1942, Birmingham, Alabama
He was almost just another soldier, one of hundreds coming through
Birmingham, Alabama, every day from camps all over the South. Almost.
But the redhead thought he was very handsome. She watched him as he
got up from the leather booth and walked toward her past tables with
red- and white-checked cloths and straw covered Chianti bottles.
His hazel eyes twinkled with curiosity, and his full lips curved in
a slight smile.
The redhead did not know much about uniforms, but she noticed the
soldier's trousers bloused into his boots and silver parachute wings
gleaming on his chest.
"Hello, Beautiful," he said in a Yankee accent. Soldiers
flirted with her all the time, but this man sounded sincere, as if
he had been looking for her and was happy to have found her.
"Hello, yourself," she said in the sassy way she had learned
to talk while waiting tables at Romeo's Café.
"What's your name?" the soldier asked.
She looked directly into his eyes. "What's your favorite name
for a girl?" she asked.
"Ann," he replied.
"What a coincidence," she said, "That's my name."
Opal knew that most soldiers were looking for a substitute for the
girl back home.
"Ann," he said, "I'm Nicky Bonilla."
"Well, hello, Nicky Boy," she said, still talking sassy.
A bigger smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, and he said, "'Nicky
Boy.' I like the way you say that. How'd you like to go out with me
after you get off work?"
"I'm sorry," the girl said, "I have a date."
"Then how about next Saturday night?" he said.
"Will you be in Birmingham next Saturday night?" she asked.
"If you promise to go out with me, I will be," he said.
"All right," she said, wondering if he would show up. "Next
Nicky grinned, and his eyes twinkled more brightly. He put his cap
on his head and walked jauntily out the door.
When the paratrooper was gone, the blonde standing next to the redhead
asked, "Opal, why did you tell him your name is Ann?"
"Evelyn," she said, "you know I hate my name."
"Well, an opal is a gem, and the name suits your looks."
With red hair, green eyes, ivory skin, and a golden sprinkle of freckles
across her nose, Opal was a fiery beauty.
"My name is old-fashioned and countrified," Opal said. "My
older sister is named Pearl. My sister Dorothy is just lucky she wasn't
Evelyn patted Opal's arm and said, "Hon, when a girl is as pretty
and sweet as you are, it doesn't matter what her name is. Mr. Romeo
is giving me the evil eye. I've got to go to my table."
Going into the kitchen, Al Romeo smiled at Opal and said, "You
gonna give that fine-looking soldier a break, or you gonna give him
the cold shoulder?"
"He's a bold one," Opal said.
"Alfredo! Presto!" Mrs. Romeo called from the kitchen.