Nellie (The Brides of San Francisco I)
April 28, 1865
RAP! RAP! RAP!If only she could fix her problems with a needle and thread she’d be set. Nellie looked up from the socks she was darning toward the knocking on the front door.Who could that be? She set aside the socks, straightened her dress, checked her reflection in the mirror on the wall in the hall, patted her blond hair back into place and then answered the door.“Mrs. Robert Wallace?” asked the soldier in dress uniform who stood at attention on her front porch.Oh, God. No. Please. No. “Yes,” she said, trying to keep the tremor from her voice. “I…I’m Mrs. Wallace.”The young soldier handed her an envelope. “I regret to have to inform you that Lieutenant Robert Wallace was killed at the Battle of Appomattox on April 8, 1865. I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Wallace.”Nellie didn’t know what to say over the lump in her throat. She always knew this could happen—from the first moment Robert joined, to his last farewell eight months before Violet was born.“I, uh, thank you, Officer…”“Black, ma’am. Sergeant Black.”“Thank you for letting me know, Sergeant.” Her grip tightened on the door knob. “I…I have to sit down now.”“Of course, ma’am. Do you need help?”Nellie shook her head. “No. Thank you. I’ll be alright.”The man saluted her, turned and walked down the sidewalk to the waiting carriage.How many of these calls did he have to make today? Was I the only one? I doubt it. Not in a city the size of New York.She closed the door and leaned against the wall next to it, her legs no longer able to support her, she slid to the floor. Tears left salty trails on her face, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember crying. Screaming, cursing God, yes, but crying, no. Even though our marriage wasn’t what I’d dreamed it could have been when I was a child, I shall miss him. He had his good side, he was funny and could make her laugh. He was gentle every where except…no I will not think about that now. I endured and have two beautiful children.How am I to tell Henry his father is dead? Violet was just a baby and didn’t know her daddy but Henry… Her son missed his father something fierce. Robert had doted on Henry. They spent so much time together that Henry cried for days when his father left the last time. And now I have to tell him his father is never coming home. How do I do that?She wiped her cheeks with the backs of her hands, took the hanky from her apron pocket and blew her nose. No need to put it off. The task would be difficult enough, without waiting and making it harder. Perhaps she and Henry could grieve together. In any case, she needed to be strong for her son and daughter. She was all they had now.Taking a deep breath, she mounted the stairs to the play room and her children.