother Peter would never come home again. Not after going down on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. But Bridget and Brian, as well as Geoff and Patrick, would come home someday. At least, she hoped and prayed they would. And then there was Dad, still suffering from tuberculosis. Not so different than the Goto family… He was stuck in an “internment” camp—actually, a sanatorium in the mountains.

Margaret sighed as they bowed their heads, waiting for Molly to say the blessing, which as usual was positive and hopeful and bright. But Margaret knew as well as any of them that the last six months had taken a mighty toll on the Mulligan family. And although she wanted to believe, like Molly did, that life was going to get better for everyone—especially with a baby on the way—sometimes, especially with this horrible war tearing at all corners of the world, it was hard to be faithful. Just last week they’d heard the news of Germany’s devastating air raids on Great Britain’s cathedral cities. Knowing that Brian was in England right now brought no comfort. And who knew how long it would be until US troops would face the Germans? Margaret could hardly stand to think of it!

Chapter 2

Molly Mulligan was eager to get the dinner dishes cleared from the table. Not because they still had some leftover apple pandowdy for dessert, but because this was what Mam called a “red-letter day.” They’d come home to discover mail from Bridget and Brian and Geoff—and although Margaret had already read Brian’s letter, and Colleen had read Geoff’s—Bridget’s V-mail letter remained unopened. Because after dinner was the official time for everyone to gather around to hear the letters read aloud.

“Who wants coffee or tea with dessert?” Molly called out, quickly filling their orders while Colleen and Mam dished up dessert. And then they all sat down at the table.

“I’ll go first,” Margaret offered. “Brian’s letter was rather short. But he sounds well.” She quickly read the letter, which had been mailed from some undisclosed location in Great Britain, deleting a sentence or two that she claimed was too personal to share. “Now it’s Colleen’s turn,” she declared, carefully refolding the V-mail.

Geoff’s letter was longer, but like Brian’s it was vague in regard to specific locations or what exactly he was doing in the South Pacific. And any words that might’ve offered some clue were blacked out. They all knew Geoff flew navy planes off a gigantic aircraft carrier and that his was considered one of the most dangerous flying jobs in the armed forces. But, according to Colleen, Geoff wasn’t only comfortable with it—he loved it. And Molly couldn’t help but think it must be exciting. If women were ever allowed to be navy pilots, she might consider it herself. Although Mam would probably have other ideas.

“And now for Bridget’s letter.” Mam used a table knife to slit open the V-mail, then, clearing her throat, she began to read.

Dear Family,

I miss you all so very much, but I do believe I am exactly where I need to be right now. Thank you for your prayers and letters. Molly, thank you for the photos you sent in your last letter. I love and treasure them.

I know I already told you about being transported by ship to an island somewhere in this big world. But, as you know, I cannot reveal the whereabouts. After we disembarked, we were herded like cattle onto army trucks, then transported to a hospital where we stayed for three days. During that time, we got our land legs back and prepared to be sent to another location. The roads here are very rough, and the long ride was uncomfortable. Our unit was extremely relieved to arrive at our destination, even though it’s in a very remote place.

Our quarters are small tents directly across from the hospital, and we have a banana tree right beside us! I share my tent with two other nurses named Marsha and Judy. They’re from Boston and speak with an interesting accent. They joined the ANC together and are fast friends. They remind me of Virginia and our plans to join the ANC together. But according to her last letter, she finally passed her boards. Pray that she gets assigned to my unit. It would be so wonderful to have a familiar face here.

My tentmates and I work different shifts at the hospital, which is actually a configuration of several very large wall tents divided into several wards. Because some of the tents have open sides, it’s not unusual for chickens to wander right through the wards. But no one seems to mind.

As you can guess, the conditions here are very primitive, so we must rely on our ingenuity and limited resources. For instance, we use our steel helmets for numerous tasks, including as a wash basin, a laundry sink, or even as a stool to sit upon. Our uniform blouses are clean but wrinkled. It’s very hot and humid and dirty here, but I am not complaining. It’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when you see the condition of some of our patients. Yet few of them complain. I am learning so much about nursing too. Things I could never learn back home. Really, each day is a new adventure.

