The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 29 Part III

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The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 29 Part III

  1. 1. It’s the chapter you’ve all been waiting for: Alice and Nick’s war chapter. I know that I’m glad to have thisout finally so that I don’t need to be so veiled in all of my conversations about what happens next. If youchoose to read only one of the war chapters, this should be the one as it’s the one that will move the plot ofthe main family forward.For all the War Chapters, the warnings are the same: language, subject matter, and character casualties.War is not pretty, so there are parts of these chapters that will deal with difficult subjects.I think that’s all. Please enjoy Part Three of Chapter 29: The War Years.
  2. 2. Nowadays, people like to refer to my generation as the Greatest Generation.I’ve never really liked that term. So many generations of Simericans did so many great things. What was itabout my generation that made us so special?Yes, our formative years took place with the shadow of the Great Depression over us, and we came of ageunder the darkness of a world war the likes of which had never been seen before. But why does thatmakes us special? There were jobs to be done, and we did them. It’s as simple as that as far as I’mconcerned.Perhaps we get such praise because the younger generations are more selfish. Perhaps it’s because ofthe nostalgia and romanticism of that era. I suppose it doesn’t really matter in the long run.
  3. 3. But I digress from the original purpose of my writings. Even if I don’t feel that my generation deserves tobe called the Greatest, I do believe that we have stories that should be told and heard. Stories of love andloss. Stories of sacrifice. Stories of bravery. Stories that have happy endings, and some that sadly do not.Because of that, I asked my family and friends to share their stories about their experiences during the waryears, so that our children and grandchildren might have a better understanding of why we became whowe are.It was not easy for us to share our stories. There was so much pain and sorrow, more than some shouldhave to bear in their lifetimes. But even with all that strife, when the war ended we managed to be happyagain sometimes. It was not the same happiness we’d known in our childhood; it was sweeter somehow,as if we’d earned that right through the shedding of our blood and tears.
  4. 4. I do hope that those who read this gain a greater appreciation and understanding of what we did and saw.Perhaps we are the Greatest Generation after all – as we have some of the greatest stories to share.Alice K. BradfordSeptember 2, 1950
  5. 5. Dear Alice,I’ve arrived at basic training in one piece, though I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to say that.They’re running us pretty ragged, with early mornings, lots of physical activity, and military training. I thinkmy platoon (is that the right word? It’s what all the other outfits are called, so I’m going to use it) is gettingoff a little easy because we’re all headed to medical units of some sort, so we aren’t going to be soldiers inthe same way the infantry men are. But there’s still a lot for us to learn, just in case.I’m hoping these next eleven weeks go by fast, because I’m looking forward to putting the military part ofthe training behind me, and getting back to my medical training. I’m sure that there’s a lot I can learn, onceI get into a hospital.How are you and Mom holding up? I can’t wait to hear from you, and about all the goings-on back inSimsfield. I know you and everyone else will write often.I miss you terribly, but I know I made the right decision by joining up. Just think, I’ll be able to hang up mydoctor’s shingle once this is all over. Which I hope is soon.All my love,Nick
  6. 6. My darling Nick,Your letter letting us know that you arrived at training safely has already been read nearly to tatters.Between me, your mom and dad, and Dotty, it’s been read at least twenty times. I know that you’ll bebusy, but I hope that you keep writing as often as you can.A lot has happened since you left. Rosalie dropped out of college, and she and Bruce were married. SinceI had the audacity to get married before her, I was denied the privilege of being one of her bridesmaids.That left poor Shirley to do it, and I swear that Rosalie picked out the pinkest and frilliest dress she couldfor her to wear. The wedding was lovely, but it would have been even lovelier if you were there to share adance or two with me. She and Bruce have settled in Portsimouth for the time being.Dotty’s headed off to college, as has Shirley. I feel bad leaving Shirley all alone to fend for herself, but Imade Dotty promise that she’d make sure to keep an eye on her and make sure she wasn’t moping toobadly. I’ll have to make a point of meeting up with her every now and then when I visit Rosalie.
  7. 7. Danny headed off for his basic training, and then he’ll be off to Naval Officer Training School. He’ll besomewhere stateside for a year after he finishes his basic training, something that has your mom quiterelieved. After that, he’s not sure where he’ll be assigned but I think he’s hoping it’s somewhere in themiddle of the action. He didn’t say that in front of your parents, of course, but I’ve learned to read him a bit.
  8. 8. I’ve kept busy, helping your mother with the garden, your father with the material drives that he’s helping toorganize, and the like. It helps the days go by a little faster when I’m busy. There’s talk of getting a RedCross Production Corps organized here in Simsfield, and if it does I’ll join up with that as well. I’mdetermined to be a good, dutiful little war wife and do my part to support you boys who are going off to fightthe good fight.It’s getting late, and I need to think about getting the blackout curtains pulled down. Since we’re on theEast Coast, everyone’s being very vigilant about things like that. They even covered the gold-leafedstatehouse dome with black! Can you imagine!Stay safe, my darling, and I’ll see you soon.All my love,Alice
  9. 9. Dear Alice,I’m halfway done basic now, and I’ve never been more relieved in my life. It’s exhausting, that’s what it is.I suppose it’s good training for being a doctor in some ways, as for my first few years I’ll be working longhours at odd times. Of course, it won’t be nearly as physical as basic is, but I think you get the idea.We don’t get much news here on what’s going on with the war, so if you can write some of it I’d appreciateit. Not sure if any of it will make it through the censors, but if you’re writing about victories I’d think they’dwant us to know to keep our moral up.I’m sorry this is so short, but all I want to do right now is sleep. Thank everyone for writing so much; it’sgreat to hear from you all. I’m sorry I’m not nearly as good at keeping up my end of the correspondence.Love,Nick
  10. 10. Dearest Nick,Don’t you worry one bit about short letters. As long as you write regularly so that we know you’re doingokay, we’ll be happy. And don’t feel as though you have to reply to all the letters we’re sending; just sendone here, and everyone will read it at some point.I can understand what you’re feeling about being tired all the time. I think I’ve been overdoing it a bit withall my war work, as I’ve been so exhausted as of late. I’ve cut back a bit and it’s helped, but there’s somuch to be done that I can’t help myself sometimes. Your mother keeps an eye on me though, and Isuspect she’s been refusing some invitations on my behalf. I don’t mind, though. I have a hard time sayingno when it comes to the war effort.
  11. 11. You asked for some news of the war, and in keeping with your theory of victorious news getting through, I’lllet you know that the Simericans launched an air attack on SimEurope that hit most of its targets. It wasbig news in the papers here, and everyone was quite pleased. Now that more men have finished theirtraining and are headed in that direction, I’m certain there will be more stories like that to follow soon.I’m trying to convince your mother to let me plant some lilacs near the front door; my aunt had some and Ialways liked them. They smell so pretty in the spring, and I think they’d be a nice addition to thelandscaping.I’m afraid my letter to you is rather short, dearest, but I’m tired so I’m going to head to bed. I hope youhave a good night’s sleep, darling.All my love,Alice
  12. 12. Alice rested her forehead against the cool porcelain of the sink. She’d been feeling just awful as of late, tothe point where she could barely remember what it felt like to be well. It had started out with theexhaustion, and then the nausea and vomiting had started. James and Cindy had noticed, though Jamesseemed more worried than Cindy had, as he fussed over her like there was no tomorrow. Cindy had justgone about her business as normal, but once and a while Alice would catch her mother-in-law looking ather with a sly smile.Her thoughts were interrupted by a soft knock on the bathroom door. When she called out permission,Cindy came into the room.
  13. 13. “Still not feeling well, honey?”Alice shook her head. “I think I should go see the doctor.”Cindy nodded, that strange smile on her face. “Get yourself dressed, and I’ll take you.”“Thank you.”“Not a problem, honey. I’ll be downstairs when you’re ready.”
  14. 14. James looked up from the newspaper he was reading as Alice and Cindy opened the front door. Helistened to them chatter in the foyer as they hung up their coats and hats.“Thank you again, Cindy. I think I’m going to go lie down for a bit before dinner.”“If you need anything, holler,” Cindy replied.James heard the click of her heals as she walked across the tiled floor, and he smiled at her when shejoined him in the living room.
  15. 15. “How’d things go at the doctor?” he asked after she leaned over to give him a quick kiss.“Just fine,” she replied as she sat next to him and picked up a section of the paper he’d discarded.“Are you planning on elaborating on that?” he asked. “Poor Alice has been sick as a dog for the past week.”“The doctor confirmed what I suspected, and I need to take her into Portsimouth soon to make anappointment with one of the military doctors there.”
  16. 16. “Why? What’s wrong?” he asked, not bothering to hide the worry in his voice.“James, think about it. She’s been throwing up, constantly tired, and irritable. What do you think is goingon?”James slowly turned the facts over in his mind. “How long since Nick’s been gone?”Cindy fought back a smile. “Two months tomorrow.”
  17. 17. James’ jaw dropped. “Holy shit, I’m going to be a grandfather!”Cindy threw back her head and laughed. “Yes, you are.”“But I’m not old enough to be a grandfather.”“James, you’re old enough to have a son who’s off fighting in the war, which means you’re old enough tobe a grandfather. On the other hand, I’m nowhere near old enough to be a grandmother.”“Sure you’re not, doll. I’d suggest that the bottle of peroxide you keep under the sink to hide your grey hairwould suggest otherwise.”“I see my bottle of peroxide, and raise you your well-developed hat collection to hide your recedinghairline.”
  18. 18. James chuckled as he put his arm around her. “Face it, doll. We’re not as young as we once were. Andwe’re the same age, so if one of us is old enough to be a grandparent…”“…the other is too, I know.”“Is Alice really okay?”Cindy nodded.“Then why take her to see a different doctor in the city?”“Because as the pregnant wife of a soldier, she’s entitled to free medical care. Once the doctor thereconfirms the pregnancy, he’ll give us the paperwork to give to the doc here in town so we don’t have to gointo the city for every little thing.”
