They sat together on the bench, the soldier and the lady, Havanah. So much to say yet no words would suffice. It had been just three short weeks, actually nineteen days since they had met and yet it felt like an eternity. They shared splendid days in the sunshine, relaxing beside the river, strolling along the boardwalk and laughing. Her laughter made his heart pound while his smile brought a tear to her eye. Never had either felt so much tenderness or adoration for another. They relished every single moment together making them last. He stored them away like cherished photographs to bring to mind again when had gone and the memories began to fade. They held hands and hugged and kissed until late into the evening. He wanted more, but she was a lady after all, and he respected that.
He struggled for the words as they sat in silence, miserably, as their final hours together slipped by. Finally, he jumped up, grabbed her hand and pulled her to him. Holding her close, he felt her warm breath on his neck and then a single teardrop. “Will you wait for me?” he whispered in her ear.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and held him close. Her mind searched for an answer…the perfect words. They would not come. She could not speak. She had so much to say, yet spoke in silent sentences. From the first glance, the first
smile, the first kiss, she knew it couldn’t last. In fact, she had counted on that. She enjoyed the sudden infatuation they had both experienced when meeting that hot July evening. She had unexpectedly found herself falling for his quick wit and Kentucky charm. She had fought the feelings, as a tempestuous beehive churned inside of her stomach. Obviously there was no future with him or anyone else for that matter. She had envisioned this as just another safe, innocuous relationship. A soldier, set to go to war; so romantically impractical. He wouldn’t be looking for a commitment, or a relationship, just a good time, and that was all she could offer. That was all he would get…even if this time, with this man, she felt something more.
He pushed her away and said once again with a bit more desperation, “Will you wait for me?” His eyes narrowed as he studied her face, searching for an answer. Again she strained to find the words. Just tell him, she thought to herself. Just tell him the truth and set him free. She would not. She could not. She had never told another soul her unspeakable secret. Tonight would not be the night.
Not wanting to hurt the young man’s feelings, or send him off to war with a broken heart, she held his face in her soft hands and said, “of course I will.” He beamed at that and hugged her tight. They talked and planned and promised until
the sun crept over the horizon. They walked hand in hand for the last time down the quiet city sidewalks toward her home. As they passed a beautiful, blooming rose bush, he reached out and plucked a perfect pink bud. He handed it to her. She flashed him a reluctant smile. Crystal teardrops fell, stretching into salty icicles of frozen apprehension. Havanah took the flower, knowing in her heart that it would be the last rose he would ever give her.
Many years later Havanah reached into the closet and pulled down a worn and tattered shoebox. Shaking hands lifted the top off the box and tenderly pulled out the pile of faded, yellow letters. There were well over a hundred, all still sealed and unopened. They were bound together with just a simple piece of twine. Havanah meticulously untied the perfect little bow, all the while staring affectionately at the one that had appeared in the mailbox just today. Havanah traced the flap along the back of the letter, tempted, yet careful not to tear it open. The crisp white envelope was placed on top of the pile and the string was delicately tied into yet another flawless bow.
The stack of letters sat there on the table for hours as the sun dropped from the sky in another unremarkable sunset. The fading daylight brought on the five o’clock shadow while he chain smoked a half a pack of Marlboros alone again in the curse of solitude. Finally, he placed them back into the tattered shoebox, being extra cautious not to crush the brittle, brown rosebud lying in the corner of the box.