ONE-SHOT The story of a young woman who lost her man in the Civil War. She thinks of him and what she must do to search for another husband.
The wind rattled my shutters and howled around the yard. Papa was out; he had to go to town for food and would not return for several more hours. The lonely countryside outside of Akron, Ohio seemed to float on the dry breezes bringing scents of fighting. The war raged on, and Samuel had been in the middle of it. I turned my head away from the window. Thinking about it was painful.
"Now you listen Abbie Brooks." I repeated to myself, imagining the stern face of my friend saying it. "The ghost will only haunt you if you dream. Move on."
My close friend Lucy had told me those very words when I had last visited the day before. Just to make sure, she copied them onto the back of her picture that she left with me. She had been packing just to visit relatives when I had stopped by with Papa. I had given her my own card and made her promise to show her cousins who have returned from fighting. She in turn gave her mine so I could have a piece of her while she was gone. Already I missed her.
My thoughts began to travel down that inevitable road back to Samuel. My dear Samuel Overmyer. Had you not told me before you left that you promised to return? That we would marry and you would have enough money for a fine farm after the war? But you broke that promise. You joined that Infantry Regiment just like you said you would, despite my pleading. And then you went down there, my soldier in blue, and passed beyond my reach deep within Georgia in the very land you so disliked.
It had not only displeased me, it had disappointed father. He had been planning on the marriage for so long, and now I am left to desperately search for a husband. I cannot die a poor maid who never had the chance at a family of her own. But such is the way of war, as sweet Lucy had told me.
"People come and go Abbie, and it is unfortunate that he was one of the ones to leave. There will be another Samuel, who you will love too."
That very talk with Lucy had stirred me to reach for another husband. So I had traveled to town with Papa in search of a good photographer. There was one well-known one in Akron, and so we made an appointment for my picture to be taken. This, as father had told me, would then go to unmarried men not in the war so I could find a suitable husband.
I tugged on my lace collar, remembering the return trip. It had been dusty and in the chaos of dirt encouraged by the wind and what the horses kicked up I had lost my bonnet. It flew into the dried fields, a fine blue flower amidst the dying yellows and burnt browns. I can still visualize the way it seemed to hover for a second, just as Samuel's blue eyes once did. He had almost stood a head taller than I. He had joked that our son would have been a head taller than he. I had hoped that son would have eyes as blue as Samuel's.
I turned from the mirror to the table and stared at the cards that decorated the top. Each picture was the same, all displaying my face, the finest lace collar I had and my curly locks. Samuel had always said that my curly hair was one of my best features. The photographer had agreed.
Seeing those pictures had brought me back to the day they were taken. The sun had been beating down mercilessly. I remember Papa spitting and muttering about the heat. I was uncomfortably warm in my Sunday dress, but I steeled myself against the sweltering day. The photographer was very kind and his wife, Maggie, had offered Papa and me water as her husband set up the camera. I was made to sit before a plain backdrop and he had me positioned in several ways until he found one that "released my inner beauty". My head was turned slightly to the side, looking straight forward so as to get a good view of my profile and hair. Papa and I returned several days later to retrieve the finished cards and I was pleased. Papa had bought me a new necklace in honor of it.
I glanced down to my chest where the necklace rested. The fine silver cross glittered in the sunlight from the windows and I smiled slightly. Some things would always remain constant. Jewelry would always shine under the sun, even if men died and hearts burned.
Before getting the pictures done my thoughts had considered what I was doing. It would mean giving up on Samuel. I would not be able to see those blue eyes, or feel his strong arms hold me. I ached for him, and knew I could love no one else but him. I had felt like I was being disloyal at first. It was as though I was betraying my love by trying to remarry. The guilt felt heavier than ever then, until Lucy reminded me of what Samuel would have wanted. My happiness, he had told me, was one of his main priorities, and if I could not be happy with him, he would want me to find another. I had felt relieved then, but justifying myself seemed silly, and I still harbored some guilt deep in my heart.
Attempting to push those thoughts away, my eyes traveled down to the pictures again and I realized how many had yet to be given out. Lucy had taken several for her cousins, and Amelia still needed to take some too. My search for a husband had really begun.
Oh, Samuel. Why is it that you are gone? I had felt that fighting would not have been the best, but the army needed men, and you were willing to go. I miss you Samuel Overmyer. Your blue eyes, your warm embrace, and the protection and love you promised. I promise to remain yours forever, no matter where I am taken. Did you think of me when you felt your life leaving you? I will think of you for an eternity. I am yours, Samuel, and you are mine. Even if I cannot see you again, I long to be where you have been. Traveling to the rooms you once stood in and sensing your soul is at rest. I will love you always, my Samuel.