She found him in the lane that led to the road. He lay there. She'd wandered down to the lane to see if all of the marching yankees had passed.
It was a good time really in two ways: the war was over. Yes, they hadn't prevailed and Lee had given out at last but it was over. And the yankees were marching home.
They were remote enough to not have been bothered too much. She was forever grateful for the fact that the local commander was a respecter of the rights of women. So, she hadn't been bothered, although the yankees had commandeered about all that the place had to offer. She knew that they had some things left but precious little.
Momma Amalia, who stayed, despite that proclamation that Mr Lincoln had made about freeing slaves, complained about all that the 'damn' yankees took, leaving her little or nothing to work with in the kitchen.
It had come down to the two of them: her, Sue Anne and Momma Amalia. The rest were gone, simply gone, and not coming back. She knew that. Timmy, the oldest had been the first to go with fervor about 'the cause' and they'd been notified about him dying at a place called Antietam or Sharpsburg, certainly not close to where they were.
Augie had been next, excited about joining up and doing something. Pa had thought that Augie was too you and, in what Sue Anne thought was a crazy idea, had joined with him. The two of them tramping off to be soldiers and promising to come back. But all that came back were notices about deaths, this time in a place called Gettysburg and it was both of them, everlastingly both of them.
There were no more to go and they, with their small place —- at least small by some local standards —- were left alone to cope. She took to wearing Augie's clothes and working the land, as well as she could. It was hard work but it was keeping them okay.
The stock of course was gone. The yankees had seen to that. Yet, despite their constantly calling with their lists, they remained pleasant. There had been only that one time with two drunken soldiers out 'for fun', as they'd said it. And in that case, Momma Amalia had tried to take over until Sue Anne showed up with the shotgun and the yankees had gone on.
She saw them the next day, trudging along the road, both of them hung over and, she thought, looking chagrined. She only nodded to them and they gave her a nod too and were on their way.
Sue Anne Reynolds was 17, when the war started and she thought, most of the time, that it would never end. But of course it had. But it had dragged her life down with it, or so it seemed.
"What chances for a normal or happy life were there for a young girl, even a young pretty girl like Sue Anne, when all the men were dead or gone?" These were her thoughts in those grim, grim days.
She was petite in her stature but had grown into a lovely woman at her age of 21. Though, of course, celebrating birthdays was kind of out these days, indeed celebrating anything was. Despite her 5'3" stature, she was a well built woman and made sure that she wore more dowdy and ill fitting clothes to hide the fact. Momma Amalia had insisted on that.
They'd had two other slaves on the place but both of them, young men, had run off, never to be heard of again. They were just gone, is all. So, Sue Anne and Momma Amalia, who said time after time that 'she wasn't goin' nowhere at all', took care of the place.
It was only that morning that she'd said to Momma Amalia: "Momma, they're gone. I've looked out and they're gone."
"Glory be!" Momma said, "Ain't that a treat! Dem Yankees is gone at last."
She gave Sue Anne a hug, both of them thinking it good news.
"You kin start dressin' like a lovely young lady again," Momma had said.
"No one around to dress like a lovely young lady for," Sue Anne said, with tears in her eyes.
Momma Amalia gathered her into her arms and pressed her against the warms of herself and simply cooed to her to try to keep her calm.
"You goan be fine, honey," Momma Amalia cooed to her, during the hug. "Jes fine!"
And right then Sue Anne believed her clearly enough.
Then, later that morning, Sue Anne found the yankee in the lane.
She thought that he was dead, when she first saw him lying there but on closer inspection, she discovered that he had only fainted. His right pant leg was soaked red with blood and it had apparently put him out.
"Darn yankees!" she'd said to herself. "Don't even have the sense to take care of their own!"
She noted his uniform, that hated blue color of it! It seemed that he was some kind of officer. She thought maybe a lieutenant. But she considered this only for a few seconds, and then ran to fetch Momma Amalia.
She was excited and out of breath by the time that she got to the house.
"Momma! Momma!" she called out and got Amalia's attention right away.
"What you goin' on about, girl?" Momma Amalia asked, coming out of the kitchen.
"There's a yankee lying down in the lane!" she said, out of breath.
