Virginia, 1866

He was on leave for the next six months. Not by request, he’d been ordered to take it by his new commanding officer. Colonel Daniel Gustav Ferguson had the best intentions, but didn’t understand the situation. He turned right down the old dirt road and slowed the horse to a slow plodding walk. He hadn’t seen this place in five years. He wondered at the beautiful trees, untouched by the war. Everything around him was so peaceful, so serene, like in a dream.

He slowly went down the hill, trying to think of what he could possibly say. He wasn’t sure he could say anything, he wasn’t even sure he really wanted to see her. But he had his orders from Colonel Ferguson to go and see her, and, like the soldier he was, he must obey. He slowly rode back up the other side of the dip in the road. He wondered as top of the old white house came into view how many places just like this he’d seen before, only to change into a battlefield as the armies clashed in the titanic struggle for the very heart and soul of a country.

As the horse brought him to the crest of the rise he drew it up with a jerk, partially due to his poor horsemanship, partially due to the emotions that now flooded over him. It had been here he’d courted her, trying to win over not only her mother but her father as well. He’d met Christina in New York City on one of the occasions he’d been able to journey there from West Point. She’d been studying to become a doctor at the time, a brave act, for not too many women would have had the nerve to enter what had always been viewed as a man’s world. They’d begun seeing each other as regularly as they could, and when they could not they’d written letters. He remembered those days of merry making with a deep sadness now.

Those days were long gone, they were now replaced by terrible memories of such places as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. The warm spring breeze blew gently against his face, as if nature itself tried to dissuade him from thinking of those places, their names now forever sealed in the memories of not only those who’d fought there, but of a whole nation that now tried the impossible task of healing. He heard a slight clinking noise and realized after a moment of looking for the source that it was the medals upon his uniform. That sealed his thoughts on the past.

 He never had told her, nor anybody but Abraham, a former slave he’d fought with, about the fact that he’d fought in the Crimea. His thoughts drifted even further back into those days of youthful desire for adventure, for honor and glory that never came. Just the horror of realization at the things that humanity could do to itself. He shook himself, attempting to clear his mind of all those thoughts. He gently nudged the horse with his boots, remembering the unfortunate time at West Point when the riding instructor had told him to dig in and hold on. Fool that he was he did so, and was found ten miles away with the horse standing over him as he tried to pick himself back up and restore his dignity after having been thrown and knocked unconscious.

He smiled as the horse slowly walked forward, taking him closer to the meeting he dreaded so much. As he came to the track leading up to the house he saw the horses there in the pasture, workers going about their various chores. He could feel the anger and hatred of their eyes burning into him as they saw the color of his uniform.

 He calmly ajusted his Colt 1851 Navy revolver in it’s holster, making sure it was an unnoticed movment. He stopped in front of the house and gently climbed down from the horse. He adjusted his sabre and kepi back to their correct positions and simply stood there, dumbfounded for a few moments. The place looked just as he’d last seen it, a great white house with red cedar columns holding the porch up.

He slowly walked around on the path to the porch and saw the familiar rose bushes flanking the steps leading onto it. There were other flowers all about in the garden that stretched from one end to the other of the front of the house, the only break in front of those steps. He hesitated at the base of them and tried to nerve himself up them. After a few moments, which felt like an eternity, he walked up the steps, his heavy boots more of a notice he was there than anything else.

He stopped in front of the door, with it’s red roses painted down the sides and slowly reached out his hand. He could hear people inside talking, their conversation uninteligible to him. When he knocked the conversation stopped. He heard someone step up to the door, and made sure his holster was unsnapped, just in case it should be one of the hands with a weapon. The door opened and there she stood. “Is Miss…” He began as the door opened, the words dying on his lips as he saw her. She stared at him for a moment, a look of hatred tinged with uncertainty upon her face. She didn’t recognize him for a moment and then he saw recognition flash there, then a stern look replaced it.

She stared at him as if she were staring down an unruly child caught in mischief for a long moment, the silence hanging heavy between them. Then a little boy poked his head around her dress and looked up at him. He took a step back, that face was like looking into a mirror when he was a boy. “Who’s the Yankee, Mommy?” Asked the point, his voice innocent, and yet knowing of what he said. She looked down and made a quieting noise at the boy. “I’m Captain Francois Dubois, little sir, whom might you be?” He asked, using the name he’d used in the French Foreign Legion in the Crimea. “My name’s Isaac, why are you here?” Asked the boy, the exchange changing her expression. “Go on inside and I’ll tell you later, Mommy and the captain need to talk.” She finally said, he waved at the boy and waited for him to go, she closed the door behind him, stepping out onto the porch. “Why are you here?” She asked, the question angry. “I was ordered to by my new commanding officer, he gave me six months of leave and ordered me to come pay a visit.” He said, removing his kepi and looking her in the eyes as he spoke. “Well, I suppose you know now what you haven’t for the last five years.” She said, her voice conveying how little she cared about his knowing a thing. “He’s my son?” Being more a statement than a question. “Yes, why didn’t you tell him who you really are?” She demanded hotly, placing her hands on her hips. “I didn’t know what you may have told him, I thought, perhaps, you’d told him I was dead.” He said finally, emotion choking his voice. “Well, I’d thought about it, but didn’t have the heart to lie to him like that.” She said, for just a second he saw her feelings as her guard slipped. “Well, I would like to get to know him. But, I think for now, maybe it’d be best if I were a friend of his father’s who came to check on him to tell his father when I return.” He said, making it a request more than a demand. “Now?” She said laughingly. “After all this time you want to come back and act like you care?” She said angrily. “I made my choice, you made yours. I had my duty to do, you could have stayed in New York but you didn’t.” He said, feeling his temper rise. “I haven’t been back since because I thought you’d just have one of the hands shoot me, Hell, you still might. I gave you the divorce, what more do you want from me?” He said, his anger evident in his voice. She slapped him across the right side of his face, he took the blow, but his right hand went to the butt of his pistol for just a second out of habit. “I’ve waited to do that for five years.” She said hostily, tears now streaming down her face. “Satisfied? I want a yes or no answer from you, right here and now, will you let me see him? He doesn’t need to know who I really am, not now, or possibly ever.” He said, trying to reign in his anger. “Damn it, Michael Rudd, it’s not that easy and you damn well know it.” She said, crying openly now. “Well, I’ll be staying at the Miller’s Inn in town for the next week, send word with an answer. I’m sorry for leaving the way I did, but I’m not sorry for doing my duty. Goodbye, Miss Kratz.” He said, replacing his kepi atop his head and turning sharply, walking back to the horse without turning back to see her. He mounted the horse and turned it to ride away. As he rode back down the path fom the house he heard her crying behind him. He didn’t look back, just kept riding, the tears burning his eyes as well.

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