  19. 19. James nodded. “Nick’s going to be beside himself when he finds out.”“If he’s not kicking himself for not being able to be here with her. I can’t imagine going through that withoutyou there to support me.”“Well, you and I will just have to do our best to fill that role. It won’t be the same, of course, but we’ll dowhat we can.”“James Bradford, behind that gruff exterior is nothing but a big teddy bear.”“Only where my girls are involved,” he said, squeezing her shoulder.
  20. 20. My darling Nick,I scarcely know how to tell you this, but I suppose the best way is to just come out with it.I’m going to have a baby. You’ll be a father by midsummer.I was pretty shocked myself. Your mother has been looking at me funny for the past few weeks, and I’vewondered why but now I know. I think she knew I was in the family way before I did.Both of your parents have been wonderful so far. Your mother’s done her best to cook things that keep mymorning sickness down (why do they call it morning sickness, almost-doctor husband of mine, when itcomes at all hours of the day?), and your father won’t let me lift anything heavier than a piece of paper. It’svery sweet, but I’m sure novelty will wear off soon enough.
  21. 21. Rosalie’s moved back in with your Uncle Taddy and Aunt Calla now that Bruce’s draft number’s come up. Ipromised to help her organize the Red Cross here in Simsfield (I guess she was very active in the one inPortsimouth), but I think the baby may be an excuse for me to take on a smaller role than I would haveotherwise. It’s not that I don’t want to help, but even I can only take so much of Rosalie.Your mother’s been coaxed out of retirement to do a few small concerts in town in support of War Bondsales. I’m supposed to accompany her on the piano, but if I’m not feeling up to it she says that she’ll findsomeone else to do it. I hope that I will be; your mother has such a lovely voice and it’s a real honor to beconsidered a good enough piano player to be worth of playing for her.
  22. 22. As far as news of the war goes, the biggest thing to report is that the Simmans have begun laying siege tothe city of Simingrad. I hope the Simviets can hold out; your Uncle Sterling seems to think it will be quitedemoralizing to the Simmans if that happens. Then again, he’s wary of the Simviets, even if they are ourallies. He still rants about them a bit, as he did when I worked for him at his law office.It’s getting late here, and I’m tired, so I’m going to end this here. Take care, darling. I miss you so verymuch.All my love,Alice
  23. 23. Nick read Alice’s latest letter over, his mouth hanging open. A baby? He was going to be a father. Hegroaned, pressing his hand to his face.“What’s wrong, Bradford?” one of the men in the next bunk over asked.“Nothing, really. It’s just…my wife…she, that is we…”“Oh, spit it out, man.”“I’m going to be a father.”
  24. 24. The man, Nick though his name was Norrington but he couldn’t quite remember, got up and slapped himon the back.“Congratulations!”“Thanks.”“Why so glum, then?”Nick shrugged. “I should be there for her, you know? My parents are going to take care of her, of course,and my sister and her friends will be there, but…it won’t be the same.”
  25. 25. Dear Dad,I’m writing to you at the store, mostly because I’d rather Mom and Alice not get wind of this. I got Alice’sletter with the news that I’m going to be a father. I’ve written to her too, to let her know how happy andexcited I am, and to let her know how much I wish I could be there for her right now. I know that you andMom will make sure that she has everything that she needs, but I still wish it could be me there to supporther right now.This is kind of hard to write, as you’ll understand once I’ve said what I have to say. You were there whenUncle Sterling helped me draft a will. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have provisions for the baby that Alice & Iare expecting. You know I left you power of attorney, so I’d like for you and Uncle Sterling to amend mywill to name the baby as my heir, regardless of whether it’s a boy or a girl. If something happens to me, I’dlike to make sure that the farmhouse and everything stays in the family.Take care of Alice. I know I don’t need to say that, but I imagine these next few months will be prettydifficult for her. I’ll be wrapping up training soon and heading overseas, and I doubt I’ll be able to make ithome between the two as most of the guys are only getting 48 hours leave. I’ll let Alice know that when Iwrite to her next, so she can prepare herself. I wish I could see you all before I go, but maybe it’s for thebest. In her state, another goodbye is probably the last thing Alice needs.Love,Nick
  26. 26. “Penny for your thoughts?” Cindy asked.“Huh?” James replied as he looked up from his reading.“Well, you’ve been staring at the same spot on the page for the past fifteen minutes, so I’m guessing thatthere’s something on your mind.”James shrugged, and closed the book. “I had a letter from Nick. He wants me to use my power of attorneyto amend his will to name the baby as the beneficiary, should anything happened to him.”“And?”“And while he didn’t say I shouldn’t tell Alice, I got the impression that he’d rather that I didn’t.”
  27. 27. “Hmm,” Cindy said, sitting down next to him. “You’re not comfortable with that.”“Not entirely. At least the not telling her part. I don’t mind if the baby gets everything; Nick and thereforehis kids would inherit the house and such one way or another.”“But?”“But Alice is having such a rough time with the pregnancy already, I’d had to add to her burdens.”Cindy nodded, but said nothing.
  28. 28. “If it were you, would you want to know?”“Honestly? Yes. But you’re right in that the last thing that Alice needs is something to stress her out morethan she already is, and knowing that Nick is preparing for the worst would definitely do that. On the otherhand, changing the will does affect her, so she has the right to know.”James nodded, a look of concentration on his face. “What if…I can talk to Sterling soon, get things done,and we’ll tell her Nick asked to have it changed after the baby’s born.”“How about you make her in charge of managing things until the baby comes of age?”“Perfect. I’ll talk to Sterling when I see him tomorrow.”
  29. 29. Dear family,I hate to write to you all in a bunch like this, but it’s the quickest and most efficient way to let you all knowthat I’ve arrived safely where I’m going. Considering it’s the land of my ancestors, I should feel morecomfortable here than I do. It’s strange. The food is strange, the language is strange, even the peopleseem strange at times.I’ve got tomorrow to settle in before I have my first shift at the hospital. I’m eager to start learning medicalstuff again, and I aim to do as much of that as I can over the next few months. I’m a bit anxious to meet thedoctors I’ll be studying under and hope that they’re good.I’m exhausted from the travel, so I’m off to bed now. I’ll write more soon.Love,Nick
  30. 30. Alice rubbed her stomach, which was now advertising the fact that she was pregnant as Cindy read Nick’sletter aloud.“He’s in Simland, then,” James said. “That’s good to know.”“I hope the Blitz doesn’t affect him,” Alice sighed. “You know how many bombs the Simmans are droppingon Simdon on any given night.”“Sterling mentioned that most of the training hospitals aren’t in the city for that reason.”Cindy gave her husband an incredulous look. “And how does Sterling have that information?”James shrugged. “He’s on the draft board in Portsimouth, and he knows people. Best not to say anymorethan that.”
  31. 31. “You shouldn’t ask such things, James,” Alice chided gently. “Loose lips sinks ships, after all.”James had the grace to look reproached. He didn’t pout for long though, because Alice reached across topat his knee from the sofa where she sat.“I’m glad you did, though. It will make it a little easier to sleep at night knowing that Nick’s safe.”“Of course that’s why I asked. Anything to make it a little easier for the two of you to bear things,” he said,smiling at her expanded middle.
  32. 32. Alice got up and headed up to bed not too long after that, and Cindy turned to raise an eyebrow at herhusband.“You didn’t ask Sterling to find out about where Nick was just for Alice’s benefit, did you?”“No, but can you blame me for wanting to know where my oldest son will be?”“Not at all. It’s certainly a relief for me to know that he’s not in harm’s way.”
  33. 33. Cindy snuggled closer to James and tucked herself under his arm. “I hope this all ends soon, so our boyscan come home and we can all get on with our lives.”James squeezed her close as he made a noise of agreement before he sighed. “I don’t think that will bethe case, though. Roosimvelt won’t let Simmany get away with anything less than an unconditionalsurrender this time around, and they’ve been gearing up for this for too long just to give up. And you knowthat Simpan will be the same way. As much as I hate to say it, I think it’ll be a few years at least before thewar’s over.”Cindy blinked back tears. “As much as I value Sterling’s opinions, because I know that’s where you get allyour war information, I really hope he’s wrong this time.”“Me too, doll. Me too.”* * * * *
  34. 34. Dear Alice,Life is settling back into a routine again. I’m working very long hours, but I don’t mind so much because itkeeps me busy. It’s only been about a month, but I feel as though I’ve learned more in that short span oftime that I could have during a full years’ internship at a hospital back home. I hate to say it, but the war’soffered me quite an opportunity, at least as far as my medical career is concerned.I’ve been assigned to a ward under the care of a Doctor Legacy. He’s very knowledgeable, and I’velearned quite a bit from him. The only complaint that I have is he’s Simlish, and they do things a bitdifferently from how I was taught. Still, I’m trying to be open to learning new ways of doing things, but it’shard to break away from old habits so quickly.
  35. 35. Things have been busy for us. We get casualties from all over the SimEuoropean theater, and since therehave been some heavy campaigns further south of here (I can’t say more for fear of the censors but I’msure you’ll know what I mean as I imagine you all live and breathe war news). A lot of the soldiers we’reseeing are those with more severe injuries, as those who aren’t hurt as badly go back to the front prettyquickly. Many of the patients I see will probably be discharged and headed home soon. I’m not allowed totreat anyone on my own without supervision just yet, but I’m hopeful I’ll at least be allowed to do somebasic things like sutures on my own.The other thing that keeps me busy is patching up both Simerican and Simlish soldiers who get into fightsover stupid things because they’re bored. Again, I can’t say much more, but too many people in tightquarters is never a good thing.
  36. 36. How are you feeling? Have you felt the baby kicking yet? I really wish I was there with you now. I feelhorrible missing this. You’ll have to keep me updated on how things are going, and let me know if there’sanything I can do. That sounds silly, considering how far away I am, but still.Love,Nick
  37. 37. My darling Nick,To answer your question, yes, I can feeling the baby kicking. The little one keeps me up all night with itsacrobatics. It’s probably a good thing that you’re so far away, because if you were here I’d kicking you atnight letting you know exactly how I feel.Other than the baby interrupting my sleep, I’m feeling rather good. The morning sickness has passed, andI’m not quite as tired as I was at first. Everyone can definitely tell that I’m going to have a baby, and they’veall started to congratulate me. Except Rosalie. I think she’s a little miffed that she’s not the first of us tobecome a mother, considering how getting married and starting a family was all she ever talked about incollege.
