Read an excerpt from the story 'Moment of Peace' by Jove Belle:
Rose set the last of the dinner dishes in the industrial stainless steel sink as the opening strains of the show filtered through the canvas walls of the kitchen. The suds had long since given up and the water was tepid at best, and she wondered for the hundredth time why she thought joining the WACs was a good idea. She was doing the same exact thing she’d done all her life, cleaning up after messy men who never thought to say thank you. Only now, instead of her father and brothers, she did it for the hundreds of soldiers on an island she hadn’t known existed until she received her orders. So much for weapons maintenance, the job Uncle Sam promised her. Sure, she’d been shown where that job was done just before they told her there was no need and sent her to the kitchen.
“Oh, Rose, it’s starting. Hurry.” Alma was a petite woman, slight in stature, and easily overlooked. But her mind was sharp. Sharp enough to get her assigned to communications, but not sharp enough to keep from being reassigned to the kitchen along with Rose. Still, Rose admired the way she paid attention and caught details others missed. Like how they were constantly coming up short on forks. Alma was the one who discovered that a few of the soldiers were trading them with the locals for handmade trinkets to send home. Rose hadn’t even considered that. She was frustrated by the loss and annoyed that her ass kept getting chewed over it but never once did she think it was intentional. Who steals forks for God’s sake?
“We’re almost done.” Rose rinsed a plate and handed it to Alma. “Only a few more left.”
“I don’t want to miss anything important.” Alma’s dishtowel was more wet than dry at this point, and all she managed to do was push the moisture around on the plate without actually drying anything. Rose didn’t care. She’d signed up to serve her country during the war, but she hadn’t thought that would literally mean serve them breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
“They’ll start with the news reels.” Rose finished the last plate and drained the water in the sink. She knew everything she needed to know. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States of America jumped into the Second World War, and Rose watched her brothers march away while their neighbors cheered. Two years later, after the speedy victory they’d been promised hadn’t happened, the army changed their opinion about women serving during wartime. Nobody cheered when she signed up, but she figured that was fine. She still wanted to do her part, and the victory garden behind her house wasn’t enough.
“Oh, I love the news.” Alma sighed in a way that shouldn’t have made Rose’s stomach tighten, but it did. She gazed at Alma, finally done with the work and able to enjoy the reason she’d volunteered to stay late and let the others go back to the barracks early. Alma’s eyes took on a faraway look as though she were remembering a more romantic place and time. That’s what Alma did. She romanticized everything, saw things with little hearts drawn around the outside edges. Still, no matter how many times she saw Alma with that dreamy little smile, Rose’s breath caught in her throat and she couldn’t stop the grin from climbing up her face.
“Here.” Rose reached for the last dish and the towel. Her fingers brushed against Alma’s and the charged thrill made her pause in motion. She stopped, hand on the plate, barely touching Alma, and completely unable to remember how to breathe. They stared at each other for several long moments and the dreamy look in Alma’s eyes was replaced by something darker, something needier. Instead of a tingle, this time Rose’s stomach clenched.
Alma broke contact first. “Yes…um…right.” She drew her hands away and held them behind her back. She looked anywhere but at Rose.
Rose finished with the plate, tossed the towel into the laundry bag, and picked up the stack of plates. It was just heavy enough to make her biceps flex and the small intake of breath told her that Alma noticed, too. Rose wore her uniform with the shirt sleeves rolled up. She’d started that as soon as she’d connected Alma’s soft sighs to the movement of her arms. Rose tightened her grip to accentuate her muscles, and lifted the plates onto the shelf. When she finished, she dusted her hands together, then turned to Alma. “All done. You ready to go?”
Alma sucked in her bottom lip and held it between her teeth for a moment. It was such a subconsciously sexy thing that Rose gripped the edge of the sink to hold herself in place. If Alma knew she was doing it, she’d stop out of embarrassment and Rose didn’t want that to happen. Their relationship was in a weird, strained place, stuck between friends and something more. They shared heated looks, and even a few kisses that could have been more, but Alma still went on dates with a skinny private who was so young he had acne and his face turned red when he tried to hold Alma’s hand. Rose hated him on principle alone.
Rose smiled, lopsided and cocky because Alma liked it when she smiled like that. Alma still hadn’t responded to Rose’s question; she simply stood there, biting her lip as her eyes grew darker and her face flushed with heat. Rose took a small step toward her, just enough to let Alma see her interest, but not enough to push. “You wanna go clean up first? Or is Phillip waiting for you?”
Alma shook her head, a confused almost smile on her lips. “No date tonight. I…”
A thrill bloomed inside her and Rose took another careful step forward. “You…what?”
Alma took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and looked Rose right in the eyes. “I want to spend the evening with you.” Her bluster faded a bit and she hastily added, “If that’s what you want, I mean.”
Rose nodded, and even though she could feel her head bobbling like a doll at a carnival, she couldn’t stop herself. “Yes, I definitely want.”