"Charlotte!" Mother cried.
Mother rushed into the bedroom, soaking wet. Her eyes were wild as she held up a sopping newspaper with the headline:
Gen. Lee Surrenders!
I shrieked and jumped off the bed, grabbing the newspaper from Mother’s hand.
“I don’t believe it!” I exclaimed, still staring at the paper in shock. “Do you know what this means? Jack is coming home!”
Dessa jumped up and down on the bed as Mother and I cried in each other’s arms.
Sure enough, a few days later the telegram arrived.
Coming home in few days –(stop-) can’t wait to see you and girl –(stop)- love Jack –(stop)-
Every day after that, Dessa and I watched eagerly for the carriage to arrive. We would even eat our meals on the porch if the weather allowed.
I was in my bedroom making my bed when I heard Dessa.
“He’s here, Charlie, he’s here!” she yelled.
My heart pounded and already my eyes were filling up with tears. I lifted my skirts and flew down the stairs and out the front door. Standing by the carriage was Jack, still clad in his dark blue uniform.
“Jack!” I sobbed, running towards him. He wrapped his arms around me as I cried into his shoulder. He planted a kiss on my cheek and then looked deep into my misty eyes, his own eyes filled with tears.
“Are you alright?” he scanned me up and down. “I got a telegram saying-“
“Oh, that. I’m fine, honest. I’ll tell you all about it later. But first-“ I stopped and turned towards the front door where a little girl peeked out. “Darling, I’d like you to meet Hadessah.”
Jack smiled and approached the front door. He knelt down to Dessa’s height and gave her a hug. Dessa beamed.
“It’s very nice to meet you,” he said. Jack glanced at me and I knew exactly what he was thinking. How on earth did you get this girl out of the south?
“I’ll explain everything later,” I smiled. “Right now I’m just glad you’re home and safe.” I put my arm through his and we walked into our home together for the first time in months.
Later that evening, after a hearty supper, the three of us sat on the couch and Jack was eager to hear our story.
“Oh dear. Where to begin?” I sighed.
“How about with the frying pan?” Dessa grinned. We shared a good laugh as Jack looked thoroughly puzzled.
“Shall we tell her now?” I asked. Jack nodded his head and tried not to smile. It was a week after he had arrived and we had very important news for Dessa.
“Dessa! Would you come here for a minute, please?” I yelled from the bottom of the stairs. She came down and I motioned for her to go into the living room and sit down. Jack had his arm resting on the mantle of the blazing fireplace, next to the photograph of us both on our wedding day.
“Sit down, Dessa,” he said. She obeyed, and I sat down next to her.
“Charlie and I have something important to tell you,” he started. “We’ve found a family for you to live with.”
Her face fell immediately. But within seconds she put a smile on her face.
“Oh, that’s very good news!” she exclaimed, her voice quivering a bit. “I’m sure I’ll be quite happy and-and-“ she struggled to hold back the tears.
“Dessa,” I said softly. “We want you to be in our family.”
Her mouth fell open and she looked back and forth from Jack to me.
“You mean, live here?” she whispered, warm tears starting to stream down her face. “For good?”
Jack came and sat on the other side of her, grabbing her tiny, light brown hand.
Then came the sobs of joy that brought tears to Jack’s and my own eyes.
“You’ll never be alone again, darling. Jack and I will be here for you always.”
We threw our arms around each other and had group hug. And by the light of the flickering fire in the hearth, we discussed all our plans for the future.
“Hadessah Grace Hamilton,” Dessa said, grinning. I turned and looked her in the eye.
“Grace?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. “No wonder you thought up that name so quickly!” I laughed.
“I must have missed something again. I swear, you two have more inside jokes than-than-I don’t know what!” Jack exclaimed, visibly frustrated. We laughed and both gave him kiss.
I had never been happier in my life. The war was over, Jack was home and we now had a daughter. Every part of the journey-the cold, hunger and pain-was worth it. I would do it over a thousand times if I had too, for my sweet Dessa.