  38. 38. What do I need? That is a silly thing to ask with you so far away. Your parents are doing quite a good jobof taking care of me, so there’s really nothing that I need.No, wait. I spoke too soon. I need the rationing to stop. Of course, that won’t happen until the war’s over,so I suppose that there’s nothing you can do about that.I shouldn’t complain; I know the rationing has a purpose and is just the government’s way of making sureyou boys have what you need to do your jobs. As so far, it’s really not been that bad. But when you’re apregnant woman and you get a hankering for a certain type of food you can’t have, you tend to get a littlecranky.
  39. 39. For me, it’s the rationing of cheese that’s bothering me the most of all. I don’t know if I ever told you, butgrowing up on the farm my mother used to make cheese and she taught me how to do so. It was such atreat to steal the salted curds before she packed them into the cheese molds! During the winter, when wewere trying to make the harvest stretch, we’d have tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches for dinner.It’s the toasted cheese sandwiches that I’ve been craving, but I’ve tried to limit how often I have them toonly a few times a week, so we can use the cheese for other things.I know your parents probably wouldn’t mind if I ate all the cheese, but the rations are affecting them aswell, especially your father. I never knew he was such a bear in the mornings without his coffee! And withnot enough sugar to put in the coffee he does have. It makes breakfast interesting, to say the least.Diner’s an interesting affair as well, as meat is another thing that’s rationed. Your mother and I have gottenquite creative, let me tell you! Your father turns his nose up at some of it, but in the end he eats what’s putin front of him. Honestly, I think he’s afraid of your mother’s reaction if he doesn’t.
  40. 40. After what I know about what your father got up to in his youth, I would have thought he’d be a bit moreopen to procuring things…creatively. But he’ll have no part of it. I think it’s because he’s in charge ofmaking sure people take only what their ration coupons allow at the store, and he wants to set a goodexample. That, and he’s also the chief blackout warden and with your uncles helps with most of thematerial drives that are going on. But not everyone in town feels the same way your father does; I saw theother Mrs. Alcott (Clarence’s mother, not your Aunt Viola) walking around with new silk stockings the otherday when I know for a fact that all the stores in the area have been out of them for weeks.I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining about the rations. I know it makes it easier for you boys to havethe things that you need to do your jobs. Hopefully, it will help you win that much sooner, so you can allcome home.All my love,Alice
  41. 41. Dear Alice,I understand completely what you mean about wanting something once it gets into your head. And really, Idoubt my parents would mind if you ate all of the cheese as long as you were happy. So go for it, and sendthem to me if they give you a hard time.It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we got engaged, and heard about the attack on PlumbbobHarbor. I certainly didn’t imagine that this would be how we’d be spending our first year of marriagetogether. I’d thought we’d be celebrating our first Christmas together now. Hopefully, it …
  42. 42. Nick crumpled up the letter he was writing to Alice with a groan. There was only so much he could say toher without getting his letters blacked out by the censors, and some topics were just off limits because hedidn’t want to upset her. Missing what should have been their first Christmas together was certainly one ofthose topics.His mind drifted to the day he’d spent in London a few days ago. He’d seen some of the sights, andsnapped a few photographs to send to Dotty. After walking around for a bit, he’d gotten bored. He’d beright by the Palace of Westsiminster, so he decided to go in and watch Parliament for a bit. He’d wanted towrite to Alice about that, but he couldn’t repeat what he’d heard there, because he knew that woulddefinitely upset her.
  43. 43. The Simlish Foreign Secretary had given a speech to the House of Simmons, and the topic had been theSimman atrocities against the Jewish population. The man had not minced words when he described theway the Simzi regime was snatching people from their homes, transporting them to labor camps, andexterminating them simply because they had the “wrong” blood in their veins. As he’d talked about howthose too weak to survive the journey were left to die of starvation or exposure, Nick thought he was goingto be sick. It was wrong, so wrong, and he didn’t understand how the everyday Simman citizens werestanding by and watching as such horrors unfolded.The condemnation of so many of the Allied nations of Simmany’s actions had eased him a little bit. ButNick knew that the killing of innocents wouldn’t stop until the Allies launched their invasion of theSimEuropean mainland and took on the Simmans firsthand. He’d thought about that during the moment ofsilence that occurred after the Foreign Secretary’s report.
  44. 44. Under ordinary circumstances, Nick would have written about his excursion to Alice, with a discreteful mindto what the censors probably wouldn’t like. But Nick remembered his college days, and how upset Alicehad been when she’d read in the paper about Kristallnacht, so he decided to save the story of his trip toParliament until he got home. It wouldn’t do any good to upset Alice in her current condition, especiallywhen he wasn’t there to offer her comfort.He smoothed a fresh sheet of paper, picked up his pen and began to write again.Dear Alice,By the time you get this, my greeting will be appropriate.Merry Christmas!
  45. 45. The Bradfords, minus Nick and Danny, were sitting in the living room, enjoying a quiet evening. Dotty wassmiling as she flipped through the photos of Simdon that Nick had sent as her present while Alice rereadhis latest letter.“What time will Lieutenant Haywood be joining us tomorrow, Dotty?” Cindy asked.The redhead looked up from the photographs with a dreamy smile. “He’ll be on the four-thirty train. I’mreally looking forward to you meeting him. I’m sure you’ll like him as much as I do.”
  46. 46. James snorted, and Dotty glared at him.“Promise me you’ll behave, Dad.”James looked at his daughter with a blank expression, as if he had no idea what she was talking about.“I mean it, Dad. Edward’s a good guy; if you give him a chance I think you’ll like him.”“Dotty, as your father, you understand it’s my duty to make any young man you bring home uncomfortable.Especially considering that both of your brothers aren’t here to help me out.“Mom!”
  47. 47. Cindy just shook her head. “Your father will behave himself, I promise.”James pouted as Dotty smirked. But Cindy wasn’t quite done yet.“I won’t promise, however, that your father won’t make Lieutenant Haywood feel comfortable from the get-go. He’s been waiting for you to bring a boy home for far too long not to take some advantage of thesituation.”It was Dotty’s turn to pout and James’ turn to smirk.
  48. 48. “Don’t worry, Dotty. I’ve met Edward and you’re right that your parents will like him once they get to knowhim a bit better. Even James,” Alice said.“Thank you. It’s nice to know I have at least one ally in the room.” Dotty shot a glare at both her parents.“Princess, I’m always on your side. You should know that. I just need to make sure the good Lieutenant isup to my high standards for my little girl.”“I’m not a little girl anymore, Dad.”“Not in my eyes you aren’t,” James muttered under his breath so that only Cindy heard him. She pokedhim in the side.“And if he is, I’ll give you my blessing,” he said aloud for the room to hear.Dotty got up and kissed her father on the cheek. “Thank you, Dad.”
  49. 49. …And your sister’s been seeing a young man who’s part of the Army’s Officer Training program atSimHarvard. His name is Edward Haywood, and he’s very nice. Your mother seems to like him, but yourfather’s another story. Of course, I don’t suppose he treats Edward any differently than my father wouldhave treated you, if he’d been closer when we were dating.Nick read over Alice’s words with a sneer. His sister wasn’t nearly old enough to have a steady boyfriend!
  50. 50. Nick leaned back in his chair, frustrated. Of course Dotty was old enough to have a boyfriend; she was incollege after all. Still, without him or Danny around to make big brotherly noises and make sure that thisEdward treated her the way she deserved. Even Shirley would graduate soon, leaving Dotty alone oncampus. Nick didn’t like it one bit.He put his chair down on all four legs again and began rummaging around in the desk for a piece of paperand something to write with. First, he dashed off a quick note to his younger brother. Danny probablyalready knew about Edward, but Nick was interested to know if their sister had said anything to her twinabout the new man in her life.Next, he wrote to Dotty. Here, he had to be a bit more careful in his words. Dotty had a temper to rival anythat he’d ever seen, and the last thing he needed was to piss her off in the first paragraph of his letter andhave her toss it in the trash.
  51. 51. Dear Dotty,I hope that your time at SimRadcliffe is going well. I understand that they’ve accelerated the courseworkso you can graduate faster if you want. Are you planning on taking advantage of that? I know you’venever really been one for school so I was wondering if finishing up your degree in less time than the usualfour years was something you’d take advantage of.Alice tells me that you’ve been spending a lot of time with one of the Army officer candidates that’sstudying at SimHarvard, and that it’s serious enough for Mom and Dad to have met him. What’s he like?
  52. 52. “Can you believe him! Butting into my life like that!”Dotty was pacing around the living room while Alice watched her, getting exhausted from the younger girl’smovement.“He’s not butting into your life; he just wants to know about Edward because he can’t get to know himhimself.”“But it’s none of his business!”Alice raised her eyebrow at Dotty, a habit she’d picked up from Cindy. “Really? Your older brother has noright to make sure the man you’re dating is worthy of you?”
  53. 53. Dotty flopped down next to Alice. “Oh, I know. It just feels like he’s hovering over my shoulder, eventhough I know he’s not.”“And honestly, you’d miss it if he didn’t act like your big brother at a moment like this.”“True. But what should I tell him? I mean, Mom and Dad are okay with us dating, so boo to whatever Nickthinks.”Alice got a mischievous grin on her face. “Remind your brother that Edward outranks him, so he’d betterbehave himself in regards to your Lieutenant unless he wants to face a court marshal.”Dotty laughed and laughed. “Poor Nick. Everyone outranks him, even his little brother.”
