Reunion and Parting
Thomas Morgan lifted one foot after the other, a steady rhythm he'd kept up for days on this march. They were close to Richmond, word had gone down the lines and they would soon be safely in the bosom of the Confederacy once more.
It was hardly three weeks after Gettysburg. His regiment had been part of the charge across that field. And he had barely escaped with his life. Too many others had not been as lucky.
Their unit was devastated by the battle. Nights around the campfires now were quieter, everyone feeling the absence of their friends and comrades. It seemed unlikely they'd ever erase that bloody day from their minds. Thomas Morgan was a changed man. It might not have been instantly visible on the outside, but those who knew him well would see it. The spark in his eyes was dim, much dimmer than it had once been. He was more reserved now, less quick to speak his thoughts.
People were lining the sides of the dusty roads now, staring at the remnants of the once-proud army now so wounded. A few of them let out hopeful cheers, but many were silent as they watched, many with teardrops lining their faces. He thought of how she had looked when he had told her he was leaving. The pain in her eyes. He closed his own, trying not to remind himself. Not now.
"Thomas! Thomas!" Her voice, as if his thoughts had summoned her from the air. His head suddenly shot up as a young woman broke through the crowd and flung herself towards him. He barely managed to catch her in his arms. She clung to him, entwining her arms around his neck. He stumbled to the side of the road, still holding her as the rest of his unit kept moving, some men issuing catcalls and whistling. He couldn't have cared less just then.
"Katie..." he whispered, looking at her, her golden hair, her sky blue eyes.
She nodded tearfully. "Oh, Thomas, thank God you're alive," she whispered, kissing his roughly bearded face over and over. He stopped her, held her, met his lips to hers, a long, soft caress. She drew back, eyes shining with tears. He smiled, nodded.
"Morgan!" came a shout from ahead. He glanced up, saw the columns moving away, looked back to Katie, saw the sudden pain, the fear in her eyes.
"I'll find you as soon as I can," he whispered. "I'll come back. I promise." He held her hand to his cheek for a moment, kissed it, then let go, moved back towards the lines, still watching her as she stood silently. Then the mass of beings shifted, hiding her from view. He felt a chill, tried to convince himself it was nothing. But he knew that their time together would not last. Nothing did.
Gettysburg had proven that.