“Please don’t do this.” I whispered in his ears while he embraced me. Tears began to stream down my cheeks. “Please don’t do this. Please”
“Jane, please don’t cry. You know I wouldn’t if, if I had a choice. I love you and I will never, ever forget you.”
“You better not! You better not forget to write me either! I’m going to have the whole house to my lone self.”
“I will write you every other day. And if you don’t get a letter one day, the next letter will have a reason why. Will you promise to write at least a couple sentences back?”
“A couple sentences? I’m gonna write a book! I’ll tell you everything that happens here.”
He kissed my forehead and smelled the fruity sensation of my auburn hair.
“I’m gonna miss you more than Atlanta, Janey.”
His sapphire eyes looked straight into mine, “Yes?”
“You will come back.”
“Of course. I love you. Very much.”
I nodded as my eyes released more tears. He bent down and gave me the last kiss before he left for Basic Training.
Two Months Later.
“Momma! We got another letter from John!” I yelled to my mother.
She was living with me now. I’m lonely and I have a large house to myself. John going to war was one of the worst things that ever happened in my life. I never realized how much I needed him in my life. He still writes me, every other day and I was about to write him the most life-changing letter he will ever receive.
“Well, open it! I’ll be right down.”
I looked for our silver letter opener, but was not able to find it, so I tore it open with my bare hands. I could smell the sea and the hard work that John put into this letter. I could smell the cigarettes and the dirty sheets. But I didn’t care. It was from John. I sat down in the oriental chairs in our living room, next to the fireplace and started to read the letter.
Janey, November 29, 1941
I’m glad you got my last letter. I’m always afraid they aren’t gonna make it home and you’d get some crazy idea I was dead. I’m not dead. I may feel dead, but I’m still trucking. I miss you. I miss your smile, laugh, smell, hell, I even miss your mother. I’m glad you have some company.
Basic Training is horrible, as usual. I know you’ll hate me for this, but if you were in my position, you would do the same: I started smoking. Only a couple a day, but I did. There’s nothing else to do! I’m stuck here waiting for something to happen – a bomb or, an invasion. Pray to God nothing does happen, but if a bomb hit, or someone invaded somewhere, I would be shipped off to fight for the Allies.
I’m not sure where I’m going, and I don’t even know when I’m coming home, but if fighting for my country means I get to see you again, well then God dammit, I’ll fight for my God damn country. When I come home, I will kiss you until we run out of breath. I will make love to you until we fall asleep and I will love you until we die. I love so very much, and I’m expecting a book to arrive in the mail.
“Dammit! Ma! He started smoking!”
She entered the room wearing a bathrobe and curlers in her hair.
“Well, what do you expect them to do? If you were waiting around for something to happen, and you found something entertaining, you would do it. Right?”
“Did Pa ever smoke?”
My mother’s face turned paler than usual.
“No. No, your father was a,” she said quietly, “He was a good gentlemen.”
“I’m sorry ma, I didn’t mean to bring back awful mem-“
“No, don’t worry. It’s fine. I loved your father, and I’d rather talk about him than forget about him.”
We sat there staring at the letter from John. My father died during the First World War, when I was two years old. I barely knew my father, now I knew he never smoked.
“I think I’m gonna write a letter to John now.”
“OK. Tell him I’m praying for him. Would you like some tea? I’m gonna make some.”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Are you going to tell him?” She yelled from the kitchen.
“Yes, of course! It’s great news!”
“Sweetie, I’m so happy for you.”
John, December 6, 1941
I loved your letter; although I am very disappointed you have started to smoke. It’s bad for you! You know that. But I understand there is no worse feeling than waiting for a tragedy to happen.
I have some good news. At least, I hope it’s good news. I will never be alone for the next nine months, not even when I go to the bathroom. Yes! We’re going to have a child! I found out yesterday when I went to the doctor’s office. He said it looks like a healthy baby. Oh John, if only I could write down the joy I have right now. I hope you are happy, too. This is a great change in our life and I’m very excited to start it.
If it is a boy, I was thinking James, or Patrick, or maybe Daniel. If it’s a girl, I was thinking Mary, Katherine, or maybe Audrey? Please respond with your thoughts. I want to know we’re on the same page. I love you very much and cannot wait for you to come home. We’re waiting (all three of us!).
Come home soon,
I enclosed the letter in an envelope, addressed it, stamped it and left the house to put it in the closest mailbox. Before I placed it in the mailbox, I kissed it and said, “Come home soon,
The next day, December 7, 1941, my mother and I went to church to pray for the soldiers in the army, sacrificing their lives to fight for our country. I prayed for God to let John come home safely, so he can help take care of our baby. I prayed nothing would happen to him that would make him unable to hold our baby. I prayed he would love our baby. After church, my mother and I sat at home and started to cook some lunch. We turned on the radio for any news. The Round Table was about to come on, when there was a special bulletin from Robert Eisenbach.