"He alive?" Momma asked.
"Yes, but his right pant leg is all bloody!" Sue Anne went on.
"They jes left him!" Momma Amalia said with a snort. "Left him for us to deal wit, one more gift from dem damn yankees!"
"I think so!" Sue Anne said.
"Well," Momma Amalia said, "Let's go and see."
They went to where the yankee was still lying, still passed out, and apparently still bleeding.
"Gotta get this boy up to da house," Momma Amalia said, "An' quick!"
Between the two of them they managed to get him taken up to the house and into the parlor. They put him on the floor, and only a little after that did they take him to one of the boy's bedrooms.
Momma Amalia was busy right away. "Gotta get these things off'n him," she said. "See about dis bleedin'. You go and heat some water please, Missy and I'll do this."
Sue Anne understood but she was also stubborn. "I understand what you're doin', Momma Amalia," she said softly, "But I won't be put off like a girl. This is serious and there are only the two of us to help."
Momma Amalia looked up at her as though receiving a kind of message for the first time.
"Of course, you right!" she said, "Dat's my gal! Let's get him outta dese things."
They worked together and got the yankee down to his drawers and these too had to go. They were also soaked with blood. They got him on a sheet and Sue Anne fetched water to clean him.
"Not too bad," Momma Amalia said, "But he's lost some blood an' will need ta rest before he goes on. You fetch a night shirt o' Mr Timmy. That'll do."
"Yes, Momma," Sue Anne said, going for the night shirt.
LT JEREMY CARTER:
He cursed the luck! He was angry about it! He was furious! It was almost as if he'd led a charmed life during this damn war, engaging in certainly his share of the fighting and not, not at all getting scrapped or hurt or wounded. And they all knew that the end was near and then it was home! Then on almost that last damn day, he got his finally: a wound in the leg, the thigh. It wasn't too terribly bad but it bled. He absolutely refused to allow them to take a saw to him.
"No! His Momma's Jeremy wasn't about to leave his leg on a pile down south here. No way!" flashed through his mind.
It had, his leg had, been dressed and he was okay to go, so they said. Of course, they weren't being completely truthful about that. By the time they let him out of the medical unit, telling him that he could make his way home, since his unit had already gone, he joined the large tatterdemalion crew that was moving slowly north. There didn't seem to be as much discipline and form with this group as he expected a victorious army to show but at least they were heading north toward home.
He was sure that he'd be able to find his way and get there. His leg hurt but it kept gamely on.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he began to fall toward the back of the pack. But there was no way that he was going to give up.
"Jeremy Carter doesn't give up!" he said to himself any number of times as he trudged the road.
"If only I can find my unit," he said.
He asked constantly for 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry but no one seemed to know about them or could tell him anything about their whereabouts. And this damn saber cut on his thigh hurt like hell today. But he was dealing with it. Jeremy was dealing with it.
That is, he dealt with it until he finally had to sit down from the combination of pain and fatigue, and there he simply passed out. It was apparently then that it had started to bleed again. The wound and the walking were getting the better of him at last.
He lay there until Sue Anne Reynolds found him, and called for her Momma Amalia to help her get him up and inside. It was a heavy task for the two women, even though Momma Amalia was a robust woman but they eventually got the yankee soldier inside.
Sue Anne came back with the nightshirt and found that Momma Amalia had the yankee totally naked. She just stared.
Momma Amalia looked up with a grin on her face and said, as though the two of them were sharing a secret:
"He a dandy, Sue Anne! Jes a dandy!"
Sue Anne put her hand over her mouth and giggled into her hand, and was joined by Momma Amalia in the soft laughter.
"We'd best see about dis hurt," Momma Amalia said. "Can do that now dat he's out."
They fussed a bit and Momma Amalia got her 'kit', as she called it. With it, and with Sue Anne looking on wide eyed but determined to be a help, Momma Amalia sewed up the torn edges of the gash in his thigh, that were causing the bleeding.
When it was done, Momma Amalia said: "Okay now we goan wash dis boy. He smell right bad."
Sue Anne giggled again, when Momma Amalia said that. Now Sue Anne did get the hot water and the two of them, after moving him a little, slowly did the washing. Momma Amalia insisted on doing the 'nasty parts', as she called them, by herself. Sue Anne didn't argue.