  54. 54. Nick whistled as he made his rounds in the hospital that morning. Being in Simland and out of the isolationof basic training, he’d actually been able to keep up on the progress of the war without relying on trying tomuddle out what was going on from cleverly worded letters from his family. In fact, that morning on theradio, he’d heard that the Simmans had surrendered, ending the battle of Simmingrad. It was the first bigdefeat the Simzis had suffered, but Nick new it wouldn’t be the last.He also thought about the fact that he’d actually seen the King of Simland the other day. Nick hadexpected a much more imposing figure, but the monarch had looked shockingly normal. If not for thewhispers of the Simlish soldiers on the ward, he wouldn’t have known who he was. Nick was alreadyimpressed by the fact that the King was staying in the palace in Simdon despite it getting bombed severaltimes, and the fact that he was visiting the wounded soldiers solidified his good opinion of the man.That night, he’d gone back to his barracks and written to Dotty about it, knowing that of all his familymembers she would be the most interested in the fact that he’d sort of met one of the members of theRoyal Family. Besides, after the scathing letter he’d gotten from her lambasting him for “butting his nose inwhere it didn’t belong,” he figured he owed her that, at least.* * * * *
  55. 55. Alice placed her hand on her lower back as she slowly straightened herself up. She couldn’t help the gruntof discomfort that escaped her lips, causing Cindy to look up from the beans she was weeding.“You need to go inside and put your feet up, honey. Eight months pregnant is no time to be a hero and helpme with the garden.”“I need to do something,” she moaned. “I feel so useless when I’m sitting around, unless I’m working onsomething for the Red Cross, and I don’t think I can sew another bandage today.”
  56. 56. Cindy got up and brushed her hands off on her skirt. She walked over to Alice and guided her to the benchin by the pond, forcing the younger woman to take a seat. Cindy then went into the house, where shepoured two glasses of lemonade from the pitcher in the icebox, and returned to join Alice.“I know how frustrated you are, at least about the being pregnant part. I wore James and his father out withredecorating the house when I was as far along as you were.”“Maybe I should have waited to decorate the nursery a bit longer,” Alice muttered. “At least I’d havesomething to do, even if it wasn’t for the war effort.”“Honey, don’t you think that taking care of yourself so Nick doesn’t have to worry is part of the war effort?Keeping the boys’ moral up is a huge part of the war effort, and nothing will keep Nick’s moral up morethan knowing that you’re doing what you need to do to make sure that baby of yours comes out happy andhealthy.”
  57. 57. Alice pursed her lips. “I know it’s important, but it’s not as tangible as my Red Cross work or helping in thevictory garden.”Cindy threw back her head and laughed. “I would hardly call a garden that’s as old as ours a victorygarden, but I know what you mean. Tell you what. When the vegetables are ready for canning, which someof them will be soon, you can chop, dice and slice them up for me. You can sit down as you do it – I’ll clearoff the old table for you. That way you’re helping but not on your feet.”
  58. 58. Alice nodded, knowing that it was the best offer she was going to get. “But what am I going to do for therest of this afternoon?”“Call Shirley and tell her to come over and amuse you for a while. Goodness knows that girl’s got a case ofthe blues to rival your own. If Walter Gavigan makes it back from SimEurope, I’m standing in line to wringhis neck for running off to war without putting a ring on her finger first.”It was Alice’s turn to laugh. “I think it’s a pretty long line, Cindy. With Shirley in the lead, followed by bothher parents and her little brother.”“I’m not sure who I’d be more scared of in that situation; Shirley, Sterling, or Viola,” Cindy mused aloud,causing both of them to dissolve into giggles once more.“Poor Walter,” Alice laughed as she went towards the house to call her best friend. “Poor, poor Walter.”
  59. 59. It was a rare afternoon off for Nick, and he’d decided to spend it in the quiet of the room he shared with twoother doctors-in-training, as both of them were busy working. He’d intended on taking a nap, but when thecompany clerk had come in, a stack of letters in hand, all thoughts of sleep had vanished. He knew thatAlice’s time was getting close, and any delivery of mail sent him into a frenzy, eager for the knowledge ofwhether or not he was yet a father.Today, his impatience was rewarded.My dearest Nick,Earlier today, your son was born.
  60. 60. Nick let out a whoop, and danced madly around the room in joy. He was a father, and because it was Alicewriting to tell him the news, she’d come through the delivery just fine. Too antsy to sit down and read therest of the letter, he did so as he paced the floor of his small room.He’s got ten fingers, ten toes, and is perfectly adorable. He’s got red hair, my eyes, and Cindy swears helooks just like you did when you were born so I’m guessing he’ll grow up to look quite a bit like you. Yourfather is tickled pink; he took your uncles out to the tavern to celebrate.After a bit of thinking, I’ve decided to call him Steven. I know it’s one of the names that we discussed in ourletters, and it seems to suit him so well for some reason. Both of your parents agree with me.I’m quite exhausted, but I had to write to you myself, even though your mom offered to do so. I wanted youto hear the news from me.Your father bought a new camera, and he’s taken about a thousand pictures of Steven already. Once weget them developed, I’ll send some along to you.I miss you more than ever right now, darling. I’ll make sure to write often and keep you up to date on howlittle Steven is doing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before you get a chance to meet him in person.All our love,Alice
  61. 61. Nick still had the stupid grin on his face when one of his roommates came back in, and exhausted look onhis face.“You still got that two-hour pass?” Nick asked him. When the man nodded, Nick reluctantly put the letterdown on his bedside table. “Then get changed, and I’m buying the first round. My wife had a baby boy lastweek, and I feel like celebrating with someone.”His roommate John smiled, and quickened his movements as he removed his doctor’s jacket. A night out,especially one that contained free beer, was always a welcome distraction from the day-to-day monotonyof working on a medical ward.* * * * *
  62. 62. Alice smiled as Steven cooed back at her from where he lay on the floor with one of the toys James haddug out of the attic for him. She was busy writing to Nick, telling him of how Steven was growing like aweed. In the two months since he’d been born, she’d driven nearly all of her friends and family todistraction bragging about all his little accomplishments from his sounds of excitement when he recognizedAlice’s voice to his first attempts to roll himself over. Nick was the only one who seemed to appreciate herconstant ramblings about their son, though Alice did wonder from time to time if he would be so patient withher if he’d been at home and not overseas.“I know I’m not the first woman to have a baby,” she’d told Cindy when the older woman hadn’t shown whatAlice deemed to be an appropriate level of enthusiasm for Alice’s bragging about Steven, “but it is the firsttime I’ve been a mother, and I won’t apologize for thinking that Steven is the most perfect baby in theworld.”
  63. 63. James came into the room, newspaper in hand, but when he saw Steven he immediately put the paperdown and knelt on the floor where he began to tickle the infant’s feet, causing the baby to squeal withdelight.Alice tilted her head away to hide her smile; James, for all his gruff exterior, was reduced to a pile of goowhen it came to his grandson, a fact that he would deny until he was blue in the face.“What’s the latest news, James?” she asked when he’d ceased his playing with Steven and sat down onthe couch.“Oh, nothing much. Just some little note about the Simman and Simtalian troops surrendering in NorthSimfrica.”
  64. 64. Alice dropped her pen. “Truly? Oh, that’s such wonderful news!”“That it is. Now, the Allies will be able to launch offensives into Simtaly proper, and start pushing thoseAxis bastards back.”“James, language,” Alice said, looking pointedly at Steven.“Aw, he can’t understand what I’m saying yet.”“He will soon enough, so it won’t hurt you to stop it now.”
  65. 65. Cindy soon joined them, her face tight and drawn.“Something wrong at Vi’s?” James asked, and Cindy shook her head.“No, other than hearing that the Simpanese struck a Ausimstralian hospital ship in the Simcific.”James got up and put his arm around his wife.“Danny’s not left Simerican soil, so you don’t need to worry about him.”“I’m not. It’s just…I thought that something like a hospital ship would be safe. They have those huge redcrosses painted on them for a reason, after all.”
  66. 66. James made a face, and Alice could tell that he was debating the exact words to use. “Well, under rules ofordinary warfare, they are. Heck, Sterling told me some story he heard about the Simmans holding theirfire so the medics could tend to the wounded. But from what he’s heard, and I believe him, the Simpanesedon’t play by the usual rules of war.”“Then what rules do they play by?”James hesitated again. “Well, they believe in victory at all costs.”Cindy shuddered, and James tightened his arm. “Don’t you worry about that. Danny’s safe for themoment, and with his plotting and scheming, I’m sure he’ll get himself a nice, safe assignment as apersonal secretary for an admiral or something.”“It’s not just him I’m worried about. Howie’s there right now, and you know Gilbert’s a Marine and is facingthe Simpanese firsthand. They’re my nephews and my son’s best friends, and I can’t help but worry forthem too.”“I know, doll. I know. I do too. But too much worrying won’t help anyone, especially yourself.”“Why don’t you take Steven and put him down for his nap?” suggested Alice. “I’m sure he’d love a littleGrandma time.”Cindy smiled as she scooped up the baby. In a world with so much darkness, he’d become her beacon oflight and one of the few things that could make her smile.
  67. 67. Nick collapsed onto his bed, not caring that he’d landed on a stack of letters that had been delivered whilehe’d been working. The Allies had begun pushing into Simtaly, and pushes meant casualties as Nickquickly learned.It wasn’t entirely unwelcome, as it was a break from the monotony of treating soldiers for bar brawlwounds, or cases of VD. Still, it was hard to see so many young men hurt so badly, and there was only somuch Nick could do for them.On the bright side, he’d learned that he would soon be finished with his internship, and be allowed to treatpatients on his own. With supervision, of course. Still, he was that much closer to being a doctor. Andhopefully, a promotion. It really stuck in Nick’s craw that his younger brother AND his sister’s boyfriendboth outranked him. It would be nice to at least be made a Lieutenant, even better if he could get all theway to Captain like most of the doctors at the hospital were. Then Danny, and Edward for that matter,would have to salute Nick.
  68. 68. Nick’s roommate John, obviously as exhausted as he was, came in and flopped down on his bad as Nickhad.“Here,” he said, his voice exhausted. “Take a look at the latest.”Nick reached over and accepted the newspaper held in his general direction. He skimmed the headlines,his face quickly turning upwards into a smile.“So the Simtalian government has fallen, and Musimlini’s arrested. That ought to swing things in our favora bit.”“One would hope.”
