Maddie read the letter. She received it in the mail from Sergeant McCoy who telephoned her to tell her that General Turpentine had asked him to send it to her. He had even provided the money for the postage stamps. Maggie checked the mailbox before heading to church.
She took the letter out and stared at it for a long time before slipping it in her handbag. It was a cloudy day but rain wasn’t in the forecast. After church, she would go to the park or somewhere quiet and read the letter.
And here she was now, reading it, her heart pounding as her eyes eagerly read the scrawled handwriting.
March 3, 1946
After our telephone conversation, I felt compelled to write you this letter.
I was happily married with two children. I met my wife, Jane in Sydney, Australia in the autumn of 1935. We took an immediate liking to each other and courted until I returned to America. In 1936, I returned to Sydney to ask Jane to marry me. We got married there and after our honeymoon in Bali, we came to New Hampshire and moved into a house in a nice, quiet neighborhood.
Life was good here in New Hampshire until I received my papers. It was tough saying goodbye to Jane and the children. I have never been anywhere except to Sydney and Bali and now I was going to North Africa. I had no choice. America had entered the war and I believed in what we were fighting for. So, I said goodbye to my family and left. I didn’t know if I would see them or New Hampshire again. I had my book of prayer with me which gave me strength and encouragement.
My life changed when I went to North Africa. My entire world changed that evening when I met you for the first time, Maddie. Your quiet and graceful manner really struck a chord with me. I felt as if I had nothing to worry about. Being with you and talking to you gave me hope and made me believe that the good guys would win. Those evenings you and I spent together meant the world to me. I lived for them. Leaving you and the base was the hardest thing I had to do–it was much harder than leaving Jane and the children. When I was fighting, I was determined not only to neutralize the enemy but to return to you. Then, that sniper got me. As I lay there, wounded, I thought only of you and how I must fight to live so that I could see you again.
I knew that we didn’t have a future together because I was married and because of a stupid, racist man-made law and that’s why I left the hospital and came back here to my family. I was physically here, Maddie but my mind and my heart were in North Africa with you. I thought about you every single day, wondering how you were and then, I got your Christmas card. You have no idea how many times I read it, wishing that I could write you but I had no address. Then, by a stroke of luck or Divine intervention, I ran into Sergeant McCoy who gave me your telephone number.
Oh, Maddie, it was so good hearing your sweet voice. How I longed to see your lovely face. I wanted us to see each other but you refused. You told me to do the impossible–to forget about you but I can’t. It’s like asking me not to breathe. I love you, Maddie. I love you so much that sometimes, I think I’ll go out of my mind.
Jane overheard me tell you that I love you and after you hung up, she questioned me. I hated hurting her but when she asked if it weren’t for the law which is keeping you and me apart, if I would leave her and the children, I said yes. It’s true, Maddie. I would leave them for you. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with another woman when I’m married to Jane who has been such a wonderful wife and mother but it has happened. I didn’t plan for it to happen but it did. I’ll understand if you don’t want to see me or have any contact with me. All I want is to know that you’re all right. I hope that you will write me or send me a postcard or something.
I wish I had a photo of you. I’ve enclosed one of myself. One of the soldiers took it when we were at the base and mailed it to me shortly after I returned to New Hampshire. As you can see I’m not happy in the photo and that’s because I was leaving you to go and fight. It was by the grace of God that I didn’t die from the sniper’s bullet. Whenever you look at the photo, remember the wonderful evenings we spent together, talking and getting to know each other. I want you to know I’ve quit smoking because of you.
I will never forget you, Maddie and I will never stop loving you. I hope that we will see each other again one day. Until that time–if it ever comes, please take care of yourself.
Maddie took the photo out of the envelope and stared at it for a long time. Then, she held it and the letter against her pounding heart. Oh, James, she whispered brokenly, closing her eyes.