Lieutenant John Bourke discovers morphine-addicted John Weldon’s journal behind some commissary supplies and returns it to Katherine.
The writing was tiny like a secret. Katherine flipped through to the beginning. It predated their time together. It was older than time; the war, Carlisle Barracks, a bounty of withheld information. Maybe she should hide it and look it over a little at a time. What did she want to read first? Katherine flipped and flipped—the month when they met, the day…and she found it. Katherine’s heart raced.
Visited Captain McCullough. Felt I knew the mother already from his stories of home. I intended to talk to him about all that has happened since the Wilderness, but he was off with his sister racing horses and I hated them for their perfect little world where even the flowers matched.
The girl seemed stuck on herself for someone so small and boyish, but then she wore a blue dress for supper and she smelled so nice. After the meal I couldn’t help stare at her, but I don’t think she noticed, she was rudely reading the whole time like she was bored with us all. Simon is just the same—spoiled and fun and I can’t decide to forgive him or not.
I was so damned awkward. That door, that brief hope I had of having a normal happy life died at the Wilderness. But there is something about that girl. She’s nothing like Simon McCullough. Coming to New Jersey has made me see how much I will miss in life. How much I always miss. Katherine McCullough will think nothing more of me, but I will never forget almost dancing with her.
Weldon’s boots scuffed the floor on the other side of the curtain now, and Katherine slapped the book shut.
“What have you got there, Kate?” John asked as he came around to see her.
Katherine stayed on the bed. “Oh, nothing.”
“Come on, what are you up to?” Weldon asked.
“Did you really think I was stuck on myself when you first met me?” Katherine giggled.
Weldon sat down beside her, tugging at his boot. “Why do you ask?”
“No reason. Do you think I didn’t see you staring at me that first night in my father’s library?” Katherine purred and tickled his chin.
Weldon wasn’t smiling now. “Katherine, why do you ask? I don’t understand. It was so long ago.”
“It’s funny you didn’t notice how nervous you made me. I was hiding behind my book listening to every word you said.” Katherine pulled the journal out from behind her and placed it on his lap with a grin. “I’m sorry I read it without your permission, but it’s lovely to go back to those days.”
“You read it all?” Weldon cried.
Katherine sat up. “John, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have, but Mr. Bourke said the writing was impressive. I couldn’t help myself.”
“Bourke saw it? He read it?” Weldon asked panicking. “I’m found out!”
“John, Lieutenant Bourke said it was good! He only read enough to find your name somewhere.”
“Katherine, now you can see I’m ruined! How can you take it so lightly?”
“John, John! What are you talking about? So now the world will see our romance?”
“I can’t believe you read it!”
“Only about us and the way you felt on our first meeting—you are such a surprise—how could you deprive me of reading it? It made me happy.”
“It was private! And now Bourke knows!” Weldon paced, pulling his hair. “How did he seem?”
Katherine laughed at her husband’s discomfort. “Bourke seemed impressed by your style and nothing more. He just wanted to return it to its rightful owner.”
John took the journal and threw it into the fire before Katherine could stop him. He clutched his hair in both hands while Katherine looked on in shock. Gently she pried his hands loose and took them in hers. “My darling, what was in that journal that you’re so afraid of?”
John looked at her searchingly. “You only read about our meeting?”
“John, you’re scaring me. Please be honest with me. Did you have doubts about us?”
“Yes,” Weldon answered miserably, knowing that Katherine would never guess the truth if she hadn’t read it, and he would not have the courage to present it.
“Still?” Katherine asked.
“Yes…sometimes. You’ll find things you won’t like about me.”
“I already have, John. You snore and you don’t clean up after breakfast and you don’t trust me enough, but I will always love you.”
Weldon moaned and felt he might be sick. He wanted to tell Katherine how naïve she was, how blind and foolish…and it angered him. Weldon resented Katherine for having so little to worry about, but…he loved her still. It was that unquestioning devotion, that blind faith… “Katherine, I am saved by you. My foolish thoughts and actions from before…I’m glad to be rid of them.”
Katherine pulled him close. “You spend so much time worrying over the past it clouds our future. I wonder what it is—it must be worse than I can imagine—that causes you to suffer. You say it has nothing to do with us, but then why won’t you tell me? What have you done?”
Katherine asked with a calm that surprised Weldon. Now was the time to tell. Her eyes were set on him. Katherine was determined to hear anything, to accept anything. He would tell her, and she would understand.
“Katherine, during the war I let down my company. I tried to be someone I wasn’t. I even stole from your brother.”
“Yes, strawberry preserves.”
Weldon continued impatiently. He must tell Katherine everything… “Yes, I did it more than once, too. And I used to steal more than that from Simon, and he knew all along, but then he called me on it. Thieves are hated in the army.”
The idea of anyone taking advantage of Simon annoyed Katherine. “Yes, thieves are the lowest of the low,” she blurted out and regretted it.
Weldon flashed her a look like a door closing, got up and went for a smoke.
***Watch for the fully re-edited version of my novel THE HOUSE ON TENAFLY ROAD to be released soon! In the meantime enjoy some tasty bits:
PART ONE HERE
PART TWO HERE
PART THREE HERE
PART FOUR HERE
PART FIVE HERE
PART SIX HERE
PART SEVEN HERE
PART EIGHT HERE
PART NINE HERE
PART TEN HERE
PART ELEVEN HERE
PART TWELVE HERE
PART THIRTEEN HERE
PART FOURTEEN HERE
PART FIFTEEN HERE
PART SIXTEEN HERE
PART SEVENTEEN HERE
PART EIGHTEEN HERE
PART NINETEEN HERE
PART TWENTY HERE
PART TWENTY ONE HERE
****Featured image: A Girl Reading by Charles Edward Perugini