  69. 69. The good news out of Simtaly that had put a bit of a spring in everyone’s step didn’t last long.“How did they let him get away?” James moaned.“I don’t think the Simmans rescuing Musimlini was quite as simple as letting him ‘get away,’” Cindy replied.“It sounds like it was one heck of a rescue mission by the Simmans.”“Rat bastards.”“James, language.”“In my own house, when there are no ‘sensitive little ears’ around, I’ll call a spade a spade and theSimmans rat bastards if I want to.”Cindy raised her eyebrow at James but said nothing. She knew how he could get when he was riled up.
  70. 70. “Is it really as bad as you think? It sounds like Musimlini’s not actually in charge; rather I think he’s got afaction of his own that he’s in charge of, and that the actual Simtalian government has signed an alliancewith the Allies.”“Yeah, I read that too. But I don’t trust them!”“Is that you talking, or just regurgitating what you’ve heard from Sterling?”“Hey! I’ve been keeping track of what’s going on, and I understand most of it. Sterling and I are friends, soI don’t think it’s strange that we have similar opinions on the war.”“So, what will it take for you to believe in this newly formed alliance?”“Something big.”
  71. 71. The something big happened not long after that, and James brought the news home from his shift atSterling’s store with a smile and a happily whistled tune.“Simtaly declared war on Simmany.”Alice and Cindy made silent gestures of excitement, knowing that Steven was upstairs sleeping.“Oh, that’s such good news,” Alice sighed quietly. “Such good news.”“Now do you trust the Simtalians?” Cindy asked.“Well, sort of. Not as much as I trust the Simlish, or the SimFrench Resistance. But I’ll give them a chanceto prove themselves.”“Well, I’m sure the Allied Commander Eisimhower will be happy to hear that.”* * * * *
  72. 72. Cindy hung up the phone as James thrashed around the foyer. “She’s insane!”“No, she’s not. She’s in love.”“I can’t believe you’re agreeing to this.”“Well, forgive me, James, for wanting to attend my only daughter’s wedding.”“It’s not a wedding; it’s a quickie ceremony down at city hall like she’s a common trollop in trouble. Youdon’t think…if he’s gone and knocked my girl up and is leaving her here to fend for herself, I’ll kill him. Idon’t care if he is an officer in the Simerican Army. If he’s done something to my little girl…”
  73. 73. “James, STOP,” Cindy commanded. James ceased his threat midsentence, his mouth hanging open.“Dorothy is not, as you say, in trouble. I would know if she was. She’s in love with a man who’s about togo off to war, and she wants to be his wife before he goes. What’s wrong with that, considering it’sbasically the same thing that Nick and Alice did?”“That’s different,” he scoffed. “Nick and Alice knew each other forever. Dotty’s only known Edward for,what? Not even a year? What if they’re not as compatible as she thinks they are? What if he decides tostay in the army, and move her far away from us? What if he doesn’t even come back? It’ll break herheart.”Cindy put her hand on James’ arm. “It will break her heart if she can’t marry him before he leaves, andeven more so if her father’s not there to give her away. Please, James, trust me on this. I have a goodfeeling about it.”
  74. 74. James made a face, but then sighed. “You’re usually right about these things, doll. All right, I’ll go give mydaughter away in marriage to a man I’ve only met twice.”“Don’t sound so happy about it,” Cindy replied. “Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a lot to do. Callyour sister and see if she can watch Steven for the day so Alice and I can worry about making Dotty’s dayas perfect as we can under the circumstances.”“Yes, ma’am,” James mumbled, still not happy about the situation.
  75. 75. My darling Nick,Such exciting news! Your sister got married yesterday.I know, I know. You don’t know Lt. Haywood at all, blah blah blah. Save it. Your father made enoughobjections when he first heard for you and Danny combined. I wish you could have been there to see howhappy your sister was, because then you would understand why it was the right thing to do.As your mother pointed out, it really wasn’t much different from what you and I did, the main differencesbeing that you and I had known each other for quite a bit longer than they have, and we were both donewith college, of course. But Dotty will be done soon, and since Edward’s probably going to be staying inthe army after the war’s over it will make it easier for him to bring her to wherever he’s assigned.
  76. 76. It was a simple ceremony at Portsimouth City Hall, because Edward got his orders, and he’s shipping outvery soon. It was just your parents, myself, and Edith Haggerty (nee Hutchins) there. Your sister lookedlovely, and Edward looked so dashing in his uniform (not as dashing as you, of course darling). Your fatherwas even nice enough to get them a room at the Simmont Hotel, as they didn’t have enough time to headup to the family cabin for a more proper honeymoon.I’m planning on leaving your mother to watch Steven the day that Edward leaves, so I can go into the citythe day Edward leaves so I can be there for Dotty. I certainly can sympathize with how hard it is to sendyour new husband off to war so soon after getting married.All my love,Alice
  77. 77. Nick frowned at the news in Alice’s latest letter. His sister, married!“This war’s causing all kinds of crazy things to happen,” he muttered. “Dotty hardly looked twice at anyboys before this. The uniform must have turned her head.”Still, if Alice was behind it, this Edward guy couldn’t be all bad. He reached for a piece of paper to write hissister a note of congratulations, and to ask her if she could facilitate him meeting her new husband, if itturned out he was headed to Simland. Nick wanted to judge his new brother-in-law for himself.* * * * *
  78. 78. Dear Alice,I’m picturing the farmhouse, with everyone sitting around the fireplace where the stockings are hanging.Dad’s got that silly Santa had on that he insists on wearing during the Christmas season at the store, andit’s probably making Steven laugh. Mom’s trying to sneak pieces of the gingerbread house she makes (orwas she even able to make it this year, what with the sugar rations and all?) without anyone noticing.You…you’re trying to keep Steven from pulling on the ribbons on the Christmas presents.I’m missing all of you pretty bad tonight. Honestly, I’d thought the war would be closer to being over bynow, but I’m not sure it’s really even started yet. I know I’m doing important work here, but I really, really,just wish I was home with you right now…
  79. 79. My dearest darling Nick,Your description of Christmas Eve was nearly spot on. Your mother decided to forgo the gingerbreadhouse this year in favor of using the sugar for the dinner (and giving your father extra spoonfuls for hismorning coffee as a sort of Christmas present), so she was busy writing to Danny when she wasn’tdodging your father’s attempts to catch her under the mistletoe. Dotty was playing with Steven to distracthim from the pretty ribbons on the presents while I was busy fixing the garland around the mantle thatSteven had already pulled on earlier in the day.Christmas itself wasn’t too bad. The Seiffs and the Alcotts both came over, and we enjoyed good food andgood company. Everyone spoiled little Steven, though he certainly seemed to enjoy the boxes and theribbons a lot more.
  80. 80. Your mother’s going to sing at a few more war bond concerts this spring, and I’m going to play piano forher again. I hope I’ll be able to enjoy it a bit more than I did the first time around, when I was pregnant withSteven. Plus, it will be one more thing I can do for the war effort that doesn’t involve Rosalie. She’swormed her way into being on just about every war committee in town, and made it impossible for the restof us.Thank you again for the Christmas presents. Steven just loves the little bear you sent; he sleeps with it inhis crib every night.All my love,Alice
  81. 81. Cindy was standing on a chair in what was known as the sewing room as Alice carefully pinned the hem ofher skirt. It hadn’t been easy to find khaki material to make Cindy a costume that resembled an Armyuniform, but they’d done it, using the pictures of Nick in uniform from the wedding for inspiration. TheSimsfield Red Cross War Bond concert was the next day, and with the fabric taking so long to come in theladies were scrambling to finish the costume in time.
  82. 82. James came into the room, and whistled at his wife.“Damn, woman. You still got quite the set of legs on you.”“Really, James,” Cindy said in a scolding tone, but the smile on her face betrayed her.James placed his hands on Cindy’s waist. “Ready to get down?”“Yes, the hem’s all set,” Alice said, straightening up. “Be careful getting down; I don’t want you to get stuckwith a pin.”“Don’t worry – I know how to handle precious cargo,” James said as he helped Cindy down from the chairand dipped her into a kiss in the process.
  83. 83. Alice looked away, feeling the heat of a blush creeping into her cheeks. James and Cindy were alwaysacting like lovesick teenagers, and it made Alice feel oddly uncomfortable. Her parents had never behavedlike that, not that she’d seen. She shook her head gently, trying to shake the thoughts away.“Sorry about that,” Cindy said. Alice blinked; she must have been zoned out longer than she had thought.“I’ll need get it hemmed right away. I can’t believe the concert’s tomorrow night.”“You’re not still nervous, are you?” Cindy asked. “You’re going to be great.”“I’m just not used to playing a song with as quick a tempo as Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
  84. 84. Cindy grabbed Alice’s arm and dragged her into the music room. “We’ll go through it one moretime. Come on.”Once seated at the piano, Alice looked over the sheet music even though she could play the song frommemory now. She let her hands hover over the keys, and waited for the signal from Cindy to begin.Cindy tapped her foot three times, setting the tempo, and Alice began to play.
  85. 85. He was a famous trumpet man from out Chicago wayHe had a boogie style that no one else could playHe was the top man at his craftBut then his number came up and he was gone with the draftHes in the army now, a-blowin reveilleHes the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company BThey made him blow a bugle for his Uncle SamIt really brought him down because he couldnt jamThe captain seemed to understandBecause the next day the cap went out and drafted a bandAnd now the company jumps when he plays reveilleHes the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B
  86. 86. Alice continued to play, not noticing that Cindy had only sung the first two verses. When the song ended,she was startled when James whistled at her.“You play as well as the pianist that we had at the speakeasy. He and Cindy used to play off each other sowell. Listening to you two brought me back to those days.”“Thank you,” Alice replied. “I hope…”“You two will steal the show tomorrow night,” James assured her. “Stop worrying.”