On our day off yesterday, my tentmates and I further explored the island. When we started out, the landscape was dry and dusty, but by the afternoon it began to rain in droves. Everything became muddy and the mosquitoes were relentless, but we still had fun, and I became much better acquainted with Marsha and Judy. They are good girls!

It is very rewarding caring for the wounded soldiers. They are so appreciative, and most of them are in good spirits and can’t wait to return to the battlefront. I feel so fulfilled to be playing this small part in the war effort. And I thank you, my dear family, for making it possible for me to serve like this. I pray for all of you daily. Please, write and tell me how Dad is doing. No one mentioned him in the last letters I received, so I will simply assume that means he is getting better. I know it takes time.

Love and prayers,


Molly let out a happy sigh. “It sounds like Bridget is having a great adventure!”

“Ugh, mud and mosquitoes!” Margaret wrinkled her nose. “Sounds awful.”

“But she has a banana tree outside her door,” Colleen said. “That sounds rather exotic.”

“She sounds lonely to me.” Mam slowly refolded the letter.

“Lonely?” Molly asked. “What about her new tentmates? Sounds like they’re becoming friends.”

“But she misses Virginia,” Mam said.

“Don’t worry so much,” Colleen told Mam. “Bridget is doing exactly what she wants right now.”

Mam frowned. “I just hope she’s safe.”

“Why wouldn’t she be safe?” Molly questioned. “My social studies teacher was telling us about the Geneva Convention Rules this week. Did you know that hospitals are protected even if they’re in war zones?”

“But how do we know Axis forces will honor the Geneva Convention?” Margaret asked her. “Do you really believe they can be trusted?”

No one said anything now…and Molly suspected Margaret could be right about this. “But remember what our first lady said—we must rise above our fears.”

“She’s right,” Colleen agreed. “If we give in to fear, we lose.”

“Well, I will still be lighting candles for all of our loved ones tomorrow.” Mam slowly stood. “And asking God to watch over them.”

“And I am going to write Bridget a letter tonight,” Molly announced. “Well, as soon as I finish helping with the dishes and finish my homework.”

“Tell you what,” Colleen said. “You write Bridget a nice long letter—and say it’s from me too—and I’ll do your portion of the dishes tonight.”

Molly grinned. “It’s a deal.” She knew that, out of everyone in the family, even though she was the youngest—and only sixteen—everyone agreed she was the best letter writer. And since this war started, even before that when Peter went into the navy, she had probably written a hundred letters. Or close to that. Fortunately, Mam never complained about how many postage stamps Molly went through. And Molly suspected that before the war ended, she would go through a whole lot more.

Colleen got up an hour earlier than usual the next morning. Instead of wrapping a bandana around her pinned-up hair, she carefully brushed her platinum locks. Fortunately she’d just touched up her roots a few days ago. And since she’d been growing her hair out to resemble her favorite up-and-coming actress, young Lauren Bacall, it now curled gently on her shoulders. And in Colleen’s opinion, it looked lovely.

Although Colleen normally wore her high-waist denim dungarees to work, topped with one of Dad’s old plaid shirts, she decided to wear a skirt today. Some of the more conservative ladies, who disapproved of women in pants, only wore skirts to work. Of course, their skirts were long and unattractive and, combined with heavy hosiery and homely shoes, were decidedly unstylish.

Colleen always paid close attention to fashion, and even with the challenges of war rationing, she strived to be a trendsetter. When silk stockings became scarce because of the war in Asia Colleen had tried out the new nylon stockings that manufacturers produced to replace them. She quickly discovered the lightweight stockings were preferable to silk! But when Colleen heard that nylon was soon to be rationed—due to the material needed for parachutes for the paratroopers—she had the foresight to stock up on numerous pairs of stockings. She rationalized that she could share the hosiery with her sisters if needed.

Another fashion change, due to the war, was hemlines. Shortages of fabric meant women had been encouraged to shorten and streamline their skirts. Excess fabric removed from the old garments could be used to make children’s clothes or other smaller items for the family or home. Consequently, Colleen had already altered many of her skirts. Today she put on a neat A-line navy skirt, short enough to expose her long legs, and topped this with a tidy powder blue blouse that nearly matched her eyes. To this working-girl ensemble she added a trim brown leather belt and matching brown pumps that she borrowed from Margaret. Her own pair had high heels that were unsuitable for the plant.