When they were done with the washing, they put her brother Timmy's night shirt on him and settled him down in bed.
He was delirious for a good long time. They took turns sitting with him and now and again made sure that he was taking at least some water or broth.
Momma Amalia made some chicken soup —- there were still a few pullets around the property, though how the yankees had managed to miss them was anyone's guess. They spoon fed him the soup but even that didn't serve to bring him out of his deep, exhausted, semi feverish state.
They kept a constant watch over him, noticing that his situation began to go deeper into a fever.
"What'll we do, Momma Amalia?" Sue Anne asked, with genuine concern.
"Not much we kin do but keep him calm and give him something now and again; kind of watch over him, I guess! Dat's what we goan do with him."
She looked at Sue Anne's concern and said softly: "You gotta know, honey, dat dis boy might not jes make it through. Jes might not!"
"Oh, I know, Momma Amalia," Sue Anne answered but now tears were showing in the corners of her eyes.
The big woman help out her arms and took a sobbing Sue Anne into the care and concern of her arms.
(It had been ever so with the two of them. Momma Amalia had all but raised the little girl. This had been a house were the boys were king and Sue Anne, pretty little Sue Anne, was the house after-thought. And now it was only Sue Anne left!)
They took turns with the yankee boy, who seemed determined, now that he was marginally comfortable, to sleep for a good long time.
As the fever increased with him, he swept in and out of a kind of delirium. He spewed nonsense about all sorts of horrible battle scenes. It was almost more than Sue Anne could bear to listen to.
AN IMPORTANT DECISION:
His fever alternated between bouts of heat and cold. They had no medicine to give him to make any of it any better. They cared for him the best that they could.
There was a bit of brandy that was left, that had been hidden away to keep it from the yankees and they used that now and again. He still wasn't up to eating but they did get some more of the soup down him and that hopefully would help.
But the cold and the shivers, which alternated with the heat of his brow, continued and now and again got worse.
"What are we gonna do, Momma Amalia?" Sue Anne asked, one evening, when the fever was giving him chills.
"Keep him warm as best we kin!" Momma Amalia said.
But the blankets didn't seem to be doing what was needed.
"I'm gettin' in with him," Sue Anne said.
"You what?" Momma Amalia said, in a shocked tone of voice.
"Now don't you be lecturin' me!" Sue Anne said, fire in her eyes now. "I know what needs to be done here."
Momma Amalia had been around 'her little girl' Sue Anne enough to know when she was stubbornly determined on a course of action and that was the case now.
"You go ahead den," Momma Amalia said, and Sue Anne, with determination, did. She pulled the covers back and, wearing her muslin night gown, got into bed with the shivering yankee soldier.
"Goan let you settle down now!" Momma Amalia said. "You call me if you need, girl!"
"Yes, Momma Amalia," Sue Anne said.
The first thing that she notice was how cold the yankee soldier was. She simply wrapped herself around him, pulled him into an embrace with her and shared her own warmth with him.
She didn't think at first that it was going to work but gradually it did. She felt the space around them getting noticeably warmer, and didn't know if it was because the fever was turning to the 'heat' phase again or not.
But then she drifted into a fairly deep sleep herself. She woke only once during the night, with him whispering words to his 'Momma' with a kind of longing in his voice. She simply pulled him to herself and made her own kind of cooing noises to settle him. For most of the night, she remembered nothing, and, for all that she knew, remained as she was, wrapped around the sick and shivering soldier.
The very first thing that she noticed the next morning, with the sun sweeping into the bedroom through the curtains was that he was awake and staring at her.
"Oh dear!" she said right away.
He seemed to be as disconcerted as she, as he woke only to find himself in bed with probably the loveliest girl that he'd ever laid eyes on.
"Yes, oh dear!" he said.
He stared at her for a moment and finally said: "Where am I?"
"The Pines" she said, "That's what Daddy always called our place."
The process of waking was difficult for Jeremy. It seemed as though, while it was going on, that it was like swimming toward the surface of a body of water from deep, deep down. It was accompanied by flashes of light, it seemed and an immediate assault of the senses by feelings that were at once alien and seemed to be comforting.