  87. 87. “I’ll try,” she promised. “I just wish that Nick was here to see it – he told me once that he’d always wantedto see you sing. In public at least, and not just the lullabies you used to sing to him when he was little.”Alice’s comment left everyone speechless for a moment.“We’ll have a celebratory concert when all the boys come home,” Cindy said, breaking the silence.“That’s a great idea,” James agreed. “I bet I could get Sterling to have the store sponsor the event, so itwould be free for everyone.”Alice only nodded, a forced smile on her face. It was sweet, really, how everyone pretended around herthat everyone would come home. She wanted to believe it herself, but sometimes, she wished thateveryone would stop pretending, if only for a moment.* * * * *
  88. 88. The war concerts had been a success, and Simsfield had settled back into what was the new normal withthe war going on. Summer was beginning to come into its full glory, and Steven was beginning to take hisfirst tentative steps on his own. Alice had finally gotten her lilac bushes, and was looking forward to themblooming the next spring.Still, the war loomed. Everyone was waiting for the Allies to launch the invasion of the SimEuropeanmainland, and they thought they had prepared themselves for the news. Still, when word came that theinvasion had begun, most people found that they weren’t as ready for what it meant as they had thought.
  89. 89. James found out about D Day when Sterling came back from the city early, his brow furrowed with worry.He’d closed the store up early, sending James home to be with his family.Cindy had gone pale when James told her, but her face remained impassive. When she’d gone upstairs totell Alice, she’d found the younger woman watching Steven sleep, worry evident on her face. She wasn’t atall shocked when Cindy shared the news.
  90. 90. “I saw Sterling drive into town early. I knew it meant something big had happened.”“Are you worried?” Cindy asked.Alice shook her head. “Not for Nick, no, though I know the volume of casualties he’ll be face with willcause him a lot of distress. I’m actually thinking about Dotty. She’s all alone in the city, with only Edith,and I’m sure both of them are worried sick about their husbands. Do you think you could keep an eye onSteven tomorrow? I’d like to go to check on her.”“You don’t have to do that,” Cindy said. “She my daughter, and I can go check on her.”“She might look on you visiting her as meddling. If it’s me, it’s just one war wife checking up on another.”“Oh, all right. Twist my arm and get me to play with my grandson for an afternoon.”Alice laughed silently. “I thought you might like that idea.”
  91. 91. The next few weeks were trying for those who had a loved one in the Army. The heroics of what thesoldiers had accomplished as they’d stormed the beaches of Simmandy were widely reported, buteveryone knew that the losses, once they were full known, would be catastrophic.Alice worried for Nick as she always did, but no more so than usual. In fact, she was more worried aboutDotty than she was her husband. Edward’s division had been one of the invading forces, and she’d yet tohear from him. Alice had gone to call on her sister-in-law several times since the news of the invasionbroke, and she could see the toll not hearing from the Lieutenant was taking on Dotty. There were darkcircles under her eyes, and she was paler than usual. Alice hoped that she’d hear from Edward soon.Worrying about Dotty almost made her forget that she hadn’t heard from Nick since the invasion either.
  92. 92. It was a few weeks after the news of the Simmandy invasion, and Alice and Cindy had just finished pushingthe furniture around the living room to accommodate that afternoon’s Red Cross meeting.“Are you sure we have enough seats?” Cindy asked.“We should. Shirley’s not coming, as she’s working…”“Thank goodness for small favors.”
  93. 93. Alice smiled as she continued. “But Dotty is, provided she gets off work in time to catch the right train.That leaves Rosalie, Georgianna, Mrs. Gavigan, Mrs. Bear and Miss Simself. It’s a little light, but what canyou do?”“Everyone’s so busy with their own war work that it’s hard to get together as a group very often,” Cindycommented.“And when we do, we bicker over silly things. It is probably a good thing that Shirley can’t make it today.She and Rosalie are oil and water, even more so as of late.”“I don’t know how you put up with the two of them sniping at each other all the time.”“Sometimes I don’t either.”
  94. 94. “All set, ladies?” James asked as he came into the room and picked a treat off of the snack table beforeCindy swatted his hand away.“I hope so. If not, I’m sure Rosalie will tell us all about it.”James shook his head. “She’s my damn grandmother all over again. Thank goodness the old bat is dead,because we’d all go crazy trying to deal with two of them.”Cindy raised her eyebrows at James, but said nothing.The doorbell rang. “I’ll go upstairs and keep the little guy company,” James said as he made his exit.Cindy snorted once he was up the stairs. “Big tough guy’s scared of a roomful of women.”“I would be too, in his shoes. Rosalie alone is capable of henpecking him to death.”
  95. 95. The entire party was gathered, excepting Dotty, so Rosalie elected to get the meeting started.“Now, I must say that it’s a little disheartening to see that our attendance is low again. I know that there’sall kinds of war work to be done, but what we’re doing here is important.”At that juncture, Dotty burst into the room. “I’m so sorry I’m late.”Rosalie gave her a pointed look, and Dotty scurried to an empty seat beside Alice without another word.
  96. 96. When Rosalie began the meeting business again, Alice leaned ever so slightly towards her sister-in-law.“Head nurse running you ragged again?”“That, and I ran by the boarding house to see if I had word from Edward.”“Anything?”Dotty shook her head. “Nick?”It was Alice’s turn to shake her head sadly.The two redheads’ hand found each others, offering silent support to each other.
  97. 97. Rosalie had droned on for a while, and Cindy stood up. “Why don’t we take a quick break so everyone canrefill their drinks?”The other ladies quickly followed suit, pouring more tea or lemonade into their cups and refilling their plateswith finger sandwiches.Rosalie joined Alice and Dotty in the corner of the room.“I would have thought becoming a nurse would have made you understand the importance of punctuality,Dorothy.”“Can it, Rosalie. Some of us have more important things to do in the war effort than just coordinatingmeetings.”
  98. 98. Dotty moved away in a huff, and Rosalie gaped after her.“Don’t, Rosalie. Her nerves are even more shot than mine. Don’t forget that her husband was part of theinvading forces, and she hasn’t had word from him yet. Not all of us are lucky enough to have our husbandstationed stateside for the duration.”Rosalie said nothing, but she looked. “I think we’ve had enough time for our little refreshment break. Let’sget back to work.”
  99. 99. James came downstairs just as everyone was settling down again. He swiped another sandwich from thetable, and smiled at Alice. “The little tyke’s out.”“Good. Thank you for watching him, James.”The doorbell rang again, causing everyone to startle.“I’ll get it,” James said. “You ladies get back to your business.”
  100. 100. James opened the door to see a man in a Simstern Union uniform standing on the other side. He felt hisstomach drop to the floor.“Yes?” he managed to say despite the sudden dryness in his mouth.“I have a telegram.”James nodded with a great deal of effort. “I’ll take it.”“Sir, I’m supposed to give it to the person it’s addressed to.”
  101. 101. James looked the man square in the eye. “Look, sonny, that telegram you’ve got is either for my daughteror daughter-in-law, and if there’s bad news to be had, I should be the one to give it to her.”The telegram man hesitated, but pulled the small piece of paper from his bag.“My condolences, sir.”James watched as the man went back to his car, started it, and drove away.
  102. 102. “James, who was it?” Cindy’s voice called.James shook himself out of the haze he was in, and opened the small envelope. With a great deal ofconcentration, he read the name on the telegram.
  103. 103. James stepped into the living room. All conversation in the room ceased when they saw the expression onhis face.“James?” Cindy asked softly.“That was the Simstern Union man.”Everyone in the room drew in a sharp breath at the same moment.
  104. 104. He silently crossed the room to stand before Alice and Dotty. Alice’s hand went to her throat as Dottygrabbed her other one.“Is it Nick?” Alice said in a voice quieter than a whisper.
  105. 105. James knelt down. “No, it’s Edward,” he said, taking Dotty’s hand in his.“What?” his daughter asked in a high pitched voice.James handed her the telegram. “I’m sorry, Princess.”
  106. 106. Dotty let out an ear-splitting wail as her hand clenched around the piece of paper, causing it to crumple.Her shriek caused Rosalie to startle and drop her teacup on the floor, shattering it.The shriek only stopped when Dotty pitched forward and crumpled to the ground in a heap.
  107. 107. Cindy rushed forward, gently shaking Dotty’s limp form. “She’s passed out.”James sighed. “Probably the best thing for her right now. I’ll carry her upstairs.”He scooped his daughter into his arms like he had done when she was a little girl. He carried her out of theroom, Cindy following at his heals.
  108. 108. The rest of the ladies in the room got up to leave. Rosalie looked like she wanted to say something, butthought better of it.Alice followed them to the door, smiling politely. As soon as she closed it softly behind them, she wentback into the living room to pick up the pieces of Rosalie’s shattered teacup. Her eyes drifted to thecrumpled scrap of paper that had so quickly changed everything. She picked up and smoothed it out.
  109. 109. Alice chocked back a sob, and hugged herself tightly.“Honey?”Alice turned to see Cindy standing in the doorway.“Oh, Cindy, I’m a horrible person.”
  110. 110. Cindy took the telegram from her hand and gently helped Alice onto the sofa. “Why are you a horribleperson?”“Because all I can think about right now is how grateful I am that it wasn’t Nick’s name on that telegram.”“Alice, if you’re a horrible person for thinking that, so am I. That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking sinceJames handed the telegram to Dotty. I’m heartbroken for her, of course, and for Edward’s family, but Irefuse to apologize for being grateful that it’s not my son who’s dead.”
  111. 111. “Poor Dotty.”Cindy nodded. “I can’t believe it took so long for them to notify her; it’s been weeks since the battle.”“With the number of casualties, I’m not surprised.”The clock struck three, and Cindy got up. “The mail should have come during all the commotion; I’m goingto go check.”Alice got up as well. “I’ll come with you.”
  112. 112. Cindy opened the mailbox slowly, and pulled the stack of letters out. Alice hovered at her shoulder,reading the envelopes as Cindy flipped through them.They both gasped at the same moment as they recognized the handwriting on a letter addressed to Alice.She snatched it, and tore it open.Cindy held her breath as she watched Alice’s eyes scan the letter, and let it out only when she watched thetension melt away from the redhead’s features.“It’s dated two weeks ago. Nick’s fine.”“Thank goodness.”* * * * *
  113. 113. Nick wiped his brow. The summer sun was hot, and he’d not stopped moving for the past hour, busytriaging the latest batch of casualties. Once the Allies had established a foothold in SimFrance, Nick andhis medical unit had been sent forward, establishing a small field hospital just a few miles from the coast. Itwas hard work, but Nick liked it. His work in the hospital had been a great learning experience, but here, inthe thick of things, he really felt like he had a purpose.