“Don’t you look nice!” Mam exclaimed when Colleen joined them for breakfast.

“What’s the special occasion?” Molly asked.

Colleen explained about Audrey’s request for her to dress up. “I honestly don’t know what it’s about.” She frowned. “I just hope I haven’t overdone it. I’m so used to wearing dungarees to work, I feel a little silly.”

Margaret laughed. “Imagine that! Our stylish sister feels like she’s overdressed, and all she has on is a plain blue skirt and blouse.” They all laughed.

“Yes, times have certainly been a-changing.” Mam shook her head as she filled a bowl with oatmeal. “Hard to keep up.”

“I wonder why Audrey wants you to look nice for the airplane factory,” Molly said as she sat down at the table. “She’s not playing a trick on you, is she? I remember when Pricilla Wright told Dottie Harris that she was having a formal birthday party, but she really wasn’t. Dottie showed up in a gown and the rest of us had on everyday clothes.” She chuckled as she stuck her spoon into her oatmeal. “Dottie wanted to kill Pris.”

Colleen considered this. “I think I can trust Audrey. But just in case, I’ll stick my dungarees and a head bandana in my purse. If she’s pulled a fast one, I’ll just do a quick change in the rest room—and then I’ll never speak to her again!” But as Colleen poured coffee, she wondered. What if it was a trick or practical joke? Would she be able to take it graciously?

By the time Colleen was going into the plant, she decided she didn’t care whether it was a trick or not. It felt good to look nice. And with an extra spring in her step and a nonchalant attitude, she held her head high as she put her handbag in her locker. And when someone whistled as she walked by, she simply smiled and held her head even higher. Fine, let them look…she could take it.

“Well, look at you, Hollywood.” Audrey chuckled. “I’m glad you took my advice.”

Colleen studied her closely. “So you were serious?”

“Of course.”

“But you still won’t tell me why?”

Audrey firmly shook her head. “Just try to keep that blouse clean this morning.”

“So it will happen this morning?”

Audrey just shrugged. “I guess.”

Colleen suspected this was all related to a visit from a photographer. Perhaps the plant had someone coming in this morning. Maybe for publicity to promote their war effort. Not so unusual these days. And if that was the case, Colleen would cooperate fully with them.

But the morning passed slowly and, other than a few catcalls from guys and some teasing from the women, nothing out of the ordinary transpired. Well, except that Bernice was acting even more superior than usual. She glowered at Colleen each time she passed by her station. And then finally, just before the noon whistle, Bernice stopped and leaned over to peer at Colleen as if she were on display.

“What’s the special occasion?” Bernice demanded in a snippety tone.

“Whatever do you mean?” Colleen innocently asked.

“You’re all dolled up.” Bernice’s smile was catty. “Like you think you’re going to be photographed or something.”

Colleen just shrugged, turning her attention back to the wire she was twisting into place. Her position on the assembly line didn’t demand the most technical of skills, but it did require close attention. Something she took seriously. She knew her ability to do this detailed work was related to her years of experience with needle and thread. She was a perfectionist.

“So what’s the special occasion?” Bernice demanded, making Colleen jump.

With the needle-nosed pliers held in the air, she frowned at Bernice. It hadn’t slipped past her that her snooty coworker had taken extra care with her appearance as well. In fact, she looked rather stylish—in a factory sort of way. And then, suddenly hoping to bury the hatchet from yesterday, Colleen blinked, as if surprised. “Well, I must say, Bernice, you certainly do look nice today.” She followed this with a bright smile. “Very stylish.”

Bernice stepped back, seemingly caught off guard.

“That red blouse really sets off your dark hair.” Colleen studied her more closely. “You look very pretty.” And that was the truth. Despite her less than warm nature, Bernice was rather attractive in a Joan Crawford sort of way.

“Well, uh, thanks.” Bernice gave her a nervous nod and then moved on.

Colleen smiled to herself as she turned back to her work. Maybe that was the best way to deal with Bernice—kill her with kindness. And if it worked, it would be well worth the effort. Still, Colleen couldn’t help but wonder about Audrey’s insistence that Colleen look extra nice this morning. As a result, when the lunch whistle blew, she felt a real sense of letdown. Nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, and her effort to fix herself up seemed pointless. Not only that, but having her hair loose like this was hampering her work. She had almost expected the plant manager to make a comment about it. But he hadn’t made his rounds yet.

