A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Chapters 52 - 54
Francie helps out a female acquaintance from work by going on a date with her fiancée's friend. His name is Lee Rhynor and he is tall and gangly. The two hit it off and talk for hours about how Brooklyn is magical, their hopes, dreams, fears, and future. He says he is engaged, but continues doting on Francie. They see each other for days until he tells her he must leave for war. He tells her he loves her, wants to marry her, does not love the woman to whom he is engaged, and that he wants to sleep with her before he goes to war where he might die. She tells him she loves him and would sleep with him, but not now. They embrace and Francie is kissed for the first time. She tells him she will wait until he returns to marry him. "And he asked for her whole life as simply as he'd ask for a date. And she promised away her whole life as simply as she'd offer a hand in greeting or farewell." Chapter 52, pg. 450. Francie works hard all week, but writes him daily as she promised. She finally gets a letter; however, it is a letter from his wife. He had played a trick on her by pretending to be in love with her and married his fiancée when he returned to Pennsylvania. Francie is heartbroken and cries to her mother. She tells her everything that happened, including the fact that she thinks she should have slept with him. Katie is mortified of the cruelty enacted to her now grown daughter. "It's come at least...the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache...they walk out in all innocence and they walk right into the grief that you'd give your life to spare them." Chapter 53, pg. 453. Francie starts to write a letter to Ben telling him that she needs him, but crumples it up wanting someone to need her instead.
Katie tells the children that Sergeant McShane is visiting them in a week and that she has a feeling that he wants to marry her. She wants to get their opinions on him as a father beforehand. He comes over and reminds them that his wife died a year ago and Johnny died two and a half years ago and that he wants to marry Katie. He very respectfully and graciously tells them that has over ten thousand a year in income and will happily put the children through college and wants to legally adopt Laurie. He doesn't expect Francie and Neeley to call him father at all. Katie accepts because she thinks he is a good man and also misses having the love of a man. She will never forget Johnny and neither will Francie and Neeley. And although Laurie will have a much easier life than they did, Francie and Neeley pity her for missing out on the fun and the strength that they built struggling in their youth.