Angry bullets of sweat slithered down Henry Townsend’s face as he ran. His body ached terribly and felt as though it would involuntarily collapse at any moment, but he kept going with all his being.
After what seemed like hours, the familiar sight of the aluminum mailbox with the name ‘Townsend’ inscribed onto both sides came into view. He was finally home.
It was a beautiful house indeed. With its red brick foundation and pillar supports, the dwelling looked almost colonial from a distance. The windows were open, the wind causing the snow white curtains to flow in and out of the square opening, almost as if they were waving at Henry, welcoming him home once again. He gazed at the house he had come to know and love with all his heart. The light sea green shade on the wood and the navy blue shutters complimented each other splendidly. The small chimney that graced the right corner of the dwelling gave a very relaxed, homey touch, something Henry always adored.
He sprinted up the cobblestone pathway, refusing to stop until he was finally inside. With a swift turn of his strong wrist he burst through the door, a deafening clap cutting through the air as it slammed harshly against the inner wall.
“Oh! Mr. Henry sir! You done startled me somethin’ awful you did!” Scarlet Jenson, the Townsend’s nursemaid, stood with one palm against the wall, the other clutching her chest as she struggled to catch her breath. The contents of her laundry bin were now strewn about the floor, the wicker basket now overturned and completely empty.
“Forgive me Scarlet,” Henry said and quickly got to work retrieving the fallen clothing. He gathered it all into the basket and returned them to the shaken nursemaid. “Now would you be a dear and tell me where Andrea is? I need to speak with her right away.”
Scarlet blew a strand of her course hair out her face and set the laundry down on a nearby table. “Shucks Mr. Henry sir, Miz Townsen’ done went a-wonderin’ outside long before you done come in the house,” she explained. “She gots lil’ Collin with her, so I don’t reckon she went too far darlin’.”
Henry took the handkerchief out of his shirt pocket and wiped his sweat coated brow. “Thank you Scarlet.” He rushed out of the back door and stood admiring the landscaping Scarlet and his wife had put so much effort into. The yard was lush with greenery; bright clusters of colorful flowers were everywhere throughout the yard, a lively ocean of blues, reds, pinks, purples, and oranges. A medium sized pond bordered with stones of light grey sat on the right side of the yard, giving it a very soft, peaceful air. A lovely gazebo embellished with stands of ivy and daffodils sat near the rear of the garden, and within it, the silhouette of a picturesque maiden rocking slowly to and fro.
Henry cautiously took each step up the gazebo stairs, the wood creaking softly from time to time as he walked. She never stirred. “Andrea?” he cooed softly.
She seemed to tense up at the mention of her name but made no effort to turn around. She stood like this for minutes, completely silent. Finally Andrea spoke. “You have to go, don’t you?” she asked, almost in a whisper.
Henry put a tender hand on her shoulder. “I’m afraid so darling.”
Andrea quickly spun around, tears flowing everywhere about her face. “Why?” she hissed angrily through gritted teeth. “Why you? There are plenty of other men out there they could send off to their death.” Collin was cradled in Andrea’s arms sleeping soundly and was completely incapable of understanding what was taking place at the moment.
Henry’s heart felt as though it were ripping in half more and more with every tear Andrea shed. “I have to go Andrea. It’s a duty that I have to uphold,” he said desolately. He couldn’t bear to leave Andrea or his son, but there was no turning back now. He had no choice.
Andrea lay Collin down in the small wooden crib resting just beside the bench attached to the gazebo wall. She brought her hands up to cover her tear stained face and sobbed heavily. Henry could bear it no longer and wrapped his strong arms around her, holding Andrea tightly as she wept mournfully on his chest. He held her while she cried, stroking her soft hair, and desperately tried to keep his own tears at bay.
Collin began to whimper in his crib and Henry gently drew away from Andrea to pacify his cries. He scooped Collin up into his arms and hugged him. “I’ll miss you my little man,” Henry said, his voice quivering. Collin cooed happily in his father’s arms and tried to grab Henry’s tags that hung about his neck.
Henry laid him back into the crib and faced his wife, this time with tears flowing freely down his rugged face. “I have to go.”
Andrea sobbed once more and ran into his arms, holding him tightly as if she would never let go. Henry brought her face up to his and kissed her passionately, his love and devotion to Andrea pouring out with every touch of their lips. He finally had to bring himself to let go of the one he held so dearly. “I love you with all my heart,” he called to Andrea as he marched away.
“I love you! Come back to me!” she called and cried tenderly, her heart wrenching with every step Henry took. “I’ll be waiting,” Andrea whispered as she watched his shadow slowly disappear over the horizon.
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