That feeling of hope followed me into Illinois then Wisconsin. I arrived at my cousin’s house and received a warm welcome. Being with real family again was good for my soul, and as I started to show in my pregnancy, the spark of hope fanned.


Just before Christmas, I found out that Charles had discovered where I was and knew I was carrying his child. The family gathered and planned a way for me to leave before he arrived to collect me. They were going to tell him that I had lost the baby and had died myself a few days later. They marked a spot in the field beside their home as our graves and sent me on my way to Ashland. There, I was to pose as a war widow allowing me to get the assistance I would need to restart my life.


With last desperate hugs and tears, I left the only family I knew I had left, saddened to know I could not ever contact them again. The train north to Ashland was a harsh ride. The weather was colder and snowier than Columbus and the winter months dragged on long, with howling winds that found every crack they could to seep in. I settled in, and shortly after the New Year was hired as a teacher for the local school house.


I found the cold weather was a great balm to me. Watching the snows falling became my evening meditation and as I watched the months go by, I felt very at home in this small town. I made a few friends, war widows themselves, and we made a trip to Lake Superior in late March. The lake was stunning in ice, even in the early days of spring.


That was to be my last trip since my due date was fast approaching. The school put me on leave with a stipend to help me until I could decide if I was coming back to teach or if I would be staying with my child. Since I was a “war widow” there was every chance I would have to continue to work in some way. The school was willing to have me back, but knew it would not be for some time.


The first of my contractions came in mid-April. The house I shared with other war widows went into an uproar, I think they had been as anxious as I was for my baby to be born. The local hospital had a program in place for the expecting widows, and every effort was made to have the latest in medical knowledge available. My house mates hurried me there as soon as we were sure it was time.


Once there and set up in a room, the doctor and nurses hurried in and out. After the initial greetings I was sedated, and the rest of the delivery passed in a blur for me. I knew there had been some pain, but the memory was as vague as a figure in fog. When I was clear headed enough, I asked to see my child. I was told there was a problem, but I would see him soon.  Him. I had a son. I had decided if it was a boy I would name him after Papa.


The next day, a sad faced nurse came to check on me and told me the doctor would be in. He shoulders slumped and her eyes were red, something had her upset. I propped myself up in my bed, awaiting the doctor, hoping he would bring me news of when I could see my son. When he walked in, he left his eyes to the floor, and panic shot up my spine. When he took my hand and addressed me, I felt a chill.


I screamed. Long and loud. Trying to drown out his words, my baby had died. I fought and thrashed and struggled. I think it took three orderlies and the doctor to restrain me. I felt a needle and a red haze engulfed me, and I knew no more. Every time consciousness came back to me, the scream was in my throat and his words were in my ears.


“I’m so sorry.”


I didn’t realize until I was finally released to the widows at the house that I had to be sedated and restrained for over a month. It was the first of June, and while there was new life all around me, I was dead and black inside. Everyone I loved was gone now. I had nothing left, nothing inside to give to anyone, no joy, no hope. I went through the motions of life. I notified the school I would not be returning.  The nation celebrated the summer, and I mourned. August came around and the memory of my mother added to the weight in my heart. Once September arrived, I knew what I was going to do. My birthday came and went again uncelebrated. I was 26 years old, hiding from an abusive husband and mourning a dead son. There was nothing left for me.


I walked out of town to a surrounding cliff side overlooking Lake Superior. The last happy memory I had was here. If I were lucky, the lake would claim my body and I would simply fade from the memory of Ashland. I didn’t even close my eyes as I stepped over the edge, no fear was left in me. I didn’t feel the concussion as my body hit the ground, shattering my spine. I felt the cool mist of the lake itself and smiled before the world went black.


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