Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, early 1919
With his gut churning, Clarence Samuel Swenson tensed against the wave of dizziness, a holdover from his head injury. “I will not pass out, I will not pass out,” he chanted to himself. He hated this weakness. He had been injured while in army training and never even left the country. He spent most of his time in the army in New York, first in a hospital, then in a rehabilitation center.
He had taken the train to Minneapolis to give his regards to Cecil. He and Jens, her fiancé, had become good friends in boot camp. Clarence closed his eyes and sent a quick prayer to Jens. He hoped he hadn’t suffered too much when he was killed in battle so far from home.
Clarence meant to send a letter introducing himself, but he wasn’t good with letters. He hoped Cecil would see him, talk with him without a proper introduction.
“Excuse me, Miss Hauge?” Clarence asked, “may I introduce myself? My name is Clarence Swenson. I was a friend of Jens’.” Clarence removed his hat and bowed.
Cecil froze at the mention of Jens’ name. Her pain was still sharp. But curiosity got the better of her. “Yes, I am Cecil Hauge. How did you know Jens?”
“We were in boot camp together and became good friends. He talked about you. He couldn’t wait to get home to marry you. His family told me where to find you. I don’t mean any harm or disrespect. I just want to pay my respects. Jens was a good man.”
“Yes, he was,” Cecil whispered, “a very good man.”
“Will you let me buy you coffee and we can talk more about him?” asked Clarence.
“I know I am being forward, but it would feel good to talk about Jens. Your friend is welcome to come along.”
Cecil wasn’t sure she wanted to talk about Jens but felt that Clarence needed to. And, she wasn’t going to step out with a man just after meeting him without her best friend Christine by her side.
“I was born in Tacoma, Washington,” Clarence told the girls over coffee and cake.“We moved a lot, my parents and sister and I. My father was always chasing his dreams. I was called up to join the army. Jens and I met on the first day at camp. We had so much in common, both of us first generation Americans with Norwegian parents.”
Cecil liked Clarence’s quiet demeanor, his serious eyes. He looked kind. “I think I want to see him again”, she told Christine as they walked home to the boarding house where they had lodgings.
Clarence was lost in his own thoughts. Why did he just notice how blue here eyes were? How they sparkled when she laughed. “I think I want to see her again,” he said to himself as he walked to the hotel where he had a room.