The thought actually flashed across his mind, now waking from the fever, that he was in fact dead and awakening to what his folks always referred to as 'God's future'.
The sensations came only slowly and he didn't actually trust them at first. The very initial remembrance that came to his mind was sitting down by the road, so tired, so done in that no forward movement was possible, even when it had probably meant that he was going to die right there by the side of the road.
But this was so different. He tried at first, before confronting whatever the reality was, to assess his surroundings, once he knew that he was in fact awakening.
The first sensation was of the softness of it. He knew, beyond all doubt, that he was in fact in bed. That was the softness! Or was it.
For there was a second awakening that occurred and he then realized that a great part of the softness of that moment of awakening was the softness of someone lying next to him, against him, an arm thrown around him. This much he could ascertain for certain.
That's where the incredible softness came from. He knew too, in an instant or sooner, that it was the form of, the body of a woman that he was feeling pressed against him in this soft bed. Right away there was no further doubt about that. He could feel the softness, yet firmness of this woman's breasts snuggled against his shoulder. His own hip pressed agains her hip and the front of her body. The thought raced across his mind again that he must have died and this was in fact heaven.
That's when he opened his eyes!
There was no greater, more profound or more lovely shock to be received for all the rest of his life! He was looking at the face of a positive angel!
She was blond headed, and had soft features. She was a young woman, probably his own age with soft down, the softest down on her cheeks and a smile curving her mouth.
His initial sense was to kiss her: kiss the angel. But he restrained himself and only looked.
With his senses awake then he realized that he was wearing a night shirt and she was wearing, and, he realized, wearing only, a night gown, for he could feel again the curve of her breasts against his arm and he sensed the way that her side flared down to hips that were rounded and wonderful.
The covers were thrown back a bit and he could look at her, a privilege that he wasn't sure that he'd earned.
But there was no denying it. He was in bed with this angel and she was wrapped up with him and attending him.
Then she opened her eyes and the initial shock registered in her eyes immediately.
"Oh dear!" she said.
Surfeited for the moment with his observing of her, he asked the question that was burning in his mind: "Where am I?"
"The Pines" she said, "That's what Daddy always called our place."
"You saved me," he said, stating the obvious, or what at least was obvious to him.
"You were out by the road at our lane, and your leg was bleeding," she said. "It's where I found you. We brought you here."
"We?" he asked.
"Yes, me and Momma Amalia; we brought you here. You've been so sick."
"How long?" he asked.
"A few days," she said, "And then yesterday later in the day, some fever took hold and you alternated between sweating and getting chills."
She hesitated, she was blushing now. He only smiled.
"It's the only thing that I could think of to make you warm enough," she said.
"Saved me!" he said again, the gratitude completely real in what he said. "Saved by an angel!" he said and she blushed a reddish color. He apologized for making her blush then.
"Momma!" she called out then, not knowing what else to do.
It startled him but brought a rather large, black woman into the room.
"Praise be!" she said, after entering the room. "You brought him back!"
"Yes, Momma Amalia," Sue Anne said.
Then the lovely young 'angel', so he thought of her then, asked him: "Your name? I don't know your name."
"Jeremy Carter," he said.
"I"m Sue Anne Reynolds and this is my Momma Amalia," she went on.
"Pleased to meet you, son," Mamma Amalia said.
"Now, girlie, you jes get out o' that bed and go git dressed," the black woman, obviously now in charge, said.
Sue Anne blushed and giggled, as she began to get out of bed.
"Turn yo head," Mamma Amalia said next to Jeremy, who complied but sneaked a peak at Sue Anne, as she exited from the room, getting only a wide grin from the black woman.
"Let's jes get you up," Mamma Amalia said, going to him. "You sit up now and see if you kin stand it."
His head swam at first but the woman held onto him and it settled down pretty quickly.
"You was losing blood bad," Momma Amalia said.
"Yes," he said, "They weren't really very careful, toward the end, about how they treated wounds. I can simply thank heaven that you found me and had the charity to take care of me."
"Yes," she said, "Thank heaven but you also kin thank Miss Sue Anne; she found you and helped me bring you here."
