A Young Widow's Promise
Felecia Roundtree is thirty-seven years old, she's already lost her husband in battle, and prays each morning her two young sons live to see another day. With her own two hands, she's turned the front of her property at remote Locust Point, NJ, into a burial ground for unknown Confederate prisoners of war, hoping someone will return a kind gesture to her own loved ones. More
Felecia Roundtree sat on the edge of her bed in the only white dress she had left since the war had begun. She'd always preferred white because it was simple and easy to care for. She should have been wearing black, but she wasn't seen often enough to worry about it. Besides, this dress had turned mostly pale gray by then anyway, and the hem was beginning to fray. She'd been meaning to buy fabric to sew a new dress, but it wasn't on the top of her chore list.
It was already after six on a warm, moist Saturday morning in late August and she hadn't even finished dressing yet.
Felecia was thirty-seven years old but looked more like twenty-seven. Her hair was long and strawberry blond and parted dead center; thick waves fell into points below her shoulders. Each morning, she haphazardly pulled it back and pinned it into a chignon, exposing a face so delicate and pointed and looked so much like a handsome fox, old friends sometimes called her Foxy.
Before she started her day, she crossed her legs and hesitated. She rested her chin in the palm of her hand and sighed. Then she pursed her lips and gazed through the open window of her second floor bedroom, beyond the small, quirky cemetery that covered the entire front of her property. This was one of those mornings she still had trouble believing she had a graveyard in front of her house.
She reached for a book on the cherry nightstand alongside the bed, a small black bible with faint traces of what had once been gold lettering embossed on the frayed cover. She didn't open it. She just placed her right palm on top and said a small prayer for her two young sons who were off fighting somewhere in Virginia.
Last she'd heard, they were in Spotsylvania, but she'd never been south of where she lived and new nothing of the places people told her about. But Felecia knew how to pray. And she did this almost every morning, praying the war would end soon and that her blessed boys would return alive and well.
She'd lost their father, Joshua, a year earlier in a small battle outside Atlanta. At least that's what she'd been told, though it wasn't one of the largely publicized battles that would ever be in the American history books, and she'd never seen the body.
But that didn't matter, because she saw Joshua at least once every single day. At least she thought she did: she'd been alone for so long, she wasn't sure about anything anymore. She never mentioned aloud seeing Joshua to anyone; it was her own little secret. Sometimes in the early morning, while pulling her hair back or putting on her shoes, she'd notice him standing in the bedroom doorway in his dark uniform. His hat would be pulled down below his eyebrows; he would be leaning against the frame with arms folded and feet crossed at the ankle. There was always a sly grin on his face as though he knew some dark secret she didn't.
She jerked and blinked the first time it happened. Her heart started to beat so rapidly, she had to grab hold of the bed post to keep from falling down. But the old sparkle in his steel blue eyes calmed her nerves immediately and made her feel whole again. His handsome half smile slowed her racing heart. And though he never spoke to her, not even a single word, there were times when she thought she heard the faint whistle of an old song she couldn't quite place.