“From the NBC News Room in New York, President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese have attacked the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from the air. I’ll repeat that, President Roosevelt said that the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from the air. This bulletin came to you from the NBC News Room in New York, which for two years, has been at war with Adolf Hitler.”
My mother turned off the radio.
“Tell me,” tears started to pour out of my eyes, “Tell me, he’s gonna be OK.”
“He’s gonna be OK. He’s gonna come home.”
She embraced me for what felt like the whole day.
President Roosevelt declared war on Japan the next day, and I knew that’s where John was going – Japan. I was sick. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t clean, I couldn’t move. I had to receive a letter from him for reassurance.
“JANE! JANE, COME QUICK!” It was nearly noon on December 13. I ran out of bed to the kitchen to find my mother waving a letter in her hands. I ripped it open, not bothering to look for the silver letter opener.
Jane, December 9, 1941
As you’ve probably heard, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese two days ago. And yesterday, President Roosevelt declared war with them. I’ve been recruited to be shipped out to the South Pacific. Lieutenant says we have a good chance of actually winning this war, but we’re gonna loose a lot of people. I just hope you are safe.
The Baby! I am so overwhelmed with joy! You cannot believe how happy I am right now. That letter made my day. I'm going to be a father! I can’t wait to come home and see how big your stomach is!
I’m probably not going to be able to write every other day. Now I’m actually fighting for our war. It’s the war to end all wars, and I’m glad we’re ending it soon. I want to get out of here because I miss you. All of you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I love you.
Anata Ga Suki (I love you in Japanese),
My heart melted with joy. He was excited about the baby. But then I remembered he was going off to war. Dangerous war with the Japanese. I started crying.
“GOD DAMMIT, MOTHER! Why him? He didn’t do anything to deserve this!”
“He’s coming home! Don’t forget that.”
I didn’t write a letter to John, yet. I was too scared if I were to pick up the pen I would start crying. I couldn’t write his name, let alone write a whole letter to him.
December 21, 1941. There was a knock at the door. I opened it to see who it was and found a man in a suit with a reverend standing next to him.
“I’m so sorry Mrs. Walters. Your loss is in our hearts.”
They handed me a telegram with a folded American flag. They got into their black car with a white star on it while I was left on the porch with a telegram and an American flag, in shock. I couldn’t move.
“Janey? Jane, who is it?”
My mother came down the stairs to the front door and saw the black car drive away.
“Jane! Janey! I’m so sorry. Jane, come inside! Come on.”
She guided me to the kitchen and fixed me a cup of tea. I couldn’t take my eyes off the telegram.
92 NORTH MOUNTAIN AVENUE, ATLANTA, GA
THE ARMY DEPARTMENT DEEPLY REGRETS TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR HUSBAND JOHN MARCUS WALTERS WAS KILLED IN ACTION IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY AND IN THE SERVICE OF HIS COUNTRY ON THE NINTEENTH OF DECEMBER. THE DEPARMENT EXTENDS TO YOU ITS SINCEREST SYMPATHY IN YOUR GREAT LOSS. ON ACCOUNT OF EXISTING CONDITIONS THE BODY IF RECOVERED CANNOT BE RETURNED AT PRESENT. IF FURTHER DETAILS ARE RECEIVED YOU WILL BE INFORMED. TO PREVENT POSSIBLE AID TO OUR ENEMIES PLEASE DO NOT DIVULGE THE NAME OF HIS SHIP OR STATION=
COLONEL JACOBS THE CHIEF OF ARMY PERSONNEL
Christmas was spent listening to music decorating the tree and remembering John. I was devastated. Who was going to be the father of my baby? My mother was great and kept me alive. I didn’t want to live anymore. It’s as if someone kicked me in the stomach and then shot me in the heart and left me there to die.
The next day, I woke up at six o’clock and cleaned up the house without a word. I took a nap around eleven until my mother woke me up.
“You might want to see this.”
She brought me into the kitchen and pointed to the table where an envelope was resting.
“The mailman said he was sorry it was late. There was a confusion in the system,” she told me quietly.
It was John’s handwriting. I opened the letter carefully, and slowly.
Jane, December 19, 1941
Japan so dangerous; I’m lucky to be alive. Many of my friends have died in explosions. The Japs are hiding mines everywhere. I just want to see someone smile again. I think my muscles are worn out from frowning. But I know when I’ll see you, I’ll smile the biggest smile ever. I can’t wait to come home to you. How’s the baby? Healthy? I can’t wait to see him or her too! Tell your mother I love her and make sure to read the baby stories. A guy said that babies love listening to stories. He has two kids.
We have to walk many miles everyday, then sleep for about two hours and then we’re up again, looking for anyone who might be an Axis. God, I hate this war. Every night, I pray to God you stay safe and that this war will soon be over. Right now it’s about 0400. I have to get some sleep. I love you and always will.
I’m coming home,
P.S. If it’s a boy, Daniel. If it’s a girl, Katherine. I’m leaning towards a girl. Tell her I love her and can’t wait to meet her.
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