"Yes, thank Sue Anne," he said.
His head began to swim at that point, from sitting up. She noticed it and settled him back down.
It was then that Sue Anne came back into the room. She was wearing a dress, a pretty, but fairly plain, blue dress. She was smiling at Jeremy, and he answered her smile with one of his own.
"Goan go and fetch some food," Momma Amalia said. "See what we have. You yankees didn't leave much."
"I'm sure we didn't," he said, chagrined.
"No, Momma," Sue Anne said, "We're not going to dwell on that 'reb' and 'yankee' thing any more. It's already caused too much pain, and death, especially in this house."
"You right, Sue Anne," Momma Amalia admitted and with a nod, she went off to arrange for some food for him.
WHO ARE WE?
Jeremy settled back in the bed then and closed his eyes.
"Still very tired?" she asked, she'd pulled a chair up next to the bed.
"Oh, yes," he said. "Guess I lost more blood than I thought."
"You did," she said, "Momma Amalia sewed it up again, and she did it right. We need to look at it later to make sure that it's okay. I guess that I'll let her do that."
He was blushing then and she smiled at that.
"Men folk?" he asked.
"All gone," Sue Anne said, sadness in her voice. "The damn war took them all!"
"Yes," he said, understanding the sadness, "Lots and lots of good men lost. Hope it does something positive."
"It's got to!" she said. Then, with only a brief thought, she said: "I'm sorry about your Mr Lincoln! That was so unnecessary. The craziness of the times."
"Yes," Jeremy said, "He was the best of the best."
She went on then: "The war took Timmy, my brother first, at a place called Antietam, and then Daddy went off with Augie, my younger brother.They both died up in Pennsylvania at that Gettysburg."
"Yes, was there for that fight," Jeremy replied. Neither of them followed up on that thought.
"Your Momma?" he asked.
"She died birthing Augie," Sue Anne answered. "Daddy always said he'd find us a new Momma but he never did, and I had Momma Amalia for me always."
"She seems a good kind," he replied.
"Oh, she's wonderful!" Sue Anne said with some passion.
"Who's wonderful, girl?" Momma Amalia asked, coming into the room.
Sue Anne blushed and said, with great affection: "You are, Momma Amalia!"
"You be turnin' my head now, girl," Momma Amalia said, with a smile and a short laugh. "Got some food here; not much but we doin' okay. Yankees left us some at least!"
"Momma," Sue Anne said softly and the large, black woman acknowledged: "Yes, M, I know; we not goan talk like dat 'bout yankees and all."
"No, we're not," Sue Anne said, "It's over and done and we won't cure the hurts it caused by going on about it."
Jeremy just looked on but was impressed by Sue Anne's point of view and her determination, it seemed, to make things better.
The two of them ate companionably then, with them exchanging smiles now and again.
"Forgive me for speakin' out," he said, "But you are so pretty!"
Sue Anne got wide eyed and blushed a deep red this time. It made him smile.
He laughed then, and said: "We keep taking turns blushing here."
"Guess so!" she acknowledged and they continued eating.
When they were finished with what Momma Amalia had brought them, Sue Anne got up and loaded the tray with the dishes, as he settled back down into the bed.
"You rest now," she said, "I think that you still have a long way to go."
"Yes," he said, yawning, and apologizing for the yawn, "I agree."
She took the tray then, and with a smile left him.
Momma Amalia was in the kitchen and noticed the strange look on Sue Anne's face.
"What?" Momma Amalia asked.
"He said I was pretty!" Sue Anne said with obvious relish.
"Course you pretty!" Momma Amalia said. "You jes be careful."
"Oh, Momma Amalia," Sue Anne said in a whisper, "I know that well enough; it's just so nice to be told that."
Momma Amalia enfolded Sue Anne into her arms and said: "Sure is, my pretty one, my pet, my lovely!"
"It makes me so sad in a way," Sue Anne said. "They're all gone and now we have only this ... this boy to take care of. What the war has done."
"Left us with a task," Momma Amalia said, "And that's okay. We kin take care o' the task."
"Yes, we can," Sue Anne agreed.
"He sleepin' now?" Momma Amalia asked.
