War Crossed by Joanne Faries
Joseph Kelly III, struck mute from the Gettysburg battle near the farm, communicated with me in varied ways. I milked two cows and he fetched buckets, his limp lessened each day. Slender fingers weaved straw dolls for baby Mary. Her gurgling smile unfurrowed his brow. His blond hair tousled, blue eyes unwaveringly trusting.
Our hug goodnight now included a kiss. The only barrier to welcome him to my bed was my husband's shadow. I assumed Thomas survived. War ended and he should be home soon. Joseph would return to Philadelphia and resume studying law. I knew this from notes he wrote in answer to my questions. Notes nestled near my bible.
City boy. Farm girl. Our paths never to cross save for the war. My young girl heart long ago vowed loyalty to Thomas. Roughhewn, he provided for Mary and me. My womanly heart - alas, time to sever from nursing a soldier to health, new love, and newfound tenderness.
One June morning, I woke with dread. Joseph, dressed in his mended Union garb, bent over Mary's cradle and kissed her forehead. He stood, embraced me, and whispered in my ear, "I'll remember you forever, Kathleen."
I, struck mute, watched this strapping man stride out of my life.
An hour later, a neighbor arrived on horseback with a telegram. Thomas. Long dead, never finished the march to Atlanta. I sobbed. Tears streamed, soaking the telegram in one hand, ribbon bundled notes in the other.
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