I set curled up on the couch, in the dark, sirens wailing in the distance. I hope they get to wherever they’re going safely. The Christmas tree lights flash from white to colors serving as my only illumination. I’m not sure why I turned them on, even less certain of why my mother insisted on coming over the day after Thanksgiving to set up this gaudy thing. Chris was the one who loved all this, not me. I touch the dog tags hanging around my neck and stare at the flag folded into a perfect triangle on the coffee table.
From beneath the flag, a piece of paper pokes out. That was another thing Mom left in her cheery wake. “Maybe it will help,” she had said. What good could writing another soldier clear across the world do me when my husband is dead? That won’t bring him back and whoever I’d be writing has enough trouble what with bullets whizzing over their heads at any given second. They don’t need to console a grieving widow.
I glance at the half gone bottle of wine on the end table and begin to reach for it, my stomach churning, but I stop. Self-medicating won’t help either, something inside me whispers.
Pulling back my hand, I reach forward and slide the note from beneath the flag before heading to the kitchen. I flip on the light and grab a piece of paper and a pencil before setting down.
My name is Evelyn. I’m a 26-year-old widow, and I’m not sure why I’m writing to you other than the pure fact that I hate the idea of any fighting man (or woman) feeling alone. Especially this time of year.
MY late husband was Sgt. Chris Lowel, unit #4077, and he died alone and a long way from home in a place that I’m not even allowed to know the name of. Maybe not far from where you are, but hopefully far enough away to keep you safe.
I pause, wiping my eyes and drying the paper with a napkin.
I don’t know if you’re a Christmas nut like Chris was, but if you are, I hope you find a little green, a bit of pine, and no red but the berries in the fruitcake I’m sure my mother will send along with this letter. (Sorry about that, she’s a volunteer for the soldier pen-pal program and insists on sending something with every letter this season.) It was her idea I “adopt a soldier.” She thought it might help us both, but all I can really think to do is apologize that you got saddled with me. Hopefully, your next pen-pal will be happier. These days I don’t have much glee in me. All I can do is offer is this wish, that you stay safe and return to your loved ones in one piece.
Folding up the letter, I slip it into an envelope and turn off the light. I’ll give it to Mom when she stops by in the morning.
To be continued…