"Yes, I left him resting," Sue Anne said.
"Well, I guess we need to plan for chores," Momma Amalia said.
"Yes, chores," Sue Anne agreed.
Sue Anne and Momma Amalia had their talk about the chores. There was some farm work to be done, mainly, for the present, working the garden and both women agreed that they'd do that together. They also agreed that the main work of taking care of Jeremy would be Momma Amalia's concern, though Sue Anne was determined to sit with him now and again.
They assessed what supplies they had and thought that, if they were careful, they'd be fine, until they could get some things from the garden.
"Hid some of the smokehouse things," Momma Amalia said. "Hid them well, and that'll help us out some."
"Oh, good," Sue Anne said, giving the large woman a hug. "You are so special, Momma Amalia!" It made her grin.
They went about retrieving the smoke house items, from where Momma Amalia had buried them. Most of the items were fine and, once Momma Amalia and Sue Anne dug them up, they put them back in the smoke house. Some of the items, they realized, could use a little more curing.
It meant that their meals were frugal but they did have enough to eat and were able to continue to scrape by, even though by now their food supply was divided in three, to include Jeremy.
They tended Jeremy and kept an eye on his wound, which, once he was actually a bit stronger and up and around, caused him to limp. They improvised a kind of a crutch for him that aided in his getting around.
It provided, often enough, a kind of a strange scene to have Sue Anne, dressed in Augie's jeans and shirts, on her hands and knees working in the garden, while Jeremy lounged, with his crutch, by the side of the garden patch and talked with her.
And it needs to be acknowledged that just as often as that scene, in those early days, played itself out, Jeremy apologized for 'not pulling his weight', as he expressed it.
"You just concentrate on getting yourself over this injury," Sue Anne said to him, on one of those occasions.
He gave her a huge smile.
"What?" she wanted to know.
He told her, chuckling at the same time, that she had strands of hair down in her eyes and a dirt smudge on her nose.
"Don't look!" she said plaintively.
But he spoke up quickly: "Sue Anne, you are just gorgeous, dirt smudge and all!"
Sue Anne grinned at him and said: "If you keep up, mister, I'll report you to Momma Amalia and she won't let you come out here with me."
He held up his hands, as though to ward off an attack, and said: "Yes, yes, I'll mind my manners!"
She said back to him, in a soft voice: "Your manners are fine, Jeremy Carter!"
They left it there but those kinds of interchanges were becoming more regular between them.
With their help, at first, he was getting back the use of his leg. The wound was healing nicely, especially since Momma Amalia made sure that she kept it clean. But these days, she was reluctant to let Sue Anne attend him in that way.
"It's one thing," Momma Amalia had said to Sue Anne, "To do for him when he out cold and so sick with it; but it's another, Missy, when he's smiling and grinning and givin' you dem looks."
It made Sue Anne giggle and Momma Amalia smiled right back at her.
They started a regime with him of walking every day. It began very slowly and carefully but they tried to increase the length of the walks as time went on.
During set times of day, Sue Anne would walk out with Jeremy and the two of them would walk the property or walk the road.
It became a regular feature of their day. Normally in the morning, they'd walk out, determining each day how far they'd go. As time went on, and the weeks went by, they lengthened their walks and Jeremy began to be better at it and more at ease.
THE TALK AND A CRISIS REACHED:
It was a Thursday about mid morning. Jeremy, a bit winded from his walk that morning with Sue Anne, was lying down, and Momma Amalia wasn't busy yet with lunch.
Sue Anne was in the library, when a knock came on the door.
"Yes?" Sue Anne said.
"Honey," Momma Amalia said, entering, "Gots to talk to you."
"Yes, Momma?" Sue Anne replied.
"It's about dis Jeremy," Momma Amalia went on.
Sue Anne was a bit suspicious then but her love and respect for Momma Amalia was such that she simply shook her head and listened.
"You sit, Momma Amalia," Sue Anne said, "And we'll talk."
"No, Ma'am," Momma Amalia said with firmness."Dis gal don't go losin' her respect so easily; I fine just here."
Sue Anne was certainly aware of the older lady's stubbornness and simply shook her head in acceptance of what Momma Amalia had said.
