Part 1 of this short story can be found here.
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PART 2 —
Caleb sank into one of the rockers on the porch, balancing a cup of hot coffee on one knee. Lifting his gaze to where the sun was sinking behind the distant mountains, he felt the loneliness settle inside his heart.
Jesse had been right earlier. He had been remembering, and not wanting to.
It hurt too much to remember what he had lost, to think of Lana and Emily, Papa and Mama. The loss could still rip him apart if he wasn’t careful.
It would have been their fifteenth anniversary tomorrow; but instead of being able to remember a beautiful wedding day, he had to have that joyous time forever intermingled in his mind with the day he had returned home to find his whole family gone.
His mouth turned down at the corners as his anticipation to surprise her with his return on their tenth anniversary filled his mind. It was him that had gotten the surprise as he rounded the curve in the tree-lined road and laid eyes on what had been his home for as long as he could remember.
He had kicked the horse into a run, scanning the area as they raced down the long drive. He had yanked on the reins yards from the front steps, jumping out of the saddle even before the horse had stopped.
He had taken two of the steps in one leap before it dawned on him that there was no point going any further – there was no house behind the front door.
The roof was gone, leaving a charred, gaping hole open to the heavens. The walls stopped feet short of where the roofline used to be, topped with blackened boards and black, windowless openings.
His movements after that had been mindless searching, calling frantically for anyone within hearing distance. He had eventually found his way to the family cemetery plot, falling to his knees before the two newer stones.
He quickly did the calculations in his head and realized his dad’s death coincided with Sherman’s devastating march through the state. Whether the Yankees had anything to do with this loss, he had no idea, but the anger had burned hot and hard for months.
He rested his gaze on the marker next to that of his dad and felt the tears run unchecked down his face.
“Oh, Mama. What happened?” He lifted tear-filled eyes and looked into the distance, taking in the burned out barns and slave quarters that were now nothing more that piles of charred wood. “Where are Lana and Emily, Mama?”
He lost track of time as he knelt there, but eventually realized that the sun was setting behind the woods to the west.
As his gaze rested on the shadowy darkness between those trees, his eyes picked up a faint movement farther in. He stood quickly and stared, unsure what it was he had seen.
Yes, there it was again. There was someone in the wood, watching him. Thinking quickly, he removed his hat and stood still, waiting; hoping that whoever it was would recognize him and come forward.
When the figure stepped out into the open, he moved from the small burial plot and headed across the field.
As the two men met in the middle of the field, Caleb could hardly contain the questions that wanted to pour from his mouth.
By the time darkness had covered the land, Jesse had filled Caleb in as best he could on what had transpired; and Caleb had come to the realization that he was the only surviving member of his family.
Part 3 can be found here.
Part 4 can be found here.
Part 5 can be found here.
Part 6 can be found here.
Part 7 can be found here.
Part 8 can be found here.
Part 9 can be found here.
Part 10 can be found here.
Part 11 can be found here.
Part 12 can be found here.
© Drusilla Mott and https://drusillamott.wordpress.com, 2012