  114. 114. “Doc!”Nick couldn’t help but smile a little, even in the midst of the chaos. He was a doctor now, even if hispromotion hadn’t gone through yet, a fact that bothered Nick. Still, paperwork took time. He hoped itwouldn’t be much longer before he saw his name on a promotions list.He hurried over to where one of the orderlies knelt by a wounded man. “He’s bad off, doc. Can you doanything for him?”Nick knelt down to examine the soldier closer. His injuries were bad, and his breathing far too shallow. AsNick was checking for a pulse, the breathing ceased.
  115. 115. “Damn it,” Nick muttered. “I need help here!”Nick began to work over the man frantically, looking for the reason his patient had gone into cardiac andrepository arrest. His abdomen was distended, and Nick quickly realized that he had a case of severeinternal bleeding on his hands. Surgery was the only thing that would give the soldier a fighting chance.The relenting sun stopped as someone’s shadow passed over Nick.“Thank goodness. Can you give me a hand? We need to get him onto an operating table ASAP.”
  116. 116. As the man knelt down next to Nick, he realized it was the company’s chaplain. The dark haired man tookone look at the soldier lying on the ground and gently shook his head.“There’s nothing more you can do for him, my son. Go, there are others you can still help. I’ll take care ofthis young man.”“But…if we can operate and stop the bleeding, we can give him a chance!”Again, the chaplain shook his head. “When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you learn torecognize the ones who are beyond earthly help. He’s in good hands with me, Nick. Go help the otherdoctors; there are still lives to be saved today.”
  117. 117. Nick stood up, but didn’t move as he watched the chaplain administer last rites to the dying man. He stoodthere, motionless, until their colonel barked an order at him to get inside and help.He did as he was ordered, but the young soldier’s face haunted him the rest of the day as he treated theother wounded men brought in. The rest of them had treatable injuries, even the ones who had to bepacked off to one of the more specialized hospitals further back, but all Nick could think about as he setbroken bones and extracted shrapnel from wounds was the redheaded soldier whose family would soon begetting one of those dreaded telegrams.
  118. 118. The rest of the men in the outfit seemed to realize that the loss of his first patient had hit Nick hard, andthey kept their distance at dinner that night. After, as he sat with his head down on the table in front of him,he heard the scrape of a chair against the floor across from where he sat. He lifted his head just enough tosee the chaplain, looking at him with concern in his eyes.“What do you want?”“To see how you were.”“How does it look?”“You look like a doctor who just lost his first patient, and is taking it pretty hard.”
  119. 119. Nick dropped his forehead back to the table’s surface and dug his hands into his hair.“I should have done something more.”“There wasn’t anything more that you could have done.”“You don’t know that! You’re not a doctor!”The chaplain ignored Nick’s outburst. “No, I’m not. But I am someone who sees death on a regular basis,and I recognize when he’s too close to be stopped. Please trust me when I say there really wasn’t anythingthat you could have done for that young man, and that you need to stop beating yourself up over it.”
  120. 120. Nick sat up and glared the man sitting across from him. “I’m a doctor, and I’ve spent years learning how tohelp people. If I can’t do that…”“Forgive me for interrupting, but did you honestly think that you’d be able to save every patient youtreated?”Nick gaped at the chaplain.“That’s what I thought. Nick, there’s something that you need to learn if you’re going to be a good doctor,especially a good doctor here.”“What’s that?”“That despite your best efforts, you’re not going to be able to save all your patients. Some of them will die.”
  121. 121. Nick opened his mouth to protest, but the chaplain held up his hand for silence. “If you can’t accept thatfact, you shouldn’t be a doctor. It’s not wrong to want to help everyone, but the sooner you realize that it’simpossible, the better off you’ll be.”Nick’s entire being seemed to deflate. “It just doesn’t seem fair, somehow.”The chaplain chuckled softly. “It’s not fair, but neither is life. Your compassion for your patients can beyour greatest asset or your greatest stumbling block. It’s up to you to decide which.”
  122. 122. Nick was silent for a long while, but the chaplain didn’t say anything more.“You’ve given me a lot to think about,” Nick said at last. “Thank you.”“You’re welcome. I hope you have a good rest of your night.”Nick watched as the chaplain got up and walked out of the mess. Then he sighed. He had known thateventually, there would be a patient he wouldn’t be able to save. Still, the reality of it was more than he’danticipated. Ordinarily, when he was troubled over something, he’d seek out Alice. He chuckled as heremembered a particularly stressful time during exams when he nearly had a breakdown. She’d let him sitwith his head in her lap as she smoothed his hair.He got up from the table and headed for his tent. It wouldn’t be the same, but he’d write to her and wait forher reply. She’d know exactly what to say.* * * * *
  123. 123. Cindy looked up from the letter from Danny she was rereading when the phone rang. Alice’s voice calledout, announcing she would get it, and Cindy returned her attention to the paper. She wished that heryounger son didn’t have to be so vague about where he was and what he was doing. She knew he was inthe Simcific, somewhere, but on what type of ship and what he was doing, she had no idea.Alice’s excited exclamation pulled her out of her thoughts. “You’re certain? Oh, how wonderful. I’ll tellCindy straight away, and then run around the neighborhood with the news. Thank you, James.”Moments later, Alice came into the room, a huge smile on her face.“The Allies have liberated SimParis.”
  124. 124. Cindy let out a whoop of joy, and Alice only smiled wider. “It’s so nice to hear good news, isn’t it?”“That it is. SimParis, the city of lights, alight once more,” Cindy said, and then sighed suddenly. “Dottywanted so badly to see it. Maybe now she’ll get a chance. Why don’t you call her and give her the goodnews?”Alice shook her head. “She’s not exactly acting friendly towards me since…since Simmandy.”Cindy shook her head. “She’s not exactly been acting friendly towards anyone since then. I know the lossof Edward was a blow, but she needs to stop pushing everyone who’s trying to help her away.”
  125. 125. “I don’t know if that’s it,” Alice said. “If it were me in her shoes, I’d want to stay away from anyone whoreminded me of what I could no longer have.”Cindy looked puzzled, so Alice elaborated.“Think about it. She gets snippy at me because I still have my husband, and beyond that I have his child.Steven and I, Steven especially, are a constant reminder of things that she’ll never get to have.”“I suppose I understand that. But why is she pushing her father and I away?’“In case you haven’t noticed, you and James act like a couple of lovesick teenagers most of the time. Youprobably remind her that she won’t get to be that way with Edward ever again.”Cindy sighed. “I don’t like it when my babies are hurting, and I can’t do anything about it.”Alice thought of Steven, who was upstairs sleeping in his crib, and her heart when out to Cindy. “She’ll letyou in again, once the initial shock wears off. I’m certain of it.”“I hope you’re right, Alice. Go ahead and make your rounds with the news; I’m sure the phone lines arejammed so half the town hasn’t heard yet.”* * * * *
  126. 126. Alice was sitting in the living room, writing to Nick, when James came in. His face was tight, and Alicecould tell he was trying to keep his emotions in check.“Cindy home?”“No, there’s a Red Cross meeting at the Seiffs. I went to the last one, so it was her turn to go.”James nodded absently.“Why? What’s wrong?”
  127. 127. James sank down onto the sofa. “New war tactics by the Simpanese. Apparently, just bombing andtorpedoing isn’t good enough anymore, and some of their pilots have decided to crash their planes into ourships.”Alice gasped. “But that’s…oh, my…I can’t…”“Yeah, I know.”
  128. 128. Alice looked at him as James stared into the fireplace.“You’re worried about Danny.”James nodded. “I wish I knew where he was, and that he’d write more often.”“I’m surprised he didn’t build letter writing into his daily plan.”James let out a laugh. “Me too. Boy had every inch of his life all mapped out, and he forgets to put ‘keepfamily up on what I’m doing’ on the list.”“I’m sure he’s doing the best he can. You know how bad Nick is about writing because he’s so busy.”“I do. Listen, don’t say anything to Cindy just yet. I’ll let her know myself, shortly. I know it’ll just make herworry about Danny that much more.”
  129. 129. James got up and poked the fire. “It’s starting to get colder out there. Winter’s definitely going to comeearly this year.”Alice shivered, even though the room was warm. “Hopefully, it will be the last one Nick and Danny spendaway from home.James nodded. “Amen to that.”* * * * *
  130. 130. Nick blew on his hands, trying to warm them. It was the end of December, maybe even January, and thewoods in Simdennes were cold. Damn cold. If he’d been at home, there would be a warm fire and a pot ofhot coffee waiting for him after spending so much time outside. Here, there was only his winter uniform anda few wool blankets to keep the chill away. For a moment, he let himself think of Alice and the farmhouseback home. His father was probably sitting in the living room, reading the paper while his mother tried toswipe the sections he was looking at. Alice would be on the floor, playing with the baby. Nick shook hishead slightly. The baby, as he kept referring to his son, was nearly three years old. He would be walkingand talking now. He was missing it, and the thought made him sad.With that, Nick brought his thoughts back to the present. He reached up to adjust his helmet, feeling theraised red cross painted on the side. That was the reason he was here, in the forest where the battle ragedand not back a few miles at the aid station where he should have been. Heavy fighting had meant heavycasualties, and one of them had been a unit’s medic. A replacement was on the way, but he wouldn’t arrivefor a few days, and the unit couldn’t do without a medic for that long. Nick, being the lowest ranking soldier,had drawn the short straw and had been sent forward. So far, the unit he was with had been giving morethan they had been getting. Mostly, he was making sure that the men didn’t suffer from frostbite andhypothermia. But the forest had gotten quiet over the past few hours. Too quiet. He knew something wascoming, but not what or when.