"I jes have to say to you, darlin', dat you goan to have to let him go," Momma Amalia went on.
"Let him go?" Sue Anne repeated softly.
"Yes, honey," Momma Amalia went on. "Dat boy is goan to want to get on home to his folks up north."
Sue Anne stopped then, as though she hadn't thought of this. In fact, she had but she wasn't ready or happy about facing that possibility just then. But she only nodded her head in agreement. Then she started to cry, with tears appearing on her cheeks first.
Momma Amalia went to her and held the girl's head to her stomach.
"You cry dat," Momma Amalia said, "You cry but you goan to have to give him up. He better; gittin' jes fine and he goan be movin' on and I 'spec soon it goan happen."
"Oh, Momma," Sue Anne said, crying hard now, "I never expected this to happen; never wanted it to. What do I do?"
"Course you didn't," Momma Amalia said. "Good gal like you jes tryin' to take care o' dat boy; jes tryin' to take care o' him is all."
"It'll be so hard, Momma," Sue Anne said, and her Momma Amalia agreed with that.
"But I goan ta take care o' you, my angel!" Momma Amalia said.
Sue Anne was up then and hugging the woman who'd meant so much to her for her whole life time. Slowly the crying ceased and Sue Anne, wiping her eyes, acknowledged that what Momma Amalia had said was just the truth and it was a truth that she'd be able to live with.
"You wipe dem eyes, now, hear?" Momma Amalia said. "Don't want dat Jeremy catchin' my angel with red eyes."
"Yes, Momma," Sue Anne said and went to was her face.
It was as though once Momma Amalia had broached the subject, the reality was not far behind. Sue Anne and Jeremy were on their walk the next day. Jeremy was only using the stick these days almost as a kind of pleasure walking stick. He really didn't need it at all.
It was he that brought it up.
"Um, Sue Anne," he said softly, as they wandered through the property and around the fields.
"Yes?" she asked, she'd been kind of deep in her own reveries.
"I ... I, um, really need to be going soon; I mean going home, up to Pennsylvania."
"Ohhhhh," Sue Anne sighed. Then she put on a good face and said: "I know that, Jeremy. Momma Amalia already spoke to me about that, and I guess she was right. You certainly seem better these days and well enough to travel."
"Yes," he said, "I feel that way."
He sighed then and went on: "A part of me wants to stay but I know that the folks at home will have been wondering and hoping and all."
"Yes, they will," she agreed.
"There is no way that I will ever be able to repay you for what you, and Momma Amalia have done for me!" he said then.
"Sure there is," she said, only to herself, pushing the very idea into the back of her mind, as soon as it registered with her. "You can come back for me and claim me!"
She immediately tried to bury that thought and not let it get her upset. She hid it fairly well but Jeremy could tell that she was upset by what he'd said to her.
He turned to her, and as though it were time and they both knew it, he opened his arms and took her into his arms. She broke down then and was crying as he held her.
She finally broke away from him and, with no more words, went running off toward the house, where she ended in Momma Amalia's arms and simply cried her grief.
She went to her room after that.
Jeremy asked for her, when he came back to the house but Momma Amalia simply said:
"She in her room; you best let her be jes now, Master Jeremy; she doin' some little grievin' jes now."
"I'm so sorry to have to cause her any pain," he said.
"Oh," Momma Amalia said, with a long exhale, "She's a young woman and thinkin' all dose young woman things. But you need to go and tell yo Momma and Daddy dat you jes okay and all."
"I know," he said, and then he claimed a hug from Momma Amalia too.
They talked about it at dinner. Jeremy announced that he intended to set out and head north for Pennsylvania. By then Sue Anne had gotten a hold of herself and was calmer. They talked and made plans, trying to figure out what they could give him to take. It wasn't much but Momma Amalia and Sue Anne were at least determined to give him some food for his journey.
They prepared for the next two days and then he was ready. They gave him a change of clothes from Timmy's clothes and packed as much food as he thought that he could carry. He'd carved for himself a stout walking stick, for his leg and for the road.
Bright and early on a Friday morning Jeremy Carter was ready for his trek home.