“So should I assume I dressed up for nothing?” Colleen asked Audrey as they walked to the employee’s locker room after lunch.

“I’m sorry.” Audrey frowned. “Maybe so.”

“Then I’m changing into real work clothes.” Colleen grabbed up her handbag and, making a beeline for the bathroom, quickly changed into dungarees, then secured her old blue bandana around her head to hold back her hair. She even rolled up her shirt sleeves, exposing the ugly white bandage on her forearm. So much for glamour in the workplace.

Her only goal now was to finish up that instrument panel by the end of the day. Because it was Friday, it would be nice to have it wrapped up before the weekend. And whatever pilot wound up having it in his plane would probably appreciate she’d given it her full and careful attention. Colleen took pride in her work, and she’d made no secret about being engaged to a navy pilot. She frequently reminded fellow workers that men’s lives depended on their flying machines to function perfectly.

“Hold it right there, miss.”

Colleen stopped what she was doing and started to look up.

“No, I mean it. Hold it right there. Don’t stop what you’re doing,” the man’s voice commanded with authority.

And so, feeling conspicuous, Colleen continued to tighten the tiny screw into place. But from the corner of her eye, she could see that several men were clustered around her station. And although she hadn’t noticed it before, the light was brighter than usual. Plus, the nearby whirring sound indicated that someone was operating a movie camera. Despite her aggravation at having changed into her sloppy work clothes, she was determined to play this out—hopefully with some panache. Adjusting her posture and holding her chin at what she hoped was a good angle, she continued her task, hoping that she didn’t have a smudge of grease on her nose.

“Cut,” someone finally said. “That’s perfect.”

“May I look up now?” she asked tentatively.

“Yes, of course,” a male voice answered.

She looked up to see several men in suits. One held a large motion picture camera, another a light bar, a third a clipboard, and an older portly gentleman, who appeared to be in charge, simply looked on. She smiled brightly at him.

“Does this mean I’m going to be a star?” she said in a light and teasing tone.

“What’s your name?” the man with the clipboard asked while the older man’s forehead creased with what appeared to be disapproval. Perhaps she did have a smudge on her nose.

“Colleen Maureen Mulligan,” she proudly told him, resisting the urge to rip off the ugly bandana and run it over her nose and cheeks.

“Is this all you do?” He pointed at the panel she was assembling with an unimpressed expression.

“Well, yes. But it’s a very important job.” She shook her small screwdriver at him. “Everything we do here is important. If any one of us fail to give our best effort, it could cost a serviceman his life.” And now, feeling like she was on her soapbox again, she explained how her fiancé was a navy flyer and how she gave every task her full attention because of it.

“Stop!” The old man held up his hand, and she knew she’d said too much.

“Sorry,” she mumbled in embarrassment. “I guess you can see I’m passionate about my work.”

Ignoring her, the man turned to his crew. And, feeling dismissed and insignificant, she tried not to stare as they held an impromptu conference meeting nearby. Then, realizing it was getting late in the day, she returned to her work. She really wanted to ask them what their film footage would be used for, but based on her interaction with the old curmudgeon, she suspected her “performance” might end up on the cutting floor anyway. He clearly did not like her.

Colleen was just finishing up the last step on her panel when the head manager, Arnold Perry, walked up to her station. “I need to talk to you,” he said solemnly.

“Uh, okay.” She set down her pliers and nervously stood.

“Come to my office.”

Colleen felt seriously worried as she followed the gangly middle-aged man across the factory floor. He must’ve observed her this morning, working with her hair down. She was well aware women were expected to either keep their hair tied back or covered with scarves, or else to use those hideous granny hairnets. But she’d thoroughly brushed her hair this morning, and she always kept a close eye on everything in her station while working. She felt certain that not a single hair had tumbled from her head. And being that her hair was so pale and platinum, she could easily spot a fallen lock. Still, she realized as she followed him up the stairs, it had been careless and irresponsible. Not to mention stupid! And if her recklessness had cost her this job, she would be truly devastated. Not to mention humiliated.