  131. 131. The shell exploding caused Nick to jump. The silence of the forest was gone, replaced with gunfire, boomsof explosions, and people screaming orders. When the initial shock of the first explosion wore off, Nickcould hear that the shouting was not only in Simlish, but in Simman as well.They were close enough to the enemy that he could hear them. He would probably be able to see them, ifhe had the guts to poke his head around the tree he was hiding behind. His stomach leapt into his throat atthe thought.
  132. 132. “Medic! Medic!”Nick grabbed the first aid kit he’d been given upon arrival, and sprang into action. He headed in thedirection of the cries, weaving in and out of the trees as he did so. He reached the first wounded soldier,and his training kicked in. Sprinkle sulfur on the wound, wrap it with a compression bandage, and get acorpsman to drag the wounded man back for transport to the aid station. He had to stop himself from doingmore than that; it was his job to simply provide the most rudimentary medical care and then let the aidstation do the real treatment. It went against nearly all of his medical training to do next to nothing, but itwas what had to be done. There were too many wounded for him to spend more than a few moments witheach of them. He could hear the battle raging on around him, but it seemed far away as he treated soldierafter soldier after soldier. As he worked his way among the fallen, he saw men that were beyond his help.One of them, a man who barely qualified as a man – Nick was certain he hadn’t started shaving on aregular basis yet – had a bullet wound in the center of his forehead. Muttering the prayer he often heard thechaplain at his aid station say over the dying, he tore his eyes away from the boy and sought out the nextone who he might be able to save.
  133. 133. After what seemed like an eternity, he’d attended to all the men who had screamed for his attention. Heslumped behind a tree, gasping as he tried to catch his breath as the adrenaline worked its way out of hissystem.“Bradford! I need a hand!”Nick groaned as he got up and poked his head around the tree. The corpsman was struggling to drag oneof the wounded men he’d treated back for evacuation. He hurried over to the spot, and grabbed the otherend of the stretcher. Nick’s back was to the fighting, something he knew he shouldn’t do, but he needed toget the wounded man out of harm’s way.
  134. 134. “Incoming!”A shell exploded just to Nick’s right. The force knocked him off his feet, and the world suddenly beganmoving in slow motion. He was chest down in the snow, his head resting on his left ear. His helmet haddislodged itself from his head; he could see it lying in the snow just at the edge of his line of sight. He triedto get himself up, but his body didn’t seem to get the message from his brain. The corpsman who had beenassisting him with the wounded man knelt down by his head. Nick could see his lips moving so he knew theman was speaking, but Nick could only hear the ringing in his ears. His eyes drifted down towards thesnow, and he could see that it was stained red with blood. His blood. He tried to move again, but all hislimbs just felt so heavy. Even though he knew that he was planted firmly on the ground, he felt as thougheverything was spinning around him. Suddenly he was cold again. Very cold.“Alice,” he whispered. Then everything went black.* * * * *
  135. 135. “Damn it, Bradford, you stay with me,” the corpsman was yelling at Nick. He heard the blond man whisperhis wife’s name and close his eyes. Though he could feel the warmth of the blood trickling down hisforehead from his own head would, he grabbed Nick under the arms and dragged him back. Soon enough,he reached the evacuation point, where he collapsed.Two of the medical personnel rushed forward, but he brushed them away. “Worry about him,” he said,pointing at Nick. “He’s got a wife and little boy to go home to.”
  136. 136. They hesitated, but quickly got to work checking Nick. The corpsman, pressing a bandage to his foreheadto quell the bleeding, caught snippets of their conversation. “Head wound,” “concussion,” “possible internalinjuries,” were just a few of the things he heard, and none of them sounded good.“Is he going to make it?”“Touch and go. But his pulse and breathing are strong, so that’s a good sign.”The corpsman nodded. “Take good care of him. He saved a lot of lives today.”
  137. 137. He watched as they wrapped Nick up and placed him into the ambulance. He watched as the vehicle droveaway, finally allowing the two medical personnel to look at him.“Godspeed, Bradford,” he muttered, struggling to salute the ambulance as it disappeared from sight. Helooked upward at the sky. Please, let him be okay. Let him get home to that beautiful wife of his, and theirlittle boy. Please.
  138. 138. Alice hurried to answer the knock that the door. Steven had been especially difficult to get to sleep thatnight, and the last thing she needed was the inscent knocking at the door to wake him back up.She threw the door open and froze. Standing on the other side was a man in a Simsetern Union uniform.
  139. 139. “Mrs. Nicholas Bradford?”“Yes,” she automatically replied, her voice cracking.He handed her a telegram, and tipped his cap to her. As he turned to go down the front steps, Aliceremained frozen in place, her hand still on the open door.
  140. 140. “Close the door, Alice,” Cindy said, coming in from the sewing room. “You’re letting all the heat out.”When Alice didn’t move, Cindy went over and shut the door. Alice remained frozen in place, still staring atthe telegram in her hand. Cindy’s eye caught the piece of paper as well, and she too lost the ability tomove.
  141. 141. It was there James found them, after he’d brought in more wood for the fireplace. His eyes followed thetwo women’s to the telegram, and he sprang into action. He put his arms gently around both of them, andguided them into the living room, easing them down onto the sofa. He then knelt down in front of Alice, andtook her hands.“Do you want me to read it?”She blinked at him, as if seeing that he was there for the first time.“No, I…I should do it.”James nodded. “We’re both here for you, honey. Go ahead.”Alice, her hands shaking, tore open the small envelope and willed her eyes to read.
  142. 142. A moment later, she let out a sob.“Oh, honey,” Cindy said.Alice shook her head. “No, he’s not dead. Only wounded. Badly, from the sound of it.”James snatched the telegram from Alice and read aloud.“‘Wounded in action, transported to Simland for further treatment.’ What the hell is that supposed tomean? ”“It means he’s alive,” Cindy breathed.Alice nodded, trying to get her emotions in check again.
  143. 143. James made a face. “Not good enough. Ladies, I hate to leave you alone at a time like this, but…”“Where are you going, James?”“To see Sterling. He keeps using his connections to find out information about his son and future son-in-law; it’s time for him to use them to find out about what’s going on with his nephew.”“You can’t, James; it’s gone past time for the blackout curfew.”James only laughed. “The number of times I’ve snuck home from Taddy or Sterling’s in the dark. Don’tworry about me.”“Wait until tomorrow,” Cindy pleaded.
  144. 144. “No, don’t!” Alice exclaimed. “Please be careful, James, but I need to know. The sooner Sterling startslooking into it, the sooner we’ll have news.”James nodded at Alice. He kissed Alice on the forehead, Cindy squarely on the lips, and went to grab hiscoat and hat. The two women followed him into the foyer, and he winked at them as he adjusted the angleof his hat.“Go upstairs and watch Steven sleep for a bit; it will help settle your nerves. I’ll be back before you knowit.”
  145. 145. It didn’t take James long to duck along the familiar paths he’d treaded so often in his youth, and soon hewas knocking on the Alcott’s door. Sterling had pulled him inside quickly, and found out the reason for hiscall. His best friend agreed to help immediately, though he did warn James that he wouldn’t be able to doanything until the morning. James thanked him, and then hurried back to update Cindy and Alice.The two women were in the nursery as James had suggested when he got back. Neither of them hadexpected that Sterling would be able to do anything at that late hour, but knowing that he would be on it firstthing in the morning did offer them a bit of comfort. The adults went downstairs and did their best to eatsomething resembling a meal, but no one really had an appetite.
  146. 146. It was two full days before Sterling was able to find any useful information. Even then, it was only that Aliceneeded to go to Portsimouth and see someone in person. James borrowed his brother’s car, thinking thatonce this whole war thing was over it would be a good idea for him to purchase one of his own, packedAlice into and drove to the city, leaving Cindy alone to watch Steven.Alice had to wait nearly all morning before she got to talk to the people that had the information sheneeded. When she met James at the car, she relayed what she had learned.“Knocked down and out by a Simman shell. He had surgery to repair some minor internal injuries,including removing his spleen, and is recovering from it nicely. I guess he hit his head pretty good too, ashe also has a mild concussion. He’s in a hospital in Simland, the one he did his training at actually, andhe’ll be there until he’s cleared to return to duty.”
  147. 147. James let out a deep breath. “How the hell did that happen?” he asked as he helped Alice into the car.“Apparently, since he’s the lowest ranking man in his unit, he got sent to the front lines to fill in for a medicwho was killed in action. He was helping move wounded soldiers when the shell hit.”James shook his head. “Leave it to Nick to play the hero. I suspect you’re going to thoroughly scold himfor that in your next letter?”“Soundly,” she agreed. “After I tell him how grateful I am that nothing more serious happened.”* * * * *
  148. 148. Nick awoke for the first time without the dull headache that he’d had since the incident. He stretched, andchecked his bedside table for any letters that might have come while he was sleeping. He wasn’tsupposed to read them on his own just yet, something about not straining his eyes because of the headinjury, but when Nick saw a new letter from Alice, he picked it up and started reading it anyway.“Doctors do make the worst patients,” the nurse said as she came into the room with a tray of food.Nick shrugged, and was pleased that the gesture only caused minimal discomfort. “It’s from my wife.”The nurse clucked as she snatched the letter from his hands and set the food down. “I have it on goodauthority that your reading restriction is going to go away once you’ve been checked out today, so howabout behaving yourself until then? The doctor was right behind me.”
  149. 149. Nick grumbled, but didn’t protest the letter going back into its envelope. Sure enough, the doctor came inmoments later, a smile on his face and a small box in his hand.“Feeling better today?”“Much. No residual headache, and only a little pain when I move.”“Excellent. We’ll have you walk around the ward a few times to get your strength back up slowly.”He examined Nick quickly, and as predicted, announced that Nick could read on his own, as long as hedidn’t overdo it. Then, he handed Nick the box he’d carried in.
  150. 150. “What’s this?” Nick asked.“Your Purple Heart, for being wounded in combat.”“Oh,” Nick said, a little shocked. “Thank you.”“No, thank you. You did a good job that day, Nick, and you helped to save a lot of lives. In fact,” the doctorsaid, handing Nick several pieces of paper, “it helped this go through a little faster.”Nick skimmed the letters over. “I don’t understand.”

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