I was never one to believe in fairytales. I was never one to believe in happily ever after’s or fairy godmothers that would solve all of my problems. Not until I met him. I was 16 years old, and at that time, my father was in the Confederate army. I grew up in a home with very militarized and strict rules. What my father said was law, and it was my job to care for my siblings and the occasional wounded soldier. My siblings consisted of three baby sisters and my older brother, who was off with my father fighting the war. My mother was always somewhere at the bottom of a bottle of whiskey.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. The sun was barely peeking from behind the clouds and the North Carolina air was crisp and sweet. I could smell the dew off the ground mixed with saltwater from the ocean a few miles down from my childhood home. That’s where I met him. He came up with my father, riding a horse next to him. Ms. June was outside in the back folding our laundry. The ruckus of soldiers overwhelmed the peaceful morning. I heard the familiarity of my father’s voice over the crowd telling everybody to hustle inside the house and not say a word.
“Madeline.” The sound of my name startled me. I immediately got up from where I was with my sister and grabbed the medical bag from the kitchen under the green cupboard. When I walked into the living room that was full of large men, I saw him. It wasn’t like I was looking at a soldier. I was looking at somebody who it felt like I had known forever. He groaned out in pain and looked down at his leg. He had been wounded and needed bandages and a couple of stitches. As I walked up to him, our eyes locked and he gave out a small grin.
“Well hello Ma’am,” he spoke through his grunts. “So, you are the fixer-upper I’ve been hearin’ so much about.”
I smiled as I crouched down to inspect his wound closer. I started wiping it with alcohol, so badly wanting to ask him how it happened. I opened my mouth and, as I started to ask the question, I saw my father’s stern look and heard him clear his throat.
“You aren’t just going to leave me hanging’ like that are you?” He asked me. “And what are y’all still doin’ here? Shouldn’t you be out there defending the home front?” He started to get irritated with the posse he came in with. My father started showing them out, and my eyes met his. He nodded at me and walked out with the rest, leaving me and this familiar stranger.
“Come on Darlin’. Surely you can speak. All your daddy talks about is how smart his baby Mads is.” I looked at the man’s wounds while he tried to make simple conversation with me, and I started to sew them up. I touched his skin after wrapping them up, and it was like a jolt of electricity flew through my veins. I looked at the man real sharp. He grinned at me as if he felt it too. When I went to get up, he grabbed my hand and looked me in the eyes. After all, I had just sewn up his skin. He looked at me and smiled and I heard another throat clear. It was my father again giving us a very unhappy look. I nodded in his direction and walked out of the room back to where my sisters were sitting.
Around dusk that night, they loaded up their horses and were getting ready to ride off back into the fight. I went to see them off and noticed that the soldier was prepping his horse to ride. I turned fast and went back into the house when he caught me staring. When I turned the corner in the kitchen, there he stood. He gave me a small smile and grabbed my hand.
“My name is Noah. I am a private in the Confederate army, and when this war is over, I am coming back to marry you.” My jaw dropped at his comments, and before I could get a word out, he was gone.
When the war ended, I waited for Noah.
I waited three months, two days for him to come back. And just when I thought all hope was lost, I saw the head of his black horse trotting up the drive. He had come back for me.
65 Years Later
I looked at my grandchildren in awe of their innocence. Their mother had just arrived to come to get them.
“Noah! Alyssa is here for the kids.” I yelled into the kitchen. And sure enough, there stood my 19-year-old soldier like an image from in time with that goofy smile and the look in his eyes that will forever take my breath away.