MORE THAN TEXAS
This is a true story but I invented the dialogue and emotions. Please comment nicely!
Julia Gardiner cried and cried as her father's casket was lowered into the ground. And then the President of the United States walked across the soggy cemetery and put a protective arm around her shoulder.
"Hush, dear child. Your father is with the angels now." John Tyler tilted his dripping umbrella so that it sheltered the weeping girl, wishing he could shelter her from grief as well.
Guilt needled him, cold and unforgiving like the falling rain. Perhaps fate had caused the devastating explosion that killed her father. Certainly no man could have predicted that the main cannon on the USS Princeton would malfunction with so many important people on board. But Judge David Gardiner had been among the President's invited guests only because dark-eyed, bewitching Julia was his daughter.
President John Tyler was in love with Julia Gardiner. And his uncontrollable passion had caused her father's death.
"Papa, don't go," Julia choked out, forgetting that her father couldn't hear her any more. "What will we do without you?"
Isolation was a new and frightening feeling for the vibrant young girl the society pages called The Rose of Long Island. Without her father she felt lifeless, uncared for and empty. All the triumphs she had achieved in Washington, being courted and flattered by great men, meant nothing now.
When she looked back on the last few months, Julia could never remember telling him how much she loved him. They had laughed together, and he had teased her about her successes, even when she began receiving love letters from the President of the United States. But neither of them had ever thought she would marry John Tyler, or anyone else.
They thought they would be together forever.
Julia Gardiner blamed herself for her father's death. Of all the invitations she received, why did she have to accept one to go sailing on the Princeton? She didn't care a hang for sailing, or for naval guns. She just thought it would be fun to see John Tyler again. The President was such a fool for her, and her father was a man who loved a good laugh. Right at this moment she could picture him laughing, watching the way she sobbed and clung to John Tyler in the rain.
"Everything is so different now," Julia told the President, when she went walking with him a few days after the funeral. Papa would hardly recognize her now. She gazed at the bare trees and dreary March landscape without a smile. Her clothes were black, her voice lifeless and dull.
"You look pale," John Tyler said quietly. "You need fresh air. Even in mourning, a young lady is allowed to exercise."
"I know I need to walk," Julia confessed. "I need to bear up. But it's hard for me. I'm just not the same girl I used to be."
"You are as lovely as ever, even when pale," the President said. He wasn't flattering her. He was simply stating a fact.
"But I feel different inside." Julia frowned. "I used to feel light inside. Walking, running, dancing – I just seemed to float."
John Tyler laughed softly. "You are very young, my dear. That feeling will return in time."
"But I don't feel the same," Julia insisted. She sat down on a bench, too distressed to walk further. "I mean, when I felt light inside I was careless about things. I thought I could just go on my merry way, not needing anybody but my family. Not needing anyone but father." She stared at the ground. "Now I feel heavy inside. Like I can't shake the mopes. Life is a burden now, and I just can't seem to carry the weight."
Julia's agony struck a chord in John Tyler, the shared pain so intense he had to draw the young woman into his arms. "Use my shoulders," he said quietly.
Six months later, John Tyler sat in a cabinet meeting, his heart sinking as John C. Calhoun read off the latest rebuke from Congress. All his hopes for re-election had hinged upon gaining Texas for the Union, and now that hope was lost.
"Mr. President, we must take action!" Calhoun's angry voice roused John Tyler, made him realize others were watching.
"No, no," he said softly. "We must accept defeat. Others more qualified will accomplish this great feat. Now if you please gentlemen, let us turn our attention to other matters."
The meeting continued, the mood somber and subdued. President Tyler realized that he should try to inspire his cabinet members, but instead he found himself growing drowsy. Marriage to a woman thirty years younger than he was an exhausting business. Julia was so lively, and very passionate. Keeping up with her made him feel young, yet when morning came he often had no energy left for work.
Tired and discouraged, John Tyler was just dozing off when his wife's cheerful voice rang out in the stuffy chamber.
"Gentlemen, how can you keep the President locked indoors on such a lovely summer day? It is my duty to free the captive."
"You look like summer yourself, ma'am," said Secretary of State Calhoun.
Julia did look like summer, Tyler thought drowsily. His wife was wearing a daisy-yellow silk gown that clung to her full figure, and a wide-brimmed flowered bonnet that perfectly framed her dark-eyed, laughing face. Longing filled him, the longing to be young and strong and able to satisfy her endlessly without rest. Yet there were other duties as well.
"We've had a sad morning, my love," he said. "Texas is slipping from our grasp because of those damned fools in Congress."
"Oh, bother the fools in Congress! Just come and enjoy yourself with me, Mr. President, and we'll outwit them later. You don't want me to fall into the mopes, do you?"
"No, my dear." John Tyler stood up. He knew he was too old for a wife like Julia, but while he had any strength left he wanted to be the best husband he could.
He loved her more than Texas.