Three Days in April
by Nancy Dolan
For the first time in four long years I relished the arrival of each new day. Before sunrise I made it my habit to spring from bed and set my hands to chores. With the homestead cared for I planted myself in a cane-bottomed rocker on the front porch. There for hours on end, I trained my eyes ever stead forward toward the rickety, half fallen gate at the end of the long travel-worn drive.
I reveled as spring filled the air with scent and sound. Dogwood, mountain laurel, and wild honeysuckle heightened the olfactory senses to the point of an almost sinful nature. Likewise the calls of cardinals, blue jays, and red-breasted-robins peppered the soft caress of the noontime breeze.
The war was over. At long last the cool heads of generals Robert E. Lee and U. S. Grant had quashed the senseless, fighting, maiming and killing. With the surrender at Appomattox peace returned to the nation.
I, just as countless others, could at last put aside fear. My husband would come home not in part but in whole. Prayers of thanks passed my lips as every moment brought my beloved closer to our little home on the banks of Bent Creek.
For the life of me I could not suppress a grin as I rose to my feet, and spread my arms wide to twirl in a circle of dancing joy. My heart pounded the rhythm of Hurry home beloved, hurry home!
Laughter so long suppressed could not be held in check as I dropped back onto the rocker and cupped my hands over the rounded swell of my belly. Yes, my sweetheart, I thought. Daddy’s coming home!
A scant five months ago granted one night’s leave he had come home and in wedded bliss I conceived. For fear of adding further stress to his perilous situation I made no mention of the babe in my letters. Now I ached to see his sweet, sweet smile when I revealed my hard kept secret.
The day ended as the sun began to set over the rim of the western mountains. In that moment of blurring lines between light and dark I detected a slight shadow emerging at the far end of the drive.
My heart leapt to my throat and I squinted my eyes in an effort to discern and recognize my heart’s desire. With trembling hands I gathered my homespun skirts to race down the rutted dirt drive as fast as my feet would allow. Oh, thank you Lord Jesus! I cried from the empty reaches of my heart as joyful tears beyond human comprehension baptized my face.
With a frightful, pain-filled jolt I realized the shadow was a lone foot soldier clothed in a ragtag uniform of Confederate gray. He dragged behind him a crudely fashioned travois burdened with the weight of a blanket-wrapped form.
Held captive by an invisible bond of denial, I stopped my headlong dash to watch in wide eyed horror as he lowered the travois to the ground. With respect, he then removed his kepi to withdraw a frayed scrap of sweat and blood stained paper. “Royal asked me to give you this…just in case.”
I saw his lips move as in a voice both hesitant and apologetic he delivered the tragic news. My husband had fallen, fatally wounded at the Battle of Saylor’s Creek three days before the surrender.
My brain glazed over as like a marionette the strings of purpose led me in a jerky fashion to the family burial plot located close to the house. I willed my knees not to give way as the soldier prepared the earth to receive the body of my beloved. The ground, open and pungent with the odor of renewal, seemed to mock my pain.
Once again I saw the soldier’s bony, arthritic hand remove his kepi to crush it close against his heart. He cleared his throat and with great effort struggled to find words of comfort. “Your husband was a good man, Ma’am. He held you in high esteem.”
I did not speak, nor did I move until he sought to spare me further pain by grasping my elbow to direct my course of action. “You go on back to the house now whilst I finish up here. I’ll be heading on right after I’m done. I…I’m mighty sorry, Ma’am.”
In a shroud of muffled thoughts to foreign to comprehend, I returned to the front porch to resume my place in the rocker. It was then I heard the echo of the soldier’s words…fatally wounded…my Royal had died three days before the surrender.
Three days! My God. My world is ended yet life however painful would without mercy continue. I could not help but think how bitterly true—what a difference a day makes.
Nancy Dolan shares her home in Lynchburg, Virginia with a wonderful family and a multitude of pets. Her seven times great-grandfather, Major Thomas Logwood, fought in the American Revolution. Her father, Harry Logwood, and six uncles served their country in World War Two. Nancy is currently seeking representation for her paranormal-romance novel The Sinister Secret of Pond House.