As they stood there, he gave Momma Amalia an extended hug and then turned to Sue Anne. She'd been trying to prepare herself but found that it was being harder than she'd figured.
The best that she could muster was a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek for him. Then she stood back and wished him well and God's blessings on his journey home.
"What you've done for me," he said earnestly, "Is the kindest, most wonderful thing that is imaginable!"
"Thank you for saying so," Sue Anne said, and with the awkwardness still hanging in the air, he walked off.
At the turn of the road, his stick in his hand and a pack of clothes and food on his back, he stopped to wave. Sue Anne had runnels of tears on her cheeks as she waved at him with great enthusiasm, her grief now winning out over her self imposed calm.
She turned then, after he'd gone around that bend in the road and Momma Amalia was waiting for her.
"Oh, my angel!" Momma Amalia cooed, as Sue Anne simply held on and cried her grief.
With a single-mindedness, Sue Anne simply worked to get a hold of herself. In the days to come, she worked the garden and the fields that they were trying to bring around with a positive fury and fervor.
She put away her lovely dresses, seeing no real reason any more for wearing them and went back to dressing in Augie's clothes, as she tended the farm and did her work.
Momma Amalia kept an eye on her but relied on Sue Anne's resiliency and ability to meet crisis. She thought and hoped that Sue Anne would meet this one also. It seemed, as the time went on that she did.
They settled into a kind of life that suited them. There were still no suitors. The entire area was pretty much bereft of men; the war had seen to that. But they began to see a little light for their efforts. The garden turned out to be a complete success. They had vegetables to barter with and were able to use what they had to advantage. They put up the vegetables that they could and bartered some of what they had left over for a few more chickens. It seemed to be working for them.
They got through the heat of summer and the time went on into the fall. It didn't seem even possible for Sue Anne that they'd had Jeremy Carter there with them throughout the spring time. He seemed to fade from all but from Sue Anne's memories of him.
It was a Tuesday that it occurred. Sue Anne had just finished lunch. Momma Amalia was out on the porch taking some wash off of a make-shift line that they had. She bustled into the house and said to Sue Anne:
"Missy, you go and wash dat face! You got dirt on yo face!"
Sue Anne, in a kind of mood, grimaced at Momma Amalia and said: "Yes, Ma'am."
"An' don't you go makin' no faces at yo Momma Amalia!" the older woman said with mock authority.
With good humor, Sue Anne went and did as she was told. When she got back from washing her face, Momma Amalia said to her: "You go to dat porch; someone's come."
Sue Anne went and saw a man on a horse sitting there in the yard. In fact it was Jeremy Carter sitting on the horse in the yard.
Sue Anne Reynolds lost her cool at that point. She was sobbing; she was laughing; she was crying and she was running toward where he was waiting for her. He jumped down from the horse, as soon as she started from the porch, and then she was in his arms.
"You've come back for me!" she said.
"Yes," was his answer. "I've come back for you, and will stay, if you'll have me."
"Ohhhh, Jeremy!" she said and then they had their first proper kiss. It wasn't a peck on the cheek; it wasn't a 'hello friend'; it was a simple 'Jeremy Carter, I love you' kiss that was answered in kind from Jeremy with a 'Sue Anne Reynolds, I love you too' kiss.
And then, when the kiss had broken apart, he said it to her: "Sue Anne, I love you so much!"
"Oh, oh, oh," she sighed, with Momma Amalia standing by and watching. "You've come back to me!"
"You brought me back from death," he said, "Of course I'd come back for you."
"You got home?" she asked.
"Yes," he said, "My Daddy and Momma will be comin' here; they want to thank you and Momma Amalia in person."
Then Sue Anne turned and said, as though Momma Amalia didn't realize it: "Look, Momma Amalia, it's our Jeremy and he's come back."
Jeremy then was caught up in the arms of the large, happy black woman, and while hugging Momma Amalia, Sue Anne joined the hug and the three of them stood there for a good long while.
REMEMBRANCES AND ARRANGEMENTS:
Then it was back to Sue Anne and the two of them were embracing again. This time the kiss came quickly, with her arms around his neck, and the two of them pressed together.
He spoke to her softly then. Once she'd seen how they were, Momma Amalia went into the house.